Buccoo Reef is the largest coral reef in Tobago and was designated a marine park in 1973. Its massive proportions contain a reef system of five reef flats that are separated by deep channels. An associated lagoon, the Bon Accord Lagoon is almost completely enclosed by Sheerbird's Point – also called No Man's Land - and a dense mangrove belt. The gradual change in the fauna and flora from the dense mangrove to the outer reef is a biologist's delight. This reef complex is also more accessible to the non-diver, as snorkelling and glass-bottom boats offer an easy way to observe the many habitats and species it contains. The reef flats have wave-resistant species adapted to turbulent waters, such as Elkhorn Coral, while the reef crests are dominated by the Star Coral. In the deeper Coral Gardens the coral communities change to large colonies of brain coral, Starlet Coral and Star Coral, with many soft corals that sway in the current.
Tragically, the Buccoo Reef is today a shadow of what it once was. A combination of pollution from land run-off and physical damage from reef walking and anchors has degraded much of this once majestic reef. If you chose to visit Buccoo Reef on a glass-bottom boat, please do not accept any plastic shoes you may be offered by the tour operator.
Instead, ask to be taken to deeper parts of the reef, such as Coral Gardens, where you can snorkel and see much more marine life without touching or damaging any live coral. There is hope to restore this magnificent reef and a concerted effort from the community, visitors, business and government can make it happen.
The reefs and dive sites along Tobago's Caribbean coast are some of the most beautiful on the island. The currents are less strong than on the Atlantic coast, and the hard-coral reefs at Arnos Vale and Culloden are some of the best to be seen. The Wreck of the Maverick, sunk in 1997 off Mt Irvine, is invariably abundant in fish life, and close encounters with large barracuda or giant jewfish are not uncommon. The Sister's Rocks is a spectacular dive that consists of a cluster of rock pinnacles which breaks the surface and drops to a depth of 140 feet. This area is the home for large pelagics and a residential population of hammerhead sharks that are usually seen against the open blue waters, while groupers, lobsters and moray eels stay close to the reef.
Japanese Gardens, Black Jack Hole, Kelleston Drain, Bookends and St. Giles are some of the varied and beautiful dives off the North-eastern coast of Tobago. These dives are mainly for advanced divers, where conflicting currents create a playground for mantas, barracuda, and tarpon, while others offer more gentle drifts along sloping reef covered with hard corals, sponges, sea fans and sea plumes. Multitudes of damselfish, blue chromis, creole wrasse, angelfish, butterfly fish, and parrotfish add infinite colour, under the permanent gaze of roaming Jacks, snappers and barracuda. Manta rays are frequent visitors.
Diver's Dream, Diver's Thirst, Flying Reef and Cove Reef are some of the dive sites located in the Columbus Passage, one of the top drift-diving locations in the Caribbean. These sites have strong currents that flow in a westerly direction, which sweep past the islands at speeds ranging from a leisurely half-knot to a blistering 4 knots. This constant water movement sculpts sea fans and giant barrel sponges into strange shapes. Turtles, eagle rays and reef sharks are usually seen on these exhilarating dives.