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The diving in the Montego bay area is generally very good. The water is warm, more than 80F at 100ft. The reefs are within 500ft. of shore (no long boat rides)! There are great walls, amazing coral canyons and spectacular fish. There are lots of southern sting rays, nurse sharks, eagle rays, electric rays, and turtles. Crabs and lobsters are regular sights. Barracuda are very common below 60ft. The invasive lion fish is found everywhere, these fish are exceptionally beautiful but have taken their toll eating a large number of the smaller reef fish. On some dives you might see more than 30 lion fish. At deeper depths the fan corals and staghorn corals may be more than 15ft. tall. Barrel sponges may be 4 ft. diameter and 6 ft. high.
There are some negatives to diving in Jamaica. The reefs are heavily fished, mostly using fish traps on the bottom. On any given dive it is likely you will see one or two active traps and several damage traps (unless in a reserve). As a result of this fishing, many of the larger reef fish including: parrot fish, large surgon fish, grouper, etc. are not present or are exceptionally small. While the reefs being close to shore makes the boat ride short, it also means the silt from the beach surf reduces visibility. It is very rare to have visibility beyond 60ft. except on calm days. The quick drop off also means that when there are waves, there is no shelter for the reef. Even a 6 ft. swell makes diving more difficult with no outer reef to break the waves.
Many resorts have on-site dive shops making diving convenient. Most shops offer a full line of diving courses from beginner dives, to open water certification, to various adventure diving skills. Like many areas of the world, the equipment is not always the highest quality and may be older. Always inspect and test the rental gear before you jump in the water. If something is not right, the dive shop will have the equipment to fix it. You are not going to be able to buy gear here so you will have to rent or bring equipment with you. For Canadians arriving on charters, most charters will allow you to bring 20kg of gear with you in your packed luggage at no extra charge. The dive masters tend to be knowledgeable and helpful. Like everything in Jamaica, things tend to happen on Jamaican time, the boat will go when the boat goes (Irie, mon). Divemasters and boat captains will appreciate at small tip after the dive.
Although not a premier dive location, the Montego Bay area offers some great underwater adventures for the beginner and the experienced diver.