Diver on the Bianca COften called the Titanic of the Caribbean, Bianca C is 600 feet long and deserves its star status as one of the best wrecks to dive in the world. Photograph courtesy of the Grenada Board of Tourism.
An English wreck junkie friend first gushed to me about the greatness of the Bianca C, the most famous wreck in the waters of Grenada. So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by just how non-American this corner of the Caribbean felt when I finally got there. With all the spices sprouting in the verdant valleys and for sale in the local markets – I replenished my nutmeg, cocoa, cinnamon, cloves and ginger stash for a pittance at a local market – I felt like I’d been transported to the Spice Islands of Indonesia. That’s how intoxicating the smells and sights are on the Caribbean’s Spice Island. But this was the West Indies. And while the diving in Grenada may not conjure the Triangle of Biodiversity, it was heady in its own right.
There’s an adventurous feel when wading through the shore break to board Dive Grenada’s dive boat from the sugar sand beach of Grand Anse before motoring to the nearby Underwater Sculpture Park in Moliniere Bay. Most of Grenada’s dive sites are a short ride from shore, and this particular one can also be done as a shore dive or snorkel. The world’s first underwater sculpture gallery, the park has sunken works by Jason DeCaires Taylor, including the famous Ring of Children sculpture. I was told I’d be one of the last divers to see the ring before it was to be replaced with new statues (the original ones would be transplanted elsewhere throughout the park). The dive site is shallow enough to snorkel, but as usual I was glad to be blowing bubbles for the chance to sit and watch the fish buzzing between the statues and admire mushroom coral growing like eyes over orbits in the sculpted faces. The original point of the sculpture park was to draw traffic away from other protected areas in Grenada, but it’s become a tourist destination in its own right. And while the sculpture park was recently listed among the Top 25 Wonders of the World by National Geographic, the real dive highlights for me came the next day on Grenada’s famous wrecks.
The day’s profile included three wreck dives, including two deep ones, so we didn’t get as much bottom time as I’d have loved on the Bianca C, the so-called "Titanic of the Caribbean." But it was still fascinating to fin the entire 600-foot-long stretch of this Italian cruise ship (Costa line – the same line that sank in the Mediterranean in January 2012) that caught fire and sank in Grenada’s harbor in 1961, even if we didn’t get the chance to drop into her swimming pool for underwater laps. Even more interesting to me, however, was a dive later in the day on the wreck of the Shakem. The cargo ship sank in 2001 with a full cargo of stacked bags of cement, now sculptures in their own right. They looked pillow-like through my mask but were rock hard when I reached out to touch. Our last wreck of the day was a fun shallow dive on the Veronica L, which was absolutely covered with sponges and soft corals and swirling with fish. At one point I was surrounded by so many blue and yellow creole wrasse I could barely make out my buddies.
I’m told Grenada’s reefs have plenty to offer, particularly on the island’s less visited Atlantic side. But exploring them will have to wait till my next visit. Until then, I’ll spend my time talking up this gorgeous island that somehow wasn’t on my radar before a few weeks ago. “Grenada’s given me a new lease on exotic Caribbean travel,” is the standard line I give these days to nearly everyone I meet.
So much fresh food grows in Grenada’s fertile valleys that it’s impossible not to eat well here. Visit markets in and around St. George’s for locally grown passion fruit, mango and the island’s famous spices. And check out these restaurants for fabulous post-dive feasts:
Patrick’s Homestyle Cooking: The 20-dish (!) tasting menu includes Grenadian specialties like callaloo soup and cod fritters. Wash it down with the divine ginger beer.
The Dodgy Dock: Snag a seat by the sea at this excellent seafood restaurant where local seafood (snapper, hog fish, etc.) is always on the menu.
La Belle Creole: Finish an upscale meal at this romantic patio restaurant with tasty ice cream flavored with local soursop and nutmeg.
Belmont Estate: Much of the food at the restaurant of this colonial-era cocoa and spice plantation is grown onsite. The buffet lunch is a winner.