Nevis and St. Kitts
Nevis is a wonderful little island in the country of Nevis and St Kitts located in the Caribbean. The reef has experience significant stress and many areas are covered in algae. There are large turtles, stingrays, eagle rays, and sharks. Typical caribbean fish are not abundant.
Scuba Diving Nevis and St. Kitts
Oualie Beach Resort and Scuba Safaris.
Nevis is part of the 2 island country of Nevis and St Kitts. Nevis is the smaller less populated and less traveled to. This fit our description of a perfect, less traveled and less dove area of the Caribbean. The fact that cruise ships visit St Kitts but not Nevis sealed the trip. December is NOT the ideal time to dive in the Caribbean, but we were due for a vacation and we knew the risks of rough water and visibility. We were lucky as half the trip the water was calm as a pool with good visibility. We only had a day or two with rougher water and reduced visibility.
For those who want the very short version. Nevis is a great island with very friendly people that should be included in most peoples list of islands to visit. Oualie Beach Resort is one of the cheaper hotels on the island. Oualie beach Resort room was nice. Bathroom could use update. This is the closest hotel to the dive operation Scuba Safaris. Diving was mixed. Saw lots of very large turtles, nurse sharks, sting rays, eagle rays and a small school of reef sharks. Reef has significant algae coverage, small fish were not abundant. Staff at Scuba Safaris were excellent.
Getting to Nevis
Nevis can be reached by direct flights to Nevis or via flights to the larger St. Kitts airport combine with a ferry ride to Nevis. We choose to fly to St Kitts due to the availability of frequent flier tickets. The short 1 hour trip to Nevis from St Kitts can be done 2 ways. The easiest, but more expensive is to take a chartered water taxi/taxi for about $60 per person or take a taxi to the Government Ferry dock for $12 per taxi and $10 per person for the ferry and another $15 for the taxi to Oualie Beach Resort. $120 for 2- one way or $47 for 2 – one way. Big savings so we took the government ferry which was quite easy and reasonable price wise. Be sure to check ferry schedules as they vary.
Oualie Beach Resort
Oualie Beach Resort is an older hotel located on a wonderful beach which has Nevis only real scuba shop, Scuba Safaris. There are MUCH more expensive and nicer hotels on the island of Nevis. However, they are not as convenient for diving. For the price Oualie Beach Resort is a good value, however, a few small improvements could make this a fantastic hotel. The Oualie Beach Resort website is very honest, maybe too much. The rooms and the beach were actually much nicer than the pictures on the site.
The rooms at Oualie Beach Resort are small cottages on the beach. Most were duplexes or triplexes. located 100 to 200 feet from the waters edge.
The rooms were clean and fairly large. There was a small living room area with a couch, a couple of chair, refrigerator and a TV.
he Bedroom area had a comfortable bed. Pillows a bit thick for my tastes….but overall the room was very nice for the price paid.
The only thing about the room that really needed improvement was the bathroom. It was small, outdated and really needed an updating. No soap dish in shower. Very old fixtures, water leaking in bathroom etc…..If the bathroom had been updated, Oualie would be a fantastic deal. Our room did not have a safe (some do), but I really don’t think one is needed.
Each room at Oualie Beach Resort had a screened in porch area which is needed as the no see-ums and mosquitos were out and biting on most nights. Porch area was a great way to watch the local monkeys in the morning.
I would recommend bringing and using insect repellent during the evenings in Nevis.
Several times a day the trees behind our room had a large group of Vervet monkeys. They are somewhat shy, but you could get within about 20 feet before they would take off for the safety of the trees. Very cute and worth the effort to see.
Restaurant and Bar.
Oualie Beach Resort had its own restaurant on the beach and a small bar that was very popular with the ex-pats. There are not many restaurants in this area of Nevis. There is one restaurant you can walk to that is open only on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for dinner….Galipots. So you are somewhat stuck with the Oualie Beach Resort’s Restaurant if you are unwilling to pay a $15 cab fare (one way) to other restaurants. You should take this into consideration when staying here as the taxi bills can quickly add up and it maybe cheaper to rent a car.
The food at Oualie Beach Resort was OK. Not great, especially considering the price. Typical dinner prices are $25 – $30 plus drinks, desserts appetizers etc. 21% is added to the bill for service charge and tax. The bill will show a 21% tax line which can be a bit confusing at first…..but this is service and tax. The dinner menu varies each night with a small selection that includes a fish, a chicken a beef and a vegetarian dish. The lunch menu did not vary during our stay. Lunches were about $10-13.
There are several other restaurants that are reasonable price wise and have great food but you will have to take a taxi to most. I recommend trying Sunshines or one of the other restaurants in that area. We prefer to try different restaurants and explore the local food scene. However, considering the price of taxis the lowest overall cost option would be to take the Oualie Beach Resort food package and eat at the hotel.
