Saint Thomas is the gateway to the beautiful U.S. Virgin Islands. Although not all visitors remain on the island, plenty linger on for the wide variety of water sports and outdoor activities. Saint Thomas’ infrastructure continues to improve as cruise-ship traffic is on the rise and big resorts aplenty. Scuba divers will find here the same wonderful conditions as in any other highly rated Caribbean diving destination.
Schooling fish teeming in Saint Thomas. Photo by Snorkelingdives
Scuba diving in St. Thomas offers an array of experiences for divers of all levels. The diving here is not only easy but also accessible. More than 500 species of fish, hundreds of species of invertebrates, and about 40 types of coral inhabit the waters surrounding the island. The reefs are some of the healthiest in the Caribbean; spotted eagle rays, Creole wrasses, spiny lobsters, horse-eye jacks, queen triggerfish, blue tangs, gobies, and many other species of fish populate these reefs. Wreck divers can also find more than a dozen shipwrecks to explore.
The weather in St. Thomas is quite consistent throughout the year, so diving is possible regardless of the season. Most rainfall occurs between June and October.
The average water temperature in Saint Thomas is around 29° C (82° F) in the summer and 26° C (80°) in the winter.
For the most part, St. Thomas’ waters are calm and free of strong currents. These great conditions have made it an ideal training facility.
Water visibility in St. Thomas usually ranges between 18 and 30 meters (60-100 feet).
Located on the north side of the small Buck Island, south of Charlotte Amalie St. Thomas, Andre’s Reef is a sloping ledge tapering down from a 9-meter/35-foot plateau to a sandy bottom 20 meters/70 feet down. Large schools of fish and the occasional barracudas and groupers patrol the area. The numerous grottos and rock formations are also home to a variety of reef fish such as parrotfish, trunkfish, gobies, and wrasses. Large Southern stingrays and garden eels can be seen on the sandy bottom.
Cartanser Senior, also known as Cartanza Senora, is one of the most popular dive sites in St. Thomas. The former 58-meter/19-foot long WWII steel-hulled freighter was abandoned sometime in the 1970s and was eventually moored into a cove at Buck Island. The vessel began taking water and sunk to the bottom. St. Thomas officials saw its potential and moved it to a spot more accessible for scuba divers, where it became a superb artificial reef. Amberjacks, groupers, blue tangs, angelfish, and sergeant majors can be commonly seen around the wreck, along with many other sea creatures.
The USS John F. Kennedy is another interesting wreck with a strong military past. The vessel flipped over when it sank and now the concrete deck lies separate from the barge. The barge can be found at about 65 feet/20 meters while the concrete pad lies in front of it. moray eels, Southern stingrays, sea turtles, garden eels, gobies, blennies, and jawfish are just some of the animals you can spot here. Around the concrete pad, divers can admire beautiful giant sea anemones.
This interesting spot off the main island has two rock formations that are actually split into two different dive sites.
Cow Rocks offers a series of exciting swim-throughs and arches and its signature feature - the “champagne cork”. It’s one of the most popular sites for certification dives, with a maximum depth of about 14 meters/45 feet and an abundance of fish and corals to feast your eye with.
Calf Rock features numerous ledges and crevices where moray eels, lobsters, crabs, and nurse sharks like to hide. Beautiful soft coral and gorgonian gardens make this site a favorite among underwater photographers.