Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen: An Unforgettable Learning Adventure

Cuba's Gardens of the QueenOcean Doctor’s educational trips to Cuba, including Cuba’s spectacular Gardens of the Queen, are now available for booking. Travel to Cuba under this program is legal for U.S. citizens and residents. Ocean Doctor is licensed by the U.S. Treasury Department for educational programs to Cuba and we work to ensure that all activities are in full compliance with U.S. Treasury regulations. Under the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba, travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens for tourism is prohibited. However, licensed “people-to-people” educational visits are permitted.

IMPORTANT: Touristic travel to Cuba by Americans remains ILLEGAL despite recent changes in diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Please be aware of travel scams as a number of travel agencies are illegally offering packages to U.S. citizens without proper licensing or by offering trips under unrelated licenses, such as religious licenses or humanitarian aid. Booking travel directly with these organizations violates U.S. law. Travel with Ocean Doctor is legal under a license from U.S. Department of Treasury. Click here for more information.

Legal Travel to Cuba for U.S. Citizens

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cean Doctor’s Cuba Travel Program 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 important environmental issues that impact the marine waters that both nations share through face-to-face interaction. The environment, and particularly the marine environment, is something that both biologically and culturally joins Cuba and the U.S. and the exchanges build upon the strong relationships Ocean Doctor has forged through since 2000 through its scientific research programs in Cuba. Visitors will meet with Cuban scientists, resource managers, ecotourism professionals and community members. Map of Cuba's Gardens of the Queen National ParkSix 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 (Jardines de la Reina) National Park, 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.

Gardens of the Queen was recently featured on an award-winning segment of the CBS news program, 60 MINUTES hosted by Anderson Cooper. Gardens of the Queen is Cuba’s first marine park and the largest no-take marine reserve in the Caribbean, 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. Space is limited. Visitation to Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen is limited to only 1,000 divers per year by the Cuban government. Ocean Doctor’s Cuba Travel Program is in partnership with our travel providers, Avalon Cuban Diving Centers and Marazul Charters. All trips are led by Dr. David E. Guggenheim, president of Ocean Doctor and Cuba Conservancy director and/or experienced Ocean Doctor representatives. Your travel helps support our work!

  • Testimonials
  • Submit a Booking Request
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

60 Minutes - CBSOur work in Cuba’s “Gardens of the Queen” was featured on an award-winning segment of the CBS news program, 60 Minutes hosted by Anderson Cooper.

Awards and Accolades

Outside Magazine Cover 2015

Outside Magazine awarded Ocean Doctor’s trips to Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen its BEST DIVE award for 2015!

Ocean Doctor's Cuba Travel Program is the cover story in Scuba Diving Magazine

Ocean Doctor’s trips to Cuba were the cover story in Scuba Diving Magazine!

Cuba's Gardens of the Queen was voted Best Marine Park 2014 by Readers of Scuba Diving Magazine

Gardens of the Queen National Park was voted BEST MARINE PARK 2014 in Scuba Diving Magazine!

See reviews on Trip Advisor

See reviews at Trip Advisor

Sandy Driscoll

Our trip to Havana and The Gardens of the Queen exceeded my expectations! The Cuban people were warm and welcoming to us all. Our educational programs totally raised my awareness of the beauty and importance of keeping our reefs healthy. To be able to dive in pristine and virginal waters opened my eyes further to how we can improve the reefs throughout the world. I hope that David and Ocean Doctor can continue these programs to others. The story truly lies underwater! Thank you

Sandy Driscoll

See more testimonials below

Book Your Trip!

Ocean-Doctor-Briefcase

Space is extremely limited for our trips, so we encourage you to submit a no-obligation booking request as soon as possible.

Upcoming scheduled trips:

  • May 28 – June 6, 2015: How Cuba Went Green (with Cross Cultural Journeys Foundation)
  • August 5 – 15, 2015: Gardens of the Queen aboard Tortuga Floating Hotel
  • September 23 – October 3, 2015: Gardens of the Queen aboard Avalon I Live-Aboard
  • December 23, 2015 – January 2, 2016: Gardens of the Queen aboard Avalon II Live-Aboard

These dates don’t work for you? You can also submit a request for other dates using our booking form below.

