Friday, November 20, 2015

Reef Libre, an In-Depth Look at Cuban Exceptionalism & the Last Best Reefs in the World by Robert Wintner


Cuba reefs host apex predators and coral cover at optimal levels. While Cuban reef vitality may be linked to economic default and no shoreline development, no agricultural pesticides or fertilizers and limited human population growth, the Castro regime is aggressively developing its reef potential.

Seas to the south are now 100% shark protected.

Most Cuba travelogues advise “getting off the beaten path,” but Reef Libre examines that path, to see where it might lead as things change. Will Cuba reefs remain protected? Or is this perilous age of natural decline a last chance to see a healthy reef system?

Robert Wintner and the Snorkel Bob Jardines de la Reina Expedition herein provide narrative insight with photos and video. First stop is the baseline: Havana urban density. Down south at Cayo Largo, reef collapse seems imminent with 600 guests changing daily, and the phosphate-laden laundry water flowing directly to the deep blue sea. Will Cuba’s Ministry of Tourism step up with the Jardines de la Reina paradigm? Rising from the Golfo de Ana MarĂ­a, Jardines is a thousand square miles of mangrove estuary, for ages compromised by constant extraction of its biggest predators, taken as food. Protected, it now rises on the world reef stage.

A DVD comes with the book in a paper sleeve glued to the inside cover. Reef Libre, the movie, runs about an hour.

My Thoughts:

This is a gorgeous photography book/DVD combination! The book comes with a DVD(that slips inside the front cover), and I was able to appreciate the book more by watching the video. While there's more covered in the book, the DVD does cover a great deal that's mentioned in the book. I'd recommend watching it first, just so the photography means more. I loved that throughout the DVD, as a new fish was shown, its name shows up on the screen, too. With the music in the background, it was a peaceful video, and filled with such beauty that I plan on happily watching it again.

Throughout the book, the author is warning readers against the aquarium trade. Many times, I'm ashamed of how ignorant I am of certain subjects, and this book brought to my attention to the aquarium trade. It's obvious that the author feels love for these "little fishes", and wants them to thrive in their natural environment. It was a very eye-opening experience for me on many levels, though. I'd never even heard of many of these creatures! The book also talks about life in Cuba. We get a cultural lesson, too, so this is by no means only about the fish.

I mention details below, but the book isn't for children, as is. A black crayon would turn this into an excellent learning/teaching tool for kids, though. To be honest, I thought about passing it on, but the value of it is simply too great, so I'm marking out words, and putting it on my children's nature shelf. They love looking at pictures of God's creations, and this is probably the most beautiful nature-type of book we've had the pleasure of admiring. Again, though, there's really much more to the book, so it could be a great book that could grow with them. 

Aside from my content warnings, this is a book I can easily recommend. It is beautiful, and a book you need to see in person!


The book is NOT for children(as is). There's profanity, including F-bombs. (While some of those are "beeped" out, others aren't.) There's also various artwork featured that isn't overly appropriate for children. There's one involving a man and woman in a nude pose.

The DVD looked as if it was mostly made so that children could enjoy it. There is one section featuring an artist and her artwork, and I'd highly recommend parents looking at the art before letting your children watch it. It might or might not be a big deal to your family. It is abstract nudity, and the breasts are mentioned by the narrator. (There is more of the artwork featured in the book.) I didn't hear any profanity.

*I was provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Watch the Trailer:


Purchase Links:


Barnes and Noble


About the Author:

Best known as Snorkel Bob in Hawaii and around the world, Robert Wintner captures Cuba above and below the surface with urgency and hope. As a pioneer in fish portraiture, Wintner demonstrated social structure and etiquette in reef society. Reef Libre goes to political context, in which human folly will squander Cuba’s reefs as well—unless natural values can at last transcend political greed. As pundits joust over who did what to whom and why, Wintner ponders reef prospects in view of political changes.

Robert Wintner has authored many novels and story collections. Reef Libre is his fourth reef commentary with photos and his first overview of survival potential in a political maelstrom. He lives and works in Hawaii, still on the front lines of the campaign to stop the aquarium trade around the world.

Connect with the Author:





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  1. Thank you, Bluerose, for your sensitive review. Thanks again for getting down and feeling the magic.

    1. Mercy, I am late responding, but thank YOU! It was my pleasure! :)