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Cuba: Snorkeling Gardens of the Queen

Snorkel the fabled Gardens of the Queen (Jardines de la Reina), home to Cuba's best snorkeling and the most pristine reefs in the Caribbean, on this unique liveaboard trip.

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Overview

  • Explore one of the largest marine parks in the Caribbean, home to the most pristine coral reefs in the entire Caribbean Sea.
  • Since being protected in 1996, fish populations have increased by 30% and shark populations are 10% larger than outside of the park.
  • Enjoy guidance by internationally-recognized Cuban marine biologists on this educational program.
  • This trip is open to U.S. citizens through a "People to People" license given by the U.S. State Department to our partners.

Sixty miles off the southeastern coast of Cuba, Jardines de la Reina (Gardens of the Queen) National Park encompasses a chain of 250 virgin coral and mangrove islands. It is Cuba’s first marine park and the largest no-take marine reserve in the Caribbean.

>> Read an article by our travel director, Wayne Sentman, about his experience in Jardines de la Reina aboard the M/V Oceans for Youth.

Due to its intact connectivity between seagrass beds, mangroves, and coral reefs, as well as the remoteness of the area and its long history of protection, Gardens of the Queen represents a “baseline” for a nearly pristine Caribbean marine ecosystem; an ecosystem that is home to healthy populations of Caribbean reef sharks and Goliath groupers, important grazers like rainbow parrotfish and long-spine sea urchins, and recovering endangered species such as elkhorn coral and hawksbill sea turtles.

Our expedition takes place aboard the 100-ft M/V Oceans for Youth, designed for sustainable exploration and research. Our use of the vessel supports annual ecosystem monitoring in the Gardens of the Queen National Park, Cuba.

Trip Dates & Cost

2018: Dec 1–8. $3,795 / person + park fees.* Group limit 12.

2019: Feb 23 - Mar 2 | May 4–11 | Nov 30 - Dec 7. $3,895 / person + park fees.* Group limit 12.

* Trip prices do not include international airfare to/from Camaguey or ground transfer costs to/from Jucaro, where the ship departs. Click here for our full expedition terms and conditions.

Photos
Naturalist

Wayne Sentman is our director of conservation travel programs and an Oceanic Society naturalist since 1998. He is an experienced guide with a diverse background in marine mammal, seabird, and marine debris research. Wayne also co-teaches undergraduate field programs in Kenya on human-wildlife conflict and on the use of social media and art to raise public participation in conservation. He recently received a Master's in Environmental Management from Harvard University.

Eric Ramos is a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the CUNY Graduate Center in new York City in the area of animal behavior and comparative psychology training. He has been working as a field researcher and trip leader with Oceanic Society since 2011, leading boat-based research trips with volunteers and students to gather data on the population of bottlenose dolphins at Turneffe Atoll, Belize.

Itinerary

Day 1: Camaguey - Jucaro, embark
Welcome and pick-up at Camaguey Airport by 5 pm. Transfer to Jucaro for boarding the M/V Oceans for Youth vessel. Boarding begins at 5 pm followed by the welcome orientation and dinner.

Days 2-7: Gardens of the Queen / Jardines de la Reina
Arrive in Gardens of the Queen and begin marine eco-explorations with Cuban biologists and resource management experts to include daily snorkeling and island excursions (with 2 optional scuba diving sites). Habitats to explore include:

Enjoy nightly natural history talks or marine ecology seminars by Cuban marine scientists throughout our adventure.

Day 8: Disembark - Camaguey - fly home
8 am transfer to Camaguey airport for a 1 pm arrival. Fly home.

Accommodations

The M/V Oceans for Youth is a 100-ft. motor vessel designed as a sustainable exploration & research platform. The ship has a large dive/snorkel deck with two freshwater showers, fully-equipped galley, main salon, sun deck lounging area, and four marine heads. The funds raised via these ecotourism trips supports annual ecosystem monitoring in the Gardens of the Queen National Park, Cuba.

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