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But remember to check out all of those off-the-beaten-track options here too .... the swimming & snorkeling with humpback whales in the Silver Bank in the Dominican Republic or the whale shark & sailfish expeditions of Isla Mujeres. If you're looking for something still more extreme, check out the Bahamas where you can dive with great hammerheads & bull sharks at Bimini, oceanic whitetips at Cat Island and tiger sharks & lemon sharks at Tiger Beach. When we have trips available, you can find them in our Special Expeditions section. Check out Focus on Whales, Shark Encounters and Unique Adventures.
So, to recap ... it's your choice. Fancy a sunny, relaxed Caribbean escape ... or one of my favorites ... which will take you a bit further out on the wild side ? Let me know how I can help .... Cheers, Dom
SCUBA DIVING HIGHLIGHTS
Begin with SPECTACULAR WEATHER - virtually all year round add in beautiful corals in a full RAINBOW of hues. Add COLORFUL reef fish, turtles & morays & octopus everywhere, plus CRITTERS hiding in walls (seahorses, pipefish, trumpetfish, scorpionfish, blennies). In addition, you find really fine SHARK action at certain sites, awe-inspiring HUMPBACK WHALES in the Dominican Republic, humongous SPERM WHALES at Dominica, and SAILFISH chasing baitballs & sparkling WHALE SHARKS at Isla Mujeres.
The Caribbean. We all know it as a great getaway destination which can offer long hours spent luxuriating in the sun's rays, and revelling in turquoise waters enjoying fabulous corals and brightly colored fish. And, while that sounds pretty terrific ... does the Caribbean have any hidden charms which might tempt the serious adventure diver?
On one hand, while it's true that these waters lack the extreme diversity of Indonesia, the Philippines & Papua New Guinea ... or the remote, exotic call of the Solomons .... and the manta ray playgrounds of the Maldives .... but in addition to glimmering beaches & moonlit evenings, the Caribbean has more to offer than its sheer tropical allure, warm weather and crystal clear waters.When you look at the shark action it offers, it's definitely worth considering as a destination ... even for the most experienced of divers!
You can scuba dive from some appealing land-based options but serious divers who wish to experience the most remote areas and to access the best of the diving in the Caribbean will want to be on a dive liveaboard. We have chosen the vessels we have full confidence in. They run reliable, safe-conscious, professional diving adventures which we recommend without hesitation.
By carefully choosing a liveaboard diving trip, you can find wall dives & drift dives, channels & canyons, tunnels & caves; there are string rays & eagle rays, octopus & squid; you can see impressive nurse sharks & reef sharks - not to mention a blue hole or two. And I'm sure you know that the Caribbean offers some very nice wreck diving.
All in all, in spite of its reputation as a superb spot for debutant divers, this region also offers experienced divers some nice diving challenges and excitement.
On its immense barrier reef and nearby atolls, you find dive sites that vary from shallow, clear reefs to spectacular drop offs, steep coral-covered walls, impressive canyons, channels and swim-throughs.
The marine creatures are varied also with plenty of octopus, squid, crabs, flaming scallops and colorful reef fish – including parrot fish & and several varieties of angel fish - plus reef sharks, big black groupers, swirling schools of horse eyed jacks, hawksbill or green sea turtles. You can also expect scorpion fish, blennies, several varieties of eels and silver sides and exotic Spanish dancers which are sometimes sighted on the night dives. Even dolphins and hammerheads make an appearance on most cruises.
Turneffe Atoll, being a series of mangroves is a haven for juvenile species. There are some great drift dives here featuring larger marine animals. Ambergris Cay promises mangrove cayes, coral reefs, seagrass beds and lagoons, all offering something different.
For many divers, the high-point is a visit (weather permitting) to the world's largest blue hole, made famous by Jacques Cousteau in the 1970's. The first shelf of this collapsed underground cavern begins at 110'. Here stalactites descend from the ceiling. A healthy reef exists around the edge of the blue hole and is home to an abundance of juvenile sea life, as well as. These shallows are great for diving or snorkeling. And for wreck enthusiasts, there should be at least one good wreck dive on the itinerary.
