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Snorkeling and Scuba Diving at Whitehouse Reef
Although this is a dive site hyped by the local resorts, it isn't all that interesting or challenging for the diver. The swim from shore to reef is long; long enough that most recreational divers would consider it a boat dive. There isn't much between the shore and reef, aside from vast swaths of sea-grass. Lots of invertebrates and small fish can be found in the sea-grass area, but they can be hard to find, especially for the inexperienced diver. The seagrass area ranges from 2m/6'to 6m/20' deep. As you approach the barrier reef the water becomes steadily shallower, eventually leaving you in water 2-4m (6-12') deep. The site itself consists of scattered boulders in a mixed sand/rock/seagrass plane. Various sponges and both soft and hard corals - especially fan corals - coat the boulders, which range in size from fist-size to the size of a compact car. Around these 'islands' many small colourful fish can be found, along with various invertebrates such as nudibranchs. The adventurous can continue past the barrier reef itself, although this can be quite dangerous given the extremely shallow water (parts of the reef are exposed at low tide; and water averages less than 1m/3' throughout the top of the reef) and frequent large breaking waves. In addition, the outside of the reef is extremely far from shore, and it is quite easy to follow the bottom (which stays at 9-10m/30-35' for a long ways) to a point where getting back to shore could be a real issue. The sea-side the reef is quite steep, and rapidly drops to 9m/30' in depth. Life here is much more abundant, with the reef consisting of very large boulders (house-sized) covered in all sorts of corals. Many fish circle these reefs, plus the usual Caribbean critters like morays and lobster. Overall this dive presents many dangers. The area between the reef and shore is filled with motor and sail boats from the surrounding resorts - all operated by individuals who most likely do not know what a dive flag is (or, for that matter, know how to run a boat). Additionally, large waves breaking over the reef, and currents on the sea-side of the reef, add additional dangers to divers whom leave the shelter of the shore-side for the more interesting sea-side edge of the reef. Combine all that with a long swim to the site, and the relatively large distance between interesting items, makes this dive quite risky for fairly low return. Although this site can be dived from shore, your best bet is to take one of the free resort dive or snorkel boats instead. The cost is the same, and you can avoid the long - and somewhat dangerous - trip to/from the site. This dive is located on the man-made barrier reef in front of Whitehouse, Jamaica. The barrier reef is easily visible from the town, or local resorts, and is located 200m-500m off-shore (depending on exactly where you enter the water). The closest approach is from the Dutch beach at the Sandals Whitehouse Inn. Simply surface-swim or SCUBA along the bottom due south until you hit the barrier reef.
Jun 8, 2009, 12:00 AM
The long surface swim, and lack of depth makes this both dangerous for beginners, and not a site of particular interest for experts. Although shore-accessible, it is best dived from a boat. Good snorkeling area, and the dive itself is good for beginner divers.
Originally posted on shorediving.com