The Caribbean is one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world. There is magnificent coral, schools of multicolored fish and contours on the sea floor to explore, from reefs and rocks to walls and wrecks. Here is a sampling of the Caribbean’s top wreck dives.
Kittiwake, Grand Cayman
Swim like the fish in and out of all five decks of this former 1945-1994 era U.S. Navy submarine rescue vessel. At 251ft, Kittiwake is the largest wreck dive in the Caymans. It’s relatively shallow depth of 65ft at its deepest makes the wreck wonderfully accessible during a one-tank dive. The Kittiwake, which was sunk in 2011, sits in a marine park not far offshore from Seven Mile Beach.
Lost City of Port Royal, Jamaica
It was once known as the ‘wickedest city on earth’ for the pirates and privateers that roamed the streets. Then, on June 7th 1692, this swanky city sank into the sea. Today, the underwater world of Port Royal, which sits in a depth that ranges from 50ft to 80ft, is home to a vast array of tropical fish. A permit is needed to dive this site.
Thunderdome, Turks & Caicos
Hurricane Francis in 2004 collapsed what was once a wonderful swim-through. Yet this wreck – not a ship but a steel dome used as part of a French game show set – is still a great dive. Around 20ft down, it’s home to a tremendous variety of marine life that includes sponges, coral, lobsters and French grunts.
Butler Bay Shipwrecks, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Located on the northwest side of the island, Butler Bay is home to six shipwrecks all within the distance of a quarter mile. First, dive the two deepest: the Coakley Bay, an 83ft tug in 60ft of water, and the 177ft freighter, Rosa Maria, which is 100ft down. On a second dive, visit the Suffolk Maid, a 144ft trawler; the Virgin Islander, a 300ft oil barge; and the Northwind, a 75ft tug featured in the movie, Dreams of God – The Mel Fisher Story. The sixth wreck is not a vessel, but the coral-encrusted remains of the old Frederiksted Pier.
Rhone, British Virgin Islands
Said to be ‘unsinkable’, this 310ft UK Royal Mail Ship did the unthinkable off the coast of Salt Island during a Hurricane on October 29th 1867. The century-and-a-half old wreck lies at a depth of 85ft and is now part of a marine park. Two dives are best to fully explore the Rhone. There are plenty of swim throughs, resident eels and octopus and coral crusted inside and out. The wreck was featured in the 1977 film, The Deep.
Andes, Antigua & Barbuda
There’s an abundance of sealife on the wreck of this three-masted steel merchant sailing ship that was carrying pitch to pave roads in South America when it sunk in 1905 in Deep Bay. The wreck, which sits in a depth of 30ft, is such an important link to the past that the island’s Marine Areas Act of 1972 protects it from treasure hunters and souvenir seekers.
Cottage Point, Dominica
Located off Portsmouth, the remains of an 18th century wreck lie in depths of 20 to 35ft. While the wreck itself has somewhat disintegrated over the centuries, there are clearly visible links of chain scattered throughout the surrounding area.
Lesleen M, Anse Chastanet, St. Lucia
An abundance of sponges and coral, as well as a zoo-full of tiger groupers, hogfish, squirrel fish and seahorses are a sampling of the marine-life that lives on and around the Lesleen M. This 165ft, steel hulled, cargo vessel was purposely sunk in 1985 to create an artificial reef. It’s possible to swim the entire length of the wreck, from its keel, in 60ft of water, to its pilothouse at a depth of 40ft, through its cargo hold to engine room, main deck and cabins.
Helma Hooker, Bonaire
This deep-water dive (65 to 115ft) on a 230ft clandestine drug running cargo ship is extremely popular. It’s also accessible from shore, at about 300 yards off the beach at the start of a reef and about three miles south of the capital city of Kralendijk. Swim all the way around the vessel underwater to see structures such as crew quarters, the engine room, a head (toilet) and nameplate. Marine life abounds here from an encrustation of coral to shallows full of rainbow-colored fish.
This 1939-built German freighter was sunk during World War II off the island’s northwest shore. At 400ft long, the Antilla is the largest wreck dive in the Caribbean. Time has been kind to the Antilla, it’s possible to swim through portholes and along decks to see tube sponges, sea anemones and coral formations. Many dive operators lead tours to this wreck.