Jardines de la Reina
Jardines de la Reina,’the Gardens of the Queen’, named by Christopher Columbus in honor of Queen Isabel of Spain is a beautiful and pristine archipelago in the Caribbean Sea located 50 miles south of mainland Cuba. It spans across the provinces of Camagüey and Ciego de Ávila. This 840 square mile area, comprised of mangroves, cays (600 of them) and coral islands, is a part of the third largest barrier reef in the world.
In 1996 as part of a marine conservation initiative, the Cuban Government declared a large portion of the archipelago to be a protected marine reserve; strictly prohibiting commercial fishing in the area. Furthermore, accesses to the area is heavily restricted and there are no human inhabitants in the national park.
Recent examination of the area has shown that the reef fish communities of Jardines de la Reina are thriving and are amongst the healthiest in the whole Caribbean .It is home to a variety of fish populations of all different shapes, sizes and color including the Cubera snappers, Bonefish, Yellowfin grouper, Black grouper, Nassau Grouper, Queen conch, Sea Turtles, Whale shark, Black fin shark and Silky sharks. The reefs in the area are not only home these fish but also to a host of brightly colored sponges and coral. Because of this diversity of marine life it has been nicknamed by many the “Galapagos of the Caribbean” and it is a considered a ‘diver’s paradise’.