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
almost 3 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, that he named 'Gardens of the Queen' to honour his patron the Queen Isabella I of Spain. With less than three thousand divers allowed per year, it is one of the last relatively intact reef habitats in all 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 the world famous oceanographist Sylvia Earle. Jardines de la Reina is a Mission Blue Hope Spot. During your trip, you will have the opportunity to converse daily with local scientists on board.

Who is it for?

For divers of all levels, in search for 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 Camaguey, or 5 hours from Havana.

Day 1 - Saturday

  • Around 6pm: embark on your boat
  • Travel to Gardens of the Queen (5 - 6 hrs)
  • You will learn about the archipelago, its history and the conservation efforts being taken to preserve this delicate aquatic ecosystem
  • Enjoy an informative welcome dinner with the local marine experts from the dive operator

Day 2 - Sunday

  • 2 dives
  • Cuban scientists will give you an overview and history of the Gardens of the Queen Marine Park and the research that is being done regarding conservation and preservation
  • In the evening, you will meet with local marine biologists to discuss the Marine Park and its local and international impact as an example of a healthy ecosystem

Day 3- Monday

  • 2 dives
  • Many local fishermen work in the park in different capacities. In your interactions with them, you will experience the park from their point of view
  • In the evening, you will have a photography presentation by local experts and get a clearer understanding of how this raises awareness on the importance of conservation efforts

Day 4- Tuesday

  • 2 dives
  • You will engage with local experts to learn how ecotourism has impacted this area in a positive way
  • In the evening, a round-table conversation will center on the success of ecotourism in the Gardens of the Queen

Day 5 - Wednesday

  • 2 dives
  • This marine park is probably the most important group of islands in the Caribbean, integrated by one million-acre wetlands. It is a critical refuge for North American birds migrating along the route through Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to South America
  • Discussions later in the day with local marine experts will center on Cuba’s successful conservation policies and their influence on other places around the world

Thursday - Day 6

  • 2 dives
  • Today you will visit research sites set up around the park which monitor the health of the reefs and the fish indigenous to the area
  • After your daily travel around the park, local marine biologists will discuss their research findings

Friday - Day 7

  • 2 dives
  • Local park managers and marine experts will guide you to various places around the park
  • You will see the wildlife in the magnificent mangroves including several endangered animals such as the Jutías, Solendon, Crocodile and Tree Boa
  • At your farewell dinner with the Cuban scientists, local marine experts and the Avalon team, you will have a recap discussion about what you have observed and learned during your in-depth educational week in the Gardens of the Queen Marine Park

Saturday - Day 8

  • 9 am: disembark in Juraco
  • Transfer to Santa Clara
  • Travel home (flight on your own)

  • 7 nights accommodation on double occupancy
  • 3 dives a day - 17 dives in total and 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 Camaguey

  • Upgrade to four dives per day: $200 (about ... EUR)
  • Port Fee and Local health insurance: $340 (about ... EUR)
  • Conservation Fee: €120
  • Gear rental: €290
  • Drinks other than the ones mentioned above
  • Nitrox: $120 (about ... EUR)
  • Gratuities for the crew, by cash only
  • Fuel surcharge: if any, it will be communicated 3 months before departure
  • Return transfers from Havana $240 (about ... EUR), or from Jardines del Rey (CCC) international airport, Santa Clara airport (SNU), or Camaguey airport (CMW): $120 (about ... EUR)
  • Flight tickets and overnight-stays at hotels

Dive briefing!

Marine Life

  • Healthy gardens of soft corals, sponges incredibly diversified in colours and shape, 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 slops 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 experience in the area
  • Languages spoken: English, Spanish

Safety Information

  • Equipment Recommended: a 3 mm 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 & more!

Visa Requirements

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 hours drive.
  • You can also fly to Jardines del Rey (CCC) international airport, Santa Clara airport (SNU), or Camaguey airport (CMW). Count a three to four hours drive to Juraco.

More...

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