Cuba’s most famous marine protected area, the Jardines de la Reina (a.k.a. Gardens of the Queen) is a reef shark mecca with healthy coral reefs and crocodiles for snorkeling with.
Jardines de la Reina liveaboards
The Jardines de la Reina is located approximately 50 miles (80km) from south, central Cuba and consists of 230 islets spread over 150 miles (240km). Because there are no “real” hotels, you’ll need a liveaboard to dive in this pristine environment. A typical dive safari in Jardines de la Reina lasts 7 days and 6 nights, although many of the newer boats are now offering longer itineraries.
Diviac offers 8 liveaboards in the Jardines de la Reina for online booking. Six of these are a part of the world-class Avalon Fleet. From the Tortuga which remains stationary in the Gardens of the Queen to the Avalon II which offers the highest luxury available on the Cuba’s seas, there is a boat in the Avalon Fleet for every need or budget. On the other hand, two newcomers, named the Jardines Aggressor I & II, carry the trusted Aggressor name and offer longer itineraries than the Avalon Fleet.
Liveaboard diving in the Jardines de la Reina showcases a highly protected environment with colorful reefs and a plethora of large marine life.
The Jardines de la Reina, or the Gardens of the Queen in English, boasts the world’s third largest coral reef, guaranteed shark sightings and mighty crocodiles. On a liveaboard you can expect to see Caribbean so many reef sharks and silky sharks that you may get bored of your toothy friends. For many years, these sharks have been fed and show no fear of humans, often approaching very close to scuba divers. On the other hand, you’ll also have the opportunity to snorkel with Cuban crocodiles, if you dare!
Much of the underwater environment in the Gardens of the Queen consist of coral reefs. Tourist numbers are limited in the Gardens, so these reefs have remained healthy for decades. On the other hand, you might also snorkel in the mangroves where you’ll enjoy crystal clear visibility.
Much of the diving in the Jardines de la Reina is suitable to beginners, making this a great destination for your first liveaboard experience.
BEST TIME TO GO
November to April
The best time to dive in Cuba and the Jardines de la Reina is from November to April.
Within these months, you can expect dry and warm conditions. You’ll also find almost no current, warm water averaging from 79 °F (26 °C) to 84 °F (29 °C), and amazing visibility of 100 feet (30 meters) or more.
On the other hand, May to October is the rainy season and also hurricane season. October carries the highest risk of these massive storms, although Cuba has historically escaped the majority of hurricanes in the Caribbean. During the rainy season, surface conditions are liable to be at their worst. But these months still feature great diving. You just might want to take out trip insurance in the event cancellation is necessary.
Although the Cuba diving season can be split into two seasons, scuba diving in Cuba is fantastic year-round. The sharks and crocodiles are present in every month and liveaboards depart throughout the year.
The most popular airport for people visiting Cuba to fly into is in the capital, Havana. Havana International Airport is well-served from flights around the world (including the USA), but there are up to 10 other international airports on the island.
Divers traveling to the Jardines de la Reina will depart from Jucaro Port. Most liveaboard operators provide guests with transfers from Havana to the departure port.