Best Dives of the Bahamas, Florida and Bermuda

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Overview

Book rights: Hunter Publishing, the publisher of this eBook, is granting readers the right to print this book as well as the right to lend/give this eBook to other Adobe Acrobat eBook Reader users.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556508967
  • Publisher: Hunter Publishing, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/28/2000
  • Series: Best Dives Series
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 5.42 (w) x 8.41 (h) x 0.51 (d)

First Chapter

Bermuda

Sitting hundreds of miles from anywhere, or more precisely 650 miles off the coast of North Carolina, Britain's oldest colony is known for its natural beauty. Everyone who's been to Bermuda understands why Mark Twain once said: "You go to heaven if you want - I'd rather stay here in Bermuda."

Geographically, Bermuda consists of 181 hilly islands and countless cayes that swing from northwest to southwest in a fish-hook shape. Its 21-mile stretch of islands is connected by several bridges and causeways. Town Hill, the highest point, rises 260 feet above sea level. There are no rivers or freshwater lakes. Residents depend solely on rainfall for drinking water.

Bermuda is divided into nine parishes - once known as tribes. The boundaries still remain as they were drawn on the original maps in 1622, and the original names from the principal shareholders have been retained: Hamilton, Smith, Devonshire, Paget, Warwick, Sandys and St. Georges. About 58,460 people live on 20 of the islands.

Surrounding Bermuda is one of the largest fringing reef systems in the entire world. Despite a continuous influx of tour boats, the dive operators' installation and use of 20 permanent moorings, along with adherence to smart buoyancy control measures, has kept the reefs in pristine condition.

History

Though the islands were first discovered in 1503 by Juan de Bermudez, a Spaniard who left his name and sailed away, the first visitors to stay in Bermuda were British travelers shipwrecked when Admiral Sir George Somers' flagship Sea Venture came to grief on Bermuda's reefs in 1609. Enroute to the Jamestown Colony, they ran aground on the shallow reefs that ring the island.

Bermuda Today

The natural beauty of this tiny island, both above and below the sea is well guarded by preservation laws. Visitors are often surprised to find a noticeable lack of neon signs, skyscrapers or strip malls. Many areas of the island have been kept exactly the same as when the first shipwrecked settlers arrived. The quality of life is high in Bermuda - no pollution, no unemployment and no illiteracy.

When to Go

March through December are prime months for divers to visit Bermuda, though some operators dive all year. Annual rainfall is 57.6 inches, with October being the wettest month. Snorkeling is best during summer when the waters of the Gulf Stream reach 85°F. In winter, the main flow of warm water moves away from Bermuda, causing local temperatures to drop as low as 60°F. This annual cold spell prohibits the growth of delicate corals and sponges, but heartier corals, such as brain, star, sea fans, soft corals, pillar corals and some long purple tube sponges thrive. Overall, Bermuda's reefs are very lush with marine growth. The predominant soft corals swaying in the surges impart a garden-like quality to the reefs.

Although Bermuda is an undisputed paradise for shallow-water wreck diving, coral formations along Bermuda's south shore offer divers another amazing treat. Nature has provided a coral architecture of canyons, caves, grottoes, labyrinths, and tunnels - which may make you entirely forget about Bermuda's singular claim to fame, her hundreds of shipwrecks.

In Peter Benchley's story, The Deep, two vacationing divers enlist the aid of a seasoned Bermuda treasure hunter, supposedly modeled after real life treasure-hunting celebrity, Teddy Tucker, and they find a cache of golden artifacts from a lost treasure galleon. Experts agree that many of Bermuda's treasure galleons are yet to be found.

Bermuda law requires that all diving be done with a government-licensed guide. Most dive operations will pick you up at your hotel and transport you and your equipment to and from the dive boat. No car rentals exist on Bermuda and the taxi and horse-drawn carriage operators have not yet demonstrated any fondness for divers piling loads of dripping gear in the back seat.

The Shipwrecks of Bermuda

Three centuries of sunken ships lie at rest in Bermuda's briny deeps. To protect them while still allowing recreational and commercial access, the Bermuda Government has created a special department - "The Receiver of Wrecks." This agency is responsible for issuing licenses to individuals for the excavation of newly discovered shipwreck sites in Bermuda waters. Despite modern navigational aids and numerous safety precautions ships still wreck occasionally on Bermuda's reefs.

The Government officially acknowledges the existence of as many as 400 wrecks. These have been charted, more or less identified, properly worked, and most of them left alone. Some of the older and more historically important wrecks are protected sites, and divers are forbidden to visit these wrecks.

Robert Marx, in one of his books, remarks that there are at least 1,500 shipwrecks and possibly 2,000 in Bermuda waters. His estimates come from personal research, including original photographs of ships that sank in the past 100 years or so and drawings of older ships or their sister ships. Local divers agree that figure may not be an exaggeration.

The waters around Bermuda have given up a great deal of what most call treasure to eager and diligent treasure hunters. Most notable of the Bermudian treasure hunters would certainly be Mr. Teddy Tucker. Teddy has developed numerous innovative methods to search for wrecks, including riding in a hot air balloon towed behind a power boat. His innovations have proved to be very successful and he has recovered more than any other Bermudian treasure hunter.

The greatest single find from Bermuda waters must be the "Tucker Treasure," discovered after many years of working the same site. This find produced numerous gold bars, gold cakes, pearl-studded golden buttons, and a magnificent emerald cross. It also netted numerous artifacts depicting life at the time of the wreck (1595), which is often called one of the most important finds of the century. Others of Teddy's wrecks have yielded considerable gold and silver and, even though he is now getting on in years, he is still out in the reefs looking for new wrecks or working on those he has already registered.