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Contact Us

Not ready to submit a booking request? Have questions? If you haven’t already consulted the FAQ section of this page, many of your questions can be answered there. Otherwise, please contact us using the form below (click to display it) or you may call us at: +1 (202) 695-2550. Please also be sure to subscribe to our newsletter and be the first to receive updates on our Cuba Travel Program.

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Cuba Travel Questions - Gardens of the Queen

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Accommodations/Vessels

While in Havana, participants will enjoy quality hotel accommodations and Havana’s finest cuisine. In Gardens of the Queen, participants may choose to stay aboard one of three liveaboard vessels or the Tortuga floating hotel.

  • Avalon I, is a modern liveaboard which can sleep 16 in 8 state rooms. It is air conditioned with private bathrooms.
  • Avalon II is the newest, most spacious and luxurious vessel in the Avalon fleet, placed into service in April 2014. It has 10 state rooms and is air conditioned with private bathrooms.
  • Georgiana is a smaller liveaboard with 6 state rooms, air conditioned with private bathrooms.
  • Tortuga is a small floating hotel with 8 state rooms that accommodate 2 or 3 guests each (for a total of 16-21 guests). It is air conditioned with private bathrooms.

Avalon II Schematics (559.0 KiB)

Activities

Cuba Taxi (Photo: D. Guggenheim)Our trips are 11 days/10 nights in duration, departing on Wednesdays and returning on Saturdays via direct flights between Miami and Havana. During our journey, we will visit Havana and vicinity, the Sierra del Rosario mountain range — a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve — in Pinar del Río Province, the Cuban countryside, the fishing village of Jucaro and Gardens of the Queen (Jardines de la Reina) and learn from Cuban scientists and experts about the important marine research and conservation efforts underway, including collaborative efforts with U.S. institutions. We will also learn about the management of Gardens of the Queen — Cuba’s first marine reserve and today the largest “no-take” marine reserve in the Caribbean — and observe how ecotourism activities, including scuba and catch-and-release fly fishing, are managed in the park. We will have the opportunity to visit research sites throughout Gardens of the Queen, both above and below the water.

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Pricing

The following prices apply to our trips to Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen. Other trips (such as our trips with Cross Cultural Journeys), are priced differently. Discounts, commissions and/or free spaces are available for groups, travel agents and wholesalers.

Avalon I

Live-Aboard Vessel

Avalon II

Live-Aboard Vessel

Tortuga

Floating Hotel

Georgiana

Live-Aboard Vessel

$8,365* $8,865* $7,510* $7,854*
*Plus a $250 conservation & research fee supporting Ocean Doctor's collaborative conservation and research activities in Cuba to help ensure the health and lasting protection of Cuba's marine ecosystems.

Prices are subject to change without notice. All prices are per person, quoted in U.S. dollars. Prices include round trip airfare from Miami to Havana, all transfers/ground transportation, hotel/vessel accommodations, meals, excursions, inscription fees, fuel surcharges and air fills and tank rentals for scuba portion of program.

Please read our Payment and Deposit Policies

Please contact us for details on pricing for wholesalers, dive shops, etc.

A word about prices: We realize this is not an inexpensive trip. Here’s why: Our program is designed for legal travel by U.S. citizens and residents. Because of the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba, there are many additional expenses required to comply with U.S. regulations. Tourism by U.S. citizens and residents in Cuba is prohibited by the U.S. government. Our program complies with U.S. regulations because it includes an educational component that promotes “meaningful interaction” with the Cuban people. Developing and running such an educational component requires additional staff and costs. We are also required to have a trained Ocean Doctor representative accompany all groups. There are additional costs associated with licensing including recordkeeping/administrative and legal costs.Since there is no regular commercial air service to Cuba, we are limited to regulated charter flights from the U.S. or costly trips through third countries. On the positive side, our program delivers rich content with top-notch accommodations and service. Finally, a portion of the travel fee supports Ocean Doctor’s research and conservation work in Cuba.

