By Michele Westmorland
This idyllic part of the eastern Caribbean, stretching from Grenada to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, is known for the aromatic spices that are grown throughout the islands. The volcanic peaks are home to interior rainforests and waterfalls that descend toward the protected bays and beaches that ring the islands. But what lies beneath the surface is even more alluring, featuring everything from extensive reefs teeming with colorful fish to one of the largest shipwrecks in the Caribbean and an active underwater volcano.
Grenada is a sleepier part of the Caribbean with fewer visitors, meaning that these sites remain unspoiled by larger crowds. And the marine life know it too. Parrotfish, nurse sharks, barracudas, eagle rays, turtles and groupers are just some of the residents you’ll encounter. And the best way to experience this pristine environment is by boarding Peter Hughes’ Wind Dancer, the only live-aboard that travels between these two island nations.
The itinerary includes six island areas including Grenada, Isle de Ronde, Carriacou, Union Island, the Tobago Cays and Bequia. Your actual path will be based on water and travel conditions, but having an operation that’s flexible is a distinct advantage because you increase your chances of diving all the best sites, including what has been called the “Titanic of the Caribbean,” the Bianca C.
The Bianca C was a luxurious 600-foot cruise ship that caught fire in 1961 and sank in 167 feet of water. The deck rises to about 90 feet, where you’ll find nurse sharks, rays, jacks and more on this current-washed site. The ship is dripping with soft corals, and if you head toward the stern, you can explore a partially collapsed swimming pool and the upper promenade, which is covered in black coral trees, hydroids and sponges.
Another highlight of this itinerary is a submarine volcano site called Kick ’Em Jenny. The unique environment allows unusual corals and marine life to thrive here, which are enjoyed in the 100-plus-foot visibility that is common at the site. The trip also includes some of the best critter diving in the Caribbean. If you’re into spotting seahorses and frogfish, your chances are increased when you explore these waters with the Wind Dancer dive guides. They are pros at spotting these elusive creatures.
The boat itself is comfortable at 120 feet, with nine air-conditioned, en suite staterooms for 18 passengers. There’s plenty of deck space for soaking in a little sun and more than adequate table space for cameras. Meals are divine, and for the guest who can’t seem to be away from a computer, there are two available for uploading all the pictures you’ll be taking on this trip. There’s also an entertainment system for watching movies and a library if you want to catch up on some reading as you skim across these turquoise waters toward the next splendid site.
Day 1 — Arrival into Grenada for boarding at 5 p.m. If you can get there early, visit a spice plantation and savor the smell of cloves, nutmeg and chocolate. Make sure to purchase a variety
to take home to your kitchen.
Day 2 — Dive the sites of Twin Sisters and Sisters Slope at Isle de Ronde for turtles and triggerfish. Visit the submarine volcano of Kick ’Em Jenny and other sites at Carriacou. Overnight travel to Bequia.
Days 3 & 4 — In Bequia, you can drift though tunnels looking for turtles, sharks and rays. First String Wall might host a camouflaged long lure frogfish, which will be hiding among the sponges. Indian Gallows in Wallilabou Bay is known to be a critter haven, and you might find a seahorse with a pouch full of babies. Other popular dive spots include the reefs and walls at Dark Head and Sub Rock with incredible sea fans and coral stands.
Day 5 — The boat will work its way back to Grenada while hitting sites like the offshore Sail Rock (weather permitting). You’ll also stop at Frigate and Diamond Rocks, where reef butterflyfish can be found feeding on sergeant major eggs, lobsters are spotted hiding in crevices and
barracuda comb the area for food.
Day 6 — Arrive and anchor off Grenada with a morning dive on the infamous Bianca C. Complete your trip with a dive at Shark Reef and an afternoon topside trip to a local waterfall or rum distillery.
Day 7 — Depart.
Need to Know
Getting There — American Airlines flies direct from Miami into Point Saline Airport in St. George (GND). Transfers are arranged by Peter Hughes diving.
When to Go Year-round. The late-summer months are hurricane season, but Grenada is near the equator and generally out of the storms’ paths.
Dive Conditions — Visibility is up to 80 feet with water temps around 80°F.
Price Tag — Seven-night package starts at $1,895 per person and includes meals, three to four dives per day with night dives at select locations, and transfers to and from the airport. Nitrox is available for the week at $150.
Travel Tip — Don’t miss a stroll through the charming town of Port Elizabeth in Bequia. It’s a good way to stretch your legs in a quintessential Caribbean environment, and there are several boutiques to peruse. More Info: www.peterhughes.com
If the Dive Trip Fits...
Wind Dancer is the only live-aboard that operates in Grenada, but here are two great land-based locations that can provide access to many of the same wonderful dive sites.
True Blue Bay Resort — The resort is pretty close to where divers disembark from the Wind Dancer. It’s a charming hillside property with a waterside restaurant, and the on-site dive shop, Aquanauts Grenada, is a well-run operation with three comfortable boats that whisk you away to some of the best wreck diving in the Caribbean, and of course, beautiful reefs. Seven-night packages start at $1,082 per person based on double occupancy. www.aquanautsgrenada.com
Young Island — This private island, tropical paradise will give you some serious decompression time. Diving is available through two independent operators — Dive St. Vincent (www.divestvincent.com) and Indigo Dive (www.indigodive.com). And the sites are so close, this might be the least amount of work you’ve ever put in on a dive vacation. Rooms start at $448 per night, and include breakfast and dinner. www.youngisland.com