Another legendary Bermuda treasure hunter is Mr. Harry Cox, who has found a nice-sized collection, as he prefers to call it. It consists of a quantity of gold coins, bars and circlets, a pearl cross and a gold ring with a space for a large stone. Ironically, almost one year from the day of discovering the ring, one of Harry's crew came up with a three-karat emerald. It fit perfectly into the space in the ring. But the best find of this particular collection must be the 15-ft-long double-braided gold chain. Each link is gold soldered with the lost wax process common in the Middle Ages, but unknown to modern jewelers and goldsmiths until recently. Harry believes this collection to be the personal property of a merchant who may have fallen overboard or been cast off a ship in sight of Bermuda.

Best Dives of Bermuda

Unless otherwise noted, Bermuda's wreck dives are all boat access.

* The Constellation/Montana, a few miles off the northwestern coast of Bermuda, consists of two ships that sank on exactly the same reef, although 80 years apart. The Montana was an English paddlewheel steamer on her maiden voyage as a Confederate blockade runner during the American Civil War. She was a very sleek vessel, 236 ft in length and with a beam of 25 ft. Her steam engines and twin paddlewheels were capable of turning out some 260 hp. She ground to a halt in shallow reefs 5½ miles from the Western end of Bermuda on December 30, 1863. As she was an iron-hulled ship, a great deal of her hull and boilers are remarkably intact and make for an excellent dive. Numerous reef fish and some rather large schools of barracuda make the Montana, also known as the Nola, Gloria and Paramount, their home. Literally overlapping the Montana is the remains of the Constellation. This four-masted, wooden-hulled schooner sank on the Bermuda reefs en route from New York to Venezuela on July 31, 1943. Hers was a general cargo, but on her deck she carried 700 cases of Scotch whiskey, an assortment of drugs and hundreds of bags of cement which, when washed with seawater, solidified into concrete and so remain to this very day. The Constellation is often referred to as the "Dime Store" or "Woolworth" wreck because of the wide variety of artifacts that can be seen. After perusing the Constellation, a diver might think he had been diving at Woolworth's. She was carrying all sorts of goods to be sold in Venezuela, including red glass, cut glass, china, glasses, tea and coffee cups and saucers, tickets to Coney Island (in Spanish), Yo Yos, 78 rpm records by RCA (with labels in Spanish), cases of pistachio nuts, radios, parts for radios, religious artifacts, devotion altars of pewter, crucifixes, cosmetic supplies by Mennen and Elizabeth Arden, cold cream, Vaseline, and pharmaceutical products, including at least eight different types of drug ampules, which provided Peter Benchley with the premise for The Deep. This is a very enjoyable dive and all in 30 ft of water. The site is about five miles offshore and is recommended for both snorkelers and divers. Some areas of the reef are as shallow as eight feet. The sea conditions vary with the wind direction and speed. Dive boat captains vigorously discourage taking bottles and artifacts from the Constellation.

* The Cristobal Colon, a 480-ft, three-story Spanish luxury liner is Bermuda's largest known shipwreck. She ran aground on October 25,1936 after hitting a reef between North Rock and North Breaker. The ship sat on the reef for some time while furniture, art and other valuables were salvaged. The following year Captain Stephensen of the Norwegian steamer Aristo mistook the stationary wreck of the Colon as a ship under way and "followed" her onto the reefs. Following that tragedy the Bermuda government dismantled the Colon's mast and funnel to prevent other ships from mistaking her for an active vessel. Today, the Cristobal Colon lies in 15 ft (at the bow) to 80 ft (at the stern) with her remains scattered across 100,000 square ft of seafloor. Divers and snorkelers will find plenty of fish hiding beneath the propellers, drive shafts and boilers lying on the bottom.

* The 250-ft steamship Aristo (aka Iristo) sank under tow during a rescue effort. Her general cargo included a vintage fire truck that sits off the forward deck, gasoline drums and a steamroller. Rocks and coral rubble surround the hull. Visibility varies. Seas calm. Depths to 50 ft with the bow coming to within 18 ft of the surface.

* Lartington. Long listed on the Bermuda wreck chart as an unidentified 19th-century wreck, the Lartington was often referred to as the Nola, until one of Blue Water Divers' young divemasters discovered her name under the port side of her partially intact bow. After writing to Harland & Wolf, a builder of this type of vessel during the 1800s, we learned that this sort of ship, a sailing steamer, was very common in the late 1800s.

The Lartington gave rise to the expression, "tramp steamer," because every time the coal burning engines were fired up, she belched out a cloud of coal dust, liberally coating everything and everyone aboard with black soot. Then everyone resembled railroad hoboes, or tramps, and the name stuck!

The Lartington's saturation steam boilers are visible amidships and, at the stern, the driveshaft and propeller. The steering controls located on the fantail are now encrusted with over 100 years of coral growth. The bow, partially destroyed, lies a few feet above the 30-ft-deep sand bottom. There is an air pocket inside the bow, but it is oxygen-poor, so breathing in is definitely a bad idea.

The surrounding reef is very nice, honeycombed with small caves and some tunnelsn. In many places it comes to within 10 ft of the surface. The entire length of the wreck is visible from the surface, although it's too long for snorkeling. She lies facing almost due south, as if heading into Bermuda. This site is recommended for snorkelers and divers, both novice and expert. Sea conditions vary with the wind.

* Southwest Breaker. This massive breaking reef, the cause of at least one wreck along Bermuda's south shore, rises from a 30-ft bottom and actually protrudes above the surface, casting up considerable whitewater even on the calmest days. Through the center of the breaker is a massive tunnel, large enough to drive a boat through. The tunnel is often occupied by two to four black grouper and a resident barracuda who is none too shy of photographers. In early summer, clouds of fry or glass eye minnows feed in the nutrient-rich and oxygenated waters here. They draw others and then more still until the breaker is home to more fish than you can count. The surrounding reef is very colorful and appears quite lush, with many smaller non-breaking heads known locally as "blindbreakers." These are carved with numerous ledges and caves. This area, a favorite for night dives, is excellent for snorkelers and novice and experienced scuba divers. It is particularly interesting to photograph. Surface swells are encountered here.

