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The Top 5 Liveaboard Destinations in the Caribbean
Like most large bodies of water, you’ll find something for every diver in the Caribbean. From shark encounters in the Bahamas to the longest barrier reef in the Northern Hemisphere, the marine life ranges from macro to pelagic. There are Caribbean reef sharks in Cuba, whale sharks in Honduras and stingrays in the Cayman Islands. And that doesn’t even touch on the schools of tropical fish, colorful coral reefs or friendly sea turtles.
While diving in the Caribbean, you can expect to see a variety of underwater environments – from deep wrecks to open ocean drifts and even a few caves and blue holes. This diversity of dive sites makes the Caribbean a must-dive destination for every diver.
While many areas in the Caribbean host scuba divers in luxury hotels and diving resorts, dive sites can be spread over considerable distances, meaning each resort has access to only a handful of diving areas. Because of this, liveaboards are an excellent choice in the Caribbean.
Liveaboards in the Caribbean can depart from any number of islands and ports, but Cuba, Belize, Bahamas, the Cayman Islands and Turks & Caicos are clear favorites. The typical length of liveaboard trips in the region is 6 to 7 nights, but some liveaboards offer longer 8 to 10-night itineraries.
Generally, the Caribbean is a year-round diving destination. The different islands will have various peak seasons, but it’s important to note that hurricanes may have damaging effects from June to October.
Finally, you’ll find a great liveaboard itinerary for any level of diver in the Caribbean. Most are suitable for beginners, but some may require an Advanced certification or a number of previous dives due to specific dive sites visited.
An up-and-coming destination for so many reasons, Cuba is also a liveaboard hotspot. The most famous liveaboard destination in the island country is the Jardines de la Reina (a.k.a. Gardens of the Queen), a shark diving mecca. The highly protected area is made up of 230 islets off Cuba’s south coast. The area boasts healthy coral reefs, shallow dive profiles, no current and lots of time swimming alongside Caribbean reef sharks. There’s also the opportunity to snorkel with crocodiles! Great for beginners, Cuba and the Jardines de la Reina have a great range of liveaboards – from the Tortuga, a floating hotel to the luxurious Avalon II.
Departure Port: Jucaro
When to Go: November to April
Featured Creatures: Caribbean Reef Sharks and Crocodiles
Boasting more than 700 islands, the Bahamas features dives sites for every diver. Offshore, you’ll find the third largest barrier reef as well as deep walls, wrecks, blue holes and perhaps the best shark diving in the world. At some dive sites, you’re nearly guaranteed to see tiger, bull, silky, hammerhead and oceanic whitetip sharks. Because the best dive sites are so spread out, you’ll need to travel by liveaboard to see everything in the Bahamas. If you’re a beginner who loves pelagics, this is a great destination. Many boats have no minimum dive requirements.
Departure Port: Nassau or Freeport
When to Go: October to June
Featured Creatures: Hammerheads, Tiger Sharks, Bull Sharks and Dolphins
A part of Central America, Belize boasts spectacular Caribbean waters. It’s here that you’ll see the second largest barrier reef in the world and enjoy dives with rays, turtles and reef sharks. Big names in Belize’s dive industry include Lighthouse Reef, Half Moon Caye and Turneffe Reef. In addition, whale sharks can occasionally be seen further south. Dive resorts pepper the cays and atolls, but the best sites can all be seen in one week on the most popular liveaboard routes.
Departure Port: Belize City
When to Go: March to December
Featured Creatures: Turtles, Stingrays, Reef Sharks and (sometimes) Whale Sharks
Turks & Caicos
Located southeast of the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos consists of 40 islands. Dive sites in the area range from a fantastic barrier reef to dramatic drop-offs. In several areas, you’ll drift lazily past coral-filled walls that seem to reach down to infinity. Hammerheads and eagle rays may appear from time to time from the blue. At other sites, you’ll investigate beds of healthy, soft corals. Most of these sites are protected from heavy currents and feature nearly crystal clear water. Much of the country is uninhabited, so traveling by liveaboard is a great choice for your diving holiday in Turks & Caicos.
Departure Port: Providenciales
When to Go: November to May
Featured Creatures: Hammerheads and Eagle Rays
To round out our list of the top liveaboards in the Caribbean, we turn to the Cayman Islands. With three major islands (Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman), this country boasts superb dive sites. There are pinnacles and drop-offs that attract a large variety of marine life. And wreck divers will delight in the Captain Keith Tibbets and the Kittiwake. Both are ideal for underwater photography. Stingray City is also famous for its encounters with stingrays. Liveaboard divers will have the opportunity to see all of these epic sites and travel around the three islands with ease.
Departure Port: George Town
When to Go: June to November
Featured Creatures: Stingrays and Tropical Fish
Diving in the Caribbean can be an unexpected and gorgeous experience. Whether you’re headed to Belize or the Bahamas, dive in and enjoy these clear, warm waters on your next scuba holiday.
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