|First impressions usually carry more weight than
they deserve but, human nature being what it is, it is hard to resist the urge to be swift
to judge. Pain du Sucre was our first dive around St. Barts shore. We did not know
what to expect, as St. Barts is surrounded by islands that deliver very different types of
In this instance our first impression proved to be a faithful image of the islands diving. The site is typical of St. Barts divingfairly shallow, good visibility, some interesting rock features, colourful sponges, a turtle and a shark.
From the boat we can see a rock finger extending east from the rock that we will first dive round and then over on the way back. Behind the boat is a large submerged rock, which promises a tunnel.
Click on image for larger map
The seabed below the boat is 55 feet and flat. While the divers in our group gather, we watch several barracuda hanging in the water. It seems that they are queuing for the cleaning stations dotted around the rocks. Those being cleaned are easily distinguished as they change colour quite dramatically from shiny silver to dull dark grey. One returns repeatedly to the cleaning station and we see that it has a hook and piece of line hanging from its gill. No amount of industrious cleaning is going to rid it of that chunk of hardware.
Toward the rock peninsula, the bottom drops to 60 feet. Faced with a gaggle of divers excitedly blowing bubbles, a small turtle decides to head to sea. A few feet farther on, a bull shark stands its ground a little longer before it too makes a tactical retreat.
At half-tank we follow the dive leader back along the finger until he reaches the crevice, which he leads us through. Throughout the dive we have been surrounded with fish.
Creole wrasse make up the biggest group, closely followed by chromis and blue tangs with sergeant majors not far behind. Under overhangs spotted drums lurk seductively whereas brave little eelsa spotted and a goldentailpoke their heads out to see what is going on. The even tinier heads of secretary blennies peak out at us from their holes embedded in the coral.
Back near the boat is the entrance to the tunnel. The mouth is perhaps 3 feet across and the tunnel is approximately 20 feet long. The walls are encrusted with red, dusky pink and buttercup yellow sponges. A strange rumbling noise accompanies you through the tunnel. We conclude that it is the resonance caused by the sea breaking on the cliff above. Be careful at the tunnel, as there are large patches of fire coral near the entrance and exit.
We spend our last few minutes on the bottom stalking a nassau grouper that chooses a Venus sea fan to disguise itself against, not a good choice, buddy.
As we drift slowly up, our last image is of a white speckled hermit crab shuffling along the rock. Or more precisely, a shell seeming to move of its own accord like a runaway car without a driver.
When we are too far above the bottom to see anything more, we find a barracuda doing a safety stop with us.
Thanks to Eric of West Indies Dive Centre.