The British Grand Caymans is actually made up of three islands: Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. Starting in the early 1950's, Pioneer scuba divers were making their way to these islands. Most people come to Grand Cayman for their diving while the sites around Little Cayman and Cayman Brac appeal to advance divers. The Cayman islands are mountain tops of the submersed Cayman Ridge, however unlike most islands of this nature it has a surface that is mostly limestone based. Also there are no rivers. This combination gives an effect of no surface run off of water, helping maintain crystal clear water. 100 foot visibility is average, and most the time the visibility is more limited by your eyesight than the waters clarity. Water temperatures are 26-28 °C/78-82 °F year round. Grand Cayman has over 300 moored dive sites around it. Shore diving is also very popular with many resorts offering unlimited shore dives. In many locations walls can be found starting in 50 feet of water within 100 feet of shore.
Turks & Caicos
A British Crown Colony is made up of 40 islands and cays. They are located on the ridges of two different underwater mountain ranges. Considers the Caribbean by most technically it is in the Atlantic ocean. The Capital is on Grand Turks and it is separated from the Caicos islands by the Turks Island passage (Columbus Passage on some maps) a 6,000 foot trench. Grand Turks and Salt cay are the two most visited islands by divers on the Turks side. Providenciales, or just plain Provo, is the most developed island of the colony and is one of the Caicos islands. It is also the location of the International airport. The majority of the diving and the dive operators are located on these three islands. Salt Cay sits in the passage and is often the place of choice when humpback whales are migrating. Other migratory spices also use the passage. Provo is known for its easy to reach wall dives such as the one off the north point that starts in 11 meters of water and drops 900 meters down. Water temperature only varies slight during the year ranging between 74 and 84° F (23-29°c). While a British Crown Colony it's official currency is the US Dollar.
The Bahamas is located about 60 miles from the Florida coast. Containing over 700 islands and cays it is known for the crystal clear waters, a array of ship wrecks and excellent reefs. Most of the islands are undeveloped and also uninhabited. Cruise ships from Florida on three and four day cruises frequently call on the Bahamas. New Providence Island, is where the capital city Nassau is located is one of the places they frequent. The Island of Grand Bahamas is also a cruise ship destination. Divers to these two locations will find an excellent range of diving for every skill level. The reefs are fairly shallow for a good distance off shore, and it is not uncommon to have a Nassau based dive boat take you to sites 6 or 7 miles from shore where you will find a reef 10 meters deep with drop offs to the hundreds of feet. In addition to the two islands mention, there is a group of 12 large islands collectively called the outer islands. Eleuthera Island is one of these outer islands. The island is two miles wide and 110 miles long. The east side of the island is known for cliffs and dramatic waves, the west side is calm waters on pink and white sand beaches. The Devil's Backbone, a section of reef to the north is one of the most dangerous reefs in the Caribbean. From the time of the Spanish galleons, this reef has sunk more ships than any other. The outer islands are also known for the number of blue holes around them and a couple of underground river systems. Due to restrictions placed by the government of State of Florida, a number of Miami based dive operators travel to Bahamas waters for shark diving programs.
US Virgin Islands (USVI)
The US Virgin Islands have three main islands, St. Thomas, St John and St Croix, and a number of smaller ones. Originally a Dutch colony the United States purchased it in 1917 over fears of German occupation. The Dutch were willing to sell it because it was costing them too much each year to maintain. It is now an unincorporated territory of the United States, with the Territorial capital being Charlotte Amalie located on the island of Saint Thomas. St. Thomas is the best known of the three major islands and provides some stunning landscapes, world famous beaches and great diving. There are a number of excellent reefs and wrecks close in around the island. Northwest of St. Thomas is Thatch Cay. The Cay has a number of tunnels and swim thoughts and offers a unique experience. Many of the dive sites that St Thomas dive centers visit are between St. Thomas and St. John, and are visited by dive centers from both islands. Much of St. Johns is a National Park. St. Croix is the largest of the islands and has maintained much of its Dutch heritage. If you are a wall diver, you will find some of the best wall diving in the Caribbean just one hundred meters of shore of St. Croix. Water temperatures are fairly constant only varies a few degrees from 81°F year round and visibility is generally around 100 feet. As a US territory, the local currency is the dollar and all dive boats must adhere to US Coast Guard standards.
