This island nation has been described as a kite and its tail, with the kite being St. Vincent and the smaller Grenadines as the long tail that flutters underneath it. With such an expanse of the Caribbean off its shores, divers can expect a wide swath of undersea experiences. This starts with St. Vincent that has become a showcase for the weird, strange, rare, and macro critters that most divers have probably passed hundreds of times and never known what wonderful creatures were eluding them. Most of the dives off St. Vincent involve guides with eyes fine-tuned to the environment of the tiny, and your best tool is a magnifying glass. Just south of St. Vincent, off Bequia your view will skew on the larger scale, especially at such thrilling dives as The Bullet, a current dive past a pinnacle. Farther down the Grenadines, Union Island, Mayreaux, Petit St. Vincent. Palm and Tobago Cays offer a nice mix of healthy Caribbean reef diving with lots of opportunities to see rare marine life like snake eels and bulls-eye lobster. Topside, St. Vincent is almost primal with waterfalls, mist shrouded valleys, and black sand beaches. During the winter months, the Grenadines are a sailor's paradise, offering hundreds of secluded anchorages and plenty of wind.
When to go:
St. Vincent is diver-friendly year-round
When to Get the Best Deals:
August to October.
What to Pack:
A 3/2 mm wetsuit, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, sturdy hiking shoes that can get wet for waterfall and rainforest hikes, light, summer clothing, and a light jacket for winter nights; DAN card.
Seasonal averages: 26°C/79°F in winter and 28°C/84°F in summer.
Seasonal averages: 25°C/78°F in winter (cooler at altitude) and 30°C/88°F in summer.
Eastern Caribbean Dollar (XCD). Credit cards are widely accepted.
Valid passport; check with local immigration office for visa requirements.
No immunizations required.
What to Eat:
Fish and seafood are bountiful in the islands and the catch-of-the-day was likely swimming in the sea just hours before it's served in a restaurant. Most fish is either baked, fried, simply spiced or fiery hot with a side of pilau (rice and beans). Be sure to sample jackfish and breadfruit, a famous local dish.
What to Drink:
The best places to drink are the roadside rum shacks with the locals. The best-known commercial rum is Sunset Very Strong Rum - and it is at nearly 85 percent alcohol. Hairoun is the local brewer that makes beer as well as many other drinks and mixers.
Hiking the 1,200-meter/4,000-foot volcano, La Soufreire; touring the waterfalls of the Bonhomme Mountain; Trinity Falls; Vermont nature trail; Fort Charlotte; Montreal Gardens.
Customs and Culture:
People are fun-loving and easy-going people, and have an informal and relaxed lifestyle.
Vincy Mas from May through June; Breadfruit Festival in August; Nine Mornings Festival in December.
Electricity and Internet:
The supply voltage runs at 220 Volts and 50 Hz except in Petit St. Vincent where it is 110 volts and 60 Hz. There is good internet on the islands.
Drink the water?
Bottled water is recommended.
English is the official language, but French-Creole is widely spoken.
Amazing Marine Life
With their curling tails and iconic chess-piece profiles, several species of shy seahorses can be spotted by the watchful diver.
Definitely a destination tailor-made for macro divers, with a host of rare invertebrates from boxer crabs to rare shrimp to bulls-eye lobster and gaudy clown crab.
Hawksbill and green turtles can be found swimming in leisurely fashion or napping under ledges on many reefs.
Feather Duster Worms:
Waving spiraled fronts shaped (as their name implies) like feather dusters, these coral-relatives add color and movement to the reef.
Most often found in holes, caves, and wrecks, almost every species of Caribbean eel inhabits these reefs.
This highly decorative anglerfish can be found in a variety of vivid shades, from oranges to pinks, and boast frilly bait-like appendages with which to lure prey.
Blue Throat Pikeblenny:
A great find, especially when two males face off with their mouths agape and big dorsal fin up to impress.
These bright red fish with very large black eyes hide under ledges and in holes during the day.
Atlantic Long Arm Octopus:
Not seen in many other Caribbean destinations the Atlantic long arm octopus can be seen at several dive sites in St. Vincent.
Better than a morning cup of coffee if you get on their bad side, these wonderfully patterned rays make for a unique discovery.
Top Dive Spots
The Bat Cave:
A unique dive experience, this site combines underwater sights with a surface trip to a bat-filled cavern. Divers enter the cave through an underwater passage. Look for lettuce leaf slugs and schools of soldierfish in the underwater grotto. This dive should not be attempted in surge conditions.
This note-worthy night dive is a favorite of macro photographers. Enjoy the invertebrate marine life among the boulders, and keep an eye out for frogfish.
A trio of wrecks at this site includes a 18th century frigate (complete with cannon) and a more recent ship and tugboat that sank here after colliding with each other. Due to the depth (18-36 meters/60-120 feet), this dive is recommended only for experienced divers.
Named for the bonsai-like structures of coral outcrops, sea fans, and sea fronds, this site teems with reef fish.
Although St. Vincent does not experience regular currents along the leeward coast, occasional oceanic currents make this a spectacular drift dive when the conditions are right.
This vertical wall plummets to more than 45 meters/150 feet, and the startlingly clear visibility makes it possible to see its entire scope. Reef fish abound here.
New Guinea Reef:
Named for its resemblance to the multi-colored and strange-critter filled reefs in New Guinea, this is a St. Vincent icon.
Named for an 18th-century anchor at the site, this reef slopes down to 36 meters/120 feet and includes mazes of boulders, caves, and swim-throughs. Look for black corals, seahorses, blackbar soldierfish, rope sponges, corals, eels, frogfish, pistol shrimp, octopus, box crabs, squid, and feather duster worms.
Sea fronds and sea fans festoon the shallow areas of this site, which drops down to over 30 meters/100 feet with a sheer wall.
Hot water (warmed by geothermal activity) bubbles up through this site, where you can also enjoy huge sea fans and large pelagic fish.