OUR INSTRUCTIONS WERE CLEAR. Reece had already descended to tie a line into the stern section of the Hema 1, and a buoy marked the spot where the divers were to gather.
“Make sure you grab the buoyline!” advised Peter Seupel, who, with his wife Gerlinde owns Aquanauts, one of Grenada’s best-known dive centres.
I saw what he meant when I strode in off the back of the dive-boat. The current whipped me through the water so fast that the buoy seemed to swell before me like a fast-expanding blue balloon. I grabbed the line and hung on shoulder to shoulder with several other divers, before beginning a hand-over-hand crawl along the sharply angled descent line. Reece reckoned later that the surface current was running at around 2 knots, which seems a lot
but I could believe it. This was exciting!
Hema 1 sank six years ago this month. The German-built inter-island freighter is a genuine wreck. She was returning with empty holds to Trinidad in stormy seas when she started taking on water, and the 40-year-old vessel’s pumps weren’t up to the job.
With no time to return to port, the crew had to be rescued by the coastguard before Hema 1 went down.
The famous Bianca C liner apart, the 50m Hema 1 is now one of Grenada’s bigger wrecks. It lies on its port side in 30m, pretty much intact, about three miles off the south-east coast.
On the deck-side, in the lee of what was in any case a much-reduced current at 30m, we could relax, but it was clear that a full circuit of the wreck would not be on the agenda today. Peter signalled me into a shadowy recess, and finned off around the outside.
As my eyes adjusted I saw a large nurse shark resting on the bottom, and when Peter’s head and shoulders appeared in the opening above, I twigged that this was a picture opp.
I fired off a shot before the surprised shark seemed to realise that it was being expected to model. It turned and moved towards me, giving me a good head-on opportunity, but as I back-pedalled to keep it and Peter in frame, it was my turn to be surprised as a bulky shape descended over my own head.
It was the taciturn American student from the dive-boat, bearing half a tonne of serious camera gear and dropping in for his own shot. Same old story.
I went off to explore a bit more of the wreck, and was rewarded by the sight of a looming great barracuda, and then a pair of eagle rays flapping along close by.

I WAS BACK DIVING IN GRENADA exactly 10 years after my first visit. At that time, Aquanauts’ dive centre had been a small place on Grand Anse beach on the western, Caribbean side of the island. The diving had all been in the bay there, the Atlantic side considered more of an adventurous option.
But I had first met Peter and Gerlinde on the Atlantic side, at the True Blue Bay Resort. They had shown me their newly built dive centre in the marina, a shell waiting to be fitted out.
The 10 years since had been marred by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, uncharacteristic for a Caribbean island so far south but very damaging. But Grenada recovered fast, and Aquanauts had long since transferred its main operations to True Blue Bay.
It’s far easier to prepare everything for guests and have them step aboard one of three dive-boats from a jetty, than have to set off from a beach in all conditions. Aquanaut’s original Grand Anse centre remains open, however, the boats making pick-ups from there.
With the new location, the amount of diving on the Atlantic side had increased – a development I applaud.
“We need good weather and sea conditions and good divers with nitrox qualifications,” says Peter. “We can’t really do it right after full and new moon due to strong currents. The best chances for diving out there are during the green season, summer/autumn, but there are also calm times during the dry season.
“We dive a lot on Shark and Lighthouse Reefs, even when it’s a bit rough. The Atlantic wrecks, Hema 1, King Mitch and San Juan, need good sea conditions, whereas Bianca C and Shakem on the Caribbean side can be dived pretty much all the time.”
Looking back through my logbook of 10 years before, I see that of my 14 dives, four had been on the Bianca C. The rest had been at Caribbean-side reef sites such as Purple Rain, Pot Pourri and Northern Exposure, and small artificial reefs such as the Quarter Wreck and Twin Wrecks. I had noted the colourful corals and sponges and plentiful marine life, and enjoyed myself enormously.
I would revisit Northern Exposure on my latest trip, enjoying being engulfed by the streams of vivid blue Creole wrasse that also give Purple Rain its name, and dive the wreck Veronica
on Boss Reef. But what I had looked forward to was discovering Grenada’s now-accessible “wild side”.
Exploring Lighthouse and Shark Reefs and points between, in perfectly manageable currents, I soon decided that it was four signature creatures that made the diving memorable on the island’s south-eastern side. Sting rays, turtles and spiny lobsters were three of them, nurse sharks the other.
I’ve always had a soft spot for nurse sharks. As sharks go, they’re not big hitters. They don’t move around any more than is necessary, certainly in daylight, and give the lie to the popular belief that sharks must swim to survive. The one that moved towards me was unusual in that respect.
These bottom-dwellers don’t require “ram-jet” ventilation – they have evolved their own clever system for pumping water over their gills as they rest.
Even a sleeping dog has its day and, while a nurse shark has only tiny teeth, it does have thousands of them, and powerful jaws. But its weapon of choice is suction. If you provoked one and it latched onto you, you would have little chance of getting it off without leaving a large portion of flesh behind.
This formidable sucker can Dyson up its dinner of coral and crustaceans, urchins or bottom-dwelling fish with minimum effort. When peckish, normally at night, it uses its barbels
to sense food, scooping it into the crushing machinery of its jaws.

