Shipwreck diving adds an extra element of intrigue, history, and discovery to scuba diving and snorkeling.
Each wreck has its own story to tell. While some ships are the wreckage of catastrophes at sea, others were intentionally sunk in order to create artificial “reefs” that attract some of the Caribbean’s most interesting sea life. Here are 12 top Caribbean shipwrecks ripe for exploring–just make sure you’re PADI-certified first.
Large grouper, anemones, Blackbar Soldierfish, and schooling barracuda are frequent visitors to the 200-foot Superior Producer. The shipwreck sits upright on the sandy floor 100 feet deep, and you can visit the wheelhouse at 80 feet and explore a few open cargo holds. As you enter and exit the wreck, you may catch glimpses of the yellow and purple tube sponges that sprouted from the boom and hang over the rail.
The largest shipwreck in the Caribbean sits at 400 feet long. The Antilla was a German supply ship scuttled (abandoned) by its German captain at the outbreak of World War II. The ship is known by local Arubans as the “ghost ship” and lays at a max depth of only 60 feet, popular for night diving as well as penetration diving through its large, open compartments. Because part of the ship breaks the surface, it is also a fantastic snorkeling spot.
The most famous wreck of Barbados is the SS Stravonikita, which originally carried cement from Ireland to Barbados and caught fire in 1976. Instead of turning the ship into scrap metal, she was intentionally sunk to become part of the Folkestone Underwater Park. Some of the common marine life seen around the wreck are a plethora of colorful tube and rope sponges as well as barracuda. The Stavronikita lies in 120 feet of water with the stern at 100 feet and the bow at 70 feet.
The 165-foot United States Navy buoy tender, the Hermes, was built in 1943 and met its fate by breaking down en route to Cape Verde. Since the ship’s crew abandoned her in Bermuda, she became an artificial reef in 1984. Divers can expect to see the wreck at 80 feet below the surface, and because of the excellent visibility, the Hermes is one of Bermuda’s favorite wrecks.
Barracuda, turtles, eagle rays, and cobia are known to frequent the 350-foot long MV Maverick which was intentionally sunk off Rocky Point in 1997. The intact, former Trinidad-Tobago car ferry originally known to take a 7-hour journey between Port of Spain and Scarborough. The wreck sits upright, with the top of the ship at 50 feet and the bottom at 100 feet.
WHERE: St. Croix
Butler Bay in St. Croix is home to several shipwrecks like the Rosa Maria, North Wind, Suffolk Maid, and Coakley Bay, and even a few abandoned cars. However, at 300 feet long, the Virgin Islander is the largest of the wrecks. The large trawler ran aground and sank during a hurricane in 1991. Some of the colorful visitors you may encounter while diving here include seafans, schools of snapper, and tubeworms.
MV Bianca C
The MV Bianca is known as the “Titanic of the Caribbean.” The massive ship caught fire in 1961 and sunk to a depth of 165 feet. Although the top of the wreck is at about 75 feet, the main deck sits between 90-125 feet, making the MV Bianca a more advanced dive. The partially intact wreck is encrusted with sponges and corals and visited by schools of jack, barracuda, and spotted eagle rays.
WHERE: Grand Cayman
USS Kittiwake was a United States Navy Chanticleer-class submarine rescue vessel in commission from 1946 to 1994. The ship was purposefully sunk to create an artificial reef and found its home on the sandy floor 55 feet under the water. Experienced divers can explore its interior rooms, while new divers and snorkelers can explore the exterior while looking out for horse-eye jacks and large silvery tarpon.
Vulcan Bomber and Tears of Allah
The Vulcan Bomber is a shipwreck purposefully sunk along with the Tears of Allah and are collectively called the “James Bond Wrecks.” Sunk for the movies Thunderball and Never Say Never Again, these wrecks offer a chance to dive in the path of 007 while seeing local marine life like fire coral, barracuda, and seafans.
RMS Wreck of the Rhone
WHERE: British Virgin Islands
At least two dives are needed to cover both the bow and the stern sections of the Rhone. The entire bow section, including the sharp prow, mast, and lifeboat davits, can be seen from the surface. Some of the aquatic visitors include large schools of sennet, barracuda, Orange Cup Corals, and a school of grunts. Scenes from the movie The Deep were filmed here.