By Susie Reese
S.C.U.B.A. diving is one of the most enjoyable staples of a Caribbean vacation. From Jamaica to Barbados, each island hosts its own adventures into the warm, turquoise waters, but with so many choices, how do you know which island and which sites to explore? We’re here to help! Check out our rundown of the best diving sites in all of the Caribbean.
The Cayman Islands
The Cayman Islands strive to be the undisputed champion of Caribbean scuba diving with more than 30 operators catering to all levels of experience. In 2008, the islands launched Dive 365—“a new dive for every day of the year”—to give divers diverse sites in which to explore and alleviate the environmental stress at the popular sites. Sixty-eight diving sites were opened, including the Kittiwake Dive Site off of the northern section of Seven Mile Beach. This unique “wreck” was sunk in 2010 and is safe to explore with its hazardous material removed before submersion. Other notable sites include Cayman Brac’s MV. Captain Keith Tibbetts, one of the few Russian-built wrecks in the Western Hemisphere where more than a 100 species have been documented; and Little Cayman’s Bloody Bay Wall, where the ocean plunges from 25 feet to more than 6,000, creating a wall rich with coral-reef marine life.
Special Note: The Cayman Islands also offer diving for special needs’ guests. Check with your travel agent for certified diving instructors.
Turks and Caicos
Turks and Caicos is revered as having a world-renowned coral reef that is akin to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Like the Bloody Bay Wall, the walls of West Caicos have a 6,000-foot plunge to the ocean floor, allowing for a unique culture of marine life, including coral, sponges, barracudas, reef sharks, eagle rays, sea turtles, nurse sharks, and stingrays. With more than two dozen dive sites and the occasional manta ray or hammerhead shark, this is a great destination for the experienced diver. Some other popular sites include Columbus Passage that separates the Turks Islands from the Caicos Islands where more than 1,500 humpback whales travel from January to April; the French Cay, an inhabited reef island that is home to a bird sanctuary and has dramatic drop-offs with elephant ear sponges, numerous types of coral, and huge eagle rays; and West Caicos, with a variety of different sites, including one with an old engine block from railroad mining, great sites for underwater photography, and unique sea life like black coral and purple tube sponges.
Noteworthy Sites and Resorts
Other notable diving sites include Victory Reef in the Bahamas, a five-mile reef off of North and South Cat Cray with a variety of marine life and unbelievable underwater visibility; the RMS Rhone Wreck in the British Virgin Islands, which is considered one of the best wreck dives in the world and was featured in the movie The Deep; and Cane Bay in St. Croix with some dive sites easily accessible from the beach.
Many resorts, like Sandals, Beaches, and Atlantis, provide scuba lessons on property before taking you onto a supervised ocean dive. Sandals and Beaches offer up to two dives a day for experienced travelers, while Atlantis takes guests out to famed sites, like Lost Blue Hole, a 200-feet opening in the ocean floor; and The Fish Hotel, a coral paradise. Talk to your travel agent to book your desired dives and destinations for your next Caribbean vacation.