Diving and Snorkeling

Forget about glitz and nightlife. Statia is the quintessential low-key island. Finding an elusive Iguana delicatissima on the Quill is probably the most exciting thing you can do on land. Statia's real thrills are underwater.

Long ago the ocean reclaimed the original seawall built by the Dutch in the 1700s. The sunken walls, remnants of old buildings, cannons, and anchors are now part of an extensive reef system populated by reef fingers, juvenile fish, and other sea creatures.

Statia has more than 30 dive sites—at depths ranging from 30 to 220 feet—protected by the St. Eustatius National Marine Park, part of the St. Eustatius National Parks. Barracuda swim around colorful coral walls at Barracuda Reef, off the island's southwest coast. At Double Wreck, just offshore from Lower Town, you can find two tall-masted ships that date from the 1700s. The coral has taken on the shape of these two disintegrated vessels, and the site attracts spiny lobsters, stingrays, moray eels, and large schools of fish. About 100 yards west of Double Wreck is the Japanese ship Cheng Tong, which was sunk in 2004. Off the south end of the island, the sinking of the Charles L. Brown, a 1957 cable-laying vessel that was once owned by AT&T, created another artificial reef when it was sunk in a 135-foot underwater crater. Off the island's western shore, Stenapa Reef is an artificial reef created from the wrecks of barges, a harbor boat, and other ship parts. Large grouper and turtles are among the marine life you can spot here. For snorkelers, Crooks Castle has several stands of pillar coral, giant yellow sea fans, and sea whips just southwest of Lower Town.

Dive shops along Bay Road rent gear (including snorkeling gear for about $14 a day), offer certification courses, and organize snorkeling and dive trips. One-tank dives start at $60; two-tank dives are about $120.

Golden Rock Dive Center. Operated by Glenn and Michele Faires, this dive center offers PADI certification and lots of personal service. Nitrox and wetsuit rentals are available, as is an introduction to diving for those without certification. A one-tank dive is $60, plus a $1 harbor fee and $6 per dive marine park fee. There are daily two-hour snorkeling trips for $60 including equipment. Gallows Bay, Lower Town, Oranjestad, n/a St. Eustatius. 599/318–2964; www.goldenrockdive.com.

Scubaqua. This fully equipped, eco-conscious dive shop in a remodeled warehouse features PADI and CMAS certification plus Nitrox diving, night dives, and underwater photography courses. DVPs (diver propulsion vehicles) are available for diving or snorkeling. Dive courses are offered in several different languages. Staff are highly experienced and medically trained. If you book multidive packages you can save. Bay Rd., Lower Town, Oranjestad, n/a St. Eustatius. 599/318–5450; www.scubaqua.com.

Statia National Parks. National Marine Park, Miriam C. Schmitt Botanical Garden, and Quill/Boven National Park (STENAPA) are under the supervision of Statia National Parks. The marine tag fee, which all divers must buy, is used to help offset the costs of preserving the coral and other sea life here; the cost is $6 per day or $30 annually. There are two decompression chambers on the island. Headquarters, Gallows Bay, Lower Town, Oranjestad, n/a St. Eustatius. 599/318–2884; www.statiapark.org.