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Cuban Embassy Opens in DC After 54 Years: Will Cuba Remain the ‘Green Jewel’ of the Caribbean?

20150720-IMG_4844-Guggenheim

The Cuban flag flying in Washington, DC for the first time in 54 years, signaling the reopening of the Cuban Embassy and normalization of relations with the U.S. (Photo: David E. Guggenheim)

With each tug of the rope by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, the Cuban flag inched upward, finding a slight breeze and proudly showed off its brilliant colors of red, white and blue to the 500 or so onlookers. The Cubans and Cuban-Americans—never known for their silence at public events—beamed with national pride and shouted with joy as the flag inched up, “Fidel, Fidel!” Countless eyes filled with tears. Many embraced. The world was changing before us. The Cuban flag flew in Washington, DC for the first time in 54 years, signaling the reopening of the Cuban Embassy and normalization of relations with the U.S.

Inside at the embassy at the reception that followed, we hoisted mojitos and exchanged congratulations. But a number of us have long anticipated this moment with both joy and worry, realizing that the U.S. could become a greater threat to Cuba as its friend than it ever was as its enemy.

Read the full post at EcoWatch.com

EcoWatch 

 

OMG I Thought You Were Dead!

Carysfort Reef 1975 to 2014

A dramatic time series of photos documenting the 95 percent loss of coral cover from Carysfort Reef, Key Largo, Florida since 1975. The photos capture the loss of a once thriving colony of elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata (Photos: Phil Dustan)

I shouted with euphoric joy through my regulator, 20 feet underwater. I can only imagine how wide my eyes were. It must have been difficult to discern between an expression of delighted surprise and a textbook example of wide-eyed diver panic. My eyes were transfixed on an old friend with a funny name whom I hadn’t laid eyes on in years. I had heard he was dead – or at least gravely ill. But there in front of me, larger than life, vibrant and embracing the sun, my friend was very much alive and healthy, clearly enjoying the good life in Cuba.

Several years earlier, I joined an expedition to explore a corner of the Gulf of Mexico I had only heard about from colleagues: The magnificent coral reef ecosystem of Veracruz, Mexico. Seated inside the DeepRover submersible with great anticipation for a vibrant reef that lay below me, I was lowered from the deck of a Mexican Navy ship into the warm blue waters below and radioed the ship that I was going to begin my descent.

Read the full post at EcoWatch.com

EcoWatch 

 

What Becomes of Cuba After the Embargo is Lifted?

Goliath Grouper and Photographer

A Critically Endangered Goliath Grouper greets a tourist photographer in Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen National Park. Environmental economics demonstrated that conservation and ecotourism would result in more revenue than commercial fishing. (Photo: David E. Guggenheim)

When a foreigner sets foot in Cuba, it immediately becomes clear that this magical island is profoundly unique and has developed drastically differently than any other country in Latin America and the Caribbean. And for those who venture into its verdant mountains or below its aquamarine waves, a striking revelation awaits:  Just as the fifties-era Chevys and horse-drawn buggies portray an island seemingly frozen in time, so, too, do its exceptionally healthy and vibrant ecosystems illustrate that Cuba may have picked the perfect time in history not to follow the path of its neighbors. Indeed the past half century has seen a tragic and unprecedented decline in Caribbean coastal and marine ecosystems.

Read the full post at EcoWatch.com

EcoWatch

 

The Single Word I Taught First Graders in Cuba

Cuban countrysideAt 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.

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VIDEO: What Columbus Might Have Seen

Gardens of the Queen MapI’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!

[youtube EzfeuRiS61Q 560 340]

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ANNOUNCEMENT: Travel with Ocean Doctor to Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen!

Avalon Cuban Diving Centers
Cuba Conservancy
   

 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.

Gardens of the Queen MapIn 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.

Events

A Taste of Cuba | The Explorers Club

Please save the date for a unique opportunity to explore Cuba by land and sea! The evening will feature samplings of authentic Cuban cuisine, refreshing mojitos featuring Papa’s Pilar™ rum, and live Cuban music.

The program for the night will include: a presentation by Dr. David E. Guggenheim FN on the Club’s first Flag Expedition to Cuba’s magnificent Gardens of the Queen marine reserve; a chance to meet Michael Connors and hear about his upcoming book, Havana Modern, which highlights architecturally significant private homes and buildings in Cuba; and a photography display by Néstor Martí. A Taste of Cuba will be a cultural expedition not to be missed!

Tickets are $45.00. Further information, including a detailed schedule of events, will be available shortly. Secure your spot today by emailing reservations@explorers.org or calling The Explorers Club at 212.628.8383.

The Explorers Club's First Flagged Expedition to Cuba in June 2014

The Explorers Club’s First Flagged Expedition to Cuba in June 2014

Atlantic Edge Dive Center (Gaithersburg, Maryland)

Dr. David E. Guggenheim, the “Ocean Doctor,” speaks to the Atlantic Edge Dive Center 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.

