WRECK DIVINGGrenada can quite rightly claim to be the ‘shipwreck capital of the Caribbean’, boasting a vast array of shipwrecks in depths to suit all levels of diversThere are few countries globally that can compete with Grenada and Carriacou when it comes to shipwrecks, never mind just in the Caribbean, and even more incredibly, many of the sunken vessels were genuine maritime accidents, not purpose-sunk artificial reefs. And because the islands sit near a busy trade route, the number of wrecks is going up all the time! This is fantastic news for divers, and whether you are a newly qualified open water diver, or a hardcore diving veteran, you will find a multitude of shipwrecks awaiting your visit. And if you aren’t into your sunken metal, never fear – the sheer amount of marine growth and fish life that lives on and around the wrecks means every dive is a swirling riot of vibrant colour.

You cannot talk about wreck diving in Grenada without first mentioning the mighty Bianca C, a gigantic 180-metre-long, 18,000-ton Italian liner which went down off the coast of Grenada in 1961.

The Bianca C was built in 1939 on the south coast of France, and then after being launched as an incomplete ship named Marechal Petain, was sunk by German forces in August 1944. The hull was raised in 1946 and taken back to its original shipyard where it was refitted and launched as a cruise ship in 1949, bearing the name La Marseillaise.

She then became known as the Arosa Sky in 1957 after being sold, before finally, in 1959, she was bought by the G Costa du Genoa company, and was renamed Bianca C after a daughter in the family firm. She was tasked with the run from Naples, Italy, to Guaira in Venezuela, and Grenada was her last stop on the return leg.≠

On 22 October 1961, while anchored off St Georges, an explosion in the boiler room saw the vessel catch fire. Hordes of local boats - ranging from sailing boats, power boats and tiny dinghies to ocean-going yachts and inter-island trading schooners, even rowing boats - responded to the crisis, rescuing all but one person who perished on board. Sadly, of 12 badly burned crew, two other men died later. Showing the friendliness and generosity that Grenada is renowned for, all of the rescued passengers were given food and shelter in hotels, guest houses and even private homes.

British frigate HMS Londonderry was in Puerto Rico and sailed down to Grenada to assist. When the naval vessel arrived on 24 October, the Bianca C was still ablaze. The frigate managed to take the huge liner in tow, with an aim to move it away from the shipping lanes, but it proved problematic due to the Bianca C’s rudders being jammed and eventually the towing line snapped and the ship sank, which is how it came to rest upright in 50m of water off Pink Gin Beach.

Over 55 years on the seabed has taken its toll on the old girl, and she is deteriorating year on year, but there is no taking away from the epic scale of this enormous vessel, and she still makes a fine flagship for the rest of Grenada and Carriacou’s sunken fleet. It is still possible to make out key aspects of the ship, including the swimming pool, bollards, winches, parts of the superstructure and the bow chain and rope locker.

In terms of marine life, you often get large shoals of Atlantic spadefish cruising above the wreck, along with large barracuda, eagle rays and even the odd reef shark.

As said before, due to its location on various shipping routes, Grenada is also blessed with a plethora of shipwrecks that were the result of maritime accidents, and now provide underwater playgrounds for divers and protective habitats for marine life.

The 50-metre freighter Shakem was carrying much-needed bags of cement for the building industry on Grenada when she was caught in a storm in May 2001. The heavy cargo shifted and she went down, settling upright in 32m. The remnants of the bags of cement can clearly be seen in the holds – the cement has set, and the bags have long since fallen apart, leaving giant ‘pillows’ stacked neatly in piles – but her real draw is the rich smothering of coral and sponge growth that seems to cover every square inch of her hull, superstructure and especially the large crane lying amidships. This is liberally covered in gorgonian sea fans, while the rear of the ship almost looks like a fluffy white wall dive due to the thick coating of coral.

Smaller than the Shakem at a length of 40 metres, the Veronica L is a freighter which sank after springing a leak, but was then raised and moved to a location near Grand Anse after work began on the cruise ship dock. Now lying in 15m, she is a perfect wreck dive for all levels, and is adorned in marine growth and fish life. If you want to get a little more depth, you can even follow anchor chains off the stern down to a small drop-off at a depth of 30m.

The Atlantic side of Grenada – which is often rougher, with large swells, but also benefits from having tremendous visibility - is home to several world-class shipwrecks.

The King Mitch makes for an unusual wreck dive, given that she resembles a box with a pointed front! Originally a US Navy minesweeper from World War Two, she was retro-fitted into a freighter by having two cargo holds inserted in her middle, with a crane attached to the deck between them. She lies several miles offshore on her side in 32m, and sank in 1981 when her bilge pump failed. There is some coral growth on her, but as the wrecks on this side of the island are often swept by sometimes fierce currents, it is nowhere near as prolific and dense as on the Caribbean side. What it does have is nurse sharks, lots of them, and southern stingrays, not to mention patrolling barracuda and amberjack.

A little closer to land is the cargo vessel Hema 1, which had delivered a consignment of cement to the island and was enroute back to Trinidad on 1 March 2005 when she was also the victim of a failed bilge pump and ended up in 30m of water. Shortly after being sunk, she was broken apart by hurricane surge, and now the hull and bow lie on their port side, with the midships well flattened. This wreck is another haunt for nurse sharks, which swarm in large numbers under hull plates and near the bow, and reef sharks sometimes pay a fleeting visit from out of the blue.

The latest vessel to join Grenada’s underwater fleet on the Atlantic side is the Persia II, which went down in 35m in March 2017. Coral growth on this cargo ship is fairly sparse at the moment, but algae has taken a hold, and marine life has already started to move in, with various reef fish and the invasive lionfish in residence. Being some eight miles offshore means currents can be strong, and she lies close to deep water, so only time will tell what will eventually call her home, but in the meantime, divers can enjoy seeing a ship in the early stages of being claimed by the sea.

ARTIFICIAL REEFSNot that they necessarily need it with such a selection of genuine shipwrecks, but Grenada and Carriacou also boast several artificial reefs, and more are in the pipeline. Grenada has the Buccaneer, a sloop sunk way back in 1978 that lies on its starboard side in just 24m and is well-festooned with marine growth. She is only small, but home to plenty of fish life, and her compact nature makes her perfect for photography.The cargo ship MV Hildur has been down since 2007 and lies in Grand Mal Bay in 35m. Like the Buccaneer, she has collected a thick layer of encrusting coral and sponge growth in her time on the bottom, and her large open holds provide the perfect environment for shoals of fish. Spadefish and barracuda often swim in the water above her.

On Carriacou near Mabouya Island, you have the Twin Tugs, two vessels sitting within a short distance of one another in 28-30m, though for a thorough exploration of both, they are best visited individually due to the depth. Both are around 30 metres in length - the Westsider was sent to the bottom on 4 September 2004, and the Boris followed on 10 September 2007.

The two wrecks are covered in vibrant red and orange encrusting corals and algaes and penetration into the interior is possible on both. Currents can sometimes sweep across them, and they are home to angelfish, wrasse, soldierfish, lobster and moray eels.