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Diving in Saint Martin

Although St. Martin is divided between two countries, our opinion of its diving is not. Divers can expect to see fascinating rock formations, shipwrecks and a variety of colorful sea life.

Diving in Saint Martin

Quick facts

The area offers about 20 dive sites around all sides of the island. These sites are generally quite shallow. Typically max depths don’t even reach 60 feet (18 meters), making this a wonderful island for those making their first bubbles. The sites are a mix of wrecks, both intentionally and unintentionally sunk, old coral reefs and encrusted rocks.

There are 11 divable wreck sites around the island, but the most famous is the HMS Proselyte which reached its final resting place in 1801. Before sinking, this ship was a part of the Dutch Royal Navy. In 1796, the crew mutinied and turn the ship over to the British Royal Navy which it served until 1801. This wreck is now found in the Proselyte Reef and due to the fact that it was a wooden ship, the only artifacts remaining are the canons and anchors, which are today encrusted by corals.

While there are many colorful coral reefs surrounding St. Martin, some of the reef sites are actually rock formations encrusted with coral, hydroids and sponges. In particular, the northern dive sites host fascinating layered rock formations and the Proselyte Reef was created by lava flows off the island’s volcanoes. In other areas, the old coral reefs were damaged by hurricanes that ravaged the area in the 1990s and 2000s. Today the old and dead reefs are covered by new coral growth and sponges indicating a healthy recovery.

Diving on Saint Martin/Maartin is not limited to the 20 diveable sites surrounding the island. Dive operators may also travel to Saba, Statia, Anguilla and St. Barts for additional diving opportunities. Divers can expect warm tropical waters which range from 79-82°F (26-28°C) and variable visibility depending on the dive site.

Saint Martin is the perfect destination for learning new SCUBA skills while enjoying colorful underwater environments and an idyllic vacation above the water.

Recommended training

The PADI Underwater Naturalist Specialty course is a great choice to help identify the staggering array of reef creatures. The PADI Digital Underwater Photographer Specialtycourse helps you record that life once you identify it.

When to go

Weather is warm and tropical and doesn’t vary much from winter to summer. The average temperature year-round is 29°C/85°F. Hurricane season is from the beginning of June through the end of November.

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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Isabella Reef - Named after a long-since disintegrated wooden sailboat, this round reef is ringed with sand. With depths up to 30 metres/100 feet, the reef attracts nurse sharks, morays and spiny lobsters. Sea fans and barrel sponges reach up from the reef and filter passing currents, and a rich variety of reef fish keeps the dive interesting. Keep a weather eye out for stingrays on the sandy reef edges. Moon Hole - Getting here takes a bit of effort but the rewards are rich. When the conditions are right, head out to this underwater lunar landscape to enjoy the rocky reef ledges and watch the waves crash spectacularly overhead. You’ll find the usual suspects cramming the many crevices that bottom out at about 20 metres/70 feet. This one is worth asking for by name. HMS Proselyte - This could be the island’s flagship dive. Built in 1770, all that remains of the ship are coral-encrusted canons and anchors. Now part of the reefscape, these artifacts have the uncanny ability to make you feel like you’re going to find a cache of gold doubloons around the next corner. Don’t spend too much time searching though, because you might miss the big pelagic species such as barracuda and reef sharks that prowl the area. Then again, don’t spend too much time looking up or you’ll miss the many macro critters that litter the coral heads. Fishpot - With a name like this you know this elongated reef is filled with fish. There’s also staghorn and pillar coral, lots of lobster, a bounty of barracuda and dozens of the usual reef denizens. The reef lies between Saint Martin and neighboring Anguilla, and slopes from 14 metres/45 feet to 18 metres/60 feet. It’s not unusual for lucky divers to encounter pods of dolphins that like to visit the area.

What to see

From big to small, the marine life found around St. Maartin runs the gamut. Divers regularly see sting rays, spotted eagle rays, moray eels, sea turtles, reef sharks, lobsters, sergeant majors, trumpet fish, blue tangs, blue chromis, barracudas, tarpon, filefish, flying gurnard, snake eels, nurse sharks, hundreds of reef fish and a variety of macro life. Habitats for all of these fish species include colorful soft corals, gorgonians, hydroids, sponges and lava rocks.

You’re sure to see a huge variety of marine life on this Caribbean island, so get those fins on, don your mask and jump into St. Martin’s warm waters.

Calendar

For better readability of the table, pass into the landscape mode.

Most likely sightingsPossible sightings

Country

St. Martin, or St. Maarten, is an island of two nations. It has been divided between the French and the Dutch for nearly 350 years in a spirit of neighborly cooperation.

The border on this tiny island is quite fluid. People cross back and forth between the two countries without every realizing it. Four main boundaries exist, namely Belle Vue and Cole Bay, the French Quarter and the Dutch Quarter, Low Lands and Cupecoy as well as Oyster Pond. Peaceful cohabitation is the impressive outcome of the powerful treaty that makes this strange arrangement possible.

Although it may seem like one whole island, each side manages to retain its own cultural flavor. The French of St. Martin put pride in the comfort and elegance offered by their secluded beaches, luxurious resorts and gourmet restaurants.

On the other side of the island, in St. Maarten owned by the Dutch, bustling commercialism is the name of the game. This side of the island has long been known as a center for both trade and tourism. It welcomes cruise ships regularly throughout the year and is therefore more developed than the raw beauty of the French side. At the same time, it is more informal and very culturally Dutch.

Saint Martin is located midway through the Antilles in the Caribbean Sea. It is approximately 190 miles (300 kilometers) east of Puerto Rico and marks the point at which the chain of islands begins to curve to the south. St. Martin’s climate is temperate year-round with average temperatures of 82 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. Cooling trade winds blow throughout the year keeping things comfortable. Rainfall is also minimal with about 45 inches occurring annually between late summer and early fall.

Other attractions

Both sides of Saint Martin offer plenty to keep you busy throughout your stay. Visitors can enjoy the 37 beautiful beaches, some of which qualify as ‘clothing optional.’ There are also a variety of hiking trails that can be enjoyed on foot, by horse or zip line. Boat and catamaran charters allow you to enjoy above the water views of the island while some of the best dining in the Caribbean will keep you full morning, noon and night. Speaking of the night, St. Martin’s discos are known for their quick calypso rhythms fueling singing and dancing until the early hours. Between diving all day and enjoying the gorgeous Caribbean sunsets in the evening, your St. Martin vacation is sure to be both idyllic and memorable.

Getting there

Princes Juliana International Airport (SXM) in Phillipsburg on the Dutch side of the island is the main entry point for most international visitors arriving by plane. There is an additional, smaller airport mainly used for inter-island flights on the French side known as Grand Case Airport.

It is also possible to arrive in St. Martin by boat. Many visitors come by the ever-present cruise ships which dock in Philipsburg on the Dutch side of the island. There is also a small port near Marigot on the French side which mainly services private yachts.

Once on the island, it is easy to move around and visitors often cross the border without even knowing they have moved into a different country. Rental cars, taxis and buses are available for your convenience.

UTC-04:00

Time zone

EUR

Currency

+590

Calling code

220 V

Electric volt

C, 

E

Plug type

SXM

Main airport
Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.