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Saba, an exotic alternative within your reach

Saba proudly declares itself "The Unspoiled Queen" referring to her unspoiled nature and inhabitants.  The best way to describe this unique island with only 1400 people is to list our "have nots".  Saba has no crime, no high rises, no traffic or traffic lights, no pesty insects, no crowds, no fast food restaurants, no casinos, no cruise ships.  Oh, and we almost forgot, no beaches.  Instead Saba's guests enjoy a choice of small, family-run hotels and private cottages within quaint villages among friendly locals.  Diving is conducted under the auspices of the Saba Marine Park, a model park recognized for its success in protecting the marine environment.  A six-man hyperbaric facility is located at our Fort Bay Harbor only 10-15 minutes from most dive sites.  Topside Saba is protected by the Saba Conservation Foundation with only a small percentage of the island 'developed' for residential and commercial needs.  Ten to fifteen restaurants offer an array of cuisine from outdoor barbeques to fine dining, all at reasonable prices.  Although there is no ATM and perhaps your cell phone won't work here, Saba has a fiber optic phone system, its own ISP, and even a "high speed" internet cafe. 

Saba offers year-round diving with seasonal differences in water temperature and surface conditions. Winter months bring cooler water temperatures ranging from 77° to 80° Fahrenheit, whereas summer months yield a toasty 80° to 85 Fahrenheit. Nature itself insures a variety of different marine activities and aquatic visitors throughout the year. The Saba Marine Park now boasts 28 permanently moored dive sites, and additional moorings have re-introduced some sites that had not been frequented since the park’s original mooring installation. Check out our clickable dive site map for more information on each site. There are now multiple moorings at some of the sites giving us more flexibility for accommodating your requests. The Saba Marine Park is zoned for various recreational and commercial uses.  The yachting community will be pleased to note there are more overnight (yellow) moorings in place in both the Wells Bay area as well as the Fort Bay area; however, newly introduced legislation now dictates that all visiting yachts must register and dive with one of Saba's local dive operations.

Our small size, 5.1 square miles, and circular shape don't provide us with large leeward side, but nevertheless, allows us to dive almost any day of the year even with less than perfect weather. Your experienced crew will take you to the best dive site for the day’s conditions and match your diving ability to the selection. With the variety of diving that is offered, plan at least a few days of diving to enjoy a real sampling of the Saba Marine Park's diversity.  To learn more about the origins of Saba's reefs and what to expect to see at different dive areas, join us for "Making the Most of Your Saba Experience".  This casual and fun photographic presentation is given every Monday night in a 'happy hour' environment at The Brigadoon restaurant. 

Saba Marine Park

The famous Pinnacles...Not far offshore, Saba’s famous pinnacles and seamounts, Third Encounter, Twilight Zone, Outer Limits and Shark Shoals rise dramatically from the depths to within 85 feet of the surface. These depths have protected them from any natural storm damage and, of course anchors, so the size and abundance of large sea fans and sponges put the pinnacles at world class status even without the added bonus of reef creatures and fish. The structures themselves are not to be missed with the most unique being The Eye of the Needle, just off in the deep blue from Third Encounter. It’s common to encounter schools of tropical fish, jacks, groupers or even members of Saba's robust shark population. White tips, black tips, reef and bull sharks are regularly observed cruising these waters. Lucky divers may get to swim with a humpback whale, manta ray, hammerhead or whale shark. Although these dive sites are virtually bottomless, they can be safely enjoyed with 100 to 120 foot dive profiles, well within the limits of recreational diving.

Man O’ War Shoals and Diamond Rock are also classified as pinnacles but have sandy bottoms at between 70 and 80 feet. Although pelagics are not as common at these shallower pinnacles, more bottom time let’s you absorb and explore the many nooks and crannies that are home to every imaginable species. The currents, that sometimes prevent diving these sites,  yield plankton rich waters for the inhabitants that line the cylinder style walls of these two pinnacles. Schools of blue tangs, big eyes and juvenile barracuda frequent these areas. The dark volcanic sand around these sites is home to many interesting critters including flying gurnards, batfish, industrious sand tile fish and jawfish. If you were limited to only one dive on Saba, either of these sites would be the best example of the healthy reefs and abundance of marine life that the waters of the Saba Marine Park offer. In addition, each of these sites offers the opportunity for increased bottom time when conducted as a multi-level profile with long slow spirals upward around these minor seamounts.

