Statia’s waters offer a wonderful combination of coral reefs, marine life and historic shipwrecks. Water visibility can be over 30 m and snorkeling is also very good. Diving is excellent, with plenty of corals, sea fans, hydroids and big fish such as groupers and barracudas, as well as rays, turtles and the occasional dolphin but unlike some other Caribbean diving destinations, you will not bump into any other divers underwater.
St Eustatius Marine Park was established in 1996 and became operational in 1998. STENAPA has identified four protected areas: the southern part from Crooks Castle to White Wall is a restricted fishing zone; the wreck sites in Oranje Bay, STENAPA Reef (a modern wreck site) and the northern marine park are open for fishing and diving. Marine park fees are US$3 per dive, US$3 per snorkelling trip when using the park buoys, US$35 for a non-resident annual pass. You may not anchor anywhere in the park, spear guns and spear fishing are prohibited in all waters around Statia, nothing may be removed, whether animals, plants or historical artefacts, you may not touch or feed marine life. The marine park office is at Lower Town, close to the harbor.
The Supermarket, 1 km off the coast from Lower Town at a depth of 18 m, has two shipwrecks 15m apart with beautiful coral, red and purple sponges, shoals of fish, sea turtles and the rare flying gurnard. The Garden is another very beautiful reef with hundreds of fish of all kinds from the smallest wrass to large barracudas and extremely tame angel fish. As yet there are few divers on Statia so fish are generally tame and do not swim away.
Dive Statia is run by Rudi and Rinda Hees T82435, F82539, dive...@megatropic.com, Lower Town, PO Box 158, in USA: 8521 N Georgia, Oklahoma City, OK 73114, F405-8437846. They have a small, rigid inflatable boat for up to 10 divers but six is comfortable. The boat is moored off the beach in front of the dive shop and you have to carry all your equipment down to the sea, wade out and pass it to the guide on the boat. They only take certified divers, although a full range of courses is offered, and do three dives a day with night dives on request. Once in the water the dives are not strictly guided, buddies may go off and explore. Some dives are deep (take care not to get lost) and the operation does not really cater for inexperienced or nervous divers. A two-tank dive is US$75, equipment rental is available, PADI Open Water four-day course US$350, snorkel trips US$25 with equipment, photographic and video equipment rental, 3-7 day accommodation and diving packages available with most hotels.
Another dive shop, Golden Rock Dive Centre, is opposite the Blue Bead Restaurant. Owned by Glen Fairs, T/F82964, www.goldenrockdive.com One dive US$45, hotel/dive packages, PADI open water course US$350. Golden Rock also offers charter fishing and boat trips to Saba and operates the underwater snorkel museum for the St Eustatius Historical Foundation.
Scubaqua (PADI, SSI, CMAS) is at the Golden Era Hotel, T/F82160/82345, Email: scub...@megatropic.com with their own pier. They have two boats, taking 6 or 12 divers, and an inflatable for dive courses. Groups per instructor are no more than six and the captain stays on board the boat. Drift diving for whale watching is organized between end-January and April and they also offer waterskiing, wakeboards and fishing trips. A single dive costs US$29, equipment rental US$20, snorkelling trips with lunch on the beach US$25, full Open Water certification course with equipment is US$350. You must dive with a local company as it is not possible to fill tanks. On leaving Statia Customs officials may give you and your luggage a rigorous search if they discover you are a diver. They are looking for treasure, or artefacts, beware. The MV Caribbean Explorer, 16-passenger, 100ft liveaboard, includes Statia in its week-long tour of the northeast Caribbean, with five dives in the Marine park. Contact Explorer Ventures Ltd, www.caribexplorer.com