Villa María La Gorda and its International Diving Center
The Hotel María la Gorda "Mary the Fat" and its related International Scuba-Diving Centre are located in the Guanacahabibes peninsula in the Pinar del Rio province , in western Cuba, at 4 1/2 hours drive from Havana heading southwest past banana, sugar cane and tobacco plantations, divers can enjoy crystal-clear and warm waters in 50 diving spots. This small friendly resort is situated on a sweeping, palm-fringed beach and is host to some of Cuba's finest dive sites.
Experts consider that the seabed at María la Gorda is among the top ten places in Latin America, due to its abundant marine life and extraordinarily beautiful corals. Experienced divers rave about the diving, ranging from vertical walls to coral canyons, tunnels, and caves, and even the remains of Spanish galleons.
The name María la Gorda comes out of the story of a beautiful lady abandoned by pirates on the area, she survived and decided to take advantage of the favorable location of the site (obliged stop of pirate vessels roaming the Caribbean Sea for refuge and water or food provision and also some entertainment) then María set up “business” in the place that later took her name.
María la Gorda diving zone in the Ensenada de Corrientes is one of the most protected areas in Cuba, within the limits of one of the best-preserved Reserve of the Biosphere in the world, it is refreshing to see that the effort really has been made to preserve the local habitat the access road to the resort even has park rangers stationed on it.. This diving zone has its origin in a string of surfaced land, formed by the waves and the pull of the Gulf of Mexico’s marine current. It has an amazing coral reef development located at a very short distance from the coast. From 5 meters (16 feet) you can see big an isolated patches of coral with an abundant sessile fauna, specially gorgonians and sea fans, more than 20 species of coral and lots of small and medium size fish.
The main exponents of the fauna in María la Gorda are the typical inhabitants of the Caribbean Sea such as barracuda, groupers, lobsters, eels, angel fish, crabs, etc. Other species like sharks, sting rays, and turtles can occasionally be seen since they are not typical from the area, but in the months of May and June the sandy beaches are populated with turtles building their nests; August and September is the time for the whale shark to have a swim in the bay amid big schools of tuna fish known in Cuba as “bonitos” (pretty) also followed by other kind of sharks like hammer head, nurse shark or blue shark. Regarding flora we have a great variety of gorgonians like Acroporas, Madrasis, Oculina, Diploria, Scolima, and many others, the commonly known as sea fan can get enormous dimensions in this waters. María la Gorda is a fantastic scenery and the seabed, rich in marine species, with coral reefs of impressive beauty, make this an ideal place for both scuba-diving and eco tourism.