According to a 2012 Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network report, just ten percent of the Caribbean’s reefs show live coral cover, while 75% of the region’s reefs are in danger. Clearly, the underwater seascape is one of the Caribbean’s most attractive, unparalleled features. The following dive destinations are regularly voted among the best sites worldwide. Long may they reign…
The waters off the small island of Bonaire in the southern Caribbean are a designated marine park, and the island is consistently honored among the best dive islands in the world. While life topside is arid, salty and sun bleached, below the surface you can practically step off any beach and find yourself among teeming coral reef, or giant sponges at Salt Pier. Scuba Diving Magazine voted Bonaire best overall site in the 2012 awards. The island lives and breathes diving, so if you’re a SCUBA fanatic, this is something of a Mecca.
With over 200 dive sites, the clear, shallow waters of the Cayman Islands offer an excellent spot to develop a love for the sport. Although the reefs drop off at points to some of the deepest dive sites in the Caribbean, such as at the legendary Bloody Bay Wall, there are few areas with dangerously strong currents to challenge the uninitiated. Famously, Sting Ray City offers a shallow location to see rays up close. Elsewhere, this is a great island cluster to drift among sponges, coral and schools of tropical fish.
The tiny Dutch island of Saba has just 30 dive sites, but this is on an island with only one gas station and one road to speak of. Saba’s relationship with the sea is legendary, and the island has marketed itself as a niche dive destination for the connoisseur. Expect lava flows, volcanic springs and rock towers, with a marine park teeming with coral. After hours, you’ll be hard pushed to find any of the island’s 1,500 or so population who won’t lend an ear to your tales. Like Bonaire, this is an island that has so much diving in its blood, it needs a decompression chamber.
Twenty or so years ago, Dominica was one of the quietest, most overlooked islands in the Caribbean. Now, however, is its heyday. Rebranded as a top eco-destination above sea level, things are no less breathtaking underwater. The annual Dive Fest in July promotes the island’s attributes: choose from the Scott’s Head Pinnacles, Champagne Reef with its volcanic heads and brain coral, or the dramatic drop offs that characterize Dominica’s sheer mountain topography.
Turks and Caicos
With the world’s third largest barrier reef and wall dives that descend to 8,000ft, the Turks and Caicos are for the dive aficionado. The 6,000ft deep Turks Island passage currents draw in rays and sharks, while the drop off the West Caicos Walls and Columbus Passage entice whales and large marine life. There are too many top dive sites in the Turks and Caicos to mention, but this is another island that takes its diving seriously.