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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

2019: Nov 30 - Dec 7. $3,895 / person + park fees.* Group limit 12. Note: There is only one space remaining on this departure for a solo female traveler willing to share a cabin.

2020: Feb 1-8 SOLD OUT | Feb 15-21 SOLD OUT | April 18-25. $3,995 / person + park fees.* Group limit 12. Note: Due to new restrictions on Cuba travel announced in 2019, this will be our last Cuba departure for the foreseeable future.

* 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

Joy Marzolf is a lifetime ocean lover and avid scuba diver who is a naturalist and education coordinator at the Mass Audubon Society. For more than 10 years Joy has assisted with marine animal stranding teams, and she is also on the boards of the Boston Sea Rovers and the New England Aquarium Dive Club. She is an experienced guide, as well as a wildlife photographer and photography teacher.

Michelle Paddack is a senior conservation scientist with Oceanic Society and assistant professor at Santa Barbara City College. She is a passionate marine researcher and educator whose goal is to provide tangible inputs toward sustainable management and conservation of marine ecosystems. Michelle holds a Ph.D. from the University of Miami and has worked with Oceanic Society since 1998. She is co-director of our reef monitoring programs, and co-investigator of the Ulithi Marine Conservation Project.

Keoki Stender is a native Hawaiian photographer, educator, diving industry specialist, and owner of marinelifephotography.com, a popular species identification resource for Hawaii and beyond. He studied marine science and botany at the University of Hawaii and shares this passion as a guest speaker and volunteer educator for many organizations. Keoki is a PADI scuba instructor with more than 25 years of experience in the dive industry.

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
Disembark at 8:00 AM and transfer to Camaguey airport (about 2 hours). 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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