Sperm Whales Dominica

Cuba Culture and Diving

  • Havana People-to-People Cultural Exchange

  • Diving in the Gardens of the Queen

2017
December 28 – January 7, 2017 (Standby)

  • Where: Havana and Gardens of the Queen
  • Duration: Cuba 10 Days / 9 nights (6 nights aboard Avalon II, 3 nights in Havana)
  • Max No. of Guests: 16
  • Pricing: Please Inquire Below
  • Activities: 5 days diving, 2 days cultural exchange in Havana
  • OFAC License: Educational Activities (515.565)

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ITINERARYDETAILSTERMS—CONDITIONS
DEPARTURE, WEDNESDAY 12/9 (MIAMI OR FROM YOUR COUNTRY OF ORIGIN IF NOT USA) 

– travel (on your own) from your home city to Miami (or directly to Havana from your country) because charter times are subject to change. Flights are typically early in the morning so it is wise to arrive in Miami the night before and be ready to leave first thing the next day. there is a convenient and reasonably priced hotel ideal for this purpose located at the Miami airport.

DAY 1THURSDAY 12/10 (MIAMI TO HAVANA) (HOTEL PARQUE CENTRAL)
– Depart for Miami Airport (5am)
– Check-in for 9am departure, 3 hrs. before (6am)
– Depart Miami to Havana – Havana Air (9am)
– Plans for the rest of the day are subject to arrival times of all guests
– Lunch at Cafe del oriente
– o?cial Presentation of the City of old Havana – Journey through old Havana, a uNEsCo World Heritage site, and interact with the locals as you visit the four historic plazas that make Havana one of the most unique architectural places in the western hemisphere.
– Hotel Parque Central check-in (4:30pm)

DAY 2 FRIDAY 12/11 (HAVANA–PARQUE CENTRAL)
– Breakfast (8am)
– Social Presentation of the City of Modern Havana – Exchange ideas with the local people about the history of these architectural gems as you see the Capitolio, the university of Havana, the Plaza de Revolution and other historic landmarks (9am)
– Cigar Factory – Meet the workers and watch how they continue a centuries old tradition (11am)
– Lunch at El Litoral (included) (12:30pm)
– Morro Castle, La Cabaña Fortress – Dialogue with the locals as you see this famous fortress that guards the entrance to Havana Bay (2pm)
– Dinner group coordinated (7pm)

DAY 3 SATURDAY 12/12 (GARDENS OF THE QUEEN–BOAT)
– Early Breakfast on your own at the hotel Parque Central, with 24-hour room service. Hotel check-out. (3:30am)
– travel to Jucaro by bus – 7 hrs. including time for lunch (4am)
– stop at vegetable stands and meet the local farmers (9am)
– Boat check-in, lunch on board and travel to Gardens (5 hrs) (12pm)
– Exchange ideas with marine experts about Cuba’s intricate ecosystem and how this can be applied to other oceans in the world
– Dinner on the boat (included) (5pm)

DAY 4-8 SUNDAY 12/13 TO THURSDAY 12/17 (GARDENS OF THE QUEEN–BOAT)
– Breakfast, lunch and dinner (included) AND 15 dives (6am to 9pm)
– Meet with marine experts to gain insight into the conservation measures that Cuba is taking to preserve their delicate aquatic ecosystem in the Gardens of the Queen. “Jardines de la Reina was declared a Marine Park in 1996 – and with the support and management of Avalon, along with the Research Center for Coastal Ecosystems in Ciego de Avila and the Fisheries Control Department, this area has been preserved for future generations as an intricate network of untouched marine ecosystems that have been regarded by many knowledgeable scientists and organizations as a bench mark of the original status of coral reefs as found by Christopher Columbus in the early years of his discovery.”

