Partial listing of dive sites
Patch Coral and depths of 50 feet / 16 meters or less.
1. Tete's Place - This site is right out in front of the dive shop about 1/2 mile off shore. It has a maximum depth of 40 feet / 13 meters and little to no current. The dive starts out over sand at 30 feet / 9 meters at the bottom of a short 10 foot / 3 meter wall and follows the wall. At 1/2 tank we turn around and swim back to the boat on the top of the wall and over a slopping coral base covered with corals in good condition. The main attraction here is the variety and numbers of fish. There are always large schools of mid sized goat fish, grunts, school masters and squirrel fish in this area. We hesitate to say it because the claim is made often for a variety of sites but this truly is one site that is like swimming in an aquarium. You can tell us if you don't agree!
2. Manta City - Sorry, despite it's name there are no Manta Rays here. The local term for any ray is manta and thus the name. What you will find here are Southern Stingrays some of them with 5 foot / 1.5 meter spans. The site has a maximum depth of 45 feet / 13.5 meters. It starts out over sand where the rays like to hang out and then you swim along, around and among large patch coral mounds about the size of a medium sized house. When you are swimming over the sand between coral mounds you pass over fields of Ghost Feather Dusters and if you keep your eyes open you will catch the Brown Garden Eels as they withdraw into the sand for protection as you pass. The corals hold schools of a variety of fish and the occasional moray and lobster.
3. Hippies Place - A hold over from years past. This is a lovely little site on the east side of the island on the inside of the reef. It is the closest we have to the coral atolls of the south pacific. This site has a maximum depth of 45 feet/ 13.5 meters and the dive can be finished up in 6 feet / 2 meters depth on the top of the coral. It is horse shoe shaped and a swim around brings you back to the boat in a circle. Along with the interesting coral formations and usual reef creatures on the far side, deeper edge, you will catch schools of fish that are passing by and normally a ray or two in the sand.
4. Bajo San Felipe - is about 1/2 mile / 1 km off shore. It is named for the sector that it is in front of. It has a sand bottom at 45 feet / 13.5 meters from which you can swim along the base of a large coral patch. When we reach half a tank we ascend to the top of the coral patch and continue the dive at 20 feet / 6.5 meters and either return to the boat on the mooring or just continue along in the same direction and have the boat pick us up. This is a spot with lots of colorful sponges and corals and it is one of our favorites for night dives.
5. Paulino's Place - Located on the south end of the island, in the are of Manta City, this site has a sand bottom where the boat anchors. The maximum depth is 40 feet / 13 meters. From the boat you encounter a large patch coral that takes about 45 to 50 minutes to wander around back to the boat. We often encounter southern sting rays here and lately there has a been a large Jewfish in the area. We also see a juvenile Hawksbill turtle in this area on occasion.
Wall Dives - West of Providencia
There is an extensive wall along the western extent of the reef system. The wall is very steep and provides for great diving.(authors note: I think this is a really lovely wall and rivals those I have seen in other parts of the Caribbean. Since wall diving is one of my favorites I could wax poetic about each of the sites but I will spare you. I will leave it you to help me provide accurate superlatives.) All of the outer wall sites are blessed with large schools (in the hundreds to thousands) of Creole Wrasse which stream along the reef edge and each of these dive sites yields the possibility of encountering turtles, eagle rays and the occasional shark. In some spots a platform is visible at about 150 to 200 feet and in other places it is just deep blue. There are several canyons and some small caves. The cave system is not extensive so if that is your thing you should know that in advance. The current here is small to moderate giving plenty of opportunity to examine the interesting wall ecosystem at your leisure. Although there is little current we generally do these dives as drift dives allowing the boat to pick us up at the end of the dive to give us a relaxing dive with the maximum time possible on the wall.
