SAINT CROIX (UNITED STATES VIRGIN ISLANDS)
Walls, wrecks, reefs, piers, shore diving and rum!
Season: Year-round diving
Water Temperature: 26-29°C/79-84°F
Known as ‘Diverse Virgin’, the island of St Croix is one third of the U.S Virgin Islands. Her sisters, St. Thomas and St. John comprise this territory of the United States, where American citizens do not require a passport to visit! Saint Croix lives up to its name as divers can dive, wrecks, walls, a pier and reefs all in one day, and choose from either boat or shore diving. The waters here are home to over 500 species of fish, 40 varieties of coral and hundreds of invertebrates. St Croix is located east of Puerto Rico in the north-eastern Caribbean and was sold to the Americans in 1916 by the Danish for $25 000 000 in gold! Fans of rum will enjoy St. Croix, for it is home to the Cruzan distillery, founded in 1760. Tours are given daily during the week at its location in Frederiksted.
Dive operators teamed together to create permanent moorings at the most popular sites so anchor damage is kept to a bare minimum.
Diving enthusiasts head to Cane Bay on the north side of the island where at 7 miles long, The Wall, a reef that begins at just 10 metres and drops down to over 1000 metres is one of the main diving attractions. The top of the reef provides divers with a coral garden, and spur and groove formations give the diver plenty to explore, whilst the wall itself, which can be accessed by shore and boat at various points along its length invites divers down and down and down! Various sand chutes along the top of the wall allow divers to pick their spot and get on to the wall with easy access. The sheer length of the wall gives you plenty to explore. Remember to keep an eye on your depth here!
Another diving highlight is that of the Butler Bay, located on the west side of St. Croix. Five wrecks allow divers of varying experience levels to explore the sunken remains. The freighter Rosa Maria appears to be covered in a patchwork quilt of colourful corals. She was purposefully sunk and now sits at a depth of 30 metres where divers can inspect the superstructure. She has been made safe for penetration as the hatches have been removed and some of the cabins can be entered. Single great Barracuda keep watch over the decks and should you wish you can have a play in the wheelhouse. A variety of tug boats and trawlers were also sunk during the 1980s and 1990s (some intentionally, and some not!) and the largest wreck is that of the Virgin Islander, a 100 metre long oil barrage where these days Stingrays make their home along with a collection of Caribbean reef fish and hard corals.
At Northstar (named after a distillery just opposite the dive site) schooling fish including barracuda Horseye Jacks and Bar Jacks are attracted to the drop off and hover in the blue. A large anchor from the days of the Danish now rests upside down embedded in the wall. Take your wide angle lens if you have a camera! Turtles and reef sharks all pass by the wall which is cut and sliced regularly creating overhangs and mini pinnacles. Plate corals adorn the wall at shallower depths but it is equally easy to drop further down the wall to deeper pinnacles!
Frederiksted Pier, as most piers around the globe tend to be, is a great macro dive, especially at night! The original pier came down in a hurricane but parts of it remain. Longsnout Seahorses can be found regularly as can the weird Shortnose Batfish which looks like a combination of frog, fish and unicorn, and cannot be said to be the most attractive creature that resides under the ocean! Longlure frogfish of various shades of pink and orange also cling to the pier structure and here the Flying Gurnards really do fly!
Proctors is a site for fish lovers. This is a gentle sloping wall of sponges and corals, home to Queen and French Angelfish, Blue-Tangs, Sergeant Majors, various butterflyfish and plenty of small creatures residing on the reef!