Go deep: six of the Caribbean’s best dive sites | Round Trip

From coral reefs teeming with aquatic life to dramatic shipwrecks, from underwater canyons to sinkholes and caves, the warm waters of the Caribbean can boast some of the world’s most thrilling sites for scuba diving — like the six memorable locations in the following pages

North Wall, Grand Cayman. Photo by Ethan Daniels/Shutterstock.comÚtila, Honduras. Photo by Joanne Weston/Shutterstock.comGrenada Underwater Sculpture Park. Photo by R Gombarik/Shutterstock.comGreat Blue Hole, Belize. Photo by Wollertz/Shutterstock.comBonaire National Marine Park. Photo by Jung Hsuan/Shutterstock.comMV Maverick, Tobago. Photo by Kadu PinheiroScuba diving sites

North Wall, Grand Cayman

Some Caribbean islands boast a beach for every day of the year. Others claim the same number of rivers. In the Caymans, 365 is the number of recognised dive sites, in waters of almost legendary clarity. Grand Cayman’s North Wall is often named one of the world’s best dive sites, plunging deeper than six thousand feet in some places. Some say diving here is like underwater skydiving, as you drop from the boat past coral-encrusted submarine cliffs riddled with tunnels to explore.

 

Útila, Honduras

At the southern end of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef — the world’s second largest — the island of Útila off the coast of Honduras is sometimes described as “diving obsessed,” and popular with backpackers. There are more than eighty dive sites around the island, teeming with underwater life — and this is one of the best places in the world to encounter an elusive whale shark, the biggest living fish species. Filter feeders with a taste for plankton, whale sharks usually haunt the deep oceans, but at specific times of the year they congregate in the shallower waters off the island.

 

Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park

Said to be the world’s first submarine art gallery, the Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park is just off the capital, St George’s, in Molinere Bay — whose natural reefs were damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. The brainchild of British artist Jason de Caires Taylor, the park was intended to serve as an artificial reef, creating a refuge for marine life, as well as a showcase of human creativity. Cast in concrete and sunk on the sandy ocean floor, the sculptures are intended to be colonised and gradually modified by corals and sponges — a true collaboration across species barriers.

 

Great Blue Hole, Belize

Forty-three miles off the coast of Belize, in the middle of Lighthouse Reef, the Great Blue Hole is one of the world’s natural wonders. Tens of thousands of years ago, when sea levels were lower, this was dry land, a landscape of karst limestone. Like other great sinkholes, this one formed when gradual erosion caused the roof of a vast cavern to collapse. A thousand feet across and more than 350 deep, the Blue Hole was eventually flooded by the sea. It’s on every serious diver’s bucket list, but be warned: this one isn’t for the inexperienced.

 

Bonaire National Marine Park

Some of the eighty-six official dive sites in Bonaire’s offshore national park have whimsical names like Alice in Wonderland and 1,000 Steps. But what draws divers here is the incredible diversity of marine life, including 350 fish species and nearly sixty kinds of coral. Like this colourful orange cup coral, which extends its translucent tentacles at night. At some dive sites, it’s the sublime scenery of cliffs, tunnels, and pinnacles that astonishes — at others, it’s the tiny living details that force you to pay attention.

 

MV Maverick, Tobago

Twenty years ago, the Maverick — after decades of service as a ferry connecting Tobago with its bigger sister isle Trinidad — came to her final rest on the seabed off Mt Irvine, a hundred feet down. But the sinking was no calamity: it was carefully planned and executed, with the aim of creating a dive site and artificial reef. Now encrusted with sponges and corals, and home to dozens of fish species, from snappers to wrasse, the Maverick is one of Tobago’s most popular spots for advanced divers with a sense of adventure.