When Paths Cross with Cuba

Recently, my mom and I took an all inclusive trip to Cuba. Like roughly 1 million Canadians yearly, we were looking to escape to a beautiful place we could lay beachside. It was a big change for me to be on an all inclusive after 8 months of wandering Asia, but the time with my mom was very special. With all the moving we have done and travelling I have done, it was really our first ‘vacation’ together.

Varadero is a tourist town nestled on 22KM of beautiful white sand beaches. After travelling Asia for 8 months, this long stretch of Cuban beach still held its place high (in my opinion) for most beautiful beaches in the world. The water starts as a crystal clear sea-foam green, and as you look to the horizon your eyes are met with a variety of different blues that eventually reach a gorgeous skyline of many more natural colours. Even more impressive is how clean the beaches are. To someone who has not travelled much beyond an all inclusive resort, this may seem like a no-brainer but unfortuantely plastic litters many of the worlds beaches. My mom and I spent about half an hour picking up plastic off the beach in Varadero because we wanted to do some good that day, but overall, the beaches are very well taken care of.

Beyond the beaches a trip to Cuba can be accompanied by driving in old classic cars, a trip to Havana (Havana oh na na), snorkelling, diving and lots of Spanish dancing. I took my mom snorkelling and it was her first underwater adventure (we are still waiting on our pictures, so pictures to come). That is right, 49 years old and I still got to take her on a ‘first’. This was pretty exciting for me and brought back the excitement to an activity that I have done quite a few times.

I have been to Cuba 3 times and didn’t always stick to the all inclusive, so here are some of my suggestions to make your trip a little extra: Eat food off the resort! Many people complain about Cuban food but Cubans certainly know how to cook. I am a big fan of the fried plaintain and camarones! I was invited to eat with a local family in Cardenas, wow! the food and company were fantastic. I also ate at a couple local restaurants and was never let down. The food was inexpensive and delicious. My understanding (i hope it is right) is that some shops/restaurants are locally owned while others are owned by the government. Take note of this, as you will see quite a difference in terms of price. I suggest trying the locally owned shops.

Which brings me to suggestion 2: Talk to the locals. I met a local Cuban at a gas station in Cardenas and he spoke amazing English. He explained that he was educated in languages but dropped out of school because if he finished he would of had to become an English professor. He decided that he would make more money working at a resort with his english speaking skills. This sounded crazy to me, but definitely gave me a bit more of an understanding of this man and perhaps some of the decisions Cubans have to make. He, and his family were lovely and welcoming!

Suggestion 3: Rent a scooter or car and go beyond the tourism. It can be a bit pricey but this is a sure way to see more of Cuba without a filter. The country is absolutley gorgeous and the people are very sweet. However, a drive into a town like Cardinez or even Havana without a tour guide will surely let you see some of the poverty and living conditions. While the home I visited in Cardenas was well furnished (lots of Canadian products, brought down to my friend from Canadian), this is not always the case. I was invited into an apartment in Havana from someone trying to sell me cigars and this building was difficult for me to walk through emotionally. There were no ceilings in the hallways or doors on most apartment, the building was littered with people sleeping all over the place and made of all cement. A whole other side of Cuba that we as tourists do not normally see.

Here are some photos from my most recent travels to Cuba with my mom. Enjoy!

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Wander With Love,

inconsistently.tash

When Paths Cross with the Manta Ray

Perhaps it is not until you are truly immersed into anothers’ world that a true appreciation can exist. A bold kind of appreciation that is unparalleled by knowledge as derived through feeling. When deep sea diving you are immersed, two-fold, both underwater and in a new environment that is so uniquely beautiful. It is not difficult to lose yourself in awe.

Merely novice divers my partner and I feel immensely blessed to have dived in surely some of the most beautiful places in the world. Most recently, we were able to dive in Komodo National Park, Indonesia. A place renowned for for its beauty above and below sea level. Our encounters with the Manta Rays specifically were unparalleled to previous experiences. We were even more lucky to have a fellow diver diving specifically to capture photos of the Manta Rays for research, and gave us a short informative lesson to prepare for our dive.

The Giant Manta Ray and Resident Reef Manta Rays are magnificent. Relying on smaller fish to clean them they often stop at ‘cleaning stations’ and allow the smaller fish to clean their bottom half. As a diver, you can sit within metres to observe this massive creature relax for its cleaning. The Manta Rays we encountered were noticeably curious, and repeatedly swam right above our heads. Reaching a known maximum width of 7 metres, it is not fear that we felt but rather this incredible sense of respect and an outpouring presence of character and knowledge.The longer we sat the more comfortable and curious the Manta Rays seemed to be, as they swam closer and closer to us. You cannot help but wonder what senses and intelligence these Mantas possess that we cannot comprehend completely. A captivating creature!

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A special thank you to our new friend that captured these underwater shots and shared them with us! Another shout out and thank you to iDIVE for making our diving safe and fun!

wander with love.

inconsistently.tash