I left my heart in….Jardines de La Reina

by Charlie White

I have just returned from a fantastic trip to Cuba where I stayed on board La Tortuga, moored in Jardines de La Reina – ‘The Queen’s Gardens’.   After an easy flight to Havana with Iberia and then a night in Havana at the very comfortable Saratoga Hotel, we made our way to the port of Jucaro by bus to board the transfer boat that would take us out to La Tortuga.  The weather was warm but quite cloudy and I was a bit worried about the fishing conditions for that week but I did not need to worry.  After the three hour journey we reached La Tortuga to be greeted by lots of friendly and familiar faces of lodge staff and guides.  I have to admit that my lunch was rushed as I was so desperate to get out to the flats.  My guide Jim had already set up my rods and they were waiting for me in the skiff and we set off for a great afternoon on the flats.  What a fantastic feeling getting that first fish hooked and landed – I could finally relax.

The weather continued to be absolutely perfect for saltwater fishing, bright sunshine and very little wind, if any.  At times it was difficult to see where the flat ended and the sky began.  The fishing was really good and we caught and lost lots of really good quality bonefish, jumped a few tarpon and even managed to land one.  We went out early for tarpon one morning which was an amazing experience but sadly we did not manage to get one. Not for  want of trying!  I would definitely recommend an early trip out, if the conditions are right, as it doesn’t get much better than fishing for tarpon with the sun coming up, followed by having your breakfast on the skiff, knowing that you still have a full day of fishing ahead of you.

We saw so many tailing permit, a truly incredible sight which makes my legs shake and my heart pound. We had some perfect chances of casting to them and they were following the fly but sadly, what with the fly hooking into the coral head, being taken by a snapper, bombarded by a bonefish (excuses excuses!) it was not my week!

The accommodation on La Tortuga has always been comfortable but the improvements and updated bedrooms with new bigger bathrooms are fantastic with a proper shower enclosure with an enviable shower pressure and endless hot water.  The food is delicious, as ever, with fresh lobster and fish every day and then my favourite, homemade pizza, which accompanies the freshly made cocktail when you get back from fishing.

One of the main reasons for my visit was to visit Avalon Fleet I, the newest of the Avalon fleet of yachts which you can take with friends or family as a private charter.  Fleet I is seriously impressive and very comfortable with eight air-conditioned guest bedrooms and seven bathrooms. The accommodation is based over two floors with a big indoor lounge with a dining and seating area along with a bar.  On the next deck there is a fantastic open dining and seating area with another bar area.  This is the most popular place for guests to have their meals and I am not surprised, as this deck offers great views of the Caribbean.  In both lounges you will find entertainment systems of TVs and music systems and on the very top deck there is the luxury of a hot tub and a great area for sunbathing.  Chartering Avalon Fleet I would be the perfect way to fish and dive in Jardines de La Reina in true comfort.

After a wonderful week of fishing it was back to Havana to stay for a night at the Santa Isabel Hotel, a restored eighteenth century mansion, which was a great way to round off a really good week.

Thank you to Jim, Filippo, Pepe and all the team for a fantastic week.  I have been there many times and never have anything other than a superb experience.  If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.