Volume 1 - Tobago

Diving the St. Giles area is always weather dependent, so we do not know until we leave Man of War Bay if we will be able to dive these offshore rocks. Not until we arrive at London Bridge will we know whether the waves, surge and current will allow us to dive through the bridge. If there is even the slightest swell, the funnelling effect of the rocks leading to the hole accentuates its effect, making the passage through the hole unsafe. We are lucky, the elements conspire to be kind; we are able to do the dive as we hoped.

From the surface, London Bridge is easily identified; the largest of a group of rocks to the north of St. Giles has a hole right through the middle like a polo mint. Half of the hole is above the surface and the bottom half is submerged. The waves delight in crashing through the hole then rushing back as if they fear what lies on the other side, like children playing chicken. We, on the other hand, are very much looking forward to passing through to the other side.

Dive Profile
Dexter, the boat driver, manoeuvres the boat carefully in the entrance to the hole. So close are we to the rocks, executing a backward roll seems likely to risk a bang on the head. Of course, we have been positioned safely and we drop into the water to begin our descent to the entrance of the hole. From the northern side, the entrance is wide; the bottom is at 35 feet and about 15 feet across.

The base of the hole is made up of huge slabs of rock like a magnified cobbled street. As we begin to swim through and the hole narrows, we feel the thrust and tug of the water movement. The fish sway back and forth, suspended in space. Tangs, ocean surgeonfish, French angelfish, trunkfish and trumpetfish occupy the channel. The vertical walls are encrusted with yellow and orange sponges and probably a whole lot more, but we are too fascinated by our exciting journey through the passage to take much notice.

Toward the end of the passage, it narrows to around 3 feet. The vertical sides tower above us. At the end of the hole there is a lip and the instructions given in our dive briefing are clear: swim over and immediately down to get out of the surge and current. We tip over the edge and find ourselves at 45 feet, in an area of sand punctuated with big blocks like giant chess pieces. We are dwarfed by the terrain, as though, like Alice, we are not the right size for the environment.

There is a flat area leading to a ridge that rises to 35 feet. The ridge is covered in vase sponges and a mass of fish and, thinking the excitement is over, we begin to examine the marine life. But, over the ridge we swim a short way before the mild current begins to carry us along a vertical wall, buzzing with life. Exquisite crinoids extend their long arms from vase sponges; green, yellow and amber varieties occur here. We dive the wall at 70 feet but it seems equally lavish deeper and shallower. Deepwater sea fans are prolific at this depth as is wire coral and many hydroids. You will find tiny slate pencil urchins if you look carefully, 1 to 2 inches long, looking like sputniks.

Green finger sponges, dark volcanic sponges, yellow tube sponges and giant vase sponges oblige many angelfish with a constant supply of food. Rock beauties, French and grey angelfish and a splendid pair of Queen angelfish go about their business without any concern for us. Because the area is not over-dived, the fish are not particularly shy and simply ignore divers.

Just as with all Caribbean reefs, there is an abundance of parrotfish. Midnight parrotfish are not a common sight on most reefs, however, but we see many on this site. These big fish are midnight blue with lighter bright markings on the head above the mouth. Stoplight and princess parrotfish are also common around London Bridge. Smaller reef fish, such as bi-colour damselfish and chromis, create soft clouds across the hard rocky surface.

The current carries us around a corner and we look up at the rugged structures above us. Angular rocks shoulder away the waves as they rush at the cliff face. The wall looks like a series of giant steps; another impression that this terrain is meant for creatures larger than us.

We swim around the western arm of the bridge and now pass across the entrance of the hole. A large rock ahead of us has attracted a big school of boga. They swim in a polarised school, their silvery blue bodies forming a streak of sparkling light, an underwater fireworks display. A few black jacks are hanging out near the entrance and we find a spotted moray protruding from its hole, mouth agape as if pulsating in time with the surge.

Over the rock, another wall awaits our inspection. We spend the remainder of the dive slowly drifting along the wall at 30 feet. We have to swim away from the wall slightly to make our ascent, to give the boat room to manoeuvre. But, as soon as we begin to go up, the current whisks us away. So, we simply hang in it while we do our safety stop.

London Bridge combines an exciting and unusual submarine terrain with colourful interesting marine life. If the weather is right, it is definitely a dive to do.

Thanks to Anne of Man Friday Diving.
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London Bridge

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