Friday, April 4, 2008


amaica's underwater wonders

Over the years many songwriters have referred to the beauty of this green pearl in the string of Caribbean islands, and today it is known throughout the world for its lush vegetation, reggae music, rum and coffee. One of the most overlooked attractions is, however, that part of the island that lies below the surface of the ocean that surrounds it. Divers typically do not think of Jamaica as a prime diving destination, except for those who have explored its reefs and have found it to be the best destination of all. Where else can you do a breathtaking wall dive in the morning, enjoy the sea life on a shallow reef at noon, and have plenty of time left in the afternoon to go river rafting, horseback riding, play golf, visit a great house or indulge in any manner of activities. Jamaica as one of the largest islands in the Caribbean has many excellent diving and snorkeling sites: shallow and deep, reefs and walls, wrecks and caverns, home to all manner of sea life: spectacular coral, exotic sponges, spiny lobsters, moray eels, sea turtles and multitudes of colorful fish, big and small. Below we have selected by region some of the unique diving opportunities available to you based on your level of experience. All dives offered by commercial operators in Jamaica are guided dives. The dive guides must have, according to regulations, at least a dive master certificate from an internationally recognized association and be licensed by the Jamaica Tourist Board. Although this limits your freedom to dive wherever you like, this regulation increases the safety and fun of diving in an unfamiliar area. The dive classifications employed below were assigned based on the following principles: Novice divers: Persons who are recently certified, or who have done only a limited number of dives with considerable gaps in between; this could include divers with as many as 20 dives. Dives in this category will tend to be less than 60 ft (18 m) or will not require advanced diving skills. Intermediate divers: Persons who have been diving on a regular basis but lack further training beyond certification, also those with advanced training who have not been diving for the past several months. The environment of this category of dive necessitates greater experience. Advanced divers: Persons with training beyond the open water diver certification that have been diving regularly in the last several months. This requirement will apply to most sites deeper than 80 ft (24 m) because those dives require a mastery of buoyancy and a thorough knowledge of the dive tables. These dives may also be accessible to the less experienced diver after a couple of refresher dives.

MONTEGO BAY Rose Hall Reef Depth: 20-45 ft (7-14 m) Class: Novice Named for the famous great house that overlooks the sea just a couple of miles east of Montego Bay, this shallow reef is teaming with marine life. At this location you'll discover "Fairy Castle", a massive colony of pillar coral, and "Fairy Bridge", a coral formation that connects two sections of reef over a sandy "river". The reef forms an intricate system of tunnels that are home to squirrelfish, goatfish, porcupinefish, bar jacks and grunts.

The Spanish Anchor Depth: 50-90 ft (15-28 m) Class: Intermediate Located on the west side of the marine park, the shallow reef drops to a sandy bottom at 50 ft. The site derives its name from the large anchor, undated but of Spanish origin, that rests on the sandy bottom. Within the reef wall one can explore tunnels and caverns with abundant sponge colonies. Sightings of eagle rays are quite common here, and in the deeper water large mutton snappers- and sometimes a docile nurse sharkmay pass by.

Widowmaker's Cave Depth: 40-80 ft (12-24 m) Class: Advanced A deep dive along a wall with a vertical, narrow crack which forms the entrance to Widowmaker's Cave. Inside the tunnel leading to the cave, there is wire coral with, in the beam of your dive light, red polyps, and the walls are covered with multicolored sponges. On this dive you'll likely encounter schools of silvery blue bogas, glassy sweepers, schoolmaster snappers, balloonfish, trumpetfish, hamlets, wrasses and parrotfish.

NEGRIL The Throne Room Depth: 40-70 ft (12-21 m) Class: Novice The entrance to the Throne Room, a fairly wide but low cavern, is a crack in the reef about 25 feet long and 8 feet wide. The walls on the inside are covered with colorful sponges and on the bottom near to the exit you can see a large orange elephant ear sponge for which the site is named. Ceros, cruising along over the sandy bottom, are a common sight, as are small groups of yellow tail snapper.

The Caves Depth: 40-70 ft (12-21 m) Class: Intermediate This site is named for the two caverns, one small and one slightly larger, with a narrow tunnel connecting the two. You can find a variety of sponges here along with soft gorgonians. On the sand flat you will see the usual occupants: furry sea cucumbers, stingrays, jacks and some lane snappers.

Kingfish Point Depth: 80-90 ft (24-27 m) Class: Advanced Among the elephant ear sponges and yellow tube sponges, you may


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