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A Beginner’s Guide to Diving in the Caribbean

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With gorgeous white sandy beaches and shimmering turquoise waters, a Caribbean diving holiday is a dream come true.

But while it’s a brilliant idea to go somewhere where you’re just about guaranteed to see turtles, eagle rays, manta rays and plenty of beautiful fish, there are some things you need to be aware of before setting off. With this in mind we’ve put together a handy guide to what to watch out for.

  1. To get the most out of a diving holiday, it’s a good idea to train for it at home first. You can get confident with the equipment, and learn the guidelines, so you don’t have to worry about any of this before you start. But if you’re the sort of person who just likes to * ahem * just dive right in, you can also take a scuba dive in the waters around the island of St Martin without any training. You will be attended by an instructor for each two divers, and full professional advice will be given.
  1. If you want to train as you go, Jamaica might be the right spot for it. The island has several dive schools offering different courses, and instructors speak English. They will take you to beautiful sites, which even as a beginner you’ll be ready to enjoy. At the main PADI (Professional Association of Dive Instructors) training spot, Middle Shoal Reef, you’ll swim amongst turtles, parrot fish, squirrel fish, corals and sponges.
  1. If you’ve done your training, the whole of the Caribbean is available to you! So pick a spot depending on your priorities. Cuba has a beautiful natural marine reserve, called Los Jardines de la Reina (The Queen’s Gardens). It features very healthy wild corals and a variety of marine life. A live coral reef is quite breath taking, and the advantages of diving in Cuba is that it isn’t overcrowded, mostly due to the fact that American tourists are officially not allowed. The disadvantage is that it is an expensive place to dive.
  1. So if you’re looking for a more inexpensive option, Barbados works out well. It might cost a bit more in flights but accommodation is cheap and has really good diving. The other advantage of a holiday in Barbados is the huge amount of other attractions in the region, including great nightlife, land based flora and fauna, underground caves, shopping and sport.
  1. For the diver who wants everything, the Dominican Republic might be the place to visit. It offers a wide variety of dives: Several different cave dives, the chance to explore wrecks, colourful corals and great wildlife including different tropical fish, morays, eels, rays and dolphins. As you progress in skill, more and more dives will be available to you.

When you’re picking a spot remember that conditions will be different at different times of year, and some dives might not be available due to weather options. Don’t forget special diving insurance, because accidents can happen even with the most experienced of divers. However, diving in the Caribbean is an incredibly memorable experience, and as a beginner, the first time you get up close and personal with a sea horse or tiny nursery shark is a story you’ll be retelling for a long time.

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