Grenada can quite rightly claim to be the ‘shipwreck capital of the Caribbean’, boasting a vast array of shipwrecks in depths to suit all levels of divers
There are few countries globally that can compete with Grenada and Carriacou when it comes to shipwrecks, never mind just in the Caribbean, and even more incredibly, many of the sunken vessels were genuine maritime accidents, not purpose-sunk artificial reefs. And because the islands sit near a busy trade route, the number of wrecks is going up all the time!
This is fantastic news for divers, and whether you are a newly qualified open water diver, or a hardcore diving veteran, you will find a multitude of shipwrecks awaiting your visit. And if you aren’t into your sunken metal, never fear – the sheer amount of marine growth and fish life that lives on and around the wrecks means every dive is a swirling riot of vibrant colour.
As said before, due to its location on various shipping routes, Grenada is also blessed with a plethora of shipwrecks that were the result of maritime accidents, and now provide underwater playgrounds for divers and protective habitats for marine life.
The 50-metre freighter Shakem was carrying much-needed bags of cement for the building industry on Grenada when she was caught in a storm in May 2001. The heavy cargo shifted and she went down, settling upright in 32m. The remnants of the bags of cement can clearly be seen in the holds – the cement has set, and the bags have long since fallen apart, leaving giant ‘pillows’ stacked neatly in piles – but her real draw is the rich smothering of coral and sponge growth that seems to cover every square inch of her hull, superstructure and especially the large crane lying amidships. This is liberally covered in gorgonian sea fans, while the rear of the ship almost looks like a fluffy white wall dive due to the thick coating of coral.
Smaller than the Shakem at a length of 40 metres, the Veronica L is a freighter which sank after springing a leak, but was then raised and moved to a location near Grand Anse after work began on the cruise ship dock. Now lying in 15m, she is a perfect wreck dive for all levels, and is adorned in marine growth and fish life. If you want to get a little more depth, you can even follow anchor chains off the stern down to a small drop-off at a depth of 30m.
The Atlantic side of Grenada – which is often rougher, with large swells, but also benefits from having tremendous visibility – is home to several world-class shipwrecks.
The King Mitch makes for an unusual wreck dive, given that she resembles a box with a pointed front! Originally a US Navy minesweeper from World War Two, she was retro-fitted into a freighter by having two cargo holds inserted in her middle, with a crane attached to the deck between them. She lies several miles offshore on her side in 32m, and sank in 1981 when her bilge pump failed. There is some coral growth on her, but as the wrecks on this side of the island are often swept by sometimes fierce currents, it is nowhere near as prolific and dense as on the Caribbean side. What is does have is nurse sharks, lots of them, and southern stingrays, not to mention patrolling barracuda and amberjack.
A little closer to land is the cargo vessel Hema 1, which had delivered a consignment of cement to the island and was enroute back to Trinidad on 1 March 2005 when she was also the victim of a failed bilge pump and ended up in 30m of water. Shortly after being sunk, she was broken apart by hurricane surge, and now the hull and bow lie on their port side, with the midships well flattened. This wreck is another haunt for nurse sharks, which swarm in large numbers under hull plates and near the bow, and reef sharks sometimes pay a fleeting visit from out of the blue.
The latest vessel to join Grenada’s underwater fleet on the Atlantic side is the Persia II, which went down in 35m in March 2017. Coral growth on this cargo ship is fairly sparse at the moment, but algae has taken a hold, and marine life has already started to move in, with various reef fish and the invasive lionfish in residence. Being some eight miles offshore means currents can be strong, and she lies close to deep water, so only time will tell what will eventually call her home, but in the meantime, divers can enjoy seeing a ship in the early stages of being claimed by the sea.
Not that they necessarily need it with such a selection of genuine shipwrecks, but Grenada and Carriacou also boast several artificial reefs, and more are in the pipeline.
Grenada has the Buccaneer, a sloop sunk way back in 1978 that lies on its starboard side in just 24m and is well-festooned with marine growth. She is only small, but home to plenty of fish life, and her compact nature makes her perfect for photography.
The cargo ship MV Hildur has been down since 2007 and lies in Grand Mal Bay in 35m. Like the Buccaneer, she has collected a thick layer of encrusting coral and sponge growth in her time on the bottom, and her large open holds provide the perfect environment for shoals of fish. Spadefish and barracuda often swim in the water above her.
The 60-metre container ship Anina languished in Grand Anse Bay for several years before finally being green-lighted as an artificial reef, but she ended up going down slightly earlier than planned at the end of March 2018 after starting to take on water and can be found lying on her side in some 30m of water close to popular reef dive Purple Rain. It is a stunning dive, with the flat bottom of the vessel liberally coated in orange cup corals – so much so it resembles a wall dive – and the cavernous holds being open for exploration. It is also possible to venture into the engine room, which retains much of its machinery.
The latest wreck is the Tyrrel Bay, a former US Coastguard patrol boat which went down at the end of September 2018 close to Boss Reef off Grand Anse Beach. The result of a two-year public/private sector project, the wreck still has many interesting features, including a safe, telephone, compasses, control panels and levers, and even a few toilets, and its shallow depth – the upper superstructure comes to within 5m of the surface – means it can be enjoyed by all levels of diver.
On Carriacou near Mabouya Island, you have the Twin Tugs, two vessels sitting within a short distance of one another in 28-30m, though for a thorough exploration of both, they are best visited individually due to the depth. Both are around 30 metres in length – the Westsider was sent to the bottom on 4 September 2004, and the Boris followed on 10 September 2007.
The two wrecks are covered in vibrant red and orange encrusting corals and algaes and penetration into the interior is possible on both. Currents can sometimes sweep across them, and they are home to angelfish, wrasse, soldierfish, lobster and moray eels.
This due were joined in January 2018 by the 38-metre tugboat Mammoth Troll. The Troll, as it is known, was set to go down near the Twin Tugs, but it is now on the bottom in 35m in an upright position a short distance from the famed Sisters Rocks. Penetration is possible into various sections of the vessel, and there is a great swim-through running the length of the superstructure on the starboard side.