Scuba Diving in Bermuda
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Bermuda has all the ingredients for classic scuba diving—reefs, wrecks, underwater caves, a variety of coral and marine life, and clear, warm water. Although you can dive year-round (you will have to bring your own gear in winter, when dive shops are closed), the best months are May through October, when the water is calmest and warmest. No prior certification is necessary. Novices can learn the basics and dive in water up to 25 feet deep on the same day. Three-hour resort courses (about $175) teach the basics in a pool, on the beach, or off a dive boat, and culminate in a reef or wreck dive.
The easiest day trips involve exploring the south-shore reefs that lie inshore. These reefs may be the most dramatic in Bermuda. The ocean-side drop-off exceeds 60 feet in some places, and the coral is so honeycombed with caves, ledges, and holes that opportunities for discovery are pretty much infinite. Despite concerns about dying coral and dwindling fish populations, most of Bermuda's reefs are still in good health. No one eager to swim with multicolor schools of fish or the occasional barracuda will be disappointed. In the interest of preservation, the removal of coral is illegal and subject to hefty fines.
Dive shops around Bermuda prominently display a map of the outlying reef system and its wreck sites. Only 38 of the wrecks from the past three centuries are marked. They're the larger wrecks that are still in good condition. The nautical carnage includes some 300 wreck sites—an astonishing number—many of which are well preserved. As a general rule, the more recent the wreck or the more deeply submerged it is, the better its condition. Most of the well-preserved wrecks are to the north and east, and dive depths range between 25 feet and 80 feet. Several wrecks off the western end of the island are in relatively shallow water, 30 feet or less, making them accessible to novice divers and even snorkelers.
Blue Water Divers and Watersports. The major operator for wrecks on the western side of the island, Blue Water Divers offers lessons, tours, and rentals. The lesson-and-dive package for first-time divers, including equipment, costs $135 for one tank or $185 for two tanks. From the Elbow Beach Hotel location, you can ride a diver-propulsion vehicle (DPV), which is like an underwater scooter, past a wreck and through caves and canyons. A one-tank dive for experienced divers costs $80, and a two-tank dive is $120. With two tanks—the more commonly offered package—you can explore two or more wrecks in one four-hour outing. For all necessary equipment—mask, fins, snorkel, scuba apparatus, and wet suit (if needed)— it's $15 a piece. This operator is not to be confused with Dive Bermuda, despite the Web address. Kayaks are also on offer from $40 an hour and snorkel gear is $20 an hour or $40 for 24 hours. Elbow Beach Hotel, 60 S. Shore Rd., Paget Parish, PG04. 441/232-2909. www.divebermuda.com. Robinson's Marina, Somerset Bridge, Sandys Parish, MA02. 441/234-1034.
Dive Bermuda. This is an environmentally-friendly dive shop as instructors go out of their way to protect Bermuda's reefs and fish. Dive Bermuda has been awarded National Geographic Dive Centre status and is the only center on the island to offer courses sanctioned by the world-renowned environmental organization. It has also received an environmental excellence award from PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors). For $200 you can opt for a Discover Scuba Diving course, which includes a lesson, dive and equipment. For experienced divers, a single-tank dive costs $135 and a double-tank dive costs $195. Group rates and multiple dives cost less. Fairmont Southampton Resort, 101 S. Shore Rd., Southampton, SN02. 441/238-2332. www.bermudascuba.com.
Triangle Diving. For East End diving among wrecks and coral reefs, head for this outfitter at the Grotto Bay Beach Resort. A range of dive tours is offered, as well as PADI certification courses for $650. Friendly staff who really know their stuff and who never get tired of sharing their vast knowledge of Bermuda's wrecks make diving with this company all the more fun. The location also offers great access to one of Bermuda's most beautiful reefs at North Rock. Triangle is the only dive center on the island that offers enriched-air, or nitrox, diving. A Discover Scuba course for beginners, including lesson and dive, costs $160, while one-tank dives are $85 and two-tank dives are $120. Grotto Bay Beach Resort, 11 Blue Hole Hill, Bailey's Bay, Hamilton Parish, CR04. 441/293-7319. www.trianglediving.com.
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