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    THE CENTRAL CARIBBEAN
    Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola,
    Puerto Rico,the Cayman Islands

    One of the island's most famous attractions, Stingray
    City is a must-do for visitors to Grand Cayman.

    The large land masses of Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico comprise an area known as the Greater Antilles. Add in the three Cayman Islands: Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, and you have a Caribbean dive paradise.

    Cuba is quickly becoming a bigger attraction for traveling divers despite the cloud of world politics that still hovers overhead. Those that have visited Cuban waters, especially along the southern coast, rave about big fish, pelagics and beautiful reefs.

    The home of Montego Bay, reggae music and stunning topside landscapes, Jamaica also provides diving along colorful mini walls where fish life and invertebrates flourish. Though not dived as heavily as other areas, the waters off Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico also offer excellent underwater fare. Humpback Whales migrate to the Silver Banks near the Dominican Republic every winter and spring to calve and mate. A live-aboard trip to the shallow bank provides snorkelers opportunities to observe these behemoths on the surface.

    It is the quality of the underwater attractions that has been drawing divers to the Cayman Islands for the last four decades. From a wonderful selection of captivating invertebrates to curious fish, Southern Stingrays, Spotted Eagle Rays and cleaning stations galore, the Cayman Islands have it all. Grand Cayman serves up world-renowned Stingray City and numerous sites along the East End where colorful coral walls, canyons, caves and drop-offs buzz with activity. The wonders of Bloody Bay Wall and life in the sand at Jackson Bight are among the highlights of Little Cayman. Cayman Brac is legendary for its great shallow dives, colorful schools of snappers and grunts, walls and the wreck of a Russian frigate.

    While you might want to relax around the pool after a morning dive, there are plenty of watersport activities, great restaurants and nightlife to also enjoy on Grand Cayman. Life on Little Cayman and Cayman Brac is a little more laid back, with nature being the primary attraction.

     

    Dive Resorts and Operators
    Blue Caribe Dive Centre www.enchanted-isle.com/bluecaribe
    Cayman Airways www.caymanairways.com
    Cayman Condos www.cicondos.com
    Dive Tech at Cobalt Coast Resort www.cobaltcoast.com or
    www.divetech.com
    Little Cayman Beach Resort www.littlecayman.com
    Ocean Diver, Cuba www.oceandivercuba.com
    Southern Cross Club, Little Cayman www.SouthernCrossClub.com
    Sunset House www.sunsethouse.com/sd.htm

     


    THE LEEWARD ISLES
    of the EASTERN CARIBBEAN
    USVI, BVI, Saba, St. Eustatius, Anguilla,
    Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat,
    St. Martin, St. Maarten, St. Barthelemy, Guadeloupe

    A small group of islands known as the Lesser Antilles encloses the eastern end of the Caribbean Sea, swinging in a downward arc from Puerto Rico to Guadeloupe Island to the north of Venezuela. This group includes the U.S. Virgin Islands on the north end, the British Virgin Islands, Saba, St. Eustatius, Anguilla, Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, St. Martin, St. Maarten, St. Barthelemy and Guadeloupe at the southern extreme.

    The main islands in the USVI are St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix. Collectively, they provide a delightful variety of colorful reefs, caves, walls, pinnacles, canyons, wrecks and even a pier where seahorses can be found. Tortola and Virgin Gorda are the mainstays of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), where divers can explore legendary shipwrecks, prolific reefs and mini walls in the morning, and hike up scenic mountains, sun bathe or go sailing in the afternoon.

    The other islands in the Lesser Antilles reveal strong influence from the dominant cultures of the nations of England, Holland and France that colonized them many years ago. Geographically, the volcanic origin of Saba is reflected in both the topside and underwater terrain where colorful reefs and rock formations slide away into iridescent blue water. Not far away, St. Eustatius (also known as Statia) serves up a series of wide, flat reefs and a variety of historic shipwrecks.

    The waters off Anguilla boast of a number of well placed shipwrecks that have been transformed into artificial reefs as well as natural coral reef systems. Antigua and Barbados are blessed with healthy coral gardens, walls and wrecks, and there is a flourishing marine park in Antigua. The lush green volcanic mountains of St. Kitts and Nevis command the dominate topside, while black corals, numerous swim-throughs and healthy fish populations are highlights of the diving.

    The marine park and a combination of healthy reefs, plentiful fish and frequent turtle sightings attract divers to St. Barthelemy (St. Barts). The reef off Petit Ilet is the main drawing card in Guadeloupe, while those who spend their time topside can enjoy a number of hot water springs.

     

    Dive Resorts and Operators
    Goldenrock www.goldenrockdive.com
    S.C.O.R.E./V.I. divers www.scorevi.com

     


    THE WINDWARD ISLES
    of the EASTERN CARIBBEAN
    Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent
    and the Grenadines, Barbados, Trinidad, Tobago

    The southern portion of the Lesser Antilles from Dominica to Trinidad and Tobago comprises a region that is also known as the Windward Islands. Unlike the low lying islands, atolls and mangroves in much of the northern and southern Caribbean, rugged volcanic mountains and cliffs covered with thick, green vegetation are the central features here.

    Surrounded by deep water, Dominica is internationally known for frequent sightings of billfish, Humpback Whales, Sperm Whales and other big pelagic species. To the south, Martinique is noted for its healthy fish populations, which include schools of curious Atlantic Spadefish that cruise around numerous walls and pinnacles. St. Lucia is known for its open ocean seamounts where pelagics often gather, but she also offers wreck dives and abundant marine life in healthy reef communities.

    Drift diving is a specialty off the rugged shores of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which are also popular among photographers seeking little critters. And wrecks, reefs with healthy hard corals, swaying sea fans and Nurse Sharks draw divers to Grenada, while drift diving is the feature that distinguishes the diving at the nearby isle of Carriacou.