* Mary Celestia. After making at least five round trips to Wilmington, NC successfully, running the Northern blockade of Confederate ports, the Mary Celestia ran aground on the "Blind Breakers" and sank on September 13, 1864, only nine months after her sister ship, the Montana, was wrecked on the Northern reefs. The story, as reported in the Royal Gazette a week later, states that her captain, knowing the waters of Bermuda, warned the navigator about the breakers. The navigator remarked with a certain surety, "I know these waters like I know my own house!" He apparently hadn't spent much time at home, for within minutes the Mary Celestia struck bottom. She was towed off the reef the next morning and reportedly sank within 10 minutes, the seas rushing in through a great hole torn in her underside.

The only loss of life on the Mary Celestia was the ship's cook, who returned to salvage his frying pan or some piece of personal equipment. The remainder of the crew made it to shore, where most of them died of the yellow fever that was ravaging Bermuda at the time.

Today, the Mary sits quietly in just under 60 ft of water as if she were still steaming along. More than 120 years' accumulation of sand covers most of her hull, but her two rectangular steam boilers and engine machinery lie upright and perfectly visible. Both of her paddle wheels stand upright. The entire wreck is surrounded by a high reef, honeycombed with caverns, canyons and cuts that open onto the sand bottom. Dive boats normally anchor on the shallow top of the reef, allowing for a gradual descent onto the sand hole housing the wreck, and spend part of the dive moving about the cuts and tunnels. The anchor of the wreck lies in about 30 ft of water, just on the edge of the drop-off from the shallow to the deeper sand pocket.

Very large schools of parrot fish are are frequently sighted here. The reef, which starts at 15 ft and drops off to 60 ft, is lush with hard and soft corals. Surface swells are common to this area, visibility varies. Large black grouper inhabit the wreck during spring, fall and winter. It's a terrific night dive site when visibility is good.

* The British merchant ship Minnie Breslaur sank in the 1870s after striking the Southwest Breaker reef. Her stern lies in a sand pocket at 70 ft, her bow, totally collapsed on a flat coral reef at 40 ft, points out to sea. Her midships section, steam boilers and engine mechanism lie angled upward from a sandy bottom at 70 ft to the flat reef top at 40 ft. Several old torpedo-shaped bottles, Belfast and marble bottles (made by pinching the neck around a clear marble) have been recovered from her hull, and several small black coral trees can be found on the site, with one growing right above the propeller on the stern of the wreck. The adjacent reef consists of numerous small caves and tunnels and in the mounds of high reef just inshore of the stern a honeycomb of tunnels works its way through the reef formation. It is not uncommon to see schools of large jacks or several large barracudas on this dive. Where she rests, near deep water, visibility is often incredible, sometimes exceeding 150 ft. Sea fans and small brain corals surround the wreck. Visiting the Minnie Breslaur requires some previous diving experience. Large surface swells are generally encountered at this location.

* The Hermes, a Disney-like shipwreck, was intentionally sunk in May, 1985, by the Bermuda Diving Association. Much of the work that had gone into her cleaning and final sinking was performed by Ross Menses, a Bermuda's dive tour operator. Her sinking was perfect; she sits on the bottom as if she were still steaming along. Her stern is wedged between two large coral mounds at 80 ft, her deck at 50 ft and her mast structure in less than 30 ft of water. Since her sinking, the powerful swells have moved her slightly closer to shore, but this has helped to better secure her position into the reef. Visibility is often exceptional on this site. The Hermes is 167 ft long, yet visibility is so good that you might see past the stern while standing on the bow. A surface swell is to be expected here, but generally does not affect underwater conditions. Some scuba experience recommended.

* The Xing Da Wreck, a 325-ft freighter, was confiscated off Bermuda by a US Marine patrol in 1996 when they discovered a cargo of illegal immigrants. The immigrants were deported and the ship was given to the Bermuda government for use as an artificial reef. She now lies at depths from 40 to 110 ft. Visibility is excellent. Residents include grouper, lobsters, barracudas and grunts. Expect a stiff surface current. For experienced divers.

* L'Herminie, a huge French ship carrying 495 crew members, sank on a flat calm day in 1838. En route back to France after seeing action against Maxmillian in Mexico, she ground to a halt on the shallow flats of Bermuda's western ledge. The reef in this area is rather bland, visibility is rarely in excess of 60 to 80 ft, and the water always has a slightly greenish tone, but it is a very exciting dive! Even though this site was thoroughly worked by three of Bermuda's finest wreck hunters, it still boasts over 40 cannons, easily visible atop the sand or reef. There were originally 60 of these huge 12 pounders but the others lie beneath the sand.

The wreckage is scattered over a vast area, indicative of the immense size of the ship. Her anchor and armory section lie at one end of the sand flat, the anchor standing straight up, flukes spread across the bottom and rising at least 15 ft from the bottom. The armory section has yielded numerous 12- and 32-pound cannon balls, chain shot, bar shot, musket balls, ball molds, canister shot with cotton wadding still intact, numerous copper sheathing nails and many more interesting artifacts. In the middle of the sand flat lie the crossed cannons and two large guns just touching each other. Her windlass, capstan and several other cannon are also visible around the sand flat. Across a low piece of reef lies the galley section and stern, where large square iron boxes thought to be water casks can be found. Also visible are bricks from the oven, many still in the original formation, numerous cannon in neat rows along the reef, piles of cannon balls and bits and pieces of glass fragments, pottery and copper nails and sheathing.

Divers occasionally discover very valuable artifacts from L'Herminie. One example is a pair of matching black glass rum bottles, embossed across the bottom "H. Ricketts Bristol," a major bottle maker of that time. Another amazing find was a clear glass figural bottle in the form of a maiden with a water jug above her head. Still another diver found a perfectly intact pewter mug with handle still in place. Weights for measuring scales, olive oil bottles and embossed labels are found as well. Dive depths average 30 ft. Fabulous for snorkeling too.

