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Saba Marine Park

Saba’s volcanic origins have blessed her waters with spectacular formations and structural diversity. From shallow patch reefs to deep water seamounts, Saba offers interesting diving at each depth and for every diver's experience level.  The Saba Marine Park was established in 1987. One of the few self-sustaining marine parks worldwide, it’s important to note that it was not established to help repair a damaged environment and ecosystem, but rather to safeguard and ensure the continued quality of an extraordinary resource. The Saba Marine Park is zoned for various recreational and commercial uses.

Who discovered diving on Saba?   and how did the park get set up?
The history of the Saba Marine Park can now be found on our
Some Saba History page along with other topside information.

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 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.

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.

photo courtesy of Bryan Stiles August 2002 Tent Reef

Up close with a Squid
courtesy Bryan Stiles--August 2002--Tent Reef

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...


For more information on the Saba Marine Park or to learn how you can help support and preserve this valuable and unique Saban resource, visit the Saba Marine Park online at www.sabapark.org

This page last updated on 04/28/2006 from our Windwardside office.

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