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Alert Diver is the dive industry’s leading publication. Featuring DAN’s core content of dive safety, research, education and medical information, each issue is a must-read reference, archived and shared by passionate scuba enthusiasts. In addition, Alert Diver showcases fascinating dive destinations and marine environmental topics through images from the world’s greatest underwater photographers and stories from the most experienced and eloquent dive journalists in the business.

The Gardens of the Queen

The Gardens of the Queen are a no-take marine preserve, without which protection the healthy populations of Nassau grouper would not exist. Opposite: A queen angelfish swims among the spires of a pillar coral. 72 | FALL 2016

HOW TO DIVE IT There aren’t a lot of variables in Cuban dive travel to Jardines de la Reina. You can do it only with a couple of nonprofit organizations recognized and licensed by the Cuban government. The trip will be carefully choreographed to optimize your pleasure but also to minimize American tourists wandering amok throughout the country. All that may change with the advent of commercial air arrivals and cruise ships in Havana Harbor, but for now it is blessedly constrained. You’ll be met at the airport and be with guides either topside or underwater each step of the way. I found the attention helpful rather than obtrusive, and the Cuban people were so friendly and engaged it was fun to just be around them. ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Visitors must have a current passport, a visa (which tour operators often can obtain for their travelers), adequate funds to support themselves, a return airline ticket, proof of travel health insurance and a verification letter from their organizing agency to travel to Cuba. You might be asked for the letter upon exit, though we were not. CURRENCY AND CREDIT CARDS: You won’t be able to use your credit cards in Cuba. Most expenses will have been prepaid, but you’ll need cash for incidentals and gratuities. Bring only crisp bills without undue wear or damage. I tried to buy a Cohiba cigar with a torn $50 bill and was turned down. WATER TEMPERATURE AND SEA CONDITIONS: Jardines de la Reina is protected from most prevailing winds. Unless there is a tropical storm or hurricane, the seas tend to be calm. The seasonal variability is in the water clarity. In the winter, when the water drops to 78°F, the visibility ratchets up to more than 100 feet. When we were there in July, the water was 84°F-86°F and the viz was 50-90 feet. CURRENTS: Some sites have currents, including passes between the islands where channels accelerate the tidal flow. There are also sites without any current. We had no current at all during our week of diving. These dive professionals are very skilled in delivering safe diving opportunities, and most have been guides here for many years. Though these dive sites are new to Americans, Canadians and Europeans have been nibbling our forbidden fruit for decades. ALERTDIVER.COM | 73