Shallow easy dives or snorkel sites...Well’s Bay and Torrens Point are the most protected waters of Saba during normal weather conditions. Great for snorkeling or shallow dives, large boulders, caves and swim throughs present interesting underwater structures. A series of patch reefs leading away from the shoreline host many juvenile species and a variety of eels. Morays eels, sharptail eels, goldspotted eels and the less common spotted snake eel that conceals the majority of its long body in the sand are all to be found here.

Ladder Bay...Traveling in a westerly direction down our leeward coast brings you to that area referred to by Sabans as The Ladder. Perched precariously on a steep cliffside are the original steps used by islanders to access Saba. The original custom house remains. Prior to the building of the Fort Bay harbor, goods were brought to the island by landing long boats on the rocky shoreline with stout and hearty Sabans carrying the goods by foot up the nearly vertical stairway before reaching the  road leading to the village of The Bottom. As such, dive sites off this shore are referred to as Ladder Bay: Custom House, Porites Point, Babylon, Ladder Labyrinth and Hot Springs. Volcanic lava flow has created a natural labyrinth of spur and groove formations. If you still question Saba’s volcanic origins, you can place  your hands into the sulfur stained sand and feel the warmth of this now dormant volcanic island. Nurse sharks, turtles, mated whitespotted filefish and even the occasional tarpon are some of the larger animals you may meet face-to-face on the leeward coast. The sea grass on the perimeter of the reef provides sustenance for Saba's healthy sea turtle population, and you may even see a rare spotted eagle ray or seahorses. Ladder Bay is also one of our favorite areas for night dives.

Tent Bay...Less than five minutes from Fort Bay, our only harbor, Tent Bay offers spectacular diving at Tent Reef Deep, a small but interesting reef. Dives at the vertical Tent Reef Wall can be conducted as a shallow dive, a deeper multi-level dive or as an exhilarating drift dive. The sandy top of the wall is home to hundreds of garden eels, razor fish and southern stingrays. A three dimensional mural of colorful mollusks, large barrel and drooping sponges are guaranteed on this dive with the schools of sergeant majors, queen angelfish, french angelfish, frogfish and of course, Buddha, the resident barracuda who likes to hang out with divers and is naturally curious. The swim through at Tent Reef is a treat day or night with yellow cup corals, black coral, a family of black margates, and spiny lobsters. The resident dog snappers have learned to follow night divers and attempt to hunt prey with the assistance of your dive lights. Tent Reef is a favorite for night dives with frequent octopus sitings and a chance to see a blue manytooth conger.

Windwardside dive sites...More dependent on weather conditions are our Windwardside sites: Greer Gut, Giles Quarter, Big Rock Market, Hole in the Corner, David's Dropoff (new dive site in '99!) Core Gut and Green Island. The majority of Saba’s diving offers volcanic coral encrusted boulders with only Greer Gut and Giles Quarter Deep Reef being true coral reefs. The white sand bottoms in these areas give them a different look and feel from the leewardside sites, and serious fish watchers will note different species of reef fish and critters than seen in other areas of the Saba Marine Park. The exposure to the Atlantic side lends itself less to soft corals but yield grand hard coral structures: elkhorn forests, large plate and mushroom shaped star corals, and brain corals set the background for nudibranch, frogfish and seasonal juvenile activity. It’s rare to have current on this side of the island and visibility tends to be exceptional.

Saba Marine Park Zoning...


The Saba Marine Park offers 29 permanently moored dive sites that are all reached with 5 to 20 minute boat rides from our Fort Bay base of operations. So hop aboard the Giant Stride or Sea Dragon and take a virtual dive of the Saba Marine Park by clicking on any of the diver down flags above to learn more about each dive site. At the end of your virtual dive, drop into our Windwardside office and let us know how your dives were, and where we can handle your land-based needs.

Mont Michel Third Encounter Twilight Zone Outer Limits Shark Shoals Diamond Bank Diamond Rock Man O' War Shoals Otto Limits Torrens Point Well's Bay Point Ladder Bay Deep (Custom's House) Porites Point (Lou's Ladder) Babylon Ladder Labyrinth Hot Springs Tedran Reef Tent Reef Wall Tent Reef Tent Reef Deep Greer Gut Giles Quarter Deep Big Rock Market Giles Quarter Shallow Hole In The Corner Core Gut Cove Bay Green Island Davis's Drop-Off Click on any diver down flag...

