Zapata's diving spots

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DIVING EXPLORATION OF ZAPATA'S SWAMP

Years ago it was inconceivable that the people living in the Zapata Swamp, a UNESCO-recognized biosphere reserve in western Cuba, would one day stop using the forest here to make charcoal, extract precious wood, or hunt crocodile and deer. San Lázaro Channel, was one of the channels they used to bring the charcoal from the island to the sea, same route you´ll travel to your Live Aboard Yacht for your accommodation during your fishing week.





DIVE SITES AROUND ZAPATA'S SWAMP ON BOARD M/Y GEORGIANA

Cañón de Sigua

Very close to Key Sigua there is a seagrass bed 10 mtr deep that falls slightly to 15 mtr, and then sand bar that maintains the drop smoothly until the 24 mtr, where a very vertical wall begins with small steps to 32 mtr. It has many small colonies of black coral, goliath grouper, jacks, rays, barracudas, and abundant coral formations on the sandy area before falling down the wall. There are abundant sponges of all shapes and breathtaking visibility.





Cayo Sigua

Sandy area 12 mtr deep, which gives way to the edge of the wall forming a ridge before falling, with many purple tunicates and round anemones.





Cañón de Cayo Blanco

The vertical wall starts at only 7 mtr. There is a rupture at the edge of the wall, which reaches or exceeds 40 mtr, with a school of permit inside the barrel or crack, schools of jacks, and some barracudas. The wall is impressive because of the large number of sponges, especially to the north of the crack. There are many colonial anemones, with shrimp that live in them.





Pared de Cayo Blanco

It is next to Key Blanco Canyon in the northwest direction. It is a vertical wall from 6 mtr deep, practically unique in Cuba, with many sponges, stony corals and gorgonians. Great visibility, some barracudas, schools of jacks. In its upper part there are colonies of Acropora Cervicornis, (staghorn) with schools of grunts. There are some rays.





Blue Hole - Sigua

Very close to Cay Sigua. It is located exactly at the west end of one of the reef crests at only 4 mtr. The entrance is an opening of about 6 mtr long by 3 mtr wide; its vertical walls fall to 83 mtr deep. One side of the wall is almost vertical and the other side has an overhang, this way, as we descend the cavity it becomes larger. At the very entrance of the blue hole, there are lobsters, nudibranchs, yellow-headed snappers, flamingo tongue, etc.
It is recommended to dive this site very carefully by the level of risk represented by this Blue Hole. As a group enters, the bubbles release sediments that fall to the bottom, reducing visibility. I also recommend this point for night dives, without entering the cavity, because of the large number of organisms it houses, and the protection offered by the coral barrier.
It is found leaving the lighthouse of Sigua by the southeast side, under a boat behind the horseshoe. The reef forms a large natural horseshoe, which is a well-known anchorage. With the boat inside the horseshoe, the Blue Hole is at the northwestern tip of the second ridge of the horseshoe. There are small portions of reef crest, and you only have to look for the second ridge to the northwest, and at its northwest, behind the ridge end, is the blue hole at only 4 mtr deep.





Cayo Blanco

Located behind the reef crest. Night diving would be very good, between 1 and 3 mtr deep. Just behind Key Blanco is a small ridge of reefs on the east side of the key. At night you can see octopus, squid, moray eels, rays, balloon fish. Shrimp, crabs, nudibranchs, etc. There is very good visibility.





Corona de Cayo Cobo

It is formed by a coral bar, 30 mtr wide and 800 mtr long in its upper part (5-9 mtr), with drops on both sides, forming almost vertical walls on both sides of the bar, with many sponges, stony corals, colonies of black coral, soft corals, etc. There are some cubera snappers, angelfish, schools of grunts porgies, and some schools of spadefish.
Its access is very easy, entering the Gulf of Cazones by the east band and passing Key El Calvario. There are some rails in the border that belonged to an old pier, and 500 mtr ahead there is a bar of clear blue that makes contrast with the dark blue, very clearly. The wall to the west is better than the east, and generally with better visibility. It is necessary to take into account in which direction is the current to not have to swim against it. There is almost always a moderate current.





