Scuba Diving Saint Barthélemy (St. Barts)
It is fully encircled by shallow reefs, which create a beautiful diving environment.
St. Barts (actually St. Barthelemy) is a volcanic rock island of just eight square miles . It is fully encircled by shallow reefs, which create a beautiful diving environment. It is home to a mix of iguanas, night-blooming cactus and fabulous beaches. Most of its citizens are descendants of the original French settlers and transplanted Europeans that first inhabited it. The language, cuisine, and culture, however, are distinctly French. This is an island with a strong, independent personality. Through the vagaries of its history it became a duty-free port and more recently liberated itself from the administrative yoke of Guadeloupe. It is certainly the most unusual of the French West Indies islands.
One of the best things about St. Barts is the quality and variety of the food. This is true not only in numerous local restaurants, but in many local homes and villas as well.
SCUBA DIVING ST. BARTS
Diving in St. Barts varies with a choice of 15 dive sites located 30 minutes from the main port of Gustavia. A variety of dive sites include coral reefs, slopes, peaks and shipwrecks. St. Bart and its surrounding islands located within a few minutes by boat, offer an exceptional variety of sites for diving. Whether you are a beginner or experienced diver, you can explore the underwater topography of immense beauty.
Natural Reserve of Saint Barthélemy: A marine reserve since 1996, the island offers more than 22 dive sites with ship wrecks, caves, corals, canyons, reefs and many other underwater adventures just a few minutes from the harbor in Gustavia. You can practice snorkeling and scuba diving in the Natural Reserve of St. Barthelemy. Many dive sites exist around the island, the majority is located within the Reserve.
St. Barts’ dive sites fall into two separate areas, with the majority of stores sharing one area and a store on the north east coast having its own discrete area. The main dive area extends from the main town of Gustavia, with several sites no more than 5 minutes from the entrance to Gustavia
Many sites have structures that divers can swim in and through, including some large caves. St. Barts has two wrecks, one of which is rarely dived by the operators but it is an easy dive to do independently.
Massive branch corals are in full healthy bloom, with multicolored coral fish everywhere. Each bay has a reef to be explored, each islet has its walls and caves. The most spectacular dives are around Pain de Sucre, an islet off Gustavia harbour, or around a small cape, l’Ane Rouge, off Colombier bay.
There is an extensive range of invertebrates on the dive sites, which is usually a good indication of a healthy well-balanced reef. Anemones, urchins, sea cucumbers, and eels are typically present on all sites. Lobsters while not totally protected are given a fighting chance to survive and you will see many while diving in St. Barts.
HIGHLIGHT DIVE SITES
Colombier – Ila de la pointe guest – Very pretty hard and soft corals with a good variety of reef fish and also a good chance of seeing turtles, rays, great barracuda, etc.
Lle force – Southwest tip – This is a magnificent mini wall with very pretty hard and soft corals with a good variety of reef fish and an excellent chance of seeing turtles, rays, great barracuda, etc. This is an advanced site and extra caution must be exercised. Current is likely due to its exposed position.
Wreck of the Nonstop – The 200ft Nonstop, which was a luxury motor yacht, sank during hurricane Hugo, during September 1989. After unsuccessful salvage attempts, Nonstop now lies upside down. Many varied hard and soft corals have taken hold on the steel hull and the wreck is teeming with a large variety of reef fish.
DIVE SEASON: You can dive the St, Bart’s all year long, but the tropical, rainy season runs from October to January. Hurricane season is June to the end of November.
VISIBILITY: Generally the viz runs 24-45 metres/80-150 feet. While the weather is consistently good year-round, during the rainy season (roughly October to January) visibility can dip below the usual 30-45 meters/100-150 feet.
WATER TEMPERATURE: Nice warm water, varying from – Jan. to March 26°C/78,8°F(Winter) and June to October 29°C/84.2°F (Summer)
CURRENTS: Mostly mild, but can vary by location
WEATHER: Warm tropical weather is the norm, with little change in temperature from winter to summer. Average annual temperature is 85° F/29.4° C. Humidity is usually high, especially from May to September.
SKILL LEVEL: Divers of all levels will find the St, Bart’s exciting.
DIVE ACCESS: Most of the diving is via boat. Although St. Bart’s also offers accessible shore diving to great coral reefs with little to no current.
MARINE LIFE: The heart of a reef consisting of caves, canyons, rock towers, tunnels and wrecks, reefs and lined with colorful sponges. There are not many large fish to be seen at the dive sites, but with the reefs left largely untouched by local fishermen (this is because of the local disease ciguatera and more recently because of the marine park) there are plenty of small fish to be seen. There is a wreck dive, the Kaïali.
Natural Reserve of Saint Barthélemy: Anyone who dives in the waters protected by the marine park is asked to contribute two euros per person per dive to the park. The Information Case on the Port of Gustavia open every morning from Monday to Saturday (8:30 to 12:30) to obtain the regulations, to learn about the dives and pay your fee.
CLIMATE: The climate in St. Barth is tropical and dry. The temperature is nearly constant at 28°C in winter, 30° in summer. The sea is at 26°C in winter and 30°C in summer.
Light, cotton clothing is the best choice. Bathing suits are restricted to the beaches, for women, the pareo is king.
LANGUAGE: We are in France here, so the official language is French. English is however, understood practically everywhere.
ELECTRICITY: Voltage in St Barths is 220 V – 60 Hz. Most of the hotels and villas are equipped with 220 – 110v transformers Attention! equipment in 50 Hz from Europe may not operate correctly.
CURRENCY & CREDIT CARDS: The legal currency is the Euro. Dollars however, are accepted everywhere. The exchange rate is subject to fluctuation, so it’s a good idea to check it before you leave. (1 € =+-1 $). Five banks and several ATM’s are at your disposal on the island.
GRATUITIES: Regarding tipping in St Barth, as in France service is included in the bill. However, it is appropriate to leave a pour boire, literally meaning “for a drink” which is a small tip to show appreciation to the wait staff for good service. Most would suggest between 5-10
PHONE & INTERNET SERVICE: Most villas now have WiFi so you will have access to the internet and email from your villa. Ask your rental agent or villa owner if the villa has internet access. The same goes for St Barts hotels. Almost every hotel maintains a WiFi account for guests, and offer the passwords on a temporary basis. For a Fee – St Barth Telecom, a local private company, has installed a “hotspot” covering Gustavia. You need to buy a connection card to surf without limit from Gustavia. Contact St Barth Telecom to find out how to get a card. If connections are very important this might be a good idea because internet access on the island has frequent interruptions so the card may work when regular service is down.
VISA & PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS: All citizens of the European Union must have a valid passport. All visitors must have a valid passport, and according to their country of origin, some visitors must also have a French visa that states COLLECTIVITE DE SAINT BARTHELEMY ET SAINT MARTIN “valid for France except CTOM” or “DFA” (French Departments in the Americas). All visas must be issued by the French Embassy before travel begins.
All American and Canadian citizens arriving in Saint Barth must have a valid passport, as well a round-trip ticket or proof of continuation of travel. A visa is not necessary if the intended stay on the island is inferior to, or equal to, 30 days.
However, the passport must be valid and not expire for at least six months from the date of entry to the territory of St Barthélemy.
CUSTOMS: Dogs are not allowed on island beaches. For hotels and other accommodations, please check in advance regarding their policies on pets.
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