1. Cantil de Santa Catalina - is a dive to 80 feet / 24 meters over a sand bottom along a wall which rises to it's top at 40 feet / 12 meters. The dive starts out over the sand bottom where there are several large coral mounds to examine and then we head to the wall. This wall has a lot of healthy montanious star, lobel star and great star corals. Generally you will see schools of chubs visiting the wall and queen conchs in the sand bottom. Green morays and lobsters like to hang out in the many holes and cracks.
2. Canal - is actually two sites, the left and right sides of the navigation channel leading into Catalina Harbor. The dive site is conveniently marked by the sea buoy. Our preference is to start the dive on the outside edge of the channel where you encounter a sand bottom at 70 feet / 21 meters at the base of a wall that rises 30 feet / 9 meters. From here you can follow the channel in, coming up the wall and ending your dive over the plateaus that are on either side of the channel at a depth of 15 to 20 feet / 4.5 - 6 meters. This dive has a lovely mix of hard and soft corals with some dramatic pillar corals found on the right side. The abundant holes and ledges hold a variety of creatures to discover.
3. Felipe's Place - is a favorite of the wall dives. The dive starts at a depth of 35 feet / 10 meters on a coral plateau with a short swim to the wall proper. The entrance to the wall is a sand shoot that brings you out at about 80 feet / 24 meters over a steep and varied wall which sometimes reveals a bottom and sometimes not. It is most popular to swim this wall to the right until you reach a small canyon which you follow to it's rim and then finish the dive on the plateau.
4. Cromis - this is a dive using the same buoy as Felipe's Place but instead of turning right we head to the left and follow the wall. It is popular for the large number of blue cromis that are found here. Truthfully when we are here we like the turn to the right and swim up the canyon so we only do this direction if the current demands it or with people who have already dived Felipe's Place and want to go the other way for something different.
5. Confusion - got it's name because everybody had a different name for the site. It starts out at 40 feet / 12 meters and is over a wall that drops to the deep blue. It can be dived at any level depending on your experience and what you are looking to do that day. It is a good place to encounter large schools of blue runner jacks, horse eye jacks and yellow tail snappers. Of course we are always looking for the schools creole wrasse that are all along the wall.
6. Connoly - is a nice wall that starts at 40 feet / 12 meters and is dived to the recreational limit. We dive this site to the right and after about 15 minutes diving at a leisurely pace we come to 2 walls of coral separated 30 feet / 9 meters from each other. The wall on the right has three caves. Two small caves at 80 feet / 24 meters that are interconnected but this is not a swim through as it is too small in the passage. At 90 feet / 27 meters there is a larger cave where it is possible to find nurse sharks sleeping. Generally we swim up the wall here and finish the dive over the platform at 40 feet / 12 meters.
7. Stairway to Heaven - is a deep dive starting at 80 feet / 24 meters in a sand shoot that leads you to an impressive gorge dropping to the ocean's depths. From here you can see various small plateaus resembling steps leading to it's name. The wall here is vertical and very colorful and when the water is clear the view is dramatic.
8. NX - Nitrogen Excess - so called because it starts deep and becomes deeper. The edge of the wall is at 100 feet / 30 meters and the site is over a deep crevice that keeps going to 200 feet / 60 meters or more. It is a short dive because of it's depth but the spectacular view makes it worth it. This site is for advanced divers with an immersion to the recreational limit and is best done with computers.
9. Turtle Rock - is unique in its structure here and is thus visited often. It is a large rock separated from the wall on a short ledge. It takes the form of a turtle as it's top is rounded and broad and the base of the rock is much more narrow than the upper part giving the impression of a turtle on a pedestal. The dive starts at 60 feet / 18 meters at a buoy that is about 150 feet / 45 meters from the wall. As you swim to the wall you come to the top of Turtle Rock at 70 feet / 21 meters. From here you can swim down and around the rock to it's base at 120 feet / 36 meters and then along the wall. You finish your dive by coming up the wall sometimes in a small canyon which provides dramatic light effects as you look out into the deep blue.
