Barbados is an island nation in the Lesser Antilles, along the eastern border of where the Caribbean Sea loses itself, becoming the Atlantic Ocean. It is the most eastern of, what are collectively known as, the Caribbean Islands. The island of Barbados is only about 21 miles long and 14 miles wide. Ideal for year-round scuba diving, Barbados enjoys a moderate climate throughout the year. The best and most popular time to visit Barbados is in the summer months when the water temperatures are the warmest at around 80 degrees F. The visibility varies, ranging from 40-70 feet. This is not one of the most high-visibility dive spots in the world, and many other Caribbean islands boast visibility of 100 feet or more, but Barbados has its own character and offers great barrier reef and marine life, as well as multiple wreck dives to explore. It is well worth arranging to get your fins wet.
What is the Best Time of Year to Scuba Dive in Barbados?
There is a wet season from June to November in Barbados, and a dry season from December to May. There are, of course, more rainy days and storms during the wet season, but there are great days for scuba diving throughout the year. The temperature does not change much with the seasons; during the dry season air temperatures average only about 3-5 degrees F cooler than the average wet season day. Another great climate factor about the island is its location out into the Atlantic Ocean. Most tropical storms and hurricanes do not hit Barbados with the power and intensity that the inner Caribbean islands experience. The island is famous for its moderate tropical climate.
Geology and Environment of Barbados
Barbados sits on the boundary where the South American tectonic plate scrapes under the rising Caribbean Plates. The most frequented dive sites of Barbados are off the island's western side; there you can dive the sloped terraces, where coral reef and marine life are most abundant. There are dry caves on the northeast part of the island, where the erosion of limestone has left caverns and gullies to explore for day hikers. The islands’ many parks and gardens, as well as the rum production industry offer day-trippers much to see and explore on land.
Barbados has had its share of problems. As one of the most densely populated islands in the world, there are nearly 300,000 souls on this relatively small island. A quarter of its people live in or around the capital of Bridgetown. The waste runoff from Bridgetown alone has significantly contaminated the offshore coral reef. Coral are especially sensitive to the “nutrients” in waste runoff, which has killed much of the coral reef near the most populated areas. Coral, if under environmental pressure, evict their algal guests, resulting in coral bleaching, which equates to coral death. The government has taken better action to manage their sewage treatment plants, and there are now two marine parks along the west coast, monitoring for overfishing and abuse to the reef environment.
The barrier reef off Barbados western coast offers many great dive sites accessible by boat. Most of the countries’ dive shops make regular dive excursions out along this western reef. The marine life is abundant around the island and it is common to spot both hawksbill and leatherback turtles.
These two turtle populations once took a serious nosedive, the turtles were overfished and unappreciated for too long in Barbados. The good news is that both turtle species are back; their populations are reportedly growing in numbers thanks to the ongoing enforced protect and the cooperation of the fisherman and citizens of Barbados. The Barbados Sea Turtle Project (BSTP) spearheaded the effort to promote conservation of the sea turtles of Barbados. The BSTP educates the public, and especially the tourism industry's staff and guests, to protect and monitor turtle nesting and hatching activities during turtle season from April through December.
The Wreck Dives of Barbados
Barbados offers many great wreck dives that are well worth recording in your dive log. The most well-known wreck dive is the Stavronikita, a 365-foot Greek freighter, created as an artificial reef. The freighter was sunk in about 100 feet of water within Barbados' Folkestone Marine Park. Due to the water depth maxing out at about 120 feet, diving the Stavronikita is only recommended for experienced scuba divers. The 165 foot long Pamir is another great Barbados wreck found in just 40-60 feet of water. The Pamir is a more relaxed dive site, and therefore more suitable for beginner to intermediate level wreck divers than the deeper Stavronikita wreck site. Another great wreck dive location for beginner wreck divers is Carlisle Bay south of Bridgetown. The wreck known as Friar's Crag lies in just 55 feet of water. This wreck is exceptional due to the nearby reef formations, offering a wreck site with a lot to explore besides a sunken ship. Carlisle Bay offers many other wrecks for divers to explore that are suitable for beginners.
Popular Dives off Barbados Western Coast
Maycocks Bay is one of the northernmost frequented dive sites off the Barbados popular west coast. This dive site offers large reef islands divided by stretches of white sand to explore. It is common to spot barracuda lurking in the 60-80 feet waters around the many reef sections. Some of the most common reef fish of Barbados, including the bluehead wrasse, parrotfish, damselfish and trumpetfish are abundant at the Maycocks Bay dive site.
Just south off of Holetown, the dive sites Dottins, Little Sandy Lane, and Barracuda Junction are popular. Dottins is famous for its abundant reef fish. All three dive sites are perfect for beginners and advanced divers to explore the marine life and reef in 40-80 feet of water. You can make a tank go a long way in these relatively calm, shallow waters off the Barbados central western coast.
The capital and largest city in Barbados is Bridgetown. The island nation was formerly a British colony, and many of the islands' cities and landmarks are English named. Most visitors fly into Grantley Adams International Airport, sometimes also referred to as Seawell Airport - its old name. Bridgetown is along the southwestern edge of the island, and is the launching point for many scuba trips. It is a popular location to arrange dive boat excursions and to rent or buy scuba while in Barbados. There are many direct flights to Bridgetown from the United States out of, for example, the state of Florida's Miami International Airport. There are also common flights from Mexico City, and South American and some European cities.
There are several dive shops in and around Bridgetown that offer regular dive excursions and PADI certified instructors and resort courses for those who are brushing up on their scuba diving skills. The dive shop Barbados Blue is near the Hilton Hotel Complex at Needham's Point Pebbles Beach. This is an ideal dive shop for children and a great launching point for the many wreck dives out in Carlisle Bay.
South of Bridgetown in Worthing is the white sand Worthing Beach. Here you will find many resorts including the dive shop Bubbles Galore. The shop is part of the Coral Sands Beach Resort . Bubbles Galore prides themselves on being an international dive shop that offers instruction and scuba diving courses in English, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Russian, Spanish and Swedish! The shop specializes in dive trips out to the barrier reef and the wreck of the Stavronikita. You can even check for last minute dive excursions the day of departure.
A bit south of Carlisle Bay is Dive West Side Scuba, operated by locals with a lot of character. This shop specializes in quickly getting scuba divers out to the many wrecks of Carlisle Bay including the Stavronikita. The shop offers free transportation to and from your hotel and snorkel trips as well as reef, wreck, turtle, and night dives on a regular basis. Nearby along the same beach is the small dive shop Exploresub Barbados. They offer beginner courses for scuba divers whose fins and skills are out of shape. The shop also teaches underwater photography for those interested in giving the art a try.
Like many Barbados scuba shops Dive West Side Scuba and Exploresub Barbados promote themselves as eco-friendly and do not drop anchor; instead they use the more sustainable practice of attaching to established mooring buoys, common at most dive sites. It is bad practice if the captain of any dive boat in Barbados drops anchor, as it seriously destroys the already taxed reef environment. Support local dive shops that use good practice.
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