Scuba diving in Jardines de la Reina
Scuba diving in Jardines de la Reina
Scuba diving in the Jardines de la Reina (Gardens of the Queen) in Cuba has been stated as one of the global diving hotspots this year. This area has been a marine park for over 20 years and the protection has paid off. Dr David E. Guggenheim, an American marine biologist and senior fellow at the Ocean Foundation in Washington stated that Jardines de la Reina is "the most incredibly well protected and flourishing reef I've ever seen".
Diving in Jardines de la Reina is unique due to a collaboration between the government and privately owned Italian company Avalon which holds the licence for Scuba diving in the park, allowing a maximum of 1200 divers per year and granted permits to live in the marine sanctuary on a liveaboard. They work together to uphold park protection
Jardines de la Reina scuba diving is restricted to ZUSRUP (Zones Under Special Regime of Use and Protection) these protected areas are used in a sustainable way. Tourism and conservation work alongside each other under special rules and regulations. There are no inhabitants on the island, minimal tourism opportunities and only a little regulated lobster fishing with artisanal means in one area to the north and monitored Bonito fishing in the South.
Marine Life in Jardines de la Reina
One of the main attractions of scuba diving in the Jardines de la Reina is that reef health is thought to be on a similar level to when Christopher Colombus named the area, which is impressive in todays modern world. This underwater Garden of Eden provides a home for a diverse array of marine life.
There are a number of different dive spots boasting vertical reef walls covered with brightly coloured sponges, huge pillar corrals, biggest populations of adult fish in the Caribbean, Jewfish up to 400pounds, Snappers, Groupers are to name a few. Shark species are abundant Silkies, Reef, Lemon, Blacktip, Great Hammerhead and Nurse Sharks.
Best Dive Sites in Jardines de la Reina
Scuba Diving in Jardines de la Reina is diverse with 80 dive spots and more being discovered, all protected from wind and currents. Four of the most prominent dive sites are Pipin, Farallon, Vicente, Black Coral I and II.
The dive site Pipin is between 15-24meters, caves and canyons running perpendicular to the coastline, then dropping off. At the drop-off the reef teems with life schools of Grunts, Jacks and Tarpons along with Spotted Eagle Rays and Turtles, if your lucky an inquisitive Hammerhead may swim up from the blue and Silky sharks often grace the safety stop. Vicente is another drop-off yet the wall has beautiful black coral colonies in the wall with visibility around 40 meters and sharks gracing the abyss
One of the most popular dive sites is Farallon. A giant mountain coral the top of which is 17 meters deep dropping to meet the sandy sea floor at 29 meters. The coral is divided into four parts by tunnels which are about 30 meters long, 3 meters wide and 10 meters high with an opening at the top allowing sunlight to pour through, which makes it feel like you are flying across another world
Diving at Black Coral I and II are the most exciting dives. The drop-off here has a resident population of 30 reef sharks who get extremely close to divers. Dramatic coral formations and channels also grace this dive with the majority of the reef at 24meters reaching a sandy bottom at 30meters.
Best Time to Dive in Jardines de la Reina
Jardines de la Reina is unique in that the only dive operation is Avalon dive center which runs 900 dives per year, well protected from wind and currents, visibility averages around 40 meters throughout the year and from July to November is easy to swim with Whale Sharks.
Experience Level for diving in Jardines de la Reina
Due to its uniquely sheltered conditions and dive sites with abundant marine life in the first 20meters of the water column it is perfect for all levels of diver. It is possible to do multiple dives per day in order to really make the most of this amazing marine reserve.
How Do I Get to Jardines de la Reina
Airlines fly to Cuba from most international airports to the Cuban international airport which is located in the city of Havana. However, if travelling from the US, flights can be limited due to the Cuban Trade Embargo. Cuban Liveaboards to take you diving in Jardines de la Reina are available from Jucaro Port, which is the most common point of departure the majority of dive operators will provide airport transfers.