Best Caribbean Scuba Diving
St. Lucia, U.S. Virgin Islands
St. Lucia's two great volcanic spires-- Gros Piton and Petit Piton --are among the Caribbean's most striking natural features. What many people do not know is that near the base of these pyramid-shaped cones is an equally magnificent bounty of bright sponges, schooling fish, caves, ledges and colorful gorgonians.
Some of the best diving is located right off the black sand beach in front of the Anse Chastanet resort. The bottom gradually slopes off, then drops sharply to reveal a plateau of plate and star corals loaded with bright sponges. Clouds of brown chromis usually hover just above the reef top.
Anywhere along the ledges and crevices you may spot frogfish, glass minnows, squirrelfish, bigeye, butterfly fish, eels, orange anemones or seahorses; 150 species of fish in all.
Deep red gorgonians shaped like irregular swatches of netting begin appearing around 50 feet, as do giant orange sponges that look big and soft enough to curl up in. The plateau eventually bottoms out at 130 feet.
A favorite nighttime dive spot is a large cavern encrusted with corals and sponges in only 15-20 feet of water. You'll usually find a small school of squid hanging out nearby.
If you're lucky, on a night dive you may also encounter The Thing, a huge segmented worm that may reach as much as 14 feet in length and that's 1.5-feet in diameter. Scientists have yet to positively identify the shy creature.
ST. THOMAS, USVI
St. Thomas is an ideal choice if you're traveling with someone who doesn't dive . The extensive shopping, sightseeing, golf, and other activities are more plentiful than on most islands.
More importantly, if your non-diving partner is interested is seeing what diving is all about, St. Thomas is an ideal place to learn. Half-day training sessions called "resort courses" virtually originated here.
After just a few hours of pool training, your partner will be ready to join you on a guided shallow reef dive.
Even for experienced pros, St. Thomas has some exciting dive sites. At Frenchman's Cap, a mile south of St. Thomas, you may find grouper, rays, turtles and schools of big ocean-roaming pelagics. In February and March, it's sometimes possible to hear migrating humpback whales.
Two protruding rocks just a half-mile offshore known as Cow and Calf were named after a pair of humpbacks spotted here many years ago. The largest rock, Cow, is peppered with tunnels and arches lined with a submarine wallpaper of bright sponges and small corals.
At Thatch Cay off Coki Beach, tarpon and turtles are frequently sighted in the maze of tunnels and ledges that cut through the island. Copper sweepers and orange corals furnish an unforgettable panorama inside several of the stone corridors.