* The North Carolina, a late 19th-century wreck, sits off the south shore of Southampton. Although broken into two distinct sections, she remains pretty much intact. The bow section is perhaps one of the eeriest pieces of wreckage in the sea. Her bowsprit looms rather menacingly, covered with algae and rustcicles; the sides of her hull hold the riggings for her sail fittings, called dead-eyes due to their resemblance to the death's head - two holes for the eye sockets and a third that represents the mouth. Given the silt and murkiness of the water in that area, the North Carolina is a little spooky. The reef here is storm-damaged and not terribly prolific, fish life tends to be a bit mundane, but as a very photogenic wreck, the North Carolina ranks high on the list. Maximum depth 45 ft.

vThe Darlington, located off the western end of Southampton, sank in the 1870s, running straight into Long Bar, one of the most shallow stretches of reef in Bermuda. This long, shallow flat is now marked by channel stakes and the Chub Head Beacon, which warns ships of the reefs.

The Darlington was a sailing steamer. Her huge cylindrical steam boilers lie amidships with the stern pulpit rising to within three ft of the surface, making for an impressive photo in late afternoon. Ironically, right next to the Darlington lies an ancient bit of wreckage unknown as to date of origin. She has given up several bronze hull spikes, copper sheathing that is very brittle and almost crumbles upon touch, lots of old wood and numerous copper sheathing nails much smaller than those found on other early 1800s wrecks. Contributor John Buckley found a section of an amphora or pottery jug complete with handle, which has been tentatively dated to the late 1700s in style. But there are no large timbers, cannon or riggings around to aid in further definition of this "Ghost Wreck." The Darlington lies in no more than 25 ft of water and is often done as a second dive with the North Carolina on a two-tank dive trip.

* Rita Zovetta, a 360-ft Italian cargo steamship piloted by Captain Fortunato de Gregant, ran aground during a hurricane on February 11, 1924. The ship, en route to Baltimore with a cargo of manganese ore, went down near St. David's Island off Bermuda's east end. The hull rests between 20 and 70 ft. Semi-penetrable with some nice swim-throughs. Good visibility. Expect some surface swells.

Other notable reef and wreck sites include The Caves, Kevin's Wreck (probably the Lord Donegal, 1822, and featured in a Jacques Cousteau special); Tarpon Hole, a coral reef dive near Elbow Beach off the south shore, The Catacombs (the reefs behind the Virginia Merchant site, 1620, located off Warwick Long Bay on the South Shores), Smuggler's Notch and Champagne Breaker. These sites are similar in nature, all having a common high reef that starts at the surface and drops down to depths of 45-50 ft. The reef is honeycombed with caves, caverns, tunnels, cuts, canyons, crevices and labyrinths. Divers find 50-ft pinnacles breaking the surface here and huge cathedral arches of coral with myriads of snapper and other reef fish.

* The Taunton, a 228-ft Norwegian cargo steamer, hit Bermuda's northeast reefs during fog on November 24, 1920. Her remains are widely scattered, but her boilers and engine compartment lie intact and upright. The Gibb's Hill Lighthouse Museum displays the ship's bell. The Taunton rests in 20-ft depths; her bow comes to within 10 feet of the surface.

* Blue Holes. Not to be confused with the real blue holes of the Bahamas or Belize, these are deep sand pockets surrounded by exceptionally shallow reef - in some places as shallow as four ft - which drop straight down into an iridescent teal blue, reaching a maximum depth of nearly 70 ft. The reef here is incredibly lush with sea fans, soft corals and black coral bushes. There are two holes directly adjacent to each other that are joined at the bottom by a series of tunnels where one can often find a school of huge tarpon. An occasional enormous (150-200 lb) grouper can also be found on the reefs. There are many of the colorful reef fish that inhabit all of Bermuda's dive sites. Exceptional visibility. The Blue Holes area offers five different dive sites at depths from 30 to 70 ft. When conditions are right, this is a must-see spot for every diver. Terrific snorkeling exists in the shallows.

Additional good sites frequented by the shops are the Caraquet, a 200-ft British mail steamer at 40 ft, the Madiana, a 160-ft passenger liner that ran aground in 1923, depth 40 ft, and the "Airplane Wreck," a B-29 bomber that took off from Bermuda and went down due to a fuel problem, with no injuries to the pilot or crew.

Beach Snorkeling

Snorkeling tours to the offshore wrecks and reefs are offered at every hotel desk. New swimmers and beginning snorkelers should test their skills at sheltered Devonshire Bay, Jobson's Cove or Shelly Bay before heading offshore.

* The Snorkel Park at The Royal Naval Dockyard (fort) is adjacent to the Maritime Museum, a short walk from the cruise ship dock, ferry and bus stops. It's open daily from 10:30 am to 6 pm.

The park, a protected coral reef preserve, has well marked reef trails, floating rest stations and a helpful staff, including experienced life guards. Depths are shallow and the seas calm. Bottom terrain consists of plate corals and gorgonians. Schools of grunts, doctor fish and parrot fish roam about. Several historic cannons dating back to the 1500s are marked off. Look along the base of the fort for ceramic shards, musket miniballs and insulators dating from the fort's use as a radio station in WWII.

Rental equipment is available on-site, including flotation vests, masks and snorkels. % 444-234-1006, fax 441-292-5193. E-mail: bic@ibl.bm

* The reef at Elbow Beach starts 10 yards from the shoreline, then stretches seaward for a mile. If you are not staying at the Elbow Beach Hotel, be sure to enter the water from the public beach to the west of the resort and swim east toward the restaurant.

* A 300-yard swim from Elbow Beach seaward takes you over the wreck of the Pollockshields, a 323-ft German-built steamer. The swim out takes 10 to 15 minutes. A strong surge makes this a bad choice on windy or choppy days. For advanced snorkelers only.

