Jardines de la Reina, Cuba | March 2019

Added by Steven Backerman from his trip to Jardines de la Reina, Cuba in November 2019.

 

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In March 2019, I had the pleasure of taking the Jardines Aggressor II for a 7 night liveaboard dive trip in the archipelago of Jardines de la Reina (Gardens of the Queen), Cuba. 

Christopher Columbus named the archipelago to honor Queen Isabella I of Spain.  It is comprised of over 600 cays and islands over 840 square miles.  It has been well-protected by the Cuban government for over 20 years and the abundance of life, from thick coral gardens to huge schools of fish and sharks on every dive, is phenomenal.  And, if you’re lucky, you can snorkel and spend some time underwater with American Crocodiles (more on this below).

I flew into the Camagüey airport and, along with the other divers, we were met by a luxury bus and were drive to the port of Jucaro, Cuba where we boarded the Jardines Aggressor II and departed for the Jardines. 

Although recent actions taken by Trump may prevent future trips, at least for now, I was able to make this trip through a non-profit group, Oceans for Youth, which sponsors these trips as educational adventures. 

The Jardines Aggressor II is a 135’ boat with room for 24 divers, though there were only 9 of us on my trip.  The staff are extremely attentive, the food is first class, the dive masters are well trained and the accommodations extremely comfortable.  The boat includes a hot tub, hot showers on the deck and the staff meet you with hot towels after every dive.

The skies are beautiful.  I witnessed my first ever green-flash and ended up seeing it a couple of times.  But, even without a green-flash, the sunsets never disappointed.

Two dives are offered each morning.  There are two additional dives available each day, either two in the afternoon or one in the afternoon and one night dive.  On Friday, the final day of diving, there are only two morning dives, as the boat then makes its way back to Jucaro to complete the trip.

As stated, life is abundant throughout the reefs.  Silky sharks and reef sharks are plentiful, as are groupers, turtles, tarpon, octopus and huge schools of fish.

Several times, over a couple of days, we took the skiff through the mangroves in search of crocodiles.  We had difficulty locating them but, thankfully, on our final foray, we found a couple of them. 

I was able to get in the water with the crocs and managed to take several photos.  The quality of the photos leaves something to be desired as the water was extremely silty and the strong current only managed to stir up the silt even further in the algae rich water.

American Crocodiles, while dangerous, are not nearly as aggressive as those from Australia and Africa, so with a bit of precaution not to engage the crocs from the side and only approach them head-on, I entered the water and enjoyed this rather unique experience.

On Saturday, the day we disembarked, we were treated to a tour of the city of Camagüey and I’ve included some of the photos of this very interesting city.

I hope you enjoy viewing my photos.  It was an amazing experience and I highly recommend it!

I will definitely return.

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