Barbados was the first stop on our recent Caribbean Cruise, which some of you may recall was our first ever cruise experience. It might sound odd therefore to hear that the total time we spent on Barbadian soil was a matter of minutes. I recently mulled over my first impressions of cruise travel, reflecting on my belief that it is difficult to see a destination properly with just a few hours there so why on earth would we choose not to spend those hours on land at our first port of call?
The reason was this: when I heard that Barbados is one of the best places in the world for snorkelling with sea turtles and seeing underwater shipwrecks (experiences that were still very much on my wish-list), no hotel, no beach visual and no island tour could penetrate that stubborn layer of will in my head that had already decided it wanted to see Barbados face down, through tight-rimmed goggles and a plastic snorkel.
In my earliest days of blogging, I had shared a few snapshots of snorkelling in the Maldives and more recently, I spotted sea snakes and jellyfish whilst snorkelling near Ko Lanta. It was there, in fact, that I engaged in one my most unrepeatable travel experiences but even that has failed to deter me from getting back out in the water to delve into the mysterious marine world that lies just beneath its surface.
Except this time, we decided to do it in style. If we’re only going to be in Barbadian waters for a few hours, then we may as well add a splash of luxury to it and for this, we enlisted the help of a beautiful catamaran from Silvermoon Cruises Barbados.
As soon as we got on board and spotted the sophisticated white leather seating, kitchenette at the back, spotlessly clean bathroom and free-flowing alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages being served from the get go, we knew we were in for in for a treat. In fact, as energising and hydrating as the fresh pineapple juice was, even a teetotaller like me got tempted by the melange of local spices in the bottomless rum punch, which was so aromatic that they almost changed the habit of a lifetime! 😀
But after lathering on our sun cream, we quickly found spaces at the front of the boat to sit and relax and took note of the handy tips and safety information being given by staff on board for example, if you’re trying to send that all important live tweet, be prepared for water to engulf your phone. This is a catamaran after all.
Discovering Sea Turtles and Shipwrecks in Barbados
We were going to be taken to two different stops, one to spot sea turtles and the other to see the marine life that sways and swims in the interwoven webs and crevices of old shipwrecks.
We must have only been in the water a few minutes when we spotted the first sea turtle. Unlike many other snorkelling tour groups on the island, where crowds of fifty or sixty people can end up booked onto the same trip, all circling the same spots and hovering around the turtles en masse, Silvermoon limit their tour group sizes to a maximum of 12 guests. This means you can be sure that you won’t be joining a mass influx of turtle spotters all trying to elbow each other out of the way to get their Go Pro action on.
It was an exhilarating feeling viewing these graceful creatures swim by in a placid manner, welcoming us so benignly into their natural surroundings. I think it was the first time I acquired a true appreciation for just how large sea turtles are and it felt both humbling and almost hypnotic swimming along beside them.
The shipwreck, in contrast, exuded a more menacing aura. Not because there was any sense of danger to us as such but rather because of the painful connotations our minds associate with sinking ships, the notions of peril, of lost hopes, of darkness and fear.
Yet, nature reincarnates these shipwrecks into biological works of art, where intricate corals settle and thrive, where shoals of fish scurry through the alcoves concealed within the wrecks.
A Luxury Catamaran Snorkelling Experience
Lunch was served after we completed our snorkelling for the morning, freshly made on board by the catamaran staff, who had been grafting away in the sunshine to the sound of pop beats, whilst we were basking in the novelty of the turquoise water. The fruits of their labour included freshly grilled tuna, a comforting traditional macaroni pie (known to us Brits as macaroni cheese) and unlimited slices of pillowy soft banana bread.
Whilst we all sat down for the feast they had prepared, we enjoyed the light-hearted banter the staff were sharing with each other and all of us on board. They pointed in the horizon to the homes of the rich and famous. Names like Simon Cowell popped up and Rihanna’s name in particular cropped up frequently in the conversation, as it started to feel like everyone on the island had their own Rihanna story to share.
In fact, the vibe on board was so mellow and jovial, that we felt as if we were sailing around the Caribbean in a luxurious catamaran with friends, something I can assure you doesn’t typically go on in my circle of friends on a regular Monday (or any day!)
It goes without saying that on an tropical island like Barbados, the choice of tour operators for water-based activities can seem endless and Silvermoon was certainly on the steeper end of the price spectrum. But when we saw how professional the service was on board with everything from the quality of the snorkel equipment and the peaceful small-group nature of the snorkel trips to the flavours of the rum punch, the freshly-cooked authentic flavours served up at lunch and of course, the overall highlight of the day – the enchanting sea turtles, we realised it had been very much a worthwhile investment.
