Our St. Vincent adventure was one of the best ever. Not only were the accommodation well above average, along with the food, the diving was second to none.

The water was always calm and clear. The dive sites were a very short boat ride from the resort and the weather could not have been better.

Took my son and his young baby with us. Really enjoyed the plunge pool in our room. The best.
~ Peter & Ginny Fisher, Founding members since 1999

St. Vincent

Destination Review: St Vincent Diving

First Thoughts

St. Vincent is the largest island in the chain that composes St. Vincent and the Grenadines and still has an active volcano, La Soufriere. St. Vincent is most noted by movie aficionados as the place where Pirates of The Caribbean was filmed which makes many females swoon thinking of Johnny Depp on a small island! Among divers, St. Vincent is known as an incredible location for macro or critter diving. In that sand lays many weird and wonderful creatures and if you are patient and meticulous they can be uncovered.

Why We Think St Vincent Rocks or Doesn’t

Located at in the Windward Islands at the northern end of the Grenadines, St Vincent has a fun, cool Caribbean vibe. You get there and there’s no doubt you are in the Caribbean. It’s a big enough island so that there are plenty of things to do out of the water and it has some of the Caribbeans best diving.

Things that Rock

  • critter diving with the legendary Bill Tewes
  • super friendly people
  • the coconut bar at Young Island
  • hilltop villas with plunge pool at Young Island
  • taking a sailboat to Mustique
  • Pirates of the Caribbean filmed here
  • Great hikes and waterfalls
  • Cool Caribbean vibe

Things that Don’t

  • no direct flights
  • beaches just OK
  • no pelagics or sharks

The Diving

St Vincent has excellent marine biodiversity (number of different types of fish) and often does battle with Bonaire in fish count studies to see which island has more species. Bottom line? St Vincent is excellent for fish watching. And, on the night dives, you can see The Thing.

Diving on St. Vincent is also about critters. Yes, it has reefs with all the typical Caribbean fishes but it also has amazing critters hidden in sandy coves and rubble. The reefs around St Vincent are just OK, we go for the fish life and those unusual hidden gems.

Whatever you do, make sure you dive with Bill Tewes. Bill is an old salt who is madly in love with diving and is all about taking others out to show them all the cool stuff he has found from diving St Vincent over the years. He’s exuberance for diving is what we wish we could find at dive operations all over the world.

St Vincent Dive Sites

Coral Castle is just a short distance from shore. Sponges and gorgonians cover hard coral structures and seems to be home of sea horses, many species of basslett and other fascinating tiny creatures. The reef drops down to about 125 feet to the sand.

New Guinea Reef- Here if you drop down to deeper depths outside the reef you can find beautiful, black corals, whip corals, sponges and gorgonians.

The Semistrand– a 120 foot coastal freighter and remnants of other wrecks nearby.

Bottle Reef– For something different check out Bottle Reef below Ft. Charlotte with its interesting collection of rum and gin bottles.

But our favorite place to dive on St. Vincent is to just drop into the shallow volcanic sand and hunt for exceptional critters like snake eels and batfish. It can keep us happy all day long!

Our Favorite Things to Do Out of the Water

We believe in Surf and Turf checking out the best of underwater AND on land. It just so happens that most of the worlds best SCUBA diving destinations have other amazing things going for them in addition to kick ass diving. Don’t miss it.

  • Charter a Sailboat. Many charter boat operations exist on St. Vincent and you can take a day or a week and sail the islands of the Grenadines its prime sailing ocean. One of our favorite is sailing to Mustique Island to view the magnificent homes and have a tasty lunch and a cold Hairoun beer at Basil’s.
  • Go Birdwatching. St. Vincent boasts 174 species of birds of which four are endemic meaning found nowhere else on earth including one parrot!
  • Hike the Volcano– Take a 2 1/2 hour hike to the top of La Soufriere volcano at over 4000 feet. You can even hike into the crater or circumnavigate the rim! All this will will take about 7 hours including the hike back down.
  • See the Waterfalls Swim in the cool freshwater pools at Baleine falls or hike to Dark View, a double waterfall system.
  • Come for Carnival!– Summertime is the time for Carnival in St. Vincent! Come on and join the party!
  • Visit movie scenes Wallilabou Anchorage was the scene for the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean. If you are a fan, you can visit the sets. Ok, this may be less adventurous and a bit more touristy but hey, it’s fun just as well!
  • Go Whale Watching!
  • Visit the Botanical Gardens- The oldest in the western hemisphere, these beautiful gardens founded in 1765 sit on 30 acres and contain many exotic plants and trees.

Seasonality

Like many Caribbean islands, St. Vincent sees most of its rain from July to November and helps keep this volcanic island lush. The northern peaks are often clouded over and like most high islands, most of the rain falls on the mountains. The southern part of the island is drier because of this.

