Not to Miss Off Nevis - Diving Opportunities
By Larry Larsen
Nevis, located in the northeastern Leeward Islands, south of St. Martin and north of Guadeloupe, is a beautiful mountainous
island with rainforest and nice beaches. This area of the Caribbean is indeed overlooked by many visitors, particularly those who want to enjoy the underwater environment. The
unspoiled topography around it, and its sister island St. Kitts, is a place to dive and relax for all but the hardcore deep diver.
Just offshore, the 36 square mile island has numerous mini-wall dives that will peak the average divers' interest, but they are not the dramatic wall dives that some others may seek,
according to Ellis Chaderton, dive master and owner/operator of Scuba Safaris, the only operation on Nevis.
"Our rocky walls drop down to a maximum level of 90 or 100 feet, so many of our dives average 45 to 70 feet," he
explains. "We have caves, ledges, canyons and lots of virgin territory. The reefs are in very good conditions and
are mostly unspoiled since our diver traffic is minimal. You'll see long tube sponges and stands of pillar coral great marine life."
Divers on the numerous reef and wreck spots around St. Kitts and Nevis may see eagle rays, nurse sharks, tarpon and a lot of other marine life when waters are clear as they are
normally. Ellis and his staff do not feed fish at their spots to create an artificial consistency
of fish life, as do some commercial operations on other islands. Some divers might consider that a negative, Ellis
acknowledges, but conservation is paramount for his watery environment, and he intends to do what he can to keep the reefs there in a natural state.
One of the top dive sites in Ellis's backyard is Devil's Cave, which is full of caverns and coral tunnels where divers
can swim in one end of a lava-type tube and out the other. There are lots of schooling reef fish and parrot fish
and others which make it very interesting. Another favorite is Nag's Head which lies just across the channel off St
Kitts. It has a steep drop-off and the diver can see a lot of southern stingrays and eagle rays cruising along, according to the divemaster.
"Booby High Shoals is a shallow dive, only about 30 feet deep," says Ellis. "It's easy to boat to since it lies right in the
narrows between Nevis and St. Kitts. We almost always see very large, 10- or 12-foot long nurse sharks there. The shallow reef between the two islands may have a little
current sometimes, but that's what keeps the shark and sting rays around."
Scuba Safaris, which has been in operation more than 22 years, uses one of two boats, depending on the number of divers going out. One is s 35-foot catamaran that carries
about 18 divers. It has a top sundeck, comfortable shaded area and big ladders for entry. The smaller boat is a 25-foot
Island Hopper that handles up to 14 two-tank divers. It is much faster than the cat and used to easily reach distant dive sites. It's ideal for smaller, more intimate groups.
Ellis enjoys viewing the dolphin and whales while diving. The humpback whales were around the islands during my visit to Nevis in March and several of the
dive parties got to enjoy seeing them. The humpbacks average about 25 feet in length and are typically in the Nevis/St. Kitts area each year from December
through April. Schools of 6-foot long tarpon move around the islands as they follow the current that sometimes brings sediment in from the Atlantic Ocean, according to the divemaster.
"Some tarpon hang around the docks right in front of our Scuba Safaris
headquarters here at the Oualie Beach Resort," he points out. "Further south, there are often tarpon around the
docks at the Four Seasons Resort. Fishermen come into those docks and sometimes drop over pieces of fish not
needed for dinner or to take to the market. Tarpon and stingrays scavenge around them for the morsels."
Scuba Safaris offers a "private or personalized dive" program for those divers requesting to go diving on their
own. They may want to avoid the crowds, but Ellis contends that on Nevis, they don't really have crowds. He believes that the private requests are mostly from people who want
to be picked up for their diving trip at different times than may be scheduled or that might wish to go a little further distance than the normal group dive trip. A standard two
-tank dive is $95 US, and the typical profile is a first dive at around 70 feet and second dive at 50 feet depths.
Nevis is easy to reach by air; American Airlines flies into the island's international airport from San Juan. To find out
general information about the island, contact the Nevis Tourism Authority at (866) 55-Nevis or via email at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit their website at www.nevisisland.com. For more information on the diving, contact Ellis
Chaderton of Scuba Safaris at (869) 469-9518, email him at email@example.com or visit his website at www.divenevis.com.