Ah, the Caribbean. The word conjures images of crystal blue waters, amazing sea life, endless shores, spectacular vistas, and an unforgettable time. Ask anyone, “What are the top ten places they would like to visit?” and, chances are, the Caribbean will be on that list!
People who enjoy water sports such as diving, snorkeling, laying on the beach, and smashing waves will have a grand time in the Caribbean. According to the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization’s research, tourism is booming in the Caribbean. Tourist arrivals went up by 12% in the first quarter of 2019, and there were 9.1 million arrivals to the region in the first quarter of the year.
When to Visit the Caribbean
The Caribbean is known for having one of the most enviable climates on the planet. The temperature is between 24°C (75.2°F) to 29°C (84.2°F) throughout the year. It is never cold or too hot, and rainfalls are predictable throughout the year. The best time to visit is between December and April when it’s cooler and less humid. This is typically the time when tourists flock to escape the winter.
You should take into consideration your interests and budget when visiting the island. Migrating birds, nesting turtles, and submarine species have their favoured seasons. From May to June and late November to mid-December, rates are cheaper, and there are fewer crowds. You still get to enjoy great weather without the crowdedness.
Best Diving in the Caribbean
Although the Caribbean is diverse and offers plenty of attractions and experiences for travellers and visitors, one of its best features is diving. Diving in the Caribbean will be a memory that you will cherish and look back on with fond memories. There are countless places where you can go diving. You will want to visit them all, but if you do not have the time and money to do so, we have narrowed down the list to make things easier for you.
Diving Tips for the Caribbean
It is important to be conscious of the environment while diving in the Caribbean.
- Refrain from touching anything during your dive.
- Do not kick or bump reefs or corals. Float carefully and watch your buoyancy.
- Never use flash photography.
- Select an eco-conscious dive operator. Do not just select the cheapest operator. A few of the things you should also take into consideration are the operator’s concern for the local environment, their contributions to marine life protection, as well as their safety regulations and practices.
Dive Sites in the Caribbean
St. Croix, one of the U.S, Virgin Islands, is a destination unlike any other because it offers reef, wall, and wreck diving. Begin your exploration on the north shore for deep dives. Twin Palms and Cane Bay give visitors easy road access which leads to a 10 to 15-minute swim to the wall’s edge. You will be surprised by water clarity up to a hundred feet deep and sea life, such as shoals of squid and sea turtles.
For those who like wrecks, Butler Bay is the best place to go to. It’s located outside of Frederiksted on the island’s west end. You can end your day in St. Croix with a night dive in shallow sites such as the Aquarium. You’ll get to see lobsters, seahorses, and eels.
Turks Head Passage, Turks and Caicos
Turks and Caicos have deep diving walls, expansive oasis, a thriving coral reef ecosystem, and some of the ocean’s biggest creatures. Located just south of the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos are made up of 40 different cays and islands, but only eight of them are inhabited.
The best months to go diving in Turks and Caicos are between January to April. This is when the humpback whales, migrating fish, turtles, rays and dolphins descend on the island and pass through the Turks Head Passage in a migration pattern that continues to the Dominican Republic. If you get lucky, you can have an unforgettable encounter with large mammals and hear the serene reverberation of pods of whales vocalizing.
A large portion of the coast is under the protection of the National Parks Ordinance which aims to preserve pristine dive sites with abundant marine life.
There are also excellent options for staying like the all-inclusive Sandals Resorts.
Bonaire is ranked as the top diving spot in the Caribbean, and for a good reason. This spunky desert island, not far from South America, offers divers a 24/7 access to its shore reefs. The temperature rarely goes above 29°C (85°F) in hot summer months or fall below 23°C 75°F in the winter.
Bonaire Marine Park has a total of 85 dive sites that are home to more than 50 species of stony and soft corals, as well as more than 300 species of fish. Some of the most popular diving sites in Bonaire are Bari Reef, 1000 Steps and Alice in Wonderland.
‘Something Special’ got its name from a cheap local rum and is home to a variety of fish. Scuba divers can expect to see eagle rays, frogfish, and garden eels. It has gentle currents and a depth that ranges from 4 m (13.12 ft) to 24 m (78.74 ft) which are ideal for beginners.
The Cayman Islands
The Cayman Islands boast of record-setting visibility and support a resident population of sharks and a myriad of other underwater attractions including tarpon, triggerfish, Eagle rays, squirrelfish and colourful wrasses. Grand Cayman is the most visited out of all the islands. Situated in the northern Caribbean Sea is an underwater mountain ridge called Cayman Ridge.
The water surrounding the island is filled with remarkable natural splendour and is a hotspot for underwater exploration. It offers a staggering 162 dive sites, and the area has made a name for itself as a playground for scuba divers. Stingray City is one of the most remarkable spots. A shallow dive off the island allows you to get close and personal with stingrays that gather and glide alongside divers.
Little Cayman is a favourite of marine biologists and is popular for its unprecedented levels of biodiversity. Guests on Little Cayman can expect a level of isolation as it is not as developed as the other islands. It offers visitors a level of tranquillity that is difficult to find.
The Blue Hole, Belize
Considered one of the Caribbean’s greatest wonders, the Blue Hole off the coast of Belize is a massive sinkhole and the largest of its kind. It is more than 400 ft (122 m) deep and 1000 ft (305 m) wide and is part of the Barrier Reef Reserve System which happens to also be a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Divers go to Belize for the opportunity to explore stalactite formations in caves formed more than a thousand years ago, and for the amazing diving opportunities. Some of the wonders you can expect to see in the place are angelfish, midnight parrotfish, and Caribbean reef sharks. If you are lucky, you might also get to experience occasional visits from hammerhead sharks.
Diving the Blue Hole is for seasoned divers because the depth calls for good control over one’s buoyancy, as well as calmness when faced with sensory deprivation due to very little movement or water temperature.
Champagne Reef, Dominica
Champagne Reef can be found on ‘Nature Island of Dominica.’ It got its name because swimming through it gives divers the sensation of swimming through champagne due to the bubbles coming out of the tiny holes in the reef. The bubbles come from volcanic activity that happens below the surface. The reef is also home to a variety of marine life such as parrotfish, lobster and the resident population of Hawksbill turtles.
The site can be easily accessed from the shore, so it is not necessary to take a boat. Less experienced guests who do not know how to scuba dive can still experience the spectacle from above the surface with snorkels.
Located off the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, Cozumel is one of the top tourist destinations in the Caribbean. Apart from the excellent diving experience, it is also a place where travellers can get to know about ancient Mayan history and experience modern Mexican culture.
Cozumel is home to an abundant ocean floor and a variety of dive sites. If you want to experience the island’s best sites, you should hop on a charter trip to Santa Rosa Wall. It boasts of variegated corallines and a tunnel that is around 50 ft (15 m) deep. Some of the magnificent marine life you can see are barracudas, reef sharks, wrasse, and parrotfish.
Cozumel’s other highlights are the caverns of Punta Sur Reef which is home to a punctuated and deep wall complete with complex caverns and fissures. The bull sharks in Playa del Carmen are something to look forward to. They are usually present from November to March, which is the breeding season. For the more adventurous, there is cenote diving in Yucatan. Cenote Dos Ojos is accessible to most divers and is ideal for those who would like to experiment in cavern diving.
Authors Bio: Leo and Neza are passionate about traveling and sharing their experiences. On their blog, Safari Nomad, they write specifically about the Balkan region where they have been many times and lived there for a couple of years.