Diving in St. Kitts
St. Kitts remains relatively unknown as a dive destination. The island only ventured into tourism around 2006, abandoning the mainstay of their economy of sugar. So, most sites don’t see a bunch of divers. Which, of course, is great. The one dive site that may have crossed your radar are the wrecks of the River Taw and the MV Talata. Even when St. Kitts was pushing sugar instead of coral, these two wrecks had a following. Both are in relatively shallow water at 40 and 55-feet respectively, and both have been transformed into tiny kingdoms by the sea. You’ll find huge lobsters and sea turtles, octopus and eels crawling over the wrecks, as well as a thick coat of sponge and coral growth, and whole universities of yellowtail snapper and other schooling fish. A third wreck, the 72-foot Corinthian, sits upright and intact in a little deeper water at 75-feet, and even though it’s only been down since 1995, the fertile waters off St. Kitts have already established a colony of black coral trees on the wreck.
There’s also a great place called Monkey Shoals, about a one square mile island of coral about three miles from shore, and it’s one of most pristine reef sites in the area. Being this far from the island means the visibility and fish life increase in magnitudes. In between are dives for all levels of divers, including several unnamed sites that are still being discovered. Often, once you’ve established a certain level of in-water skill with the dive masters, they’ll take you exploring. And how many parts of the Caribbean can boast exploratory diving?
When not finding new sites, the island reefs have a combination of seascape that includes swim-throughs, coral canyons, mini-walls and even places with hot water geothermal vents, all of which attract marinelife in their own way. Nurse sharks are frequently seen, along with an abundance of small turtles, eels, schooling fish such as grunts, chub, snapper and durgons. Several sites feature 17th and 18th century anchors.
Visibility generally hovers between 60-90 feet. The outer sites might have some current, but most of the diving on the leeward side is calm. Some of the newly discovered sites are on the choppier windward side, but worth the effort. See the current weather conditions here.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport is required which must be valid for 6 months beyond the date of entry into the country. Proof of onward or returning ticket is required, as well as 1 blank page in your passport for the entry stamp. No visa is required for U.S. Citizens for stays less than 90 days. All persons leaving, pay a Government Departure Tax of $22.00 U.S.
Vaccinations are not required for entry into St. Kitts. Check with your doctor and the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at cdc.gov.
Culture and Customs
Although Carib Indians have left rock art and petroglyphs throughout the island, it was the British colonialization combined with the West African traditions brought with the slave trade that has defined the islands culture. Several aspects of Carnival are embraced uniquely on St. Kitts. The masquerade, where Kittitians perform with exquisitely detailed headdresses, as well as masks, which utilize peacock feathers for impact. Moko-Jumbies, the tall stilt walkers, have evolved into an art form here and the dancers are highly popular. Dancing on St. Kitts is an interesting fusion of quadrille, jig, wild mas and waltz reflecting the aspects of both European and African heritage. Carnival on St. Kitts begins in December and includes pageants, parades, Calypso events. Unique to St. Kitts with its sister island of Nevis is a five day celebration of traditional arts and customs called Culturama. The local drink of preference is CSR, a clear rum that reputedly won’t result in a hangover.
Electricity, Phone and Internet Access
Electricity in St. Kitts is 230 volts, 60 cycle, however 110 volt supply is available at some hotels. An adapter may be needed for U.S. visitors. The country/area code for St. Kitts is 869. There are a few service providers in St. Kitts and Nevis so please check with your local provider to see what plans are available or roaming charges will apply. Many hotels offer WiFi.
Drinking water is pure and safe to drink. Bottled water is sold in stores, hotels and restaurants if preferred.
Language & Currency
English is the official language. The local currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (XCD or EC$). U.S. Dollars are accepted but normally change is given in EC$. ATMs are available as well which dispense EC$. Check the current exchange rate here.
St. Kitts is on Atlantic Standard Time (AST) and does not observe Daylight Savings Time. St Kitts is 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-4 GMT).
History, Art, and Culture
Permanent settlement dates back to 3,000 BC, which was followed by a succession of Indian tribes that included the Arawak, then the Kalinago. It would not get settled by the British, led by Thomas Warner, until 1623 at Road Town. Interestingly, the island, two years later was the site of the first French settlement at Dieppe. Hearing of a planned Kalinago raid to ambush the settlements, Warner attacked the Kalinago settlement and killed 2,000 men. Afterwards, the island was split between the British and French. Several decades of battles later, they island became part of Britain in 1967, then gained independence in 1983. In 2005, after 365-years, the island abandoned its sugar industry, and turned entirely to tourism. The arts, with distinct African influence, thrive on St. Kitts, especially in pottery, where red clay pieces have become especially important. And the island’s Batik is coveted around the world. There’s also the Caribbean’s largest fort, Fort Brimstone and the rainforest has a population of curious vervet monkeys. An abundance of rock art remains on the island, too. Read more on the history of St. Kitts here.
Location, Size and Population
St. Kitts and Nevis are located in the Eastern Caribbean in the West Indies. The West side of St. Kitts faces the Caribbean Sea, while the East side of St. Kitts faces the Atlantic Ocean. Nevis & St. Kitts form one country, the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis which share approximately 100 square miles in total, Nevis with 35 square miles and St. Kitts with 65 square miles. St Kitts is 5 miles wide by 18 miles long. The two islands are separated by a 2 mile channel known as The Narrows.
The population of St. Kitts and Nevis combined is 55,712 (2016) with approximately 12,000 residing on Nevis.