As the oldest dive operator in the stunning Jardines de la Reina Marine Park region of Cuba, Avalon Diving Center’s fleet of dive boats offers comfort, convenience, and uncommon exclusivity. Well equipped with high quality compressors and nitrox blenders, Avalon’s dive roster is limited to just 900 scuba divers each year, in an ongoing joint effort with local government to keep the “Gardens of the Queen” in its current healthy and untouched state. At its offshore location just south of Cuba’s Gulf of Ana Maria, Avalon’s fleet provides relaxing accommodation in the form of houseboats, yachts and liveaboards, for those divers looking to discover the riches of this diverse underwater archipelago system.
While all of Avalon's fleet offer great food, full-time supervision from crew and dive guides, and restful, private accommodation the Avalon I and Avalon II are the dive center’s most luxurious and, in the case of the Avalon II, newest fleet vessels. Guests aboard any of Avalon’s boats can expect hearty, chef-prepared meals, often featuring a variety of seafood, and typically served and enjoyed on the fly deck in order to catch the local breezes. With a wake-up call of 7am, and the opportunity to enjoy 2-3 daily dives at different sites each day, thanks to a fleet of speedy dive boats and the discovery of 80 dive spots to date, Avalon liveaboards are a well-appointed but efficient way to experience the best diving this remote region has to offer. Weekly dive trips are available year-round, and with a generous total of 15 dives scheduled between Sunday and Thursday each week, guests are sure to come away with the aquatic memories of a lifetime, regardless of which vessel they choose to go adventuring with.
Jardines de la Reina
Cuba’s Jardines de la Reina is a globally significant reserve, and Avalon has been involved in its protection for some 23 years. A combination of extensive sea grass beds, patch and barrier reefs, and hundreds of mangrove islets provide this gulf region with just the right conditions to support a rich and varied marine biodiversity. Many authorities regard the coral reefs of this underwater ecosystem as having changed little since their discovery by Christopher Columbus. Dive sites like the Black Corals, Farallon, and Vicente give divers the chance to encounter everything from vertical walls and drop-offs, to a multitude of gorgonian fans and brightly coloured sponges, to the incredible architecture of thousands of years old canyons, caves and tunnels. Healthy resident mangroves make the perfect nursery for young fish populations, and adult snappers, groupers, and jewfish weighing up to 180 kg (400 pounds) are common. Divers can also expect to regularly meet up with as many as seven different species of sharks here, including the extraordinary whale shark between July and November.
The Zapata Peninsula is an idyllic playground for ecotourists and scuba divers. Sparsely populated and zealously protected, most of the region lies within the Ciénaga de Zapata Biosphere Reserve (also known as the Gran Parque Natural Montemar), is the habitat of rare birds, crocodiles and a wide variety of ecosystems. Highlights within the biosphere are the Parque Nacional Ciénaga de Zapata and Laguna de las Salinas, known for its concentration of migratory birds. The Parque Nacional Ciénaga de Zapata is similar to the Everglades National Park in Florida.
It is an extensive ecosystem made up of mangrove forests, keys, seagrass beds, coral reef barriers and deep reefs, including the Cazones Gulf, a deep underwater canyon that is the main recruitment site of important commercial species such as porgies and groupers. The conservation status of coral reefs in the area is most remarkable. It comprises an important system of gyre-like currents.
Despite its beaches and over 30km of accessible Caribbean coastline, Península de Zapata holds little appeal as a sun-and-sand holiday destination, but it is an excellent area for diving, with crystal clear waters, coral reefs sometimes also within swimming distance of the shore and a small network of flooded caves known as cenotes. You can expect walls covered of sponges and black coral, caverns and a lot of fish life.