Diving in St. Barts – What You Need to Know
St. Barts is a pristine jewel in the Caribbean. It’s not the largest island, nor the most popular, but it regularly attracts around 200k visitors each year, many of whom stay in St. Barts villas. Tourists come for the wonderful beaches, but if you are a water sports enthusiast, it’s worth checking out some of the dive sites around the island. Consider this your quick guide to scuba diving off St. Barts and how to find the best sites.
The island is only 8 square miles across, but it is surrounded by shallow waters and coral reefs. This has created the perfect snorkeling and scuba diving environment, both for beginners and more advanced divers. The channel between St. Barts and its neighbor, St. Martin, is fairly shallow with a sandy bottom that reflects the sunlight. The extra light in the water highlights the colorful coral and marine life, so on a calm day, visibility is excellent.
St. Barts Marine Reserve
This reserve was created in 1996 to protect the coral and marine life around the island. Many of the reefs were badly damaged by hurricanes in the 1990s, and careless anchoring had exacerbated the problem. Today, the coral reefs of St. Barts are in relatively good condition, teeming with marine life of all kinds. You won’t find many large fish species in the shallow waters around the island, but there are lots of small, colorful fish to enjoy.
Protected Reef Fish
Local fishermen don’t touch the fish living in coral reefs around St. Barts. Many of the fish are contaminated by a toxin that manifests itself as food poisoning when ingested. Thanks to this toxin, the fish thrive, and the reefs are famous for their extraordinary biodiversity.
There are 22 different dive sites in the marine reserve, including a wreck and several underwater caverns. Many of these are a short distance from the harbor in Gustavia. Each inlet and bay around the island has its own coral reef, which you can explore at your leisure. Some of the most popular dive sites are located offshore near Gustavia, around the Pain de Sucre.
Top Dive Site Highlights
Shipwrecks – there are two wrecks off St. Barts, the Kaïali and the Nonstop. The Kaïali is 100 feet below the surface and has two separate entrances. It’s suitable for more experienced divers. The Nonstop was a luxury motor cruiser, which sank in 1989, during a hurricane. It is now home to a huge variety of marine life.
Wall diving – more experienced divers should head to Lle Force in the southwest tip of the island. Due to strong currents, it’s wise to be cautious when diving here, but you should see turtles, great barracuda, and rays.
Ila de la Pointe near Colombier also has some excellent coral reefs with plenty of reef fish, barracuda, and turtles.
Some of the coral reefs are within a short swim, but the best sites are reached by boat. Book your scuba diving boat trip when you book your stay in beachfront St. Barts villas. It’s the perfect family excursion, even for non-divers!