SI Vault
Fred R. Smith
January 20, 1964
In the shallows off Tobago, octogenarians in sneakers stand knee-deep on Buccoo Reef and watch the fish through face plates. Off Cozumel, Bonaire and Anegada, more adventurous divers explore sunken galleons. All are discovering the beauties of the world below the surface of the sea. The map on these pages and the Travel Facts that follow show where to find the best guides, the gear, the fish, the reefs and the wrecks
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January 20, 1964

Sneakers And Snorkels

In the shallows off Tobago, octogenarians in sneakers stand knee-deep on Buccoo Reef and watch the fish through face plates. Off Cozumel, Bonaire and Anegada, more adventurous divers explore sunken galleons. All are discovering the beauties of the world below the surface of the sea. The map on these pages and the Travel Facts that follow show where to find the best guides, the gear, the fish, the reefs and the wrecks

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Cozumel, an island off the coast of Quintana Roo on the Yucatan Peninsula, is the setting for the Sporting Look pictures in this issue. Its beaches and waters are among the most beautiful in the Caribbean. There are many good guides. The most sought after is Ramon Zapata—Jacques Cousteau came to Cozumel to dive with him among sunken Spanish galleons and Mayan ruins. Zapata and the other Cozumel guides instruct the novice in the quiet water of Chancanab lagoon before taking him to the spectacular reefs in the nearby Caribbean. A Cozumel guide not only takes you out where the crab, conch, crayfish, grouper and snapper play, but cooks a beach picnic, Cozumel fashion, with the day's catch. If you are not up to spearing your own lunch, you can lie in the sun on the boat while your guides do the work, but that is not half the fun. Conch becomes the basis for seviche, with fat Yucatan avocados; crayfish are split and grilled over coals or steamed with round white pompano in a tent of green palm leaves. Grouper is filleted and fried in oil with garlic. A day's diving with Zapata, including the picnic and beer, costs $8 per person. Cozumel guides rent complete scuba equipment for $6 per day, snorkeling gear for $1.20. It is best to bring your own mask and spear gun. The best place to stay for diving is the new Cozumel Caribe, in a coconut grove at the edge of a superb white-sand beach. Rates are $16 American plan for a single, $28 double.

Jamaica has an interesting fragment of history on its south shore: the sunken city of Port Royal, once the pirate capital of the world and one of the wickedest and wealthiest cities in the Western Hemisphere before it dropped beneath the sea in an earthquake in 1692. Morgan's Harbour Hotel is built on the ruins of the King's Yards of the old city and, although the water tends to be murky, skin divers can still find the ruins of two old forts. Tradewinds Underwater Toursat Morgan's Harbour has compressors and scuba and snorkeling gear for hire. They also take guided excursions to Lime Cay and Maiden Cay for $40 per half day, $75 all day, for four, all equipment included. At Bull Bay, Grant's Pen and Cow Bay, east of Kingston, the spearfishing is fine for many kinds of rock fish. Spear guns are allowed all over Jamaica except in swimming areas and rivers.

On the north shore, reefs stretch from Montego Bay to Ocho Rios and Port Antonio. At Montego Bay, the Sea Crabs Diving School at the Chatham Hotel has a compressor and equipment for hire. Instruction in scuba and snorkeling is $8 per hour and a half and reef trips with guide are $12 per hour. At the Jamaica Hilton, the Plantation Inn and the Tower Isle in Ocho Rios, Ernie Smatt Enterprises gives instruction in scuba for $12 an hour, takes reef trips for $12 per two-hour tour. The new Reef Club in Ocho Rios has dredged up a wreck far out at sea and resunk it off its own shores, to provide verisimilitude to the name of Shipwreck Bay and a playpen for its diving guests.

Puerto Rico, most populated tourist island in the Caribbean, has almost all of its hotel facilities on the north shore of the island, an area with few reefs and poor diving. The best-protected waters are on the eastern shore, in the lee of Cayo Icacos reefs. Bill and Shirley Brown take novice snorkelers in groups of six from San Juan hotels out to the fishing village of Fajardo and by native sloop to Icacos Island for three hours of swimming and viewing the reefs and reef life. Cost is $15 for the day. Walter Hendricks of El Conquistador Hotel, the first development for tourists in the Fajardo area, teaches beginning scuba at Icacos for $20 per day, equipment included. The fishing is negligible at Icacos and is best on the southwest coast, at La Parguera, Cabo Rojo and Boqueron Beach. Experienced divers can rent equipment from Original Don's Aqualung Service in San Juan for $7 a day and boats from the local fishermen to go out on their own. They will find conch, turtle, snapper, amberjack, kingfish, bonito, tuna, pompano and grouper.

