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Best Scuba Diving in Jamaica

Caribbean scuba diving
Credit: Wikimedia
Even among the most exciting activities to enjoy in Jamaica, one of the most unforgettable experiences to enjoy in the sunny isle is scuba diving.

From exquisite arrays of marine life to the intriguing mysteries of the deep seas, excellent scuba diving experiences in Jamaica may be experienced at some of the following top sites.

1. The Throne Room, Negril

A definite vacation hotspot, Negril is flocked by sun-worshippers year round. From beautiful, azure beaches to excellent nightlife, this strip on the north coast boasts much to offer.

However, not many know that Negril possesses some of the best dive sites in Jamaica and by extension the entire Caribbean.

The Throne Room is one of the most popular sites. Divers will find deep dive drop-offs, wall dives and various types wrecks. The site features an approximately 8-foot-wide, 25-foot-long crack in the sea floor which creates a 40-foot-wide cave-like structure levelling at about 65 feet.

Once in the cave, the diver will find several types of marine life including corals, shrimp, eels, octopus, turtles, barracuda and nurse sharks.

There are yellow, tube and elephant sponges as well. Sea turtles and dolphins lurk by. There are also stingrays within the vicinity. While dive guides have managed to tame many of these creatures, personal vigilance is of course essential.

Other diving sites in Negril include Ballard's Reef, Blood Bay-Inner, Blue Castle Shipwreck, Bond Wreck, Booby Cay Island, Deep Plane-Bloody Bay Outer and Frenchman Hole.

2. Basket Reef, Montego Bay

Close by in Montego Bay, Basket Reef offers excellent wall diving sites teeming with a profusion of sponges roving about, creating a rainbow array of colors.

In fact, Basket Reef is named for the giant basket sponges that are found within the vicinity.

While the sponges mostly excite snorkelers, deeper below the waters, divers will find sea fans, black durgeons, parrot fish, rock beauties, creole wrasse and several types of coral. A few sea turtles and dolphin pop by every now and then.

Other diving sites in Montego Bay include Airport Reef, Airport Wall, Arena, Basket Reef, Cayman Trench Wall, Chubb Reef, Classroom, Cullins Cut, Dolphin Reef, Golden Fleece, Garden Of Eels, Half Moon Reef and Irie Reef.

3. Devil's Reef, Ocho Rios

Remaining on the north coast, the resort town of Ocho Rios is next up. Devil's Reef teems with scorpion fish, lettuce sea slugs and staghorn corals.

Structures below the water include a small maze of tunnels and caverns housing nuyrse sharks, black-ball sponges, barracuda, wrasse, spadefish and snapper and sea turtles.

All this is located at a drop-off of approximately 65 feet at the upper reaches off the gentle ridge that quickly drops off to a lower level of 130 feet depth.

As such, the area is separated onto the gentle slopes down to 65 feet, suitable for lesser experienced drivers, and the lower end at 130 feet, suitable for advanced divers.

Other sites in Port Royal include Dickie's Reef, Fish Feed, Ganja Planes, Jacks Hall, Nursery and Shipwreck.

4. Port Royal, Kingston

The famed city of pirates, Port Royal is all about the musses of 17 century Jamaica including rum, treasure and buccaneers.

Today, half of the city sits below the Caribbean sea as a result of an earthquake in 1692, provoding an amazing site for divers to explore. In fact, locals claim that if divers search hard enough, they may still find gems and trinkets from the pirates' plumage.

Weather that is true or not, the underwaters definitely includes various olden day structures, shiprecks and marinelife. All this lies at about 50 feet below sea level, with an outer reef drop-off of about 80 feet. Popular sites include the "Kim & Trader" lumber ship wreck and the pirate city sunken wall.

The caveat is the fact that individuals wishing to go diving at the sunken city will need to obtain special permission from Jamaican authorities as there are specific rules and regulations regarding diving in the area. Information may be obtained from local tour operators.

5. Trident Wall, Port Antonio

Along the western end of Jamaica, Tident Wall offers the major feature of a reef close to shore.

As such, it's a rather popular site for snorkeling. It was included here as it's particularly suited to inexperienced divers due to the relative lesser strong currents.

The Trident wall is named as such since it starts at 60 feet and plunges into a wall of more than 120 feet in depth. The Trident wall itself is about 250 feet long leveling out at various reef pockets along the entire span.

The wall has an abundance of barrel sponges, vase, snapper, smaller fish and black coral. It also offers great visibility, which again is a wonderful aid for lesser experienced divers.

Other diving sites in Port Antonia include Alligator West, Alligator Head, Alligator Deep, Alligator long, Courtney's Reef, Fisherman's Reef, Bluehole and Dragon's Mouth.

While diving is almost always an amazing adventure, exploring depth below water requires skill and experience. As such, safety is critically important. Diving with a dive guide as well as enquiring about currents and peculiarities of the area are important factors in ensuing safety and an exhilarating time.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

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February 17, 2020
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