 

Mooring Depth: 95 feet

Maximum Depth: 110 feet

Newly established in 1999 and discovered by Michel Cleveau, formerly of Sea Saba, this site is located south of the main plateau where two pinnacles rise to within 100 and 120 feet of the surface. The higher peak supports a dramatic vertical wall on one side with a gentler slope connecting it to the shallower peak. Look for pelagics, specifically "Barnacle Bill", a large hawksbill turtle, or enjoy a wealth macro photography opportunities that this site presents.
Mooring Depth: 95 feet

Maximum Depth: 110 feet

Located at the eastern end of the horseshoe shaped seamount, this dive can be conducted completely on top of the plateau or with a short trip out into the deep blue to the tip of the "Eye of the Needle" rises majestically up from the deep to 90 feet. It's common to encounter large Blacktip Sharks and Yellowtail Snappers along the edge of the outcrops where the plankton rich water reaches the plateau and schools of shallow reef fish abound. 
Mooring Depth: 95 feet

Maximum Depth: 110 feet

Starting your dive at 110 feet the reef sharply plummets with dramatic drop offs. A series of rocky outcrops with shallower peaks at 80 feet provide more bottom time and excellent opportunities for seeing Nassau or Yellowfin Groupers or circling Reef Sharks while beneath the overhangs sandy areas are home to the more docile Nurse Sharks.
Mooring Depth: 90 feet

Maximum Depth: 110 feet

Swimming northeast towards the tip of this narrow ridge prepare yourself for a dramatic vertical drop off. Enjoy schools of Chromis and Creole Wrasse along with hunting Blackjacks and mature Hawksbill Turtles.
Mooring Depth: 90 feet

Maximum Depth: 120 feet

An aptly named small isolated pinnacle about half a mile east of Well's Bay with one main pinnacle at 90 feet saddled to a second set of outcrops at 120 feet that rise from 300 foot sea bed. This site offers spectacular fish life, dramatic sponge formations and excellent up-close shark encounters.
6. Diamond Bank

 

We are hopeful this site located between Diamond Rock and Shark Shoals will be "re-commssioned" in the spring of 2003...stay tuned!
Mooring Depth: 80 feet

Maximum Depth: 80 feet

Saba's famous landmark sits on a flat, sandy bottom at 80 feet. Circumnavigation near the bottom provides excellent opportunities to see Southern Stingrays and Flying Gurnards in the sand. A trip through the canyon on the northeast side allows you to multi-level this dive with an upward spiral while watching for a sharks, schools of Horse Eye Jacks and marveling at the fish life this jewel attracts. 
Mooring Depth: 20 feet

Maximum Depth: 70 feet

Just east of Diamond Rock, this similarly steep rock structure lies in the sandy bottom at 70 feet with twin peaks rising to 15 and 20 feet of the surface. A multi-level dive profile works best here by circumnavigating the base and slowly spiraling upwards between the two peaks in figure eight fashion. A final safety stop at the top maximizes your bottom time while enjoying the show below. This site offers some of the most diverse and luxuriant marine life and fauna in the Saba Marine Park ranging from Black Coral and hoards Sergeant Majors to industrious Sand Tile Fish.
This site has not had a mooring on it since 1989 but may be "re-commissioned" in Spring 2003.  However, if you and your buddy are good with your air consumption, ask the Sea Saba crew when an afternoon dive is headed to Torens Point...follow the patch reefs as they continue to go slightly deeper from the normal 35' (10m) at Torens Point and treat yourself to a seldom dived area.  Schools of grunts and roaming turtles are common.  Keep your eyes peeled for the normally nocturnal spotted snake eel--only his large head will be sticking out of the sand.  
Mooring Depth: 20 feet

Maximum Depth: 50 feet

Referred to as Saba's nursery, all things are possible at this calm and protected dive site that also offers fabulous snorkeling. You can do your entire dive in less than 25' of water exploring the small caves while poking about the huge boulders in the area just north of the point. Keep your eyes open for everything from juvenile Spotted Drums to Spotted Snake Eels and even an Octopus... day or night!
Mooring Depth: 30 feet

Maximum Depth:  35 feet

This site is more commonly referred to as "big boat mooring at Torens Point".  There are 3 moorings in this area to accommodate snorkelers, surface intervals for dive boats and student training.  Like Torens Point this site can be underestimated.  We've just about seen it all here--from regular squid and seahorse sightings to even mantas.
12. Ladder Bay Deep (Custom's House)

