Scuba Diving in St. Martin and St. Maarten
Diving in St. Maarten/St. Martin is mediocre at best, but those who want to dive will find a few positives. The water temperature here is rarely below 70°F (21°C). Visibility is often 60 to 100 feet. The island has more than 30 dive sites, from wrecks to rocky labyrinths. Right outside of Philipsburg, 55 feet under the water, is the HMS Proselyte, once explored by Jacques Cousteau. Although it sank in 1801, the boat's cannons and coral-encrusted anchors are still visible.
Off the north coast, in the protected and mostly current-free Grand Case Bay, is Creole Rock. The water here ranges in depth from 10 feet to 25 feet. Other sites off the north coast include Ilet Pinel, with its good shallow diving; Green Key, with its vibrant barrier reef; and Tintamarre, with its sheltered coves and geologic faults. On average, one-tank dives start at $55; two-tank dives are about $100. Certification courses start at about $400.
The Dutch side offers several full-service outfitters and SSI (Scuba Schools International) and/or PADI certification. There are no hyperbaric chambers on the island.
Dive Safaris. A shark-awareness dive occurs each Friday where participants can watch professional feeders give reef sharks a little nosh. The company also offers a full PADI training program and can tailor dive excursions and sophisticated instruction at any level. 16 Airport Blvd., Simpson Bay. 721/545–2401. www.divestmaarten.com.
Ocean Explorers Dive Shop. St. Maarten's oldest dive shop offers different types of certification courses. Serious divers like the 6-person maximum policy, but this means you should reserve in advance. 113 Welfare Rd., Simpson Bay. 721/544–5252. www.stmaartendiving.com.
Octopus. Take advantage of PADI diving certification courses and all-inclusive dive packages, as well as private and group snorkel trips starting at $40, including all necessary equipment. The well-stocked dive shop also services regulators. 15 bd. de Grand Case, Grand Case, 97150. 590/29–11–27. www.octopusdiving.com.
FlyBoard St. Maarten. In St. Martin, you can try out the latest trend in water sports: FlyBoarding. Water jets connect to a jet-ski turbine and allow you to fly above the waves to a height of up to 10 feet. For $150 you get 15 minutes of ground instruction on how to operate the FlyBoard® and approximately 30 minutes of flight time with a certified instructor. You must download and complete an online training program and sign a liability waiver beforehand. Front de Mer, Marigot. 690/76–22–32. www.flyboardstmaarten.com.
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