The trade winds are whispering, telling me the story of a secret place - a place undiscovered by divers, a whimsical, musical, mythical place devoid of mainstream tourism. That place is St. Vincent and the Grenadines, an undiscovered paradise nestled in the Windward Islands of the Caribbean.
Few visitors have passed beyond the idyllic beaches and into the waters of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. But those who do so will discover a marine ecosystem overflowing with colorful and unusual marine life.
The contrast between the islands of St. Vincent and those of the Grenadines is dramatic.
St. Vincent is an island of striking elevations, rain forest, waterfalls and secret pools. The Grenadines are composed mostly of low-lying desert islands ringed by some of the world's most scenic and secluded sand beaches. The rich waters that bathe the lava rock headlands of St. Vincent's coastline are a deep blue-green, while the shoal waters of the Grenadines take on all imaginable shades of a luminous and exciting blue.
With so much contrasting natural beauty above the water, it's not surprising that there exists an incredible contrast beneath the waves of St. Vincent and the nearby Grenadines, which are just 20 nautical miles to the south.
The submerged lava rock ledges of St. Vincent are covered by light pink encrusting coralline algae and small stony corals. The sandy areas between the fringing reefs are composed of a salt-and-pepper mix of volcanic and crushed coral sand. Gorgonian sea rods and plumes form lush, soft coral forests that sway back and forth in the gentle swell. Squadrons of reef squid at least 20-strong patrol these shallows and allow your close inspection. Lava ledges support tall pillar coral formations resembling Disneyland castles. Under the ledges, big-eyed soldierfish form tight skittish schools.
St. Vincent is situated in the confluence of several oceanic currents that keep countless chromis up in the water column dancing and feeding. Sites like Han's Reef are so inundated by small fishes that my buddy, swimming just above the reef, became totally obscured.
The drop-offs of St. Vincent are typically sheer, though not bottomless. These vertical ledges are adorned with lush pink gorgonian fans. The wall at New Guinea Reef dropped straight down to 120 feet, where I found a collection of black coral trees comparable in size and splendor to any I have seen in the world.
Our guide, Bill Tewes, who owns Dive St. Vincent, pointed out five different frogfish at a site called Orca Point. The following day on a different site he showed me five sea horses - more than most people see in a lifetime.
St. Vincent is without a doubt a critter paradise. But what of her Grenadines just to the south?
We sailed down to the Tobago Cayes of the Grenadines,each day filled with exhilarating sailing before rafting up to explore local snorkeling and finally the local watering holes of islands such as Mustique and Bequia.
Our first dive in the Tobago Cayes was at Mayreau Gardens. Our dive guide, Glenroy Adams of Grenadines Dive, explained that the health of these reefs was due to strong currents that often flow through here. As such we would be doing a drift dive.
I soon found myself submerged on a lush coral garden that gently sloped downward from 30 feet to 60 feet. The seabed was covered with large, hard corals, bright azure vase and orange elephant ear sponges. Sunlight danced over the white sand patches between coral heads, purple sea fans and golden sea plumes. In the shallows, my buddy was swarmed by creole wrasses while I spent time gazing at a black spotted grouper, a big southern stingray and a blacktip reef shark.
Our next dive was on the wreck of the Purini, a 150-foot vessel that went down in 1918. Sitting in 20 to 40 feet of water, the wreck acted as a magnet for reef fishes. Its boiler, bow and large props were the photogenic home to snappers, squirrelfish, angelfish and grunts. We poked around and enjoyed the abundant sea life until it was time to surface.
As we headed north to St. Vincent, I reflected on how different from St. Vincent and yet how beautiful these Grenadines were, each a completely different destination with separate yet related underwater world of wonder.
Those trade winds soon snapped the mainsail full and commenced to whisper into my subconscious ear, ''You'll sail back here to dive again one day soon.''