 

Mooring Depth:  60 feet

Maximum Depth:  110 feet

This site is a great alternative to an off-shore pinnacle, a bit deeper than other sites in Ladder Bay, but a gradual sloping reef.  This stand-alone reef is covered  colorful corals and long Devil's Sea Whips that dangle over the sandy areas where you can find Southern stingrays and furry sea cucumbers.   
13. Porites Point (Lou's Ladder)

 

Mooring Depth: 50 feet

Maximum Depth: 75 feet

Large encrusted boulders that over time have developed into a continuous reef structure with sandy alleys characterize this dive site. Large fields of Club Finger Coral along with the many ledges and small crevices provide the perfect hideouts for Spiny Lobster and an abundance of smaller reef fish.
Mooring Depth: 47 feet

Maximum Depth: 80 feet

Dramatic ledges host the Deepwater Sea Fans that are found as you head seaward from the mooring. Cross over several lava flows and sand chutes, returning to the mooring and head towards shore where the coral encrusted boulders become larger and more numerous. Opportunities to see Hawksbill Turtles, large Barracuda, Nurse Sharks and Morays are the norm at this site.
Mooring Depth: 42 feet

Maximum Depth: 80 feet

The labyrinth of 10 foot coral and rock ridges just seaward of the mooring provide numerous nooks and crannies for shrimp, crab and lobsters while making it clear how this site was named. Heading east the labyrinth gives way to a more organized system of lava flows and sand chutes. Look for healthy populations of Filefish, and French Grunts and Spanish Grunts. Don't overlook the many sandy alleyways that offer a close-up look at Yellowhead Jawfish.  Since Summer '99, a pair of seahorses found here--don't forget the camera!
Mooring Depth: 40 feet

Maximum Depth: 80 feet

So named because of the hot water springs coming through vents in the sea floor, this dive site is proof positive that Saba's volcano is merely dormant not extinct as suggested elsewhere. Pick a dive here! Head seaward from the mooring and then south over a series of coral heads separated by a sandy bottom. A huge anchor (one of several at this dive site) is a good point to turn inshore and back to the mooring. Alternatively, head seaward and then north for a shallower version among the coral encrusted boulders before heading back to the mooring. Especially interesting are the large colonies of Garden Eels in the sand and numerous schools of French Grunts that you'll find here. 
Mooring Depth: 70 feet

Maximum Depth: 100 feet

A series of coral outcrops at the edge of a sandy slope and a vertical drop-off provide a varied multi-level wall dive. The mooring pin at the edge of the wall is the drop-off point to your recommended maximum depth of 100 feet. Head north along the wall and then return to the mooring over the tops of the coral outcrops at 60 feet. Look for several big, old anchors in the coral along with large Southern Stingrays in the sand.
Mooring Depth: 23 feet

Maximum Depth: 80 feet

A dramatic multilevel wall dive with rich color and looming overhangs. Heading out along the wall at 80 feet and back along an overhang ledge at 50 feet provides a close look at the myriad of colorful encrusting sponge species. Queen Angelfish and large Barracuda in the shadows make this a heads up, as well as thumbs up, dive.  
Mooring Depth: 43 feet

Maximum Depth: 65 feet

A mini-wall, huge boulders and a dramatic swim thru provide a unique combination of qualities at one of Saba's most popular dive sites. From the mooring, head easterly on the outside of the boulders to a sand slope where Garden Eels and Southern Stingrays are seen. Then swim to the base of the mini-wall slowly through the boulders and the archway. Large silver margates and pairs of Grey Angels are always looming in the archway.  Keep a sharp eye out  for Hawksbill Turtles, Scorpionfish and Nurse sharks in this dive that offers unlimited possibilities.  
Mooring Depth: 70 feet

Maximum Depth: 120 feet

A deep patch reef at the end of the Tent Reef system. This small, steep-sided reef is often combined with a visit to the Tent reef dive site. Schools of Yellowtail Snapper and large Margates can be found on the deeper parts of the reef.
Mooring Depth: 60 feet

Maximum Depth: 70 feet

A horseshoe shape of small coral islands separated by sand channels and sand flats provides overhangs with a large Spiny Lobster population along with schools of Goatfish, large Barracuda, Conch and Mahogany Snappers. 
22. Giles Quarter Deep

 