* Church Bay, a terrific spot when seas are calm, may be entered anywhere along the beach. Park along the road above the beach and climb down the steep stairway.

* John Smith's Bay, on the beautiful south shore, is handicapped accessible and has a lifeguard from April through October. A 50-yard swim brings you over a shallow reef. Usually calm with exceptional visibility.

* Tobacco Bay's grassy terrain shelters soft corals and schools of juvenile fish. A rocky breakwater separating the bay from the ocean keeps this area calm. Depths run from three to 10 ft.

*PSomerset Long Bay, on Bermuda's southwest end, appeals to first time snorkelers with calm, shallow water and a wealth of marine life. Nice spot for a picnic.

The rocks encircling Devonshire Bay, on the south shore, harbor an abundance of fish and invertebrates.

* On a calm day, Shelly Bay, on the north shore, features easy access and impressive marine life. Avoid this spot on windy days unless you want to go board sailing. The parking lot and surrounding area are accessible to people with disabilities.

Dive Operators of Bermuda

One-tank dives average $50, two-tanks $70, snorkeling $40 with gear. Tanks and weights are included, but additional scuba equipment rental is extra. Night dives are $60, excluding equipment. Resort courses cost about $100.

Blue Water Divers & Watersports, Bermuda's oldest full-service dive center now has three shops, located at Somerset Bridge, Marriott's Castle Harbour Hotel and Elbow Beach Hotel. Their fast boats visit all the best wrecks plus the Airplane Wreck and the Pollockshields, a shore dive off Elbow Beach that is explored with underwater scooters (DPVs).

For those not certified, they offer beginner/resort instruction and great snorkeling from the dive boat.

Trips depart at 9 am for 16 to 18 scuba divers and 1:30 pm with a mix of 20-22 certified and beginner divers and snorkelers. The shop's three boats are outfitted with a dive platform, ladder, tank racks, oxygen, toilets and showers. Instructors and guides are on all excursions.

The Elbow Beach location offers shore diving and pool instruction. One night dive per week is scheduled. PADI courses, CPR and first aid.

During March, April and May they offer full- and half-day whale watch charters. % 441-234-1034, fax 441-234-3561. E-mail: bwdivers@ibl.bm. Website: www.divebermuda.com. Write to: PO Box SN 165, Southamp ton, SN BX, Bermuda.

Fantasea Diving & Snorkelling Ltd., a five-star PADI facility, can be reached by a 10-minute ferry, taxi or scooter ride from the city of Hamilton, the cruise ship terminal or the central hotels.

The shop employs internationally qualified PADI and NAUI instructors. Two custom dive boats carry 18 and 30 divers to the favorite wrecks and reefs. Snorkelers welcome. Large snorkeling groups travel aboard a custom 55-ft catamaran Aristocat. The shop offers whale watching in April, parasailing, sunset and dinner cruises aboard the catamaran, gear and camera rentals, all levels of instruction. Accommodation-dive packages, % 800-637-4116. Dive and snorkel reservations and information, % 888-DO-A-DIVE or 441- 236-6339, fax 441-236-8926. E-mail: info@fantasea.bm. Website: www. fantasea.bm.

Nautilus Diving Ltd. Located at the Southampton Princess Hotel, this PADI five-star IDC Center offers one-tank reef dives in the morning and a shallow wreck dive in the afternoon. The 40-ft Cracklin Rosie cruises at 15 knots, has a dive platform, ladder and carries up to 30 divers. Snorkelers welcome, with gear provided. Resort courses in hotel pool followed by an ocean dive on a shallow reef. Certification courses, referrals and Discover Scuba courses are conducted daily. Referrals. Rental gear including kayaks, floats, dive and snorkeling equipment. % 441-238-2332 or 295-9485, fax 441-234-5180. E-mail: nautilus@ibl.bm. Website: www.bermuda.bm/nautilus.

Nautilus Diving Ltd. In Hamilton at the Princess Hotel, they carry up to 20 divers to favorite sites off the west, north and east side of the island. Their 40-ft custom dive boat, Cante Libra, has a dive platform and ladder. Rental gear. PADI five-star facility, IDC. % 441-295-9485 or 441-238-2332 ext 4371, fax 441-234-5180. E-mail: nautilus@ibl.bm. Website: www.Bermuda.bm/ nautilus.

South Side Scuba, at the Sonesta Beach Hotel, Southampton, offers a resort course in the hotel pool, then a shallow dive on the reefs. Includes all dive gear. Scuba excursions to the south shore reefs. Packages available. Local, % 441-238-1833, fax 441-238-3199. Accommodations, 800-SONESTA. E-mail: sonetab@ibl.bm.

Scuba Look, located at the Grotto Bay Beach Hotel, Hamilton Parish, visits the reefs on the east end and south shores of Bermuda. Snorkelers welcome. Resort course in hotel pool. Open March through November. All equipment provided. Local, % 441-292-1717 or 441-235-1427, fax 441-295-2421. E- mail: scubluk@ibl.com. Website: www.diveguideint.com/p0078.htm.

Snorkeling Tours & Rentals

Snorkeling cruises cost from $25 for a short tour to $50 for a half-day.

Blue Water Divers and Watersports offers a Guided Snorkel Certificate Program for all ages and abilities. They teach mask defogging, clearing and adjustment, removing and replacing the mask on the surface, swimming in waves and surf, surface exit and entry techniques, surface breathing, clearing the snorkel, submerging, exploring, resurfacing and regaining position, use of a snorkel vest, first aid, free dive techniques, use of weight belt, basic knowledge of marine life, fish and coral identifying. % 441-234-1034, fax 234-3561. E-mail: bwdivers@ibl.bm Website: www.divebermuda.com.

