Diving and Snorkeling in St. Eustatius

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Diving and Snorkeling

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Forget about glitz and nightlife. Statia is the quintessential low-key island. Finding an elusive iguana delicatissima on the Quill is probably the most exciting thing you can do on land. Statia's real thrills are underwater.

Long ago the ocean reclaimed the original seawall built by the Dutch in the 1700s. The sunken walls, remnants of old buildings, cannons, and anchors are now part of an extensive reef system populated by reef fingers, juvenile fish, and other sea creatures.

Statia has more than 30 dive sites protected by the Statia Marine Park. The park office is on Bay Road in Lower Town. Barracuda swim around colorful coral walls at Barracuda Reef, off the island's southwest coast. At Double Wreck, just offshore from Lower Town, you can find two tall-masted ships that date from the 1700s. The coral has taken on the shape of these two disintegrated vessels, and the site attracts spiny lobsters, stingrays, moray eels, and large schools of fish. About 100 yards west of Double Wreck is the Japanese ship Cheng Tong, which was sunk in 2004. Off the south end of the island, the sinking of the Charles L. Brown, a 1957 cable-laying vessel that was once owned by AT&T, created another artificial reef when it was sunk in a 135-foot underwater crater. Off the island's western shore, Stenapa Reef is an artificial reef created from the wrecks of barges, a harbor boat, and other ship parts. Large grouper and turtles are among the marine life you can spot here. For snorkelers, Crooks Castle has several stands of pillar coral, giant yellow sea fans, and sea whips just southwest of Lower Town.

There are dive shops along Bay Road in Lower Town that rent all types of gear (including snorkeling gear for about $14 a day), offer certification courses, and organize dive trips. One-tank dives start at $49; two-tank dives are about $98.

Dive Statia/Scubaqua. This fully equipped dive shop in a remodeled warehouse features PADI and CMS cerification plus Nitrox diving and underwater photography courses. DVPs (diver propulsion vehicles) are available for diving or snorkeling. Dive courses are offered in several different various languages. Bay Rd., Lower Town, Oranjestad. 599/318–5450 or 599/587–5481. www.scubaqua.com.

Golden Rock Dive Center. Operated by Glenn and Michele Faires, Golden Rock Dive Center has PADI's Gold Palm designation. In addition to certification courses, the shop offers a National Geographic program that emphasizes conservation. Gallows Bay, Lower Town, Oranjestad. 599/318–2964. www.goldenrockdive.com.

Statia National Parks. Both the Saba Marine Park and Quill/Boven National Park (STENAPA) are under the supervision of Statia National Parks. The marine tag fee, which all divers must buy, is used to help offset the costs of preserving the coral and other sea life here; the cost is $4 per day or $30 annually. There are two decompression chambers on the island. Headquarters, Gallows Bay, Lower Town, Oranjestad. 599/318–2884. www.statiapark.org.

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