When mankind began to push across the Atlantic from the Old World to the New World, Bermuda rose up from the sea like a heavenly vision for water-weary sailors. But like most heavenly visions, you have a threshold to pass through for the price of admission. Access to Bermuda comes via a garland of ship-eating reefs. None of the reefs peek through the surface. Instead they lie in wait, just below the surface like jaws of a beast ready to spring on the unwary, unobservant or unlucky. And during more than 400 seagoing years, the reefs have not gone hungry. Ships have succumbed to the reefs off all four quadrants of Bermuda, and for divers these waters are filled with masts, metal bulkheads and steamers, wooden keels, cannons and the whispered final stories that emanate from decks gone silent, wrapped in the gauze of the ocean. Hundreds of divable wrecks circle Bermuda. Treasures are still found among the folds of reef and between the ripples in the sand (remember, it's illegal to remove any artifacts from the seafloor or wreck).
Above water, like any heavenly realm, you'll find what has been called the world's most civilized nation. Here pink sands invite lonely footprints, gardens and yards are manicured and nature is controlled to the same extent that the sea can't be tamed, and the locals are well traveled and cultured. High tea still reigns as an essential afternoon ritual, and taverns still swell at night as social centers. As Mark Twain once remarked, "The deep peace and quiet of the country sink into one's body and bones, and give his conscience a rest and chloroform the legion of invisible small devils that are always trying to whitewash his hair."
DESTINATION PRIMER AVERAGE WATER TEMP: 80°F; 66°F in winter
WHAT TO WEAR: 3-7 mm fullsuit
AVERAGE VIZ: 50 feet summer; 100+ feet in winter
WHEN TO GO: April-October
WHAT TO EXPECT: Shipwrecks galore and swim-throughs
CURRENCY: Bermuda dollar, which is equal to the U.S. dollar
TAXES: 7.5 percent room tax; restaurants may add a service fee
ELECTRICITY: 110V, 60 cycle (U.S. compatible)
TIME ZONE: Atlantic Standard Time (EST plus one hour)
MUST KNOW AIRPORT/EXIT FEES: $35 departure tax (usually included in ticket price) KEY GIFT: Gosling's Black Seal rum DON'T FORGET: Dressy clothing THE VIBE: British genteel, including teatime TOPSIDE: Well-manicured and full of maritime history and culture
MUST DO Visit St. George's, the most historic settlement on the island. Enjoy world-class shopping and dining in Hamilton.
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