Jardines de la Reina, or the Queen’s Gardens, is the biggest Marine Nature Park in the Caribbean. It was named by Christopher Columbus for Queen Isabel of Spain and is located about 50 miles south of the mainland of Cuba; 80 miles north of Cayman Brace, in the middle of a 150 mile long mangrove and coral island system. This system forms what some people say is the third largest barrier reef in the world. Jardines de la Reina covers about 2,200 sq kilometers of ocean habitat, which means there is no commercial fishing in this area and the number of inhabitants is zero.
One of the most amazing things about this park is that it sees no more than 400 divers a year! This is a marine wilderness with blue lagoons, coral walls covered with brightly huge sponges and colorful corals spanning from the depths to shallow reefs filled with both schooling and solitary fish and wrecks.
Elkhorn coral is a rarity in the Caribbean, but can be seen in abundance throughout the Marine Nature Park. Lots of healthy corals, fish, sponges, sharks and sea fans could be see at “Five Seas” dive site – Kip’s new favorite dive spot!
Caribbean Reef Sharks circling the dive site. There were about 15 sharks in the immediate location cruising over one of the many reefs.
A revered Silky Shark swims by.
This image is of the entrance to Octopus Cave, an area where large groupers, schooling fish, and sharks – of course – congregate.
Dr. David Guggenheim, a well know scientist and activist for these waters descends for a dive. Click here to learn about his work in Cuba.
An Osprey coming in for a landing. Osprey collect small pieces of wood from the mangrove forest to build their nests.