Bermuda Barefoot Cruises Ltd. departs Darrell's Wharf, Devonshire for snorkeling and sightseeing aboard the 32-ft Minnow. Equipment and instruction provided. Complimentary refreshments on return trip. % 441-236-3498.

M.V. Bermuda Longtail Party Boat operates a 65-ft motor catamaran that carries 200 people. Tours depart Flag Pole, Front Street, Hamilton. Snacks and drinks sold on board. % 441-292-0282, fax 441-295-6459.

Bermuda Water Tours offers both glass-bottom and snorkeling cruises aboard the 50-ft, 75-passenger Bottom Peeper. Tours depart near the Ferry Terminal, Hamilton. Gear provided. Full bar and changing facilities on board. Refreshments on return trip. Operates from the end of April 1 to November 30. % 441-236-1500, fax 441-292-0801.

Bermuda Water Sports departs St. Georges for half-day snorkel cruises aboard the 100-passenger glass-bottom boat, Sun Deck Too. Anchors in waist-high water on an island beach. Guides feed and identify fish and corals. Instruction and equipment provided. Full bar and snack bar on board. May to November. % 441-293-2640 or 441-293-8333 ext. 1938.

Fantasea Diving and Snorkeling, at Darrell's Wharf on the Warwick Ferry Route, takes snorkelers with scuba divers to the favorite wrecks and reefs. % 441-236-6339, fax 441-236-8926, 888-DO-A-DIVE. E-mail: fantasea@ibl.bm. Website: www.bermuda.com/scuba.

Hayward's Cruises' 54-ft, 35-passenger snorkeling and glass-bottom boat, Explorer, departs next to the Ferry Terminal in Hamilton. Bring swim suit and towels. Snorkeling gear provided. Instruction. Changing facilities on board. Cameras available for rent. Complimentary swizzle on return trip. May to November. % 441-292-8652.

Jessie James Cruises aboard the 57 ft., 40-passenger Rambler and 48-ft, 75-passenger Consort depart Albouy's Point, Hamilton. Pick-ups at Darrell's and Belmont wharves. % 441-236-4804, fax 441-236-9208.

Pitman Boat Tours' snorkeling and glass-bottom boat trip departs Somerset Bridge Hotel dock and cruises five miles northwest to the perimeter reef. Snorkeling instruction on ancient shipwrecks and coral reefs. Gear supplied. Changing facilities on board. No children under five years. % 441-234-0700.

Salt Kettle Boat Rentals Ltd., Salt Kettle, Paget, offers snorkeling cruises to the western barrier reef and shipwrecks. Refreshments. % 441-236-4863 or 441-236-3612, fax 441-236-2427.

Sand Dollar Cruises are aboard the 40-ft, 189-passenger, Bristol Sloop Sand Dollar, departing Marriott's Castle Harbour dock, Hamilton. Gear provided. This boat may be chartered. % 441-236-1967 or 234-8218.

Nautilus Diving Ltd., at the Southampton Princess Hotel, offers morning and afternoon reef and wreck tours. All equipment provided. Snorkeling is from a 40-ft boat to reefs within 10 minutes of shore. Group charters available. % 441-238-2332 or 441-238-8000 ext. 6073.

Tobacco Bay Beach House on Tobacco Bay, St. George's. Snorkeling and underwater cameras for rent. Ideal for beginners. % 441-293-9711.

Other Activities

Helmet Diving is fun for all ages. No lessons needed. Depth 10 to 14 ft. Does not get your hair wet. Available at Hartley's Helmet, Flatt's Village Smith's, % 441-292-4434, or Greg Hartley's Under Sea Adventure, Village Inn dock, Somerset. % 441-234-2861.

Horseback Riding along scenic beach and shore trails is available year-round. Law requires that all rides be supervised. Both experienced or inexperienced riders are welcome at Lee Bow Riding Centre, Tribe Road # 1, Devonshire, % 441-236-4181, or Spicelands Riding Centre, Middle Road, Warwick. % 441-238-8212 or 238-8246.

Golf is one of Bermuda's most popular year-round attractions. Golf courses are located at Belmont Golf Club, Warwick (% 441-236-6400, fax 441-236-0120); Castle Harbour Golf Club, Hamilton Parish (% 441-298-6959, fax 441-293-1051); Mid Ocean Club, Tucker's Town (% 441-293-0330, fax 441-293-8837); Ocean View Golf & Country Club, Devonshire (% 441-295-9093, 295-6500, fax 441-295- 9097); Port Royal Golf Course, Southampton (% 441-234-0974, 295-6500, fax 441-234- 3562); Southampton Princess Golf Club, Southampton (% 441-239-6952, fax 441-238-8479), Riddells Bay Golf & Country Club, Warwick (% 441-238-1060, 238-3225, fax 441-238- 8785); and St. George's Golf Club, St. George's Parish (% 441-297-8353, 295-6500, fax 441-297- 2273).

Para-Sailing can be arranged at the Bermuda Island Parasail Co, Darrell's Wharf (% 232-2871 or 297-1789, St. George's Parasail, Somers Wharf (% 297-1542), St. George's, or Skyrider Bermuda at the Royal Naval Dockyard (% 234-3091).

Nature Walks at Spittal Pond, Smith's Parish, take you through a 64-acre reserve and park. The sanctuary is a major habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds and is situated along the rugged coastline bordering the Atlantic Ocean to the south. Here visitors can see Bermuda's only two wild flamingoes.

Sightseeing

Taxis sporting blue flags are driven by qualified tour guides who know all about the island and usually throw in a few local anecdotes for good measure. Particularly interesting visits include Hamilton, the island's capital, Flatts Village for a tour of the Government Aquarium, Natural History Museum and Zoo with its superb collection of marine life, gaily colored exotic birds and relics of Bermuda's history.

While in Hamilton, don't miss a stop at the Underwater Exploration Institute on East Broadway, which features interactive exhibits including a simulated journey to the bottom of the ocean, films, treasures from the sea, a neat gift shop and restaurant. Open daily from 10 am to 6 pm.% 441-292-7219, fax 441-236-6141.