Arrecife Somero

Near Key Siguathis is a reef crest that forms a horseshoe, with many colonies of very healthy elkhorn coral, some schools of jacks, blue tangs, grunts, some barracudas. Good for snorkeling and diving. Under the boat in the horseshoe of Sigua, there is the second rectangular reef crest looking towards the northwest. This spot is very good for night dives behind the crest, with depth ranging between 2 and 5 mtr.





Delije Drop

Bottom at 15 mtr near the edge of the cliff making a ridge at a lower depth of 12 mtr before falling. The wall is not completely vertical most of the way. There are some cuberas, barracudas, stingrays, and all kinds of reef fish. There are also many sponges.





Gorgonian Reef

It is very close to Key Medano de Vizcaino. It is formed by a wall between 13 and more than 30 mtr deep. There are many gorgonians, some small rays in the sand, and American Spondrylus. It forms steps in some places.





La Farola de Guerrero

It is east of the obelisk to Ernest Tellman. The wall goes from 12 mtr to over 35 with black corals, some cuberas, a promontory of coral that comes out of the cliff. There are shoals of mangrove snapper and different species of grunts in its upper part.





La Pared Negra

It is a wall in front of Ernest Tellman Key, where the drop begins between 10 and 12 mtr in depth, forming two mountains of coral stuck to the wall between 20 and 30 mtr, with a separation between them of more than 40 mtr. Many colonies of black coral, some school masters, many interesting sponges. There are schools of jacks and barracudas.
There is a long crest to the south of Keys Ballenato, between 1 and 7 mtr. There are many fish, like parrotfish, barracudas, hermit crabs, mojarras, rays, etc. Spectacular for night diving.





Nirvana

Reef located in the center of the Gulf of Cazones, very close to a red buoy signal, between 1 and 5 mtr in depth. Located in the very entrance of the Gulf of Cazones. There are many colonies of elkhorn and staghorn coral. According to some Cuban and American specialists, it is one of the best-preserved reefs in Cuba, and with the greatest abundance of organisms. This is a great spot for snorkeling or for a shallow dive.





Pared al norte de Cayo Palomo

Very close to Palomo Key, about a mile north, there is an irregular wall between 7 and 25 mtr deep. It gives way to a sandy area, with mounds of coral, some cuberas, schools of jacks, multicolored sponges and stony corals.





Muelle de Cayo El Calvario

Located exactly between the piles of an old pier of Key El Calvario. This place is very well sheltered and with good visibility. Depths range between 2 and 5 mtr. The piles are covered by all kinds of organisms, and invertebrates, and at night you can see lobsters, crabs, octopuses, polychaetes, decorated crabs, squids, coffin fish. Good for night dives.





Jardín de Las Gorgonias

Located opposite to Key Ernest Tellman. Vertical wall that falls from 18 mtr, with colonies of deep gorgonians, black corals, many sponges, many anemones, etc. The highest part of the reef forms a bar of coral to only 10 mtr, and by more than 800 mtr in length.





Jardín de las Esponjas

Opposite Key Ernest Tellman. Vertical wall after the previous point in an easterly direction, with the same coral bar at only 10 mtr. The wall drops from 15 mtr. Some barrel sponges, black coral, anemones, school of medium shrubs moving along the cliff. There are schools of dog snapper on the cliff, hawksbills, coffin fish and lobsters.





