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

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 a 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.

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 till 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: no or little current
  • Visibility: 30 meters and above
  • Water temperature: 25 to 29°C
  • 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
  • The two selected liveaboards are the most recent - one of the two will be launched in January 2019

Safety information

  • Equipment needed: the usual diving equipment. 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 Dive Assure that has plans to cover both - ask us for a quote.

  • Hyperbaric Chamber: nearest chamber is in Havana.

Prices and Dates

Program

The cruise starts and ends on Saturdays

Departure and Arrival is from Juraco, about 4 hours drive from Santa Clara or Camaguey

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

  • 4 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

  • 4 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

  • 4 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

  • 4 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

  • 4 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)

What’s included

  • 7 nights accommodation on double occupancy, on full board basis
  • 22 dives in total (up to four dives a day including night dives)
  • Tanks, weights, and unlimited air refills
  • Discussions with the local scientists and marine experts
  • Fruit juices, soft drinks, iced water, iced tea, coffee and a limited selection of local beer and wine
  • Return scheduled transfers from the airport in Santa Clara or Camaguey

What’s not included

  • Gratuities for the crew, by cash only
  • Inscription Fee: $200
  • Conservation Fee: $100
  • Gear rental: brand new Cressi equipment is available for rent
  • Alcoholic beverages other than the ones mentioned above
  • Nitrox: $100
  • Fuel surcharge: if any, it will be communicated 3 months before departure
  • Flight tickets and overnight-stays at hotels

Visa, Flights & more!

Visa

  • Check the current visa policy that applies for your country
  • American citizens: note that Tourist travel is still prohibited. As per new rules issued by O.F.A.C. on June 16, 2017, only Group travel is allowed within the ‘people-to-people’ General License. If you need more information, contact us

How to get there?

  • There are direct flights from Miami to Santa Clara and Camaguey
  • The dive operator will go get you at the airport and bring you to Juraco where you embark
  • It is possible to arrive and depart (flight after 1pm) from Santa Clara or Camaguey the same day of the cruise

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