Cuba march 2006

The last 2 weeks of march I visited Cuba. The first week I drove around in a hired Skoda, but the last week was dedicated to diving with the sharks in "El Archipiélago de los Jardines de la Reina".
It is a marinepark off the southcoast of Cuba, consisting of a row of uninhabited sandbanks with mangrove, marked on the map under here.
The travel agency "Avalon" has monopoly of the fishing and diving activity out there - with the limit of 300 divers per year. The house boat "la Tortuga" is anchored in one of the canals between the islets, serving as base for the anglers boats and the divers liveaboard "la Reina".
I have allways been fascinated of these fantastic creatures - the sharks - so when I, in our dive magazine "DYK", saw an article of the sharks in Jardines, where they garanteed many sharks, I immediately ordered a tour.
And there were sharks - many sharks - on every dive

Avalons Homepage

The Liveaboard "La Reina"

The Sharks...

The sharks we saw were Silky Sharks, Caribbean Reefsharks and a single Nurse Shark. The silkies were mainly cruising the upper layers of the sea, there was always a shoal around us when we jumped in. The caribbeans went mainly deeper - around 30m in shoals of about 20.
Both species were adapted to divers, probably because they were fed. They came so close that we could touch them - even catch them by their tails. They moved majestically around us these enormous kings of the seas - 2-3m and weighing more than a human. Awsome!

I took some videos of both Caribbian Reefsharks. as well as Silky Sharks with a single Nurse Shark.

The Silkies are more slender than the Caribbeans.

...and the other big ones.

A faithful follower was the enormous Jewfish - the caribbean substitute of the Napoleonfish? Just as calm, curious and big - 2m and 300kg.
And the big Southern Stingray - the size of a table.
The next ones looks like a shoul of Herrings, but they are Tarpons, and their size is 2m and 50kg - some kipper(;o)
The Hawksbill Turtle is about 1m, and the Green Moray Eel over 2m. These estimates just because it's difficult for a non-diver to imagine the sizes from a picture.

The Barracudas exceeds 1m as well, I got one on video.

Barracuda video.


Southern Stingray.


Hawksbill Turtle.

Green Moray Eel.

The Coral Reef...


...and the not so big fishes.

Yellowtail Damselfish. 15cm.

Orangespotted Filefish. 20cm.

Longspine Squirrelfish. 20cm.

Rock Beauty. 30cm.

Gray Angelfish. 50cm.

Queen Angelfish. 50cm.

Black Grouper. 1m.

Nassau Grouper. 1m.

Hogfish. (male)90cm.

Spanish Hogfish. 60cm.

Spotted Drum. 30cm.
At left you see the juvenile flapping about near the bottom, trying to hide itself.

Bluestriped Grunt. 40cm.

Porkfish. 40cm.

Sleeping Redfin Parrotfish. 40cm.

Creole Wrasses. 30cm.

Sharpnose Puffer. 10cm.

Tripletail. 1m.

Blue Tang. 20cm.

Queen Triggerfish.60cm.
At last a little Yellowline Arrow Crab...

...and this was some of the fishes I met. I must admit though, that the number and diversity of species is not up to what we experience out in southeast Asia.
But to give an impression of what a caribbean coralreef looks like, I have here a video sequence:

Caribbean coralreef.

The food.

I had been looking forward to enjoying all this freshly caught fish they promised us - and they kept the promises.
You can here see what the boatsman could catch on a short trip with fins, snorkel and a harpoon. Well, frensh Anne suddenly made a post festum apearence on the picture (;o)
Amazing what the cook could achieve in his little kitchen, 2 all inclusive fishmeals a day and furthermore small pizzas, cakes and some delicate surprises.

The islets.

"Los Jardines de la Reina" means The Queens Gardens, consisting of a straight and more than 100km long array of small sandbanks with a nice sandbeach on the southern side and large mangrove growths with canals in between on the rear side.
The islets are uninhabited by humans, but we visited some interesting and endangered species which are endemic to Cuba.
We didn't meet the Cuban Crocodile, but we saw and fed the San Felipe Hutia and the Cuban Iguana. They are trustful enough to be handfed.

Southcoast facing the Caribbean Sea.

25m inland - facing the sea. Further inland begins an unpenetrable mangrove shrubbery.

Cuban Hutia (Capromys pilorides).

Cuban Iguana (Cyclura nubila).

Behind the sand-islets are mudbanks overgrown with mangrove.

Goodnight scenery.

The Cuban mainland.

Cuba is a very poor and worn down society, that apparently can't sustain itself. Fx the sugarcanes on the fields are some thin and semiwithered straw, because they can't afford to buy fertilizer.
Havana could have been the most beautiful city in the world, hadn't it been for the most heart-breaking decay. The poverty is obvious and even not-beggars try to lure a Peso or two out of the turists. Even so, some seem better off.
In the countryside they sometimes still use a team of oxen for transport, and horses are very much used. There is a 6-track autopista, but the no cars!

It's astonishing what the cubans are able to keep rolling. The old american cars are huffing and puffing, rattling and smoking filled with rust and holes, but lacking most of what can fall off.
These though are very well kept, they waited to participate in a sort of parade.

The center of Havana consist mainly of small one-way streets like this...

...but the Prado is 2 one-way streets with a broad paseo in between.

Provincial idyll.

In the 1920'ies they build a perfect copy of Capitol in Washington. Like many others of the great buildings, it's converted to a museum... the old precidencial palace.


I think the cubans look very heterogeneous. Blacks, whites, poors - and besides there are...

...the traditionals...

...the moderns...

...the specials...

...and the quite ordinary cubans of today.

Furthermore - on the café "la Floridita" - you can drink a glass of Mojito with Ernest Hemingway.

=> Emergency Exit