About the Gardens of the Queen

Coral reefs are healthy and abundant in Cuba, like this Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) which has declined by 95% in the Caribbean (Photo: David E. Guggenheim)

In a world where corals are dead and dying, the corals of Gardens of the Queen are thriving, including elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) which has diminished by nearly 95 percent in the Caribbean over the past 40 years (Photo © David E. Guggenheim)

Jardines de la Reina or the “Gardens of the Queen” was named by Christopher Columbus to honor Queen Isabella of Spain and the area remains as spectacularly beautiful and wild as when Columbus experienced it over 500 years ago. Covering more than 837 square miles, Gardens of the Queen is one of the largest marine parks in the Caribbean and among the healthiest Caribbean marine ecosystems. Coral and fish populations appear remarkably healthy and abundant here in sharp contrast to other parts of the Caribbean. Myriads of robust fish populations include black grouper, bonefish and Cubera snapper. Even the critically endangered Nassau grouper and Goliath grouper are found in large numbers here. The area also harbors an abundant shark population, including silky sharks, Caribbean reef sharks and whale sharks.

Our Cuban colleagues on site at one of the research areas adjacent to the Gardens of the Queen

Our Cuban colleagues conducting research in the Gulf of Ana Maria, adjacent to the Gardens of the Queen


Top predators, including sharks – like this Caribbean reef shark – and grouper are abundant in Gardens of the Queen (Photo © Noel López)

Top predators, including sharks – like this Caribbean reef shark – and grouper are abundant in Gardens of the Queen (Photo © Noel López)

Ocean Doctor is working with the Cuban Center for the Study of Coastal Ecosystems (Centro de Investigaciones de Ecosistemas Costeros, CIEC) and the University of Havana’s Center for Marine Research (Centro de Investigaciones Marinas, CIM) to study this unique ecosystem and its surrounding “life support systems,” such as the virtually unexplored Gulf of Ana Maria, in order to better understand why these marine ecosystems have been able to thrive in a world of corals that are dead and dying. We are also working with our Cuban partners to assess the economic and social value of such a healthy ecosystem.

Finally, we are working to research and protect the unique and pristine ecosystems of Jardines de la Reina in order to ensure that these protections will endure in perpetuity, serve as a compelling model for marine protected areas worldwide, dramatically advance human understanding of how healthy coral reef ecosystems function, and yield critical insights to inform management decisions for protecting coral reefs globally.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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How do the new regulations published 1/16/2015 affect travel to Cuba?

All of our trips are continuing. With restoration of diplomatic relations we’ve had a dramatic increase in requests to travel with us, so book early. Demand for hotel space in Havana has become critical making it more difficult to confirm space at a particular hotel in advance.

Travel is still restricted to 12 categories and must conform with U.S. government restrictions. Touristic travel to Cuba remains illegal. Our groups will continue to travel under the category of people-to-people educational travel which maintains the same requirements, including that trips are led by a qualified organization and that “each traveler has a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba.”

IMPORTANT: Please be aware of  travel scams. A number of travel agencies are illegally offering packages to U.S. citizens without proper licensing or by offering trips under unrelated licenses, such as religious licenses or humanitarian aid. Booking travel directly with these organizations violates U.S. law. Travel with Ocean Doctor is legal under a license from U.S. Department of Treasury. Click here for more information.

The U.S. economic embargo remains in effect and will require an act of Congress to lift it. Until then it won’t be possible to legally travel as a tourist to Cuba.

One welcome benefit of the new regulations: You can now bring back up to $100 worth of Cuban alcohol and/or tobacco. Yes, that means you can bring back Cuban cigars. Unfortunately, they’re quite expensive, so $100 won’t let you bring back very many.

It will eventually be possible for you to use U.S.-based credit cards. However, it will take some time for banking relationships and new procedures to evolve. In addition, credit cards of any kind are not accepted at many business establishments in Cuba. Therefore, we still recommend that U.S. travelers bring cash.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

How often are trips run?