WE SAW PLENTY OF NURSE SHARKS as we explored the Atlantic-side reefs of Grenada. To be more precise, we frequently saw grey or brown heads, tails or fins and occasionally whole bodies protruding from beneath coral hidey-holes. They congregate around wrecks such as Hema 1 in numbers.
The sessile life I saw, characteristically small branching corals and barrel sponges, was nothing to get excited about, but the animals living around the reefs were enough to stir the pulse.
The other three signature creatures also favour resting on the seabed, especially the sting ray population. Rarely have I seen so many rays, not gathered in one place to feed as at Stingray City in the Cayman Islands, but just going about their individual business.
Soon every outline in the sand, every puff of sediment, becomes a potential flatfish. At one point, on a gentle drift from Lighthouse towards Shark Reef, we came upon a particularly sizeable specimen on the edge of the sand.
I moved round and alongside it to get a photo, and it couldn’t have cared less. Only its deep rolling eyelids betrayed its awareness of my presence.
Rays are far-sighted, though with their eyes positioned as they are, they must rely on the electro-receptors on their undersides for hunting prey.
Peter motioned me to move just above the ray for a photo, but, weedily mindful of Irwin-type scenarios, I decided against putting my valuables in line with its whip-like tail.
Most of the rays here are Southerns and roughtails. The latter are the largest sting rays in the Atlantic, females growing to as much as 2m across. They have numerous thorns on their back and tail, and smaller eyes than the Southern sting rays. You can sometimes see the rounder electric rays at these sites, too.
Then there are the turtles, which also seem to grow big and untroubled off the Spice Island’s Atlantic coast. One giant hawksbill on Lighthouse Reef was happy to be slowly surrounded by divers and remained as implacable as a boulder. Smaller examples were more skittish.
Completing the quartet, the spiny lobsters at these sites are fantastic. You often see them standing carapace to carapace, layer on layer, like sports spectators, but boldly exposed from under the overhangs they call home.
They rarely retreated on seeing me coming, although their compound eyes give them excellent vision. They simply waved their antennae.
Spiny lobsters don’t have claws for protection. Nocturnal like nurse sharks, they are also food for them, as well as for moray eels, so must stay vigilant.
These are colourful crustaceans, with their lavender and orange bodies and legs and yellowish dots on their tails.

