The Caribbean, with its turquoise waters and abundant marine life, is a great place for new divers to start exploring the wonders of the ocean and build their dive confidence. From shallow coral reefs full of life to easy wreck dives, the region’s dive destinations offer plenty for new divers to tackle. Join us as we delve into eight great dive spots in the Caribbean.
Cozumel, an island off Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, is a diver’s paradise boasting a designated marine sanctuary. Efforts to protect its marine life have contributed to a thriving underwater ecosystem there. Topside, there are white sand beaches to relax on, and the coral reefs are bustling with marine life.
Diving in Cozumel offers exceptional visibility and calm water conditions, making it an excellent choice for beginners. With an abundance of shore diving sites, encountering Cozumel’s diverse marine life also couldn’t be easier. Among its marine residents, divers can encounter three species of sea turtles, plus plenty of reef fish.
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
With a range of dive centers available, Grand Cayman is a great destination for new divers who want to explore world-class reefs whilst completing an advanced diver certification.
Vibrant coral gardens, such as Eden Rock and Devil’s Grotto, showcase Grand Cayman’s colorful corals and offer easy dives. And if there are seasoned divers in your group, Grand Cayman’s wall dives is a must. Every diver should also take a trip to Stingray City to go swimming with friendly southern stingrays in their natural habitat.
Tucked among the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, Roatán boasts some of the Caribbean’s most diverse marine protected areas. Roatán’s warm waters and gentle currents make it a welcoming destination for new divers.
As the first shark sanctuary in the Americas, Honduras takes pride in its commitment to shark conservation. Divers may encounter various harmless shark species there, including reef sharks and nurse sharks. There are also some accessible wrecks, making it a great place to try wreck diving.
Turks and Caicos
Turks and Caicos is another top Caribbean destination for abundant marine life and has gently sloping reefs that provide an excellent starting point for new divers. You can work on your dive skills without the pressure of drop-offs and walls.
Grace Bay sits in the Princess Alexandra National Park and has calm waters with a sandy seafloor, and it hosts beautiful spotted eagle rays. It is well worth a visit between your dives or for a day relaxing at the beach.
Bonaire is a new diver’s dream come true. With over 60 dive sites, most of which are easy shore dives, plus year-round coral reef diving, this Caribbean Island is hard to beat!
The people of Bonaire take marine conservation seriously and are famous for their conservation efforts. The Bonaire National Marine Park encompasses all of the island’s waters and is one of the oldest marine reserves in the world. Go Bonaire diving and you will be immersed in thriving underwater ecosystems with healthy corals, sea turtles, and plenty of reef fish.
Bonaire’s “Drive and Dive” concept allows divers to explore independently, adding a sense of freedom to every dive. Simply grab your gear and tanks with a buddy or dive guide, hire a car, and explore at your own pace. It’s a great way to boost your dive confidence and skills without the pressure of being part of a large dive group.
Dominica, the Nature Island of the Caribbean, has reefs covered in vibrant sponges and corals that host plenty of macro life. Champagne Reef, named for its effervescent underwater springs, provides a magical experience diving among bubbling vents. If you want to try coral reef diving, this is a great spot to visit.
But swimming with sperm whales is surely the most sought-after experience in Dominica. This island is home to over 200 resident sperm whales, and it is the only place in the world where you can swim with these amazing whales year-round.
The British Virgin Islands
Last but not least, the British Virgin Islands are known as one of the top Caribbean destinations for all levels of diver. There is an array of reefs and wrecks to explore, and the waters are very clear.
The British Virgin Islands’ reef and wreck dive sites are busy with small fish, plus snapper, bat fish, schooling pelagic fish, and stingrays. The Baths on the southwest coast of Virgin Gorda is perfect for new divers, offering soft sands, clear blue waters, and a stunning landscape of huge granite boulders and caves. Make sure you take your camera to capture all of the marine life and landscapes you will find at this impressive national park.
Kathryn Curzon, a conservationist and dive travel writer for SSI (Scuba Schools International), wrote this article.
Header Photo: Kris-Mikael Krister
Dive into Festive Fun With PADI
Marina Scuba School’s Santa Splash Discover Scuba Experience
Join the festive fun at Marina Scuba School’s Santa Splash on the 16th of December in Crosby. While the real Santa may be busy, Marina Scuba School’s staff members will be dressed up in festive attire for a 2-hour DSD with a Christmas twist.
Open to adults, families, and children over the age of 8, this festive dive is jam-packed with Christmas treats.
The festive fun begins at Marina Scuba School, where you’ll be greeted with a warm welcome and some delicious Santa snacks. During the 2-hour Discover Scuba Diving session, you’ll have the chance to learn essential skills required for scuba diving, all while searching for some Christmas goodies hidden beneath the surface.
This holly jolly dive experience takes place on the 16th of December in Crosby and only costs £40 per participant.
To book this exciting dive contact the dive centre by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Vobster Quay in Bristol is thrilled to announce the return of the Vobster Santas, a spectacular yuletide diving event that promises to make waves for a cause. This festive fun is open to all levels of divers and invites participants to don their Santa gear and dive into the holiday season in style.
Scheduled for the 10th of December, the gates to Vobster Quay will open at 7:30 am, with a comprehensive dive brief at 09:30 am, leading up to a mass dive at 10:00 am. The goal? To surpass the previous record of 185 Santa divers in the water simultaneously, promising a visually spectacular and undoubtedly jolly spectacle.
