Located east of the Caribbean Islands in the Lesser Antilles, Barbados is a scuba diver’s paradise.
At only 21 miles in length and 14 miles in width, Barbados is a tiny island nation that enjoys moderate weather all year long. Thanks to the climate and a wide range of water-based activities to enjoy, Barbados is a popular holiday spot especially in the summer months.
Water temperature in summer is around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with visibility in the range of 40 to 70 feet which differs from the Caribbean islands that boast 100+ feet of visibility. Barbados has much to offer in the way of reef life, wreck sites and a barrier reef to explore.
Geologically, Barbados lies between the rising Caribbean tectonic plates and the South American plate. The majority of scuba diving off Barbados is done from the western side, where divers will encounter coral reefs, sloped terraces and marine life in abundance. To the northeast, hikers might get a chance to explore the gullies and caverns in the limestone-eroded dry caves. Other touristic delights include a rum production industry as well as picturesque gardens and parks.
Barbados is one of the world’s most densely populated islands, with close to 300,000 people living in one small space. At least one quarter of these people live nearby Bridgetown, the capital city of Barbados. Unfortunately, poor waste management around this area has resulted in the coral reef becoming contaminated from waste runoff originating in Bridgetown. Since coral is extremely sensitive to many of these contaminants, it evicts the algae inhabitants which causes coral bleaching and subsequent coral death. The government has finally taken notice of this atrocity and has improved the management of the island’s sewage treatment plants and has begun to monitor reef abuse and overfishing. There are also two established marine parks on the coast which will help with environmental efforts.
Barbados Dive Sites
Barbados has a barrier reef off the western coast which offers a host of diving sites that can be reached by boat. This route along the west coast is the most popular excursion site for local dive shops as the area is teeming with marine life and it is often possible to spot leatherback turtles and hawksbill turtles. These turtle populations have only recently made a comeback after suffering from overfishing and cultural under appreciation for these magnificent marine creatures. Thanks to efforts from the Barbados Sea Turtle Project, the island’s fishermen and citizens, specifically those involved in the tourist industry, have been educated on the importance of hosting a sea turtle population and how they can help protect the turtles. Sea turtle protection is especially important during the nesting and hatching season which runs from April to December.
There are quite a few wreck dives to explore in the waters of Barbados, the most popular being the Stavronikita. Once a Greek freight ship, the Stavronikita has now been converted into an artificial reef that measures 365 feet in length. It was sunk at a depth of 100 feet and lies within the Folkestone Marine Park. The maximum depth of this site is 120 feet and should only be attempted by experienced wreck divers comfortable with reaching that depth.
For a shallower, more accessible wreck dive, visitors should consider diving the Pamir. Lying between 40 and 60 feet and measuring 165 feet in length, the Pamir is a relaxed, interesting dive ideal for beginners.
Carlisle Bay is a great spot to visit for beginner divers or intermediates looking to explore ship wrecks.
Friar’s Crag is a popular wreck site as divers get two in one – a sunken ship and some fantastic reef formations that are well-worth seeing.
The west coast of Barbados is extremely popular with scuba divers, and Maycocks Bay is a highly popular dive location in the north east. This dive site measures between 60-80 feet and presents a number of big reef islands interspersed with white sand patches, meaning there is always something interesting to see. Divers might find bluehead wrasse, damselfish, parrot fish, barracuda and are sure to see an abundance of trumpet fish too.
To the south of Holetown on the central western coast is a small area with much to offer for scuba divers. Little Sandy Lane, Dottins and Barracuda Junction are very popular dive sites in this area and are suitable for all diving levels. The dive sites measure no more than 80 feet and the waters are very calm in this area.
Barbados experiences its wet season in the months between June and November, whereas its dry season runs between December and May. Regardless of whether it is wet or dry season, Barbados welcomes divers at any time of year. The weather is temperate and tropical throughout the year and does not tend to change very much between the seasons. For example, daily air temperatures during the dry season are only 3-5 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than during the wet season. Luckily for tourists and Barbados inhabitants, the island is fairly well protected from hurricanes and tropical storms when compared to the inner most Caribbean islands. The fact that these forces of nature tend to not affect Barbados with as much intensity is thanks to the island’s location far out in the Atlantic Ocean.
How to get to Barbados
As Barbados was once a British colony, many of the cities and important landmarks still possess English names. Seawell Aiport, now known as Grantley Adams International, is where the majority of visitors will begin their holiday. Visitors are then advised to travel to Bridgetown, the capital city along the south west of Barbados, in order to arrange diving excursions. It is also possible to fly directly into Bridgetown from the US, Mexico City, South America and Europe.
Bridgetown has multiple dive operators who will gladly assist with making dive arrangements, organizing training courses and more. There are also resort dive operators around places such as Worthing Beach which is very popular with tourists and will offer diving instruction in many languages. It is important to find a dive operator who does not drop anchor while out at the dive site, as many dive operators have ceased to do this due to environmental reasons. Those dive operators who continue to drop anchor are destroying the delicate reef environment and should not be supported by tourists if at all possible.