Overall

St Vincent is a great place for critter diving and finding the rare and unusual. The interior of the island is beautiful and certainly worth exploring. Add a great, laid back Caribbean vibe and it’s an excellent place to spend some quality time make sure and hit the Coconut Bar!

Sharkman and Mantagirl give St. Vincent

Two Fins UP

 

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Adventure

The adventure life comes in many styles on St. Vincent! Some of our favorite things to do on St. Vincent include:

  1. Dive Dive Dive. Scuba Diving on St. Vincent is our favorite thing to do!
  2. Charter a Sailboat. Many charter boat operations exist on St. Vincent and you can take a day or a week and sail the islands of the Grenadines. One of our favorite is sailing to Mustique Island to view the magnificent homes and have a tasty lunch and a cold Hairoun beer at Basil’s.
  3. Go Birdwatching. St. Vincent boasts 174 species of birds of which four are endemic meaning found nowhere else on earth including one parrot!
  4. Hike the Volcano- Take a 2 1/2 hour hike to the top of La Soufriere volcano at over 4000 feet. You can even hike into the crater or circumnavigate the rim! All this will will take about 7 hours including the hike back down.
  5. See the Waterfalls Swim in the cool freshwater pools at Baleine falls or hike to Dark View, a double waterfall system.
  6. Come for Carnival!- Summertime is the time for Carnival in St. Vincent! Come on and join the party!
  7. Visit movie scenesWallilabou Anchorage was the scene for the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean. If you are a fan, you can visit the sets. Ok, this may be less adventurous and a bit more touristy but hey, it’s fun just as well!
  8. Go Whale Watching!
  9. Visit the Botanical Gardens- The oldest in the western hemisphere, these beautiful gardens founded in 1765 sit on 30 acres and contain many exotic plants and trees.

Getting There

 

There are still gems left in the Caribbean and they are gems for different reasons. Young Island just off the coast of St. Vincent is one of those gems. It’s reason is the 29 luxurious ocean view guest cottages on its own private 35 acre island just a couple of hundred yards off the southern coast of St. Vincent Island. It’s reason is the gorgeous hilltop villas and the legendary swim to Coconut Bar. And it’s reason is the friendly staff and Caribbean hospitality.

From www.youngisland.com

Young Island Resort, the most northerly of the Grenadine chain of islands, is a privately owned, luxury 35 acre tropical island located 200 yards from St. Vincent’s southern shores. Legend has it that 150 years ago the Caribs — the original inhabitants of the region — traded the island for a stallion owned by the then British Administrator, Governor Young, hence the origin of the island’s name.

Young Island was eventually developed into a luxury resort some 30 years ago by John Houser of the Hilton Group before, in 1974, ownership eventually moved to its current Vincentians owners: Mr. Vidal Browne and Dr. Fred Ballantyne.

Dr. Ballantyne says: “We try and foster the kind of relationship with our clients that makes them feel as if they are in their own homes. The resort has always tried to set very high standards, and I think we’ve managed to achieve them over the years. We set out to prove that local people could successfully manage a hotel resort of international standing, and I believe we have succeeded.”

Resort Spec Highlights

  1. 29 Luxurious cottages
  2. Swim up bar
  3. Full service spa
  4. Plunge pools in some cottages
  5. Beach
  6. Swimming pool
  7. Tennis courts
  8. No onsite dive shop but it is 30 seconds across the channel
  9. Many options for accommodation levels
  10. Boat rental available

 

Beach

There is a beach on Young Island which faces the main island of St. Vincent. I would not say it is an idyllic beach like you would find in the Cayman Islands but it is certainly a useable beach with the legendary swim up Coconut Bar just a few yards from the shore. It’s a good place to wile away an afternoon lounging with a good book or soaking in the ocean.

Snorkeling

There really is no snorkeling off the beach on Young Island but if you hop on the dive boat in the morning, there is definitely shallow reef to snorkel to your heart’s content.

Bars and Restaurants

The restaurant at Young Island is outdoors and under a series of thatched roof palapas or kiosks. Some are large enough for a group and others are just for a romantic table for two or intimate party of four. Five nights a week they serve a five course meal . The other two nights are theme, one is local cuisine and the other a BBQ night. The food is a very good combination of continental and Caribbean and there are many packages available with full or half board. I am always satisfied with my meals though on some days I have to be patient waiting for them to arrive.

There are two bars. As mentioned above the rockin Coconut Bar is open during the day for everything from the local Hairoun beer to frilly drinks with umbrellas and deadly rum drinks inside coconuts!

The other bar is Captain Bligh and is located in the main building of the resort. It has about ten bar stools and evening Caribbean music.

Spa

The Spa Kalina is located inside one of the former guest cottages nestled in the trees to provide a tranquil setting. It is a small spa with a small staff but they do provide a variety of services from reflexology to massage to facials.

Accommodations

There are basically three types of rooms at Young Island as well as one hilltop two bedroom cottage. None of the accommodations have air conditioning but all have ceiling fans.

