Los Jardines de la Reina or the “Gardens of the Queen” was named by Christopher Columbus to honor Queen Isabel of Spain and the area remains as spectacularly beautiful and wild as when Columbus experienced it over 500 years ago. Covering more than 837 square miles, Jardines de la Reina is the largest no-take marine park in the Caribbean and among the healthiest Caribbean marine ecosystems. Coral and fish populations appear remarkably healthy and abundant here in sharp contrast to other parts of the Caribbean. Myriads of robust fish populations include black grouper, bonefish and Cubera snapper. Even the critically endangered Nassau grouper and Goliath grouper are found in large numbers here. The area also harbors an abundant shark population, including silky sharks, Caribbean reef sharks and whale sharks.
For the first time ever, Americans can now legally travel to Cuba and dive in the Gardens of the Queen as part of a unique educational program led by Ocean Doctor, in partnership with Avalon Cuban Diving Centers. This program is licensed by the U.S. Treasury Department and focuses on marine research, conservation and ecotourism’s impact on Cuban society.
The Cuba Conservancy, a program of Ocean Doctor, is built on more than 12 years of work of Ocean Doctor president, Dr. David E. Guggenheim, who directs the program.Cuba Conservancy is working with the Cuban Center for the Study of Coastal Ecosystems (Centro de Investigaciones de Ecosistemas Costeros, CIEC) and the University of Havana's Center for Marine Research (Centro de Investigaciones Marinas, CIM) to study this unique ecosystem and its surrounding "life support systems," such as the virtually unexplored Gulf of Ana Maria, in order to better understand why these marine ecosystems have been able to thrive in a world of corals that are dead and dying. We are also working with our Cuban partners to assess the economic and social value of such a healthy ecosystem. Finally, we are working to research and protect the unique and pristine ecosystems of Jardines de la Reina in order to ensure that these protections will endure in perpetuity, serve as a compelling model for marine protected areas worldwide, dramatically advance human understanding of how healthy coral reef ecosystems function, and yield critical insights to inform management decisions for protecting coral reefs globally.
Dr. David E. Guggenheim is a marine scientist, conservation policy specialist, submarine pilot, ocean explorer and educator. He is president and founder of the Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization, Ocean Doctor. As an ocean explorer, David piloted the first-ever manned submersible dives into the world’s largest underwater canyons in the Bering Sea as a scientific advisor to Greenpeace. He was inducted into the Explorers Club as a National Fellow in 2008. David hosts The Ocean Doctor Radio Show and ExpeditionCasts podcast series and plays a key role in public outreach and education about the oceans. He makes frequent speaking and television and radio appearances, having recently appeared on 60 MINUTES, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, MSNBC, and NPR. David previously served as Vice President at The Ocean Conservancy, President & CEO of The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, co-chair of the Everglades Coalition and president of the Friends of Channel Islands National Park. David holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Public Policy from George Mason University in Virginia, a Master’s in Aquatic and Population Biology from University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Master’s in Regional Science and Bachelor’s in Environmental Studies from theUniversity of Pennsylvania.