BOTH WEEKS FULLY BOOKED. Join Alex Mustard for an underwater photography workshop in Cuba, exploring the famous Jardines de la Reina (Gardens of the Queen) home to the Caribbean’s richest coral reef. Contact Caroline@scubatravel.com for reservations and further information.

The Jardines de la Reina were declared a protected park in 1996, and is approximately 60 miles from the port of Jucano, about a third of the way out to Little Cayman in the Caribbean Sea. Like Raja Ampat this a large, relatively untouched archipelago, 75 miles (120 km) long, containing 250 coral and mangrove islands, vast stretches of pristine coral reefs and calm, turquoise waters. Less than 60 divers per week are permitted to visit the entire area. These reefs are famed not just for their untouched beauty, but the abundance of big animals: silky sharks, Caribbean reef sharks, goliath groupers, black groupers, Nassau groupers, and saltwater crocodiles at a specific site in the mangroves. Alex says “this will be my third trip to Cuba and I am looking forward to shooting these remarkable reefs and snapping the crocs again.”

“Protected from man, it is a chance to see Caribbean reefs in their natural state with lots of big fish. A curious biological trait of coral reefs is that they can actually support more big fish than small ones, when they are left untouched.” says Alex. “The area is home to a number of different shark species, plentiful groupers, snappers and grunts. There is also lots of Caribbean macro species for those that know how to find them and fortunately all my years diving in Cayman gives me a big advantage. Some of the most popular subjects are the rare, endemic golden basslet as well as spinyhead and arrow blennies.” You can see a few of Alex’s Cuba photos here.

Alex adds “the teaching on this workshop will focus on techniques specific for the subject matter that we are shooting, especially the crocodiles (including split level shots), the sharks and the groupers amongst reef scenery. This area also has fantastic and often totally overlooked macro photography and I will also detail how to find and shoot the key subjects. Unusually the spinyhead blennies often live in sponge covered barnacle shells growing on old sea fans, which actually makes them particularly photogenic because the sponges are colourful and it easy to shoot them against black backgrounds. I am also hoping that the timing of this trip might allow us to encounter sea thimble jelly aggregations.”

We will be staying on the La Tortuga floating dive resort in the centre of the Jardines De La Reina, operated by Avalon. This base is best thought of an extra spacious live aboard, which doesn’t need to move because it is so close to all the best dive sites and is anchored in a protected area amongst the islands. The resort can take up to 21 dives, but for these workshops we limiting numbers to 14 plus Alex. “I am running two workshops and I intend to teach the same course on each,” says Alex. “For this reason, I do not recommended that you do both weeks, which also gives more people the chance to experience this amazing destination.”

VITALS

Workshop 1: 7-14th March 2020

Workshop 2: 14-21st March 2020

The cost per person excluding international flights is £4095 GBP. Group Size 14 + Alex. Note that these dates or the packages do not include international travel or additional nights in Havana.

Package includes: transfers from Havana, 7 nights (twin or double share) on a full board basis, 3 dives a day (17 dives total), 6 beverages a day (beer or soft drinks) and Alex’s underwater photography workshop. The mandatory inscription fee and park fees will be prepaid on your behalf. Local extras will be items such as kit hire, additional drinks, and nitrox (approx $100 USD) and gratuities (approx $300 USD).

Please contact Caroline@scubatravel.com for reservations and further information. A deposit of £1000 GBP is required to secure your place. The final balance is due 195 days prior to departure (approx 6 months) by the resort (payment via Scuba Travel).