Barbados is home to nine shipwrecks. Some of them are located just meters off the shore a mere feet below the water level, while others are a little further out from the shore and require scuba diving in order to be seen. I’m well experienced in snorkeling, but I’m not scuba dive certified (someday!) and neither is my husband, so we opted for the snorkeling version. I have seen some amazing marine life during my past snorkeling experiences, but I’ve never had the chance to explore a shipwreck so I was super excited for this opportunity.
The majority of Barbados’ shipwrecks are located in Carlisle Bay, which sits on the Southwestern coast of Barbados near Bridgetown, the country’s largest city. Bridgetown also happens to be the country’s Port city. Meaning it’s where all of the cruise ships visiting Barbados dock. During the busiest times of the year (winter in the Northern hemisphere) there can be as many has 4 huge cruise ships docking in Bridgetown.
Basically I’m trying to tell you it can be extremely busy in the Bridgetown area and many of the shipwreck tours can be sold out if you don’t book them in advance. Most of the cruise ships don’t dock until 11am-noon. Schedule your tour before that. In fact, schedule it first thing in the morning. We took our tour at 8 am. Not only was our tour small (literally my husband and I and one other couple. 4 people total), but we beat all of the other tours and had both shipwrecks completely to ourselves to explore.
Shipwrecks in Carlisle Bay
Some of the shipwrecks in Carlisle Bay were purposely sunk for tourist purposes while others sunk due to disaster. Some of them have been under the ocean for nearly 100 years, while others have only been there for 20 years. We visited two shipwrecks, basically because they’re very close to one another and close to the surface of the water. If scuba diving is more your thing there are plenty other shipwrecks and tours you can take to get your scuba fix.
There are plenty of tours to choose from. We ended up going with a man named Nevil and he was awesome. His glass bottom boat was beautiful. He was very friendly and knowledgeable and answered all my questions (I’m always the person on the tour with lots of questions). This post is not sponsored, we legit just loved our tour so much. On to the shipwrecks!
The Berwyn was sunk in 1919, strangely enough, by its own crew. This 60 foot beauty was a French military ship that came into the harbor during World War I. The crew enjoyed the island so much that when the War ended in late 1918, they didn’t want to leave. Legend has it they asked the captain to stay longer and his response was “over my dead body and a sunken ship”. So his rebellious crew sunk the ship, and – as our tour guide said – “they sunk the ship, and went back to the island for more rum!”
Fast forward nearly 100 years to today. The Berwyn sits right around 10 – 15 feet below the water’s surface (depending on the tide) in Carlisle Bay, making it an awesome shipwreck for snorkelers. After 100 years below water there is tons of coral growing throughout the entire ship and lots of fishies (yes, I said fishies) swimming about.
Bajan Queen Shipwreck
The Bajan Queen was originally named the Pelican in it’s early days in the 1960’s. Ten years later, the ship was converted to a party boat and renamed the Bajan Queen. After its party boat days were over, the Bajan Queen was donated to the Coastal Zone Management Unit (a department of Barbados’ government that monitors and protects the country’s coastal areas and the plants and animals that inhabit them).
In May 2002, the 120 foot Bajan Queen was cleaned up and sunk for tourism purposes. It now can be seen just a few feet below the water’s surface. It has been underwater a fraction of the time the Berwyn has, but it’s already accumulating some coral and of course, fishies. This boat was so cool to explore. Because it is so close to the water’s surface it was super easy to swim down deep and see all the nooks and crannies of the ship. You can even swim through the captain’s bridge!
Tip: People from Barbados are called “Bajans”. Pronounced like “Cajun” only with a B.
Spotting Sea Turtles
A little ways away from the shipwrecks we spotted some sea turtles and got back into the water to get a closer look at them. Our guide threw some fresh fish in the water and the turtles gobbled it right up.
Sea turtles are extremely protected in Barbados, and the people of the country truly honor laws and regulations regarding their protection. It is completely illegal to catch any species of sea turtle, or possess any turtle product (i.e. meat, shell, eggs) in Barbados. Penalties include fines up to $50,000 Barbados dollars (the equivalent of $25,000 US dollars) and/or two years in jail.
That being said, they are used as a tourist attraction in Barbados. There are tons of tour companies that will take you out to swim with the turtles. Obviously, we spotted some and wanted to get a closer look at them.
While I am completely against mistreatment or captivity of animals simply for tourist reasons, this is not that. The turtles are completely wild and come and go as they please. You’re allowed to feed them, but you are not allowed to swim/chase after them, or poke and prod at them. Our guide was very upfront and told us as soon as they start swimming away you need to let them be, which I was happy to hear. Essentially, you’re suppose to float there and watch them as they swim about, which is what we did, and it was awesome! The water is extremely clear so you can see them even when they’re a ways a way.
If you go:
- I can’t stress this enough, the earlier you go the better. Schedule your tour for first thing in the morning.
- Most of the tours will provide snorkels, and some even provide fins! So no need to stress about it if you don’t have your own.
- Bring a towel to dry off with afterwards
- Look but don’t touch. The shipwrecks, coral, fish, and any other marine life you encounter. Just don’t do it. Nothing good comes from touching stuff you’re not suppose to touch, so just don’t.
- Sea turtles are extremely protected in Barbados. They are living, breathing animals. Do NOT mistreat them or cause them harm. It’s not cool.
- Last, but not least, tip your guide!
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