Montego Bay is already well renowned for its beaches, its beach bars, gourmet restaurants and the nightlife on its ‘Hip Strip’. Environmentalists, scuba diving and snorkeling fanatics also know Montego Bay is home to Jamaica’s first national park, the Montego Bay Marine Park which is famous for its wall dives and home to several dive sites. It’s main attractions are a wealth of sponges in a rainbow of colors, dozens of tropical fish and amazing coral reefs. Divers and snorkelers can experience a variety of exciting visual experiences including, wrecks, walls, reefs, tunnels, and underwater sea creatures. Depths vary from waist deep to a ledge at 30 ft to vertical drops of 100 ft.
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Located on the north coast of Jamaica it encompasses the entirety of Montego Bay’s seafront (15.3 square kilometres) and contains three major ecosystems, seagrass bed, mangroves and coral reefs. The eastern boundary of the park is Tropical Beach (adjacent to the Sangster International Airport). The western boundary is Rum Bottle Bay, a small point close to the Great River. Its diverse environment, includes mangrove forests and islands, white sand beaches, river estuaries, seagrass beds and corals, not to mention all the wildlife that dwell therein. Non-motorized watersports such as diving, snorkelling and glass bottom boat tours are permitted and experienced dive teams are available to guide you through your underwater adventure.
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The resource center and the park’s headquarters are located at Pier One Marina in Montego Bay. Here you’ll find a research centre, reference material, slide shows and books about this ecological oasis. A help desk is also on premises, offering more information about tours. Head to the waterfront to find glass bottomed boat tours. The Park itself is dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the marine ecology, which includes fish and coral assessments, beach erosion monitoring, water quality testing, and rescuing injured marine animals, but since scuba diving is an underwater activity that has a minimal impact on the marine environment visitors with PADI certification are welcome to dive right in! So long as the regulations and responsible behaviours are followed. Not to worry if you haven’t yet been certified there are a number of dive operators and hotels in the Montego Bay area that can cater to these particular needs. Remember to dive safely and use the buddy system.
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For those who don’t quite feel like diving a simple mask, fins and snorkel allows one to enjoy the underwater world. Snorkeling is easy and simple, the equipment is casual. According to some, snorkeling is just as enjoyable as scuba. One often finds that most of the interesting marine life is in water shallower than 5 metres anyway. There is great snorkeling in areas like Airport North & White House, Buccaneer Beach, Doctor’s Cave Beach, Seawinds Peninsula and Unity Hall. Montego Bay supports several large and small snorkel boat operators, from one little man and his glass bottom boat style for five, to fifty passenger catamarans and semi-submarines. You can choose what style of experience you’d like to have. Equipment is provided on these boats, as is some ecological education, safety equipment and refreshments.
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