Season: Year-round diving
Water Temperature: 26-29°C/79-84°F
Diving: Wrecks, walls, sea mounts, coral gardens
Snorkeling opportunities available
Can be combined with: Dominica, St Kitts and St Martin
Land excursions: Whale Watching, Hiking/Biking, Canopy adventures, Climb Gros Piton.
Located mid-way down the Eastern Caribbean chain, amongst the Windward Islands, Saint Lucia is an island to dream about. This lush tropical gem is easily accessible, yet relatively undiscovered, and ranks amongst the most beautiful and romantic of all the Caribbean Islands.
Its dramatic twin spires, the Pitons, soar almost a thousand metres up from the sea, creating one of the most spectacular vistas in the entire Caribbean. Here one can find lush mountains and valleys covered in rainforest and inhabited by wild orchids, giant ferns and tropical birds such as the endemic Saint Lucia Parrot. The few roads around the island pass through small villages and colourful town squares with their open-air markets, and meander alongside banana plantations and orchards of coconut, papaya and mango trees. Around each corner is another breathtaking view. Never far away are the azure waters, the Atlantic Ocean lapping St Lucia’s eastern shore and the calm Caribbean Sea caressing the west coast.
Although St Lucia has been inhabited for around two thousand years, Europeans did not discover the island until the beginning of the 16th century. A number of attempts at colonization by the Dutch, English and French occurred during the following centuries and in 1814, after many battles, the British finally claimed the island as theirs. During the later period of British rule, St Lucia developed into a stable democracy, gaining its independence in 1979 and becoming a member of the British Commonwealth. Its rich past has left a nicely blended mix of Creole, French and British influences and a warm and friendly people.
The island is blessed with many natural attractions and cultural experiences, making it an ideal choice for divers with non-diving partners. Diving at Saint Lucia is very enjoyable, being both easy and rewarding, but it is not amongst the world’s finest dive destinations. The simple reason we include the island in our programme, where the main criterion is usually the presence of remarkable diving, is that at Ti Kaye Village you can have a wonderful, romantic holiday, with splendid accommodation and food, and enjoy some pleasant diving nearby. This is a destination for couples.
The cliffs along the sheltered west coast of the island drop down into the generally calm waters of the Caribbean with its pristine and diverse coral reefs, steep walls, pinnacles and shipwrecks. All the dive sites along this stretch of coastline are within a marine reserve. A unique liaison between dive centres ensures that no two outfits dive on the same site at the same time. Boat rides to the dive sites are relatively short with all the dive sites being within 30 minutes of the dive centre. Warm clear water and moderate currents make the location suitable for novice divers, yet the variety of marine reef life offers experienced divers plenty of interest.
The 55-metre freighter, Lesleen MT, lies upright in 20 metres of water close to our dive centre. Covered with hard and soft corals, sponges and hydroids, it provides an ideal habitat for many juvenile fish such as French and Queen Angelfish. Turtles and barracudas also frequent this wreck. The sandy bottom around the wreck is home to colonies of Brown Garden Eels. Lurk quietly near by and see how close you can get before they spot you and snap down into their burrows. Keep a lookout for bristleworms, arrow crabs, Banded Cleaner Shrimps and the resident frogfish and Longsnout Seahorses. The latter rarely move save to tuck their heads and turn shyly from the diver. Swim through the hold and engine room and up onto the canopied upper deck where awaiting you will be a fairyland of sea fans harbouring shoals of motionless soldierfish.
Just five minutes from the dive centre is a spectacular and unusual dive site that will delight and surprise most divers. Roseman’s Trench is a calm and easy dive simply brimming with interest. A rocky shelf that projects from the island finishes abruptly in around 8 metres of water, forming a shallow wall where the shelf meets the sandy sea bed. The sand flats here contain all the delights that one would expect to find, including delightful communities of shy, swaying garden eels. Creep up on these characters without scaring them off down their burrows, if you can! Peacock Flounders wriggle down to hide in the sand or ripple off to find new homes, changing colour as they go. With luck, you will see strange Flying Gurnards displaying their beautiful purple patches as they open their ‘wings’ and ‘walk’ around each other on the sand flats. Search along the mini ‘wall’ of the shelf and you will soon see why ‘Crustacean City’ could be an alternative name for this dive site, for Arrow Crabs of all sizes peep out from crevices or sponges and whopping lobsters wave their antennae from the safety of their lairs. Tiny Pederson’s Cleaner Shrimps sway to and fro and wave their delicate antennae from within the safety of Corkscrew Anemones. These beautiful little shrimps will hover on your hand to give you a free manicure, if you have the time and patience to wait while they decide if you are worth cleaning! A deep crack in the wall opens out to become the trench and here can be found several black and white Spotted Drums swimming around under the rocks. Both juveniles, with their elegant, wavy dorsal fins, and some large adults live here. Equally spectacular, and also easily approached by divers, are the larger Highhats that are darker and plumper relations of the Spotted Drum. It is well worth searching the old gas cylinders that lie around for these form favourite ‘lairs’ for octopus.
Also just a few minutes boat ride from the dive centre is the impressive Anse La Raye Wall where a sheer cliff rises from the ocean above the water and falls away steeply below the waves to form a spectacular wall which levels out onto a reef slope strewn with boulders where one can spot a variety of moray eels hiding in the crevices. The shallow areas display brightly coloured but painful-to-touch fire coral, while at the deeper end are iridescent purple vase sponges, barrel sponges in brown and yellow, and soft corals. A dive site noted for its profusion of reef fish, look out particularly for jacks, silvery, football-shaped Bermuda Chubs and elegant black and white Spotted Drums. A group of friendly, elegant Atlantic Spadefish often glide past visiting divers here.
St Lucia’s incredible green-clad pyramidal mountain, the Petit Piton, rises sharply and steeply out of the sea to almost 1,000 metres. A boat ride of around 30 minutes will bring you close to the foot of the mountain where, at Anse Chastanet, one can dive Pinnacles which comprises three impressive seamounts that approach the surface. Black corals and sea fans can be found here, but perhaps the most spectacular feature is the encrusting sponges in bright green, orange and strawberry pink. At Fairyland, also at Anse Chastanet, one can find some large barrel sponges and lovely, glowing Azure Vase Sponges. Around a craggy wall snappers and fusiliers swim back and forth, shimmering in the sun’s rays as they cruise above a forest of sea fans and lilac vase sponges, a favourite spot for underwater photographers. Hiding in the crevices between the rocks one can find Spotted Moray eels, slipper lobsters and spiny, brightly coloured bristleworms. Later one can swim round onto the shallower seabed where Trumpetfish, White-spotted Filefish (some with white spots and some without, just to confuse divers!) and cowfish swim between the rocks.
Take a drift dive along Grande Caille, a reef slope of good quality corals, sea fans, sponges and crinoids. The chances are you will encounter a school of beautiful Midnight Parrotfish, busy scraping algae from the rocks and coral, amongst the many species of reef fish. This is Caribbean diving at its best.
COMBINATIONS: Why not combine a stay in St Lucia with a visit to the island of Dominica, or with a liveaboard cruise on the lovely Caribbean Explorer II, which has 7-night cruises that ply between St Kitts and St Martin. There are daily flight connections to Dominica, St Kitts and St Martin. Talk to us about the possibilities.
FLIGHTS: Example price: from about $424 return from Miami to St Lucia.