Imagine yourself descending through clear, blue water several miles from shore. As you begin your descent, you can´t see the bottom. Your only tie to the surface is the thin, white line that your dive guide tows along. You blindly follow your guide into the depths, trusting him to lead you to your destination in the great blue expanse. Then a shadowy form starts to take shape on the bottom. It looks like a reef system, but it isn´t. It´s large…very, very large. You feel as though you´ve just discovered the lost city of Atlantis. Suddenly you find yourself on the deck of the Bianca C, a luxury liner that´s two football fields long. Feel like swimming some more? You can still swim in its pool…but now, instead of being marked “10 feet” it should read, “110 feet”! Welcome to Grenada.
Grenada and her little sister island, Carriacou, match up with the elite dive destinations of the Caribbean and then some. Above water you´ll find exotic rain forests, deserted beaches and friendly faces everywhere. Underwater you´ll find the most impressive wreck in the Caribbean, as well as pristine reefs that rival their Pacific counterparts. Also known as the “Island of Spice,” Grenada is as rich in sights, sounds and exotic aromas as it is in history.
When Columbus first sailed by her in 1498, he named the lush, tropical island Concepción. Over the centuries, control of the island changed hands often, as did the name, but finally, in 1974, Grenada gained its independence from England. Nine years later a coup backed by the Soviet Union and Cuba overthrew the government. Fortunately for the Grenadians and the American medical students attending school on the island, the U.S. put a quick end to that. In ten days the U.S. invasion force secured the island and re-established the democratic government.
The airport had been expanded by the Soviets and Cubans just before the coup; although intended by its builders to accommodate large military planes, the airport now services several major airlines, which fly to Grenada from the U.S. and Europe. With so many flights to choose from, getting there is easy, it´s choosing which resort to stay at that´s hard.
Not far from the airport, on the southwestern tip of Grenada, is Grand Anse Bay. A picture perfect beach rims the bay and offers visitors a big selection of fine resorts to choose from. Heading in the other direction from the airport, there are a number of great hotels nestled into the hillsides and tucked into secret bays on the southern coast. No matter where you stay, you´ll find beautiful vistas of green mountainsides and blue seas, as well as an assortment of dive operations—and all of them will be happy to take you to Grenada´s biggest underwater attraction, the Bianca C.
Ironically, this is not the first time the Bianca C has lain on the bottom. In 1944, the Germans sunk her as they retreated from the south of France. She was raised and refitted, only to sink again 17 years later when an explosion set fire to her engine room.
Now she´s a diver´s dream. At 600 feet long, the Bianca C offers a lot of wreck to explore. Swept continuously by a current that varies in intensity, she sits upright on the bottom in 165 feet of water. Encrusted in black coral, sea whips, gorgonians and sponges, she is a colorful behemoth. A mast still stands majestically on her forward deck, surrounded by schools of Boga, Barracuda, jacks and many other aquatic visitors. Her davits, now covered in growth, stand at the ready. Although it´s very deep to the bottom, her decks are generally shallower than 130 feet, making this wreck accessible to most divers. Her massive bow is an amazing sight, standing six and a half stories above the sand! Some people come to Grenada just to dive this wreck, and I can see why. But as spectacular as it is, they´re missing a whole lot more.
Reefs like Boss, Whibble and Molinère offer great reef diving with healthy fields of gorgonians and hard corals, not to mention a wide diversity of vertebrates and invertebrates. At a site called Shark Reef divers can glimpse sleeping sharks at a Nurse Shark nursery (no pun intended). All of these sites are convenient to the southern end of Grenada, but if you want to visit some of the best reefs in the Caribbean, you´ll have to head north. In just two and a half hours the inter-island ferry can take you north to Carriacou. There you´ll see an island frozen in time, back to what I imagine the Caribbean was like 50 years ago.
Carriacou offers amazing dive sites such as Sisters Rocks, a drift dive that will blow your mind. Forests of black coral cover the bottom while Barracuda and jacks patrol with dense schools of smaller fish above. Plateaus of finger corals, jungles of soft corals and a great diversity of life pack the pristine reef. I can´t even begin to describe the number of different species you´ll see there, including gobies, blennies and wrasses of all sizes and shapes, as well as an assortment of feather dusters and macro life that will dazzle even the most well-traveled diver. The combination of color, motion and diversity makes diving Carriacou´s reefs an euphoric experience.
Once back on Grenada, you might want to dry off for a little while, but not too long. Grenada features a majestic tropical rain forest. You can trek for hours deep into the Grand Etang reserve, stopping to swim under waterfalls and in hidden pools nestled deep within secret gorges. While exotic flowers and birds fill the forest with color, nutmeg, cinnamon and cacao scent the air with spice. Hiking the rain forest is a great way to take a break from the fast paced diving Grenada and Carriacou have to offer. My only advice is that you pack a pair of hiking boots and be forewarned—you´ll come back covered in mud, but you´ll love every second of it!
While touring the island, you´ll also encounter the deserted beaches that you thought only existed in dreams. Here, tall palms reach out over the water and drop their coconuts into the Caribbean, destined for distant shores. After unwinding on a silent beach for a while, take some time to visit one of the spice processing stations. They´ll fill your senses with wonderful sights and smells, and if you´re looking for even more fun, a rum distillery tour is in order. The 150 proof rum that they produce is in such demand on the island that none of it ever makes it to export.
Grenada is often thought of as a honeymoon destination, and I can see why. Grenada and Carriacou are truly exotic destinations and make for quite the romantic getaway, but why waste it on love birds alone? The reef diving is world class. There´s the Bianca C. And rain forest trekking is an adventure you won´t soon forget.
Summed up in one word… “Unbelievable, incredible, fantastic, the best the Caribbean has to offer.” OK, that was a little more than one word, but with so much there, Grenada and Carriacou should make the top of your list when planning your next dive vacation.