Favourite Dives: Layer Cake

By Gary Ward
Layer Cake Carriacou Dive Sites

Maximum Depth: 38m / 125 ft Level: Advanced, Drift.

The site which is now called Layer Cake was one of those locations I knew about, had dropped into once and then never thought about again. That was until intrepid diver and buddy Bart Beecroft convinced me we should go and do some exploratory dives when he was here in 2017. We poured over the charts and I pointed out the location on the north short of Frigate Island as a place we should have a look at. After this dive, and the one there again the following day Bart gave to location the site name Layer Cake (we’ll explain more later). Little did I know then, that this site would go on to be my very favourite site in Carriacou and one I would choose over Sisters or Shark Hotel….

Frigate Island is one of the uninhabited islands to the south of Carriacou. It is a small, flat island which has strong Atlantic currents smashing into its eastern shore and has a small protected cove too. To the east and east of the island its fairly shallow and rocky. To the north it drops down dramatically into to channel between here and Saline Island.

The challenge with this dive site is that the surface swell and the surface current can be, well, “brisk and bouncy” is a good way to describe it, so entry and exit is key to a good dive. First, we bring the boat into the lee of the island to kit-up and do the briefing. It’s always calm here tucked into the rocky coastline. With everyone ready, masks and fins donned too, we head around the corner. As we get to Western Point we feel the difference as the boat rides over the much bigger waves created as the water coming in hits to top of the slope and creates some big waves. I like to stay on the outside of the cove and drop in about half way between Eastern Point and Western Point. Entry has to be a group affair and negative entry! We’ve found out a couple of times that if you head back to the boat to pick up that zookeeper, you won’t stay on the site for long!

Dropping down, the top of the shelf is only about 10m (33ft) deep. It’s a great place to check in with the divers and make sure everyone is ok. Good signals all-round, and we’re off. The shelf looks like a flat expanse of small hard corals and sponges. Not a spare centimeter is bare rock or dead coral and the whole place is alive with small tropical fish (yes, it does get frequented by the fishermen). We have to head out to the edge of the shelf, which may mean swimming with the current on our nose…. Keep going, its worth it! Barely noticeably, the shelf drops down to 20m, but you could swear it was flat!

At the edge of the shelf there is a small drop off, perhaps only 4 or 5 meters and then it flattens out. Oh, and look, just beyond there, there is another drop off, and another. Each one just 4 to 5 meters deep. These drops and plateaus give the site its layers, which reminded Bart of layers on a wedding cake. Typically, as we drop over the first edge, we turn left and let the prevailing current push us along.

What is fascinating about this site then is the topography. As I mentioned before, this shoreline is battered by the Atlantic currents all the time, and over time this has created lots of deep overhangs or hollows. This is where the site becomes fantastic! The hollows have hard coral and sponges everywhere, and they are literally teeming with marine life, protecting themselves from the stronger currents, while enjoying the free food being brought to them. In here we’ll typically see Chub, Angelfish, Atlantic Spadefish, Durgeons. We also have lots of encounters with sharks, typically Nurse and Caribbean Reef, as well as Eagle rays and Hawksbill and Green turtles.

If we’re on OC, then all too soon we have to start getting shallow. If we’ve timed it right, the current will have cleared us past Western Point and as we come back onto the top of the shelf we’ll get pushed back into the lee of Frigate island. On this calmer shelf, we’ll see out the last 15 minutes of our dive seeing soft corals, bottom dwelling fish, rays before firing up that dSMB and completing our safety stop. If we’re on CC, then we’ll stay a little deeper for longer and try to head out towards Dry Rock and the pinnacle that is there before heading into the lee of Frigate island for our safety stop and pick up.

If conditions have been kind, the majority of people ask to do the site again as a second dive. Typically, conditions and tides do not allow it, so we depart grinning from ear to ear talking about all the things we each saw, and those things we missed. It can be a challenging dive with challenging conditions, so it’s not one we can go to all the time (almost never during winter), which of course makes it all the more special. This is why this special place is still my favourite dive site!

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About us: Deefer Diving have been established as the premier dive resort in Carriacou for over 7 years. Our friendly dive centre is run by divers for divers, and we pride ourselves on the number of our customers who return to us time after time.

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