Our Cuba trips run throughout the year. Though we periodically offer scheduled trips, most of our trips are based on demand. We’re averaging around one trip per month. Prospective travelers and groups submit their preferred dates of travel using our booking request form and we do our best to schedule a trip around those dates, depending upon the availability of vessel space, hotel space, flights and establishing a minimum group size.

Do you offer FAM trips? If so, when?

Yes. We are conducting FAM (familiarization) trips for travel agents, dive shops, etc. throughout the year. Please contact us for details regarding pricing, etc. Is there a different pricing structure for travel agents, travel wholesalers, dive shops, etc?
Absolutely. We also offer commissions/referral fees and/or FOC trips for the Gardens of the Queen portion of the trip. Please note that commissions and referral fees are not determined by Ocean Doctor but by our Travel Service Provider, Avalon Cuban Diving Services. Please contact us for details.

How much scuba diving can we expect? How difficult?

We average 15 dives over the 6-day stay at Gardens of the Queen. Diving conditions are typically ideal (high visibility, low current, calm surface conditions) though they can change with weather, of course. Visitors will be in close proximity to several species of large marine wildlife, include sharks and Goliath groupers. Several deep dives (90+ feet) may be included.

Will there be the possibility of adding additional dives for an extra fee?

It’s possible but depends upon local conditions, timing and resources. We cannot arrange extra dives in advance of your trip.

Is this program suited for non-divers, too? Is there a different price for non-divers?

Scuba diving is important in order to see many of the research sites and best understand the issues. However, we recognize that often those who dive are accompanied by those who don’t. For that reason, we can accommodate non-divers with visits to shallower areas where snorkeling is suitable, along with visits to small islands where it is possible to go ashore with Cuban experts. Each evening, we will review video and images from the day’s dives so non-divers will be able to see what was observed during our review sessions.Because this is an education program, non-divers must also participate in the program and exchange and must therefore be accompanied by members of our team. This means the costs to deliver the program for non-divers is essentially the same as for divers, so snorkelers participate at the same price as divers.

Should we bring our own scuba gear or can we rent it once we’re there?

It’s best to travel light, especially since you could end up paying a fair amount in excess baggage fees. For a small fee you can rent everything you need from Avalon Cuban Diving Centers once you arrive. Avalon rents new, modern equipment, primarily from Cressi, including wetsuits, masks, fins, snorkels, regulators, etc. Current prices are as follows:

Equipment
Rental Charge per Day ($USD), Payable in Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC)
Mask $3
Fins $3
Snorkel $1
Wetsuit $5
Regulator $7
BC $7
Underwater Light (Isotta) $6
Underwater Light (Lucilla) $2
Tanks/Air Fills INCLUDED
Weight Belt INCLUDED

Prices are subject to change without notice.

Is Nitrox available?

Nitrox is available for Nitrox-certified divers aboard Avalon II only at no extra charge.

What’s the best time of year to visit Gardens of the Queen?

The Gardens of the Queen are accessible year-round. In Cuba the dry season runs November through April, the rainy season May through October. Hurricane season runs June 1 to November 30, peaking from late August through September. During the winter months, the northern portion of Cuba, including Havana, is subject to period cold fronts. However, Gardens of the Queen is protected from most cold fronts. Water temperature ranges from the mid-70s (F) in winter to the high-80s (F) in summer. Water visibility is generally best early in the year, peaking in February, and lowest in early summer. A whale shark migration traverses the area in October/November.

We look forward to participating in the trip! We’d like to take a side trip in Cuba on our own before or after the official trip -- is that possible?

Unfortunately you are not permitted by U.S. law to travel in Cuba on your own. Our license provides for legal travel by U.S. citizens and residents so long as they are participating in the full-time schedule of educational activities we have developed. “Self-directed” education on your own is expressly prohibited by U.S. regulations. However, if you are interested in visiting a particular area or meeting with a particular institution during your visit and it is related to the educational theme of our program, we might be able to work with you to develop an addendum to the program — please contact us in advance and we’ll let you know what’s possible.

