Something Else That’s Cool For Seniors.

Coral and sponge life growing on the side of the Ellion in Carlisle Bay. Credit: Kiera Bloom.

Are you ever too old to dive? What concessions might you make?

I’ve been diving since I was in college, back in the 60s. On the concession front, these days I am happy to cavern dive. My days of dragging reels and half a dozen lights into the bowels of a cave are behind me, as are dry suits. I’m glad I did Antarctica when I had a chance. And if some cute, buff dive guide wants to carry my gear—have at it, I say. Gladly.

I like warm water. I realized along the way that shallow (say 60 feet or so) dives not only give you more time but usually have better life to see.

So, when I went recently to Barbados, I talked to a couple of dive operators about “elder” divers.

“You find those divers, the older ones, are the most competent,” said Troy Barthelmy, Aqua Center manager for Sandals on Barbados

Looking out from inside the Bajan Queen wreck with fish and diver in view. Credit: Andrew Western.

His oldest divers are in their 80s. Most of them, he added, are physically fit and, “more than anyone else, they know their limits.”

“They don’t require much attention beyond maybe needing help up the ladder. Removing the weight belt, tank, and fins in the water also helps.”

Physical fitness is important, he added. Basically, if you can’t do a couple of flights of stairs without becoming breathless, there may be a problem.

But these days, there are also concerns about safety and liability.

All of the dive shops on Barbados I contacted had some sort of medical form for divers to fill out. They are not all identical but do appear to hit more or less the same long list of possible medical issues.

They range from the expected—do you smoke, history of heart disease or diabetes, to the surprising—hay fever, frequent colds, prone to sea sickness. 

Hawksbill turtle chews on sponge algae atop the Eillon, one of six shipwrecks in Carlisle Bay. Credit: David Noyes.

Sandals Resort, a high-end Barbados beach vacation spot, makes sure guests who plan to dive get this form well before their trip. And if they answer yes to ANY of the questions, they need a certificate from a doctor saying they are OK to dive. Should they say yes and arrive without the certification, the dive shop will call a local doctor; the fee is $160 US. 

Many dive shops use a standard medical form that can be found on the PADI website. The form is required for all divers, not just those who are older.

For people who are anxious, Troy says the diver can do a test dive in the pool to get more comfortable with the Sandals gear.

Peter Grannum of Dive West Side Scuba echoed what Troy said, adding that he finds older divers prefer more shallow dives. 

Which brings us to Carlisle Bay, one of the finest novice/easy dives I’ve experienced.

Carlisle Bay, a protected marine park, is a crescent shaped bay on Barbados’ sheltered west side. 

There are six boat wrecks all practically within sight of each other and some with tops as shallow as 11 feet, with much of the diving at the 30 and 40 foot level. 

Local women of Barbados in colonial dress. Credit: Yvette Cardozo

Each wreck has history. The Bajan Queen, a former party boat, was sunk here to become an artificial reef in 2002. Now schools of grunts, squirrelfish, and jacks swim beneath the hull. At the Ellion, a hawksbill turtle calmly chewed on sponge algae on the stern. This boat was used by drug smugglers, who were caught, and went to prison. 

The Berwind, a French tug during WWI, was deliberately sunk by its crew, which didn’t want to go home. It’s the oldest wreck in the bay. Cornwallis was a Canadian freighter sunk in WWII by a German U-boat and moved to the bay in 2000. Plus the Ce-Trek sunk in 1986. And a barge, sunk in 2000.

It’s possible to do most of these bits and pieces on a single dive or two and a couple of the wrecks can be penetrated. My only regret is we didn’t do both dives on this site. 

Barbados Info

Barbados is in the Lesser Antilles, south of the usual hurricane tracks,

Barbados is 75 – 85 degrees year round. June through October is the rainy season and also hurricane season in the Caribbean. And while Barbados usually escapes major storms, gateway cities such as Miami may be affected. For Barbados Information, Click Here

Looking for shells, early morning on the beach at the Hilton Barbados in the Lesser Antilles, Caribbean. The garrison with canon can be seen in the background. Credit: Yvette Cardozo

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