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Bermuda is a world-class dive site, known for its evocative and often eerie shipwrecks, teeming with marine life. All scuba diving outfitters go to all sites. If you're diving, talk to the dive master about what you'd like to see, including any or all of the various wrecks that are accessible off the coast and not viewed as dangerous.

The Diving Sites

Constellation -- When Peter Benchley was writing The Deep (later made into a film), he came here to study the wreck of the Constellation for inspiration. Lying in 9m (30 ft.) of water, this wreck is 13km (8 miles) northwest of the Royal Naval Dockyard. Built in 1918, the Constellation is a four-masted, wooden-hulled schooner. During World War II, it was the last wooden cargo vessel to leave New York harbor. It wrecked off the coast of Bermuda on July 31, 1943, and all the crew survived. Today, the hull, broken apart, can be seen on a coral and sand bottom. You can see the 36,300kg (80,000 lbs.) of cement it was carrying, and morphine ampoules are still found at this site. Large populations of parrotfish, trumpet fish, barracuda, grouper, speckled eels, and octopus inhabit the wreck today.

Cristóbal Colón -- Bermuda's largest shipwreck is the Cristóbal Colón, a Spanish luxury liner that went down on October 25, 1936, between North Rock and North Breaker. A transatlantic liner, it weighed in excess of 10,000 tons. The ship was traveling to Mexico to load arms for the Spanish Civil War when it crashed into a coral reef at a speed of 15 knots. During World War II, the U.S. Air Force used the ship as target practice before it eventually settled beneath the waves. Its wreckage is scattered over a wide area on both sides of the reef. It is recommended that you take two dives to see this wreck. Most of the wreck is in 9 to 17m (30-56 ft.) of water, but the range is actually from 4.5m (15 ft.) at the bow to 24m (79 ft.) at the stern. Some artillery shells from World War II remain unexploded, so don't have a blast, please.

Hermes -- This 1984 American freighter rests in some 24m (79 ft.) of water about 1.5km (1 mile) off Warwick Long Bay on the south shore. The 825-ton, 50m (164-ft.) freighter is popular with divers because its U.S. Coast Guard buoy tender is almost intact. The crew abandoned this vessel (they hadn't been paid in 6 months), and the Bermuda government claimed it for $1 (50p), letting the dive association deliberately sink it to make a colorful wreck. The visibility at the wreck is generally the finest in Bermuda, and you can see its galley, cargo hold, propeller, and engines.

L'Herminie -- This 1838 French frigate lies in 6 to 9m (20-30 ft.) of water off the west side of Bermuda, with 25 of its cannons still visible. A large wooden keel remains, but the wreck has rotted badly. However, the marine life here is among the most spectacular of any shipwreck off Bermuda's coast: brittle starfish, spiny lobster, crabs, grouper, banded coral shrimp, queen angels, and tons of sponges.

Marie Celeste -- This is one of the most historic wrecks in the Atlantic, a 207-ton paddle-wheel steamer from the Confederacy. The steamer was a blockade runner during the Civil War. In exchange for guns, this vessel would return to Bermuda with cotton and cash. Evading capture for most of the war, it was wrecked off the coast of Bermuda on September 25, 1864. The ship sank in 17m (56 ft.) of water, where its ruins lie like a skeleton today. This is not a great dive site for observing marine life, but the wreck is evocative and offers many caves and tunnels to explore.

North Carolina -- This iron-hulled English bark lies in 7.5 to 12m (25-39 ft.) of water off Bermuda's western coast. While en route to England, it went down on New Year's Day in 1879 when it struck the reefs. The bow and stern remain fairly intact. There is often poor visibility here, making the wreck appear almost like a ghost ship. Hogfish, often reaching huge sizes, inhabit the site, along with schools of porgies and snapper.