I work for a governmental agency and/or have a security clearance. Can I travel with your program without jeopardizing my job/clearance?

The only way to be sure is to talk with your superiors. This is a legal trip licensed by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. We would be happy to provide you with a copy of our license if you need to share it with your agency/organization. Travelers on our trips to Cuba do receive a Cuban stamp in their passports. When returning to the U.S. through customs, each traveler will have a copy of our license and a cover letter indicating they are authorized to travel under our license. None of our travelers have ever reported having any subsequent problems. While we are confident that our trips are legal, we cannot speak to specific situations and therefore encourage you to review it with your superiors to be sure that participating in this trip won’t create any problems.

I’m traveling solo. Is there a single supplement surcharge?

Because of high demand and limited space, there is a single supplement surcharge fee of 65%.

How do the flights work? Do we fly to Cuba directly from the U.S?

Yes. We will be flying direct to Havana from Miami on a special charter flight through licensed Travel Service Provider, Marazul Charters in New Jersey. When available, we provide Priority Check-in for all of our travelers. Travelers are responsible for making their domestic flight reservations. Because of the early check-in time, most of our travelers need to overnight in Miami for the outbound flight. The cost of your trip includes round-trip airfare to Havana from Miami.

This isn’t an inexpensive trip. Can you explain some of the costs that affect the price?

The majority of the costs are determined by what we must pay our Travel Service Providers. Our program is designed for legal travel by U.S. citizens and residents. Because of the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba, there are many additional expenses required to comply with U.S. regulations. Tourism by U.S. citizens and residents in Cuba is prohibited by the U.S. government. Our program complies with U.S. regulations because it includes an educational component that promotes “meaningful interaction” with the Cuban people. Developing and running such an educational component requires additional staff and costs. We are also required to have a trained Ocean Doctor representative accompany all groups. There are additional costs associated with licensing including recordkeeping/administrative and legal costs. Since there is no regular commercial air service to Cuba and we are limited to regulated charter flights from the U.S. or costly trips through third countries. On the positive side, our program delivers rich content with top-notch accommodations and service. Finally, a portion of the travel fee supports Ocean Doctor’s research and conservation work in Cuba.

What about insurance. Are we covered traveling to Cuba?

Included in the price of the trip is Cuban health insurance coverage for the duration of your stay. We recommend that you check with your own health insurance company regarding coverage while you are in Cuba. A hyperbaric chamber is located in Havana. We recommend travelers purchase travel insurance, including travel cancellation, travel interruption, baggage loss, etc. A number of U.S. travelers to Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen have recommended Squaremouth, a highly-rated website that helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance products from every major U.S. travel insurance provider. Established in 2006, Squaremouth is headquartered in St. Petersburg, FL, with offices in Fort Wayne, IN. Squaremouth allows customers to investigate and compare travel insurance policies. The comparison engine provides an unbiased platform based on price and benefits.

I have DAN (Divers Alert Network) insurance. Am I covered in Cuba?

Here’s what DAN says: “Due to the embargo the US imposed on Cuba, we would not be able to pay/settle any claims for accidents while actually in Cuba. However, we would be able to evacuate a member from Cuba and transport them to a medical facility in which we would be able to pay claims as stipulated by the policy. If you have specific in depth questions, please feel free to contact our claims department. You may reach them at 1-800-292-8381 during office hours.

Do U.S. credit/debit/ATM cards work in Cuba?

Although this is slated to change as relations between the U.S. and Cuba improve, there are currently no banking relationships between the U.S. and Cuba. Therefore, U.S. credit, debit and ATM cards will not work in Cuba. This means that you need to bring cash for incidentals, such as tips and souvenirs. We cover this and many other topics in detail in our Cuba Travel Handbook which you will receive after you are registered.

Can we access the Internet in Cuba? Will our mobile phones work? What about bringing our electronics into Cuba?

U.S. mobile phones do not function on the Cubacel network. Wifi is available for a fee at our hotel and at no charge aboard the Tortuga Floating Hotel. You can use your smart phone’s wifi functions to send/receive email/messages. It is fine to bring mobile phones, laptops and tablets into Cuba for your own use. We cover this and many other topics in detail in our Cuba Travel Handbook which you will receive after you are registered.

