by Geri Murphy
Bermuda is an exceptionally civilized island with a long history of luxury vacation service. The weather is subtropical;sunny and balmy but not oppressively hot. The landscape is picture post card perfect, with freshly painted houses, white roofs, well manicured gardens and lawns, plus miles of sandy beaches.
And, as vacation host, this mid-ocean paradise excels. Bermuda has more shops, restaurants and sightseeing attractions per square mile than any island in the Caribbean. Golf courses populate the countryside and tennis courts are found at every major hotel.
You could say Bermuda is a five star resort island that offers something for everyone;the ideal choice for divers and nondivers alike. Yet, this oceanic isle's true treasures are not on land but in the waters that surround it.
BERMUDA'S WRECKS and REEFS
Bermuda is an island encircled by shipwrecks;350 in all. Of this number, more than 150 were located and charted by famed treasure diver Teddy Tucker. And, of this number some 35 wrecks are regularly explored by visitors;far more wrecks than can be dived during a one week stay. That is why some divers return to Bermuda year after year.
This tiny mid-ocean outpost has served as a crossroads for Atlantic shipping for more than 450 years. It provided a safe harbor from storms, a way station for fresh water and food as well as trade with the local islanders.
The resulting shipwreck legacy spans more than four centuries of a maritime history and a wide spectrum of ship designs and nationalities. Among the jagged corals and sand holes of Bermuda's reefs, you can explore Civil War blockade runners, English merchant ships, American trading schooners, a Spanish luxury liner, a French 60 gun warship, steel hulled freighters, ore carriers, tankers, private luxury yachts, tugboats and much more. Each shipwreck has its own personality, history and unique undersea artifacts.
Bermuda is indeed 'the supermarket of shipwrecks' and now visiting divers have easy access to all of them. Of the 35 wrecks available, those at the island's East End and far North Reef are the most pristine and beautiful. They are also some of the largest.
Scuba Look is Bermuda's newest and most distinct dive operation, as it is the only one at the island's East End. This strategic location provides a natural gateway and convenient access to some of the largest and most dramatic of Bermuda's shipwrecks.
Among Scuba Look's best offerings is the Cristobal Colon, a 499 foot Spanish luxury liner lying in 20 to 70 feet of water at the very north tip of Bermuda's outer coral reef. Nearby is the almost totally intact Iristo, a 251 foot Norwegian steamer. Closer to home port is the Rita Zovetto, a 400 foot long Italian cargo steamer and the Pelinaion, a 385 foot Greek steamer. This is only a small sampling of the dozen or more spectacular shipwrecks scattered along the reefs of the East End and North Reef.
Scuba Look opened its doors last summer and has spent much of the year upgrading and refining its facilities. It has a dedicated dive center at Grotto Bay's beach dock. Scuba Look is only a five minute taxi ride from the airport and just a few steps from the resort's guestrooms.
The dive center is owned by Bermuda businessman Harry W. Soares and managed by Colin Pearson, a seasoned diver and submersible pilot. The operation has a staff of three certified PADI instructors, who conduct guided dive tours in addition to offering scuba instruction. The center is well outfitted with more than 65 aluminum tanks and a heavy duty 27 cfm Mako air compressor. All of the dive gear is American made.
The heart and soul of this new dive operation is Scuba Look, a powerful dive boat skippered by Reggie Matthie or Michael Stephens. The 45 foot long vessel has a 16 foot beam and is powered by a 700 hp Detroit diesel engine. She can cruise at 15 knots and carry up to 24 divers. She features a port side access gate for scuba entries and a stern ladder for return to the dive deck. Configured specifically for diving, the Scuba Look is considered Bermuda's largest and fastest dive boat;capable of long range trips to such remote wrecks as the Cristobal Colon.
Scuba Look runs daily trips to ten different shipwreck sites, as well as a dozen exceptionally healthy and robust coral reef sites. Underwater visibility can range from 50 to 150 feet, depending on the time of year and sea conditions. The best season for diving Bermuda's reefs and wrecks is the fall, from September to November, when the water is still warm and visibility is at its peak. Visiting divers can also take advantage of offseason prices during this period.
In addition to Scuba Look, the company operates Snorkel Look, a 40 passenger snorkeling boat also at Grotto Bay, and Looking Glass, which offers a variety of glassbottom boat tours from the Hamilton location.
GROTTO BAY BEACH RESORT
Scuba Look's location is absolutely ideal for both the access to nearby shipwrecks and a luxury vacation ambiance. The dive center is at the water's edge, in a safe harbor anchorage and adjacent to a beach, freshwater swimming pool and a full watersport center.
The Grotto Bay Beach Resort is one of Bermuda's elite luxury resorts and one of the few at the East End. The hotel is set on the hillside of a 21 acre estate, offering a spectacular view of the surrounding bays and beaches. Guest facilities include a private beach, two secluded coves, plus a deepwater dock for the dive center and watersport center.
The main building sits on the top of the ridge and encompasses the hotel lobby, giftshop and dining room with glass windows that overlook the sea. There are 201 guestrooms in 11 separate lodges. All rooms have private balconies or patios with a view of the ocean. Each room has telephone, radio, TV, safe, mini-refrigerator, coffeemaker and hairdryer. All rooms are fully air-conditioned and have daily maid service.
There is a freshwater swimming pool and swimup bar close to the beach. This area and the adjacent patio are utilized for poolside barbecues that include live entertainment.
One of the natural wonders on the Grotto Bay Beach Hotel property is a 500,000 year old underground cave and grotto system. A handcarved stone stairway and a network of lights allow guests to tour this unique phenomenon.
The watersport center includes a variety of watertoys plus waterskiing, sailing, parasailing, paddleboats and sea kayaks. Sightseeing cruise boats depart the hotel dock.
Other activities include four all weather tennis courts, of which two are lighted for nighttime use. There is a pro tennis shop and a resident tennis pro for group or individual lessons. Golf can be easily arranged on nearby golf courses. The three in the immediate area are St. George's, Castle Harbour and Mid-Ocean.
A wide assortment of sightseeing and shopping experiences can be enjoyed at the nearby town of St. George's, the birthplace of Bermuda. Among the historical sites is a replica of the original Colonial ship Deliverance, the perfectly preserved Town Hall, the State House, the Tucker House Museum, the Confederate Museum, Fort St. Catherine and Gates Fort.
Other interesting sightseeing opportunities at the East End include Crystal Caves, the Perfume Factory, the Glass Blowing Studio, Devil's Hole, Leamington Caves and the combination aquarium and zoo at Flatts Village.
Bermuda is a small, semi-tropical island in the Atlantic, 650 miles off the coast of North Carolina. Its 21 square miles of idyllic real estate are rimmed by pink sandy beaches and colorful coral reefs that offer a delightful opportunity for sailing, swimming, snorkeling and scuba.
Bermuda has a modern international airport terminal that serves a variety of airlines, including Air Canada, American Airlines, British Airways, Continental, Delta and U.S. Air. Regularly scheduled flights are available from numerous North American gateway cities such as New York, New Jersey, Atlanta and Toronto. Flying time from New York is approximately 90 minutes. Entry requirements are fairly simple. U.S. citizens are required to have a valid U.S. passport or proof of citizenship and an airline ticket for return or onward travel.
Whether you visit Bermuda for a long weekend or a week or two, you won't run out of things to do;and that includes exploring different shipwrecks every day.
For more information or reservations, contact Scuba Look at (441) 293-7319; fax (441) 295-2421. Or, write to Scuba Look at P.O. Box WK 658, Warwick WK BX, Bermuda.