A trip to this Central American paradise isn't complete without a visit to Belize's Mayan ruins or a cave tubing ride through the jungle. The Aggressor trip which we recommend will usually offer an opportunity for a land tour on Friday afternoon, but an extended stay is recommended to fully enjoy the wonders of Belize.
See information about the Belize Aggressor for Belize diving ....
Canyons, tunnels, little caves, rocky ridges & pinnacles are earmarks of the underwater terrain here, which add a touch of excitement for divers. The rocky terrain (along with hurricanes of yesteryear) are the culprits responsible for so many intriguing wrecks to the marine landscape. The wrecks are coral covered & surrounded by colorful fish. Sandy bottoms are common on many dives as are the typical Caribbean gold, orange and violet sponges, so well-known throughout the Caribbean ... read more
Divers can expect diverse sites, each with its own set of marine life. During your week of diving, you can expect to encounter the usual Caribbean cast of characters … French angelfish, grey angelfish, grunts, parrot fish, wrasse, squirrelfish, butterflyfish, damselfish & lizard fish.
At some sites you’ll encounter the bigger guys … turtles, sting rays, barracuda, nurse sharks, tarpon, schools of jacks. Of course, you’ll find gobies, crabs, cleaner shrimp, lobsters & even garden eels. All of this is set against a background of colorful Caribbean corals and sponges.
In addition, your itinerary will include interesting ship wrecks from a variety of eras.
It's common to find crab, lobster, squid, octopus & Caribbean reef sharks, nurse sharks and eagle rays around the wrecks. And, in general there is plenty of life ... ranging from turtles, morays, tarpon, sharks and rays to the ubiquitous angelfish and butterflyfish ... to smaller creatures such as jawfish and seahorses and the timid batwing crab.
Finally, at the mysterious catacombs and pinnacles of Pedro's Castle, you'll explore huge pinnacles which sprout straight upward from the bottom of the sea. Be careful to monitor your depth gauge and you will find this most enjoyable around 80-90ft.
See Availability and Aggressor Special Promotions Cayman Aggressor V
The whale sharks usually gather here from June to September to enjoy the nutrients in the plankton bloom in the waters where the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea meet.
In spite of habitually being loners, during this period the sharks are quite social and gather in groups of up to 20 animals .... making this an extraordinary opportunity for multiple shark encounters each day you're in the water.
From January to March, the possibility of swimming with sailfish exisits. A bit like the sardine run off the coast of Africa, these are not guaranteed encounters.
The sailfish follow and feed on immense baitballs of sardines .... and if the sardines aren't there .... the sailfish are nowhere to be seen. However, the event has been remarkably consistent over the past few years and the opportunity to experience this is well worth the risk!
The sailfish is probably the world's fastest fish, making the experience of being in the water with them, particularly when they are in hunting mode, an exhilarating experience.
The process of finding the fish is part of the adventure. Your guides will be watching for the frigate birds, who actually function as "spotters". When the guides see hundreds of birds swooping & diving into the water, it's a sure sign that a group of sailfish has cornered a baitball at the surface and they are feeding.
That's the signal to get the boat over to the spot and join in the melee!
Finally, Isla Mujeres also offers access to cenote diving opportunities on the Yucatan Peninsula.
A unique eco-system in Mexico's Yucatan, the cenotes are filled with crystal clear, fresh water and they open onto a vast system of underground caverns, tunnels and chambers. For thousands of years, these caves had been dry, forming stalagmites & stalactites and in certain places, the land above has collapsed allowing access to the underground systems.
Since the 1980's divers have been exploring the cave systems and it's said that more than 300 miles of caverns have been discovered.
The caves and tunnels are not for novice divers. You'll need special certification. But many of the cenotes are open to certified divers and are highly recommended as a very special life experience.
Please note that the diving here is land-based. Your accommodation will be on land and you will be taken by day-boat to the diving sites.
The itinerary, combining diving & optional island access, is unique in the liveaboard industry.
Saba is a 5 square mile island which is the top of a dormant volcano towering 3,000 feet above the surface and plunging in an equally dramatic fashion below the water.
