DIVEIN’s team of PADI Scuba Instructors presents:
A Complete Guide to Diving in Tobago in 2023
Way down south, at the tip of the Lesser Antilles and the Caribbean, this modest sized island holds some big adventures! Half of the Trinidad & Tobago twin nation, this isle lies apart from the central Atlantic coast. This geography grants it special qualities, from stable weather to amazing migratory fish.
Blessed by some of the most diverse fauna, Tobago has dive sites dotted all around its main island for every experience level.
These sites can be split into three regions: Northern Speyside, generally intermediate diving with the largest coral colony worldwide at Kelleston Drain; Caribbean Coast – sheltered from the open Atlantic ocean here beginners can enjoy the calmer conditions and mesmerizing reef scenes; and South Atlantic Coast where deeper advanced sites carved by strong currents harbor pelagic life.
Tobago is the perfect destination for those wanting to get away from the crowds and experience a true Caribbean holiday.
Northern Speyside Coast
If diving with corals is how you get your underwater kicks, then Kelleston Drain is a must-do for you, and everyone else to be honest! This dive site is known for being home to the largest brain corals worldwide – some reaching a staggering 15ft/5m across! Kelleston Drain is located on the southern side of Little Tobago, a small island 1.8miles/3km east of Speyside. This creates a strong current with a high nutrient level, which sustains these massive brain coral colonies, as well as barrel sponges, sea whips and gorgonians.
With higher currents, Tobago supports larger pelagic marine life and common sightings include nurse sharks, schools of jacks and barracudas and the chance manta ray.
Black Jack Hole
Another spot on the southern side of Little Tobago and next door to Kelleston Drain is Black Jack Hole. The origin for its name comes from the large schools of black jacks that migrate here between May and July.
This dive site ranges from 30-130ft/10-40m, and is made up of a sloping coral reef with dramatic overhangs and ledges. Similar to its westerly neighbor, the currents here are relatively strong and with its sharp descents, Black Jack Hole is considered an intermediate dive site.
This dramatic seascape welcomes large schools of Chromis and anthias, and larger life such as hawksbills and reef sharks. And remember your torch to find the spiny lobsters and green morays hiding out in the crevices.
Japanese Gardens (Goat Is)
Directly opposite Speyside and Tyrel’s Bay, just a mile away is Goat Island, a popular snorkelling and diving destination. One of the more popular dive spots is to the south, known as Japanese Gardens.
Starting off at just 15ft/5m, and slowly descending a steep slope, you very quickly understand how it got its name. Japanese Gardens is full of colorful organ pipe corals and broad barrel sponges. With its southerly position, the currents are more than mild and often divers drift over Japanese and continue through Kamikazee Cut – a passageway that opens up to a sheltered spot, home to some resident nurse sharks.
Angel Reef (Goat Is)
Situated on the western side and sheltered by Goat Island, Angel Reef is a shallow reef with calmer waters. With its quiet current and good visibility, Angel Reef is a fantastic spot for the underwater photographers amongst us!
Dotted around this protected piece of paradise are a number of cleaning stations, providing the chance to snap up some macro shots of cleaner shrimp busy at work. These cleaning stations provide rare opportunities to catch a photo of their regular clients – parrotfish, butterflyfish and angelfish- who are normally dashing and darting over the reef scene, enjoy a moment of pause.
Thanks to its serene conditions, Angel Reef is just as popular at night.
Acquiring its name from the two opposing pinnacles rising above the water’s surface, this striking seascape creates a grand underwater amphitheatre.
Diving here is limited as the current can be very turbulent, making the descent only possible at favorable conditions and descents quick. For those that have the experience to dive such an advanced site and are there at the right time, Bookends really deliver quite the magnificent underwater treat.
Divers can encounter sharks such as blacktips and nurse, tarpon, turtles, rays and shoals of numerous fish, all against a beautiful backdrop of rich and healthy coral.
1.5miles/2.5km north of Tobago is a small cluster of islands known as the Sisters, with a collection of pinnacle dive sites that extend beyond 140ft/40m.