In 1999 and 2000, SMP Director David Kooistra installed new moorings and reintroduced a few moorings to sites that had been without moorings for a number of years of non-use.  In this re-introduction, some moorings were moved from their original areas thereby changing the known locations to divers who have frequented Saba before this time.  We have kept the map in its original form but there is no longer a Giles Quarter Deep mooring pin; the reef, of course remains.
Mooring Depth: 60 feet

Maximum Depth:  80 feet

A sandy area with patch reef; large boulders in shallows towards shore.  This site was named for the huge boulders which are found close to the shore.  Unlike the big boulder outside The Big Rock (super) Market in Windwardside, these rocks provide the background for those silly trumpet fish who think they can't be seen with the blue tangs.  The deeper patch reef found to the northeast of the mooring pin, is the shelter for cowering file fish and large spiny lobsters.
Mooring Depth: 70 feet

Maximum Depth:  80 feet

Patch reef system with little change in depth.  The white sand that surrounds this patchy coral reef seems to illuminate the colorful reef dwellers as well as provide the grassy sea bed favored by shellfish for passing Spotted Eagle Rays.  Rarer chain morays have also been identified here.
Mooring Depth: 40 feet

Maximum Depth: 75 feet

A series of large coral encrusted boulders lead to a sand bottom at 75 feet where a variety of hard and soft coral structures are the background for the schools of Blue Tang and Chubs that inhabit this dive site. Alleviate the eyestrain caused by looking for the ever-elusive Nudibranchs found here by taking a peek into the blue for rare Manta Ray sightings. 
Mooring Depth: 40 feet

Maximum Depth: 120 feet

Saba's newest dive site offers many possible profiles from the shallow cascading boulders, which mirror the shoreline to the near vertical precarious chunks of granite, which plunge to the sand bottom at 120 feet. Blacktip Sharks, Bottlenose Dolphins and Queen Angels have paraded past the colorful gorgonians that grace this exciting new site named after the Saba Marine Park's Director, David Kooistra..
Mooring Depth: 40 feet

Maximum Depth: 90 feet

Peer through the looking glass at the mushroom shaped Honeycomb Plate Corals and Sunray Lettuce Corals that create this majestic seascape. A northerly route yields a deeper wall dive with Tiger Groupers and paired Black Jacks as frequent loiterers. A southerly route traverses a steep slope where Queen Angels and Hawksbill Turtles are usually found. 

Mooring Depth: 40 feet

Maximum Depth: 100 feet

Newly established in 1999 after being discovered by medical students at their Cove Bay campus, a short surface swim to the northern side of the cove drops you to a vertical wall covered in red and yellow soft corals with far-reaching Devil's Sea Whips. Large Green Moray Eels and the Midnight Parrotfish are commonly spotted here.
Mooring Depth: 25 feet

Maximum Depth: 65 feet

A counter-clockwise navigation of this small island pinnacle unveils a grove of gorgonians and a small colony of both Bushy and Feather Black Coral. Schools of Bermuda Chubs are strongly represented along with Parrotfish and Queen Angels on the backside of the island.

 

Diving, Hiking and Flying...

Diving... Hiking... Flying...

One of the more frequently asked questions divers have about Saba concerns the risks associated with diving, flying and hiking. For a number of years now, divers have been flying to Saba from St. Maarten, conducting two dives and returning to St. Maarten the same day without any know cases of decompression sickness resulting directly from the short 12 minute Winair flight. This is due in part to the fact that the flight doesn't exceed an altitude of 2500 feet (and frequently much less) as well as its short duration. However, as you remember from your introductory scuba course, there is an increased risk associated with flying after diving. In particular, if you are planning to depart on an international flight from St. Maarten, you should adhere strictly to the guidelines of your certifying agency and allow sufficient time for off-gassing.

At the same time, one of the more popular topside activities on Saba is hiking up Mount Scenery or setting off on one of the other hiking trails that are maintained by the Saba Conservation Foundation. As for flying, you may remember that rigorous exercise, either immediately before or after diving, may increase your susceptibility to decompression sickness. Again, our recommendation is conservatism when hiking Saba's trails or simply meandering around Saba's steep hillsides. In particular, when climbing Mount Scenery we recommend that you only do so after you have sufficiently off-gassed and it is safe for you to fly according to your certifying agencies guidelines.

And what about the altitude of your hotel or cottage on Saba?  In 1990, Divers Alert Network ("DAN") brought 15 divers to dive with Sea Saba and conduct Doppler studies to answer this specific question.  The results showed no difference in the divers propensity to bubble formation whether at the Fort Bay Harbor or back at their Windwardside locations. 

