Rich and colourful shallow water reefs surround Tobago, making it easy for you to explore the island's spectacular aquatic communities by scuba diving or snorkeling from shore.
The waters around Tobago support approximately 300 different species of coral, including staghorn, elkhorn, fire coral, giant tube sponges and starlet coral. There is also a broad range of reefs, rock pillars, wrecks and extravagant undersea gardens filled with giant sea fans, whips and plumes. Remarkable sites exist off Speyside, Little Tobago and Goat Island on the northeastern side of Tobago where you can drift dive along reefs with sponges the size of bathtubs and bushes of black coral. On the southeast coast are the exceptionally clear Nylon Pool and Buccoo Reef National Park.
During the months of March to July, Manta Reef is the place to see giant rays, although divers also encounter dolphins, marine turtles and sharks.
A one-tank dive starts at US$40 and you are welcome to bring your own gear. You must be a certified diver and present your C card to rent equipment and dive, although some shops offer a supervised resort course or professional instruction leading to PADI certification.
Some great places for diving are listed below. For more information on diving in Tobago, visit the Association of Tobago Dive Operators website here
Please help us to preserve Tobago's reefs
• Do not walk on reefs - even if offered plastic shoes by reef tour operators.
• When snorkeling or scuba diving do not touch anything.
• Mind your fins - corals are very delicate.
• Some of Tobago's sites are for experienced divers only - so dive with a registered operator who will know which area suits you best.
• Spear fishing is strongly discouraged
• Please do not drop anchor on coral reefs - anchor on sand or use a mooring.
Reefs on the Southern End of Tobago
This is a protected marine park between Pigeon Point and Buccoo Point. Daily tours by glass-bottomed boats allow even non-swimmers to view the reef. When snorkeling, be careful not to step on, touch or break the coral formations.
The Nylon Pool is a warm shallow area in the middle of the reef lagoon and is ideal for swimming. Whole day tours to nearby No Man’s Land - a sandy spit reaching into the lagoon - are available from licensed tour guides and reef tour operators. Reef tour boats leave from Buccoo Bay and Store Bay.
DEPTH RANGE: 18-45FT (6-14M)
Located on the Atlantic side of Tobago, Flying reef normally has a gentle drift between 0-2 kts of current however at times the drift can achieve high speeds. The dive runs from east to west with the current and the maximum depth is at 55ft/18m. The diver follows the edge of the reef with the sand on the left and coral sloping up to the right to shallow water, approximately 25ft/8m in depth.
On the dive it is possible to see stingrays, turtles, nurse sharks, schools of big eye and glass eye snapper as well as many different types of reef fish such as parrotfish, French angelfish and porcupine fish. A large ship's anchor surrounded by Pork Fish and schools of Bermudan chub can also be found at the bottom of the reef.
DEPTH RANGE: 30-85FT (9-26M)
Located just south of Columbus Point, the current at Cove reef can be very strong at times and generally travels in a westerly direction. The reef has a steep gradient and extends to a sandy sea bed. The coral life includes brilliant sea fingers, Venus sea fans, fire corals, warthy sea rods and large brain corals which all dot the reef.
At the edge of the reef it is possible to see large black groupers, cubera snappers and Caribbean spiny lobsters. At the bottom of the reef, southern sting rays can be found, along with spotted and green morays which can often be seen hiding among the myriad of hard and soft corals. The occasional hawksbill turtle may also be seen resting on the reef.
DEPTH RANGE: 18 – 48FT (5 – 14M)
The dive site gets its name from the large number of crakes and ledges in the reef. The dive is shallow, close to the shore line and generally has a gentle surge, which can at times become strong if the sea conditions are rough. The reef is made up primarily of hard corals and is home to a very large Elkhorn coral. The reef is also home to a wide variety of fish such as French angels, parrotfish, Bermuda chub and Nurse sharks, which like to sleep under the ledges. Large barracuda, snappers and hawksbill turtles may also be seen in the reef.