DAY 9 FRIDAY 12/18 DEPART THE GARDEN
– Breakfast (included) (6am)
– travel by boat from Gardens to Jucaro (5 hrs) (7am)
– travel to Havana (5-7 hrs) (12pm)
– Hotel Habana Panorama Check-in (7pm)
– suggested Dinner at La Florentina (Capri) (8pm)

RETURN, SATURDAY 12/19 (FLY TO MIAMI OR TO YOUR COUNTRY OF ORIGIN IF NOT USA)
– Breakfast on your own (4am)
– Check out of the hotel (5am)
– Leave 5am for airport for 9am departure to Miami (5am)
– Depart Havana to Miami – Havana Air (9am)

VAMOS A CUBA!

It is a place that we have dreamed of visiting. We are offering you an opportunity to visit Havana and be among the first to explore the lush underwater depths of Cuba’s first-rate Marine Protected Area Jardines de la Reina or Gardens of the Queen.

In every biganimals destination, it’s the locals who make the difference in our journey.

Havana is undergoing a fast transformation catalyzed by tourism from all over the world. While u.s. tourist travel is still prohibited, the opportunity to visit under a people-to- people educational license allows u.s. citizens to experience this amazing country. During my visit of a few short days, I met Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Europeans of all nation- alities, Canadians, Mexicans, Argentines and Brazilians. In spite of the tourist influx, a day in old Havana rivals a city anywhere in the world. It is colorful and entertaining to wander the narrow streets bustling with people, some colorfully dressed and walking on stilts, through antique, unique building architecture lined with small shops.

El Floridita, Ernest Hemingway’s historic fish restaurant and cocktail bar hangout, is famous for its daiquiris and mojitos.
You can feel the tempo of the salsa music.

SAN CRISTÓBAL DE LA HABANA OR HAVANA

Cuba’s capital city, is only a short 90 miles away from the southern tip of Florida.
Havana is a beautiful, bustling city comparable to Paris, Rome, oslo, London or shanghai. Although there is still an embargo, recent changes have made Cuba a more easily-accessible destination for Americans, and the largest island in the Caribbean is becoming a diving and cultural hotspot.

In every BigAnimals destination, it’s the locals who make the difference in our journey. Observing Cubanos’ colorful, robust and up beat tempo overshadows the limitations imposed on their lives. Their city and countryside is frozen in time and makes you feel as if you’ve been transported back 50 years to an era when taxicabs were Chevy Delrays and Buick Centuries, and the aromatic scent of thick cigar smoke lingered around every corner.

Havana is a striking city. Its dramatic hilltop landscape includes Parque Histórica Militar Morro-Cabaña fortress, the Castillo de los tres santos Reyes Magnos del Morro. Fortaleza de san Carlos de la Cabaña includes several missiles that remind us of the Cuban missile crisis, a towering status of Christ, and a museum dedicated to Che Guevara.

Across the Bay, locals stroll or jog its five-mile seawall or Malécon. Built by the united states in 1901, the oceanfront boardwalk spans from Castillo de la Punta in Habana Vieja to Castillo de santa Dorotea de Luna de Chorrera, a castle at the mouth of the Río Almendares. Havana’s colonial history dating back to the 1500s, is captured by the area of Vedado with 50s-era hotels and casinos once linked to Mafia figures, and well preserved vintage cars gracing the streets. Enjoy exploring Habana Vieja (old Havana), a beautifully restored collection of colonial buildings complete with winding cobblestone streets merging into central plazas. Locals, outrageously dressed and many toting cigars, pose eagerly for camera-laden tourists.

In Havana “eye candy” is seeing a rainbow of lime green, pink, yellow, blue, plus black and white convertibles and sedans dating back to the 1940s and 50s Evening adds another flavor. It is time to eat well and there are great places to find fresh seafood and a variety of excellent paradores. The Cigars as we all know are just superb and available in many of the hotels but better at the wholesale places, in town, all taxi drivers know where and when this best cigars places open. Fifteen, 20, 30-year old santiago rum—a superb shot costs only a dollar for each year.

After four visits since 1980, we can tell you that traveling to Cuba does not age like its amenities. But hold on! We have saved the best information for last.

After one visit to Havana to experience the culture, music, dance, architecture and city vibes, you too will fall in love with this country. This was my fifth visit and I’m planning to go back again. Diving La Reina, there is only room for a few of you.

