Do you Dream of Diving in Cuba?

 

Are you ready to Dive at Gardens of the Queen?It was my dream for 2016 to travel to Cuba and dive at Gardens of the Queen. Here are some answers to the questions I have been asked about my adventure:

Who did I dive with in Cuba? Avalon Cuban Diving Centers invited me to experience Jardines De La Reina (Gardens of the Queen).  Gardens of the Queen is a protected marine area and the number of divers per year is limited to under 1000. It is an area with 150 islands. We dove in the Southern part and expected to see Caribbean reef sharks, Silky sharks, sting rays, nurse sharks and healthy coral reefs which Andersen Cooper called a “Living Time Machine” when he visited for CNN in 2011.

How did I get there? I stayed in Havana and met bus transport at the Parque Central at 5am on the day of the live aboard departure. It was a large bus and 3 dive boats were leaving at the same time. We made two comfort stops along the way. It is about a seven hour ride. Jucaro is about two hours from Trinidad if you want to explore that part of Cuba before or after the dive trip.

How many people are on the boat? I was on the recently renovated Avalon 2 which has 10 staterooms and holds 20 divers. There were 12 divers on my trip. 10 men from Mexico, one Israeli paratrooper and ME!

Dive with me at Gardens of the QueenWhat did you eat? We were served large fantastic meals family style three times a day and we also had snacks after the 1st dive and pizza and mojitos in the hot tub after our 3rd dive of the day. Breakfast included eggs prepared any way you wish, toast, ham, cheese, croissants, breakfast meats, cereal, yogurt, fruit plate with banana, guayava, pineapple, mango, and many types of marmalade. For lunch we had dorado, chicken with artichoke and pimineto, rice, soup with beans and chicken. There was a variety of food and it was good. I loved eating with my dive buddies and our days and meals were full of laughter. Dinner included fresh grilled fish, homemade pasta and breads, lobster, steak, soup, salad. One night we had paella, langosta, steak, mahi mahi, rice, vegetables, fresh bread. Every night there were giant steaming platters of food that included spaghetti, sashimi and whole fish.

I loved the dinner with fresh grilled steak, kabob skewers with shrimp and veggies, grilled tuna, pasta with garbanzo beans, homemade bread and of course wine and drinks.

Did you set up your gear? I did not touch a fork except to eat and I did not touch my tank except to put my regulator in my mouth. There is no cleaning up, changing over or work of any kind. On this liveaboard, you eat, dive, sleep and repeat. We had hot towels after each dive and were treated like royalty.

Join me at Gardens of the Queen, Diving in CubaHow is the diving? What will I see? We saw all types of sharks, damsel fish, puffer fish, parrot fish, brain coral, fan color, tubes, pillar coral and crabs. We saw giant moray eels, lobsters, rays, barracuda, turtles, tarpon, spotted drum, angel fish, dog fish, blue tang and gorgeous colors! These are pristine reefs and the diving is incredible.

What about Nitrox? I did all sixteen of my dives on Nitrox. We had two divemasters with our group of twelve. Please let me know any other questions you have about our dives! I would love to dive again in Cuba. It was my first visit to the country and the 94th country that I have visited.

Did you need a visa? I bought a visa at the airport in Cancun while waiting in line to check my bag for my flight. It was $20usd cash. Leaving Havana my exit visa was included in the price of my ticket back to Cancun. I was in Cuba from Oct 20 – 29, 2016 which was before many of the new flights from the USA to Cuba began this month. Things are changing rapidly now but while I was there you could not use an American based ATM or credit card in Cuba.

Where did you stay in Havana and how did you get there? I stayed in an AirBnB in Havana and I flew in from Cancun. I traveled solo and I loved it. See my adventures and videos here.

Other things I learned along the way traveling with 11 male dive buddies:

The two rules of life:

Rule #1: There are no rules

Rule #2: Do what makes you happy

Tips of what to bring on a live aboard:

Speaker for music from your phone

Extra Conditioner for your hair (3 dives a day!)

Bandana

Extra hat

Pirate flag (my new dive buddies brought one)

Good friends or good attitude so you can make new friends

Good dive skills

Dive computer

Socks for dive boots

You do not need shoes on a live aboard

and they have great blankets!

Happy and Safe Diving! Click here to see the article and videos from where I stayed in Havana!
Lisa

Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Ellen Niver, M.A. Education, is a science teacher and is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 101 countries and six continents. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she worked on cruise ships for seven years and backpacked for three years in Asia. You can find her talking travel at KTLA TV and in her We Said Go Travel videos with over 1.3 million views on her YouTube channel. As a journalist, Niver has interviewed an Olympic swimmer and numerous bestselling authors and has been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. She is the founder of We Said Go Travel which is read in 235 countries and was named #3 on Rise Global’s top 1,000 Travel Blogs. She was named both a Top 10 Travel Influencer and a Top 50 Female Influencer for 2021 by Afluencer and is the Social Media Manager for the Los Angeles Press Club. She has been nominated for the inaugural Forbes 50 over 50/Know Your Value list due out in Summer 2021. She has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best and has more than 150,000 followers across social media. Niver is a judge for the Gracies Awards for the Alliance of Women in Media and has also run 15 travel competitions publishing over 2,500 writers and photographers from 75 countries on We Said Go Travel. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded two Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards. From 2017 to 2021 in the Southern California Journalism Awards and National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards, she has won four times for her broadcast television segments, print and digital articles. Niver won in 2021 as Book Critic and in 2019 for one of her KTLA TV segments NAEJ (National Arts and Entertainment Journalism) award. Niver won an award for her print magazine article for Hemispheres Magazine for United Airlines in the 2020 Southern California Journalism Awards and a 2017 Southern California Journalism Award for her print story for the Jewish Journal. Niver has written for National Geographic, USA Today 10best, TODAY, Teen Vogue, POPSUGAR, Ms. Magazine, Luxury Magazine, Smithsonian, Sierra Club, Saturday Evening Post, AARP, American Airways, Delta Sky, En Route (Air Canada), Hemispheres, Jewish Journal, Myanmar Times, Robb Report, Scuba Diver Life, Ski Utah, Trivago, Undomesticated, Wharton Magazine and Yahoo. She is writing a book, “Brave(ish): It's All About Perspective 50 Adventures Before 50,” about her most recent travels and insights. When she's not SCUBA diving or in her art studio making ceramics, she's helping people find their next dream trip.  http://lisaniver.com/one-page/

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