Diving and Snorkeling
Jamaica isn't a major dive destination, but you can find a few rich underwater regions with a wide array of marine life, especially off the North Coast, which is on the edge of the Cayman Trench. Mo'Bay, known for its wall dives, has Airport Reef at its southwestern edge. The site has coral caves, tunnels, and canyons. The first marine park in Jamaica, the Montego Bay Marine Park, was established to protect the natural resources of the bay; it's easy to see the treasures that lie beneath the surface.
Thanks to a marine area protected since 1966, the Ocho Rios region is also a popular diving destination. Through the years, the protected area grew into the Ocho Rios Marine Park, stretching from Mammee Bay and Drax Hall in the west to Frankfort Point in the east. Top dive sites in the area include Jack's Hall, a 40-foot dive dotted with all types of coral; Top of the Mountain, a 60-foot dive near Dunn's River Falls with many coral heads and gorgonians; and the Wreck of the Katryn, a 50-foot dive to a deliberately sunk 140-foot former minesweeper.
With its murkier waters, the southern side of the island isn't as popular for diving. However, Port Royal, near Kingston's airport, is filled with sunken ships that are home to many varieties of tropical fish; a special permit is required to dive some sites here.
A one-tank dive costs $45–$80. Most large resorts have dive shops, and the all-inclusives sometimes include scuba diving. To dive, you need a certification card, though it's possible to get a taste of scuba and do a shallow dive—usually from shore—after a one-day resort course, which almost every resort with a dive shop offers.
Jamaica Scuba Divers. With serious scuba facilities for dedicated divers and beginners, this PADI and NAUI outfit offers nitrox diving and instruction as well as instruction in underwater photography, night diving, and open-water diving. Operations are based at Travellers Beach Resort in Negril. Pickup can be arranged from most hotels and other locations along the North Coast. 876/381–1113; www.scuba-jamaica.com.
Wall diving is especially popular in the Port Antonio area. For intermediate and advanced divers, a top spot is Trident Wall, lined with stunning black coral. Other favorites include Alligator Hill, a moderate to difficult dive known for its tubes and sponges. A beginner site, Alligator West is prized for its calm waters.
Lady G'Diver. The only dive operator in Port Antonio runs trips to interesting sites almost every day. Two-tank dive trips depart at around 11 am. Call two or three days in advance. Errol Flynn Marina, Ken Wright Dr., Port Antonio, Portland. 876/995–0246; www.ladygdiver.com.