Grenada, September 2007

I booked my flight with XL.com. It cost £282 for the return fare from Gatwick to Grenada. The seat wasn't exactly the most luxurious and there were plenty of “opportunities to buy” various things, but a meal was included, there was a film, and at that price I'd have sat on the floor. I'd booked the Siesta Hotel in Grand Anse with Expedia. It cost me £216 for a double room for a week. Arriving at the airport, I found myself a cab and made the short journey to the hotel. I walked into the hotel and they handed me my checking in form already made out in my name. It was then that I realised that the place might be a bit quiet at that time of year.

Grand Anse
Sunset over Grand Anse Beach
The room was clean. It had a bathroom with a shower, a fridge and the air con worked fine. There was also a balcony and the hotel had a pool and a bar. It was really quiet. There were a few American students studying at St Georges university staying there and only a handful of tourists. During my stay, I had the clean, reasonable sized pool to myself almost the whole time.

The beach at Grand Anse is justifiably famous. It's a long bay of golden sand and, as it's on the Caribbean side, the sea is usually very calm. Nearby was a shopping mall with a supermarket, a food hall with a couple of food stands, and a few other shops. There was also a KFC. Further up the road was the rather grandly named Le Chateau, which was actually a normal bar which did reasonable food. La Boulangerie did pizzas, baked goods and a few other mostly pasta based specials. There were a couple of other bars within walking distance up the road. There weren't that many places for breakfast though, especially if you had an early start, though obviously the hotel did breakfasts.

I'd booked my diving with Scuba Tech who are based at the Calabash hotel in Prickly Bay. The hotel was shut for renovation. September is a really quiet time of year in Grenada. They picked me up at the hotel and we decided what to do as my first dive. I'd decided to do the whole holiday diving on manifolded twins, so the first dive was an opportunity to sort my weighting out. I'd taken my Dive Rite Transpac II harness and was using it with the stabilising plates, a system that's not as rugged as my usual steel backplate, but is much better for travelling and works well.

The first dive was the Shakem. I was the only customer on the boat and it was the first time the boat had been back in the water for a few weeks, so it was looking resplendent in a new coat of paint. The Shakem sank in 2000 whilst carrying a cargo of cement over from Trinidad in heavy seas. We dived down onto the wreck and there were bags of cement shifted all over the holds. It was obviously this shifting that caused the ship to become unstable and sink. I got about 30m on the site. It was an interesting dive. There are a couple of places where you can swim through the holds, past the cement bags and the fish life was pretty good. The were barracuda, morays and a turtle. My dive time was limited by bottom time. I was diving on air at the time, so dive time was about 42 minutes.

The second dive was Shark Reef. I only saw one nurse shark, but it was a nice, fringing reef with plenty of grunts, speckled morays and loads of what are called spider crabs, though they're a lot bigger and don't look an awful lot like their similarly named British cousins. It was a relaxing drift for 53 mins and the maximum depth was about 16m.

Coral polyps
Coral polyps
After the pleasant enough dives on the first day, the second day was the big one. I was diving the Bianca C, an Italian built cruise liner which caught fire in 1961. It was 22,000 tons and is 600 feet in length. It lies in about 50m. For this dive I had air in the twin 12s on my back, and an aluminium 80 stage of 80% for my deco. We shotted the wreck and went down. The viz was great. It was at least 20m, probably more. Most of the ship is lying upright but towards the stern, there's a big crack and the stern itself has twisted onto the starboard side.

The shotline was near the crack, so I swam off around the stern, past the davits for the lifeboats which are still clearly visible. There were a couple of big holes I had a look into, but I wasn't really equipped for doing any serious penetration diving, so I stayed on the outside. The forward section is upright, but there's been a lot of decking collapsed, which again made me think about the wisdom of going inside too much. I'm not sure how stable the wreck is. There was a slight current carrying me up towards the bows and I reached my 30 mins bottom time when I reached the forward mast. So I bagged up and started doing my deco. I was using a Cochram EMC20 and an Apeks Quantum on the dive. The nearest chamber is Barbados, and as I'm a coward, I did enough deco to put the Quantum back into the green zone. Not that it was that boring. I was circled by some large and mean looking barracuda as I ascended and I drifted over a reef and shoals of creole wrasse. It certainly beat hanging on a line in the open water in the English channel. The temperature was 29C for a start. My maximum depth was 46.9m. I did 30 mins on the bottom and my total dive time was an hour and three minutes. I didn't do a second dive that day.

The next day, I dived the Hema One. It's a wreck due south of the island, so can only be done in reasonable weather. It was flat calm that day. The sun was out and I really couldn't understand why the island seemed to be tourist free. I was using the twin 12s with 32% nitrox. The wreck itself was a freighter. It lies in about 31m. It only sank in 2005, so there isn't a lot of life on the wreck itself. However, around the wreck is a different story. I saw at least four big nurse sharks and a reef shark. There were also the usual barracuda. My bottom time was extended thanks to the nitrox, plus I did a few minutes stops, so my dive time was 47 mins. The second dive was a reef called Purple Rain. I spared the rest of the boat my Prince impersonations. It was a nice reef in about 20m and there were healthy hard and soft corals, plus the usual Caribbean tropicals.

The next day and it was back to the Bianca for much the same profile as before. I did find one spot on the wreck where the decking has collapsed, so there's a vertical shaft. There's a banister and a set of steps leading down that looked so inviting, but it's near the bows and I was short of time by them. I had even more barracuda with me on the stops this time. It was another great dive. I could easily dive that wreck every day for a fortnight and see something new every time.

Crater Lake
Crater Lake
On my last diving day, I decided to break out the camera. I wish I'd taken it in on the Hema One. On the Bianca I had enough to worry about, that I didn't want to be distracted, but the Hema One would have been fine. We decided to do the Veronica and there were actually two other paying customers with me. It's a small wreck lying in 15m and offered lots of opportunities to take macro shots as it's well encrusted. My dive time was just under the hour. Last dive was back at Shark Reef. I didn't see any sharks this time, but it was still a nice dive and a good way to finish my diving.

It was a good diving trip. The Bianca C would impress even the most hardened wreck diver and it was good to be able to hire a twinset, a stage and do some more challenging diving in warm, clear waters. The guys at Scuba Tech were great. It was really quiet, so I had the boat to myself most days and it's not often you get the chance to have your own, personal dive boat.

I did visit a couple of other places in the evenings. On Wednesday night, True Blue had a band, so I went over there. It was mostly students, but not entirely. The Lance Aux Epines marina also has music one night and I ventured to Bananas nightclub one night, but that really was all students, and they were pretty geeky.

On my last day, I decided to do the tourist bit, so I hired a taxi driver to take me around for half the day for EC$105. We visited some waterfalls, then Grand Etang lake which is actually a crater lake for the long dormant volcano that created the island. Then there visits to a couple of colonial era hill forts built by the British to fend off the French. It was good to see a bit of the island. It's certainly a very lush, green, pretty place.

I paid less than £500. I had a week in September in Grenada in a reasonable hotel. The weather was great. It was very warm and it rained a few times overnight and once, for about 20 mins during the day. The Bianca C is a fantastic wreck dive. Some of the others weren't bad either and the reefs were of a reasonable standard. I want to go back.

Video of the Veronica



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