Cuba Diving: A New Legal Educational Travel Program for U.S. Citizens and Residents to Cuba: Dr. David E. Guggenheim, the “Ocean Doctor,” speaks at Our World Underwater 2014 about Ocean Doctor’s legal travel program for U.S. citizens and residents to Cuba’s spectacular Gardens of the Queen National Park, the largest fully-protected marine protected area in the Caribbean, featured on 60 Minutes with Anderson Cooper.
At a rural Cuban elementary school nestled in the verdant mountains west of Havana, I approached the front of the class and queued up my best Spanish. The first-graders looked at me with puzzled anticipation — they don’t see many Americans entering their classroom, let alone U.S. visitors who try to get up and teach. But as soon as it was clear we were going to talk about the oceans, its was all smiles and excited participation, as if salt water is the universal language we all share and treasure.
I told the students that our lesson was about a single word: Orgulloso. It means “proud.” I told the students that they should “sentirse orgulloso” — feel proud, and then I showed them why. Carrying my laptop around the class, I showed recent videos I had taken in Cuba’s pristine ocean waters of healthy corals, sharks, goliath groupers, tarpon and, to especially loud shrieks of delight, sea turtles.
I’ve just returned from Cuba and before my wetsuit has finished drying, I am packing my bags again. Before I return to Cuba, I wanted to take this opportunity to share a short video I shot during my recent trip at Cuba’s spectacular Gardens of the Queen National Park (Jardines de la Reina), the country’s first marine park and the largest fully-protected marine reserve in the Caribbean. It may also be the healthiest marine ecosystem in the Caribbean, our closest glimpse at the pristine reefs and islands Columbus saw and named for Spain’s Queen Isabella 500 years ago.
I hope you enjoy the video, but it’s much better in person and I hope to be able to show you personally! Learn more and book your trip!
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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.
Dr. Kirsten “Kiki” Sanford is joined by The Ocean Doctor, David E. Guggenheim on Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour for a checkup on the oceans’ health.
This show originally aired on the TWiT Netcast Network on December 23, 2011. Visit the show page at TWiT.tv.
(CBS News) 60 Minutes cameras take you on an underwater adventure off the Cuban coast to one of the world’s most pristine and vibrant coral reefs, known as the Gardens of the Queen. Anderson Cooper scuba dives with marine biologist David Guggenheim, dodging giant groupers and sharks, to explore this increasingly rare oasis. Scientists estimate that 25 percent of the world’s reefs have died off and much of what’s left is at risk.
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Synopsis: Marine scientist and conservationist Dr. David E. Guggenheim (the “Ocean Doctor”) tells the story of his decade-long effort to bring collaboration in science and conservation between Cuba and the U.S. to a new level. He tells the story against a backdrop of Cold War-era politics, maddening bureaucracy, and the daily challenges of Cuban life while introducing us to Cuba’s unimaginably beautiful underwater ecosystems and the Cuban scientists dedicated to protecting them. His story is timely, illustrating how marine biologists have succeeded where diplomats have failed in bringing the two countries closer together. Deep in Enemy Territory brings a personal, in-depth view of an enchanted yet troubled island that few Americans have seen for half a century.
A portion of profits will support Ocean Doctor.
As I write this, a massive offshore oil platform makes its way around the southern tip of the African continent on its journey from Singapore to its final destination within 50 miles of some of our nation’s most environmentally sensitive waters. By year’s end, it will be in operation to drill the first exploratory well more than a mile deep in Cuban waters.
Shortly after Cuba’s discovery of offshore oil more than six years ago, I met with my colleagues at the University of Havana who had just been briefed by the state-run oil company, Cupet (Cubapetroleo). Models predicted that 90 percent of oil from a blowout would be transported northward to the Keys and up along Florida’s East Coast, impacting Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and beyond. The question is, of course, are we ready to deal with such a catastrophe? Read more
August 1, 2011: We visit National Geographic Headquarters in Washington, DC to meet the newest National Geographic “Explorer in Residence,” Dr. Enric Sala and his important work on the “Pristine Seas” program with expeditions to the last remaining pristine areas in the ocean. We also hear the incredible story of a humpback whale, rescued at the brink of death, that said “thank you” to its human rescuers. And we hear the tragic story of the loss of one of our colleagues in Cuba.
The Ocean Doctor airs weekly on WebTalkRadio.net. Want to listen on your iPod, iPhone or mp3 player? Download the mp3 file or subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a single episode. Or listen to us on your iPhone, Android phone, WebOS phone, BlackBerry or tablet, including the iPad, with the free Stitcher SmartRadio app. See the complete list of episodes. Follow The Ocean Doctor on Twitter — Become a Fan on Facebook! Submit a question and I’ll try to answer it on the air. Even better, record your question or comment on our special message line and I might play it on the air. Call: (805) 619-9194. You can also leave questions and comments for this episode below. Like the show? Learn how to become a sponsor. Read more
The fuel tanks are full, the holds are full, our equipment has been triple-checked, so we’re ready to set sail from Havana on a journey that will take us half way around the island of Cuba.We are awaiting final permits that we expect sometime tomorrow. I attached a new hose and computer to my regulator assembly and took a few breaths of compressed air, my first in too many months. That cool, dry air put a big smile on my face and reminded me why we’re here.
Our colleagues were aboard yesterday morning to finalize our expedition plan and sampling locations. They’ll be using a stereoscopic (3D) HD video system that will take close-up, high-resolution video of the coral reefs we visit for later analysis. The system provides sufficiently high-quality video as to allow for analysis of fish just a few mm long. I’m looking forward to getting acquainted with this incredible system, but mostly I just look forward to getting in…and under…the water.
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