St. Thomas is the location of the Navy's underwater demolition school, which is a strong recommendation for the quality of the diving. Guides Red Raisch and John Hamber specialize in teaching beginning scuba; Jean Archi, a veteran skin diver in the Mediterranean, Greece and the Red Sea, is available to the more experienced diver. All three guides like Water Island in Charlotte Amalie's harbor—there are many wrecks, protected beach waters for beginners and a 50-foot ledge on the east side. Raisch starts his beginners off Morningstar Beach. His Kon-Tiki diving school (see color facing page 22) charges $17.50 per half day, including equipment. Hamber, who trained with the Navy frogmen in St. Thomas and was in a Marine reconnaissance diving company, takes his beginners off the beach at Sapphire Bay, his intermediates off Koki Beach, where he has a big parrot fish trained to eat out of his hand. For advanced scuba, he likes Mingo, Lovango, Congo and Thatch Cays. All the guides take expeditions to the British Virgins, particularly to Virgin Gorda and Anegada, which bristles with wrecks. A two-night-and-three-day trip with Hamber to Anegada on the 42-foot Pan-Hani costs $150 per day for four passengers, including meals and all gear. Less venturesome wives or beginners can be programmed in easier diving while the serious boys explore the reefs and wrecks. Hamber also teaches underwater photography for $17.50 for three hours, including use of camera and a roll of film. Jean Archi is very enthusiastic about Buck Island and the fringing reefs of the St. Croix north shore, Virgin Gorda and Norman and Peter islands. His price is $20 a day each for a minimum of two people, a maximum of six, a 40-foot diesel cruiser with all equipment included.

C. and M. Caron, owned by Leslie Caron's father, rents first-rate equipment in both St. Thomas and St. Croix: a regulator and tank is $5 a day. Generally all rental places in the Caribbean require substantial deposits, ST. CROIX'S leading guide is Bill Miller. He rents equipment, teaches the novices and guides the experts. Touristic though it is, Miller gets a large share of his business running trips to the Buck Island Reef National Monument, either in a native sloop ($8.50 a day) or in his 63-foot powerboat ($10 a day). At Buck Island novice snorkelers are first indoctrinated off a pink-sand beach, then guided through the maze of spectacular coral and underwater life, the beauty of the area marred with underwater signs that label as carefully as the street signs on Broadway: "This is a Brain Coral," "Here Live the Angel Fish." Miller also takes groups to the British Virgins—$90 a day for six people. In St. Croix, the Hotel on the Cay is on an island surrounded by snorkeling grounds. Rates are 430 to $38 per day, double occupancy, with two meals.

In the British Virgins, Allan Batham's MARINA CAY (page 27) is a snorkeler's and scuba diver's idyll. Batham, expert though he is, will not instruct—he is too busy running his small island resort. He will, however, swim with competent and experienced divers. Marina Cay accommodates only 18 guests in its six A-frames. The price here is $35 a day for two, meals included. Getting there is no snap. First you take a boat from St. Thomas to Road Town, in Tortola, then a taxi from Road Town to East End, where the Marina Cay boat collects you for free and takes you the last 20 minutes. Total traveling time, not counting waits, is 3� hours. Total cost is about $10.50.

On January 1 a new resort opened on VIRGIN GORDA, which, with its 50 rooms, doubles the available guest beds in the entire British Virgins. It is Laurance Rockefeller's Little Dix Bay, a quietly luxurious seaside complex, mindful of Cancel Bay on St. John in its serenity. Emphasis here is on the fabulous water surrounding the British Virgins, and the beachside-buffet lunch always includes fish from the front-door yard prepared in native fashion. Snorkeling and scuba gear is available for hire—scuba lessons are $5 per half hour. There are special trips to the wreck of the Rh�ne, to the flats of Anegada, to the caves on Norman Island. The boulder-formed grottoes called The Baths are just around the bend from Little Dix. Rates are $25 to $27.50 per person, American plan. As in almost every Caribbean resort, they drop by about half in the pleasant months of summer.

The chain of islands that stretches from St. Martin down through St. Kitts, Nevis, the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique to St. Vincent is not as yet equipped to take out the casual diver, even though in some cases the potential is superb. At St. Martin there are two fine old galleons very near the surface. Stetson M. Risdon, in Philipsburg, will guide you and rent his equipment. Montserrat and Dominica have no reefs or beaches from which to dive. At Nevis there is the submerged town of Jamestown, sunk in an earthquake in 1680, but you are on your own there.

Antigua is another story. The principal organizer of water sports there is an Australian named Tony Johnson who learned to dive for food while a prisoner of the Japanese in the South Pacific. Tony operates out of the Caribbean Beach Club and takes guests of other hotels—The Anchorage, Blue Waters, Half Moon Bay and the Jolly Beach Hotel—on instruction and diving tours. His rates are $12 for two hours, which include instruction and a 45-minute dive. You have to furnish your own equipment, but he has compressors to refill your tanks. He also has a glass-bottom boat, the Antiguan Queen, which leaves the Caribbean Beach Club every day at 2:30 for a two-hour trip over the reefs—fare $4 per person. One of the best ways to explore the waters of the Leeward Islands, including the ships sunk in the Mt. Pel�e volcanic eruption on Martinique in 1902, is from a charter yacht out of Antigua. The Nicholson Yacht Chartering Service of English Harbour has eight yachts listed with scuba equipment aboard. For example, the Pas de Loup, a six-berth ketch, has compressors, tanks, underwater movie cameras, harnesses, flippers and snorkels. Captain John Guthrie is a trained scuba instructor. He charters for $814 per week, with equipment. The 116-foot schooner Panda, with four double cabins, formerly owned by a Vietnamese emperor, charters for $2,500 per week. It has compressors and three tanks. Mike Badham, a World War II diver in New Guinea, has built at The Inn at English Harbour a 49-foot trimaran, Spearhead, ideal for diving, and equipped with compressor and tanks. He charters it for $1,260 per week. A good place to stay for snorkelers is Hawksbill, which has excellent reefs, a Boston Whaler, fins, masks and snorkels for guests.

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