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David E. Guggenheim, Ph.D.
Founder & President
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!!
I just wanted to personally thank you for organizing and leading our group to Cuba. Larry and I had such a memorable time, getting to see and interact with the Cubans and diving the Jardines de la Reina. This was the trip of a lifetime for us, and I am so impressed with your knowledge and commitment to making the experience so enjoyable. Your passion to Cuba and our future with them is extraordinary!