Ask most visitors what they love about Barbados and you’ll likely hear about the white-sand beaches, the world-class golf courses or perhaps the exceptional restaurants and nightlife. But for a growing number of visitors, the reason to visit Barbados is what lies beneath the surface of the warm Caribbean waters.
The island’s marine offerings have the perfect mix of accessibility and variety. You want to explore shipwrecks? You got it. You enjoy discovering rare and cryptic species such as frogfish, seahorses and batfish? Check, check and check! You want easy access to a range of habitats? Barbados has you covered.
To see Barbados’ marine ecosystems in full bloom one only has to put on a mask, and visit either the Carlisle Bay or the Folkestone Marine Parks. Collectively scientists have documented over 110 species of Reef Fish in these parks, and all of the most common corals can be seen in both areas. Actually, the marine parks are the only place on island where all three of the endangered Acropora coral species can be seen on one dive. Both marine parks now showcase some of the healthiest and largest schools of horse eye jacks, grunts, sergeant majors and Bermuda chubs island-wide. In fact, some guests even “complain” that there are too many fish for them to take an unobstructed selfie while snorkeling, or scuba diving.
For most divers and snorkelers, the sheltered Carlisle Bay Marine Park on the south coast is the most popular destination. With calm, clear water and a multitude of shipwrecks and other structures that draw a diversity of marine life, the park has become a dream for visitors and locals alike. With the ability to do a continuous loop through the park and see six wrecks, the Carlisle Bay “wreck trek” has few equals anywhere in the world.
Located about a half-mile north of Holetown, Folkestone Marine Park & Museum is a 2km stretch of marine reserve between Coral Reef Club and Sandy Lane. Folkestone packages your snorkeling experience beautifully, offering equipment rental, a marine life information centre and museum, picnic tables for relaxing in the shade and a protected area for snorkeling. There, colourful fish glide through their coral habitats and gather around two sunken barges.