Have you ever had a magical moment with the marine world?
49 thoughts on “Snorkelling with Sea Turtles and Shipwrecks in Barbados”
I’m so jealous Shikha – both of your swimming with the turtles & great photography skills ha ha! But seriously, wow, what an experience! I adore animals and this is something I’d love to do. Sounds like you picked a really good company to go with too. I much prefer smaller private tours than going en masse…
Awww Keri, thank you so much, so lovely of you to say! If you enjoy animal experiences, you’ll LOVE doing this! I left it a bit last minute to book so some of the more mid range priced companies were fully booked and this was a bit steeper but it was totally worth the money, as the catamaran was luxurious, staff were just beyond friendly and it was such an intimate, magical experience! 🙂
This is absolutely incredible! I had a similar experience when I found a beach in Hawaii that turtles love to swim around. There must have been a dozens around me at one point. It was one of my most surreal experiences of my life. I’m so glad you did this with a proper company that knew where to take you and only let a few people on board.
What camera do you use for your underwater photos?
Oh Carolann, that must have been so magical! This was one of the most special experiences I’ve ever had on my travels so can’t even imagine how wonderful it would have been for you when Hawaii was home as well! We used a Go Pro, bought one before this trip with the hope that we’d get some slightly better underwater photos and I’m really pleased with how they’ve come out 🙂
To see sea turtles in the wild is high on my travel wishlist and your photos have just pushed it up a few more notches. What a wonderful experience. Love your images – what did you use to take them?
Thank you so much Suzanne! I’d never seen sea turtles before so it was a dream come true doing this & I highly recommend it if you ever visit Barbados or other parts of the world where sea turtles hover 🙂 We used a standard Go Pro, it was the first trip away where we’ve experimented with it but it seems to give great clarity with underwater photos!
Wow what an incredible experience, turtles are such beautiful and extraordinary creatures!
Aren’t they just Becky?! It was a spine-tingling moment swimming along next to them 🙂
This sounds like a dream excursion – I’d love to swim with sea turtles!
It really was, Suze! Definitely one of my most magical moments during my travels – highly recommend it if you’re ever in Barbados!
What an adventure! It reminds me of our honeymoon in Hawaii, marine life there is also astounding and sea turtles were adorable. Although my photos didn’t come out nearly as beautiful as yours, big applause to you. 🙂 xoxo, nano
Awww, thank you Nano but I feel like credit really should go to the new camera that we used for the pictures – we have a much older waterproof camera, which we have used on previous snorkelling trips and they never seem to come out that great with that one. Hawaii must have been such a paradise destination to honeymoon in & I’d love to visit there myself one day, just wish it wasn’t quite so far from London! 🙂 x
not too shabby! Great underwater pics!
Thanks so much Andy! It was definitely one of those really special underwater moments!
What a dream experience – sometimes it just needs to happen!
I found it just such an awe-inspiring moment Emma. I had to pinch myself to believe it was real!
Actually imagining myself on that catamaran right now… looks like such an incredible experience, I love your photos! Neither the boyfriend nor I are particularly good in the water but snorkelling is something I’ve always dreamed of doing!
Thanks Connie! So happy to hear you like the photos 🙂 And yes, imagine away, it was such a luxurious catamaran. I’d actually never been on one before so I’m glad we invested in a great company and tour group to experience this with as it’s totally sold me on the concept! Funnily enough, Pumpkin and I aren’t brilliant in the water either (and the first time he’d ever snorkelled was on our honeymoon) but that’s what’s great about snorkelling – you don’t have to master the art of diving (which I’ve never done) or even be the best swimmer and we always use life jackets and flippers and away you go. It’s really so magical and addictive so highly recommend you giving it a go if you ever visit a beachy area, renowned for great marine life!
That’s really good to know, I’ve always been too nervous as I am quite paranoid about not being able to touch the ground in the water (what a loser I know) so I might try to be braver next time the opportunity arises!
Wow this does look and sound like an outstanding snorkelling experience and destination! I am not much of a swimmer but I years ago I still managed to do my open water diving certificate and I have snorkelled a few times in Asia. It’s definitely a situation when I have to face my fears but the experience is well worth it – such beautiful life under the sea!
