Dive 'Jardines De La Reina', the Last Untouched Sanctuary of the Caribbean

Overall Rating

8.8

Marine Life
Professionalism
Sustainability
Value
10.0/10
10.0/10
6.0/10
9.0/10
LucJaouen
FR
Luc J verified review
Enseignant de niveau 4
1000+ dives
8.8/10
about 4 years ago

Show Original (Français)

Our first contact with Cuba and Havana went pretty well, we were picked up at the airport as planned. The trip in the collective taxi went well and we got in touch with local means of transport and road infrastructure ... The welcome at the hotel was very good as the rooms and bedding only downside breakfast and again just because I lacked a fresh juice .... The transfer bus was at the meeting point, I just hadn't figured out that it took 8 hours to reach our boarding destination…. Arrival on board in the evening for the Mojito welcome !! At first glance, a spacious and organized boat for photographers, large tables at head height are available to allow the handling of the boxes and the loading of the headlights. Spaces are available to dry coveralls and other jerseys as well as individual boxes to store small equipment. Overall, the diving space is truly remarkable for the space and the layout. The cabins are spread over 3 levels, those that I had the opportunity to "visit" on the ground floor were rather decent size (8 to 10m2) plus a bathroom space (shower, sink and a real WC for a boat) and a functional air conditioning. The cabin layout allows the storage of clothes and bags for the living room (a chest is available in each cabin). The cabins adjacent to ours were equipped with small balconies. Also on the ground floor, large living room with giant screen, video equipment and available 110V charging location (only 110V…) 1st level: outdoor lounge and restaurant 30 places for meals. 2nd level: sun-deck, 15 deckchairs available, a working Jacuzzi ..., a bar and armchairs for evenings with guests, an exceptional view ... The crew is very caring for everyone and at all times (hot towels after rinsing fresh water after returning from diving) From the point of view of the meals, we feasted (lobsters, local fish, local vegetables, rice… and fresh fruit systematically) with a special mention for breakfast after the first dive despite the lack of fresh juice… Distribution of guests: Russians, Americans, Japanese, Dutch, French. Another permanent and unwanted guest, THE MOSQUITO! even with the air conditioning, always active and very present .. (I am a mosquito magnet, repellents are necessary and I had them, but for the cabin, you need to have a bomb ...) Finally for the dives, We had 24 proposed dives, 23 were feasible we made 18 by choice, my partner and I considering the 4 th dive as being too much (the box is really too far) At no time did the staff ask us for proof of our qualifications (cards), the check dive was a masquerade, probably the most rotten site in the area… we were 5 customers, 2 3-star instructors, 2 dive master, 1 advanced ... The dives were organized in three groups and therefore 3 dive boats on 3 different sites, the Russians, the Americans and the others, so we were only 6 or 7 divers on the site a real luxury ... The following 17 sites were of very good quality and very diversified, shallow depths for the French… (20m on average) many sharks chasing the yellow bottle of the various staff masters. Flora and fauna of the Caribbean. Average temperature, 30 ° c. Lots of particles and therefore average visibility (the dive master lost us 2 times, it is true that for a guide, with a camera it is complicated to guide his group…). We really had the opportunity to make beautiful dives a little short no doubt but on average lasting an hour :) How to end an almost perfect week. When we got back to Havana, the bus was full, visiting places for tourists and therefore commissions for drivers and other staff members (this is the deal) Our stay in Havana was quite pleasant, the b & b was very good (unfortunately the hosts only spoke Cuban and I wish I had talked to them more). Unfortunately, we were out of step / on the premises and the various sites / museums that we would have liked to visit were closed or under construction… In conclusion, for the next time, it is necessary to plan in addition to the cruise a time to visit Cuba, the journey times to the pick up site for the cruise are very important. it can be interesting to plan two days of visit before the cruise with an appointment in Santa Clara then a return of 3 days by visiting the Atlantic coast…

Why We Love It

Little seems to have changed since Christopher Columbus discovered these pristine reefs, which he named 'Gardens of the Queen' to honor his patron, Queen Isabella I of Spain. With fewer than three thousand divers allowed per year, it is one of the last relatively intact reef habitats in the Caribbean. Protected since 1996, it hosts many endangered and vulnerable species, such as staghorn and elkhorn corals, hawksbill turtles, and up to 10 species of sharks. You might even spot some American crocodiles lying motionless in the mangroves.

Conservation

The dive operator partners with many scientists, including world-famous oceanographer Sylvia Earle. Jardines de la Reina is a Mission Blue Hope Spot. During your trip, you will likely have the opportunity to converse daily with local scientists onboard.