    Influenced more by the Atlantic than the Caribbean, Barbados has vibrant sponges and impressive coral formations. Several wrecks and frequent turtle encounters added to the varied fish populations guarantees plenty of action for photographers. The islands of Trinidad and Tobago comprise a two-island nation whose underwater world is known for drift dives and sheer pinnacles, where jacks and big pelagics are often sighted.

     

    Dive Resorts and Operators
    Anse Chastanet Resort www.ansechastanet.com
    Castle Comfort Lodge
    Adventures Destination
    www.divedominica.com
    www.castlecomfortdivelodge.com
    Fort Young Hotel–Dominica www.fortyyounghotel.com
    Hightide Watersports, Barbados www.divehightide.com
    Reefers and Wreckers Dive Shop scubadiving@caribsurf.net

     


    THE SOUTHERN CARIBBEAN
    Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao

    The southern extreme of the Caribbean includes the heavily Dutch-influenced isles of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. Collectively known as the ABC Islands, they are part of the Netherlands Antilles, a group that also includes some of the Leeward Islands.

    Aruba, the westernmost of the three major islands in the ABCs, offers a number of interesting wrecks to explore in water that is shallow enough to enjoy long bottom times. The wrecks include freighters that were sent to earlier-than-anticipated graves by torpedos during World War II, a tugboat and some airplanes.Impressive stands of brain coral, elkhorn coral, sheet corals, colorful sponges and gently swaying sea fans provide excellent subject matter for photographers.

    Bonaire has long been ahead of the conservation curve and their efforts have paid off in a big way, as fish life flourishes in the waters off the island and off nearby Klein Bonaire. From the high water mark to a depth of 220 feet, the water off both islands is a designated marine park where the guideline of “take only pictures, leave only bubbles” is fully implemented. Bright Orange Elephant Ear Sponges, Black Coral Trees and impressive coral formations combine to create stunning seascapes, but it is the world of macro critters and fish along with a number of top quality, easily accessible beach dives located all along Bonaire that are the feature attractions for many visitors.

    The diving in Curacao rivals that of her sister islands. Over the years, there has been less diving pressure on reefs in Curacao and that translates into more virgin territory to explore. Great shore dives with gentle slopes leading to walls, shipwrecks and loads of marine life are the main drawing cards.

     

    Dive Resorts and Operators
    Captain Don’s Habitat-
    Bonaire & Habitat Curacao
    www.habitatdiveresorts.com
    Pelican Adventures www.pelican-aruba.com
    Plaza Resort Bonaire & Port Bonaire www.plazaresortbonaire.com
    www.plazavillas.com

     


    THE WESTERN CARIBBEAN
    and CENTRAL AMERICA
    Mujeres, Contoy, Cancun, Cozumel,
    Chinchorro Banks, Belize, Honduras

    Snorkeler explores the
    shallows off Caleta
    Chacalal, Riviera Maya.

    The waters off the eastern coasts of Mexico and Central America are accessible to divers through numerous land-based and live-aboard operations, and side trips to ancient Mayan ruins and wildlife parks are well worth taking before or after your diving adventure.

    The vacation wonderland known as Mexico’s Mayan Riviera lies at the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. Marvelous diving awaits those who visit Isla Mujeres, Isla Contoy, the mainland resort town of Cancun and the world famous island of Cozumel. Party hardy or relax and regroup—the choice is yours. the island of Cozumel is well known for exhilarating drift dives. Featured attractions include undersea pinnacles, sheer drops, colorful sponges, sea fans, turtles and a mixture of fishes that include Jewfish, barracudas, Nurse Sharks and countless small, colorful reef species. Freshwater cenotes inspire those seeking technical diving adventures, and many divers visit the mainland to experience some of the world’s largest and most ornate underwater caverns and caves. And, diving slightly further south on the Chinchorro Banks, numerous sites on both the inside and outside of the barrier reef provide big animal action.

    In terms of physical size, the Central American nation of Belize is only a small country, but she packs a huge punch in the diving world. Belize has it all from relaxing shore dives to sheer walls and encounters with Manta Rays, turtles, and sharks. Wonderful diving awaits off the shores of Ambergris Caye, Lighthouse Reef, Glover’s Reef and along the mangroves and islands that comprise the Turneffe Barrier Reef, the world’s second largest barrier reef. Adorned by massive stalactites and surrounded by numerous shallow reefs, the Blue Hole is part of the allure of visiting the Lighthouse Reef area, while marine reserves at Ambergris Caye and Glover’s Reef ensure healthy areas to explore.

    The barrier reef system that begins in the waters of the Yucatan extends all the way into Bay Islands of Honduras. Great diving abounds near the Bay Islands of Utila, Roatan, Barbaretta, Guanaja and the Cayos Cochinos. Roatan is the largest and most widely known of the Bay Islands, and as might be expected from her worldwide repute, the variety of dive sites includes colorful shallow reefs, fissure-laced walls, ledges and overhangs that are the home to a stunning variety of marine life.

     

    Dive Resorts and Operators
    Anthony’s Key Resort www.anthonyskey.com
    Bay Islands Beach Resort www.bibr.com
    CoCo View Resort, Roatan www.roatan.com/cocoview
    Cozumel Island, Mexico www.bayadventures.com
    Fantasy Island, Roatan www.fantasyislandresort.com
    Laguna Beach Resort www.utila.com
    Manta Dive-Belize www.mantaresort.com
    Ocotal-4 Star Dive Resort www.adventuredive.com
    Posada del Sol, Guanaja www.posadadelsol.com
    Roatan Charters www.roatan.com
    Roatan’s Dive & Yacht Club www.roatanyachtclub.com
    Utila Lodge, Utila www.roatan.com/utilalodge