Just the same, there are other factors that may influence your susceptibility to decompression sickness. In the interests of diving safety , we'll defer to someone having greater familiarity and expertise with the subject, Michael N. Emmerman. Mike has prepared the following advisory which you'll find in your Sea Saba welcoming packet upon arrival. Please take the time to read it to ensure a safe, pleasant and happy trip. Remember, there's only one place you don't want to visit on Saba except on the tour, and that's the Saba Marine Park's Hyperbaric Chamber.

"The risks associated with going to altitude are well know to most divers; what follows here may be less obvious. Current protocols indicate that divers should avoid aggressive exercise before or after diving. The key to this problem is the term aggressive. What may be aggressive for one person, might only be a warm-up to someone else. The discussion that follows should be thoroughly understood by divers wishing to climb Mt. Scenery (elevation 3000 feet) before or after diving."

"Our goal as divers is to avoid increasing our metabolic rate, and to avoid increased circulatory stress. If these factors were elevated prior to diving, it is thought that the diver would increase his or her uptake of nitrogen during the dive because the circulatory system would be working harder. If these factors were elevated after diving, it is thought that the normal process of off-gassing nitrogen could be dangerously accelerated, and possibly lead to decompression illness. The physical fitness and health habits of the diver will dictate how much the metabolic rate and circulatory stress is increased during a given activity. The diver's physical fitness and health habits will also dictate the after-exercise recovery period (time needed to bring the metabolic rate back to normal)."

"As for divers visiting Saba, and wishing to climb Mt. Scenery, the determining factors should include: 1) the extent of alcohol consumption for several days prior to climbing Mt. Scenery (contributing to bio-chemical imbalances and dehydration); 2) the extent of smoking prior, during and after climbing (contributing to impaired gas exchange in lung tissues); 3) the degree of physical fitness (contributing to stress, fatigue and dehydration); and 4) the surface intervals after diving (determining tissue tension and critical off-gassing)."

"Almost all authorities in diving medicine would agree that it is not advisable for any diver to dive after drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes (or anything else), and partying all night. Climbing Mt. Scenery would add additional risks to this problematic personal profile. A diver who wishes to climb Mt. Scenery after diving should evaluate his or her own personal health habits and make an honest judgement of the potential risks. Some divers will be able to drink alcohol, smoke, party and dive, and experience no ill effects. Some will suffer severe decompression illness or other diving related injuries. Some will just deny symptoms. Each of us has a responsibility to our fellow divers, and to ourselves, to limit our risks of diving related injuries."

~~just another reason to dive nitrox and reduce your risks~~

Prepared in the interest of diver safety by
Michael N. Emmerman
Research Coordinator
Diving and Water Rescue Committee
National Association For Search and Rescue (NASAR)
-and-
Research Director, Lifeguard Systems, Inc.

 

Like all gems, Saba's demeanor belies her birth: violent geophysical upheavals were her attendants.  Eons later, her emerald forests, punctuated by the ruby roofs of her trim cottages, are ringed by her sapphire blue seas.

For centuries, only local fisherman and sailors knew Saba's waters.  It wasn't until 1981 that American businessmen Del Bunker and Wilson McQueen brought scuba cylinders to Saba.  From the first dive it was obvious that Saba offered something truly special.  A dive show was established.

Dive tourism began slowly.  In the early days, most of the visitors came for a one-day visit from St. Maarten.  But as word of Saba's underwater riches spread, the number of tourists increased.  The pioneering dives shops (a second had been established) had already reached a mutual understanding with local fishermen to avoid fishing on the favored diving reefs.  For their part, the shops had begun practicing some environmental procedures to protect the reefs before any damage occurred by establishing moorings made from blocks or large abandoned anchors.  These developments did not go unnoticed by the Saban government.  After all, in 1981, sister Antillean island Bonaire had officially designated her marine park.  (The concept of a marine park often strikes non-divers as odd.  No parking lots, roller coasters or hot dog stands here!  A marine park is a specific area in which regulations and zoning have been established to protect and enhance marine resources.  Today, there are many marine parks and they have become an industry standard.