On the northern and western landward sides, advanced divers can experience steep wall faces and the larger pelagic species -sharks, barracudas, mantas- that cruise by. It is also a reliable fact that between October to May large schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks migrate here.
For the slightly less experienced, there are shallower reef sites on the eastern side, which are teeming with colourful morays, scorpionfish, octopus and lobsters tucked into every crevice.
All the sites dotted around the Sisters are an underwater safari and a true magical Tobagian experience.
Castara, a tucked away bay with local eateries and postcard oceanfront views are the perfect stopover as you travel along the Caribbean coastline.
Here the beach is long, flat and sandy, making shore entries to the nearby reef seamless. The reef is generally shallow, 10m/30ft, and only starts to get deeper as you head out of the bay, heading northeast. With its sheltered bay, sandy bottom and shallow reef, Castara is a great place to snorkel with the little ones or even have them experience diving for the first time!
Whether your head is above or below, enjoy underwater views of elkhorn coral, stingrays hiding in the sand and juveniles enjoying their safe haven.
Projecting seaward from the two headland tips of Culloden Bay and then curving to meet in the middle, Culloden Reef is a horseshoe mirrored parallel to its beach.
This reef is an unique “spur and groove” reef, which means that the ocean movement has, over time, caused the reef to separate to elongated segments, with sandy tunnels separating them. This constant flux of water means a variety of coral life, such as brain coral, pillar coral, whip coral and the bushy black coral. With all these corals and sandy channels comes an assortment of fish life – green morays, reef sharks, turtles, rays, angelfish, anthias and macro critters.
Although not as thrilling as some the dives further south, Culloden Reef offers distinctive topography and swim throughs, making for a peaceful yet intriguing dive site.
Arnos Vale Reef
This secluded 650ft/200m wide beachfront is the perfect place for a lazy day sitting on the beach, enjoying an easy diving day or a time-out with some casual snorkeling instead.
Like many of the reefs of Tobago, enjoying their underwater world is just a short swim from the beachfront. Arnos Vale is a rocky shelf, so the reef is always undulating with shallower (15ft/5m) and deeper (40ft/12m) coral outcrops.
This protected bay is a nursery and many juvenile reef fish seek refuge here. Whether it’d be with your professional camera or your casual compact, be sure to capture the undeniably cute boxfish, turtles, parrotfish wrasse. As is often the case with shallow easy to access shore sites, Arnos Vale is the perfect candidate for night diving, where crustacean critters came to life, along with squid and moray eels.
Through the summer months, it is possible to catch a glimpse of the magnificent mother leatherback turtles coming up onto the beach to lay their eggs.
Although there aren’t many shipwrecks sites around Tobago, the Maverick -a purposely sunk car ferry- is the perfect playground for the wreck lovers amongst you!
Sitting on a relatively featureless sandy bottom, the Maverick is the perfect hangout for the local marine life. The fact that it was deliberately sunk, standing upright and only 26 years old, means the wreck is in pretty great condition. A perfect candidate for those new to wreck diving or want to do their speciality.
All over the wreck are healthy patches of coral and polyps, with reef fish and the occasional turtle weaving around. At the base of the wreck,100ft/30m, amberjacks are a common sighting, along with massive stingrays and cobias.
Mt. Irvine Wall
Probably the most popular of all on the Caribbean coast and around Tobago, Mt Irvine Wall has something to offer all divers.
Just beyond its local bay, Mt Irvine breaks the surface inviting beginners and snorkelers alike. Due to its offshore location, Mt Irvine is-yep you guessed it!-a shore dive.
Starting off shallow, approximately 10m/30ft, this elongated pinnacle is only 10 feet deep, with a sandy bottom. The rocky reef holds a spectrum of life, many of which are hiding in crannies and crevices. Finding shelter here are lobsters, nudibranchs, eels, octopus and morays.
