Dive Into Tobago

A divers’ gem features a helpful current, good visibility and more

By: Janice Mucalov

Feeling a tug on my arm, I turned to peer through my mask in the direction that Richie Louis, our divemaster with Wild Turtle Dive, was pointing. I saw it then a green sea turtle paddling its flippers gracefully through the water. For a few memorable moments we followed it slowly over the reef, until the turtle swam out of view.

Sea turtles are a common sight in Tobago. Spotting them along with manta rays, whale sharks and nurse sharks is a diver’s dream. I found out later that the abundance of Tobago’s marine life is explained by the nutrient-rich Guyana current that flows up from South America.

“Fresh water from Venezuela’s Orinoco River comes in when it rains down there,” said Louis. “This gives a green tinge to the water, which the fish love.”

Earlier that morning, Louis had picked us up in his jeep from The Palms Villa Resort (Wild Turtle Dive includes this service for guests of the Palms). We squeezed into shortie wetsuits at the dive shop in Pigeon Point and then took off from the dock in a 32-foot dive boat.

I hadn’t dived in a year, so I was interested in a nice, gentle experience. Thus, we dove on the easier Caribbean side of the island. It was just the kind of dive I was looking for warm water, good visibility and very little current to fight against. At a relatively shallow depth of about 40 feet, we wiggled through wide, deep cracks and crevasses in the reef, admiring the coral formations and the puffer fish, angelfish, spotted eels and large parrotfish that live on the reef. We even came across another sea turtle. The wreck of the MV Maverick, an old interisland car ferry, also lies on the Caribbean side for divers to explore.

We didn’t have time to do another dive on the Atlantic side of the island, but this is where divers on drift dives encounter some of the best dive sites.

“You’re always going to see sharks, rays and turtles there,” said Louis.

But for all the top dive sites already discovered, some 70 percent of Tobago’s diving is still unexplored.

“Sometimes we decide to dive at a new spot just to see what it’s like,” Louis said. “If it’s good, we map it and come back again.”

For those who want to snorkel instead, Tobago’s famed Buccoo Reef is a favorite excursion. Heading out with Johnson’s Sea Tours, our glass-bottom boat skimmed over the three-foot-deep channel out to the reef.

The snorkeling was fabulous. Buccoo Reef is a true coral reef, with barrel, rope and tube sponges galore, large brain coral heads (reported as being the largest in the world) and myriad fish.

Afterward, most snorkeling tours typically take guests to the Nylon Pool, a few minutes away. The Nylon Pool is a natural shallow pool in Buccoo Bay, about a mile offshore, created by a sandbar. It was named when Princess Margaret, on a visit 40 years ago, commented that the water was as pale and clear as her nylon stockings.

Lolling about in the two feet of colorless bathtub-warm water, scrubbing our feet with fine white sand for a natural spa exfoliation, we were mindful of the words from Junior Johnson, our glass-bottom boat driver:

“They say the ladies look 10 years younger when they get out!”

I can’t say this was the case. But I can say that soaking, diving and snorkeling in Tobago certainly lifted our work-weary spirits.


Learning to Dive: While in Tobago, clients can take a two-day, mini-course so they can dive on holiday. If they have a week in Tobago, they can obtain their open-water dive certification.

Operators: There are at least 10 dive operations in Tobago. Wild Turtle Dive (868-639-7936; www.wildturtledive.com) pays a 10 percent
commission for booking a couple and 15 percent for a party of four or more. Numerous glass-
bottom boat operators like Johnson’s Sea Tours offer half-day snorkeling excursions on the island.

Packages: Several hotels feature dive/accommodation packages. Popular with divers, the Blue Waters Inn is a casual, eco-friendly resort, with 38 rooms and self-contained bungalows, and its own five-star PADI dive facility. Check directly with the resort for current dive packages. (868-660-4341; www.blue watersinn.com)

Other: Tobago has its own recompression chamber for emergencies.