10. Espiral - is a big cave with the entrance at 140 feet / 42 meters. It has a whole at it's top that you swim up to in a spiral like a spiral staircase and exit the cave at 100 feet / 30 meters. This s a good spot to encounter some big fish such as Nassau groper and dog snapper. The dive continues along and up the wall to it's top at 70 feet / 21 meters.
11. Nicks Place - is a wall dive that begins at a buoy on the edge of the wall in 50 feet / 15.2 meters. This dive can be made to the recreational limit on a vertical wall that has several outcroppings visible below you outlined by the drop to the blue. Watch for visiting reef sharks and turtles as you cruise the wall. The dive can be done in either direction depending on the current. We end the dive on the top of the wall in 50 feet / 15.2 meters of water.
12. The Cave - is a small cave about 20 feet by 10 feet / 6 meters by 3 meters at a depth of 110 feet / 33 meters. This is the spot for a lot of colorful sponges so bring a light to see the reds, yellows. oranges and greens. The dive ends on the top of the wall at 70 feet. The normal wall visitors and residents are seen here.
13. Planchon - is an old barge that was bringing oil in drums to the island when it sunk sometime during the second world war. It is a dramatic 300 feet / 90 meters long and is in 75 feet / 22.5 meters of water. It is resting on it's flat deck so that you get a good view of the hull. There are a few openings that you can look in but this is not a wreck to be entered as it contains deteriorating oil drums. The bottom of the hull (top of the wreck) is at about 45 feet / 13.5 meters and has been colonized by a variety of corals and reef creatures. There are generally a group of large to very large Dog Snappers in the vicinity which provide a dramatic sight.
14. Convento - is a buoyed site that starts at 50 feet / 15 meters on the edge of a sand bowl surrounded by a coral rim about 10 feet / 3 meters high. At one point while following this rim you come to the edge of the wall at 60 feet / 18 meters and you can make the choice to stay on the rim or to dive the wall to any depth you choose to the recreational limit. Normally we dive the wall to the right and towards the end of the dive come back to the sand bowl where the boat is moored.
15. Tres Casitas - has a buoy in 45 feet / 13.5 meters of water on the edge of the wall. At this point the wall drops sharply to 100 feet / 30 meters where you encounter a flat sand bottom. Here there is a big hole in the coral about three feet wide and very deep. This is a good spot to see big Jewfish, groupers and hog fish. We end the dive back at the top of the wall in about 60 feet / 18 meters of water.
16. Snapper Shoal - is so named for it's reputation as a good area to fish and see snappers. We like it as a good place to reliably encounter nurse sharks of 4 to 7 feet / 1.2 - 2.1 meters sleeping under the ledges that are found here. While swimming along the wall we generally see individual snappers and schools of Bar and Horse Eye Jacks. The site has a maximum depth of 70 feet / 21 meters. The other day (03-2006) we encountered a Spotted Snake Eel here for the first time.
Outside the Reef
These are the least dived of the island's dive sites because they are more affected by the open ocean environment including swell, waves, wind and currents. When conditions are right there are several sites that we have found that are very rewarding.
1. Dos Puntas (Two Points) - This site consist of two underwater ridges that run south on the outside southern tip of the coral reef. The dive starts in 60 feet / 18 meters of water and gradually slopes to 80 feet / 26 meters. During the dive you wander between the 2 points and the many gorgorian and stony corals in pristine conditions.
2. El Jardin (The Garden) - Sometimes affected by moderate currents this site is named for the stroll you will take through it. The dive starts at 70 feet / 23 meters on a gentle sloop of sand and grass that holds a good population of queen conch and extends on a gradual sloop over a bounty of beautiful and colorful corals and sponges including many large barrel sponges. There are some larger coral mounds with pillar corals that hold interesting schools of fish and generally moray eels. When the water is clear the view that this site offers gives you a real sense of the vastness of the Caribbean sea.
