Barbados is unusual in the Caribbean island as it's the only island not formed by volcanic activity but by plate subduction. As the Carribean plate folded under the Atlantic plate,
the coral beds were forced up out of the sea in stages. Barbados is the eastern most island in the Caribbean, so the eastern shore is pretty rough. Most of the time, the diving
is on the much calmer west side.
Many of the dive sites are comfortable, short boat rides from the two principal tourist centers, St. Lawrence Gap & Holetown. Holetown is more resort-like, St. Lawrence Gap seemed to be way more
lively. more compact & had lots of restaurants & nightlife.
Our dive operator was part of a very reasonable combined
multi-dive plus hotel package through the South Gap Hotel, which is right on the water (no beach)
in the center of St. Lawrence's Gap. You can also choose the package through its sister hotel, the Yellow Bird Hotel, which is at the end of the Gap on the other
side of the narrow, one-way street from the beach. The 12 diver boat was clean & the crew were friendly, well organized, very helpful & fun.
The dives were roughly 45 minutes, regardless of how much air we had left. We did our surface intervals on the boat. So, what were the dives like?
First, the reefs. The most visited ones are at 30 - 90 feet with a gentle slope topography that merges with the sandy bottom around 80-90 ft. The reefs were
healthy with abundant hard & soft corals, sponges & sea fans. We had close turtle encounters on virtually every reef dive, along with eels & the occasional lobster but reef fish were
more sparse than other Caribbean islands. Visibility was good in spite of some surface chop & surge.
This video (2 min/ 8 MB) shows an assortment of some of the reef dives on the west side of the island.
Second, the wrecks. Barbados has lots of wrecks. The largest, the SS Stavronikita is a deep, advanced dive down to 120 ft & is no longer safe for
penetration. Less experienced divers can enjoy the many shallow (20 - 50 ft) wrecks in Carlisle Bay; a protected bay suitable even for novice divers. Just on one dive, we saw 4 good
sized wrecks: check out
the Carlisle Bay wrecks (3 min/ 10 MB)
If you're into wreck diving, I recommend asking the dive outfit where & when they go to specific wrecks. They'll often take requests, especially if there are several people interested.
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