By Nicolas Lakoff

© Copyright 2007-2017

After returning from Holguin my foot was still hurting and knowing there wasn’t anything to do for a broken bone in a foot, I still went for an x-ray to confirm what I suspected.  I had broken my fourth metatarsal in my left foot.  Nothing to do about it said the doctor but in time it would heal nicely.  Karen and I were in continual contact about our next diving destination.  I decided that I would be going back to Santa Lucia and she decided to see it my way this time.

However she decided to stay at the Club Amigo Manayebo (one of her internet bookings) which is quite a ways from the dive center and I stayed at the Grand Club again time around.  At the last minute my mother decided to join me, having gotten a ridiculously low price (she paid 200$ less than I did and I already had a great price!).  I’m very close to my mom and she is a hoot to travel with and independent enough not to have to worry about her while I’m doing my dives.  I was happy to spend some quality time with her when I wasn’t diving.  She and Karen got along very nicely which was great as well.

All the usual suspects were at the Shark’s Friends Diving Center and they seemed genuinely happy to see me!

Last year Hurricane Ike swept through Cuba and ravaged the Island.  It was the costliest storm (in terms of damages $7.3 Billion) in Cuban history.  Santa Lucia wasn’t spared, being directly in the path of the storm.  However, Cubans being used to hurricanes, there are few traces of the damage left.  Maceo, the dive centers resident techno genius showed me a video of the hurricane making landfall in Santa Lucia as a category 4.  It was pretty impressive to see nature’s wrath.  The Dive center sustained mostly cosmetic damage, having the roof ripped off of the equipment room and a few tree toppled but nothing too bad.  Macao, the dive center manager was telling me that there was a lot of flooding and it took a while before all the water receded.  One thing I did notice, this time around was that the center now has state of the art computers which was not the case the last two times I was here.

One thing I was disappointed about was the fact I could not do another night dive while I was here.  Shortly after I was here in 2007, the Cuban government decided to ban all night diving off the shore because they feared that smugglers commuting regularly between Cuba and the coast of Florida might mistake the dive boat for a Cuban coast

guard vessel and fire upon it.  Vice versa the Cuban Navy might mistake the dive boat for smugglers so in the end they decided for everyone’s safety it was better not to have night dives off the reef any longer.  As an alternative Sharks friends started doing night dives in the channel but as it happened while we were there, the centers transport bus was in Havana for repairs and wouldn’t be back in time.

One great thing about diving in Santa Lucia is the great variety of sea life you can see here.  One thing I’m personally fond of is a class of fish called “odd shaped swimmers”.  These include puffers, triggerfish, trunkfish, cowfish, filefish and others.  I’m always very excited when I come across some and take some great shots.  On this trip I ran into a Scrawled Filefish, not once but twice.  I managed to get some shots off but the one shot where my flash went off there was a soft coral in the way (Damn I really want a strobe!).

Scrawled Filefish     

Scrawled Filefish                                                   Porcupine Fish

One of the most exciting things that happened to me was on a dive with Yordanis aka Gordy.  It was with Gordy that on my last trip I saw a wild Dolphin for the first time.  On this trip he didn’t disappoint.  On a dive to Joventina II, he was up ahead of me to my right just over a coral formation when he pointed to something straight up ahead of me.  As it kept coming closer I could now make out a beautiful Manta Ray coming straight for me.  I started taking pictures right away and kept going (I really want a reflex digital !) till it passed me right by.  It actually flew a couple of feet over my head, so close I could have touched it.  My heart was pounding even though I was trying to stay as calm as possible.  After this I was on a cloud, what a treat, I was so happy I could burst!

                          

Another cool thing I saw for the first time was coral spawning.  I had watched ocean documentary’s showing the process on camera but never actually witnessed it myself.  At first I didn’t know what it was but it soon became evident that reproduction was going on.  I felt pretty lucky being at the right place and the right time to have a glimpse at coral reproduction.

I took quite a few good pictures while I was here, too many to put all up but here are few that stood out.

          

Scorpionfish                             Southern Stingray                  Pedersen Cleaner Shrimp

          

Black Durgon Trigger fish    Nurse Shark                              Queen Triggerfish

I had promised my mom that we would go on a catamaran excursion together to Bonita Beach.  Karen decided not to come preferring to dive.  Although I truly love my mom, I feared that Karen would see something exceptional and I would miss out.  However the catamaran trip turned out to be amazing.  First we stopped at a starfish garden but we weren’t allowed in the water.  One of the crew brought up 3 gorgeous starfish for us to look at.  Then we stopped at a snorkelling site where there was a forest of Elkhorn coral formations that we could swim trough with ease.  These formations act as fish nursery’s much like mangroves root systems do closer to the mainland.  We could see hundreds of juveniles from many different species hiding out amongst the branches.  We stopped at Bonita Beach for lunch and took some sun then back to the resort in the afternoon well fed and suntanned.

         

Starfish on the catamaran   Elkhorn Corals                         Mom sipping a beer

One thing is for sure you could come diving every year in Santa Lucia and be rewarded every time with something special!

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