No matter how long a log stays in the water, it doesn't become a crocodile.
Philip K. Dick
Dive with Sharks in Gardens of the Queen, Cuba
Swimming with the sharks is a highlight of our dive liveaboard trips in Cuba. Here in the Jardines de la Reina Marine Park (Gardens of the Queen), it’s the number of species that is so remarkable: silky sharks – known for their smooth skin and propensity to swim near the surface, lemon sharks – named for their bright yellow or brown color and noted as being social creatures, great hammerhead sharks – the largest of this famous species, nurse sharks that prefer to spend time on the bottom and seasonally whale sharks. Whale sharks are the largest and recognized by their unique white spots.
Because the park’s waters are protected and untouched by the masses, sharks are much more friendly and curious than in many dive destinations.
Explore unique topography – walls with tunnels, caverns and giant ledges, home to tarpon and fairy basslets.
Snorkel with the Crocodiles
Cuba is home to two critically endangered species of crocodiles, the American and Cuban rhombifer. The marine park is home to gray-colored Cuban crocodiles with a long snout exposing teeth and rough-textured spotted scales. They live in the mangroves and are curious creatures. Here, snorkelers can swim and share the same waters in amazingly close proximity. A bit of trivia – crocs keep their mouth open to stay cool; it is not necessarily a sign of predatory behavior when they display their many teeth.
Where else in the Caribbean can you have the opportunity to swim with the sharks and snorkel with the crocodiles? These two amazing experiences combine to create a lifetime of memories, all through All Star Cuba.
Another rare opportunity for snorkelers is seeing elkhorn coral. Listed as an endangered species and key to reef building, the marine park’s Blue Sanctuary sustainability management practices now allows elkhorn to thrive in shallow waters. They are joined by brain, branching gorgonian sea fans, pineapple, star and starlet corals.
If you are a birdwatcher, you will be in for a treat. More than 68 species of birds use the vast wetlands of Jardines de la Reina Marine Park (Gardens of the Queen) as a stopover when migrating between North and South America.