Our Best Dives Ever: Scuba Joe in GITMO


THIS PARTICULAR STORY COMES FROM Joe Smith, Dive instructor extraordinaire. ENJOY!

I was in the Army and had been on two tours of duty in the Middle East when I decided that life was short and wanted to get scuba certified. I had only been recently certified in 2008 when I got a chance to visit my mother, who was a government contractor at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GITMO). 

There are only three ways to get to GITMO; 1. Be stationed there as a military member or contractor, 2. An act of terrorism against the US, or 3. Know someone who is stationed there as a military member or contractor. BTW, you don't get to go scuba diving if you're incarcerated there!

As I was planning my trip with mom, she told me there was a dive shop on GITMO and we could go diving. I was totally excited! My first dives since being certified were going to be at GITMO!

What an amazing place to do your first dives after certification. There were so many huge iguanas on that part of the island. 

Three things I will never forget about my dives at GITMO:

1. One of my first dives was there was the first time I had seen an octopus in the water. It had captured a crab and was trying to pull the crab into its hole in the reef. When I first came up on the crab, I couldn't understand why it hadn't tried to get away from me. I approached and it didn't move. I tried to touch it and it didn't move! I looked through a whole and saw the octopus and realized why the crab wasn't moving, the octopus was trying to eat it. Nature at its best!

2. Sea stars. This was the first time I had seen sea stars that were more than about 6 inches wide. Most of the ones I had seen before were orange or reddish in color. The sea stars I encountered were key lime green and brown and well over 12 inches wide. They were absolutely massive and beautiful!

3. I had never seen a lion fish outside an aquarium before and didn't know the significance of what I was seeing until after the dive. That was my first lion fish in open water and my introduction to the fact that they are an invasive species in our waters. 

This was a totally memorable time diving the waters off of GITMO for those reasons but, just the fact that I was getting to dive a spot that a rare few had done because of its restricted location was an incredible experience I will never forget!

- Joe


Stay tuned to hear more dive stories from the entire Kyalami crew!

Joe Smith