About Us

Ocean Doctor is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC dedicated to protecting and sustaining our oceans. Our Cuba Conservancy Program is built on more than 15 years of work of Ocean Doctor founder and president, Dr. David E. Guggenheim, who directs the program. Strong collaboration between Cuban and American scientists and conservation experts is at the core of our program At the core of Cuba Conservancy’s mission is to establish sustained collaboration between Cuba and the United States 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.
  • forge long-term collaborative relationships with our Cuban colleagues.
  • help train the next generation of Cuban marine scientists.

The program builds upon a strong foundation of scientific research. Research not only serves the purpose of advancing science and informing conservation policy efforts, but also helps forge strong, long-term collaborative relationships and credibility, facilitating efforts in the policy arena.

Testimonials

Ed Kelly

Our Ocean Doctor sponsored trip to Gardens of the Queen in Cuba exceeded all expectations. Lodging and transportation arrangements In Havana along with the educational component and guided tours made the land based days interesting and well worth while. The diving experience was almost beyond belief! Imagine what Caribbean marine life was like 50 or 100 years ago, that’s what you’ll see in the Gardens of the Queen.

Ed Kelly
Maida Taylor

As the icy Cold War between the USA and Cuba begins to thaw, we feel very privileged to have traveled with Ocean Doctor to Havana and Garden of the Queens. Every person we met — hosts, land and sea guides, guests speakers — evidenced a great measure of knowledge, kindness and care. The commentary by the tour guides, the discussions with speakers, and of course, the diving, all exceeded our expectations. Hope to return again as soon as time and tides allow.

Maida Taylor
Sandy Driscoll

Our trip to Havana and The Gardens of the Queen exceeded my expectations! The Cuban people were warm and welcoming to us all. Our educational programs totally raised my awareness of the beauty and importance of keeping our reefs healthy. To be able to dive in pristine and virginal waters opened my eyes further to how we can improve the reefs throughout the world. I hope that David and Ocean Doctor can continue these programs to others. The story truly lies underwater! Thank you

Sandy Driscoll
Peter W. King, DVM
  1. The Ocean Doctor facilitation of U.S. divers in conjunction with Avalon and the Cuban ministry of tourism was a seamless coordination which made the entire experience an educational and diving treat.
  2. Cuba and it’s people are a safe and striving community. There is no danger to visitors and tourists are welcomed and respected. None of us felt threatened despite our gender or the hour while exploring Havana.
  3. Want a little safe adventure in your life? Do it.
Peter W. King, DVM
Tom Pederson

Any trepidation I had about traveling to Cuba from the United States soon evaporated when I arrived in Havana and was warmly greeted by Ruxandra, our representative from Avalon travel. She was the first of many who had a role in making the trip so memorable. We checked into our comfortable hotel in Old Havana. From my room’s balcony window I could watch the famous old cars cruise by. As an educational tour we were able to take advantage of the connections generated by the founder of Ocean Doctor who was traveling with us on his 70th trip to Cuba. We spent time with the scientists, dive operators and environmentalists who were working to preserve the Cuban marine environment. They shared their knowledge and passion during discussions and over meals together. A picture was forming as to how the Gardens of the Queen became such a remarkable marine preserve and what challenges there are to keep it that way. Our time in Havana passed quickly as we enjoyed the sites and sounds of this historic old city. Visits to Hemingway’s hangouts rounded out our stay in Havana. As an avid diver, instructor, and tour leader for 40 years I have seen the changes that have occurred to our reefs in the Caribbean. I was overjoyed by the health, diversity, and beauty of the Garden of the Queens reef system. There is very little (if any) diving left in the Caribbean that can compare to the diving at these sites. Adding to the sense of wonder was that we were the only boat in sight at any of our dive sites. I will be going back soon because I spent so much time watching the reef sharks, tarpon, goliath grouper and other big fish that I missed the little stuff like nudibranchs and other favorites. I highly recommend this trip to all divers. It will recharge your sense of wonder and hope for the Caribbean reefs.

