I have been traveling to Cuba for more than 20 years, planning and guiding my diving clients on trips. It’s a great place, where the sea stays above 25 degrees Celsius all year round, with visibility above 70 feet, with incredible coral life.
On December 18, 2020 I took the first flight with OWG operated by Hola Sun to Santa Clara, and one of the first to leave Canada after the first lockdown due to COVID-19. Our destination was Hotel Rancho Luna in Cienfuegos, two hours by bus from the airport.
I had been in contact with Flaco Manzanares, the director of Faro Luna Diving Centre, and we planned a five-week dive camp. I would stay at Faro Luna for five weeks, and I would be receiving my weekly groups as they arrived.
When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to find a diving center alive with divers–something rare in these times of pandemic. Flaco and his team had been organizing different courses for the locals, and when we arrived they were finishing a project to certify 26 women scuba divers as part of their goal of achieving gender equality in our industry.
It was an excellent atmosphere of joy and cooperation that caught me and my clients’ attention. The Faro Luna team is a super professional staff, friendly and adaptable to the most demanding customers. We immediately started working as a single team, providing weeks of incredible diving to AquaSub clients.
When pandemic repatriation flights started, many AquaSub divers went home. When flights back to Canada were suspended by the Canadian government, I decided to stay to wait for them to resume rather than return home. Going home meant being confined to my couch, desperately trying to figure out how not to lose my business that I’d worked more than 20 years to build. Staying was an opportunity to collaborate with Flaco and his team, hoping against hope that I could find a way out of seemingly and increasingly dark prospects. I was hoping flights would resume at the beginning of March.
I’m no stranger to Cuba and while I’d made friends over the years and know the stuff that Cubans were made of, it was during this extended stay in Cuba that I truly understood the true spirit of this beautiful island and her resilient people. I witnessed their creativity and resourcefulness.
Little did I know I would remain in Cuba for 205 days until July 10. It was the longest consecutive number of days I’d ever been separated from my wife. And little did I know that this would be the start of ScubaCuba.ca
One of the best things I had the privilege to participate in while we all tried to survive these trying
times was a scientific project between the Cuban and international scientific community and the Faro Luna Dive Centre. While I was in Cuba, I participated in numerous conservation projects and data collection projects created to develop strategies for the preservation of the ecosystem. We installed underwater data collection equipment and carried out different types of studies.
Between those projects, we did some unplanned work as well: the search and discovery of two cannons from the Spanish colonial era that have been in the sea for more than 500 years.
Discovering historical shipwrecks has always been a passion for me, and I felt lucky and excited to have had the chance to participate in these explorations and discoveries.
We also sank a large steel ship to create an artificial reef that will also be a permanent scientific monitoring station.
We manufactured nitrox, we practiced side mount diving. It seemed the more time we had, the less we had since it only inspired more ideas. When we were not at sea, we were creating products and services for my clients and improving the ones we already had. Now I am back in Canada and eager to return in October on the very first flights with Hola Sun.
Join us! You’ll be going on more than a diving trip: you’ll give yourself a unique experience in which
you can also actively participate in our marine conservation programs. If you love underwater
photography, there will be a photography competition, the MinTur Fotosub, at the end of October, the dive sites around Faro Luna are as spectacular as they are varied: reefs and walls, coral-festooned historical shipwrecks and the newly sunk artificial reef–all less than five minutes away from shore by boat. And between dives, there are historical and cultural events and locations that make for a memorable trip.
Article Submitted by Norbert Pietkiewicz
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