For our January, 2012 get away, we chose the island of Barbados. This member of the British Commonwealth gained its independence in 1966. Part of the Lesser Antilles, and northeast of Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados is a small island 20x14 miles. Since it is outside the principal hurricane belt, the weather in Barbados is reliably pleasant year round. During our stay there, we enjoyed sunny days, except for occasional sun showers, and temperatures around 82F.
We left Chicago, passed through Charlotte and finally landed at Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados, near the capitol city of Bridgetown. Our resort, Coconut Court was a short ride from the airport in Hastings. It is right on highway 7, a main artery through the island, making it simple to grab a bus or van ride to most anywhere you want to go for only $1 US. Our rooms at Coconut Court were spacious and clean, with a refrigerator, so travelers can keep drinks or snacks cold while they are out playing. Our package with the resort included a continental breakfast, but you also had the option to order off the menu or have breakfast at a restaurant nearby if you needed something more substantial. We ate at several local places, Mama Mia for pizza, Pun De Grill for barbeque, and Just Grillin’ for Barbados’ signature dish, flying fish, all great! Be aware, though, that things in Barbados are pretty expensive, so budget a little extra for meals.
While there, we dove with Barbados Blue. They had a large pontoon boat with plenty of room for gear and divers. They had a camera rinse tub on board, but given the number of photographers and the size of some of the set-ups, it was not really big enough. There was no pier, so we waded out to the boat and the crew steadied us as we boarded between the waves. Since we returned to the dive shop between each dive to return spent tanks and board additional divers, we necessarily visited only sites close to the dive shop. This was not a bad thing, however because the sites were all beautiful and full of life. We frequently spotted turtles, a variety of eels, rays, and octopus.
The Crew included, Daniel, Roger, Robert and “G”: all terrific guys who were very helpful to the members of the group who needed extra help with entries and exits due to bad knees or backs. Each dive was a relatively flat profile drift dive lasting 45-50 minutes. The dive leader towed a dive float so we were easily located from the boat and divers who needed to surface earlier could perform their safety stop while continuing to drift with the group. It also made it easier for the boat captain to see them when they surfaced. When the dive time was up, we ascended together, made our safety stop and proceeded to the surface. The boat came to pick us up and the able crew were there to help us doff our fins, hand up our cameras and get up the boat ladder in the waves.
One of the best dives was the Stavronikita, a 365ft Greek Freighter, situated a bit north of all the other sites we dove. This beauty reclines in 70-120ft. of water. It is encrusted with corals, fans, and sponges and is home to an exceptional variety of fishes and creatures. This is a site I would have been happy to explore several days in a row!
On the last day of diving, we decided to try another operation, Reefers and Wreckers, a bit farther north on the island. They had a fast but comparatively smaller boat onto which they crammed 14 divers. (I would guess that we were over the capacity for weight, if not passengers.) We dove Bright Ledge and the Cement Factory. Diving the pier outsides Barbados’ cement factory was recommended by a fellow I met in the airport. Since this site was only 34ft deep we could spend a leisurely hour exploring the pier, taking time to examine every nook and ledge for whatever was hiding there. We spotted large arrow crabs, seahorses, lobster, and drums. It was a great cap to a wonderful week of diving.
Overall, the visibility was 50-60ft.-not the best we’ve had in the Caribbean, but in any case, it is still better than what we usually have here in the Midwest! I’m not sure if this is how it always is or if this was a phenomenon associated with the weather or the season, but at least the water a consistent 82F and we were all comfy and cozy.
Since our flight was leaving later in the afternoon on Saturday, four of us decided to explore the island. We hired a local guide, DeHawk, for $37 each to show us around. We literally drove around the island, checking out various historical churches and catching the spectacular views at North Point and Bathsheba. We stopped at a little Bajan place called Sand Dunes for lunch. I couldn’t resist the “fried Mary-Bang” fish. When in the islands, eat like an islander!
At the end of our tour DeHawk dropped us at the airport and we were headed again for the deep freeze at home, but we have our photos and memories to keep us warm.
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