Travel

Jardines de la Reina—The Current Queen among Scuba Diving Hotspots

True to its name, the biggest marine park in the Caribbean has lured hundreds of people to its beautiful sea garden.

Jardines de la Reina or Gardens of the Queens is one of the top places visited by scuba divers. Its healthy mangroves, black corals, and reefs together with Caribbean reef and silky sharks are enough to attract much attention.

According to Diver magazine, over 500 divers go there every year. Even if more people want to visit the archipelago, fewer than 1,500 divers are only allowed to make a visit. The travelers will have to ask for access, which is given on first come, first serve basis. While this has disappointed enthusiasts, the system has spared the Caribbean Sea from ecological damage, which is becoming an issue in other diving spots like the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

Getting There

Booking a flight to Jardines de la Reina isn’t easy, owing to the strict rules of Cuba. If you want to go there, you can make your booking through Delta or JetBlue. However, you can’t enter any of the islands with just a travel visa. You need to be able to pass the requirements of one of the 12 classifications approved by the country’s Department of Treasury- Office of Foreign Assets Control:

  1. Family visit

  2. Official business of the US government, foreign governments, and other intergovernmental organizations

  3. Journalistic activity

  4. Research and professional meeting

  5. Educational activity

  6. Religious activity

  7. Public performances, sports competitions, etc.

  8. Support of the Cuban people

  9. Humanitarian projects

  10. Activities of research and private foundations

  11. Exportation and importation

  12. Authorized export transactions

Exploring the Archipelago’s Marine Life

Different locations during different times will show different species of sharks. This includes Blacktips, Great hammerheads, whale sharks, lemons, spinners, Caribbean sharpnose, reef sharks, silky, and more.

If you go to Anclitas, you’ll be able to witness coral reefs with awesome layers of structural complexity along with green morays, spiny lobsters, green turtles, southern stingrays, and black groupers. In Farallon, you can see silky, nurse sharks, etc. and dive up to 100 feet. Other places have different diving depths, too. This is definitely not for the weak-hearted, so if you’re planning to come, you must at least master the basics of diving.

Conserving the Natural Wonder

While Cuba can easily gain money if they advertise the archipelago and open its doors more easily to diving enthusiasts, it has put more value on the marine life’s preservation instead. Since 1996, the Cuban government has been supporting and funding research on how to improve the marine life in Jardines de la Reina. They must also protect endangered species that are found in their part of the ocean. This includes but is not limited to Loggerhead turtles and American crocodiles.

Final Thoughts

Jardines de la Reina is thriving and is expected to still preserve its natural beauty for many years to come. With its good share of one-of-a-kind animals and amazing corals, there’s no wonder that many more divers line up to go there.

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