Blue Hole - Golfo de Cazones

About half a mile north of Key Palomo the tip aligns north of Palayo Key with the tip of Key El Calvario off the deep cliff. Half a mile on a platform 8 mtr deep is the Blue Hole. It is formed by two dolines of 7 mtr in diameter and 8 mtr deep, that form a single vertical cavity of more than 30 mtr deep, with many overhangs, cuberas, permits, schools of barracudas, there is a small reef with grunts and anemones. There is another reef at 8 mtr, with many small fish; there are starfish, colonial anemones and lobsters.
The cavity is small. A large group of divers should not enter at the same time because they would lift a lot of suspension. There are sand cascades, many flaps inside the hollow, with permits and cuberas. It’s ideal to make two groups. It is given the name after the Fishing boat 303, who gave us this information about the two blue holes.




Lemus Blue Hole

It is formed by a doline of more than 40 mtr in diameter that falls from 11 mtr up to 70 mtr approximately. Forms a sandy cone of landslides in the center, to a depth of 38 mtr. There are eagle rays patrolling the hole, and outside it there are amber jacks, cuberas, many white grunts, sea stars, lobsters, moray eels. Spondilus Americanus (bivalve) are prevalent at the top. It is named in honor of the Mexican Alejandro Lemus, Mexican champion of apnea and Pan-American champion, who was present among the clients this week.
To the north of Key Palomo, below the wall, next to the buoy No77, in the northern direction, the wall ends and the bottom falls from 10 mtr to 22 mtr, with many mountains of coral, goliath grouper, hawksbill turtle, many grunts, lobsters and many large sponges.




Boya No. 77

Close to Palomo Key, Gulf of Cazones. To the north of Palomo Cay is a cliff that goes in a northerly direction, from a platform of 11 mtr, the cliff falls smoothly to 32 mtr, with many colonies of black coral, snappers, some cuberas, barracudas, red hinds and sponges.







DIVING EXPLORATION OF THE GULF OF CAZONES, SIGUA AND CAYO BLANCO

Canto de Nirvana

In front of the shallow reef of Nirvana, in the Gulf of Cazones, we must swim by the cliff from this point to Key Palomo. It is formed by a profile of the bottom between 10 and 20 mtr in depth. From 20 mtr deep, it forms an almost vertical wall with many lobsters, king crabs, barracudas, hogfish, yellowtail tail snapper, many hard corals, tubular sponges, parrotfish, and some cuberas.




Cayo Miguel

Opposite Key Ernest Thelman. It is formed by a sandy bottom with large coral formations that can be seen from 7 mtr to 15 mtr deep, giving way to an almost vertical wall where you can see cuberas,yellow snapper, garden morays, barracudas, spirographs, chibiricas, etc.




Lavandera

Opposite Key Ernest Thelman. A white sandy bottom descends gently from 7 to 12 mtr in depth, with many sponges, coral formations, and gorgonians, with black coral, yellow snapper, barracudas from 12 mtr down the wall gradually, with some channels of sand and many coral formations between them. There are many ascidia violet in color.




Boya Roja

In front of Key Ernest Thelman, near Punta Brava, there is a red buoy on the beach, almost opposite this point. It is a background similar to the previous point, with a sand cliff that falls from 12 mtr, with an almost vertical wall. Many coral formations adorn this wall, there are deep gorgonians, violet tunicates, barracudas, creole wrasses, hogfish, blue chromis, anemones, etc.




Palangre

Opposite Key Ernest Thelman. Located to the east of the monument. We must swim from this point to the monument by the cliff. The bottom forms a coral bar between 12 and 15 mtr, and from that point the wall falls. On the other side of that bar the bottom falls to almost 20 mtr deep to a sandy area, the wall there is almost vertical. There are many colonies of black coral, many red hinds, many tubular sponges, and large schools of blue chromis and creole wrasses. Some cuberas, yellow snapper, French angel, and deep gorgonians.




La Montaña del Calvario

Located opposite to Key Calvario. The bottom is sandy with rocks lined with diverse formations of corals and sponges, as well as a coral barrier reef. The cliff was found at 15 mtr. When diving at 30 mtr found a great rock formation on the 35 mtr mark that ascends to about 50 mtr. Located on a wall of that coral head, large formations of black coral. It was possible to check the top of that rock at 35 mtr seeing black groupers, grunts, queen angelfish and barracudas. Later we continue climbing the wall up to 10 or 15 mtr where it got shallower towards the end of the immersion.