St. George's, the historic former capital, is another must-see with the pillory and stocks in King's Square, as is St. Peter's Church, with its glistening white facade and Bermuda cedar interior. It is the oldest Anglican church in the Western Hemisphere.

In Southampton, stop in at Bermuda Triangle Brewing on Industrial Park Road for a microbrewery tour. Tours start at 4 pm, Monday-Friday between March and October, on Saturdays from November to March. % 441-238-2430, fax 441-238-1759.

Several reminders of both American and Bermudian history are found in St. George's, notably the replica of the Deliverance, the tiny ship that Sir George Somers and his shipwrecked crew built from natural Bermuda cedar and what could be salvaged from the shipwreck of the Sea Venture. Nearby Fort St. Catherine, at Bermuda's eastern end, houses dioramas of the colony's history and replicas of the Crown Jewels. The fortification lends itself to exploration. Other notable sites include the Crystal Caves or Leamington Caves, with their superb stalactite and stalagmite formations and impressive illuminations.

For a more leisurely look at the islands, try a horse-drawn carriage tour (sans wetsuits) through the blossom-lined streets and lanes. Helicopter tours are offered by Bermuda Helicopters, Ltd., Southampton. % 293-4800, 295-1180 or 238-0551.

Shopping

Bermuda shopping offers great savings on imports from Great Britain and Europe. Most large shops are in the City of Hamilton with branches in St. George's, Somerset, Royal Naval Dockyard and several major hotels.

Local "buys" include island-made sherry peppers, black rum and local liqueurs, rum cakes, jams, jellies, soups and dressings as well as cookbooks featuring island recipes. Lilies, passion flowers, cedar, allspice, bay laurel and island limes go into locally produced perfumes and fragrances.

Accommodations

All room rates fluctuate and are subject to 7.25% Bermuda Government Hotel Occupancy Tax, service charges and a resort levy. Contact individual properties or dive shops for dive-accommodation packages. Prices below are for summer - the high season on Bermuda. They are per room for a double and do not include taxes or service charges. Rates are subject to change.

Accommodations range from ultra-luxurious resorts to inexpensive housekeeping cottages and charming small hotels. Call % 800-223-6106 (US), 416-923-9600 (Canada) or 071-734-8813 (England) for a list.

Elbow Beach, on the south shore in Paget Parish, has Blue Water Divers on-site. The hotel features an immense, pink sand beach, three restaurants, a heated pool, shopping arcade, tennis courts and 50 acres of lush gardens. Guests stay in the main hotel or suites in the out buildings. Rooms have telephone, radio, remote 25-channel TV, safe, robes, slippers, hairdryer and air-conditioning. Rooms are from $385 per night, suites from $485. Rates drop between November and March. % 800-344-3526 or 441-236-3535, fax 441-236-8043. Write to PO Box HM 455, Hamilton, HM BX, Bermuda.

Southampton Princess Hotel features a three-acre lagoon in East Whale Bay that houses several friendly dolphins. The lagoon opens to the sea and has an underwater fence. Marine mammal specialists offer several interactive "Dolphin Quest" programs for children and adults. Southampton guests get priority bookings, but non-guests may sign up on a space-available basis. Packages for the dolphin encounter are available.

The resort sits on one of the highest points in Bermuda, with panoramic views from all 600 rooms. Air-conditioned. Nautilus Diving on premises. Amenities include six restaurants, two pools, private beach and beach club, 18-hole par-three golf course, 11 tennis courts, health club, game room, shops and beauty salon. Room rates per day in summer run from $329 to $629 for a petite suite. % 800-223-1818 (US) or 441-238-3000, 800-268-7176, fax 441-238-8968. Write to PO Box HM 1379, Hamilton HM FX, Bermuda.

The Reefs sits on a cliff overlooking Christian Bay, Southampton. Built around the ruins of a 1680 farmhouse, this luxury resort features 67 rooms and suites plus eight two- and three-bedroom cottages, two bars, three terrific restaurants, two tennis courts and a fitness center. Good snorkeling for all skill levels exists over the patch reefs just off the beach. Dive trips are arranged with Blue Water Divers. MAP Summer rates which include breakfast and lunch or dinner start at $358 for a room (double), $398 for a cottage, $658 for a two-bedroom cottage plus a service charge of $17 per day. The Reefs participates in a carousel dining program with other hotels that gives guests an opportunity to try other restaurants. % 800-742-2008 or 441-238-0222, fax 441-742-8372. E-mail: reefsbda@ibl.bm. Website: www.bermuda.bm. Write: South Road, Southampton SN 02, Bermuda.

Sonesta Beach Hotel & Spa is a modern luxury resort hotel with 25 acres of picturesque grounds. SouthSide Scuba and Snorkelling, Inc. on premises. Summer room rates are from $340 to $440 per night. % 441-238-8122 or 800-SONESTA (US), fax 441-238-8463. Write to PO Box HM 1070, Hamilton HM EX, Bermuda.

Grotto Bay Beach Hotel & Tennis Club sits on 21 acres of beachfront gardens in Hamilton Parish with two underground grottos, deep-water dock, a freshwater pool with swim-up bar, and outdoor hot tub. Bus stop at door. Scuba Look dive shop on premises offers dive and snorkeling tours. A private beach features two small coves in an enclosed bay and a 500,000-year-old cave to explore. Deep water dock. All rooms have private balconies and panoramic sea views, cable TV, phone, coffeemaker, safe, mini-fridge and hairdryer. Air-conditioned. All-inclusive packages available. Summer room rates start at $205. % 800-582-3190 (US) or 441-293-8333, fax 441-293-2306. E-mail: gro@bspl.bm. Write to: 11 Blue Hole Hill, Hamilton Parish CR 04, Bermuda.

