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Dive Fest Diaries – Day 2

Caribbean DTA Team



Each year the magical, Caribbean island of Barbados holds a festival to celebrate scuba diving, free diving and marine conservation. This year, Nick and Caroline went along to see what it was all about…

Thursday 5th July: Day 2

Refreshed and ready to go, we awoke to a bright sunny day in Barbados. We were back diving with West Side Scuba Centre and the plan for the day was some more west coast diving in the morning, followed by a night dive. Whilst we were diving, other centres were involved in introducing people to freediving as well as scuba diving, with events going on at different locations around the island, but we were here to dive!

Our diving equipment had been rinsed and dried off by the team at WSSC and so by the time we arrived at The Boatyard, the dive boat was fully loaded and we were ready to go. Our first dive saw us head out to the outer reef and a dive site called Castle. The reef was covered in huge barrel sponges – it was incredible! Everywhere you looked, these purple towers reached out from the reef bed.

We found shrimps hiding within them and lobsters taking cover at their bases. Turtles grazed, undisturbed by the divers drifting past in a light current. All the dive guides here carry spears to hunt any lionfish found on a dive, and there is even a competition during Dive Fest. Our guide caught one of the invasive species during the dive, showing expert skill. We let the current take us along the top of the reef, enjoying the reef-scape, until it was time to ascend back to the boat, which had been following our guide’s SMB.

We headed back to the dock to drop off some divers doing just one dive that day and then headed back out to one of the signature dives of Barbados – Carlisle Bay. Here a host of wrecks have been sunk in shallow water to create an underwater park for divers and snorkelers alike. You can take it slowly and examine each wreck as an individual dive, or you can move a little faster and take in a few. The beauty is, that as the site is so shallow, you have plenty of time underwater. Whilst we have dived here before, we had never ventured inside the Bajan Queen wreck, and so this lady was our dive plan. On our way, we came across the biggest stingray we have even seen, skimming over the reef that skirts the wrecks at Carlisle Bay.

The inside of the Bajan Queen is wonderfully atmospheric. The light penetrates through the gloom in sunbursts where doorways and hatches in the metal structure look up to the surface. Every now and then, you might get a flash of red as a fish swims through a shaft of sunlight. There is plenty of room to swim through the boiler room and into the quarters at each end and we had the place to ourselves – it was wonderful. Outside, schools of fish were hanging out at the propeller of the Bajan Queen, creating an attraction for both the divers and freedivers that visit the site. We still had time, after our exploration on the Bajan Queen, to visit two other wrecks, each one with its own ecosystem and highlights. We could dive this site every day and never get bored.

We had an extended lunch at the Radisson Aquatica, whilst discussing their plan to reduce single-use plastics in the hotel. Already they are using compostable food containers and cups, and provide a re-hydration station where fresh water with tropical fruits tempt guests away from plastic water bottles. It was refreshing to hear such a positive, conservation-minded vibe from a major hotel and to hear how passionate they were about the marine life just a stones thrown from where we were sitting.

Our final dive of the day saw us heading back to Carlisle Bay to dive the wrecks as a night dive. We jumped in as dusk fell, allowing our eyes to adjust to the gloom and the darkness to fall around us while we were on the dive. As expected, just like our daytime dive, there was a huge array of marine life. Nick found a tiny seahorse clinging to a small sponge on the seabed as we swam between wrecks. A turtle cruised past and an octopus displayed as the camera focussed in on it.

To top off the day, we ate dinner at the fabulous Waterfront Café to the sound of a live jazz band. Delicious, cold cocktails and great food by the waterside was, without a doubt, the perfect way to end the day.

Want to join in on all the fun at Dive Fest Barbados 2019 – put the dates in your diary: 3rd to 7th July 2019


Diving with… Ben Williams and Kay Van Leuven, Sunchaser Scuba, British Virgin Islands

Caribbean DTA Team



In this ongoing series, we speak to the people who run dive centres, resorts and liveaboards from around the world about their businesses and the diving they have to offer…

What is your name?

Ben Williams and Kay Van Leuven

What is the name of your business?

Sunchaser Scuba

What is your role within the business?


How long has the business operated for?

32 years in total and we have been here since 2010, working for the previous owner, then bought the current company from him starting in 2015.

How long have you dived for, and what qualification are you?

