Jardines de la Reina - Feb 2018

Tell us your tale of coming nose-to-nose with a 6 gill [--this big--], or about your vacation to turquoise warm waters. Share your adventures here!
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derekcs
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Jardines de la Reina - Feb 2018

Post by derekcs » Sun Apr 01, 2018 10:59 am

Since GDog asked...

While a lot of the ThThTh crew was in Anilao, I was taking a photo workshop trip with Richard Salas to Jardines de la Reina. OFAC-compliant travel is still allowed to Cuba. This trip is an educational person-to-person exchange.

We had a couple days in Havana to start the trip and did tour of the city in classic cars.
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Havana gallery

To get to the Gardens, it's a 6-ish hour drive to Júcaro followed by another 2 hours on boat. While there are some normal liveaboard boats, we stayed on an anchored houseboat, the Tortuga. Smaller boats would then take us out to the dive sites. 15 minute rides or so each way. Usually went back to the Tortuga between dives.

The Gardens is an archipelago with tons of mangroves. It is a protected area, and Cuba more generally doesn't allow international fishing in their waters. So lots of reef sharks and silky sharks and groupers. Oddly, I did not see many big parrotfish despite the lack of fishing, although I spotted a blue parrot on the very last day. Fewer stony corals than you'd expect, but lots of sea fans, sea rods, and other octocorals. 30 feet and up, you'd see huge fields of the golden-colored long spine sea fans. Also a good deal of pillar coral.

Was shooting fisheye for much of the trip, so wasn't looking for the smaller stuff. Saw a few green moray eels, a Hawksbill turtle, some barracuda, a couple schools of tarpon, quite a few Nassau grouper, a goliath grouper, tiger and black groupers, gray angelfish (oddly no French), lot of soapfish, some cero (mackerel), queen triggerfish, and the normal Caribbean complement of parrotfish, hogfish, wrasses, snappers, squirrelfish, and black durgon. Spent a lot of time taking pictures of the giant barrel sponges actually.

And then there are the crocodiles. We saw two on the trip, and they hang around enough to come when called by name. Tito would hang out by the houseboat. Niño was further out in the mangroves. You can snorkel with either of them. But don't get too close along their flanks because they can whip their heads side-to-side. If they felt too boxed in by people, they'd just swim away.

There's also an island filled with friendly hutia (big rodents) and iguana that they took us out to one day between dives.

If you find Caribbean diving kind of boring, you might end up bored on some of the less sharky dives. But I also found it a good time to just try some different things photography-wise. Plus there's plenty of unique stuff to make the whole experience more than worthwhile.

Food was very good (lobster nearly every night, no I don't know where they sourced it from). Rooms were plenty comfortable for 2. 3 seemed to be a crowd.
Full diving gallery

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All underwater photographs of mine are posted at http://www.dereksinger.com
@dereksingerphotography on Instagram

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ScubaJess
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Re: Jardines de la Reina - Feb 2018

Post by ScubaJess » Sun Apr 01, 2018 3:28 pm

Sweet shots Derek!! Those sharks are crazy cool!!! Sounds like a really fun trip. It's always a blast diving with Richard :)
Live Long And Prosper!!!

Stay Warm underwater with the Weezle Extreme Plus undergarment! Please let me know if you would like to order one or have any questions. :luv: :partydance: :eric: :taco:

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Scubie Doo
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Re: Jardines de la Reina - Feb 2018

Post by Scubie Doo » Sun Apr 01, 2018 5:58 pm

Awesome pics. Where did you see the croc? That is on my bucket list :)


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Vjw
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Re: Jardines de la Reina - Feb 2018

Post by Vjw » Sun Apr 01, 2018 9:17 pm

What an amazing opportunity! I like the full trip report. My favorite picture is the sponge with shark in background above it (in the full gallery). Excellent!! Thanks so much for sharing.

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Gdog
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Re: Jardines de la Reina - Feb 2018

Post by Gdog » Sun Apr 01, 2018 9:45 pm

Wow Cuba has long been on my bucket list. Very nice report, great shots above and below! My favorite shots are a couple of your shark shots; one posted here, and one from your gallery with two sharks and the surface reflection above. Very nice!

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derekcs
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Re: Jardines de la Reina - Feb 2018

Post by derekcs » Tue Apr 03, 2018 7:42 pm

Scubie Doo wrote:Awesome pics. Where did you see the croc? That is on my bucket list :)


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Tito hangs out around the houseboat.
Niño lives in a patch of mangrove about 10 minutes boat ride from there.
All underwater photographs of mine are posted at http://www.dereksinger.com
@dereksingerphotography on Instagram

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YellowEye
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Re: Jardines de la Reina - Feb 2018

Post by YellowEye » Tue Apr 03, 2018 10:06 pm

Nice report and pics Derek!!

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