St. Croix is known for world class Caribbean diving. Beneath the turquoise waters the island is almost completely surrounded by a barrier reef teeming with coral, sponges, schools of tropical fish, sea turtles, and more. The most well-known part of this spectacular coral reef runs along the North Shore of St. Croix and is known simply as ‘The Wall’.
The Wall is created by the Puerto Rico trench located on the boundary between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The trench itself is 497 miles long and at its deepest point, known as Milwaukee Deep (located 76 miles north of Puerto Rico), it has a depth of at least 28,373 feet! For divers, the depth of the Puerto Rico Trench off St. Croix (about 3,200 feet) makes it a great site for deep diving, tech diving, and regular recreational diving. Even better, it can be accessed by shore or by boat at numerous dive sites along the North Shore of the island.
The most popular site for shore diving this amazing feature is the Cane Bay Wall located just off Cane Bay Beach. Many divers, myself included, surface swim the 200+ yards from the boat ramp on Cane Bay Beach out to the white mooring buoy before descending. While you can descend earlier and swim out, surface swimming to the buoy allows you to spend more time on Cane Bay Wall. I recommend that you take your time making the surface swim as there can be swells and surge in Cane Bay at times, and it is a 200 yard swim…trust me, you don’t want to exhaust yourself before you even start your dive.
When you descend at the buoy, you drop down to 30-40 feet, then swim between large coral reef structures along a sand chute (known as 3 Anchor Chute) to The Wall. As you swim along 3 Anchor Chute you will want to watch for turtles, stingrays, peacock flounder, and lobster, as well as barrel sponges and sea fans.
When you reach Cane Bay Wall, make sure to look all around you and take in the magnitude of this natural wonder. On one side you will see colorful reef fish of all shapes and sizes, among the coral you will find eels, shrimp, and occasionally, a nurse shark. On the other side of you lies the open ocean. Don’t forget to look out towards the blue abyss as you swim along Cane Bay Wall as you will often see reef sharks or barracuda, and occasionally dolphins. If you are really lucky, you may see (or hear) humpback whales as they migrate through the Puerto Rico Trench.
When heading back towards shore to make your ascent, take your time as you swim along the soft coral beds and sand; you may find a real seahorse, jawfish, flamingo tongues, sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, or conch. There is also a coral restoration garden at the orange buoy to the north of the ‘seahorse’ that is worth a look if your bottom time and air consumption are good.
Cane Bay Wall offers something great for every level of diver. The barrier reef and The Wall are both an underwater photographer and a fish identification enthusiast’s dream come true. Any of St. Croix’s friendly dive shops can take you out to dive The Wall by boat, or you can rent gear, tanks, and weights right across the street from Cane Bay Beach at the Sweet Bottom Dive Center. Whichever you choose, have a safe and memorable dive…maybe I’ll see you down there!
– Jennie Ogden, Editor
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