El Canto

Located opposite Key Calvario. You begin the dive in a rocky bottom with isolated coral heads surrounded by sponges and corals at the 21 to 25 mtr mark. Small formations of black coral are appreciated. The coloration of some sponges and size of the barrel sponges are outstanding. Can see fish like the hogfish, yellow snapper, rays, angelfish, trumpet fish, red hinds, barracudas and jacks. Coming to the end of the dive you will see numerous species of reef fish like grunts, queen angelfish and cuberas.




Los Nudibraquios

Located opposite to Calvario. The dive begins with a rocky bottom and a vertical wall. The wall has a depth of 15 mtr, with enough variety of sponges, where you can see black coral, rays, spotted moray eels, lobsters and Nudibranchs. It is a bottom with a significant diversity of reef fish.




La Punta

Located opposite Key Lavandera. In a depth of 10 to 12 mtr you can appreciate a sandy bottom with numerous rocks, various corals and sponges and when you think nothing can be any deeper appears a drop on the 18 mtr mark, going down another 30 or 35 mtr. Here we can see small reef fish such as yellow snappers, grunts, and chromis. As you continue diving, you can see larger coral heads with lots of hard coral, barrel sponges, dog snapper, hogfish, rays, lobster, crabs, and on the surface you can see some bottle nose dolphins.




El Bala

Located opposite Key Ernest Thelman. Sandy bottom with small rock formations covered in coral and sponges that fall softly to a cliff of 12 mtr. From that depth it falls approximately to 25 mtr and later to a second cliff of 10 to 35 mtr more, with a strip of sand with coralline formations. Subsequently at depths of 40 mtr you can see small barrier fish like blue chromis, French grunts, some eels, angelfish, and American lobsters. Further down the cliff various types of sponges, and diverse corals and black corals.




Los Canales

Located opposite Key Ernest Thelman. Cascade background with numerous sponges and corals. At a depth of 9 to 10 mtr there are three rock formations interrupted by channels of sandstone that fall approximately 30 mtr. In the second rocky formation there is a second coral head coming out of the wall up to 22 mtr where numerous soft and hard sponges and corals are seen, as well as black coral. You will see cuberas, dog snapper, angelfish, moray eels and barracudas at the end of the coral reef.




Las Cuberas

Located opposite Key El Calvario. From 8 to 9 mtr on a sandy bottom with scattered rocks with coral formations and sponges is the edge of a cliff at 12 mtr, which slopes down to 28 mtr. Appreciate large formations of sponges and coral, as well as grottos and canals which fall to more than 35 mtr. You can see cuberas in remarkable quantities and dog snappers of various sizes, as well as large amounts of reef fish, painted moray eels, green, grey and French angelfish, porkfish, yellow snapper, and black coral formation at shallow depth.




La Barrera

Located opposite Calvario Key. There’s a sandy bottom of 7 to 9 mtr that falls to 12 mtr to another sandy bottom. The cliff falls smoothly from 22-24 mtr to 30-35 mtr, defining a second cliff with scattered rocks with coral that falls to more than 35 mtr. There are numerous coral reef fish and fish such as yellow tail snapper, hogfish, angelfish, barracuda, among other reef fish.




El Negrito

Located near Key Sigua. Above 5 mtr on a sandy bottom with isolated rocks with diversified sponges and corals that form a step with small caves as well as isolated coral heads with coral reef fish. The bottom gently drops to 18 mtr in depth, observing channels with barrel sponges, following to 27-30 mtr deep. Fish found are French and stripped grunts, angelfish, trumpet fish, spotted moray, barracudas, hogfish, lobsters, cuberas, nudibranchs and stingray.




