Jamaica boasts some of the most incredible beaches. But although we are islanders, many of us are landlubbers, not too curious about what’s under the surface. Well, we are tempted to say that sea and sand can hardly match what’s underwater.
That’s why hardy souls choose to scuba dive. It is perhaps the best way to see the wonders under the sea. These treasures, ranging from shipwrecks to coral reefs, are what pull scuba divers to the silence and beauty of the aquatic world.
So how do you learn to take that plunge. That’s easy! If you’re not already PADI certified, Jamaica has diving schools across the island that can advance your training from a pool or the shallows out into the open water in a matter of hours. Your best bet for diving schools are: Port Royal (near Kingston) – Yardie Divers; Port Antonio – Lady G’Diver; Ocho Rios – Garfield Diving; Montego Bay – Dressel Divers; Oracabessa Dive Shop in Discovery Bay and Negril – Adventure Divers. Once you get your certification, you can scuba dive almost anywhere in the world.
Jamaica has a wide choice of diving spots, most just a few minutes from the shore. And because the Caribbean Sea is usually calm, it is often possible to dive all year round, depending on the weather, of course.
What you are likely to see on your dive depends on where you are in Jamaica. For those going out on boats, Port Royal boasts a variety of wrecks (some creepier than others) of ships that never made it to port. You’ll see the boats railings turned into coral homes, and spot barracudas as you try to peep into the shipwreck.
Off the coast of Negril, the popular Throne Room dive will take you to a cavern covered in marine sponges. You may be lucky enough to see stingrays, eels, octopus, elephant ear sponges, barracudas, snappers and even the docile nurse shark. Another popular spot in Negril is the Arches and the Caves.
Off Montego Bay, there is a popular spot for divers to see a plane that crashed some years ago. The more experienced ones are able to enter the plane at different points and see how marine life have made the wreck their home. Other spots include Surprise Reef, Shark’s Reef and Stingray City. The Secrets reef and nearby locations that host coral nurseries are turning out to be popular attractions due to the hard work of Montego Bay Marine Park.
Oracabessa dive shop is a relatively new venture in the Marine Protected Area (MPA) of Discovery Bay. It is the first social enterprise dive shop in Jamaica where profits go to coral reef restoration works.
There are also some incredible dives accessible from the beach, especially Bluefields Beach, Doctor’s Cave Beach, Lime Cay or Montego Beach.
If you’re not so keen on plunging into the depths on a scuba dive, snorkeling is a great alternative. With Jamaica’s clear waters, you can still get a glimpse of the treasures below near to the shore. There are also boat trips you can take from Negril and Montego Bay to snorkel in open water and get a chance to see even more marine life, from turtles to stingrays.