Coral Reefs: A Challenge To Imagination

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Giselle Rodríguez

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Once you have discovered a vision of beautiful coral reefs lying on ocean depths, there’s no other place that challenges your imagination better. I always remember during my childhood going to the coast was a real blast, given that a devoted snorkeller like myself enjoys the underwater coral reef landscapes of incomparable beauty and the company of crustaceans and vivid coloured fish. Diving and snorkelling are activities of such peace that many people consider being incomparable.

Video recorded during snorkeling, which then display part of the underwater flora and fauna of the Great Barrier Reef, in Australia.

When it comes to incredible touristy attractions, Cuba’s coral reef spots are privileged because of its rich, exuberant and varied submarine life. The coralline reefs cover more than 95% of the border of the Cuban marine platform (more than 3.200 km) and appear in scattered plentiful areas. For that reason, along with the Bahamas, it ranks first in extension by country in the Western Atlantic. There are even coral formations developing barriers that, in some places, reach the surface.

The limpid transparency of the Cuban archipelago waters, the well-preserved bottoms with the slightest amount of pollution, and the diversity of its underwater flora and fauna, makes the island one of the best preserved submarine ecosystems of the region. Most of the Cuban reefs are in relatively good condition, the problems of severe contamination only affect 2% of them, mainly near urban zones and those of easy access.

For those with a passion for diving I can guarantee them an extraordinary experience by discovering the splendour of the Cuban underwater world. Below the surface, the Cuban archipelago is a natural treasure, a sunken paradise of algae, sea anemones, sea stars, stony and soft corals, sponges, tubes or branches; sumptuous gorgonians that sway with the waves; starfish, crustaceans and lively fish that form multicoloured clouds around divers. Some even eat from divers’ hands! In these warm crystal waters (over 24ºC all year round) you will find the habitat of a peculiar and fascinating fauna that leaves you with a feeling of permanent invitation to relaxation.

If you are an enthusiastic diver and you are anxious to witness pristine coral reefs, then you should go to Maria La Gorda. This site has been declared a biosphere reserve by the UNESCO. Located in the province of Pinar del Río, it is a great scenario for scuba diving and ecotourism because of its abundant marine species and spectacular coral reefs. Also, some of the most attractive places to observe a wide variety of underwater fauna are within the Cuban cays: Cayo Levisa, Cayo Largo, Cayo Santa María, Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Saetía, among others. You’ll immediately fall for the diaphanous blue of these waters where the eye has long reach to witness the fascinating marine habitat, as if the sea was some kind of mirror. Many visitors compare these sites to diving in aquariums; no doubt it must be in every diver’s travel itinerary.

Plus, here is some remarkable information for your trip: Santa Lucía Beach, on the northern coast of Camaguey Province, has the largest coral reef in Cuba and the second largest in the world with 36 kilometres (22 miles) long. This reef is the longest one of its kind in the western hemisphere! And you don't want to miss the Bull shark show organized by the local instructors; during the show these fascinating creatures will literally eat out of the instructors’ hands.

For the apprentice or trainee, diving lessons are also available. Many diving clubs offer instruction for beginners; for the experienced divers a lot of specially designed programs are available as well!

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