Diving Barbados: From Night Dives, Shipwrecks & Marine Parks!

Updated: Aug 1, 2021


Do you enjoy diving in warmer water? Dreaming of crystal clear water off the coast of one of the most popular Caribbean Islands? - Look no further, Barbados sounds like the next dive destination for you!


I love diving in Barbados so much, whether it be a day or a night dive, boat dive or shore dive, reef or wreck, the island never gets boring with its abundant marine life and have I mentioned WARM and CLEAR water?!


 

Where is Barbados?


Go to the furthest east Caribbean Island and you will find Barbados, a teeny-tiny dot on the world map (you can’t even see it unless you zoom in!).


This island is unique compared to its neighbours. It is a non-volcanic island and was formed by upward moving coral, getting the name “coral island”. Thanks to the corals, Barbados has insanely clean drinking water - so there is no need to buy plastic drinking bottles from the supermarket.


Thanks to the climate (27°C/80°F), you can DIVE ALL YEAR ROUND in Barbados!


 

Who to Dive With?


With many dive centres to choose from, I decided to try Barbados Blue Watersports first, and 7 years later, I am still diving with them.


Barbados Blue Watersports is a PADI 5-star dive resort only a short drive from Bridgetown in St. Michaels. They have been awarded the PADI Green Star Award, and I can see why! Barbados Blue is not a dive centre that only focuses on diving but they also do freediving and snorkelling - so something for the whole family!



Andre the founder is also a PADI conservation ambassador - you can check out his really interesting story here. Andre has also gone on to open ECO Dive in Grenada.


Andre has done a lot of marine conservation on the island, being involved in opening the Folkestone Marine Park - which I was invited to visit by Susan Mahon, the president of CORALL (Coral Reef Restoration Alliance) to see what they do there. Since my first visit to the island in 2013, I have seen an increase in coral abundance in and around the Folkestone Marine Park area. Andre said they have “saved 10s of thousands of corals throughout the region” over the years which is fantastic!


 

Folkestone Marine Park MPA (Marine Protected Area)


  • Established in 1981, only in 1997 did proper governance occur with the help of stakeholders

  • 1994 = fish abundance was low

  • The park extends offshore 660 m - 950 m

  • There are 4 zones within the MPA site (see the image below)

  • It is monitored by the Bellairs Institute (University of the West Indies) & The Barbados Sea Turtle Project

  • The MPA protects interstitial fauna such as annelids, copepods (harpacticoids), polychaetes & nematodes

  • It protects nesting sites for the endangered hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate)

  • It also aims to protect mangroves, which helps with their hurricane season


“The Folkestone Marine Reserve, Barbados. Map outlining boundary of marine protected waters and locations of study sites and proposed artificial reef. Zone A: Scientific Zone (196 m 2 ); Zone B: Northern Water Sports Zone (819 m 2 ); Zone C: Recreational Zone (460 m 2 ); Zone D: Southern Water Sports Zone (625 m 2 ) (Modified from Google Earth. Map data: Google, CNES/Astrium, DigitalGlobe, Landsat, U.S. Geological Survey)”. [1]



 

Night Diving


Night dives run on Wednesdays and start around sunset. It is a shore dive in Carlisle Marine Park, even if you have done this site in the day, I highly recommend a night dive here too! The dive centre will provide you with a high-lumen torch to navigate underwater, and also a UV torch to see the beautiful coral colourations burst.



This experience costs $99 and is well with the price tag!


 

Day Diving


If you are not a big fan of night diving, there are many dive sites you can visit on the island. I will be talking about two of my favourites - the Stavronikita Shipwreck & Carlisle Bay Maine Park - other dive sites can be seen HERE.



So you are probably thinking how much is all this amazing diving going to cost me?


Barbados Blue charges $85 for a 1-tank dive and $150 for a 2-tank dive, but I recommend the package deals. They provide you with a full set of diving gear, and if you have your own (like me) they offer 10% off. If you are planning on just one dive, you will be setting off on the boat at 2 pm so will have the morning for other activities around the island. If you are doing the 2-tank dive (which I cannot recommend enough) you will be leaving at 9:30 am.


 

Carlisle Bay Marine Park


This sandy-bottom dive site boasts 6 shipwrecks close enough to each other, so it is possible to see them all in one dive! As most of this dive site is shallow, it is great for both beginner divers and experienced divers like myself (I am a dive instructor).

This area is also a snorkelling site, so don’t be surprised if you see some dangling legs above you - be sure to give them a wave if they spot you.


Wrecks in Carlisle Bay


  • Berwyn

  • Ce - Trek

  • Eillon

  • Bajan Queen (my favourite!)

  • Cornwallis

  • Barge



What Marine Life Can You See?

  • Barracuda

  • Flying Gurnards

  • Frog Fish

  • MANY Invertebrates

  • Moray Eels

  • Octopus

  • Stingrays

  • Reef squid

  • Seahorses

  • Sea Turtles (Green & Hawksbill)

  • Soft & Hard Corals

  • Sponges

  • & MUCH MORE, I could go on all day!




 

SS Stavronikita (Stav) Shipwreck


This 365ft WWII Greek freighter caught fire as she tried to cross from Ireland to the Caribbean in 1976, killing 6 crew members and injuring 3 others. Following the fire, there was an explosion that destroyed all radio communication onboard. So, 24 crewmen had no choice but to drift in the open ocean where they were rescued after 4 days!


She was bought for $30,000 in 1977 where she was stripped of all machinery and brass, and also had to be cleaned due to carrying 70,000 gallons of oil in her fuel tanks. In 1978 the US navy sunk her and now she makes an incredible dive site!


The ship now sits at 36-40 m, with the stern at 30 m and the bow at 21 m. When you dive the Stavronikita wreck, the boat will dock onto a buoy as the ship is located offshore. There is no back-roll entry or giant stride as sometimes the current can be difficult to enter, so dive boats have a ladder to get into the water. Once you enter you will hold onto a large rope and slowly descend down the rope attached to the foremast - this will also be your exit point and your safety stop while holding the rope.


Once you reach the deck (21 m) it really is a WOW moment. This ship is HUGE! You will be joined by many schooling fish and if you are lucky a few great barracudas like I did!


I didn’t take my camera on this dive and it is something I really regret doing, but at least it gives me a reason (on top of many others) to go back and dive her again! You can check out some awesome footage of her from Barbadosscuba. If you have time, I recommend 2 or 3 dives to fully explore her because she is so big!


*Remember if penetrating wrecks, ensure you are experienced and fully trained!


What Marine Life Can You See?

  • Flatworms

  • Great Barracuda

  • Mackerel

  • Nudibranchs

  • Schooling Jacks

  • Sea Turtles (Green & Hawksbill)

  • Soft & Hard Corals

  • Sponges

  • & more!


Thanks to Alexandre Ornellas for the photos!



If you want to know more about Barbados and other amazing things to do, check out the article “Barbados: The Complete Tourist's Guide“ written by guest writer Yazmin - she also has some amazing photos in there too!



 


Written by Darby Bonner










 

Image References


[1] Artificial reefs and marine protected areas: a study in willingness to pay to access Folkestone Marine Reserve, Barbados, West Indies - Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/The-Folkestone-Marine-Reserve-Barbados-Map-outlining-boundary-of-marine-protected_fig1_305482024 [accessed 30 May 2021]








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