Location: Jardines De La Reina a group of small islands off the south coast of Cuba.
Overview: This was a dive trip l had been planing for over a year and it surpassed all my hopes and expectations, big time! Our group booked on the boat Avalon 1. Don’t miss this remarkable dive destination its a must do place for anyone wanting to be very near sharks, it’s guaranteed. Book ahead it is very popular.
Fish Life: My main reason for diving this area was to get close to reef sharks and that we did on every dive everyday! Caribbean reef sharks and Silky sharks were the two species we saw all the time. Fish include schools of Horse Eye Jacks, Tarpon, Barracuda, Snappers, Grunts and some huge Groupers on many dives. Turtles and Sting Rays.
Reef Health: All the reefs we dived such as – Montana Rusa, Octopus Cave, Snapper Head and Los Mojitos had healthy corals and sponges, walls, sand gullies, sea fans and much more. Very little reef damage or dead areas at all. Vibrant reefs.
Highlights: Being so close to any number or reef sharks and being able to take photos and videos of them surpassed all my wildest dreams. I have seen many sharks before all over the world but we were surrounded by them on every dive and never felt threatened. When the food box was opened you could feel the energy shift around you and it was a frenzy of fins, tails, teeth and flashes of white! 2 minutes later its all over! and calm is restored.
Dive Centre/Boat Service: Avalon run all the dive live-aboards in this area and do a great job. Our boat ‘Avalon 1’ was the most luxurious and comfortable. Our crew were fabulous and the food was amazing, we had fresh lobster at least twice during our 6 dive days. Noel was our skiff’s dive guide and he was excellent. He is also head of the diving onboard. Our every need was catered for and we could decide which dive site we preferred everyday. 3 dives a day.
First Time/Return: My first time here and to Cuba. It didn’t disappoint in anyway at all. I loved the country and the people. The diving was amazing even though l only went to one area – Jardines de la Reina. They do take a food box down on every dive which is opened at some point. They have been doing this for years which is why the sharks are/seem comfortable with the system.
Current/Vis: We didn’t really encounter any currents. The area is largely current free. The vis varied between 60′ and 100 ft. We had calm seas and a varying wind but on the whole journeys to dive sites were no more than 30 minutes and comfortable.
Favourite dive site: I have 2 favourites. The shear drama of the area and sharks at Black Coral 1 was amazing. The incredible profusion of corals and sponges which were bursting with colours on Los Mojitos was breath taking. l only wish we had dived it more than once. Please check out my photo album of Cuba Reefs.
Marine Park: The whole Jardines de la Reina area is a large group of islands largely made up of mangroves and some sedimentation. Fidel Castro loved marine life and declared the whole area a marine reserve back in the 1980’s.
Other: My experience with my first salt water crocodile will never be forgotten. Even though it wasn’t the biggest creature l’ve seen it was wild! El Nino, as Noel has named him, is a friendly croc that inhabits the mangroves around where they moor their live-aboards. One day Noel took a few of us to a shallow area and just called his name out across the water. I looked in wonder as after 30 minutes he arrived! Incredible! We got quite close to him and Nigel and Paul were able to get some nice shots. A truly wild experience!