Tom PedersonInstructor & Travel GuruScuba Center | Minneapolis, Minnesota
Teresa Greenway

Cuba lingers…in your heart and soul……! A most memorable and amazing journey to a land where time has stood still. it was so refreshing to see and interact with a vibrant, energized and happy but hard working people willing to share with you their stories, their art, their passions, their hopes for the future. The sight of horse drawn carriages in the countryside and ’50s vintage cars in the city was such a delight! It was equally wonderful not to see western franchises, commercial billboards, people talking or texting on cellphones. Instead, there was music everywhere and lovely people willing to share their experiences in engaging conversation. What a novel concept! Thanks to Ocean Doctor for making this possible and for Erika, who was the most fearless of leaders! She is an amazing woman who was professional, competent, fun & funny, and fluent in spanish (which helped us immensely in understanding the hopes and concerns of the people). She went the extra mile and had answers for all of our questions…..we were in excellent hands! Our guides in Habana were knowledgeable and friendly. Our staff on Georgiana was fantastic! They catered to our every need by providing us with wonderful food, drinks, accommodations, cool refreshing face towels after a dive, beautifully shaped towels/sheets of various sea creatures in our room…. and the ever present smile! You could tell there was a lot of love and care put in everything they did. The competent and very knowledgeable avalon managers/divemasters provided us with underwater and land experiences that will not be soon forgotten! I have traveled around the world and few places have touched me as deeply as Cuba and its smiling, generous, resourceful and kind people. It is a unique place that awakens all the senses, touches the soul, and puts you back in touch with humanity. i would return in a heart beat!

Teresa Greenway
Cathy Mack

This trip was absolutely worth every cent. We loved our time in Havana, with the guides and walking around and the restaurants. Food was surprisingly quite good. The diving was absolutely far and away the best in the Caribbean (and we have been almost everywhere that’s easily accessible) and the Avalon dive operation was professional, on time and first rate. We would go back in a minute!

Cathy Mack
Richard Woulfe

I was on the first “people to people” trip with diving to Gardens of the Queen with David and some of the finest dive industry experts. This 11 day/10 night program is an excellent combination of education, diving and culture. The interaction with the top Cuban Marine biologists and conservationists was very informative. The diving at Gardens of the Queen is the finest Caribbean diving with unique, up close shark interactions and huge quantities of fish living in a balanced and fully protected marine eco system. And the touring of Havana and other parts of Cuba was memorable and eye opening. The Avalon II live aboard will be finished in March, 2014 and appears to be on track to be one of the finest floating hotels in Cuba if not the world.

Richard WoulfeOwnerRich Travels, FAM and Special Clients
Mark J. Roberts

I was honored to be invited along on the first trip to Cuba that Ocean Doctor now conducts as a person-to-person, cultural and educational program. I must say that the journey fulfilled all three of those criteria, allowing us to meet and converse with a wide range of Cuban citizens and learn about their history, daily lives and their work to conserve both the marine and land environments. The diving we were privileged to experience in The Gardens of the Queen was simply phenomenal. I’ve dived all over the Caribbean but have never seen the health and diversity in the total marine environment than I saw there. Cuba and Ocean Doctor are doing amazing things to preserve our oceans for future generations.

Mark J. RobertsFounderDiVentures | Omaha, Nebraska
Doris Pfister

Just returned from Ocean Doctor’s People-to-People expedition to Cuba, and what a great experience!! The people were friendly and open. We had unlimited access to marine biologists, researchers, and environmental economists, who all gave excellent presentations on Cuba’s marine environment. And the diving in Gardens of the Queen was absolutely outstanding. Can’t remember the last time I saw such prolific schools of fish and tarpon. There were sharks (caribbean reef, silkys, nurse) on every dive and the staff and crew were fabulous!! Thank you David G. for all your hard work in opening up this beautiful country and it’s marine environment to us!!

Doris PfisterSales ConsultantCaradonna Dive Adventures
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