Named the Queen's Gardens by Cristopher Colombus for Queen Isobel, this archipelago of 250 islands 95km south off the central coast of Cuba is a remote and untouched dive destination that only a select few divers will experience. At just over 120km long, it is the third largest coral reef system in the world. This is the best place in the Caribbean to dive with sharks and can almost be compared with the Galapagos Island.
The area is and Natural Marine Park and only accessable by liveaboard, which departs from the Jucaro port. Book well in advance as spaces are limited. Commercial fishing has been banned in the park so the sea life is thriving. There are around 80 untouched dive sites so you're in for an incredible diving experience on your week in the archipelago.
This is THE place to dive with sharks and you're almost guaranteed to see one on every dive. Species such as the silky, hammerhead, leopard, bull, black tip and reef and whale sharks have all been spotted on dives here. The walls are covered in corals and sponges, attracting many species of fish to the reef's protection. Rays, turtles, schools of jacks are all common occurances. There is even some cool wreck diving with 17th century Spanish Galleons.
Pipin is the best site to see the Silky Shark and they don't seem to be phased by humans so they might come right up to you. There are canyons to explore and groupers, tarpon and snapper all cruising around the corals. Farallon is another cracker site, with a pinnacle full of cool tunnels and encounters with the Caribbean Reef Shark. Vicente is a great deep dive with a lot of black coral and maybe a hammerhead shark if you're lucky.
Schools of reef sharks can be found at the sites of Black Negro I and II, feel your heart racing as the swarm around you. Look for the rays burried in the sand on this site. Octopus Cave is a small wall where you can find reef sharks or the grey nurse and huge schools of fish and pelagics. We leave the best for last; the site of Cubera Head, one of the best dives in La Riena. Beautiful, colourful corals, loads of fish and sharks to entertain you, it really is a fabulous site.
Above the water is just as interesting so explore some of the islands and look for the diverse amount of flora and fauna that inhabits them. There are no people anywhere as no one lives on the island so it really is nature at its best.
This untouched marine wilderness is a place to put on your diving bucket list, it's probably on of the last virgin reefs left on the planet and will be your ultimate diving adventure.
(By Kelly Luckman)