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Shipwrecks: Treasures of the Great Lakes
presented by underwater photographer
Cal Kothrade

Join award-winning maritime artist and underwater photographer, Cal Kothrade as he shares photos and stories of some of his favorite Great Lakes Shipwrecks and dives around one of the largest bodies of fresh water in the world.

Dive Trip to Gardens of The Queen, Cuba

Jardines de la  Reina

This late winter, 2020 the local scuba diving shop, Aqua Center of Green Bay, ( and Neptune’s Dive Club president, Jeremy Saunders traveled to Cuba to dive the Gardens of the Queen.  Aqua Center owner, Connie Skarvan, developed a trip that took a group of ten scuba divers to the waters of the Caribbean off the southern shores of Cuba.  The group was comprised of members of Neptune’s Dive Club, the Fox Valley Scuba Club and others, all certified scuba divers.    

As no other dive shop from NE Wisconsin has ever traveled to Cuba, this is a first for a local Green Bay dive shop to venture and scuba dive the waters of southern Cuba.

The Gardens of the Queen was considered by many as Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro’s private diving preserve.  Some called it Castro’s Secret Reef.  An archipelago located 60 miles offshore of the southern part of Cuba, was named by Christopher Columbus to honor the queen of Spain, Isabella I of Castile, (according to Wikipedia).  It was called Jardines de la  Reina.  The Gardens of the Queen is often called the crown jewel of the Caribbean and is considered one of the healthiest and most vibrant marine ecosystems in the world. 

Jardines de la  Reina was designated a national park in 2010 and is comprised of 850 square miles of islands and reefs.  Only 1,000 divers annually are allowed to dive in the Gardens of the Queen.

To meet with the necessary US and Cuban regulations to travel to Cuba, Aqua Center divers participated in workshops and other activities with Cuban biologists and guides. 

Aqua Center’s group of ten, first traveled to Havana, Cuba. Then a 7-hour bus ride took them east to their departure point at the Jucaro Marina.  There a 190 ft. live-aboard dive boat called the Jardine Avalon III would take on these passengers for their dive adventure to Castro’s Secret Reef at the Gardens of the Queen.

Their dive itinerary included four dives per day.  Two dives in the morning and two dives in the afternoon. 

Some of the highlights seen in a diving and travel video created by Neptune’s Dive Club President and PADI, (Professional Association of Dive Instructors), Dive Master, Jeremy Saunders.