Tobago: the Diving Mecca of the Caribbean
Derek Chung is Vice-President of ATDO, and has over 20 years’ diving experience. We asked him to explain the key facts about the Tobago diving scene
Why should people try diving in Tobago?
If you enjoy snorkelling you should try scuba. Anyone can do it. If you’re eighty years old, as long as you’re in good health, you can learn to scuba dive. Tobago has eleven land-based dive centres which are members of ATDO (Association of Tobago Dive Operators), and most of them are also PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) resorts. As PADI resorts we all offer diving tuition and diving charters.
What sort of tuition programmes?
We run a SASY (Surface Air Supply Youth) programme, for six- to seven-year-olds, as a nice transition from snorkelling to scuba. From eight and nine we offer the Bubblemaker Programme, where more experience is gained in pool-like conditions no deeper than two metres. After that, and for adult learners, we have the Discover Scuba Diving programme or resort introductory course, which takes three hours.
Then you start to get into entry level programmes, like Scuba Diver and Open Water Diver, which earn the diver a certification card. There are also advanced diving courses such as deep diving, wreck diving and drift diving.
How much does it cost?
The three-hour resort introductory programme costs around US$90 [2008 estimate].
Does Tobago offer a range of different dive conditions?
The Speyside area, where the water is clearer and the reef more lush, is more suited to intermediate and advanced divers. On the southern end of the island, where we have most hotel accommodation, the water is not quite as clear, but the Caribbean generally has no waves and no current and is more suited to novice and intermediate divers. [Click here to read our complete guide to diving in Tobago]
How is Tobago different from other Caribbean locations?
Tobago doesn’t have the year-round water clarity of some of our northern Caribbean neighbours, but our marine life tends to be larger and more plentiful.
What can people expect to see on a dive?
Lots of turtles, which are a big favourite; nurse sharks, black-tipped reef sharks, hammerhead sharks, moray eels, barracuda, stingrays and eagle rays, possibly manta rays, as well as all the normal marine life.
Where are some of best dive sites around Tobago?
The Maverick, a car ferry deliberately sunk to make a wreck dive off Mt Irvine, is a great site. Any of the dives on the southern side are really good, including Flying Reef, Diver’s Dream and Diver’s Thirst. And the Speyside area: Blackjack Hole, Keleston Drain (where you can see the world’s largest big brain coral), and Bookends (which is good for tarpon). On the northern coastline, you might see hammerhead sharks at the Sisters rocks.
So what’s your advice to visitors?
If you haven’t dived before, have a go at the introductory programme. It’s going to take three hours out of your day. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. If you do, it opens up a whole new world of experience. And you can work on getting your licence while you’re here.