Flourishing coral reefs prove a delectable underwater background when visiting St Lucia. Along the leeward coast, pristine dive sites provide a rich variety of interest; the reefs are famed for giant sea fans, monstrous barrel sponges, and impressive gorgonians.
The climatic scenery of the volcanic Pitons is reflected underwater – sea mounts that rise up from the deep; dramatic walls, and boulder-strewn sloping reefs, to name a few. Purpose-sunk shipwrecks are bonus artificial structures for the colourful marine life to proliferate around.
The west of the island is managed by the Soufriere Marine Management Area (SMMA & CAMMA). The purpose of the association is to conserve the natural marine environment, and ensure the sustainable use and development of the five designated zones. There is a daily entry fee, collected by dive centers, to scuba or snorkel in this protected marine park.
Marine life is plentiful at the dive sites; schools of Caribbean reef fish festoon the tightly-packed coral slopes, where lobsters, eels, and smaller critters can be discovered. Frogfish and seahorses are reasonably common residents; however, the swaying soft corals and fans dominate the spectacular underwater scenery.
St Lucia is part of the island chain of the Lesser Antilles; remnants of the volcanic activity that created dramatic island formations between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. There is a total of 19,000 acres of rainforest in the dense interior of the island, and 29 miles of scenic hiking trails. These are great to explore when you have a day out of the water, such as the non-strenuous Barre De L'isle Trail. The Tet Paul Nature Trail, in Soufriere, is a not-to-be-missed tour - visitors explore the stunning scenery around the two UNESCO World Heritage Pitons and discover the local flora and fauna.
Average water temperature ranges between 75°F to 85°F (24°C - 30°C). The lowest air temperatures are between November and February, when the cool trade winds occur. The dry season extends from January to May (peak season), although the months through to August are suitable for scuba diving. Hurricane season (peaking from August to October) should be monitored in this area and higher rainfall can be expected during this time. A long 3mm wetsuit is suitable for most dives, but some people do prefer a 5mm on longer or deeper dives.
Nestled between Martinique, to the north, and St Vincent & the Grenadines, to the south, St Lucia holds its place in this popular diving region. St Lucia offers boat diving sites that appeal to experienced divers (Superman's Flight and the Keyhole Pinnacles), and exemplary house reefs such as Anse Chastanet - a perfect shore dive for beginners.
Turtles, rays and eels are regulars at the dive sites, as are seahorses and frogfish. More exciting is the chance to discover 'The Thing' - seen regularly on night dives at Anse Chastanet. This mysterious creature has inspired sea-monster stories of epic proportion – don't miss out!
One of the most dramatic sites, but easiest to access from the beach, is the beautiful Anse Chastanet reef. The reef slopes away from 25 feet -140 feet in a coral wall that continues from Anse Chastanet Bay around the headland of Grand Caille. Highly recommended for its diverse marine life.
Anse La Raye
One of the most interesting walls in Saint Lucia, Anse La Raye, is a drift dive that begins beneath a shallower wall. Giant volcanic boulders make intriguing formations along the slope.
This dive is located in the north of St Lucia, at the base of Pigeon Island. Patch coral starts at 15 feet and progresses down to 60 feet, where huge boulders line the reef. Eagle rays, green morays, and barracuda are all seen regularly on this dive.
Perfect for underwater photography, this plateau reef slopes gently down from 40 feet - 60 feet. Stronger currents in the south can make this a nice drift dive with delightful hard and soft corals.
The Keyhole Pinnacles
Famed as one of the best dive sites on St Lucia; the Pinnacles consist of four coral-encrusted sea mounts that rise up from the deep to just below the surface. Seahorses sway next to the huge gorgonians and fans that decorate these volcanic giants.
Lesleen M Shipwreck
The Lesleen M, a 165-foot freighter, was sunk by the Department of Fisheries in 1986, to provide an artificial reef in the Marine Park. Lying upright in 65 feet of water, divers can spend the whole dive searching for interesting marine life such as lobsters, morays and smaller Caribbean reef fish.
Entering the water at the base of Petit Piton, this awesome site is a drift dive along a wall that falls away to 1600 feet. With strong currents, the visibility is normally superb for spotting turtles and larger reef fish such as jacks and barracuda.
St. Lucia has 10 registered PADI dive centers; NAUI and SSI are also represented within these resorts. Dive operators are located from Rodney Bay in the north, down to the southernmost, at Jalousie Plantation. Major hotels, such as Sandals Grande St. Lucian, have their own dive centers on site.
Scuba Steve's Diving is a medium-sized PADI 5 star dive resort and the most northerly, based in Rodney Bay. British owner-operated; they were awarded the TripAdvisor 'Certificate of Excellence' for 2011 & 2012. They offer an unrivalled, personal approach to guided diving and snorkelling, with the full selection of PADI certification courses available. Well-known for going that bit further in their customer service.
At the Anse Chastanet Resort in Soufriere, Scuba St. Lucia offers a multi-national 5 star dive resort service. They were recently presented an award to mark the 30th anniversary of the dive center's affiliation with PADI. Scuba St. Lucia is the only PADI National Geographic Gold Palm Resort and Universal Referral Center on the island. With an amazing shore dive (or snorkel) right on the beachfront - this resort has instant access to one of St. Lucia's top reefs.
Dive Fair Helen: St. Lucia Undersea Adventures operates two custom-built dive boats - spacious with full sun cover and washrooms; they are perfect for easy water entries and exits. Owned and operated by a St. Lucian environmentalist, this PADI IRRA dive resort offers flexibility, a very personalized service, and the ability to provide mixed level group tours.
Snorkelling and scuba equipment hire is available at all dive centers for customers. Enriched air nitrox is available at certified centers. Cruise ships are catered to, and divers can be arranged to be collected from the cruise ship dock in Castries. Large groups are welcomed at a number of the resorts with higher capacity boats.
There are two airports on St Lucia: Hewanorra International Airport at Vieux Fort (UVF) and George F. L. Charles Airport (SLU). Flights from the US, Canada, and the EU fly directly to St Lucia. Major airlines such as American Airlines, BA, Virgin Atlantic, Air Canada, US Airways, Delta, Condor, JetBlue, and LIAT serve these two airports.
Caribbean flights are offered by Air Caraibas, WinAir, and Air Antilles Express to Martinique, Guadeloupe, and the Netherlands Antilles. LIAT offers extensive coverage to Caribbean destinations for international connections and regional destinations.
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