Even I’m not brilliant under water Natasha – I like snorkelling but always use a life jacket and have never dived but the views, even from just snorkelling, can be so magical that I’m always really glad that I’ve taken the plunge to do it 🙂
I can’t believe you used a standard go pro! I’ve never seen photos this good from one. I think there are more skills behind the camera than you like to admit…:)
Awwww thank you Heather – that’s so kind of you, I promise it was definitely a standard Go Pro but this was the first time we’ve used it and I’m pretty amazed at what a good little piece of equipment it is for something so tiny!
Wow, wow, wow!!! Amazing photos. 🙂
Thanks Katie! 🙂 It was a complete paradise out there, I could have spent all day floating in that water.
Caribbean is so on of my bucket list. I love snorkeling and swimming in clear blue waters as well, so it looks PERFECT!
Awww it sounds like you love many of the same things I do! I had often wondered if the Caribbean islands would live up to the hype but I know why they are just so popular and renowned because they truly are so stunning. Hope you make it soon & definitely don’t miss snorkelling when you do 🙂 Thanks so much for reading!
Wow sounds incredible Shikha! Your photos are beautiful! I went snorkelling for the first time in Fiji last year and I was so stoked to see purple starfish hehe..but swimming with sea turtles is something else – amazing! 🙂
Oh wow Priti, I don’t think I’ve ever seen purple fish and I’ve certainly never been to Fiji,which sounds amazing! Snoreklling is such a magical experience isn’t it? 🙂
What an incredible experience! Love these photos! I never knew about all these underwater treasures Barbados had to offer. I like that your tour was limited to a few people. We like snorkeling and how neat to be so close to sea turtles. One mangical moment with the marine world was snorkeling with stingrays and reef sharks in Bora Bora. I think I’d prefer the turtles 🙂
Oh Mary, can’t even tell you how jealous I am that you’ve snorkelled with stingrays in Bora Bora – it would be a dream come true to do that one day, just wish it wasn’t so far from home! I myself hadn’t realised till this trip to the Caribbean that Barbados had special snorkelling but I’m so glad that we decided to try out this trip as I’d never seen sea turtles out in the wild like this and it was such a magical feeling 🙂
This looks amazing Shikha! I’ve seen sea turtles in the wild from a distance but have never swam with them before. This is a dream! So jealous you got to do this and I’m definitely now considering Barbados as our next holiday destination 😉
Knowing how much you love animals in natural surroundings Ayla, you would LOVE doing this! They are such peaceful creatures which is why, even though they’re absolutely enormous, it felt so peaceful and calm and not in any way scary plus when you’re not swimming, you’ll have unlmited rum punch!! If you head back to the Caribbean, definitely sign up for this 🙂
I’m super scared of the water, so this isn’t my thing at all. But wow, your pics make it look like so much fun! Thanks for letting me live vicariously through you on this occasion!!
Oh really? I never realised that Char but I hear that from quite a few fellow travellers. It was such a spine-tingling feeling as the sea turtles are so peaceful and graceful but even when we weren’t in the water, just lounging around on the catamaran with drinks and great food was a perfect way to iron out the stresses of day to day life 🙂
Have you done a post on the cruise itself? Would love to hear about it as am going on my first ever cruise in Sept not sure what to expect xxxx
You are amazing xxxxx
Aww, no I just wrote it for the exact same reason because I’d never been on one either & hadn’t been sure what to expect! Had good fun though! ☺ x
and YOU are far too kind! 🙂
Omg met Angie and we are going to organise a brunch so I can finally get to meet you!!!
Reblogged this on beautifulbarbadosblog.
Forgot to say I loved your article. Perfectly done and super pics. I see turtles rarely. One might pass by wen I’m swimming, headed for the beach (I swim close to shore). But my best experience is lying near to one (a Hawksbill) as she settled in to lay her eggs. It was a little after midday and we were concerned since they usually come in at night.
So we stayed nearby until the experts from the conservation unit came. They told us it was not common, but yes they lay in the day too. They marked the spot, and after she’d gone, they checked and tagged eggs etc and lightly camouflaged the area, as it was in the open and not the brush. Apparently, as the lady said, the turtle just had to do her business and could neither wait for night nor reach the brush where they usually lay. Nature is nature.
Wow! That is an incredible story & such a spine tingling experience it must have been for you! Thank you for sharing it here as I’ve now learned something new about how they lay their eggs. And thank you for your kind comments about this post and for reblogging – much appreciated ☺
Aw, thank you! Yu are welcome!