The beach is very nice with a fantastic view of St. Kitts in the distance. The water was flat, with a soft shallow sand bottom. Great for swimming and enjoying the view.
There were plenty of well spaced loungers and hammocks for the guests and the area was never crowded. There were trees providing shade for those who wish to hide from the strong Caribbean sun.
Scuba Diving in Nevis
The diving was a mixed affair. We dove with Scuba Safaris LTD in Nevis… The staffers of Scuba Safaris were wonderful, attentive and very friendly. The Managing Director Ellis was wonderful to deal with and his humor made the experience great. The staff would set up your gear for you and change tanks etc. The entire staff was great. Everyone was friendly and helpful and they made the trips enjoyable. Scuba Safaris has the only Nitrox system in the area. Other shops will get their Nitrox tanks from Scuba Safaris. However, nitrox is not needed since most dives are fairly shallow.
Dives were mostly shallow as it is hard to find deep water in the area of Nevis and St Kitts.. Most dives were 70 feet for the first dive and 40 feet for the second dive. Dives were guided but they allowed photographers to do their own thing. During our dives there was little to no current. Visibility was about 30-70 feet.
December is NOT a good time to dive Nevis or anywhere in the Caribbean. Swells from the North Atlantic can muck up even the best dive sites anywhere int he Caribbean and swells can make diving rough. The first few days the water was flat as a swimming pool, then December came back with 3-4 foot waves and reduced visibility.
June and July would be the best time to dive most of the Caribbean and a trip during the summer could be a completely different experience as you would visit different sites.
The reef areas around Nevis and St Kitts are very large with many having no defined edge. Many of the sites seem as if the reef continues in all directions. The reefs of Nevis and St. Kitts must have been an amazing reef 30 years ago before overfishing and coral bleaching has taken its toll on Caribbean reefs.
Most of our dives with Scuba Safaris were along the western (Caribbean) coast of St. Kitts to protect us from the waves of the Atlantic during Decembers weather.
Overall the area was pretty good for large critters. I saw 3 very large hawksbill turtles on the Christena wreck (often spelled Christina). The turtles were in the 3-4 foot of shell range. These were the largest hawksbill turtles I have seen in the Caribbean. I also saw several smaller turtles and a loggerhead turtle!
A refreshing change was sharks. Lately I have seen very few sharks while diving in the Caribbean. I saw a very large nurse shark and a small school of shy reef sharks who would not let us get any closer than about 60 feet. There were several eagle rays and a half a dozen very large southern sting rays. Pretty good for large critter sighting!
The downside was the reef. Most sites were covered in algae which is killing the corals. The lack of current and algae eating fish combined with other factors has resulted in a significant algae bloom. A good storm could wash this away. If it does, it could save the coral. If not, things look bad.
Smaller reef fish were not abundant. Most dives had lion fish. Typically 6 lion fish were sighted per dive. The dive guides typically speared any lion fish they saw, I don’t know who is winning, but lion fish are slowly taking over most of the Caribbean.
The wreck of the Christena is the exception to the algae issue. It is a must dive spots in Nevis and St. Kitts.
The Christena went down with over 300 people aboard. 266 died. The boat was massively overloaded and capsized going down in about 75 feet of water.
This is a fantastic wreck to dive as there is no algae and it is covered in soft corals. The colors are incredible. The hull of the Christena is heavily encrusted with soft corals. Crabs, lobsters and other critters can be found hiding in the many crevices of the wreck. During night dives the large hawksbill turtles sleep in the hull. I saw 3 very large hawksbill turtles on one night dive on the Christena.
Not all is bad with the diving. There were plenty of cryptic tear drop crabs hiding deep in their sponges, pederson cleaner shrimp and arrow crabs. Also seen were many very large lobsters and a huge green morey eel. Diving is very mixed. There are some incredible sightings and on the same dive you can see a smothered reef covered in algae.
There were numerous areas with very colorful encrusting sponges and even the occasional area with very healthy large sea fans and gorgonians. Some of the soft coral forests were close to 6 feet tall!
Scuba Safaris has two boats. Both quite big. There were roughly 4-8 divers on most dives and the boat was about 50 feet long. There was never an issue with space.
Scuba Safaris provided 1-2 large rinse tanks for cameras and one for masks. There were no camera tables or dedicated camera areas. This was not a problem as the boat was huge for the number of people aboard.
Entries are typical giant strides with ladders for exits from the water. All typical boat dives.
Nevis has some great things going for it. Pretty island, very friendly people and no crowds. The diving is mixed. There were some fantastic things about the diving, but there was also the issue of algae on many of the dive sites killing the coral. Huge turtles, sharks, lots of sting rays and eagle rays were a pleasant surprise when many islands have little to no large sea life.
Overall, it is a great place to visit and I recommend it as a combination Island vacation with diving.