Dive into Barbados: our scuba diving & snorkelling guide
If the appeal of floating face down on toasty-warm azure waters hasn’t quite gripped you yet, read on. With just some basic kit you can drift into the underwater wonders of tropical Barbados, home to quirky creatures, diverse corals and Turtle Grass that undulates gently in the barely noticeable currents. Gaze long enough and you’ll spot camouflaged critters waiting patiently for their next meal. Don’t worry it’s not you. Even if you’re lucky enough to spot a placid nurse shark or two, your flesh is just not appealing. Which, from a shark, is frankly the biggest compliment you’ll get.
And if snorkelling in Barbados sounds heavenly, we’ve got great news about the scuba diving…
Tank on, you can get deep into the heart of the underwater action. Wrecks are plentiful, some thoughtfully sunk – with care for the surrounding eco-system. Even better? The best dive sites are places where friends and families can snorkel and dive alongside each other. And what more can you ask than that? Yes, they might be carefully choreographed ‘marine parks’ – but really, when you step into the wilds of the ocean, a little safety in numbers never hurt anyone.
Follow the advice below, and we’ll have you swimming with turtles in no time.
Diving and snorkelling might seem fairly harmless, but upping your dive game to protect marine life is the ultimate win-win. Those corals need all the help they can get. First up, find a top notch sunscreen that’s reef friendly. What most Barbados diving articles won’t tell you? Your sunscreen is damaging the very corals you’re here to revel in. And we’re having none of it. The eco-sunscreen science gets pretty technical, but the big reveal is that toxic chemicals are bad news for our oceans.
Next up, your diving and snorkelling technique. Are you strictly hands off? Are your gear and flippers scraping along reefs and disturbing sea life? Getting close to creatures and corals is the goal, but how you interact with the sea life you encounter can make a huge difference. Barbados is really striving to keep their corals for generations to come. So let’s leave the coral handling to the experts.
Lastly, your dive (or snorkel) school. Yes, they might have a few vague eco-promises on their shiny website, but don’t be afraid to grill them on their eco-credentials. Find a dive school that loves their local waters and your dive trip will be all the better for it. We’re big fans of Barbados Blue. Not only is the owner, Andre Miller, a marine scientist, but he’s leading the Barbados conservation movement to protect the island’s waters. Legend.
Is Barbados good for snorkelling? Yes, though purists may point you in the direction of Komodo Island in Indonesia. The sea garden there is certainly impressive, but the west-coast Bajan waters have one big benefit: the shallow waters are largely shark free – unless you count the placid reef sharks. Stick within the reefs and you’ll have not a worry in the world.
Now for some safety spiel….
You might have been snorkelling since you were knee high to a sea snake, but the waters surrounding Barbados are awash with high speed jet-skis and boats. The solution? Kitting yourself out with a brightly coloured snorkel vest and a swimming buoy. To be really safe? We can’t recommend the buoyed off waters on the Barbados coastline enough. The safety and abundant sea life combo gets our vote every time.
Best places to snorkel in Barbados
Let’s be clear, this isn’t a spot for a casual midday swim. You’ll be in peak boat territory – which apart from the obvious, will stir up silt and make visibility poor. Your golden hour starts at 7:30am.
The waters are deep – but if you’re a surface dweller, the coral comes to you in places. Base camp for Sharptail Eels, Chain Eels and Smooth Trunkfish… sea slugs sloth out on the sands below too.
Location: West Coast. Heading north on Highway 1, go past the Folkestone Marine Park – take a left after the Colony Club Hotel.
A solid all-rounder, Heywoods Beach isn’t ‘a hidden gem’, but you won’t be battling for space on the sand or the sea surface either.
Stick to the marked snorkelling area, Don’t worry, there’s no shortage of sea life. Nooks, crevices and corals all interesting enough, but it’s the Scorpionfish, Peacock Flounders, Porcupinefish and eels that you’re here for. Hawksbill turtle sightings are common – as are Chain Morays and Damselfish. Parking on site is an added bonus.
Location: NW Coast. Heading south on Highway 1B take the next right after Marlin Drive.
Not a swim for beginners – there’s no buoyed off area, but the waters are calm. Swim north away from shore and you’re in prime Tobacco Basslet territory.
Expect varied Blennies and Angelfish too. Relatively traffic-free waters and a quiet beach are plus points, but are the fish here worth the swim in a remote spot? Always worth heading here in numbers, if you can.
Location: NW Coast. Head north on Highway 1B, continue on to Sherman Hall Moon Fort until you reach the Fish Pot restaurant on the left.
Barbados diving is all about the west coast, with conditions that keep everyone from beginner through to expert coming back for more. Scuba diving in Barbados gets you close to creepy and chunky morays – thankfully, their somewhat unfortunate aesthetic is perfectly balanced by delicate shrimp and the dancing colours of abundant tropical species. Expect hauntingly beautiful wrecks, varied reefs and even a secret ‘treasure’ to find.
Best dive sites in Barbados
The Elusive Yellow Sub
Think of this as a scuba diver’s easter egg. Tricky to find and a bit quirky, your adventure starts in the waters to the north of the island, where you’ll find the Pamir – a quality wreck and excellent dive for beginners.
Sat in about 60 feet of water, there’s nothing to challenge adventurous types – unless you search for the Yellow Sub nearby. This wreck comes complete with its own urban legend. Rumours swirl around a wealthy chap, a delayed submarine order and this sunken replica. Finding the real story might just be as rewarding as the wreck itself.
Carlise Bay Marine Park
It’s no secret that this bay features on every round up of the best dive sites in Barbados. And it’s a well-deserved accolade. It really is. Where else is the world will you find a sunken WWI French Tug and party boat called the Barjan Queen sharing the same salty waters?
Add in four other wrecks – beginner through to expert diving conditions – and we’re getting somewhere. Now we’re just going to casually drop in seahorses, the rare frog fish and the 350+ other species you’ll find chilling amongst the wrecks.
One does not simply ignore diving treasure where it’s right there for the taking. You don’t even need to gear up for two of the wrecks – a snorkel and flippers will do just nicely.
If you’re here for the coral, head to ‘The Boot’. Sitting at around 50ft deep, it’s nestled just off the south-west coast.
A turtle hotspot, you’ll also find morays among the hard coral and soft corals. When the turtle winds are in your favour, you can expect to be sharing the waters with 5 or more Barbados turtles. Trumpetfish and Peacock Flounders are regular spots here too.
Unseemly innuendo aside, let’s get to the benefits of this elusive location instead. Few dive companies visit this spot regularly, meaning it’s largely undisturbed. Eagle ray sightings are common, along with lobsters and shrimps. The highlight for some will be the juvenile Smooth Trunkfish, but the Vase and Barrel sponges will steal the show for coral enthusiasts. Pro-tip: Googling this destination can be perilous – better to ask in the right circles once you’re on the island.