New England Dive Center (Wallingford, Connecticut) – Legal Travel to Cuba for U.S. Citizens

Dr. David E. Guggenheim, the “Ocean Doctor,” speaks at the New England Dive Center 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.

Scuba-in-Cuba_shark_w250The cover story of Scuba Diving Magazine feature’s Ocean Doctor’s unique educational travel programs to Cuba and the spectacular Gardens of the Queen. We’re also proud to say that Scuba Diving Magazine readers voted Gardens of the Queen “Best Marine Park,” and with good reason. It’s the Caribbean’s largest fully-protected marine park and its health and wildlife are unmatched in the region.

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 live-aboard 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.

For more information, visit www.oceandoctor.org/gardens.

 

 

SCUBA & H2O Adventure Show 2014 – Seattle, Washington

Horse-Eyed Jacks at Jardines de la ReinaOcean Doctor president, Dr. David E. Guggenheim,presents, A Living Time Machine: Cuba’s Spectacular Ocean Ecosystems and the Hope they Offer the World.”  

Named by Christopher Columbus to honor Queen Isabella of Spain, the Gardens of the Queen (Jardines de la Reina) are one of the healthiest coral reef ecosystems remaining in the Caribbean. In a world where coral reefs are dying, the corals in the Gardens of the Queen are flourishing, and like a living time machine, the Gardens likely resemble the healthy coral reefs Columbus saw, avoiding the rapid decline so common throughout the Caribbean and the rest of the world.

What makes this ecosystem so healthy? What are the implications for coral reefs elsewhere? What is the role of diving in this special ecosystem? And how is this ecosystem bringing Americans and Cubans closer together? What is so compelling about this Cuban ecosystem that 60 Minutes sent Anderson Cooper and a camera crew to work with Dr. Guggenheim and Cuban scientists?

Now at last, American divers can legally visit Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen as part of a special, licensed educational people-to-people program led by Ocean Doctor and hosted by Avalon Cuban Diving Centers in the heart of Gardens of the Queen. You can find details at OceanDoctor.org/Gardens.

Dr. Guggenheim’s talk will be at the Poseidon Pavilion

San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival 2014

Be sure to drop by the “Ocean Doctor” table in the Bay Theater at Pier 39 during the  San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival’s Dive Program to learn about how you can dive in one of the last remaining pristine coral reefs in the world — in Cuba’s spectacular Gardens of the Queen. Learn about Ocean Doctor’s legal travel program for U.S. citizens and residents to Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen National Park, the largest fully-protected marine protected area in the Caribbean, featured on 60 Minutes with Anderson Cooper.

Richmond Dive Club (Richmond, Virginia)

Dr. David E. Guggenheim, the “Ocean Doctor,” speaks to the Richmond Dive Club 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.

Ocean First Divers – Boulder, Colorado: A Night About Cuba with Dr. Guggenheim

A Night About Cuba - Ocean First DiversIn a world of corals dead and dying, Cuba’s marine ecosystems are spectacularly healthy, a Jurassic Park-like experience teeming with endangered species seldom seen elsewhere in the Caribbean, including bountiful sharks and grouper.

OFD has teamed up with Colorado Ocean Coalition to bring you special guest, Dr. Guggenheim for a night all about Cuba, conservation, and how you can travel there legally to see it for yourself.

February 26th at 6:30, light refreshments will be provided.

 

Denver Divers & Colorado Ocean Coalition – Cuba Presentation

Denver Divers and Colorado Ocean Coalition are teaming up for a very special Blue Drinks, featuring everything Cuba!

60 Minutes showed us what to expect diving in Cuba. The 12-minute segment hosted by Anderson Cooper became a siren song for many divers.

Now meet the star of the segment, “Ocean Doctor”, Dr. David Guggenheim!

Dr. Guggenheim has dedicated the last 13 years of his life to conservation efforts for coral reefs and turtles in and around Cuba. During his presentation at Denver Divers, Dr. Guggenheim will talk about research results from his partnership with the University of Havana. Of course he plans to answer all your questions regarding travel to Cuba and diving in the pristine waters surrounding the island.

If you have ever dreamed of diving or traveling to Cuba, but did not want to risk the illegal activity of traveling there without the government’s permission, you do not want to miss this presentation. Denver Divers has partnered with the “Ocean Doctor ” to sponsor a legal Educational Tour of Havana and Jardines de la Reina.

For more information on Dr. Guggenheim and his non-profit, Ocean Doctor, please visit https://oceandoctor.org/gardens

Special Cuban snacks and a Cuban “Blue Drink” will be provided.

Please do not forget to carpool, as parking in front of the shop fills up quickly.

Our World Underwater 2014: Cuba Diving

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.

Philadelphia Sea Horses Scuba Diving Club

Dr. David E. Guggenheim, the “Ocean Doctor,” speaks to the Philadelphia Sea Horses Scuba Diving Club 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.