Who Is It For?

For divers of all levels, in search of the most pristine coral reefs of the Caribbean. Photographers will enjoy seeing sharks and crocodiles.

Prices and Dates
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Program

All guests are granted a certificate of participation and completion of this humanitarian and environmental project, along with a full itinerary of activities that will certify them as legal under US and Cuban regulations.

Departure and arrival is from Juraco, about 3-4 hours drive from Santa Clara or Camagüey, or 5 hours from Havana.

What's included?
  • 7 nights accommodation on double occupancy
  • 3 dives a day - 18 dives in total including one night dive
  • Tanks and weights
  • Discussions with the local scientists and marine experts
  • All meals, snacks, water, juices, and coffee
  • Six specialty beverages per day (soft drinks, alcohol)
  • For groups of 20 people: return scheduled transfers from the airport in Cayo Coco, Santa Clara, or Camagüey
What's not included?
  • Upgrade to four dives per day: €250
  • Port Fee: €200
  • Conservation Fee: €100
  • Gear rental: €250
  • Drinks other than the ones mentioned above
  • Nitrox: €100
  • Gratuities for the crew, by cash only
  • Fuel surcharge: if any, it will be communicated 3 months before departure
  • Return transfers from Havana €300, or from Jardines del Rey (CCC) international airport, Santa Clara airport (SNU), or Camagüey airport (CMW): €120
  • Flight tickets and overnight stays at hotels
Dive Briefing!

Marine Life

  • Healthy gardens of soft corals, sponges incredibly diversified in colors and shapes, sea fans, black corals, staghorn corals and elkhorn corals are found throughout the marine park
  • Caribbean reef, lemon, hammerhead, nurse, blacktip, and silky sharks - whose population has been depleted by over 90% throughout the Caribbean, freely approach and investigate divers
  • You'll also get to dive along massive Goliath, Nassau, black and tiger groupers, snappers, hawksbill turtles, tarpons, stingrays and eagle rays, and Caribbean reef squids
  • In the mangroves and sea grasses, American crocodiles lie motionless, their eyes breaking the calm surface

Dive Conditions

  • Season: all year round for diving. October to May is the dry season, bringing exceptional visibility and good opportunities for photographers. June to August is the reproduction season, with more fish around
  • Currents: little current
  • Visibility: 30 meters (98 ft)
  • Water Temperature: 25° to 29°C (77° to 84°F)
  • Depth: both shallow and deep dives

Dive Sites

  • The Gardens of the Queen is made up of 250 virgin coral and mangrove islands, extending along 75 miles of pristine coastline
  • About 50 dive sites, offering a great diversity in topography, with coral gardens, drop-offs, gentle slopes and walls
  • Dive sites are well protected from the winds and sea currents
  • You will go dive every day in small groups - only one boat per dive site is allowed at a time
  • You will use a skiff to explore new sites every day

The Team

  • Dive operator with more than 20 years of experience in the area
  • Languages spoken: English, Spanish
  • Maximum divers per guide: 6

Safety Information

  • Equipment Recommended: a 3mm shorty is recommended except for January and February when it is better to have a 5mm full wetsuit. Equipment can be rented on board - ask us.
  • Insurance: Both dive insurance and travel insurance are mandatory. We recommend DAN Europe that has plans to cover both - ask us for a quote.
  • Nearest Hyperbaric Chamber: Havana
Visas, Flights, and More!

Visa Requirements

  • Check the current visa policy that applies for your country.
  • Since January 2022, all travelers must fill a DViajeros Form 72 hours prior to their arrival in Cuba.
  • American citizens: Tourist trips to Cuba from the United States (even in transit) remain, in principle, prohibited, regardless of the person's nationality. However, the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has issued general authorizations for 12 categories of travelers who do not need to request additional authorization to travel to Cuba - see travel categories allowed on the OFAC website.
  • This liveaboard trip to Gardens of the Queen in Cuba (7 nights starting from ...) is compliant with the American authorizations.

How to Get There

  • The dive operator will pick you up at your hotel in La Havana, and bring you to Juraco Harbor. It's a five-hour drive.
  • You can also fly to Jardines del Rey (CCC) International Airport, Santa Clara Airport (SNU), or Camaguey Airport (CMW). Count on a three to four hour drive to Juraco.

More...

  • Cuba is subject to Dengue and Zika. Take necessary precautions to avoid them.
  • Bring reef-safe sunscreen, a hat, a rash guard, a sweater or a lightweight jacket, insect repellent, a mask and snorkel, and any prescription medicine you might need.
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