Scuba Diving

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, and novices can expect to dive in water up to 25 feet deep after several hours of instruction. Many hotels, including Grotto Bay Beach Resort and Fairmont Southampton, offer discounted scuba rates or Dive and Stay packages that enable guests to learn 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. Be sure to bring an underwater camera as 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 includes equipment and one tank or two. Prices for dives include all necessary equipment. With two tanks—the more commonly offered package—you can explore two or more wrecks in one four-hour outing. Discounts are offered for dive packages that range from two to five days. This operator is not to be confused with Dive Bermuda, despite the Web address. Robinson's Marina, Somerset Bridge, Sandys Parish, MA02. 441/234–1034; From $90 for one tank, $130 for two tanks; $210 for lesson package.

Dive Bermuda. At this environmentally friendly dive shop, 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). A Discover Scuba Diving course includes a lesson, dive, and equipment. For experienced divers, there are single-tank and double-tank dives. Group rates and multiple dives cost less. Dive Bermuda has a second location at Grotto Bay Beach Resort in Hamilton Parish. Fairmont Southampton, 101 South Shore Rd., Southampton Parish, SN02. 441/238–2332; $195 for Discover Scuba course; $95 for single-tank dive, $150 for two-tank dive.