Vobster Santas isn’t just about the joy of diving; it’s a mission with heart. The event serves as a vital fundraising opportunity for two esteemed charities, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Help for Heroes. Both hold special significance for Vobster Quay, and participants are encouraged to secure sponsorships through JustGiving to support these worthy causes.
Since its inception, Vobster Santas has successfully raised over £40,000 for these charities. This year, the bar is set higher, and Vobster Quay is committed to leading the charge. To kick off the fundraising efforts, Vobster Quay has generously donated £1000 to each charity, igniting the holiday spirit of giving.
For more information, sponsorship opportunities, and to download the event poster, visit: Vobster Quay – VOBSTER SANTAS 2023
Photos: Jason Brown
Diving into the World’s Fastest Tidal Rapids
In the mystical waters just north of Vancouver, Canada lies a narrow channel called the Skookumchuck Narrows, or simply “The Skook.” It’s a hidden gem in the Salish Sea that boasts a unique spectacle – a tumultuous dance of tides and currents that draws adventurers and spectators from far and wide.
Imagine this: a channel so narrow and shallow that a single tide can unleash an astonishing 200 billion gallons of water, creating a tumultuous display of standing waves, whirlpools, and currents surging at 16 knots (18 mph or 30 kph). Such speeds may seem mild when driving a car, but the erratic water is a different ballgame. Skookumchuck Narrows is a contender for the title of the world’s fastest tidal rapids, rivaled only by Nakwakto Rapids further up the British Columbia coast.
But there’s a twist – this aquatic battleground isn’t just for adrenaline seekers; The Skook is an oasis for life beneath the waves. April 2023 marked a rare convergence of perfect conditions: a celestial alignment allowing divers to witness The Skook in all its glory. And who better to guide this daring expedition than Porpoise Bay Charters, a family-run venture led by the seasoned Kal Helyar and Ann Beardsell?
Raging currents = an abundance of life
The allure lies not in the danger but in the vibrant marine ecosystem fueled by the relentless currents. Ocean currents act as nature’s turbochargers, transporting nutrients that transform places like Skookumchuck Narrows into underwater havens with colorful life thriving amidst the rocky terrain.
It’s important to debunk the myth that this is a reckless plunge into chaos. Diving The Skook is not about courting danger but choosing the right moment: at slack when the tide turns, the water experiences minimal movement, and the currents are a mere 4-5 knots. Picture this – a scuba diver slipping gracefully between tidal changes, maneuvering with precision as the water changes its course and gradually picks up speed. Timing is everything, and finding the rare dates when daylight piercing through the emerald-green water coincides with navigable water conditions is critical. April 2023 granted us a mere handful of these golden days of nature’s alignment for the first time in four years.
Entering the abyss
As our vessel, under the watchful eye of Captain Kal, approached the infamous Skookumchuck rapids, a tangible excitement filled the air. These cold-water adrenaline-filled dives are the scuba diving equivalent to scaling Everest. The unpredictability of The Skook, where currents can whisk you in any direction, demanded respectful caution from our experienced salty crew.
With a reassuring smile, Captain Kal dismissed the notion of a toilet bowl experience, where divers are pulled in a circular direction by the currents as if flushed down a toilet. He emphasized that they only dived during an easy drift in the current, which was hard to fathom possible in such treacherous waters. Approaching the narrowest section of the channel, where the current was fastest, Kal’s experienced eyes scanned for the telltale signs of slack tide. Tidal ripples slowed, and we entered the water in the few precious minutes within the next year when it was possible to witness Skookumchuck in all its sunny glory.
As we descended into the underwater world, a mysterious algal bloom cast a dark green haze, unveiling a breathtaking palette of colors below. Bright red and pink anemones, neon orange encrusting sponges, and deep purple ochre sea stars adorned the rocky canvas, showcasing nature’s artistic prowess.
Surrendering to the sea
Descending further, we felt the force of the tide, like a river yet to subside. Gripping onto rock holds and kicking into the current, we felt like underwater rock climbers. Adjusting our underwater camera settings and getting comfortable with the flow of the water, we marveled at the transformation of the underwater landscape. Slabs of rock, once pounded by the current, now hosted a vibrant community of marine life.
After a mesmerizing twenty minutes of relatively gentle water, the current intensified, signaling the roller coaster drop ahead. We surrendered to neutrality, letting the current guide us along the wall. Boulders and back eddies added a touch of unpredictability; with trust in our abilities and Captain Kal’s promise of a safe pickup, the thrill was exhilarating rather than menacing.
As the current ebbed, we found ourselves in a tranquil cove adorned with green sea urchins, marking the end of our underwater odyssey. The Skook had shown us its splendor: a delicate balance of chaos and life beneath the surface – leaving us with memories as vivid as the colors we witnessed.
About the Author
Nirupam Nigam is a dedicated underwater photographer and fisheries scientist. While growing up in Los Angeles, he fell in love with the ocean and pursued underwater photography in the local Channel Islands. He received degrees in Aquatic and Fisheries Science and General Biology, as well as a minor in Arctic Studies, at the University of Washington. After working as a fisheries observer on boats in the Bering Sea and North Pacific, Nirupam became the Editor-in-Chief of the Underwater Photography Guide and the President of Bluewater Photo – the world’s top underwater photo & video retailer. Check out more of his photography at www.photosfromthesea.com!
US-based divers: explore more close-by dive destinations with Bluewater Dive Travel here.
All photos: Nirupam Nigam
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