Diving and Snorkeling

Though unheralded as a dive destination, St. Kitts has more than a dozen excellent sites, protected by several new marine parks. The surrounding waters feature shoals, hot vents, shallows, canyons, steep walls, and caverns at depths from 40 to nearly 200 feet. The St. Kitts Maritime Archaeological Project, which surveys, records, researches, and preserves the island's underwater treasures, has charted several hundred wrecks of galleons, frigates, and freighters dating back to the 17th century. Bloody Bay Reef is noted for its network of underwater grottoes daubed with purple anemones, sienna bristle worms, and canary-yellow sea fans that seem to wave you in. Coconut Tree Reef, one of the largest in the area, includes sea fans, sponges, and anemones, as well as the Rocks, three enormous boulders with impressive multilevel diving. The only drift-dive site, Nags Head, has strong currents, but experienced divers might spot gliding rays, lobsters, turtles, and reef sharks. Since it sank in 50 feet of water in the early 1980s, the River Taw makes a splendid site for less experienced divers. Sandy Point Reef has been designated a National Marine Park and includes Paradise Reef, with swim-through 90-foot sloping canyons, and Anchors Away, where anchors have been encrusted with coral formations. The 1985 wreck of the Talata lies in 70 feet of water; barracudas, rays, groupers, and grunts dart through its hull.

Dive St. Kitts. This PADI–NAUI facility offers competitive prices, computers to maximize time below, a wide range of courses from refresher to rescue, and friendly, laid-back dive masters. The Bird Rock location features superb shore diving (unlimited when you book packages): common sightings 20 to 30 feet out include octopuses, nurse sharks, manta and spotted eagle rays, sea horses, even barracudas George and Georgianna. It also offers kayak and snorkeling tours. 2 miles (3 km) east of Basseterre, Frigate Bay, St. Kitts. 869/465–1189; 869/465–8914; www.divestkitts.com.

Kenneth's Dive Center. Kenneth Samuel, the owner of this PADI company, takes small groups of divers with C cards to nearby reefs on his two custom-built catamarans. Rates average $70 for single-tank dives, $105 for double-tank dives; add $10 for equipment. Night dives, including lights, are $80–$100, and snorkeling trips (four-person minimum) are $40, drinks included. After nearly 30 years' experience, former fisherman Samuel is considered an old pro (Jean-Michel Cousteau requested his guidance upon his first visit in the 1990s) and strives to keep groups small and prices reasonable. Bay Rd., Basseterre, St. Kitts. 869/465–2670; www.kennethdivecenter.com.

Pro-Divers. Owned by Auston Macleod, a PADI-certified dive master–instructor, this outfitter offers resort and certification courses running $125–$600, including specialty options from deep diving to digital underwater photography. Dive computers are included gratis. He offers introductory scuba courses Sunday through Thursday at 10 am and Friday and Saturday at 2:30 pm at the Marriott for guests only (the $20 fee is refunded if you purchase dives). He also takes groups to snorkeling sites accessible only by boat via his custom-built 38-foot catamaran, Kuriala. Fisherman's Wharf, Ocean Terrace Inn, Basseterre, St. Kitts. 869/660–3483; www.prodiversstkitts.com.