This last April, Team Manta enjoyed a diving-packed week on the island of Grenada. Our group was comprised of several seasoned divers, some of whom were expanding their diving knowledge by taking some advanced courses, and two divers completing their open water certifications. Norwest of Trinidad and Tobago and northeast of Venezuela, Grenada is a sovereign state, 344km² with an estimated population of 110,000 people. For the week that we enjoyed her hospitality, it was paradise.
We flew to Grenada April 17, 201 from cold and rainy Chicago with one stop in San Juan, PR. Upon arrival at the Grenadian airport, we were greeted by a shuttle bus and taken to the resort, a short 5 minutes away. Once True Blue Bay’s cheerful staff helped us check in, we headed to our rooms. The spacious accommodations were adorned with flower petals. Ahh, the islands! It was past dark when we arrived and we were exhausted from our travels, so exploration was to wait until the morning. We would be up early, too, as breakfast started at 7 am and we were to be at the dive shop for briefing and orientation at 8am.
Sunday morning, I awoke excited to start our week of diving and of course beautiful, HOT weather. I was not disappointed. As Mike and I made our way to breakfast, we took in the beauty of the resort, with its bougainvillea plants, tropical flowers and nutmeg, enjoying the wonderful fragrance. Daily, breakfast omelets were prepared to order by the ever cheerful Beverly. Fruit, bagels, muffins, etc., were also available. The service everywhere on the island was much like what we experienced on Grand Turk; slow and not necessarily what you ordered.
After breakfast, it was time to meet the Aquanauts staff. We were first greeted by owners, Gerlinde and Peter Seupel, a friendly German couple who gave us a run down of the routine and handed out the various releases and forms they needed complete before any diving could happen. Our boat captain was Bruce, a native Grenadian, and our divemaster, Jane, was a British transplant. The boat was large enough to accommodate 20 divers, but in part due to the eruption in Iceland, we had it to ourselves. Nitrox, at an average of 30%, was unlimited for those in our group who were enriched air certified, leaving those not breathing regular air plenty of energy in the evening.
Since I had two divers doing their first open water certification dives, our first dive was a shallow reef called Molinere. It featured the underwater sculpture, Circle of Children by famed artist, Jason deCaires Taylor. The visibility on this dive, however, was very poor and so much of the charm of the sculpture was lost. Thankfully, we returned to the site later in the week and got a much better view of the sculptures.
The second day of diving was much better all around. We started our day off at Quarter Wreck, the stern section of a large cargo vessel. It is home to eels, goatfish and a host of the usual undersea denizens. After exploring the wreck, we drifted along to Grand Reef where we were welcomed by a large school of squid. We marveled at their colorful displays, and then drifted on to find a red seahorse, lobsters and lovely, healthy corals.
I was very impressed with the safety-consciousness of Aquanauts. Our divemaster, Jane, gave very thorough dive briefings, making use of very detailed site maps. In addition, instead of relying on the boat captain’s ability to track the divers’ bubbles, Jane lead the dives while carrying a dive float, making it very easy for Bruce to locate us. As they came close to the end of their air (or NDP time), buddy teams ascended next to the dive float line, completed their safety stop, and then proceeded to the surface, letting the rest of the group to continue drifting along the reef. Once the he saw that the dive flag was safely away from the surfaced divers, the boat pulled up and divers were helped out of the water. I was never concerned that we would be waiting an exorbitant length of time for the boat to locate us. Surface marker buoys were also available for any diver who didn’t have one.
It was great that all the dives were 40-60minutes long, air allowing, as there was so much to see at each site. One of the prettiest sites was called Purple Rain for the large groups of creole wrasses that shower the reef with color. One of Grenada’s “must dive” sites, the Bianca C, is a cruise ship, complete with top deck swimming pool, sunk in 90- 140ft of water. After some limited exploration of the Bianca C, we made our way over to Whibble’s Reef to a shallower depth and to extent our bottom time. We were lucky to dive this site twice, allowing our new diver and advanced open water student the opportunity to see it.
I particularly enjoyed the wreck Veronica. Resting upright at 467 ft., Veronica is a nearly complete cargo vessel (The bridge section is missing.) with the crane lying across her. We dropped down on this beauty and as if on cue, a large hawksbill turtle swam by for a photo op! The structures of the ship are encrusted with corals and sponges, making very interesting formations. The wreck was teeming with life when we done her during the day, so when I was told that would be our night dive destination, I knew it would be great. I was not disappointed. My dive buddy, a newly certified diver, got a chance to see many night shifters, such as beautiful basket stars, a clinging hairy crab and slipper lobsters. It was nice for him to have seen the cup corals with polyps retracted during the day and then again with them extended at night. When I see wrecks thusly adorned, I cannot help but to think of Rose Bowl Parade floats.
If you like sharks, then Lighthouse will be your favorite. We found four nurse sharks cozily tucked beneath on ledge, and despite all of our gaping, picture taking and bubble blowing, they remained undisturbed. We also saw a most majestic southern ray cruising over the reef. Most of the divesites had a gentle current that made it easy to stop and take a picture or simply get a better view of a creature.
Since we couldn’t dive Friday, we opted to take an island tour. It was well worth the $75 we paid Mandoo Tours. While on the tour, we took in many scenic spots, including a breath taking view of the town of St. George. We also learned much about the colorful history of the island. One of the highlights of the tour was our lunch at the Estuary. This extremely out of the way establishment was a true surprise set on the shores of the Atlantic. Here, we were treated to a family style Grenadian meal on a table set with linens and not a bit of styrofoam or paper.
Sad to say, the end of our Grenadian adventure ended too soon and we had to return to our mundane lives in the states. It was a good week, with all of us returning refreshed and tan, with two new open water, one advanced open water, and three nitrox certified divers. I think they’re hooked!