Diving in Jamaica: focus on a sometimes forgotten destination

Diving in Jamaica: “Yeah Man”

When you think of this destination, it is rarely for diving in Jamaica. Immediately, different images come to mind and the sound of Bob Marley’s songs flood our minds.

However, diving in Jamaica can be a lot of surprises.

Some pictures you will love

A few words about Jamaica

Jamaica is a tropical island where it is possible to go almost all year round. Temperatures on the coasts vary little and are mostly between 27 and 30 degrees Celsius.

The tourist season runs from December to April because from May to December it is possible to have some rain (relatively sporadic and moderate). If you can get there all year round, be aware that it will be quieter during the rainy season but that cyclones can sweep the country from June to November.

The island is big and I didn’t really expect it. Also, if you want to visit it, it is better to move around between different points of interest. This is because the journeys may quickly discourage you, as was the case for me. Especially since many places do not offer sea views due to private properties that make screen.

Une barque de pêcheur sur une plage en Jamaïque
Barque de pêcheur | © Different Dive

Diving in Jamaica at Ocho Rios

I went diving in Jamaica from Brussels, somewhat by chance, booking a last minute. I knew nothing of this destination and I admire the islands and turquoise waters seen from the sky through the window. The plane flying over the Bahamas immediately inspired me to an upcoming holiday destination. It’s a dream come true.

Les Bahamas vus de l'avion
Bahamas | © Different Dive

Arriving at Montego Bay airport, the heat is intense and therefore, I feel perfectly well because I am (very) chilly.

In order to discover this destination, it was in Ocho Rios that I put my luggage for ten days with the sound of Reggae in the background. This small fishing town is invaded two to three times a week by huge cruise ships.

I knew absolutely nothing about the dives in this island surrounded by the Caribbean Sea that I love very much. From then on, I expected to make dives similar to those of Martinique for example. The Jamaican people I came across set the tone for this stay: “Yeah man”

Diving in Jamaica… Caribbean fashion

It is the diveshop Scuba Caribe ( find all informations here ) that will welcome me for amazing dives.

Very professional and attentive, the Divemasters and instructors quickly informed us of what we were going to discover. Hot water (a 3mm wetsuit is enough), shallow bottoms and rather empty wildlife (due to unregulated fishing) and a must-see wreck. Not very inspiring especially as the little information I could finally find in a book and on the internet were not very different. But still, I felt that I was still going to meet some nice people.

What if the Jamaican dives were full of surprises for me?

Le club Scuba Caribe en Jamaïque
Le club Scuba Caribe à Ocho Rios | © Different Dive

Rockside Wall: my favorite site

The first dive will be on Rockside Wall, a spot where we should see eagle rays. Beautiful, it makes me happy just to think about it. I love eagle rays.

We are heading west a few minutes by boat. The coast is pretty, the bottoms are turquoise and I can’t wait to get into the water.

La côte près d'Ocho Rios
| © Different Dive

An hour later, I come out delighted by all the beauty offered by the sea to my amazed eyes. Rays that pass to greet us, moray eels, lobsters, multicolored sponges, octopus, lion fish,anemones, squid in open water, stone fish, nudibranchs, shrimp and other fish that surround us.

Calamar en pleine eau lors d'une plongée Jamaïcaine
Je ne suis déjà plus là | © Different Dive
Deux raies aigles au dessus des coraux
Raies aigles | © Different Dive

I had been warned that I should not expect to see much. However, the dives will take me to another reality. And I’m more than satisfied with these Jamaican dives.

I will have the opportunity to visit other dive sites quite similar around Ocho Rios but the Rockside Wall, on which I will ask three times to go back, will remain my favorite.

Hélène devant le tableau du briefing prête à plonger en Jamaïque
Rockside Wall | © Different Dive

The SS Kathryn: a wreck to discover

With Frederico, an exceptional instructor, we will have the pleasure of discovering the wreck of the SS Kathryn, former minesweeper. The weather is overcast and when we arrive at the spot, two divers boats are leaving. Great, we will be alone with our guide and two young girls.

Oddly enough, although we come to explore the wreck, we begin the dive by discovering some really nice little canyons.

They make me think a little about diving in the Cenotes (I said a little).

I love the lights that show me that the sun joins us just as we are heading towards the wreck.

Partir plonger en Jamaïque et découvrir des canyons près d'une épave
Presque comme des Cénotes, j’ai dit presque | © Different Dive
Epave du SS Kathryn en Jamaïque
Une épave accessible à tous | © Different Dive

What to see on the wreck of the SS Kathryn?