Marriott's Castle Harbour Resort, adjacent to the world-renowned Castle Harbour Golf Club, now features Blue Water Divers & Watersports on their property. This classic Bermuda resort sits on a hilltop amidst 250 manicured acres and touts two private beaches, one being the largest resort beach in Bermuda. Guest rooms overlook the gardens, fairways, pool or Castle Harbour and Harrington Sound, many with balconies or terraces. All have individual climate control, ironing board and iron, hairdryer. The resort is convenient to the airport. Room rates start at $289 per night. % 800-223-6388 or 441-293-2040, fax 441-293-8288.

Dining

Bermuda menus cater to every taste and pocketbook with more than 100 restaurants and fast-food eateries. Prices for two range from $10 at a fast-food restaurant to more than $200 for gourmet cuisine. Traditional dishes of Bermuda are mussel pie, fish chowder laced with black rum and sherry peppers, spiny Bermuda lobster (September to April), Hoppin' John (blackeyed peas and rice) and a Sunday morning breakfast of codfish and potatoes. The island drinks are a Rum Swizzle, a mixture of four colors of rum and fruit juices, and "dark and stormy," an interesting blend of black rum and ginger beer. The small eateries may offer delicacies such as conch stew, fritters or hashed fish. A 15% gratuity charge is added to the bill at most restaurants. Most accept Amex, Visa and MC.

For informal dining in Hamilton Parish, try the Landfall Restaurant on North Shore Road. Open Monday from 9 am to 9 pm seven days a week, this restaurant serves lunch and dinner and offers salads, appetizers and sandwiches starting at $3. Dinner entrées include sweet & sour chicken, filet mignon and barbecued spare ribs. % 293-1322.

Local favorites and fine coffees are found at Kathy's Kaffee, on Front Street in Hamilton. Kathy's serves fish chowder, curry chicken, codfish cakes and hamburgers in a café-style atmosphere. From $4.00. Monday-Friday, 7:30 to 4 am. Saturday, 8:30 to 4 am. % 295-5203.

The Pubs of Hamilton are popular for rehashing the day's dive and enjoying island dinner specialties. Try The Hog Penny, Bermuda's oldest English style pub and restaurant at 5 Burnaby Hill, Hamilton % 292-2524, the White Horse Tavern, at 8 King's Square, St. George, % 297-1838, North Rock Brewing Co. at 10 South Road, Smiths Parish, % 236-6633, The Swizzle Inn on Blue Hole Hill, Bailey's Bay, or The Frog & Onion on Freeport Road at the Royal Naval Dockyard for creative entrées. Meals start at $20.

Bouchées Waterfront Bistro on 36 Water Street, St. Georges serves French and Mediterranean cuisine. Open for lunch and dinner. Entrées average $40. % 297-2951.

Pasta Basta at 1 Elliott Street, Hamilton (% 295-9785) and 14 York St (% 297-2927), St. George, offers Italian lunch and dinner specialties from $10. No credit cards.

Tuscany Restaurant, Bermuda House, 95 Front Street, Hamilton (% 292-4507), Tio Pepe at 117 South Road, Southampton (% 238-1897) and La Trattoria on 22 Washington Lane, Hamilton (% 295-1877), feature formal Italian entrées from $25.

Mediterranean and Continental haute cuisine are offered by The Harbourfront, 21 Front Street West, Hamilton (% 295-4207, closed Sundays), Ascot's at the Royal Palms, 24 Rosemont Ave, Pembroke,(% 295-9644) and the Waterlot Inn at the Southampton Princess, Southampton (% 239-6967). All from $50.

Most large hotels offer elegant dining as well as nightly entertainment with steel bands, limbo and calypso groups or international stars. There is no gambling in Bermuda.

Be sure to stop for tea at the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Tea Room on Lighthouse Road Southampton (% 238-0524).

Facts

Recompression Chamber: Located at King Edward Memorial Hospital, Point Finger Road, Paget. Drs. Charles Schultz and Carol Ferris. % 236-2345 ext 1592.

Getting There. Daily direct flights leave from most US east coast gateway cities aboard American (% 800-433-7300), Continental, USAir, Air Canada, or British Airways.

Island Transportation: There are no rental cars available to visitors. Taxis, pink buses, ferries, bicycles or mopeds offer a variety of transportation methods. Traffic is on the left side of the roads at a speed limit of only 20 mph. Moped drivers must be at least 16 years of age and wear safety helmets.

Documents: Passports are the preferred documents when entering Bermuda. Visitors from the United States are required to have one of the following: a passport, or a birth certificate with a raised seal along with a photo ID. Canadians need either a valid Canadian passport, a Canadian certificate of citizenship, proof of their landed immigrant status or a birth certificate and photo ID.

Currency: Legal tender is the Bermuda dollar which is equal to $1 US. Travelers' checks and major credit cards accepted in most establishments.

Climate: Bermuda is a semi-tropical island. Rainfall is distributed evenly throughout the year. Average temperature during the period April to November ranges from the mid-70s to mid-80s. Cool months: December-March, 65-70°F.

Clothing: Conservative. Bathing suits, abbreviated tops and short shorts are not acceptable except at beaches and pools. In public, beach wear must be covered. Casual sportswear is acceptable in restaurants at lunch time and in fast-food restaurants any time, but some upscale restaurants require gentlemen to wear a jacket and tie in the evenings.

Electricity: 110 volts, 60 cycles AC throughout the island.

Time: Atlantic Standard (Eastern standard + 1 hr.)

Tax: A 7.25% hotel tax is payable upon checkout. Airport departure tax, $20.

For Additional Information: US, Suite 201, 310 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10017. % 800-BERMUDA, 800-223-6106 or 416-923-9600. United Kingdom, Bermuda Tourism, BCB Ltd., 1 Battersea Church Road, London SW11 3LY, England. % 071-734-8813. Websites: www.bermudatourism.com or www.bermuda.bm.

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