Diving Vincy Style

December 10, 2019

St. Vincent and the Grenadines has always touted its fabulous sailing, snorkelling and day-chartering, but it is not widely known for its spectacular diving. Scuba diving in St. Vincent has been a well-kept secret among divers interested in photographing our unusual marine life. The abundance and variety of rarely-seen creatures earned St. Vincent the nickname Critter Capital of the Caribbean and the island was voted as having the best Caribbean diving by Sport Diver magazine.

Banded Shrimp in St. Vincent, photo courtesy Serenity Dive
Banded Shrimp, Photo: Serenity Dive

St. Vincent’s Argyle International Airport offers direct flights from Miami, New York, and Toronto several times a week, augmenting the number of travellers arriving via LIAT, SVG Air, and Mustique Airways from Barbados. Mainland St. Vincent offers amazing diving with dive operators at Blue Lagoon, Barefoot Yacht Charters, opposite Young Island at Villa, and at Richmond Vale. The impressive landscape of St. Vincent continues underwater with dramatic wall dives full of black coral and azure sponges steeply shelving away to volcanic sand. Divers may find themselves surrounded by schools of creole wrasse, blue tangs, or dozens of other curious species.

As spectacular as the diving is in St. Vincent, the Grenadines are not to be outdone, with easily accessible wrecks and pristine reefs full of nooks and crannies to search for lobster, cleaner shrimp, and eels.

Coral Christmas Works, Photo courtesy Dive Bequia
Photo: Dive Bequia

The island of Bequia has two dive shops and over thirty dive sites offering various depths and degrees of difficulty. Heading further south, fabulous diving and snorkeling is available in the turquoise waters around Mustique, Canouan, the Tobago Cays, Mayreau, Union, Palm, and Petit St. Vincent (PSV), with dive shops in Mustique, Union, and PSV.

The Tobago Cays Marine Park was established in 1997 to protect the reefs and marine life between the five Cays and the east coast of Mayreau. Hawksbill and green turtles are abundant here. You can float lazily on the surface and watch them grazing on the turtle grass while keeping an eye out for southern stingrays and eagle rays that pass by harmlessly. More adventurous divers will head over the horseshoe reef to glimpse nurse and reef sharks or dive on the World War I gun-boat wreck, Purini, near Saline Bay, Mayreau. Diving within the Marine Park area requires hiring a registered dive operator.

Photo: Adam Gravel

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is promoting its marine resources with an emphasis on conservation. A large area of St. Vincent’s south coast has been set aside to become a new marine management zone. Its goal is to protect turtle nesting sites and the reef fish for future divers to enjoy. A lionfish trap has recently been field-tested to control that invasive species, and a ban on all turtle hunting took place last year, leading to an increase of hawksbill and green turtle sightings all over the Grenadines. The SVG Environment Fund and the Coral Restoration Foundation have worked hard to regenerate coral reefs affected by developmental run-off. Several coral nurseries are already producing coral to be replanted and new nurseries are planned. If you would like to be involved in any of these projects, contact your local dive shop for more information.

Throughout SVG the locals are renowned for their laid-back, friendly vibe. Visitors often feel so at home that they return year after year, and divers return to see rare seahorses, pipefish, and frogfish. They can snorkel through a “bat cave,” dive over geo-thermal vents, or take a night dive on a wreck with a hundred lobsters.

Seahorse | Photo courtesy Serenity Dive
Photo: Serenity Dive

Each of the islands offers something a bit different. Rugged St. Vincent has superb hiking trails while the Grenadines feature empty white sand beaches and great local restaurants. There are small airports in Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, and Union, as well as two tiny island resorts - Palm Island and PSV. Union Island has become famous for its several kite-surfing schools with world-class instruction.