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Liveaboard Diving in Charlies Shoal
What To Expect On A Charlie's Shoal Liveaboard
Liveaboards to Charlie's Shoal usually visit this dive area as part of a St/Maarten or St.Kitts dive cruise itinerary. It is an exceptional bank reef just off Lay Bay, St. Maarten, to the Southwest. It is nestled between dive sites The Bridge, Dom's Reef, and Frenchman's Reef 1 & 2. This ideal site comfortably avoids the cruise ships that anchor in the Great Bay, Philipsburg. The islands of Saba and St. Kitts are found a little further south, and also provide spectacular diving. The Island of Saba is breathtakingly beautiful, and where parts of the original King Kong film were supposedly filmed. Liveaboards itineraries in this area usually operate between St. Maarten & St.Kitts.
Bank reefs are famous for their high diversity of species, both plant and animal. They also have a unique structure of coral reef ridges, known as spurs, and sandy-bottomed channels, known as grooves. This results in elevations being formed that helps attract an abundant assortment of species.
Diving Charlie's Shoal by liveaboard you will find a maximum depth of 65 feet (20 m), although average depth is 54 feet (16.5 m). Combining this with great visibility, Charlie's Shoal is an ideal site for divers of all certifications, including beginner divers. Underwater photographers will be delighted with the great visibility and rich species diversity.
What you can see
Liveaboards visiting Charlie's Shoal will appreciate it being a quieter site, as hawksbill turtles, now one of the most endangered species of sea turtle, are frequently seen here. These are an especially important turtle as they help to maintain the incredible species diversity found on coral reefs. They do this primarily by eating sponges, regulating their growth on the reefs, and preventing uncontrolled spreading. This allows other species to feed adequately and support themselves.
Green sea turtles are also regular visitors, as are stingrays, barracudas, filefish, big grouper, starfish, moray eels, scorpion fish, and stonefish, making the site a personal favourite for many divers. Mesmerising shoals of reef fish are a common sighting here, and if you are very lucky, you may also be able to see Whitenose pipefish, well-camouflaged sea horses, loggerhead turtles and nurse sharks. Furthermore, between the months of February and June it is possible to see humpback whales and large dolphins.
Owing to the fantastic management of the Man of War Shoal Marine Park, a liveaboard dive trip here is a real treat where a great variety of soft and hard corals can also be seen. Vibrant gorgonians and slow-growing black corals make up the majority of the soft corals. Soft, because of their lack of permanent, rigid skeletons.
Of the hard corals, you will see electric purple lace corals and bright orange fire corals, both fading white towards the tips. In amongst the hydrocorals, you'll also find a few varieties of stony corals including big brain corals and flower corals.
The most comfortable way to reach Charlie's Shoal is by St. Maarten/Martin liveaboard. The Caribbean Explorer II liveaboard departs from either Bobby's Marina in Philipsburg, St. Maarten, or from the Basseterre Marina in St. Kitts.
St. Maarten/Martin's only airport is the Princess Juliana International Airport, located in Simpson Bay, St. Maarten. Both Air France and KLM offer daily flights from Europe, while several carriers from the US also fly directly. From here, it is a short drive to Philipsburg, the capital of St. Maarten on the southern, Dutch half of the island.
If departing from St. Kitts, flights are available to Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport, the island's only international airport. Just like St. Maarten, it is a short drive to anywhere on the island.