Rita Zovetta -- This Italian cargo steamer was built in 1919 in Glasgow and went aground off St. David's Island in 1924. The ship lies in 6 to 21m (21-69 ft.) of water just off St. David's Head. The wreck measures 120m long (395 ft.), and its stern is relatively intact. Divers go through the shaft housings to see the large boilers. Stunning schools of rainbow-hued fish inhabit the site.

South West Breaker -- Some 2.5km (1 1/2 miles) off Church Bay, this was the location chosen for the famous Jacqueline Bisset scene in Peter Benchley's movie The Deep. The breaker was supposed to be a hideout for a man-eating squid. In reality, the breaker was created from fossilized prehistoric worms (believe it or not). It has an average depth of 8.5m (28 ft.), and on most days a visibility of 30m (98 ft.). New divers prefer this site because it's not considered dangerous and it has a large variety of hard and soft coral. It's also a good place for snorkelers. A large tunnel split through the center of the breaker provides a protective cover for green moray eels and spiny lobsters. Schools of barracuda are also encountered here.

Tarpon Hole -- This series of large breakers lies directly off the western extremity of Elbow Beach. The site is named Tarpon Hole because of the large schools of tarpon that often cluster here, some in excess of 2m (6 1/2 ft.) long. It is a sea world of lush fans and soft corals, made all the more intriguing with its tunnels, caves, and overhangs.

Tauton -- This Norwegian coastal steamer ran afoul on Bermuda's treacherous reefs on November 24, 1920. The 68m (228-ft.) steel-hulled vessel sank in 3 to 12m (10-39 ft.) of water off the northern end of Bermuda. Its boilers and steam engines are still visible. This is a favorite dive for beginners, as the wreck lies in shallow water. Because of its breathtaking varieties of fish, it's a favorite site for photographers.

Diving Schools & Outfitters

Diving in Bermuda is great for novices, who can learn the fundamentals and go diving in 6 to 7.5m (20-25 ft.) of water on the same day as their first lesson. In general, Bermuda's reefs are still healthy, despite talk about dwindling fish and dying coral formations. On occasion, in addition to the rainbow-hued schools of fish, you may even find yourself swimming with a barracuda.

Although scuba fanatics dive all year, the best diving months are May through October. The sea is the most tranquil at that time, and the water temperature is moderate -- it averages 62°F (17°C) in the spring and fall, 83°F (28°C) in the summer.

Weather permitting, scuba schools function daily. Fully licensed scuba instructors oversee all dives. Most dives are conducted from a 12m (39-ft.) boat, and outfitters cover a wide range of dive sites. Night dives and certifications are also available.

All dive shops display a map of wreck sites that you can visit; there are nearly 40 in all, the oldest of which dates to the 17th century. Although locals believe there may be some 300 wrecks, the mapped sites are the best known and in the best condition. Dive depths at these sites run 7.5 to 26m (25-85 ft.). Inexperienced divers may want to stick to the wreck sites off the western coast, which tend to be in shallower waters -- about 9.5m (31 ft.) or less. These shallow wreck sites are popular with snorkelers as well.

Many hotels have their own watersports equipment. If yours doesn't, outfitters rent equipment.

Note: Spearfishing is not allowed within 1.5km (1 mile) of any shore, and spear guns are not permitted in Bermuda.

A Yacht of Your Very Own . . . Sort Of -- M.Y. Bermuda IV, No. 3 Stowe Hill in Paget Parish (tel. 441/232-7000; www.bermudaiv.com), is Bermuda's only live-aboard scuba-diving charter yacht. Both divers and underwater photographers book charters aboard this luxury vessel in one of three double en-suite staterooms. A highly trained chef prepares gourmet meals, and the charter includes up to five dives per day, as overseen by a professional diving instructor. The cost is $3,000 per person (6-8 person minimum), including an accommodation for 5 nights and all meals and diving costs. Even if you don't live aboard, it's possible to book the yacht at $500 per hour, or else you can call and try to arrange a dinner aboard the yacht, costing $100 per person for a gourmet five-course meal, including cocktails, wine, and beer.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.