Every now and then I'm truly surprised. There were about three islands in the Caribbean that I'd never visited as of about two weeks ago and, more importantly, never dived. Nestled in the middle of one of my favorite parts of the Lesser Antilles, the island of St. Kitts had somehow eluded my explorations. I'd dived nearby St. Eustatius, Saba, St. Martin and St. Barts. I'd even been to St. Barts' sister island of Nevis. So when I arrived on St. Kitts, I was pretty anxious to plant my face in the water and have a peek. I arranged to dive with a PADI shop, Dive St. Kitts, located at the Bird Rock Beach Hotel near the main town of Basseterre.
As it turned out, it became a "wrecksploration" day. We got to dive two of St. Kitts' signature wrecks and, as a wreck nut, I couldn't have been happier. The first was the Tug Boat, a fully intact 65-foot wreck sitting on a sandy bottom. It immediately opened my eyes to the St. Kitts diving experience. A hawksbill turtle circled the wreck for much of the dive, and the surface of the tug was so well covered with thick marine growth, I could've spent weeks on a critter treasure hunt. I spent most of my time at the screw, which glowed bright red and orange under the beam of my light. Nearby corkscrew anemones were crowded with Peterson shrimp; the nooks and crannies fairly rippled with movement. A night dive on this wreck is probably dizzying.
But the first was just an appetizer. For the second dive we went to the River Taw. Here the divemasters bring a little nibble for the fish, so bring a camera. But even without the fish feed, the wreck and the nearby area have lots to experience. The divemasters first took us to a nearby sunken minivan that was an entire universe of marine life (no soccer magnet on this one). Inside was a massive barracuda and a school of snapper. The engine had become home for a spotted moray, and the surrounding sand was crammed with jawfish, bobbing up and down in their holes. We followed an anchor chain back to the main wreck, which had been split in two by a hurricane, so penetration is strictly off limits. The wreck is thick with hydroids, purple tunicates and soft corals. Loads of invertebrates live their lives of predator and prey on this wreck, and I saw everything from scorpionfish to pufferfish to more hawksbill turtles, one being particularly harassed by remoras.
As the cliché goes, "good things are worth waiting for." But, really, I'd much rather have my cake and eat it, too. I didn't get to see enough of St. Kitts underwater, but it's definitely worth sweeping your camera a few hundred times around these wrecks. The sites are close to the shop, and dive boats are fast. The island of St. Kitts is fascinating with its mix of old sugar plantations, a UNESCO World Heritage fort (the must-see Fort Brimstone), rainforest (complete with vervet monkeys), Carib Indian petroglyphs and great local batik art to take home. It's old Caribbean above and below. Next time I'll stay wet longer and explore some of the reefs and more of these lush wrecks.
Check out www.divestkitts.com. Right now they're offering a Dive Training Passport with the Bird Rock Beach Hotel for only $679 per person, double occupancy.