michael mahy, Reefers & Wreckers owner, all too aware of the problems that overfishing is causing the island, suggested a dive under the Arawak Cement Pier to the north.
An industrial site used to load cement onto ships for processing off the island didn’t sound like the ideal holiday-dive location, but Michael assured us that it would be worth it.
So we cruised up the coastline, weighed anchor and sank overboard into the deep blue that surrounded the pier.
What a revelation! The pier’s long legs gave a surreal sense of an underwater forest. These massive stanchions teemed with fish, and colourful giant sponges created an array of shapes and textures in the streaming sunbeams.
With a maximum depth of 9m the location could be described as a freediver’s play park. The sandy seabed reflected the light and accentuated the shadows in which the shoals of fish hid, the huge vertical structures slashing through this 3D landscape.
The pier has been known to hold long-snout seahorses, we were told. Unfortunately freediving is not the ideal way to search for such elusive creatures, and we were unlucky in that respect.
The paradox of the situation hit home; here we had come to an island paradise to find nature’s havens and we were now creeping around in the shadow of an industrial site, picking among the detritus of the terrestrial inhabitants. Still, I would recommend anyone to seek out and dive this site.
On the dock Archie, who had until now spoken not a word to us, motioned that I should speak to a dreadlocked guy dekitting his boat next to us.
I wasn’t in a particularly sociable mood, but Archie was insistent: “You really should go and speak to him!”
“Hi, I’m Marcus – seriously, I have to ask: where are all your fish?”
“Ahhhaa, finally someone has noticed!” It turned out that we had run into Andre Miller, who has spent the past 20 years trying to raise awareness of the plight of Barbadian reefs.
Andre, who, it turned out, was Michael Mahy’s cousin, had been transplanting coral taken from what would soon be a building site, something he now does almost full-time. We agreed to meet up the next day for a longer conversation.
As we parted he said: “If you want to see how the reefs should, and could, look, dive Carlisle Bay in the morning.”