3. Crystal - is a ship wreck on the edge of the reef in 35 feet / 11.5 meters of water. The ship was originally about 200 feet long and over the years it has been gradually broken down by storms and now it is scattered over the ocean floor. It provides good attachment sites for corals and sponges and has lots of nice holes and cover for fish to hide and divers to peer into. The wreck is home to a wide variety of fish including snappers and barracuda with the occasional black tip reef shark and nurse shark visit. There is reliably a large school of chubs to add a little to the atmosphere of the dive. Once you are done exploring the wreck we head off along the reef to see the fore reef structure and marine community.
4. Anita - is another wreck. It is located on the outside of the reef opposite Crab Cay (Cayo Congrejo) and like Crystal it has been mostly broken apart by storms. The boat is close to the reef in 35 feet / 10.5 meters of water and has only been there since 2001 so it is still trying to fit into the reef community. In this area we look for visiting fish and hope to see the large school of tarpon that are resident to the area. After exploring the wreck we head out along the reef which in this area consist of 10 ft / 3 meter wide pillars of stony coral that extend from the bottom 30 feet / 10 meters to the surface. There are many small coral caves and holes to investigate along the way.
5. South Bank - is, as the name suggest, an underwater bank off the south end of the island outside the reef. Local fishermen frequent this area to troll for bonito and bottom fish. The site is deep starting at 75 feet / 24 meters and is often affected by strong currents. This is not a safety concern as we do this dive as a drift dive but it can affect the dive as the current sometimes takes us off of the site more quickly than we would like. The attraction of this site is the potential to see a number of very large snapper and grouper such as are really seen by divers any more in the Caribbean. For experienced divers that are willing to take a chance on the conditions and what may be at the site that day this can be a very rewarding dive.
6. Timkam Chanel - is a shallow dive of 33 feet / 10 meters which takes you through a cut in the reef in front of Manzanillo Beach. It is interesting to follow this natural passage and see what else may be using it that day. It usually offers perfect visibility and has a different feel than the wall dives or patch corals. When conditions are right it should be enjoyed for it's own sake and as change of scenery.
The barrier reef runs from about 1 mile / 1.6 km south of the island, along the eastern side of Providencia, to about 11 miles / 18 km north of the island ending at a small exposed section of reef covered with sand that has a navigational lighthouse on it (metal tubular tower with light on top). This is labeled on the maps as Low Cay. It is known locally as El Faro and is also referred to as Point of Reef. On calm days, trips to this part of the reef make a nice outing and are generally done as a day trip with lunch on the cay. Because of the distance and time involved this trip cost a little more but it is worth it.
1. Table Rock- is a shallow site with a depth of 25 feet / 8 meters which can be done as a snorkel trip but is better enjoyed, in our opinion, as a dive. It consist of a large system of chambers that are interconnected with large passages. This is an overhead environment but you always have a good view out. When you are in these chambers you have the feeling of being in an ocean view room (only underwater) and the light play can really be spectacular. This is why we think it is best done as a dive because you will want to take your time to enjoy the experience of meandering through the chambers.
2. The Bight- is a wall dive on the point of the reef. You start the dive on a sand platform at 60 feet / 18 meters where you find the edge of the wall. There is a sand step which is visible at about 150 feet / 45 meters. This dive is enjoyable at any depth between the 60 foot platform and the recreational limit of 130 feet. You need to occasionally look behind you, away from the beautiful corals and sponges on the wall, to see what has come from the deep to cruise the edge of the reef that day.
3. The Andy - is a wreck in 35 feet / 10.5 meters of water on the outside of the reef. It has been broken apart by storms over the years which has left many hiding spots for fishes and creatures. It is a good location to see Nassau Groupers of moderate size and with luck Reef and Nurse sharks. Added attractions are two bulldozers which were being transported to the island. After visiting the wreck you can explore the extensive coral and sand platform in front of the reef.