Legal Educational Travel to Cuba for U.S. Citizens & Residents
For 13 years I have felt deeply privileged to spend much of my time in Cuba, working on research and conservation projects with some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met, among the most spectacularly healthy reefs I have ever beheld. One region in particular, Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen, is so staggeringly pristine and healthy – in stark contrast to many of the other coral reef ecosystems around the world – that the region was recently featured on an award-winning segment of the CBS news program, 60 Minutes, hosted by Anderson Cooper.
In a world where many of the ocean’s corals and fish populations are in decline, the marine life of Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen – the largest no-take marine reserve in the Caribbean – is thriving. The massive and strikingly beautiful Gardens of the Queen National Park is located 60 miles off the southern coast of Cuba, an archipelago comprising a chain of 250 virgin coral and mangrove islands extending along 75 miles of turquoise waters.
Due to the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba, it has been virtually impossible for Americans to legally visit Cuba and the Gardens of the Queen for more than 50 years.
It is with great pleasure and excitement that I announce that Ocean Doctor has launched the first-ever educational trips to Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen. Under a license from the U.S. Treasury Department, our program allows us to take U.S. citizens and residents on these trips legally.
This unique educational journey examines the relationship of Cuban citizens with their natural environment, including burgeoning socioeconomic and cultural issues brought about by Cuba’s growing ecotourism industry. The exchange also represents an opportunity to explore with our Cuban colleagues important environmental issues that impact the marine waters that both nations share. Visitors will meet with Cuban scientists, resource managers, ecotourism professionals and community members.
Six days of this 11-day/10-night trip will be spent aboard a floating hotel or liveaboard dive vessel in the heart of Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen National Park, where much of the story lies underwater. U.S. visitors will accompany Cuban specialists and be able to scuba dive in one of the healthiest marine ecosystems remaining in the Caribbean. Visitors will spend four nights at a 5-star hotel in Havana, visiting a variety of Cuba institutions and meeting with a range of Cuban professionals and community members.
About the Gardens of the Queen
Gardens of the Queen was named by Christopher Columbus to honor the Queen of Spain and the area remains as spectacularly beautiful and wild as when Columbus experienced it centuries ago. Today, it is among the healthiest marine ecosystems in the region.
The Gardens harbor abundant and healthy fish and shark population, stunning mangrove islands and shallow bays that teem with juvenile species, rare crocodiles, flamingos and other birds, iguanas and the jutia , a native rodent.
SPACE IS LIMITED: Cuban regulations strictly limit the number of visitors to this wilderness each year. Our trips run throughout the year based on demand and availability. Submit your preferred dates using our booking request form.
Your Participation Supports Our Work
In addition to helping advance environmental education, one of Ocean Doctor’s principal areas of focus, your participation in this program helps support Ocean Doctor’s Cuba Conservancy Program.This program’s mission is to establish sustained collaboration between Cuba and the U.S. to:
- ensure enduring, locally-supported marine research and conservation programs in Cuba.
- contribute to major advances in the scientific understanding of Cuba’s natural resources.
- achieve meaningful, long-lasting conservation for Cuba’s marine ecosystems and shared ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico and Western Caribbean.
- forge long-term collaborative relationships with our Cuban colleagues.
- help train the next generation of Cuban marine scientists.
We want this program to set the best possible example for responsible tourism practices and sustainability. We’re happy to be partnering with Avalon Cuban Diving Services which runs the only diving operation at Gardens of the Queen, along with other diving centers throughout Cuba. Avalon runs a professional, low-impact operation with an emphasis on conservation and safety.
David E. Guggenheim, Ph.D.
President, Ocean Doctor
Director, Cuba Conservancy
and the team at
Avalon Cuban Diving Centers
Questions? Our international team can best answer your questions via email. Please submit your question at submit your question and we’ll reply as soon as we can. You may also email us at: CubaTravel@OceanDoctor.org or leave a voice message on our dedicated Cuba Travel Program line at +1 (202) 507-9797. If you haven’t already visited our Gardens of the Queen Travel Page, many of your questions can be answered there: OceanDoctor.org/Gardens (Be sure to read the FAQ Section.)
Visit Us at These Upcoming Events!
- September 21-22, 2013: Booth #38 at the Mile-High Blue Exposition at Making Waves in Colorado 2013, University Memorial Center, Glen Miller Ballroom, University of Colorado, Boulder
- November 6-9, 2013: Booth #833 at the DEMA Show 2013 (Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, Florida)