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Dive Review of Avalon/Tortuga in
Cuba/Jardines de la Reina

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Avalon/Tortuga: "They grow the sharks bigger here!", Apr, 2016,

by Eric Eckes, CA, US (Contributor Contributor 18 reports with 11 Helpful votes). Report 9405.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude N/A Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments We traveled to Havana under the People-to-People Educational Exchange program between the U.S. and Cuba. At the time of our travel there were no regularly scheduled commercial flights to Havana aside from charters via Miami. As the charters were notoriously unreliable, we flew commercially through Mexico City from LAX to reach Havana.

Our destination was Jardines de la Reina or "Gardens of the Queen". Based on positive reviews from prior Undercurrent readers, we booked the Tortuga houseboat located in the mangroves of Jardines de la Reina. Reaching the Tortuga involved a six hour bus ride from Havana to the port city of Jucaro. From there we boarded a boat for a three hour cruise to the Tortuga.

The Tortuga was originally used to house oil workers and has since been renovated. The rooms weren't fancy but were nice sized with ensuite bathrooms. One end of the Tortuga houses an outdoor living area and the other end houses an outdoor dining table and bar. Although the Tortuga houses up to 16 divers, our trip involved 6 divers and 7 fly fisherman (catch and release fishing is allowed).

The six divers were assigned to a dive guide who also had a degree in marine biology. Each day he would discuss the biodiversity of the area. We learned that Castro had designated Jardines de la Reina as a marine sanctuary over 20 years ago and it showed in the quality of the reefs and the size of the sharks. During our six nights on the Tortuga we encountered some of the largest reef, nurse and silky sharks we had ever seen. If seeing lots of sharks wasn't enough, we had the opportunity to snorkel on more than one occasion with saltwater crocodiles. In fact, the Tortuga had its own pet crocodile named Tito who was happy to have us join him in the water. The reefs were pristine and we timed our visit perfectly to see the barrel sponges spawning. Night dives were generally not encouraged although we were able to log one of our eighteen dives at night.

Four of the six divers were photographers. Unfortunately the Tortuga does not have a camera room and all camera work was done on the Tortuga's outdoor patio.

After the last dive of each dive day we were greeted with refreshing mojitos and snacks such as pizza bites. We were fed three meals per day and there was no lack of food. The food was tasty although a bit repetitive which may be a reflection of food availability due to the U.S. embargo.

The week went by very fast and it was time to make the journey back to Havana. I enjoyed our time onboard the Tortuga and would go back in a heart beat.

Prior to heading to Cuba I had heard that MasterCard was accepted in Cuba. That turned out to be false. Bring lots of cash!

Websites Avalon   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Indonesia, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Malaysia, Philippines, Truk Lagoon, Palau, Yap, Mexico, Galapagos, Cayman Islands, Bahamas, Red Sea, Cocos Island, Cuba, So Cal Local
Closest Airport Havana Getting There LAX to Mexico City to Havana

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm, no currents
Water Temp 82-83°F / 28-28°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 80-100 Ft/ 24-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? no

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish 5 stars
Large Pelagics 5 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 3 stars Shore Facilities 1 stars
UW Photo Comments The Tortuga did not have any camera facilities. All camera work was done on the outdoor living area at the back of the Tortuga.
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Subscriber's Comments

By Michael Bennett in CA, US at Jan 06, 2017 20:35 EST  
Would like to see some photos taken by author while enroute to the harbor, the port town and the ride to the Tortuga.
By Michael Bennett in CA, US at Jan 06, 2017 20:36 EST  
Also like to see a detail breakdown of the costs.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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