With the dazzling beauty of the palm guarded beaches and lush rain forested mountains in St Lucia, many visitors arrive on the island forgetting that there is also equally alluring underwater scenery in the midst of crystal clear blue water which teams with an abundance of colorful aquatic life.
No longer a secret is the fact that St Lucia is recognised for having what is arguably the finest coral reefs in the entire Caribbean. That claim is factually backed by the island having the highest density of reefs, clearest water and greatest number of aquatic species around.
Paul Humann, author of Reef Fish – the definitive book on the subject for marine scientists and divers – counted 156 different species of fish on one local reef alone! Not surprisingly St Lucia is ranked by international scuba diving organisations as being one of the top destinations in the world. As a temptation to “land lubbers” you should know that the underwater topography matches that which you see above. Did you really think the base of the Pitons is at sea level? The island’s volcanic origin created spectacular features which lure divers from all over the world.
To protect these natural underwater wonders a Marine Park was created to manage the waters in the Soufriere area, some of the most popular on the island. The task was to facilitate the use of the resource by numerous stakeholders – local fisherman, yachts, divers, snorkelers, day charter boats and others – while protecting the pristine environment for future generations.
The establishment of the park was in many ways an experiment since there was no similar situation found anywhere else in the world. While there were other tourism-oriented parks the difference here was the long history and recognised priority of the local fishing industry. While there was more than a little dissention at first, after five years the policies of the park have actually resulted in a tripling of fish resources for the industry.
The park is divided into a number of zones – recreational, fishing priority, yachting and marine reserves. Soon the park will be expanded to include all of the near shore waters from Marigot Bay to Gros Piton. A measure of the park’s success is seen in the fact that other islands such as Dominica, St Vincent and the Tobago Keys and the Philippines are copying the set up.
For the enjoyment of this wonderful resource by scuba or snorkel, St Lucia currently has 11 dive operations. Some are affiliated with major hotels while others are independent. Hotel tourist desks or the various tourist information centres will provide more details about their locations and operations.
St Lucia is proud of the quality of its dive industry. Operators are affiliated with the major dive certification agencies in the world, such as PADI, SSI, NAUI and BSAC and adhere to strict standards of safety resulting in an unmatched safety record. Dive operators are affiliated in an association called Anbaglo (“underwater” in the local Creole language) which has set safety standards beyond internationally requirements.
St Lucia is known as an excellent location to learn to dive. Numerous shallow protected coves make for a safe yet very enjoyable experience. All operators offer introductory courses taught by some of the most veteran experts in the business. You can even take home a videotape of the lesson as a souvenir.
Most of the dive sites are on the island’s west coast, which being the leeward side, offers much more calm waters. Numerous excellent sites are available and it should be noted that all of the operators use the same sites and through Anbaglo, voluntarily rotate their scheduled destinations for the enjoyment of all as well as the preservation of the reefs.
For safety and convenience, most scuba dives are drift dives in which divers drift with the current. The operator’s boat follows along and picks the divers up where they surface. Other offered dives include shipwrecks and night dives. The Department of Fisheries sunk a 164-foot freighter in 1984 which makes for a exciting experience even for beginners as the dive starts at only 40 feet. Nearby is a 260-foot tanker that is popular with advanced divers.
All operators offer snorkeling trips to magnificent reef locations as well. All are equipped with top quality equipment for you use.
While in St Lucia why not consider enhancing your holiday experience with a visit beneath the surface of some of the most spectacular waters found anywhere. With scuba or snorkel you are sure to be treated to a colourful adventure that you will not soon forget.
|Saint Lucia’s Dive Sites||Interactive dive site map|