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Saturday 1st August 2015

Antigua's Undiscovered and Lesser Known Diving

Although Antigua has many dive sites visited on a regular basis, there are many more off the beaten track, and some yet to be fully explored. I will mention firstly those easily accessible, but not often dived by most dive operators. (Except Divecarib) Then we will discuss those known, but off the beaten track and hardly ever dived. Finally we will mention a few areas we plan on exploring, and why we believe these will be amazing.

The Southern side of Antigua drops off to great depths very close to shore. If you take a look at any map showing water soundings with depth contours, you will clearly see what I an referring to. Three quarters of the coastline, north, east and west, have shallow bank running many miles out to sea. But the southern portion drops off dramatically. Just outside Falmouth Harbour, a 5 minute boat ride, there is a nice wreck of an old tug that was converted into a small cargo vessel. She sits upright with her bow in 30m/100ft and the stern dropping to 40m/133ft. The wreck is easily penetratable and an excellent site for exploration, deep and wreck training, photography and technical diving. The water is clear with very mild currents if any at all. The bow sits on a bank rising quickly to 12m/40ft with reef very rich in marine life. So on completing the deep portion, divers may ascend to offgas on a lively shallow reef.

Two of my favourite, lesser known reef dive sites are within 5 minutes of this wreck site. Rendevoux Bay and Red Rocks. Both are steep banks, not quite walls, dropping from 12m/40ft to 21m/70ft and then leveling off into a flat sandy bottom which continues into the distance and out of viability. The drop offs are rich in corals, sponges and marine life, including nurse sharks, lobster, Atlantic Spade fish, stingrays, turtles and a host of other species. Personally I have done over 100 dives at Red Rocks and have seen a stingray (up to 11) on almost every dive. They love the sandy bottom where it meets the reef. There are a few interest mini ravines with lots of ledges and holes to search for critters. The water here is normally ideal for diving. Even when surface conditions get a bit choppy, underwater conditions are clear with minimal currents and no surge.

Now onto a few sites that are known (by a few), but off the beaten track and hardly ever dived. Of note are Redonda, Ariadne Shoal and Barbuda. Ariadne Shoals is about 12 miles west of Antigua, and is an interesting an lively area. Barbuda has some very nice diving off the South Eastern tip, long ridges of very rich reef stretching out to see in about 21m/70ft of water. Finally Redonda, closer to Montserrat has a nice ledge in fairly shallow water on the leeward side. Lots of turtles and old abandoned mining equipment wreckage.

What's left to explore? Some places on our to do list include Aves Island, a lost German Uboat and some deep sea mounds.

Aves Island is a tiny island 150m long by 50m wide with a small Venezuelan marine base sitting on stilts and manned by 6 marines. It sits about 60 miles west of Montserrat and is surrounded by a huge expanse of very shallow reef. Teeming with turtles, it used to be a popular turtle hunting ground for the Arawak Indians. Hardly anybody know of its existence, let alone been diving there. To dive there would involve organising and planning a specific expedition. A boat would need to be chartered and equipped, we can arrange that, along with an experienced instructor and photography equipment. All we need is a dedicated group of experienced divers wishing to go explore the unknown.

Off Barbuda there have been reported sightings of what appears to be a U Boat. I did a lot of interviewing amongst the local fishermen on Barbuda a while back. Apparently it was actually dived by a French group in the 70's, but the government cancelled their permission, suspecting gold on board. Some of the fishermen claim to know where it is. The trip would once again involve a chartered boat, but with a shallow draft tender to get through the reefs.

Finally, deep sea mounds. Not far off Willoughby Bay there is a Sea Mound which rises from the depths to 30m/100ft. I have only seen a short GoPro clip taken by a friend free diving out there. But even free diving the marine life in mid water was extraordinary. The glimpses of the reef below were quite amazing too. This site can be explored in calm weather on a day trip from our base. Experienced deep divers only.

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NAME: Leigh Cunningham/Louis Evans
TEL: +1 (268) 732-3475
EMAIL: divingantigua@gmail.com
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