Whether you are newly certified or an advanced diver, diving in St. John is easy, accessible and offers an array of experiences for everyone. And because the U.S. Virgin Islands is a territory of the United States, you’ll enjoy the added safety of diving within U.S. waters. All dive boats are inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard and captains are USCG certified.
Sea life is abundant here. More than 500 species of fish, 40 types of coral and hundreds of invertebrates inhabit the water. Vibrant blue tang, silvery horse-eye jacks, queen triggerfish, spiny Caribbean lobster, spotted eagle rays, creole wrasses and cleaner gobies are just a sampling of the marine life populating the underwater terrain.
As the sun sets, octopuses, sea horses and moray eels make their appearance. Hawksbill, green and leatherback turtles call the USVI home and can be seen on many a dive. Lucky vacationers may even witness turtles hatching at one of the many turtle nesting grounds.
Most dive operators teach a full range of PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors) courses from beginning scuba to instructor training. Specialty courses such as underwater photography, peak buoyancy, wreck, drift and boat diving are also available through many operators. Training for those with physical disabilities is available at several dive outlets.
St. John shares many dive sites with St. Thomas, so dive boats from both islands can roam freely to the reefs between the two islands. Here are a few of the local dive operators’ favorites in St. John:
The prevailing southeast swells make this a tricky dive, but when seas are calm this site is magical. So much so that it has hosted several underwater weddings. Located on St. John’s east end between Ram Head and Leduck Island, arches, tunnels and caves are its signature features. The cave, known as “The Cathedral”, is encrusted with vivid sponges and orange cup coral. Schools of black durgeons, porkfish and silversides populate the shoal. Northeast of the cave is a series of deep walls and tiers that shelter spotted drums and Queen and French Angelfish.
This series of adjacent rocks, which serves as a nesting site for terns and other birds, is a fascinating dive when conditions are right. The south side is blanketed with sponges, gorgonians and a variety of sea life. The north face is the star attraction, dropping below 80 feet. Watch for stingrays in the sand and tarpon who regularly scavenge on silversides.
Here’s a site with an interesting and groundbreaking history. In a joint effort by NASA and the Department of the Interior and the Navy, Tektite was anchored at 50 feet to the seafloor in Greater Lameshur Bay. In 1969, four “aquanauts” spent two months being monitored by behavioral specialists for the psychological effects of extended isolation and the physiological results of breathing compressed air. Divers visiting the site will find a varied terrain of coral-encrusted tunnels, caves and ledges. Tarpon, squid, triggerfish, mackerel and small reef fish thrive here.
St. John Diving Facts
The average water temperature is around 82 F (29 C) in the summer and 80 F (26 C) in the winter. Most visitors are comfortable in shorty-style wetsuits year-round.
Visibility generally ranges from 60-100 feet, but it can occasionally be higher or lower depending on weather conditions.
A recompression chamber is available on St. Thomas in case of dive emergencies
To learn more about diving in St. John or to schedule your dives, contact these dive operators:
Cruz Bay Watersports Co.
Located in Cruz Bay & at the Westin, St. John
Low Key Watersports
Located at Wharfside Village, Cruz Bay
Toll Free: 800-835-7718
Phone: 340- 693-8999
Maho Bay Watersports
Located at Maho Bay Camps
Toll Free: 800-392-9004
Patagon Dive Center
Located at the Caneel Bay Resort
Phone: 340-776-6111 ext. 7290