The Stavronikita

The Caribbean's largest shipwreck is also one of the deepest

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The Stavronikita

Divers come to Barbados for the wrecks, which come in sizes both great and small.

The 365-foot World War II vintage Greek freighter, the Stavronikita, is one of the Caribbean's most dramatic wrecks. It's also the largest.

The ship was gutted by fire and sunk deliberately in 1978 just 400 yards from shore with 200 pounds of strategically placed explosives.

The Stavronikita sits upright in 150 feet of water but you don't need to go anywhere near that deep to enjoy a good view. A forward mast is within 25 feet of the surface, while the deck is at 90.

If you like deep dives, you'll be happy to know the huge prop is still intact below the fantail.

The Stav is a big contrast to the Berwyn, a French tug that sank in Carlise Bay in 1920. Sitting upright in only 30 feet of water, the 60-foot tug is loaded with corals, sponges and fish.

Look for schools of grunts and big squirrelfish in the hold and narrow openings. This is a terrific night dive for photographing frog fish and sea horses.

The Friars Craig is a 100-foot Dutch island freighter that sank in 1984 just a quarter mile out in 55 feet of water. The fish-filled deck rests at 30 feet, making it another relatively shallow dive. Although the cargo holds have caved in and the stern has broken away from the main deck, the stern is still intact, providing a swim inside the cabin and through the engine room.

Most divers favor the wrecks over the island's low profile reefs (locally called "bars"). The reefs are mostly a forest of sea whips, big sea fans and huge brain corals. Compared to the big coral mounds of Bonaire or Cozumel, these formations may be disappointing at first glance, but they are teeming with fish and small marine life ideal for macro photography.

Snorkelers will find plenty of good sightseeing in addition to the shallow wrecks. The Folkstone Underwater Park is a shallow trail that leads right from shore, with above water markers to guide the way and underwater markers to explain what you're seeing.

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