Ben since 2003 and he is a PADI MSDT and SDI instructor
Kay since 2010 and she is a PADI MSDT and SDI instructor

What is your favorite type of diving?

Ben loves pinnacle dives; Kay loves shallow coral dives

If you could tell people one thing about your business (or maybe more!) to make them want to visit you, what would it be?

We offer valet diving for a trip of your lifetime. Personal service is key in our business, together with small groups.

What is your favourite dive in your location and why?

Ben favorite dive is the Invisibles because of the amount of marine life; Kay favorite dive is the wreck of the Rhone, because of it’s historical value, marine life and the amount of coral growth on it.

What types of diving are available in your location?

We offer reef and wreck diving, rendez vous diving with your charter boat so we can pick you up straight off your boat.

What do you find most rewarding about your current role?

Being able to dive every day and show the underwater world of the BVI

What is your favorite underwater creature?

Ben’s favorite is sharks and for Kay it is dolphins.

As a center what is the biggest problem you face at the moment?

Ever rising supplier prices.

Is your center involved in any environmental work?

Yes, we do treatment for STCLD, shark sightings and beach clean ups

Are there any exciting changes / developments coming up in the near future?

The hotel we work out of is still recovering from the 2017 hurricane so more places to stay will be coming along in the future. We have an amazing local non profit called Beyond The Reef in the BVI who are always making new artificial reefs.

How do you see the SCUBA / Freediving / snorkeling industry overall? What changes would you make?

We feel it is a great industry and it is very rewarding being able to teach people to dive and therefore increase awareness. One of the biggest changes that would be great to change is to be able to make things cheaper so it is more accessible to our local kids/divers and therefore increase the number of divers in our local community.

Finally, what would you say to our visitors to promote the diving you have to offer?

The BVI is very underrated and untouched, making it a great destination for both novice and
experienced divers.

Where can our visitors find out more about your business?

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Lovin’ Saint Lucia: Two wreck dives and a wedding (part 3)

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown



Whilst we have been lucky enough to dive in much of the Caribbean, Saint Lucia was still on our wish list. Until November when we got a chance to visit this beautiful island on a 6-night diving trip that would see us enjoy with incredible scenery both above and below the waves. We were able to sample three different hotels, dined at a host of local eateries, spoke to local school kids about the ocean and even took a tour into the rainforest canopy. Find out all about this trip over this series of three blogs on Caribbean Dive Adventures.

Our final day of diving saw us heading south again to the wreck of the Lesleen M. The wreck was sunk as an artificial reef in 1986. It sits upright in the water just off Anse Cochon in about 20m of water at its deepest point. AS it has been in the water for over 3 decades, it is now covered in marine life. Yellow and purple sponges rise up from the deck and off railings. Gorgonian corals created huge curtains across the walkways and on the bow and stern. The prop is covered in orange sponges and cup corals. Barracuda and porcupinefish cruise the middle section of the boat. Schools of reef fish live in the covered section of the stern. There is life everywhere you look. To make the most of this dive, bring a light, as the colours are incredible.

We were lucky to have been able to dive the wreck as a buddy pair, without any other groups. But we loved the dive so much we asked if we could join the group for another dive on the wreck as our final dive of the trip. However, the group we were going to dive with were a little bit special! Two of the group had got married the day before. Nine of the family (mum, dad, the happy couple, sisters, brothers, and their partners) who had come to Saint Lucia for the wedding were on our boat. We offered to take an underwater photo of them. Getting the shot was not as easy as we had first thought though! Getting them all still, in the same place, not blowing bubbles at inappropriate times turned out to be a challenge! It was, however, a joyous way to finish off our diving on Saint Lucia.

Our final day saw us heading to new heights, via a cable car experience into the rainforest canopy. Not only does this trip offer stunning views over the island, but our guide was so knowledgeable we also learned plenty about the local fauna and flora of the island. This is the perfect activity for the non-diving day at the end of a trip. A final cocktail in the beautiful setting of the Harbor Club as the sun set saw us reflect on a super trip. We barely scratched the surface of what Saint Lucia has to offer. Alas we never got to experience the diving in the north of the island, so we will have to return to rectify that. Hopefully sometime soon!

Nick and Caroline were hosted by:

Eastern Caribbean Diving

Bay Gardens Marina Haven & Bay Gardens Beach Resort and Spa

The Harbor Club

Travel Saint Lucia

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