By Lyndsey Kilifin
The Caribbean Sea is a scuba diver’s paradise. Year-round warm waters, coral reefs, rock faces, wrecks, deep and shallow dives, and such a fabulous diversity of wildlife that there’s something for everyone here. What about the sharks? They’re here too, and there are some great dive spots to safely get up close to these magnificent creatures. Take the plunge with Culture Trip as we look at the top places to dive with sharks in the Caribbean.
Turks and Caicos Islands
The picturesque cluster of islands that forms TCI sits atop an ocean cliff that dramatically drops over 6000ft. This creates an ideal wildlife habitat thanks to the changing water temperature, reefs and underwater vegetation. Reef sharks are almost guaranteed (or as near as possible) on every dive, whereas hammerheads are less frequently sighted, but still possible. French Cay is one of the better locations for shark diving; rays and turtles are also commonly sighted. Caicos Adventures are one of the more established operators in TCI and have a good track record for shark diving.
The Bahamas are something of a shark diving mecca, offering a good variety of species as well as dive types. Natural dives with reef sharks, as well as feeding dives where bait is offered to the circling sharks, are both on offer. There are some great options for beginners wanting to experience their first shark dive. Perhaps diving in just 20ft of warm water, quite literally surrounded by lemon and tiger sharks might appeal? If so, head for Tiger Beach. At the right time of year great hammerheads can be encountered – a privilege for any shark diver. Cage diving is also on offer for divers seeking a different kind of thrill amongst bull and tiger sharks. Finally, there’s great live-aboard options operating out of the Bahamas that create some great dive experiences combining wrecks and sharks at once. There are plenty of dive operators in the Bahamas, catering to all needs.
Tobago is a pretty and largely unspoilt Caribbean island that offers some fine diving options. The most commonly sighted sharks here are the nurse shark and reef sharks, while some of the other species such as hammerhead are rarer here than they once were. Most of the dive sites are a short 15 minute boat journey from the shore. The coral is beautiful, but a lot of the dives are for more experienced divers only due to the strong currents. There are dive centres at both ends of this small island.
Roatan Island, Honduras
On the bay of Honduras, this island offers excellent diving conditions and is a popular place to take a course. The superb visibility, often over 20m, and the wonderful diversity of dives attracts divers of all standards. The diving is excellent year-round, although best from February to April. A short 15 minute journey reaches Cara Cara, where Caribbean reef sharks can be found in abundance. Lines are used, due to the current, to descend 70ft to a flat plateau from which you can observe the sharks feeding. Specialist dive operators will even video the experience for you as a momento.
Cayo Lobito (Culebra), Puerto Rico
Cayo Lobito is one of the small islands to the west of Culebra that sits midway between BVI and Puerto Rico. A popular 75ft dive finds plenty of nurse sharks – a truly remarkable number of these nocturnal feeders. Barracuda and Jacks keep the sharks company in this well preserved underwater habitat – the reef has been protected over the years and is worth visiting for its own sake. Getting to Culebra is something of a commitment and its is advisable to arrive a day in advance of any intended dive. Culebra Divers offer an experienced operation.