Barbados, March 2016

Barbados was the first Caribbean island that I ever went to. I went back in 1996 and wrote this report, so I decided that a return visit was well overdue. I booked return flights with BA about as soon as they became available and got them for £506 return. I then booked a reasonably priced hotel in Worthing via booking.com and got a taxi from the airport to the hotel. There was a supermarket near the hotel and I had a fridge in the room which made breakfast and lunches easy. There were a few restaurants in Worthing and St Lawrence Gap was only a 5 minute walk away where there are more bars and restaurants.

I decided to dive with the same outfit as previously, The Dive Shop, and it's still run by the same family. In fact, one of the dive guides I had dived with back in 1996, so he certainly knew the sites well. They had a much bigger boat than previously with plenty of shade from the hot sun. There was also cold water available on board. They picked me up from my hotel every morning at 9am and I usually got about about 2:30. The boat used to come in between dives to change tanks, so the surface interval was always a reasonable amount of time rather than the 40 minutes you get with some operators.

Most of the dive sites that we visited were to the south and south west of the island. Barbados is surrounded by fringing reefs. There are apparently three sets of reefs around the island though I haven't personally seen the deepest one. It's beyond normal recreational depths. This means the reefs are quite flat. There is no wall and drop off, but the coral is healthy and it's a good mixture of soft and hard corals. There is usually a swell getting out to the dives sites. It's not flat calm, like it is in some Caribbean locations.

I did 10 dives over 5 days. On the deeper reefs such as Caribbee or Carlenes, I got about 26m. As the reefs are quite flat, most of the dive was spent at these depths, so it was quite easy to get close to the no decompression limit. Nitrox would have been handy but wasn't available. The shallower reefs were about 16m and that's where we usually went for the second dives. It's not a place where you'll see a lot of big stuff, but there are plenty of fish. Unfortunately this includes the invasive lion fish though some of the locals were doing their best to reduce the population. I've still not eaten one, apparently they taste good. The biggest things I saw were rays. I saw a couple of stingrays and two eagle rays, though for the latter we took a gamble and swam out over the sand. Had we seen nothing, it would have been a boring 15 minutes out of our dive. Some of the smaller things I saw included two sea horses and a bright yellow frog fish. What I did see plenty of was turtles. They were seen regularly of varying sizes on 2 out of 3 of the reef dives.

As well as the reefs, there are also a number of wreck dives. The most famous is the Stavronikita which I unfortunately didn't get to do. They used to do it regularly but it has apparently since collapsed and they no longer go inside. One wreck I did a couple of times was Friar's Craig. It's located at the end of Asta Reef and the start of Banana Reef, so we visited it a couple of times. If you know were to look, there were a couple of octopus living inside the wreck. They've pulled various bits of debris and rocks in to cover up the entrances to their holes. There's also a number of reef balls on the sea bed near the reef which are designed to attract sea life.

In Carlisle Bay, there are 5 wrecks now of various ages and this makes a good second dive as they're in 15-5m of water, so you can comfortably visit each one on a single dive. The newest addition is the wreck of the Brianna H. This went down overnight on August 4th 2014, so there wasn't a lot of coral growth on it just yet but the fish have definitely taken up residence. There are circular patches of hard corals about 2 inches in diameter just starting to grow on the hull. There are several places where you can enter the wreck and the holds are open so that you can swim around inside them. I got about 22m on the dive though I didn't go right down to the seabed. There isn't a lot to see at the bottom.

It was good to revisit the island and having been travelling for a while, it was nice to go somewhere easy. The local currency, the Barbados dollar is pegged at 2:1 to the US dollar and everywhere will take US dollars. There were plenty of ATMs around to take out local currency and they all worked. It isn't the cheapest place to visit, but it is still cheaper than the UK. Having now visited plenty of other islands in the Caribbean, I can say that Barbados diving is on par with most of them. I'm not sure why it's less well know than some of the other places.

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