Diver: Bermuda has one of few unspoilt reefs left
Bermuda's reefs can be a major draw for divers looking for pristine coral and historic shipwrecks, according to underwater photographer Ron Lucas.
However, Mr Lucas said the Island lacks some of the diving opportunities offered by other destinations.
Speaking to the Hamilton Rotary Club yesterday, Mr Lucas compared the Island's strengths and weaknesses to those in competing locations, saying Bermuda boasts one of the last healthy reef systems in the Atlantic.
“There are only three reef systems in the Caribbean which are relatively unspoilt and Bermuda is one of those,” he said. “In the south, it's pretty warm which stresses the corals, and when they are more stressed disease can more easily get in them and kill them. We have the winter period, which allows them to recover.
“One of the reasons I no longer head down to the Caribbean, except for Little Cayman, is because I'm tired of seeing reefs die. Lionfish are eating all the small fish on the reefs.
“We are lucky they haven't established themselves yet the same way on our reefs. I used to think they were beautiful. I just see red now.”
He also said the Island offers a wide variety of diving opportunities, particularly for those interested in diving in historic shipwrecks.
“We're supposed to be the shipwreck capital of the Atlantic, and I think we are because we have quite a few we are allowed to dive,” he said. “Some of these ships are quite historic and if they were elsewhere in the world nobody would be allowed to dive them, but because we have quite a few we're allowed.”
Mr Lucas also noted that Bermuda has important facilities for divers, such as several “very professional” dive operations and a hyperbaric chamber — vital if an accident occurs.
“If you're in the Galapagos and you're a day and a half's sailing away from the main parts and something happens, I'm sorry,” he said. “You have got oxygen on the boat, but that's it.”
But while Bermuda has many advantages over other dive destinations, other locations boast a longer dive season, lower costs and a wider variety of colourful reef life.
“We have around 75 percent of what they have in the Caribbean, but if you go to the Coral Triangle [in the South Pacific], you are talking about four to six times the diversity of the Caribbean,” he said. “For example while here you could see five types of butterfly fish, you could see 25 to 30 species there.”
He also noted that the Island has fewer turtles, sharks and marine mammals than some other locations, particularly on the reefs.
“Fish pots did a real number on big fish in Bermuda,” he said. “The only surviving big fish we have are black groupers. They are here, but unfortunately in my opinion you will hear about them disappearing.”
Mr Lucas also said Bermuda lacks some of the diving options offered in other areas such as “live aboard” diving, in which divers sleep on the dive boat and visit as many as five dive sites a day, and “muck diving”.
“Muck diving may not sound too inviting, but when I first saw what was in the muck, which is black sand typically near where people live, this sand is full of interesting creatures many of whom have not been classified as yet,” he said. “You get to take pictures of very, very unusual creatures such as the blue-ringed octopus.”