I’m not even sure how we found the dive outfitter Special D. Diving and Charters, though being on a small island I’m pretty sure I just Googled “best dive operator in Anguilla” and Dougie (aka Douglas Carty) popped up. And I will attest that he is the best.
It’s always comforting when you arrive to a dive to find that every one of your fellow divers—travelers like you—keep returning to this very dive operator year after year because they love him so much.
If I could afford a house in Anguilla—or heck, even a timeshare—you better believe I’d become chummy with Dougie, too. And Punkie, as well, who was our captain and every bit as likable as Doug.
The dive boat was docked at Sandy Ground, and from there, we motored 10 minutes offshore to the northeastern part of the island. In fact, we could see our resort, the Viceroy Anguilla, directly across from our dive site for one of the most flourishing wrecks I’ve dived to date.
I’ve done dozens of wrecks at this point, and I still can’t help but feel a bit like Ariel every time I dive one. Luckily, no great whites were lurking just around the corner—only a few harmless barracuda here and there.
I remember a time when I was a diving novice and barracuda sent me kicking my fins in the other direction. Now, I float along beside them, as they give me the side eye, hoping they’ll turn and smile—er, sneer—for the camera. Oh, how diving has helped me conquer some of my greatest fears.
Schools of fish surrounded us from every angle. For those of you who don’t dive, wrecks are actually good for the ocean, as they create an artificial reef on which the marine life can thrive.
Doug had said that a turtle or two hangs around the sunk ship from time to time; he wasn’t lying.
I didn’t even notice this guy as he dozed peacefully atop the bow, blending in seamlessly with the barnacled, rusty ship. Later, a few of his friends flew gracefully overhead.
The turtles weren’t the only camouflaged creatures we saw; there were also a handful of rays hiding on the sandy bottom.
But of all the animals we saw, the lobsters were what shocked me the most. These guys ranged from around two to three-and-a-half feet long—I’ve never seen them grow so big! I tried to get SVV to pose next to one for scale, but the lobster got camera shy.
Still, I managed to chase a couple of them with my underwater camera and capture a bit of their creepiness. Watch this and tell me it doesn’t remind you of the prawn in District 9.
Because the wreck wasn’t a very deep dive, only 50 or 60 feet, we got to stay down the better part of an hour. (For you rookies out there, the deeper you go, the faster you suck through air, the less time you have below the surface.)
There are a few factors that make a perfect dive: abundant marine life (obviously), good sunlight, great underwater clarity (vis) and warm temps. We had all of the above. I think we were both pretty sad when we hit 200 bar and had to rise for our safety stop.
After a brief surface interval, the second dive was over a reef, and my camera began to fog up so I didn’t get too many shots (again: I have got to remember to put a pack of silica inside my housing next time!). It was a drift dive, so we were clipping along at a solid pace, lapping the fish, who were oblivious to our presence as we zoomed past them.
I did see this honeycomb cowfish, who I found fascinating with her bright, geometric skin and big, painted eyes, and I tailed her closely before the tide swept me away.
After surfacing for good, I was kicking myself for not allowing more time in Anguilla to dive. Due to the 24-hour flying policy, we were officially out of time to squeeze any dives in before our no-fly window started.