Surrounded by clear, warm water and coral reefs teeming with aquatic life, the Caribbean has long enjoyed a reputation as a diver’s paradise.
But just how well does it stack up on the world stage in terms of pairing professional dive facilities with luxury lodges dishing out the royal treatment to guests?
Pretty well, according to Fred Garth, a 30-year journalist and editor of adventure travel magazines, who has served as editor of Fathoms, Scuba Times, Skin Diver, and Guy Harvey magazines.
In a recent article penned for CNN, Garth picked 10 of the most exclusive scuba hideaways on the planet, and the Caribbean scored twice with St Lucia’s Jade Mountain and St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Petit St Vincent Resort.
Here’s what he had to say about each:
Jade Mountain (St Lucia)
The extreme vertical architecture of this resort mirrors St Lucia’s famously steep Gros and Petit Piton mountains.
Architect-owner Nick Troubetzkoy employed bridges, towering columns and balconies to blend into the natural surroundings. The results are sprawling views of the Caribbean Sea and the sky-scraping green Pitons that rise proudly out of Soufriere Bay.
At Jade Mountain, living areas have just three walls. The fourth has been replaced with a private infinity pool and an expansive view that gives “open air” a whole new meaning.
The resort looks down over St Lucia’s Marine Park, where both beach and boat dives are easily accessible. The island’s marine ecosystem is home to more than 100 species of fish and most diving is in the 20- to 130-foot range.
The rocky underwater terrain is full of multi-coloured sponges and corals and a favourite hangout of peacock flounders, octopus, needlefish, lobsters, moray eels and other typical Caribbean fish.
Petit St Vincent Resort (St Vincent and the Grenadines)
Anyone with 56 very close friends (Facebook doesn’t count) can book what Petit St Vincent calls a “full island buyout.” That reserves all of this 115-acre island’s 22 one-bedroom cottages and two-bedroom beach villas. The homes are scattered along the bluffs and seven perfect beaches, ensuring privacy even among good friends, just in case anyone needs some alone time.
For diving, Jacques Cousteau’s son, Jean-Michel, has made Petit St Vincent a kind of second home. The dive school bears his name and follows the Cousteau legacy of exploration and conservation. Dozens of excellent dive sites are minutes away or just a few miles north around Union and Mayreau Islands.
Besides Sail Rock, which is reserved for advanced diving when weather conditions allow, most of the diving is easy enough for beginners. Divers will encounter moray eels, lobsters, nurse sharks, sea fans, colourful sponges and corals in typically warm, clear Caribbean water.
Jade Mountain and Petit St Vincent Resort are in good company among Garth’s remaining picks: Qamea Resort and Spa (Fiji); Misool Eco Resort (Indonesia); Kia Ora Resort & Spa (Rangiroa, French Polynesia); Lizard Island (Australia); Mnemba Island (Tanzania); Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru (Maldives); Crusoe Island Lodge (Chile); and North Island (Seychelles).