IN TERMS OF CURRENT, diving off the Atlantic coast was generally more mild-side than wild-side, but it added a new perspective. Grenada’s diving portfolio now appears extremely varied, what with the two coasts; good dives for all from beginner to tek; wrecks well into double figures; numerous reefs; and even a shallow underwater sculpture garden.
Even so, no trip to Grenada would be complete without dropping in on the grand old lady known as the Titanic of the Caribbean.
The 130m Bianca C hit the headlines 50 years ago this October, when an engine-room explosion ignited a fire. Grenada’s population rallied round to save all but two of those aboard the Italian luxury liner before she sank in Grand Anse Bay.
The wreck lies mainly upright but broken and twisted at the stern in 50m.
With standard recreational diving bottoming out at 30m, most Bianca C experiences are no-decompression dives. This means swooping above the increasingly skeletal deck from around the collapsed superstructure, passing over the hold, upright mast and huge forecastle towards the bow, pausing to admire the magnificent full-frontal view, and then heading off to nearby Whibble Reef to collect one’s thoughts.
Our dive was no exception, and even though visibility was comparatively poor on this occasion, this vast wreck can’t fail to impress.
Aquanauts Grenada offers free 30% nitrox to all its customers, which helps on bottom time, but to get the best from this extraordinary dive you really need a technical approach.
The dive centre offers trimix and closed-circuit rebreather facilities and training, perfect for the purpose.
For those who want a wreck to take in easily on one dive, further north off Grand Anse the 25m freighter Veronica lies in about 16m of water.
Deliberately located on Boss Reef, this wreck has plenty of colourful coral and sponge growth.
The crane mechanism is the focal point, the crane itself lying collapsed across the wreck. In the hold below it, twisting queen angelfish and red squirrelfish provided splashes of colour, while above horse-eye jacks mooched among the Creole wrasse and chromis swirling around the bridge.

I’VE SAVED ONE OF THE BEST ASPECTS of the trip for last, and that was the accommodation. Nothing flash about it, but the Blue Horizons Garden Resort is a very laid-back hillside base, and its staff are as genuinely friendly and accommodating as you’ll find anywhere.
It’s a five-minute walk from the resort to Grand Anse Beach, but the advantage of the elevated position is a great view over the bay to St George’s from the large balcony of our one-bedroom suite, which was spacious and well-equipped, including full kitchen facilities should you need them, and free wi-fi.
The landscaped resort also has a good restaurant, La Belle Creole, specialising in West Indian dishes. Aquanauts picks up from Blue Horizon every morning.
The resort is owned by the charming Arnold Hopkin, whose brother Sir Royston owns the 5* Spice Island Beach Resort a few hundred metres away on Grand Anse Beach.
Spice Island is an excellent luxury option but, as you might expect, pricey. If it’s value for money you’re after, the 3* Blue Horizons is a very good bet.

FACTFILE
GETTING THERE: Steve Weinman flew direct from London Gatwick with Thomsonfly, standing in for Monarch Airlines, which had technical problems (ground crew crashed into aircraft). Monarch’s Airbus 737 also had technical difficulties on the way back (computer malfunction), necessitating an emergency landing in the Azores and a 15-hour delay. It happens! www.monarch.co.uk.
DIVING: Aquanauts Grenada, www.aquanautsgrenada.com
ACCOMMODATION: Blue Horizons Garden Resort, www.grenadabluehorizons.com
WHEN TO GO: Year-round – although no-one told Hurricane Ivan, Grenada is not officially in the hurricane belt. Water temperatures are 24-28°C
MONEY: Eastern Caribbean and US dollars
PRICES: Golden Caribbean offers return flights from £414 per person, including 30kg of checked baggage, www.goldencaribbean.co.uk, 0845 085 8080. Blue Horizons Garden Resort’s full-board packages from 15 April till the year’s end start from US $989 per person for six nights with eight dives (two sharing), or $1727 for a similar winter package. For your deco day, Sunsation Tours offers an enjoyable full-day island tour including waterfalls, rainforest, rum distillery, lunch and Grand Etang crater lake, for £58, www.grenadasunsation.com
FURTHER INFORMATION: www.grenadagrenadines.com