Cuba’s Beautiful (and Nearly Invisible) Sea Life

The magic of the sea.
The magic of the sea.

by Carlos Fraguela

HAVANA TIMES — My aim with this post is to draw people’s attention to the many small, beautiful invertebrate animals one is often surrounded by while swimming at a beach or nearly any of Cuba’s coasts. Many of us are unaware of the overwhelming diversity of sea life.

Most of us have grown used to swimming among small fish, sea urchins, sea fans, octopi and moray eels. Some are afraid of these creatures and would rather not know what animals populate our shores almost constantly. The majority of these animals are quite a sight, and their significance for the natural environment, and humanity, make them worthy of our care.

I never studied biology, frustratingly enough. You could say I am a self-taught biologist, someone who is fascinated by the infinite and beautiful diversity of the biological world. I discovered many animals I didn’t know existed when I set up a small fish tank in my house.

It wasn’t exactly easy. I began by filling the tank with water. With an air pump, a homemade and two store filters, I managed to keep this water clean. Then, I put in some sand I collected from the sea bottom near the shore…and a whole bunch of very weird bugs began to appear.

Mollusks, crustaceans, worms of many different shapes and colors, anemones and starfish. The sea is nearby, and I can collect fresh water for my aquarium once a week (which is what they recommend).

After seeing these creatures in my fish tank for the first time, I have rediscovered them out at sea, while diving, which is a vital activity for me.

Diving goggles are very expensive, as things that make life pleasant for people tend to be. This doesn’t mean one should give up doing what one likes, however.

My first decent set of goggles was a gift from my best friend, who bought them for 25 dollars in Buenos Aires in 1998. I still use them. In 2005, I tightened my belt and bought my second pair, at 30 Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUCs). I did this so as to be able to have a diving partner.

This year one of my nephews gave me my third set of goggles, before leaving for the United States.

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