The wreck of the SS Kathryn is a sunken wreck for diving. On its sides, thousands of fish eggs are laid and defended by their owners against the greedy attacks of other fish. It’s an amazing to see it.

Les poissons mangent les oeufs d'autres poissons
Festin, vraiment ? | © Different Dive
Des plongeurs longent la coque du SS Kathryn
Une coque colonisée | © Different Dive

A little further on, a moray eel in the open water surprises me. And as I approach a little to take a picture, the beautiful rushes straight at me. This is the first time I’ve jumped back in diving.

Should we be afraid of moray eels? Find out more here

Une murène en pleine eau lors d'une plongée en Jamaïque
Viendra ou viendra pas ? | © Different Dive

The wreck of the SS Kathryn is pretty and easy. It’s clean, but we are asked not to enter. When ascending, we have a nice overview.

… and the spots near the wreck of the SS Kathryn?

A little further on a nearby spot named garden ingelus we could see flatfish, worms, a family of lobsters, rays and other wonderful animal. It’s hard to get back up. I really want to stay a little bit more underwater.

Des anguilles jardinières sortent du sable
Anguilles jardinières | © Different Dive

Diving in Jamaica

Lovers of deep dives, shipwrecks and others will certainly not be happy to dive in Jamaica. Beginners, those looking for relaxing dives without worries, seniors who want to have fun will appreciate. Those of you who dream of discovering the island and take advantage of it to dive will also appreciate.

At Ocho Rios at the Scuba Caribe dive shop,the boat is spacious and comfortable given the number of divers present (between 2 and 5 people in the middle of the season). The journeys are short: a maximum of half an hour for the wreck, the rest of the time – 5 minutes. I also appreciate the club’s infrastructure, which offers clean equipment rinse bins and the ability to dry its equipment in the shade and wind. The staff takes care of bringing it in every night and taking it out in the morning before we arrive. No carrying tanks: they’re on the boat.

Hélène sur le bateau lors d'un séjour pour plonger en Jamaïque
Tout va bien, et pour vous ? | © Different Dive

What to know

  • The spoken language is English.  
  • While we ware in the middle of the tourist season, we were rarely more than 4 divers on the boat, often 2. An appreciable luxury well appreciated, but that has a cost.
  • The dives are all shallow; I did not exceed -20m
  • No “big five”: forget dolphins, sharks and other turtles. You can cross them but you will be lucky because it is not common. But the eagle rays are there.
  • The water temperature is 28C in April
  • Visibility is very good. The water is clear and nice.
  • Price of the dive: $50 but with a top quality service: no carrying tanks, boat almost private, attentive staff,… Discount if buying a pack over the internet
Paysage sous marin que vous verrez si vous allez plonger en Jamaïque
Paysage sous-marin | © Different Dive

Practical point of view

  • Jamaica is a relatively expensive country (as much as in Europe or the USA)
  • The currency is the Jamaican dollar
  • There is no real security problem in tourist areas. Some areas of Kingston are not recommended … as in many of the world’s major cities.
  • Many beaches are private… and not free of charge
  • Pretty much everywhere, you’ll be offered weed. But people don’t insist if you say NO. However, the smell of weed is very present on the island.
  • If you like Reggae, you’ll be delighted. This music can be heard all the time and everywhere
  • The hotels offer abundant American-inspired food. (Be careful of shrinking neoprene)
  • The “road” restaurants offer quite local food. Beware of dishes with a hot sauce… the are very very hot.
  • Driving is on the left
Hélène devant le tableau de briefing
Animation après-briefing | © Different Dive

Not to be missed in the area

  • Dunn’ River Falls: a very touristy place but beautiful to visit if you are around. Ideally, you should get up early in the morning. The first hour, the place is empty and I was able to complete the whole route without crossing anyone … what a dream. Dunn Falls is a course of more than 180m during which you go up the falls. From the beach to where the river flows more slowly. The totally natural course is dotted with basins in which it is very good to swim. Bring water shoes and cash to pay for the park’s entrance. At the exit, small restaurants and village of tourist shops almost unavoidable.
  • In Kingston, explore the bars and stop at the Bob Marley Museum.
  • Blue Mountains: For the bravest of you, the ascent of these majestic mountains separating the north coast from the south coast in the heart of a wilderness will take you between 4 and 8 hours.
  • The city of Port Anotonio with its postcard decorations is a 3-hour drive from Ocho Rios
Hélène couchée dans l'eau aux Dun Falls
Une idée du bonheur ? | © Different Dive

Do you like diving in Jamaica? Have you ever thought about that? Have you tested it?

Leave me a comment directly on the blog for the pleasure of exchanging all together… Yeah Man

And above all, … remember to be happy 🤗

Hélène

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