British Virgin Islands (BVI)
The British Virgin Islands is a British Crown Territory in what was formerly known as the British West Indies. There are four main islands and about 60 minor ones. The Sir Francis Drake Channel influences many of the dive sites bringing nutrient rich waters to the reefs and pelagic species following along to the abundant marine life. Off from Tortola's East End, A 268-foot refrigerator ship named Chikuzen give an illustration of the visibility. On most days, Divers at the bow can clearly see divers at the stern. Across the range of sites you normally find visibility above 30 meters. Diving here in the BVI offers something for everyone. Not found frequently elsewhere the BVI has a number of underwater caves and tunnels that are magnificent and offer little risk to divers. Off Salt island is the Rhone Marine Park and site of the Royal Mail Steamer Rhone sunk in 1867. While the BVI has 28 National Parks this is the only marine park. Water temperatures do vary a little with the seasons, January will give you water around 26°C (79°F) to 29°C (84°F) in June and July. Diving is great all year round but may be interrupted in hurricane season. The hurricanes of old combined with the numerous shallow reefs accounts for many of the old ship wrecks that dot the undersea world here.
If you ask most Americans where the Dominican Republic is, they would not know. Dominican Republic (DR) shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti taking up 2/3 of it. It sits in the almost middle of the Caribbean. Legend has it that this is where Christopher Columbus first step foot in the new world, and reportedly claimed it was the most beautiful inland he had ever seen. He and later his son became Governor of the Indies. This has help establish the slightly European flavor DR has and it has been a tourist destination for Europeans much longer than for North Americans. While under control of the Spanish it was along the route back to Spain. The North-west coast around Monte Cristi, has wonderful beaches, sharp cliffs and wonderful reefs. While most of the year the diving here is perfect with calm seas , at other times the water becomes rough and unforgiving. This is attested to by the uncountable number of wrecks from the 16th to 18th century. Luperon also on the north west has great wall dives and is said by many as the best place to learn cave diving. Not far away in Cabrera is Du-Du cave, while only for qualified cave divers it starts as a fresh water dive in the jungle and ends in the ocean. Diving on the south side of the island offers a range of diving and is available year round.
Want a sure fire bar bet with other divers? Bet that it is comfortable diving year round in the Netherlands wearing a 3mm shorty. In 2010, the independent country of Netherlands Antilles was dissolved and Bonaire then a part of that country became a special municipality of the Netherlands. With water temperature between 78°f to 84°f year round, most divers' find a 3mm shorty the best wetsuit to wear. Bonaire's most important industry is tourism and with few beaches or extensive rainforest the majority of the tourist are divers and snorkelers. The island is surrounded by fringing reefs, is close to the equator and outside of the hurricane belt, combined this gives divers year round great diving. Many of the dive resorts offer “Drive/Dive” packages and the most popular rentals at the airport are pick up trucks that are outfitted with dive boots. While there are a number of excellent dive sites for boat dives, most divers come to Bonaire for the shore diving. There is over 60 shore dive sites on the island and the best way to dive them is to get a truck and go diving. Average price for a day of unlimited shore dives is $30. Most dive shops do not charge extra for Nitrox for qualified divers.
Part of the “ABC Islands” (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao) Curacao is known for being different. While it still has a strong Dutch background, it has blended into it the cultures of over 50 national and cultural groups. Curacao is best known for its Baroque style buildings of the 18th century, painted in vibrant colors. Most people seeing a photograph of the city of Willemstad will immediately recognize it as Curacao. Scuba diving is a major draw here and in the Scuba Divers Readers Choice Awards in 2012, they were in the top three in three categories, in 2013 they were in the top three in two categories and in the top five in two more. Clearly people who come here to dive think highly of it. Diving in Curacao is a mix of shore dives and boat dives. Unlike the shore dives of Bonaire, the shore dives in Curacao are mostly from isolated beaches. Divers can take the surface interval on nice white sand beaches and watch the local fisherman drying their nets and preparing for the next days fishing. There are over 40 different areas to dive and that offers over 65 distinct dive sites. Dive sites range from sites for beginners to sites with strong currents and surges for only advance divers. Shore dives can take you to coral gardens, ship and plane wrecks and even to wall dives.
In March 1910, shortly before his death Mark Twain said 'You go to heaven if you want - I'd rather stay here in Bermuda.' Many who come here in the current age feel the same. First, yes we know that it is not Caribbean and that the water can get cold in the winter. 68°f is normal in December, but that what a 7mm wetsuit is for. Bermuda is known for its beautiful often pink sand beaches. It is also known to attract ships to its reefs. The first European settlers did not go to Bermuda by choice. They were on a rescue mission to Jamestown Virginia, where the colonist were starving. On July 28, 1609 their ship the Sea Venture crashed onto the reefs. Survivors made it to shore and waited a year for rescue. Many stayed and formed the first colony. Both before and after other ships have meet the same fate. The Bermuda government's Custodian of Wrecks has cataloged over 150 wrecks and believe there are as many more. Known ships dating from the 1700's to the current time includes warships, even the confederate, English and French Navies, merchant ships and passenger ships. If addition to the ship wrecks and the corals that have overtaken them, there are also the numerous reefs that caused the damage. For the ship wreck historian this is the place to dive.