Mt. Irvine Wall Extension
For those that can, Mt Irvine Wall continues beyond its friendly neighborhood reef to a maximum depth of 80ft/25m. Beyond Mt Irvine, this extension transforms into a seascape of outcropping volcanic boulders, creating an almost lunar experience. It is along this segment where there are larger schools of larger fish such as tarpon and barracuda, with beautiful coral plumes and fans as their backdrop.
Gliding effortlessly over this volcanic landscape are also hawksbill turtles and rays, and perhaps even a manta will grace you with her presence.
South Atlantic Coast
South West of Crown Point’s main beachfront, Store Bay, is Kariwak Reef. It is easily accessible both from shore or by boat if you want to go a little further/deeper.
The Reef itself is a shallow 10-50ft/3-15m and being so close to shore and sheltered by the bay, the currents are very mild if not at all. These easy breezy conditions make it the perfect place for those wanting a trial dive, check-in dive or just some family friendly snorkelling. This absence of currents make it a photographer’s paradise, with the chance to snap up turtles, groupers and rays, surrounded by an array of colourful reef fish.
Kariwak’s convenient position and calm conditions also make an ideal spot for night diving.
This popular dive site is just a quick boat ride from the main town, Crown’s Point, and is a good place for beginners to get introduced to drift diving. The Atlantic waters are reasonably calm as you drift over Flying Reef, and so a way to get acclimated to the stronger currents further south.
The depth range is 18-45ft/5-15m and is accessible for all divers. The generally flat seascape harbors a dense population of colourful reef fish such as angelfish, moray eels, parrotfish and snappers, along with rays, sharks and turtles. A special highlight and interesting photo opportunity is an anchor, a popular hangout for the local marine life.
Cove & Crack
Although only 5km/ 3 miles east along the coast from the Flying Reef, the Cove is more open to the Atlantic Ocean and noticeably stronger currents. You’ll be glad that you did Flying Reef first just to ease yourself into it!
The underwater seascapes consist of steep slopes with nooks and crannies. Although the average depth of the site is not so much (40-66ft/12-20m), the currents paired with the extreme topography calls for intermediate experience. Here coral life is particularly abundant, with the likes of brain, sea fans, barrels sponges and fire corals.
Continuing from the Cove is the Cove Crack, a curious extension of the dive site with even more overhangs. Be sure to bring a torch as many spiny lobsters, rays, morays eels and nurse sharks tend to live in these hideouts.
Around 3 miles/5km south from Crown’s Point, and so a little longer boat ride than its neighboring coast huggers is Diver’s Thirst. Its more offshore location and proximity to the Atlantic Ocean means there are mild currents and depths, making it reserved for advanced divers.
The topography ranges from 60-100ft/20-30m, with rocky ridges and sandy undulating bottoms. A great spot for underwater wide angle photography as common sights include massive barrel sponges, schools of larger fish, turtles, nurse sharks and – if the sea gods are in a good mood – a manta ray as well.
1 mile/1.5 km southwest from Diver’s Thirst is Diver’s Dream, and so often these dive sites are paired together. Diver’s Dream is a shallower – 50-70ft – rocky reef plateau and generally more open seascape than Thirst.
Due to its more open (Atlantic) ocean location, to dive here you have to be sure of your drifting dive skills as the current can pack a punch! But as the name suggests, Diver’s Dream is one of the top sites around the island, with a marine abundance of coral and fish life – sharks, rays, turtles, barracudas.
Like its more sheltered partner, Diver’s Thirst, there are also barrel sponges here, yet here they have been molded into curious sculptures thanks to the stronger currents.
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WEATHER IN TOBAGO
Rainfall/month: 20-250mm/0.8-10.5 inches
*July-November are the wettest months, with monsoon-like rains occurring frequently. Off the back of that, January is the coldest month (80℉ on avg.), slowly getting hotter and drier in May (83℉ on avg.). Tobago lies at the southern border of the Atlantic hurricane belt, so extreme weather can happen but it is less vulnerable than its northern neighbors.
WATER TEMPERATURE IN TOBAGO
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