Sun, sea and sand — these are three cliché reasons why many people go on holiday. Indeed, they are three of the top reasons that brings millions of tourists to the Caribbean each year. For now, we will focus on the second point: the sea. Diving is one of the most freeing and exciting adventures, and these awe-inspiring spots will make you want to get out and explore more of the world’s underwater treasures.
Bloody Bay Marine Park
More than just a haven for tax dodgers, the Cayman Islands offer some of the most astonishing diving spots on the planet. Located in a site just off Little Cayman Island, the Bloody Bay Marine Park is a spot for any serious diver — some have even described it as one of the seven wonders of the underwater world. It is a collection of 22 sites, giving divers more than their fair choice of underwater adventures, with the highlight being the Bloody Bay Wall. The wall is something of an abyss, with the depth thought to be close to 6,000 feet. This plunge can make it feel like you are hanging in space, and the views around the reef make it one of the most impressive underwater panoramas in the world. There is excellent visibility from 22 feet, so the wonders of the location can be appreciated by experienced and newbie divers alike.
This small, lesser-known Caribbean island hosts a plethora of different diving spots that really spoils underwater adventurers for choice. The island’s Marine Park is a designated national park and offers some 86 different dive sites, which are home to more than 350 fish species as well as 57 different species of both soft and stony coral. For those visitors who want to get some above-ground exploring in and not venture far from the sea, there are stony and sandy beaches, which are great for walking, mountain hikes, and windsurfing. The dive sites can be accessed by boat or by shore and are marked by names on yellow stones. Again, it is a destination for all abilities, with the bonus of being of geological and zoological interest and having enviable variety.
On the southwest tip of Tobago is the tourist center of Crown Point. It is the epicenter of tourist activity and for a good reason; it features nutrient-rich waters off the coast allowing for a wide variety of coral and fish life. With the majority of the dive companies being PADI accredited, ‘touristy’ doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. There is something in Crown Point for every type of diver, from beginner to advanced, from wreck diver to nature fanatic. A highlight is watching the school of Bermuda chub fish chase each other over the colored coral and sponge reefs as well as the seahorses, queen angel fish, and the lobsters in Majeston. Crown Point also offers a good variety of bars and restaurants, for between and after dives, and a vibrant nightlife scene if you choose not to go on the night dives.
Many people come to Jamaica to make the most of the party lifestyle: the rum cocktails, the reggae and dancehall, and the lively beaches day and night. Those visiting Negril will not be disappointed, and neither will divers who are coming to the area looking to enjoy the underwater party of the Caribbean’s most famous island. The most popular dive company in the area is run by English and German divers who have been in the area for over 20 years, which makes it quite a popular destination for European and American divers. There are coral reefs very close to the shore, and animal lovers will be in heaven as they will regularly come face-to-face with dolphins, turtles, and, of course, a wide variety of fish.
Going to the site that was famously proclaimed one of the top dive areas in the world by the world’s most famous diver and explorer, Jacques Cousteau, should surely be on any enthusiastic diver’s bucket list. The Réserve Cousteau brought the Pigeon Islands to international acclaim and has since attracted throngs of diving pilgrims year-round. The waters around the island are now protected as an underwater park to protect the seabed and limit fishing. It is assuring to know that the glorious biodiversity of coral reef sponges and marine life, including crayfish, seahorses, eels, turtles and vast schools of fish, will be enjoyed for generations to come. Snorkeling is possible off the beach; though to make the most of both snorkeling and scuba diving, take a 10 to 15 minute boat ride from the shore to explore the main dive sites. The sunken boat wreck and statue of the eponymous explorer are the other highlights of the reservation.
From one reservation to another area that is largely protected by a Conservation Foundation, the island of Saba, in the lesser Antilles chain, offers pristine underwater sites for the intrepid diver. The tiny island offers a huge range of diving experiences for all levels of divers. As with many of the dive sites in the Caribbean, the nutrient-rich water breeds astonishing colorful coral, and the underwater mountains and pinnacles have earned Saba its reputation as a must-see diving destination. Another reason for its reputation comes from its 28 permanent dive sites being among the best preserved in the world, following the establishment of the island as a Marine Park in 1987. Each of the dive sites are quick and easy to reach by boat, and many of them allow divers to explore the evidence of the island’s volcanic past through the underwater pinnacles, rock formations and tunnels. It’s a small wonder.
Whether you are looking to scuba dive, snorkel or ‘Snuba’ — the intermediary between the two more well-known disciplines — St Lucia is the place to learn, explore and try new things. For learners, this may be one of the more preferential areas to go as many of the dive companies are proudly PADI accredited, and the island itself is the most popular of all the destinations on our list. Of course, safety isn’t reason enough to go diving — if it was, we would all be happy enough going in a lake in the south of England — and St Lucia delivers with its stunning, quite romantic underwater scenery. Divers can get acquainted with marine life close to the surface and the shore or go on more secluded boat and cove dives to admire the more elusive animals, including seahorses. Night dives prove popular, and there are plenty of spots that are perfect for budding macro photographers. By Sophia White
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