The dive sites range from pristine offshore pinnacles to near-shore coral ridges, all encrusted with corals, sponges and sea fans and populated by the usual cast of characters in the Caribbean: reef sharks, groupers, horse-eye jacks, sting rays, patrolling barracuda and the omnipresent hawksbill turtles …..oversized tube sponges, barrel sponges, orange elephant ear sponges, anemones and encrusting corals … plus all the typical, colorful, mesmerizing Caribbean reef fish and the surprising presence of exotic frogfish, arrowline shrimp & other critters.
Wreck divers will enjoy at least a couple of nice wrecks in this regions.
St Kitts adds coral canyon formations and gullies, plus amazing flying gurnards, typical spotted morays, blue tang and goatfish.
Virtually all the marine species found in the Caribbean, including schools of blue tangs, southern sennetes and dozens of other brilliantly colored reef fish can be seen here. The variety ranges from intriguing juvenile fish all the way up the ladder to the whale shark! Manta rays, spotted eagle rays, and moray eels are all relatively frequent visitors to many of the sites.
The North side of Utila is best known for its drop-offs, which are considered deep dives – suitable for more experienced divers but the novice diver will find shallow to medium coral reefs with plenty of fish life. Divers love a dive known as Mary’s Place, which has a lush reef with crevasses and tunnels running through it that provide great photo opportunities.
Honduras is also home to three good wreck sites at varying depths.
And, macro lovers, don't despair. With beautiful corals littered all over this marine environment, many of the dives include great critter specimens such as yellowline arrow crabs, channel clinging crabs, bearded fire worms, long snout seahorses, large-eye toadfish, flying gurnards.
As a little « extra » Honduras is one of the very few places worldwide where whale sharks can be reliably found year round. While this doesn't guarantee that you'll see one on your cruise, there's usually at least one sighting per month. A little frosting on the cake should it happen to you!
The Roatan Aggressor is based in Roatan ... just minutes from the international airport ...
January through March each year, a vast majority of the North Atlantic Humpback Whale population gathers here by the thousands to court, mate, calve and rear their young. It's an experience of a lifetime. You can have the rare opportunity to swim with majestic humpback whales, ranging in length from 40 to 50 feet and weighing in at 35-40 tons. Humpback whales are found in all the world's major oceans and they undertake the longest known annual animal migrations on the planet ... read more
With thousands of whales gathering every year in the Silver Bank to mate and calve, you will see a dazzling display of behaviors from the deck of custom whale boats, as well as having eye to eye encounters as you slip quietly into the sea to interact with the graceful giants in their ocean home.
The infrastructure for these trips is superb. It's relatively easy to access the Carribean from most corners of the globe and the trips are highly professionally run, respecting the animals at all times, guarding their safety and yours at the same time.
There are several operators, but we have chosen to work with the three operators we believe to be the most professional and environmentally "correct": Aquatic Adventures, Conscious Breath Adventures and Aggressor. You can find some trips with available spaces on our Live Search (select Destination Silver Bank). Also, you can more about whale adventures on our Focus on Whales page.
Steep walls, a variety of corals (including massive fans, pillar & elkhorn & black corals) plus elephant ear & barrel sponges are the basic ingredients here. Toss in schooling fish, plenty of eels, lobsters, turtles & eagle rays, then mix in a dash of shark action … and top it all off with plenty of interesting macro life … and you have the recipe for Turks & Caicos diving. Visibility is normally excellent and on the fringes it’s common to see some beautiful pelagic animals cruising off the reefs ... read more
A side note: Grand Turk is lovely & peaceful little island, with lovely, secluded white-sand beaches & beautiful colonial buildings. The Turks and Caicos National Museum is worth a visit and houses fascinating artifacts from the oldest known shipwreck in the New World, the Molasses Reef Wreck from 1513.
You can find trips with available spaces on our Live Search under Turks & Caicos.
The luscious Caribbean region consists of more than 700 islands, islets, reefs & cays. These form island arcs which delineate the northern & eastern edges of the region. The mainland countries of Belize, Guyana & Suriname are often included as Caribbean nations. Some of the islands have flat, non-volcanic terrain while others possess rugged towering mountain-ranges, some of which are still volcanically active. The region enjoys year-round sunshine, divided into 'dry' and 'wet' seasons, with the latter six months of the year being wetter than the first half.