A virginal landscape, Jardines de la Reina is the ideal setting for an adventure film. The spot has been praised by experts on ecologic themes.
The sea is one of Cuba’s charms, particularly its underwater scenarios, described as unrepeatable experiences by those who enjoy descending to Neptune’s realm.
One of the ideal places for diving is the southern region of the Cuban east, particularly off the provinces of Ciego de Ávila and Camagüey, with excellent locations.
We are speaking of the Jardines de la Reina National Park, the largest in Cuba with 2,170 square kilometers.
Comprising the archipelago of the same name and its surrounding waters, it is one of four in Cuba, the third largest in size and the most natural one. Seen from the front it covers around 150 kilometers, and was named Jardines de la Reina (Queen’s Gardens) by Christopher Columbus in honor of the Spanish monarch.
The archipelago is characterized by narrow, small keys, the majority of which are located on the edge of the island platform at a distance of 30 to 80 kilometers south of the provinces of Ciego de Ávila and Camagüey. Its vegetation is made up of mangrove swamps, bushes and also strips of low, sandy dunes.
These keys stand out for their natural forms and relatively larger extension, such as Caballones, Anclitas, Caguamas, Cinco Balas, Algodones and Bretón.
In such areas there exists a wide range of insects, spiders, reptiles and birds, abundant populations of iguanas and hutias (Cuban cane rats), all in small beaches of white sand.
However, its sea bottoms are the main attraction for lovers of the world of silence, as these regions are among the best preserved and diverse in the Caribbean.
Here we find abundant corals, gorgonians, seaweeds, sponges, mollusks, crustaceans, chelonians (turtles) and large fish that grant the area high aesthetic, educational and scientific value.
It is the main spawning area of the four species of sea turtles in Cuba, and has the most outstanding sea snail populations (Strombus gigas) of the country.
There is a very rich biodiversity of fish in addition to that of turtles and sea snails.
Large specimens of platform fish and others of deep waters idle about there, among them sharks like the Silky shark (Carcharinus falciformis), the Caribbean reef shark (Carcharinus perezi) and the Whale shark (Rhincodon typus).
Cuberas, macabíes, shad, harvest fish as well as large-sized groupers such as the wild bee, the aguají and the guasa are also to be seen.
Jardines de la Reina Park makes up 3.5 percent of the Cuban island platform and 12 percent of the National System of Protected Marine Areas.
It is also regarded as one of the most important of the Cuban Caribbean Reef System, considered a protected zone since 1996 and proposed to UNESCO as a World Natural Heritage Site.
Translated by Olimpia Esperanza Sigarroa Santamarina
Revised by Susana Hurlich