Stingray

Located near Key Sigua. From the 5-10 mtr deep you will find a sand and rock bottom with numerous varieties of sponges and corals. The bottom falls gently observing channels until 27-30 mtr deep, increasing to 33 mtr. The variety of fish is numerous, very remarkable from the 5-12 mtr chromis, yellow tail snapper, porkfish, queen angelfish, moray eels, hogfish, large cuberas, barracudas and rays.




La Biajaiba

Located near Key Sigua. A strip of sand from 7-8 mtr to a depth of 9-12 mtr, where isolated coral-covered rocks and sponges provide protection for many fish. There is a reef that gently falls to 18-20 mtr. In some places more pronounced, with significant channels up to more than 30-35 mtr deep. The marine life in this area is amazing; you can see a variety of corals and sponges along the entire wall, deep gorgonians and barrel sponges. There is also a great variety of coral fish such as grunts, chromis, large cuberas, barracudas, dog snappers and lobsters.




El Wichy

Located opposite Key Sigua. From 5 mtr you can see a strip of sand with rocks populated with gorgonians and sponges. At shallower depths is the seagrass area. At greater depth, it falls gently to about 27 mtr to increase abruptly at a wall and channels where sponges and gorgonians are observed. Here we can see lots of corals and fish: French and striped grunts, lane snappers, lobsters, angelfish, chromis, dog snappers, horse eye jacks, rays and moray eels.




The Permit

Located in Key Blanco. At a depth of 5 mtr there is a strip of sand between seagrass beads with a variety of sponges and corals, as well as small coral barrier reef that falls to a depth of 10-11 mtr. Between these coral formations a wall falls abruptly to more than 30-35 mtr, where channels and caves are formed. You can encounter black groupers, yellow groupers, hogfish, yellow tail snapper, cuberas and barracudas. In this beautiful place we were approached and surrounded by a large school of horse eyejacks and small permits.




Los Mogotes

Located in Key Blanco. Site with a sandy bottom with isolated stones that break at 15 mtr with a vertical wall that is not uniform due to the sand cascades between coral heads. You can see large numbers of fish and coral life such as anemones, sponges and gorgonians. We had a great sighting of two very friendly eagle rays that became part of the dive by our side among other species of black groupers, jacks, lobsters, angelfish, and other smaller species.




Estero de la Salina

Located at Lavandera. At a depth of 5-7 mtr abruptly falls the gulf cliff with cracks and channels with various coral formations, gorgonians and sponges. Coral reef fish are seen as well as chromis, striped and French grunts, cuberas and yellow snapper. At about 12-15 mtr there are cracks and channels with sponges, gorgonians and larger fish such as dogfish, snappers, barracudas, black groupers and hogfish. At approximately 18-20 mtr falls a vertical wall to more than 30-35 mtr. We saw nurse sharks. The current coming from the estuary in shallow depth towards the gulf is remarkable and a little deeper at the 10-15 mtr. There was a somewhat strong current in this dive.




Fisherman Wall

This point is located about two miles east of Key Sigua. A seagrass bed to 7 mtr depth descends gently to 13 mtr, giving way to a sandy bottom with isolated coralline formations, until the 20 mtr in depth where a vertical wall begins. Hogfish, schools of cuberas, some nudibranches in the seagrass bed forming colonies. Yellow-headed gobies, garden eels, spotted moray eel, sea cucumbers of different species, and jacks. There are some rocks in the seagrass area that serve as refuge for many organisms. We saw clown crab, lobsters and rays.





El Rajón

In the platform between Key Largo and Megano Vizcaino there is a 7 mtr deep channel. The entrance is staggered and only about 8 mtr long, gradually narrowing until forming a tunnel that continues descending at a 45 degree angle to 26 mtr deep where it begins to form a large gallery. At the entrance there are many grunts, anemones, mangrove snapper, barracudas and cuberas. There were two nurse sharks inside the room. There are tidal currents, which means that this cavity can be dangerous.






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