by Robert Wintner
Taylor Trade Publishing: 2/1/15
Hardcover review copy, 272 pages
Reef Libre: Cuba-The Last, Best Reefs in the World by Robert Wintner highlights the pristine and ecologically healthy and stable coral reefs of Cuba and begs the question "What will happen to them when tourism returns to Cuba?" The beautiful hardcover coffee table book includes a DVD. It is highly recommended.
The 400 still photos in the book are varied and cover the amazing aquatic life around the reef, as well as photos of life in the cities and villages on Cuba. Winter, known as Snorkel Bob, has written Reef Libre as a tribute to Cuba's pristine coral reefs and the incredible diversity they contain. Cuba's coral reefs have benefited from Cuba's isolation from tourism and the aquarium trade. They are an ecological wonder and the biodiversity is evident. Wintner makes his case in the text that we need to help Cuba keep their coral reef as a national treasure and protect it from being ruined simply for economic gain. That is a tough battle for a poverty stricken country.
Reef Libre was not written as a travelogue, although it does serve that purpose with the wide variety of photos not of the reef and the marine life. It is organized in the following chapters:
Reef Libre; Cayo Largo; Cuba Hoy; Jardines De La Reina; Tengo Dos; Night in Havana!; Political Reefs; Are You Now or Have You Ever Been...; The Older Man and The Sea; Finito, For Now; About the Cover; About the Author; Index. (As is my wont, I'm always thrilled to see an index.)
The text in the book and the dialogue in the DVD are written/spoken in a conversational style, although the continuity is a bit disjointed at times. While the goal is to showcase what Cuba has done right, it is also a dire warning about what can happen if this ecological wonder is allowed to be destroyed for economic gain. Right now the aquarium trade is nonexistant there. It could devastate the ecology if it is allowed.
While the book is very nice, you will want to watch the DVD, trust me on that fact. The YouTube video of Reef Libre will give you a small taste of the DVD. I watched the DVD with a young friend and he was entranced by the underwater scenes. He kept asking "Is that real!" The scenes are mesmerizing. All the marine life is labeled so you can see the name of the species of fish, etc. And did I mention the video is extraordinary? I will also admit right now that we were talking and oohing and awing over the photography so we missed much of the dialogue the first time through. And, I probably need to admit that we fast forwarded over the island scenes to get back to the underwater shots - except for the sea turtle beach on land - during the first viewing. (After viewing the DVD later, the dialogue is very similar to the text in the book and contains the same message and warning.)
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review purposes.
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