There are many dive sites of 27-30 m and if you are doing three dives a day you must follow your dive tables and stay within your limit. It is recommended that you take every fourth day off and rest or go hiking. All three dive operations offer à la carte diving and arrange taxi pick-ups from hotels.
The waters around Saba became a marine park in 1987 and 36 permanent mooring buoys have been provided for dive boats (less than half of which are for big boats). The park includes waters from the highwater mark down to 60 m all the way around the island. Spearfishing is prohibited (except by Sabans, free diving in certain areas), as is the removal of coral or shells (Sabans are limited to 20 conch per person a year without the use of scuba). Diving tourism is popular in the marine park, which is noted for its ‘virginity’. Saba has no permanent beaches so diving and snorkelling is from boats, mostly along the calmer south and west coasts.
The west coast from Tent Bay to Ladder Bay, together with Man of War shoals, Diamond Rock and the sea offshore comprise the main dive sites, where anchoring and fishing are prohibited. From Ladder Bay to Torrens Point is an all-purpose recreational zone which includes Saba’s only beach at Well’s Bay, a pebbly stretch of coast with shallow water for swimming and areas for diving, fishing, and boat anchorage. The beach comes and goes with the seasons and ocean currents but when it is there it is scenic and good for snorkelling. The concrete road ends here but there are no facilities so take your own refreshments and arrange for a taxi to pick you up later. Another anchorage is west of Fort Bay. East of Fort Bay along the south, east and north coast to Torrens Point is a multiple use zone where fishing and diving are permitted. Some of the most visited dive sites are Third Encounter, Outer Limits, Diamond Rock and Man of War. Tent Reef is also a favourite. Ladder Labyrinth is a dive site which is good for snorkelling.
Dive operators have been granted permits and they collect the mandatory visitor fees (US$3 per person per dive) to help maintain the park which is now self-financing. The marine park office is at Fort Bay, PO Box 18, The Bottom, T/F63295,It is managed by a Dutchman, David Kooistra, and a Saban, Percy Tenhott, who are very helpful and keen to talk about conservation. Percy gives an illustrated lecture at 1830 on Tuesday at Juliana’s, or on demand for groups. The guide to the dive sites, Guide to the Saba Marine Park, by Tom Van’t Hof, published by the Saba Conservation Foundation, is highly recommended, available at dive shops, the museum and souvenir shops, US$15. Saba now has a four person recompression chamber at Fort Bay, donated by the Royal Netherlands Navy, which is administered through the Marine Park but operated by medical school people. Summer visibility is 23-30 m with water temperatures of about 30°C, while winter visibility increases to 38 m and water temperatures fall to 24°C. Saba’s rugged, volcanic terrain is replicated underwater where there are mountains, caves, lava flows, overhangs, reefs, walls, pinnacles and elkhorn coral forests.
Not much fishing is done in these waters, so there is a wide range of sizes and varieties of fish to be seen. Tarpon and barracuda of up to 2½ m are common, as are giant sea turtles. From January to April humpback whales pass by on their migration south and can be encountered by divers, while in the winter dive boats are often accompanied by schools of porpoises. Smaller, tropical fish are not in short supply and together with bright red, orange, yellow and purple giant tube sponges and different coloured coral, are a photographer’s delight. Divers are not allowed to feed the fish as it has been proved to alter fish behaviour and encourage the aggressive species.
There are three dive shops on Saba. Saba Deep at Fort Bay, near the pier, T63347, F63397, www.sabadeep.com , PO Box 22, has NAUI and PADI instructors. They have two 25-ft inflatable boats. Boats return to shore between dives so you can spend your surface interval in the air conditioned bar In Two Deep, rather than being tossed about at sea. All your gear is taken care of during your stay or there is well-maintained rental equipment. A two-tank dive costs US$90, including equipment (US$10 for wet suit), park fees (five percent surcharge for credit cards).
Sea Saba Advanced Dive Centre at Lambee’s Place, Windwardside, T62246, F62362, www.seasaba.com, PADI and NAUI, have two large boats, with shade and sun deck, but limit groups to 10 people. Their trips are more of a cruise and recommended if there is a non-diving partner, the surface interval is spent at Well’s Bay for sunbathing and snorkelling. Drinks are available on board, some people take snacks for the 60-90 minute interval. The atmosphere is relaxed and unrushed, you return to dock after the second dive at about 1430. A two-tank dive costs US$90 including park fee and tax plus US$10 for equipment.
Saba Divers at Scout’s Place, Windwardside, T62740, F62741, www.sabadivers.com The most recent addition to the diving scene, run by Wolfgang Tooten and Barbara Schäfer, of Germany. PADI, SSI, DAN, CMAS courses offered in several languages, diving and accommodation packages available. The dive shop is at Scout’s Place and is under the same management, but you don’t have to stay there to dive with them. Similar diving prices to the other companies, all new equipment in 2000