Marine biologist Tom van t'Hof, who had been a key player in the development of the Bonaire Marine Park, was hired to conduct an official survey.  His report was submitted in 1983 and approved by the government in early 1984.  The Prince Bernard Fund and the World Wildlife Fund provided initial funding.  Although the park was not officially declared  until 1987, much was accomplished in the interim period, including drilling permanent moorings, establishing mapping, purchasing a truck and a boat, as well as publishing education literature.  In addition to the two dive shops, a live aboard also began to pay regular visits.  By 1987, two additional live boards were issued licenses.  Diving became another sparkling facet of the Saban jewel.

Although Saba's underwater attractions include spectacular (and shallower) reefs and walls, it is for her pinnacles that she has acquired a reputation as a "must go destination" among seasoned divers.  The pinnacles are actually the summits of underwater mountains, beginning at around 85 feet and extending to the abyss.  They are awesomely impressive, not only to divers, but apparently also to the larger fish and pelagics that are frequent visitors.  

Saba's Marine Park is different.  The design of the park and its zoning were a collaborative effort between the dive shops, the government and Sabans, including her fishermen.  Unlike other marine parks that were founded after diving tourism was already having an impact on the underwater environment, Saba's reefs were protected before any damage occurred.  Her reefs are pristine.  Annual scientific surveys indicate that fish density, variety and size are increasing and the growing number of shark sightings hears this out--see our Nature News page for regular updates.  

The next level of recognition and safety was reached when Dr. John "Jack" Buchanan coordinated with the Dutch Navy and the Saban government to bring a hyperbaric chamber to Saba.  Saba's chamber is now the official sport diving chamber for a territory ranging from Puerto Rico to Barbados.  It is owned and operated by the Saba Marine Park but is closely allied with The Saba School of Medicine.  A hyperbaric master's program provides "call teams", medical students and local volunteers, to treat diving accidents and conduct research in to treating barotraumas and wounds.  

As the "second child", Saba benefited from experience gained from the development of the Bonaire park.  Both parks have received numerous environmental awards and have been the subject of many studies.  Saba's park was actually the first to be fully self-funding through user fees and donations.  The fees are used to maintain facilities and to support a staff of three professionals.  The Netherlands Antilles governments have enthusiastically embraced the marine park concept.

Saba now boasts three land-based dive shops and is visited year-round by one live-aboard and seasonally by another.  This year, the Saba Conservation Foundation, with grand funding from the Dutch government, is producing seven brochures to assist visitors.  From the history of the park, guidelines for visiting yachts, to hiking maps, these informative brochures are available at the Saba Tourist Office, the Trail Shop or the new Visitor's Center for the Saba Marine Park at the Fort Bay Harbor.  

Contact Caribbean Travel on 1-888-741-DIVE (3483) or info@caribbeandivers.com for your scuba diving and resort vacation arrangements.

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Caribbean Travel specializing in vacation and dive travel in the Caribbean including  all-inclusive resort vacations, scuba dive training, Caribbean  Dive Travel, Caribbean  dive travel specials, Caribbean  dive resorts, Caribbean dive resort specials, dive travel vacations, scuba diving vacations, scuba diving and resort dive vacations,scuba diving and resort vacation packages, live-aboard dive vacations and specials, liveaboard dive packages and specials, dive resort packages, caribbean scuba diving specials, deep sea fishing and bone fishing packages. Destinations offered are Cozumel, Belize, Roatan, Utila, Costa Rica, Bonaire, Curacao, Aruba, San Andres, Turks & Caicos, Nassau, Freeport, Bimini, Grand Cayman. Little Cayman, Cayman Brac, St. Kitts, St. Croix, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Dominica, Barbabos, Dominican Republic, Saba, Statia and Tortola. info@caribbeandivers.com Caribbean Travel specializing in vacation and dive travel in the Caribbean including  all-inclusive resort vacations, scuba dive training, Caribbean  Dive Travel, Caribbean  dive travel specials, Caribbean  dive resorts, Caribbean dive resort specials, dive travel vacations, scuba diving vacations, scuba diving and resort dive vacations,scuba diving and resort vacation packages, live-aboard dive vacations and specials, liveaboard dive packages and specials, dive resort packages, caribbean scuba diving specials, deep sea fishing and bone fishing packages. Destinations offered are Cozumel, Belize, Roatan, Utila, Costa Rica, Bonaire, Curacao, Aruba, San Andres, Turks & Caicos, Nassau, Freeport, Bimini, Grand Cayman. Little Cayman, Cayman Brac, St. Kitts, St. Croix, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Dominica, Barbabos, Dominican Republic, Saba, Statia and Tortola.

 

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