Destination - Barbados, W.I.
Barbados is an English colonial island in the southern Caribbean. It is the eastern most island in the Caribbean island chain known as the Lessor Antilles. It lies 270 miles from the venezuelan coast and covers 166 square miles. The population of the island is just over 260,000 people and the island’s official language is English. Like most of the islands in the area, its first inhabitants were Arawak, a peaceful tribe of South American Indians. Kayak!
In 1536, a Portuguese explorer discovered this island and named it Barbados, meaning “the bearded ones,” for the shaggy exposed roots of the native ficus trees. Due to aggression in the area between the Spanish and Portuguese empires, Portugal never claimed the island. The island did not have a sovereign ruler until the English arrived in the early 17th century in an attempt to thwart the growing Pirate threat in the area. Barbados quickly became a sugar plantation island. Even in the early 17th century the island was attracting tourists. The wealthy flocked to the area for health rejuvenation. George Washington himself brought his half-brother, lawrence, to the island to recover from sickness. Unfortunately for George, he contracted smallpox on the island - as a result he was scared for life.
Barbados was under strict english rule for over three-hundred years and is very well known for its pirate heritage. The British built over 26 forts of the coast of the island to defend this strategic location. This island is home to the largest cannon museum in the hemisphere. The island gained its independence in 1966.
The locals have done well capitalizing on its pirate heritage. Walking through the pier terminal I saw many “pirate oriented” shirts, shot glasses, signs and other items. Pictures of pirates with slogans like “I’m here to plunder your booty” & “dead men tell no tails” were screened or printed on almost every type object imaginable.
Disembarkation from the cruise ship could not have been easier. (With the exception of the equipment I was schlepping). [Note: I cannot believe the word schlepping was in the Mac spell checker and dictionary]. It was only a short walk through the terminal to the road where we were picked up by a van to take the seven members of the dive group to the dive shop.
As my experience with most caribbean van rides - it was scary as shit. Driving on the other side of the road is bad enough.... then add in high speed turns, breaking and what only could be defined as “playing chicken” with on coming traffic. Someone should have reminded the driver he was not operating a n emergency vehicle. (Upon reading this last paragraph after I typed it.... I immediately thought to myself.... “Geez - I am getting old.”)
We arrived at the “West Side Scuba Centre” dive shop after a quick 10 minute ride. The dive shop was located directly on the beach. The dive shop provided each diver with a key to a lockable locker to store any items we did not want to get wet ---- very nice touch!
It was explained to us that we would have to enter the water in knee-high water and walk out off the beach to board the dive boat. (No dock). While in our wetsuits we had to hold our gear bag over our heads and walk out to the boat from the beach. I was a bit concerned that the weight of my equipment would become an issue.
As I began to walk out into the water towards the dive boat, it quickly became apparent that the “knee-high” water would only be knee high for Shack or the late André the Giant. For a 5’7 aswandt, the water was up-to my neck. I handed my equipment to the captain and climbed up onto the boat.
Of course they did not have a camera bucket (Boooooo) ... but I have become accustom to this with smaller dive operations thought-out the caribbean.
The first dive site was only a 5 minute boat ride. The boat moored and I preformed a backwards roll into the water. A backwards roll is not used that often on commercial dive ships as it is not too hard to hit your head on the boat if your not paying attention. However it is a lot of fun!
It quickly became apparent that Barbados had an extensive, and quite beautiful, coral reef system. Barbados is a paradise for underwater macro-photography with the abundant corral and smaller fish. As I did not do my “homework” I was not well prepared for extensive macro-photography. The largest marine life I saw was a young sea turtle about the size of a bowling ball. The first dive was great... if you prefer corral over large marine animals -- Barbados is a good choice. There were several spotted moray eels - however they were much smaller than the normal moray. (I saw six different baby moray eels on the first dive alone - this is very unusual). The moray eels were very shy and hid as soon as they saw me.
After about 80 photos my tank was down to about 800 psi (I started the dive with 3200 psi) - it was time to initiate a safety stop and end the dive. After I surfaced it became obvious there was a small problem..... another dive vessel was towing our dive boat, the “Jamie Too.” The Jamie Too would not go into gear as a cable broke in its engine. After 90 minutes of the Captain attempting repairs, we finally were underway to the second dive site.
The second dive site had a profile of 35-40 feet for 40 minutes. Again this dive site had an abundance of coral reef and small marine life. There was also an abundance of divers - and they frequently got into my shots.
Barbados was a great dive location - especially for those divers who can appreciate a large and healthy coral reef systems.
* Photo - a diver preparing to execute a backwards roll entry into the water.
Well.... as I am typing this its 1am. I have to get up at 7am to dive the beautiful St. Lucia. More to come tuesday evening.