Would you believe us if I mentioned the presence of saltwater american crocodiles? They even appear amazingly friendly…yes friendly! Our weather was superb.

We enjoyed sunny days with a water temperature rising to 82F (28C). A 3mm or 1/8 wetsuit provided plenty of warmth. The underwater visibility varied between sixty feet (20 meters) to 100 feet (30 meters) from low to high tide.

GARDENS OF THE QUEEN OR JARDINES DE LA REINA

A 600 cay archipelago in the provinces of Camagüey and Ciego de Ávila. Located 48 miles southeast of the coast, this large coral reef is lined with mangroves. For many years, fly fishermen kept the place a secret. Avalon was the only government-licensed operator.

Just recently they have begun to explore the underwater magic of Cuba, after first securing and placing moorings on its numerous excellent dive sites.

Reefs appear untouched, and the corals are in excellent condition. Not used to divers, the fish are not shy, with schools of tarpon, and many sharks, primarily silkies and Caribbean reefs sharks.

One dive site is a garden of over five dozen Elkhorn coral, beautifully situated in shallow water no more than five meter deep against sandy bottom, with the polyps of the hard coral reflecting the sunlight, glowing in ochre surrounded by thousands of fish.

THE AVALON II

A one year old, 110’ long vessel that can accommodate 16 people in eight ensuite double cabins. Fully air conditioned, the boat has a large diving deck, good rental diving gear, Nitrox, a parlor, dining room, and bar. Even a Jacuzzi is waiting for us on the top deck.
Meals are superb with pasta, lobster, shrimp, and salads combined with plentiful fresh tropical fruit like guava, pineapple and pa- paya. English speaking guides, as well as some of the crew are very experienced and accommodating.

TRAVELING LEGALLY IN CUBA (US CITIZENS)

President Obama opened the door to reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba on 17 December, 2014. While there is still an embargo and tourist travel is prohibited, Americans who wish to experience the culture and dive in Cuba may do so on a people- to-people trip where they will have a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities and experience meaningful interaction with the Cuban people.

PAYMENT & DEPOSIT POLICY

When we receive your deposit, we will send you a comprehensive and detailed Trip Preparation Bulletin about the experience and the destination. All trip costs are subject to change without prior notice until your reservation is confirmed.

  • A deposit of 33% of the total trip price is required to secure space on the trip.
  • Full payment is due no later than 90 days before departure.
  • We reserve the right to sell any space that is not paid in full by 60 days before departure.
  • Cancellation Policy
    • Must be made in writing.
    • More than 90 days before trip: Deposit will be refunded in full.
    • 90 days or less before trip: Deposit will be refunded if space is sold, less unrecoverable costs of sales, and administration costs.
    • No refund is made for unused part of the itinerary.
  • The following are subject to change:
    • Cost of services which are not included in the expedition price
    • Flight time and schedule
    • Weather, water temperature, and animal behavior

Insurance: you MUST provide proof of travel and diving insurance

Question — how can we help?

 

 Amos Nachoum Expedition Leader

Amos Nachoum

Expedition Leader

Amos has over 30 years experience as an adventurer and guide.

Amos is also a very accomplished professional photographer who was the BBC wildlife photographer of the year in 2007 and 2008.

Throughout your trip Amos will be available to provide you with expert coaching on interacting with the animals, and advice on how to best photograph them and their environment.

Amanda Cotton Expedition Leader

Amanda Cotton

Expedition Leader

An expert guide and professional Nikon Photographer specializing in underwater imagery, Amanda’s photos have been published in major publications and news sources worldwide including National Geographic, Discovery, Times Publishing, CNN, and Science Daily.

In addition to being an expert underwater photographer, she is also an excellent coach who will happily work one-on-one with you to ensure you get the best possible shots of the sharks.

Amanda is honored to be a member of of The Women Divers Hall of Fame, The Explorers Club, a member of OAS (Ocean Artists Society), and a recognized shark expert, who’s gentle and friendly style is appreciated by both sharks and guests alike.

PHOTO GALLERY
LIFE ABOARD AVALON II

PHOTO GALLERY
CUBA CULTURE AND DIVING

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