DIVERS HEAVEN ON ISLA DE LA JUVENTUD
PUNTA FRANCÉS - DIVERS HEAVEN
One of the premier diving sites of Cuba is located at the southwest of the Isla de la Juventud in the Parque Nacional Marino de Punta Francés about 110km from Nueva Gerona and 18km from the small fishing village of Cocodrilo.
This national marine park covers some 6,083 hectares of which 4,317 hectares are under water. It extends some 3 nautical miles between the tips of Punta Francés and Punta Pedernales. The park includes a white-sanded, 3km-long, 16m-wide beach, Playa de Punta Francés coupled with rich and lovely biodiversity through various submarine ecosystems :
• Coral reefs with remarkable formations, both soft and hard, wetlands, marine grazing or pastures (known here as seibadales), wide-open spaces, sand bars, rock mounds, estuaries, tiny coast lakes.
• An extensive variety of flora and fauna such as alguae, worms, anemonies, sponges, molusks, fish, crustacean and soft coral formations.
Hotel Colony and Punta Francés : take a day trip (8h30-17h) including snorkel and lunch for 25cuc (+15cuc with a tank for scuba diving) through Ecotur in Nueva Gerona.
Hotel Colony is the HQ of diving on the island : renovated recently, it rents 56 bedrooms and 20 bungalows, swimming pool, bar, restaurant, etc. Or just the return tour bus ride (and boat) to Punta Frances for the day (7am-5pm) for 13cuc.
Book through Ecotur; office in town (see Services on main Nueva Gerona page).
Suggestions & comments
CMAS or SSI-certified instructors. Boats : 6 41-foot yachts (100 pax) and two tenders (86-100 pax). Hyperbaric chamber in Nueva Gerona, 46km.
SCUBA & SNORKELING CONDITIONS
The interaction between the following conditions in this area allows for some 310 days of diving during the year.
• Average water temperature is 27ºC Spring, Summer and Fall : 28ºC Winter : 23ºC
• Average visibility is 40 meters.
• Average annual humidity is 80%.
• Winds blow mainly from the East.
The park offers 56 diving sites used for dives per se, as well as courses, checkouts, refreshers, day or night diving : enough variety to avoid having to dive the same site day in day out. The park has a great peculiarity in that, over only 3 nautical miles, divers can enjoy : a barrier reef ~ Camelbacks ~ Hills or mogotes ~ Arches ~ Tunnels ~ Caves ~ Caverns ~ Jetties ~ Covers ~ Passages, etc.
The main 34 dive sites are located on an embankment (talud) in depths of 10 to 25 meters where some 25 caves (entrance of 12-25m and exit 35-42m), one cavern, 3 tunnels (avge depth of 35m), sunken boats and anchors, passages, etc.
The other 22 sites vary in depth from 8 to 15 meters, have varied topology and fauna and are used to teach or give refresher courses or checks (inmersiones de chequeo), night diving, successive dives or just having a look at sunken objects such as canons, parts of ships, anchors, etc.
BEST DIVE SITES
Top-rated sites include (depth, meters/feet) ~ Pared de coral negro (15/49), ~ Cueva azul (12/39), ~ Escondite del buzo (12/39), ~ El Arco de los sábalos (14/46) and ~ El sitio de todos (12/39)
• High Season One dive, 39cuc, two for 76
• Low Season One dive, 31cuc, two for 60
• Equipment rental 8 cuc per dive
• Certification is not mandatory; there will be a dive check before your first outing.
• Diving in Cayos los Indios which includes two morning dives : the first along the wall, the second (after a 30-minute break) over sunken objects at a depth of 8 meters. Price 10cuc
• Night diving (Summer 8-9pm, Winter 6:30-7:30) at a depth of 15 meters. High Season 40cuc without light (if you use your own), 43cuc including torch. Low Season 36cuc without light, 39cuc including torch.
PLAYA PUNTA FRANCES
Get there by 8cuc barca ride from the marina of Hotel Colony (Tel. (46) 39-82-82. The only food in Punta Frances (if you're not a guest of the Colony Hotel) is a 12cuc buffet, drinks extra. Dive centre is called Centro de Buceo Tel. (46) 39-81-81 Rates above.
Compressors : 2 Bauer K-21, Bottles : 12 liters; 40 of steel, 260 in aluminium (Catalina); Regulators : 40, Jackets 40, Suits 40 (Cressi Sub ), Diving capacity : 150 divers spread over two daily outings. Operated by Cubanacan, Nautico division.
Go budget : join the staff commuting to the Colony who take the 7am daily bus leaving from 41 and 18. 3cuc one-way.
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