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Wednesday 30th April 2014

While many visitors think the beaches of Antigua & Barbuda are the best attraction, many others feel that what lives in the seas around the islands is the best reason to come here. 

Many tour operators and attractions can show you that wonderful world under the sea to help you fully enjoy the varied marine ecosystems of Antigua & Barbuda. Among the things you may see on these tours, depending on the season, include:

Whales. Humpback whales are frequently sighted in the seas around the islands during the spawning season from January through April, and there have also been some orcas (or killer whales) showing up. This year, operators like Adventure Antigua, Ondeck, and Tropical Adventures’ boats Mystic and Excellence have been thrilling passengers with spotting of breaching whales or calf and mother pairs. To see the latest news and reports of sightings, check out the Antigua & Barbuda Whale and Dolphin Network page on Facebook.

Dolphins. These delightful creatures play through the waters around Antigua during most of the year, and especially in February, March and April. At these times, they often can be spotted swimming alongside the tour boats in small or large pods. Among the species seen most often are bottlenose and spinner dolphins.

Sea Turtles. Snorkelers always delight when they spot a turtle swimming along the reefs, and those on tour boats also frequently see them on the surface. During the prime spawning season, from June through November, Hawksbill and green turtles come to our shorelines to nest and can be spotted at night lumbering along the sand, looking for the perfect spot to dig a deep hole in which to lay their eggs. A small number of Leatherbacks also come on to the beaches, from February to April. The Environmental Awareness Group, a local non-profit organization, runs Turtle Watch Tours during the summer so people can accompany trained guides to see the turtles digging nests, and then later in the season watch the hatchlings as they emerge and make their way down to the sea. To learn more about the turtles and tours, see the Save Antigua Sea Turtles page on Facebook.

Rays. Spotted eagle rays, Southern stingrays and even the rarely seen manta ray (shown here from a recent sighting) swim through the waters around Antigua & Barbuda. While you can see them as you a traveling along through clear waters, the best, guaranteed-sightings are at Stingray City, an attraction on the Atlantic coast where you can wade through a shallow area while they glide around your feet. 

Tropical fish and marine creatures. The reefs circling the islands are home to a teeming variety of colourful fish, crustaceans, invertebrates and corals. While on snorkeling tours such as those with Catamaran Sailing AntiguaCreole Cruises, Jabberwocky, Sailing Yacht IvyTreasure Island Cruises, Tropical Catamaran Sailing, and the operators mentioned above, you will often see parrotfish, angelfish, butterfly fish, puffer fish, nurse sharks, spiny lobsters, conch, moray eels, reef squid and octopus—and even the beautiful but reef-damaging lionfish.

Water birds. Wherever you travel around the islands, you’ll see a multitude of pelicans, terns, boobies, gulls, egrets, herons, red-billed tropic birds, osprey and even the majestic frigate birds. Did you know that Barbuda is home to one of the largest colonies of frigate birds in the world? While you are visiting Antigua, you can hop the Barbuda Express ferry to the sister island, and have a guide take you through the Barbuda Lagoon to view them in the nesting area. In the North Sound area of Antigua, all sorts of species are easily spotted on Bird Island (which many of the tours stop at), and brown pelicans can be seen sitting in the trees on Rabbit and Exchange Islands during nesting season.

Another important component of our marine ecosystems is the shoreline mangroves that grow and spread their roots down into the water to form nursery areas for young fish and animals. They are also essential in protecting the coastlines from erosion. One of the best ways to tour through some of the mangroves around the north shore is with Paddles Eco Kayak Tours, where you get close to the water in your own self-propelled vessel, so you can take time to enjoy the rich life of these areas. 

For a lengthy and detailed listing of the various natural wonders in and around Antigua & Barbuda, see our compilation here.

So come to our beautiful islands not only for the great beaches, but for the bountiful life in the seas around us. You’ll have experiences you won’t soon forget.


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NAME: Daydre Daley
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