Diving in Barbados
Barbados is a mellow place to dive. It's good for learning and for resort-level qualified divers: pleasant rather than spectacular. The island has lots of land-side attractions so it suits a mixed vacation of diving, general sight-seeing and beach activities. It's a year-round resort, with an even 30 C temperature offset by the nor'easterly trade winds. July-Dec has much more rain, and Aug-Nov is the hurricane season. Barbados was hit in 2017 by Hurricane Harvey; usually they pass by to the north, but even if distant or downgraded to a Storm they'll render the sea too rough.
The whole of Barbados is in a sense one huge coral reef - look for corals and fossils in the masonry of old buildings. There was no volcanic activity in its formation so the landscape is much gentler than nearby Saint Lucia or Saint Vincent. The same is true underwater: there are gently-shelving reefs, but no plunging walls or sudden drop-offs.
Most recreational diving is along the west and southwest coasts, which are relatively sheltered, and have reefs and wrecks within a short travel time from the dive shacks around Bridgetown. (Tourist literature sometimes refers to the western sea as the Caribbean, but that starts a hundred miles further west, Barbados is surrounded by the Atlantic.) The usual programme is a two-tank trip, setting out around 9 am and back for 2 pm before the breeze kicks up the sea. The dive sites are mostly too far out for shore diving. There's no liveaboard operations around these coasts.
Commercial dive operators seldom venture onto the more exposed southeast coast, which is fringed by the 16 mile-long Cobblers Reef. You'd need to negotiate a special outing, or bring your own boat and kit.
The east coast is exposed to the full fury of the Atlantic, with long travel times, lack of harbours, and dangerous lee shores. Barbados has no inland dive sites.
Carlisle Bay / Bridgetown:
Reefs include Pebble Bay, Browne's Beach, Carlisle Bay and off Needham's Point.
Wrecks include Brianna H (20m, freighter 2014), Trident (20m, navy boat 2016), Bajan Queen (9m, tug 2002), Berwyn (8m, tug 1919), CE-Trek (12m, cement barge 1986), and Eillon (16m, freighter 1996).
Southeast / Asta beach:
Reefs include Castle Bank, Asta East & West, Fork Reef, Charleyne's East & West, Pieces of Eight, Accra Beach and Brown's Shallow.
Wrecks include Friar's Craig (15m, freighter 1985).
Southeast / Dover beach:
Reefs include Sandy Beach East & West, Close Encounter, Needle, Black Jack Shallows, Mount Charity and Welcome Inn.
West, up to Holetown:
Reefs include Clarks & Atlantis Banks, Victors, Johnson's, Little Sandy Lane, Dottins and Fisherman's.
Wrecks include Lord Combermere (12m, barge 1980s), Stavronikita (30m, freighter 1978) and the Payne Beach wreck.
West, to Speightstown:
Reefs include Boom, Weston, Spawnee, Heyman's, Great Ledge, Bright Ledge and Maycocks.
Wrecks include Pamir (18m).
- Police 211; for non-emergency "heads-up" call +1 246 430 6815/6/7.
- Ambulance 511 - these calls are answered by Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Bridgetown.
- Coast Guard is VHF Channel 16, call code 8 PAPA ZULU, or +1 246 427 8819.
Hyperbaric Chamberphone: +1 246 436 6185address: Garrison, BridgetownRecompression chamber run by Barbados Defence Force at the military base just south of town.
- DAN hotline worldwide is +1 919 684 9111.
Most dive shacks are based near Bridgetown in the shelter of Carlisle Bay. They pick up from hotels along the two beach strips, along the south coast as far as Oistins, and up the west coast as far as Speightstown. There is one dive shack in Holetown in Western Barbados.
All offer basic training, kit hire and simple service, recreational diving, and the usual non-tacky specialty courses.
- Barbados Dive Guide, Lucy Agace, 2005. Miller Publishing Company of Barbados