Cuba 4.0 – Another spin with Maria La Gorda

According to the ancient legend, once there was Caribbean pirates’ base, and pretty Maria was their host and attendant – she cooked, served drinks, treated slashes got in fighting, consoled the gloomy… As she allegedly was a bit fat, she was called Fat Mary – Maria la Gorda. When she died, she was buried by pirates under the tallest palm in the bay – and as proof of gratitude they put a magnificent pirate treasure in the grave with her body. Although there were a lot of attempts, the treasure hasn’t yet been found. Who knows – it may wait for you…

And even if you haven’t found the pirate treasure, it isn’t necessary to feel desperate – the Guanahacabibes Peninsula itself is one of the greatest natural treasures in Cuba. The whole area of over 50,000ha is part of the national park with the same name which was in 1987 designated as a UNESCO world biosphere reserve. The coral world below the water surface and intact countryside around the coast are one (after Jardines de la Reina and Cayo Largo) of the most beautiful areas you can see in Cuba.

Capt. Bob traveled to Maria La Gorda after the July 2017 trip and returned with about 30 new friends in 2018. He reported that the diving is incredible – with large schools of fish, sharks, rays, barracuda, eels and such. There are grouper and yellowfin tuna aplenty. The resort is in the middle of a natural bay with dozens of dive sites offering depths to 120’. The reef is spectacular with lots of swim through opportunities.

The resort has a long beautiful white sand beach and offers deep sea fishing, kayaking and sailing. There is a massage parlor, sand volleyball court, life size chess board and ping pong table to help keep you entertained while out of the water. Unlike Playa Giron, this resort is ideal to host the non-diving spouse or partner for the trip.

Learn Scuba Chicago will offer flexible packages:

All include 8 days and 7 nights (the last night in Havana), transfer to and from the International airport in Havana.

On Monday, March 4th we will do on a two tank excursion. We will coordinate night dives for at least two nights during the week. Otherwise, you can pick which days and times that you want to dive. You can customize your dives to fit your preference – they offer single tank boat dives at 8A, 1030A and 330P daily.

Additional activities can always be added later. Breakfast is included, but lunch and dinner are not. The resort offers two meal options: a $15 CUC buffet (which was pretty darn good) or a seaside restaurant. We encourage our guests to also pack snacks.

Learn Scuba Chicago is a 501(c)3 charitable non-profit organization authorized to travel to Cuba. Our two intended philanthropic activities will be: 1. We will ask you to obtain and bring some supplies off a list of approved items to give to the local Cubans (the list will include OTC medicines, pencils and pens, toys for children, etc. We are very well versed on their needs) and 2. Lionfish extraction!

Lionfish in the Caribbean

Like most of the Caribbean, Cuba has been invaded by the Indo-Pacific Lionfish, an invasive predator with great destructive capabilities. All travelers will be trained on how to identify and mark lionfish found on the reefs. Those interested will be taught how to properly and safely extract and then feed the lionfish to local potential predators. You are not required to become a hunter, but if you choose to learn how to extract, you are encouraged to buy the proper tools (spear and knife/scissors) and bring them to Cuba. If you can afford it, you are also encouraged to leave your tools in Cuba with one of the dive guides that will work with you during the week.

  • PLANNING: You also MUST attend a pre-trip meeting a few weeks before departure. We will schedule one or two meetings to best accommodate all our guests. You can Skype in, but in person attendance is far better.
  • DIVE COMPUTERS: A few more notes: dive computers are REQUIRED on all our trips to Cuba.
  • GEAR:  We strongly encourage divers to bring all their own gear. Gear rental at the resort will cost extra and their gear looks nice, but we did not test it. The store will offer gear rental at a far lower price for these trips.
  • PHONE SERVICE: Communications from Cuba to the United States is restricted. There are no American cellular service companies like Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T. This means there is no free access to placing phone calls and texting. Public phone service requires the purchase of prepaid phone cards.
  • INTERNET: Our hotel indicates that it has Internet access, however, country wide, access to the Internet is also restricted and available only in public areas and at a rate of approximately $5 for 60 minutes of online time. Services like Gmail and Hotmail are monitored by the state, although Facebook should work, and we believe Skype also works.
  • AIRFARE: Air travel arrangements are the responsibility of each diver. Air transportation to Havana, Cuba is available through Southwest Air, Delta, American Airlines, and other international airlines by searching Cheap Air.
  • CURRENCY: Plan on bringing cash for incidental payments of food, gifts, and drinks. Although news outlets such as CNN Money indicate that American Express and MasterCard credit cards are accepted in Cuba, the US Embassy in Havana says they are not.
    • There are two Cuban currencies. $CUC for tourists, and $CUP for Cubans. The US dollar is also often accepted and less valuable than the CUC – so a price change may occur. Currently, $1 US is equal to $0.95 CUC.
  • TIPPING: Tipping is not expected, but not uncommon. Any amount will be appreciated. We encourage you to leave a little something for housekeeping and the dive staff who accompany us on all dives.

Learn Scuba Chicago will offer four dive packages (eight, ten, twelve, and fifteen dives). Airport shuttle, local transport, hotel, and breakfast are included with all packages. Air flight tickets, lunches and dinners are not included in the packages. The resort has a seaside restaurant, and a buffet table serving lunch and dinner for $15 CUC. We encourage our guests to pack snacks and drink.

You can customize your dive activities to fit your lifestyle. The resort offers single tank boat dives at 8:00 AM, 10:30 AM and 3:30 PM daily. You can pick which days and times that you want to dive. LSC will coordinate a dive on Monday, two night dives, and lion fish identification, marking and extraction training (sorry, extraction tools not included).

Prices Per Person (Early Bird – before December 31st!)

Double Occupancy: If you are coming with a friend, partner or spouse, your prices are here.

8 Dives: $1,674
10 Dives: $1,719
12 Dives: $1,745
15 Dives: $1,834
Non-diver: $1,388

Single Occupancy: If you are coming alone, your prices are here.

8 Dives: $1,829
10 Dives: $1,873
12 Dives: $1,899
15 Dives: $1,988

Add Night Dives $62 each!

Prices Per Person (After December 31st)

Double Occupancy: If you are coming with a friend, partner or spouse, your prices are here.

8 Dives: $1,842
10 Dives: $1,891
12 Dives: $1,919
15 Dives: $2,018
Non-diver: $1,527

Single Occupancy: If you are coming alone, your prices are here.

8 Dives: $2,011
10 Dives: $2,061
12 Dives: $2,089
15 Dives: $2,187

Package includes:

  • Seven nights hotel accommodations
  • Breakfast
  • Beverages
  • Local transportation
  • Eight to fifteen dives

Package Does NOT include:

  • Flight to Cuba and home
  • Entry visa (purchased at Cuban airport upon arrival = $30)
  • Lunches and Dinner
  • Gratuities
  • Dive Gear
  • Optional excursions
  • Departure tax