Diving in Tobago: kingdom of the corals

It’s just like Finding Nemo. Dive below the surface of the aquamarine and azure waters off Tobago and enter the kingdom of the coral reefs. Many of the dive sites here are drift dives, which just means that you just go with the flow — literally. You adjust your buoyancy to follow the current; keep in mind the dive briefings; and follow the dive master. If you’ve never tried drift diving, don’t worry. Most of the dive centres offer a course that will prep you, plus PADI certification (Open Water, Advanced and Rescue Diver).

Flying Reef (in the south) has huge plate coral colonies, nurse sharks and stingrays. Divers Dream is recommended for experienced divers because of the strong current. Pelagics hang out along the ledges and overhangs.

Eel in the coral at Pirates Bay, Tobago. Photo: Colin Davis

Eel in the coral at Pirates Bay, Tobago. Photo: Colin Davis


Diving on the Caribbean coast

On the Caribbean side of the island, the wreck of the M/V Maverick sits at 100ft (33m). The first passenger ferry between Trinidad and Tobago, it was sunk as a dive site in April 1997. Snappers and rainbow runners scamper in the shadows of the car deck. Schools of bait fish frolic on the upper deck (depth of 60ft/18m). Arnos Vale is a shallow dive (maximum 40ft/13m) that yields lobster, eels and torpedo rays in the sand.

The Sisters (northwest) are rock pinnacles that rise from the depths of the seabed, attracting hammerheads and manta rays. London Bridge, which is off the St Giles Islands in the northeast, is a treasure trove of tarpon, turtles and sharks — even octopus (check the holes in the rock face). Boulder Valley (off Charlotteville, at the mouth of Man O’ War Bay) has huge sponge and coral encrusted boulders, like giant marbles strewn across a fantastically colored carpet.

Popular Speyside dive sites

Sea turtle at Japanese Gardens off Speyside. Photographer: Colin S. Davis

Sea turtle at Japanese Gardens off Speyside. Photographer: Colin S. Davis

Most of the dives off Speyside are drift dives along sloping reefs around Little Tobago (aka Bird of Paradise Island) and Goat Island. Kelleston Drain is home to the largest living brain coral in the Caribbean — some argue it’s in the world. You may spot a nurse shark taking a nap below it. Thousands of bicolor damselfish flit among vase sponges, purple pope sponge and green algae in the Japanese Gardens. A hard right turn between two large rocks and the current will take you through Kamikazee Cut. This reef is covered with brightly colored sponges and corals. Seemingly unending soft coral growth sprouts from the granular white sand on the reef top. Check under the ledges for nurse sharks.

A diver hovers above what is often referred to as the largest brain coral in the world, off Speyside. Photographer: Sport Diver Magazine, via the THA

A diver hovers above what is often referred to as the largest brain coral in the world, off Speyside. Photographer: Sport Diver Magazine, via the THA


Water temperatures

Water temperatures range from highs of 82F (28C) to lows of 75F (24C) in January and February. Most divers find that 3mm neoprene is sufficient thermal protection year round.

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Dive shops and instructors

Members of the Association of Tobago Dive Operators (ATDO, tobagoscubadiving.com) — like Undersea Tobago (631-2626underseatobago.com) — adhere to international standards that ensure your safety and comfort. They have an instructor on staff full-time; oxygen, first aid kits and radios on board dive boats; safety sausages for all divers; and all boat dives are escorted by a dive guide with surface markers.

Posted by Nazma Muller

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