Although Montserrat may be off the beaten path as far as Caribbean dive destinations go, its underwater scenery is nothing short of amazing. Recent seismic events have had a two-fold effect on local marine ecosystems. First, the added lava flow has helped to rejuvenate previously damaged reefs. Second, the volcanic eruption has kept the tourist crowds at bay, preventing damage from overuse.
Most of the island’s diving is carried out along its protected west coast and around Little Redonda Island, just 10 miles (16 kilometers) away. One of the most popular dive sites is Rendezvous Bay. The site has both a shallow and deep section, but terminates in the most amazing site. That is the opening of a cave home to at least ten different species of bats. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘bat orchestra’ as divers report that the chirping of the bats sounds like music to their ears.
The other most popular dive area is Redonda Island. Here you will find unspoiled marine environments with an abundance of marine life. The six-foot barrel sponges are a site to behold. You can catch a glimpse of these on the same dive that you will find a collection of old ship anchors scattered in a treasure hunt formation.
Divers can expect warm tropical weather year round with waters that range from 79-82°F (26-28°C) and variable visibility depending on the site. While it can rain at any point throughout the year, dry season generally lasts from December to June. July to November brings greater risk of rain and hurricanes. However, you are sure to love diving at any time in the little-visited emerald isle of the Caribbean, Montserrat.
When to go
Rain and temperature
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What to see
Most of Montserrat’s dive sites are boulders encrusted in hard corals and sponges, including barrel sponges reaching six feet in height. Swarms of reef fish live among these now coral reefs. As do huge moray eels, octopus, spiny lobsters, scorpion fish, spotted drums and cleaner shrimps. Sea turtles, stingrays and reef sharks are the big prizes around Montserrat. Although if you are lucky, you might spot a pelagic fish or two lurking in the blue.
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Montserrat, a British-owned Caribbean island, is commonly regarded as the emerald isle of the Caribbean. This is due to the fact that it resembles the craggy hills and green valleys of Ireland and also because of its Irish ancestry. This gorgeous island was once renowned as a luxurious retreat but today has been left almost abandoned by the tourist industry after a cataclysmic volcanic eruption. However, the pristine beaches and colorful underwater environment still live up to the standard set in the early 20th Century. Montserrat is one of the four Leeward Islands, southeast of Puerto Rico and southwest of Antigua.
While archaeological research indicates that prehistoric people once lived on Montserrat, more recently it came under British rule in 1632. At this time, anti-Catholic violence in Ireland brought many Irish to the island as indentured servants. As time passed, land owners brought in slaves to build up the sugar and rum industries. Following the abolition of slavery, the island was sold off to small holders. In the late 20th Century, Montserrat became a popular tourist destination. This was only enhanced when The Beatles producer, George Martin, opened a branch of his recording studio in the peace and solitude of gorgeous Montserrat.
In recent years, the tourism boom of the 1900s has all but disappeared. The island was devastated by natural disasters not once but twice. First in 1989, Hurricane Hugo struck the island full force, damaging 90% of the structures. Then in 1995, the Soufrière Hills volcano, long dormant, erupted. Between 1995 and 2010, the volcano’s continual eruptions have made the southern half of the island uninhabitable and have also destroyed the island’s airport and ferry terminal. However, the northern half of the island still thrives. Tourism is just beginning to return to this verdant island. Be one of the first to rediscover this tropical paradise and book your dive vacation to Montserrat soon.
The main attraction on Montserrat is, of course, the volcano. Keep in mind that you won’t be allowed to go to the northern half of the island as it is still off-limits to visitors due to the lava flow. You can, however, see the destruction by visiting the Montserrat Volcano Observatory or by taking a boat tour around the island. Otherwise, the southern half of Montserrat is steeped in verdant beauty and as such plays host to a variety of hiking trails, many of which are independently accessible. In addition, the pristine beaches are blessedly uncrowded, so make sure you take some time to unwind during your dive vacation. Of course, if you want to spend your entire trip under the water, we wouldn’t blame you at all.
There are daily flights from Antigua to John A. Osborne Airport operated by Fly Montserrat. It is also possible to reach Montserrat by the frequent ferry service from Antigua. Once you are on the island, rental cars and bicycles are the best way to move around. Boat charters, taxis and minibuses are also a possibility. Hitchhiking is considered acceptable and relatively safe.