Scuba diving enthusiasts will enjoy a combination of dramatic vertical terrains, colorful coral and sponge composites, and flourishing habitats of both small tropical reef fish and larger pelagic fish! In addition, Caribbean diving offers optimal scuba diving conditions: visibilities of greater than 100 feet, averaging water temperatures of 83 degrees.
These “famous” or “spectacular” diving sites are listed below in no particular order. Choosing a Caribbean diving site depends on your preferences and each location’s individual attributes. Read on to discover what each respective site offers the most of:
1. Sting Ray City, Grand Cayman Island — Domesticated feedings of friendly stingrays in sheltered bay. Hand-feed rays as they vacuum food up from your hands. More famous then spectacular.
2. The Blue Hole, Lighthouse Reef Atoll, Belize — Famous for its Great Blue Hole. At 1,000 feet in diameter, it is the largest in the world, descending down 440 feet into blackness. Guided dives with deco stops. You will see stalactites hanging from indented caverns. Not many fish, but worth doing once just to say you’ve done it.
3. Half Moon Caye Wall, Lighthouse Reef, Belize — Totally different then “The Blue Hole”. Wall configurations are dressed with corals of every color. Lavish staghorn coral at 20 feet. Sand chutes expose colonies of garden eel that seem to move in slow motion. Good blend of small tropicals and some larger pelagics such as eagle rays, sea turtles or groupers.
4. West Caicos Walls, Turks & Caicos — Many miles of 6000 foot vertical drop-offs, canyons and pinnacles. Thermal-forms are created from cooler ocean waters intersecting with the Caicos Bank… a complete spectrum of corals, sponges, small tropical fish, mid-sized groupers, barracudas, and many larger pelagics… keep one eye in the blue for constant visuals of reef shark, eagle ray, plus occasional hammerhead and manta. Also, sea turtles, nurse shark, stingray and more reef shark.
5. Walker’s Cay, Nassua Bahamas — Domesticated feeding of reef sharks. Organized dive whereby group kneels on sandy bottom while divemaster, wearing protection, chums Caribbean reef shark.
6. Bloody Bay Wall, Little Cayman — Clear visibility combined with great sunlight filtering create a photographer’s delight. Wall starting at 18 feet with coral and sponges of all types, colors, and sizes. Plenty of smaller reef fish: horse-eye jacks, triggerfish, small tropicals, and larger grouper.
7. RMS Rhone wreck, British Virgin Islands — The wreck of the Royal Mail Steamer R.M.S. Rhone is lying in The British Virgin Islands. It sank in a hurricane in 1867. Today, the wreck is one of the most famous Caribbean diving sites and is declared an underwater national park.
8. Salt Pier or Carl’s Hill Annex, Bonaire — A photographer’s haven for sponges and corals, and many small creatures such as seahorses and frogfish. Famous for its shore diving, walk-in right off beach to reefs of coral and immediate drop-offs. Because of the concentration of small tropical reef fish, just about anywhere in Bonaire you will feel like you are in an aquarium. Not famous for larger ocean fish (pelagics).
9. Green Outhouse Wall, Roatan – Honduras — Canyon with lots of brain coral, sea fans and gorgonians. Plenty of angel fish, big scrawled filefish, schools of tangs, durgeons, barracuda and stingrays cruising throughout your dive. A good blend of colorful sponge and coral, small to midsize tropical fish. Occasionally a sea turtle or spotted eagle ray appears.
10. Columbus Passage, Grand Turk or Salt Cay, Turks & Caicos — Dramatic walls mark the interface between the island’s shallow reefs and the abyssal depths of the Turks Island Passage. Great year round Caribbean diving for corals, sponges, small tropicals or larger pelagics. Most famous for humpback whale migratory path to Dominican breeding grounds during winter months.
11. The Duane, Key Largo, Florida — The Duane is a 327 foot Coast Guard cutter intentionally sunk as an artificial reef in 1987. This wreck sits in 120 feet of water with a prevalent current. The ship’s railings are encrusted with bright red and orange corals. Schools of barracudas and grunts abound.
12. French Cay, Turks and Caicos — Small inhabited reef island with 6000 foot vertical drop-offs all around. Dramatic combination of reef and wall diving, with many reverse angle undercuts. Eagle rays by the pod, sometimes in groups of 4 to 5. Schools of friendly shark plus sea turtles, nurse shark, moray eel. Occasional manta, hammerhead and humpback whales in winter.