DEPTH RANGE: 55-100FT (16-30M)
Lying in 100ft of water is the wreck of the M.S. Maverick, which was once a passenger ferry between the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago. The Scarlet Ibis as it was then called served for many years before being replaced with a larger and faster ferry, and was sunk specially for diving in 1997.
The top of the Wreck is 55ft and the descent is down a line attached to the bow usually passing though a school of bait fish with Bonito fish darting in and out upon reaching the bow.
The dive usually lasts between 30-35 minutes as a result of its depth and the reef building crabs, sennet fish, clams, and extensive coral growth, make it a fascinating dive.
Mt Irvine Wall
DEPTH RANGE: 18-50FT (6-15M)
The "Wall", which is one of the three dive sites found in Mt. Irvine, is a shallow 30ft dive close to the shore. Of great interest to divers in this location may be the crevices where Moray eels, spiny lobsters and crabs live.
Mt Irvine Extension is a deeper dive site following the outcropping rocks of Mt Irvine Bay. Large groupers, snapper and Hawksbill turtles enjoy this beautiful reef which is big enough for several dives. The Spotted Eagle Ray may also be seen and tend to be seen in pairs and circle around the divers.
Mt Irvine Wall
DEPTH RANGE: 23-72FT (7-22M)
The corals here are quite different and are made up of mainly knobby sea rods, candelabrum & small to medium sea fans. There can also be found lots of Christmas tree worms and feather dusters. It is home to many different species of fish and also a spawning ground.
DEPTH RANGE: 30-50FT (9-15M)
Divers Dream is a dive site that can only be visited at certain times of the year, which will also depend on the tide or the full moon. Divers will need to descend straight to the bottom of the reef as the surface currents could cause you to drift of course. At 26 ft a plateau should be seen, however the dive continues on beyond 36 ft where several hard corals, sharks, eagle rays, turtles and a variety of fish may be seen.
DEPTH RANGE: 30-50FT (9-15M)
This reef is located 1.8m off of Divers Dream. The reef is made up of overlapping ledges and mostly sea fans and large yellow tube sponges can be seen. The current is not as strong as Divers Dream however divers should continue to practice safe diving habits and monitor the depth gauge. Groupers, large midnight parrotfish and black tip reef sharks can be seen during the dive.
Reefs on the Northern End of Tobago
The various reefs off Speyside vary in depth. The shallow reef areas are excellent for snorkeling while the deeper reefs are great for scuba diving. Glass-bottomed boats conduct snorkeling tours and scuba diving can be arranged through any Dive Shop on the island.
DEPTH RANGE 54-120FT (16-36M)
This dive is off the southern end of Little Tobago and starts at the end of Black Jack Hole. The reef is made up primarily of brain coral, soft coral with slit-pore sea rods, sea fans and small feather black coral. At the end of the dive Devil’s sea whips which grow up to 10 ft can also be found.
DEPTH RANGE 20-110FT (6-33M)
This site is situated off the southern end of Goat Island. The waters are sometimes choppy with a surge so a quick descent is important for this dive. The reef slopes steeply downward and resembles a flower garden because of the brightly coloured corals and sponges which also intensifies the colour of the fish.
Several large boulders with a natural split form a passage measuring approximately 7 ft by 10 ft. which is known as the Kamakazee Cut. The current in this area can be quite strong; however, once divers make their way through the passage the current becomes weaker.
DEPTH RANGE 30-120FT (9-36M)
Bookends, one of the more popular sites in the north, get its name from the two large vertical rocks which can be seen at the site. A strong surge can be present at times so descent has to be head first and as quickly as possible. The dive also depends on favourable sea conditions.
An area called the Tarpon Bowl allows divers to kneel and watch the enormous tarpon. Nurse sharks, which are often found under the ledges, and large Elkhorn coral can also be found at the site.