Tobago is one of the best scuba-diving spots in the southeastern Caribbean, yet it has relatively few divers visiting its dazzling coral reefs, volcanic formations and marine wrecks. The island is internationally recognized for the exciting and challenging drift dives caused by the Guyana current, which results from the confluence of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The seas around Tobago are home to 300 species of South Atlantic coral and a variety of spectacular multicoloured fish, not to mention larger species such as stingrays, manta rays, sharks, dolphins, turtles and squid. Rarer species such as toadfish and shortnose batfish are also occasionally spotted. Adding a touch of history to underwater encounters are the sunken ships that litter the sea floor.
There are many dive shops in Crown Point thanks to the sheer volume of visitors in the southwest, but Speyside is the island’s premier diving destination, with a variety of spectacular sites surrounding the offshore islands: Goat Island is popular for drift dives; St Giles for its rocky pinnacles and underwater canyon; and there’s a reasonable chance of seeing manta rays on dives around Little Tobago. Popular dive sites in the area include London Bridge, Bookends, Angel Reef, The Cathedral and Kelliston Drain – the site of the single largest brain coral in the Caribbean, and possibly the largest in the world. For more advanced divers, Sisters Rocks, offshore of Bloody Bay – with the sea shelf falling to 667m – is especially popular for larger species of fish including hammerhead sharks.
Tobago’s diving industry was only established in the 1980s but since then scuba-diving operations have multiplied with many hotels, beaches and guesthouses sporting their own centres. Prices vary slightly between operators; in general one to three dives cost about US$50 each, half-day resort courses US$65, five-day PADI open water certification courses US$480 and advanced open water from US$385. When deciding who to dive with it’s worth contacting the Association of Tobago Dive Operators (t 660 5445, w tobagoscubadiving.com); they can provide a list of certified scuba-diving operators. Always check for the prominent display of a dive affiliation, such as NAUI, PADI, SSI or BSAC. A good operator will always ask you to fill in paperwork and present a diving certification card. The rental equipment should be well rinsed; if you see sand or salt crystals this may indicate careless equipment care. Inspect all equipment thoroughly, check hoses for wear, see that mouthpieces are secure and ensure they give you a depth gauge and air-pressure gauge. Listen for air leaks when you gear up and smell the air, which should be odourless. If you smell oil or anything else, search for a different operator. In case of accidents, Tobago has a recompression chamber in Roxborough (t 660 4000).