Diving In St. Croix
What do you do upon realizing it’s been more than a year since your last dive trip, and you’re itching to get wet again? After kicking yourself of course? Well the obvious answer is to drop what you’re doing and go diving.
So I took my own advice and have just returned from St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where my son and I pretty much dived our brains out for about a week. We also ate some great food, saw much of the island, and chilled out on our balcony overlooking the ocean.
So why St. Croix? Well, why not? For one, I hadn’t been there yet, and prefer diving new locations. But I also have a friend who used to work there as a divemaster, and I figured on getting some insider perspective. After a few email exchanges with him, and scouting the web, I found all I needed to get everything booked.
Considering how “last minute” the planning was, the trip came off smoothly. There were only a few parameters to consider, namely that I wanted to do it cheap and get in a lot of diving – at least 2 tanks a day. Oh, and I wanted to eat some fresh shrimp.
The best diving on St. Croix, is on the famous “Wall” that runs along the north shore for about 7 miles or so. With this in mind I found lodging at a small, 9 room hotel at Cane Bay which is just west of the mid-point of the north side. As luck would have it, one of the best restaurants on island is also located on the same property.
The hotel is built right on the shore, which is rocky at that point, and all rooms face the ocean. The views are outstanding with St. Thomas and St. John visible on the horizon, and the ever-present sound of the waves crashing on the rocks. Within a half mile are a couple more excellent places to eat, as well as the dive shop we used which is right across from the beach at Cane Bay.
I highly recommend obtaining a rental car for getting around the island. It’s far less hassle than relying on taxi’s and because there’s lots to see, will save money in the long run. The best way is to arrange the rental beforehand so it’s waiting for you upon arrival.
This worked great for us, as there was a representative waiting outside baggage claim when we arrived holding a placard with our name on it. Just signed some papers and left. Upon departure, I parked at the airport, locked the keys inside and left it.
As for where to dive – definitely the north shore “Wall”. Several sites are an easy swim from the beach – maybe 200 yards out, then drop down over the wall which starts at about 50′ and drops to 3200′. Keep an eye to the north where you might see the occasional black-tip shark, manta, or spotted eagle ray swim by.
Also make sure you dive Salt River where the wall has giant coral heads, some caves, and huge swim-throughs. The reef is healthy, vibrant, and full of all kinds of marine life. I saw several stands of black coral, and an unusual number of trunkfish there.
While the north wall is awesome, there are a couple places to note on the west end that are also “must do” dives. One is the wrecks. Actually 2 sites – the deeper one has a tug and a vehicle ferry setting about 100′ down. Lots of growth, but the structures stand out clearly – especially the wheelhouse on the tug, and makes for a super photo shot.
Also on the west end is the Frederiksted Pier, which runs a few hundred yards out, and is one of the fishiest places I’ve seen. The debris on the bottom and the pilings are home to all sorts of critters, including banded coral shrimp and spider crabs by the dozen.
You’re likely to get “inked” after startling an octopus trying to blend into the background as you swim by, or watch them turning colors while hiding in some of the oddest places. The funniest was this little guy holed up in what appeared to be the top of a broken wine bottle.
There’s lots more to see and do on St. Croix, including some interesting history. It’s readily apparent from the dozens of old windmills, that sugar plantations once covered the island, and supported a very different economy from today.
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