Superior Cottage –There are 29 superior cottages either on the beach or on the hillside. They all have ocean views and some connect if you want to bring a family. There is also an open air shower and private patio. I find these accommodations to be great though it can be warm if you are an air con fan. The upper level accommodations are nicer of course but for a standard house room, I think they are a nice size.

Deluxe Cottage – There are four deluxe cottages which have a sitting area and a much larger patio for less than $100 additional per night per room and may be worth it if for you a better room means simply larger.

Luxury Cottage – It is a big step up in price to go to the luxury cottage @$400 additional per night. The two on the beach have exceptional private plunge pools and a complete separate bedroom. However, the ones on the top of the hill are AMAZING and have incredible views and to me are worth the money. Here is the downside to the hilltop rooms. It is close to 100 steps every time you go to your room. So if you forget something for diving, it’s back up the hill. If you go back to your room after a meal it’s back up the hill. If you decide you need a sweater for the evening it’s back up the hill. But if you are in shape and don’t mind going back up the hill, I would stay there in a heartbeat.

Duvernette Suite – This is a two bedroom house with pool located on top of the hill and set back away from everything. It would be a nice place for a family or two couples who don’t mind sharing accommodations. There is a complete kitchen if you wish. This unit, however, is definitely a schlep from the everything.

Overall

Young Island has a great feel to it and with a number of different room types you can find a way to get there and fit it into your budget. It’s just a 30 second shuttle across to the main island so you are close yet have the feeling you are far away as you are on a 35 acre private island.

Dive St. Vincent – Dive Operation

Dive St. Vincent is not one of the flashiest or most organized or largest dive operations in the world, not even in the Caribbean. But it is one of the coolest and that’s because of its owner, Bill Tewes. He is becoming a legend in diving. He’s a crusty old fart who says it like he feels, minces no words, will tick you off but he’s so lovable for it you can’t help but want to keep diving with him. Welcome to Bill’s world! And you know what? I think when Bill reads that introduction he will smile and know that he completely resembles those remarks! Bill is so famous that he even has a St. Vincent stamp with his photo on it as well as three of his underwater photos that were printed into stamps. Now how cool is that????

Facility

Dive St. Vincent is located just across the channel from Young Island. Last time I was there I had a group of divers with me. So each morning, I would make a protein shake for breakfast and take the 30 second shuttle over to the dive shack. There I would wait for the divemasters to arrive and we would organize our 16 divers for the day. We would haul the dive bags out of the shed and into piles for the various boats. The guys would finish filling the tanks and we’d stand around awhile while everyone got their stuff arranged and eventually loaded into the dive boats.

Normally if you were traveling as an individual the guys would load your gear for you each day. Since I had a group with me last time I was there, I went over to help get it all sorted each day.

Boats

Dive St. Vincent operates three boats. They are well maintained and run in good condition. Fortunately, it is never more than about 20 minutes to the dive sites which are close to shore up the coast.

The three dive boats are:

  1. The Sketel
  2. a 28′ speedboat with twin 200 hp outboards
  3. The Sunfish
  4. a 28′ semi-cabin with twin 200 hp outboards
  5. The Quillfin
  6. a 32′ speedboat with twin 250 hp outboards

Each boat holds a maximum of eight divers. If you come with a group of 6 you can have your own private boat.

The Diving Operation

It’s a laid back operation on St. Vincent with a 9:30 start time. And you know what? That’s totally cool. So many times, we want to get out and get diving and so we are still getting up in the dark like we do at home to go to work but instead we go diving. Bill has it right. 9:30am is quite a civilized start time. A two tank dive gets you back about 1:30pm in time for a late lunch, a nap, a swim or a hike to a waterfall and then happy hour.

If you want to go and just look at the pretty fish on the reef, Bill will send you with one of his divemasters who are only too happy to provide that service. But Bill is a critter guy and he’ll spend his dive scouring the sand and turtle grass for the weird and unusual. Afterall, THAT is what Dive St. Vincent is all about. The reefs are pretty nice though not as nice as other places in the Caribbean but if you want the oddball stuff you go to the oddball guy!

I have never in my life been chastised by the divemaster for going to the surface TOO EARLY!! Bill simply loves to be underwater searching. He takes his time and doesn’t care one lick about bottom time. I don’t mean that he’s not watching his computer, I mean that he’s not checking his watch every 10 minutes to see when he can bring you to the surface. We once had a 90 minute dive and he was ticked off that we signaled to go up. Our other divers were on the boat and waiting and we did not want unhappy guests. Another time, Bill apologized after an almost two hour bottom time (obviously very shallow) that he had to surface because he was low on air. If that’s the kind of diving you want, then Dive St. Vincent is your place, and Bill is your guy!

Safety and Environment

For all of the teasing I do of Bill in this review, he is very safety conscious and also watchful of the environment. He has placed moorings at most of his dive sites. Dive St. Vincent is a REEF (reef environmental education foundation) field station. Bill believes in protecting the environment and also in training and education of local people on the island.