The only reason for heading south of the provincial capital, Ciego de Ávila, is for the outstanding diving and fishing at the Archipiélago de los Jardines de la Reina, a cluster of over six hundred tiny virgin cays some 80km from the mainland. The jumping-off point for trips to the cays is the barren fishing village of Júcaro, 32km south of Ciego de Ávila. It’s a miserable collection of wooden shacks and half-finished cement constructions set around the derelict-looking Parque Martí and a malodorous fishing port. Don’t let this deter you, however, as the real beauty round these parts is hidden underwater.

The diving here considered by many to be among the best in the world. More than eighty dive sites around the archipelago boast caves, canyons, and wall, spur and groove coral formations. The real draw, though, is the phenomenal abundance of fish, including many large species. Spectacular feeding shows are staged by Avalon staff, who attract scores of sharks with scraps of fish. Also abundant are monster-sized goliath groupers, barracudas, cubera snappers and tarpons; with luck, you may see eagle rays, hammerhead sharks, lemon sharks, nurse sharks and turtles.

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