13. Santa Rosa Wall, Cozumel — Sponge covered coral heads, gorgonians, azure vase sponges, orange elephant ear sponges. Some swim-throughs in the coral formations. Occasionally you may come face to face with a 20 to 30 pound grouper. Most dives are drift dives.
14. Victory Reef, South Bimini, Bahamas — Between encounters with giant loggerhead turtles and coral-laced canyons, this is a remarkable dive site. You’ll have an opportunity to swim with Caribbean sharks and even big game fish that come in from the Gulf Stream.
15. Cow and Calf Rocks, U.S. Virgin Islands — A very popular shallow dive, you can swim through amazing natural arches and ledges. The reef is rocky and some ledges might contain a sleeping nurse shark or two.
Vertical Wall Drop-offs, Canyons, & Unique Terrain
This is a generalization that must be taken in context. The majority of Caribbean diving sites have evolved around more shallow reefs and banks. However, if you select your island (Caribbean diving location) carefully, you can be rewarded with drastic vertical walls. The most famous wall drop-offs for Caribbean diving are:
1. Vertical Wall Drop-offs, Canyons, & Unique Terrain
2. Colorful & Abundant Coral Formations & Sponges
3. Small Tropical Reef Fish Such As Parrots & Jacks
4. Larger Fish Like Turtles, Sharks, & Eagle Rays
Choosing the right Caribbean diving location, from these seven, can be a difficult decision. Our Turks and Caicos Island dive sites are said to be the best, as they have extremely unique geological lands and ocean formations. These islands are an ocean plateau set 6000 feet straight above the ocean floor. This plateau has created a large 3000 square mile bank or shelf that runs out to its surrounding edge – a world-class reef (perhaps a close third to Australia’s barrier reef & Honduras’ outer reef). At this place where the shallow turquoise waters of the Caicos bank intersect with the outer coral reefs, the ocean terrain drops drastically from a 45-foot depth to 6000 feet. This wall drop-off is drastic, sometimes beyond vertical with many walls having inverted cut profiles.
1. West Caicos Island – Turks and Caicos
2. Bloody Bay Wall – Little Caymen
3. Scott’s Head Pinnacles – Dominca
4. South Wall – Turks and Caicos
5. Green Outhouse Wall – Honduras
6. French Cay – Turks and Caicos
7. Columbus Passage, Grand Turk & Salt Cay – Turks and Caicos
Top spots for “Most Colorful and Abundant” corals and sponges are
Water conditions of the Caribbean are advantageous for coral and sponge growth. Conditions run the whole gambit, therefore coral species run the full spectrum. The most dramatic corals and sponges found can be classified as either “the most colorful” or “the most gigantic”. The following species are omni-prevalent: gorgonians, elkhorn, pillar, sea fans. Every color (especially sponge family) can be found: orange, reds, glassy, whites, purples. The best locations for finding either “the most gigantic” or the “most colorful” corals are sheltered areas that are protected from currents, tides and surface-air effects. The epitome of this is on a vertical wall that has an inverse or negatively pitched angle to it. At these locations the corals are protected from the adverse effects of currents and tides. They are able to thrive without interference. Most Caribbean diving sites feature an abundance of coral and sponge collections. One Caribbean diving site that is renowned for its “very gigantic” corals is located under a very sheltered, negatively angled undercut wall at French Cay, in Turks & Caicos Islands.
1. Santa Rosa Wall, Cozumel
2. Bloody Bay Wall, Little Caymen
3. Salt Pier or Carl’s Hill Annex, Bonaire
4. Green Outhouse Wall, Roatan, Honduras
5. Lighthouse Reef, Belize
Larger Fish Like Turtles, Sharks, & Eagle Rays — “Where do you see reef shark, sea turtles, eagle rays, stingrays, nurse shark, jew fish, manta, dolphin, humpbacks?”
1. West Caicos Island, Turks and Caicos (including some humpbacks)
2. French Cay, Turks and Caicos (including some humpbacks)
3. Victory Reef, Bahamas (excludes humpbacks)
4. Lighthouse Reef, Belize (excludes humpbacks)
5. Grand Turk or Salt Cay, Turks and Caicos (especially for humpbacks)
Small Tropical Reef Fish Such As Parrots & Jacks — Virtually all Caribbean diving sites involve reefs with corals and sponges. Where there are reefs – there are tropical fish. But for the largest school concentrations of parrots, triggers, jacks, and other reef fish, head to the following locations:
2. Bloody Bay Wall, Little Caymen