“Garden of the Queen” – The Magnificent Coral Reef of Cuba
One of the many things Cuba is known for is the splendid colony of corals located at about 50 miles distance from the mainland. The breathtaking beauty of the landscape left Columbus in such awe that he decided to name the place “Garden of the Queen”, as a homage to Queen Isabella of Spain. In the southern part, the reef intersects the roots of mangroves, the result being absolutely fantastic. Small fish species that want to escape the jaws of predators find a perfect hiding place here. Many kinds of sharks, such as the Carcarinus, a local species, but also the nurse shark, the silk shark or the lemon shark come here, attracted by the rich source of prey.
The Queen’s Corals
The corals come in an amazing variety of colors, some of the colonies dating, accord to the marine biologists who studied the area, back to Columbus’ time. One of the coral species here is the so called “pillar coral”, that feeds with the plancton it captures using its tiny tentacles, no thicker than a hair. The reef also offers ideal conditions for a lot of sponges and even seaweeds. From October to May, the reef off the coast of Cuba is also the home of the hammerhead sharks and whale sharks, as they come here for the mating season.