This is the Caribbean with an English twist. Tea time on Barbados is a serious daily event, but you don't have to enjoy a "cuppa" to take to the sea. You will, however, need to know how to pronounce the name of the island's signature dive, the wreck of an ex-Greek freighter, 110 meter/365 foot Stavronikita, although most divers simple call it the Stav. There's also the 50 meter/165-foot long Pamir and wrecks of the Berwyn, C-Trek, Fox and Eilon in Carlise Bay. The wrecks host everything from sea turtles to seahorses. Above the water, Barbados is well manicured and exudes a civilized, structured and laid back air. Cricket is wildly popular, as are sports in general and you'll find plenty of opportunities to kayak, hike, surf and fish. Nightlife is equally diverse, with live calypso and clubs, restaurants with a sophistical appeal and even dinner shows. And, don't forget to sample some of the local and famous rums, such as Mount Gay.
When to Go:
April through June generally has calm weather, while winter fronts are frequent in January through March. Summer months provide good diving conditions, although June through October is also hurricane season in the Caribbean, with the highest risk around September.
When to Get the Best Deals:
June to November
What to Pack:
Pack a 3/2 mm wetsuit, sunscreen, insect repellant and light tropical clothing. However, some restaurants and bars don't allow shorts, so bring a nicer outfit or two. DAN card.
Seasonal averages: 25°C/78°F in winter and 28°C/84°F in summer
Seasonal averages: 23-29°C/75-85°F year-round.
Barbados Dollar. US dollar is widely accepted.
All visitors should have a valid passport and a valid return ticket.
A departure tax of $27.50 USD is included in the cost of your ticket.
None needed for travel to Barbados.
What to Eat:
There are lots of choices for cuisine on Barbados, but you can't miss local Bajan fare such as flying fish and cou cou, which is a polenta like side dish made typically from cornmeal or breadfruit. Fish cakes are popular, roast pork or black and white pudding and souse, conkies, macaroni pie and for dessert coconut bread.
What to Drink:
With Mount Gay as the local rum, most cocktails revolve around rum, although Banks, the local beer, is also quite popular. For thirst quenching, try mauby - a non-alcoholic beverage that comes from the bark of a local tree that has been sweetened, boiled and strained.
Hike the old Bridgetown train tracks, hook up with the National Trust for some off the beaten path choices, and don't miss the Mount Gay Rum Distillery for some free samples.
Customs and Culture:
Barbados culture takes its cure from British culture and is quite sophisticated and well-mannered. People dress up to go out (or at least tuck their shirt in) and enjoy afternoon tea, cricket and pulling pints during an afternoon at the local pub.
Cropover is the most popular festival, traditionally to celebrate the sugar cane harvest, but celebrations stretch from May to August.
Electricity and Internet:
Electricity is 110 volts/50 cycles. Internet is widely available.
Drink the water?
Water is safe to drink straight from the tap.
English is the national language and the natives use a Bajan style dialect.
Amazing Marine Life
These large, lazy-moving fish with their characteristically down turned mouths come in many colors, and add interest to many reef dives. Also a much-enjoyed meal, any web search of this fish is as likely to turn up as many recipes as reef photos.
Torpedo-shaped and metallic, this small squid can change color in an instant, and may be difficult to spot.
A big fish with a little mouth, this teardrop-shaped fish can grow up to 60 centimeters/two feet in length, but he's a nibbler.
True to its name, the tube sponge spouts clusters of tubes in vivid colors.
These predatory pelagic fish are often seen on the reefs. They can swim at incredible speeds and can grow up to 2 meters/six feet in length, but even a small one can earn a diver's respect with a flash of its jaw full of razor-sharp teeth.
A smaller relative of the manta (and the shark), these rays often hang out on sandy bottoms, but can also be seen swimming around the reefs. Keep your distance from its venomous barbed tail.
Most often found in holes, caves, and wrecks, moray eels sometimes venture out so divers can see their entire snakelike length.
These brilliantly colored fish do, indeed, possess remarkably parrot like beaks that they use to grind coral structures so they can eat the soft coral animals inside.
Take a close look under ledges and around reef structures for nurse sharks, which tend to loaf around the reefs.
Top Dive Spots
This sunken freighter, now part of the Folke stone Underwater Park, hosts huge tube sponges and rope sponges in yellows, pinks, and purples, and teems with barracuda, morays, and smaller reef fish.
Carlisle Bay Marine Park:
Boasting six coral-crusted wrecks in a relatively small area, this park boasts a wide variety of marine life, including frog fish, seahorses, rays, barracudas, octopus, reef squid, mackerel, and moray eels. Divers will also encounter cannons, anchors, and other remnants of shipping history.
Friar's Craig & Asta Reef:
Another artificial reef on a wreck, this dive includes a drop-off to 24 meters/80 feet, allowing for a drift dive along the wall. Look for corals and sea fans, angel fish, stingrays, and barracuda.
Drift dive along a wall that plunges to 40 meters/130 feet. Watch for pelagic fish as well as small crustaceans and invertebrates among the coral formations of the wall.
This shallow barrier reef is still a hunting ground for antique bottles and cannon balls, with small colorful reef fish flitting among the corals.
This site near Drift Hall is renowned for macro photography, and also noted for large numbers of barracuda.
Turtles and eagle rays, as well as smaller swimmers, tend to congregate near this drift dive just off Sandy Beach.
This shallow reef off Rockley Beach is best known for its large schools of Bermuda Chubs.
Formerly an anchorage for wooden sailing vessels, the bottom is littered with eighteenth- and nineteenth-century glass bottles, which divers can keep.
A very popular site for its beautiful corals, its barracuda, bar jacks, yellowtails and turtles. The reef itself stretches eight kilometers/five miles, from Bridgetown to Holetown, offering opportunities for a multi-dive day at a single site.
A great location for macro photography, abundant with soft corals, barrel sponges, tube sponges, and a large variety of schooling tropical fish, barracudas, turtles, and parrot fish.