Saba National Marine Park
The Saba National Marine Park was established in 1987 to preserve and manage Saba’s pristine marine environment. The park circles the entire island and extends from the high-tide mark to a depth of 60 metres (197 feet), including the seabed and overlying waters. The park, which has a total area of approximately 1300 hectares (13 km2), protects globally threatened coral reefs and seagrass beds. Being one of the few self-sustaining marine parks in the world, the Saba National Marine Park raises revenue through visitor fees, souvenir sales, and donations. Access to the park is free for all residents of Saba. Visitors pay US$ 3 per dive.
A zoning plan divides the park in four management zones for various recreational and commercial uses: a recreational zone, a no-take zone, a multi-purpose zone and a mooring zone. Approximately one-third of the Park is zoned primarily for diving. A system of 36 permanent mooring buoys facilitates diving and prevents anchoring damage to the corals.The multiple-use zone is for fishing and limited diving, while the all-purpose zone is open to snorkeling, swimming, boating, diving, and fishing. Park regulations exist in all zones, prohibiting anchoring in coral, dumping waste, taking of coral and nearly all spearfishing. More information on these zones can be found on the website of the Saba Conservation Organisation.
As a result of restrictions on fishing and anchoring, the Saba National Marine Park is home to healthy corals and an abundance of fish. There are still large groupers, snappers, grunts, hinds and coneys that are in healthier populations than many other locations in the Caribbean. Both Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas) and Hawksbills (Eretmochelys imbricata) thrive within the Marine Park, and divers may be fortunate enough to spot Hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna sp.), Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) and Manta rays (Manta sp.). Most coral formations found in the park can be categorized as “coral encrusted boulders”; these boulders are volcanic in origin. Also formed by past volcanic activity are the marine park’s spectacular underwater pinnacles, coral encrusted volcanic structures rising out of the sea floor 100 metres (330 feet) below. The pinnacles are covered with corals and sponges and attract sharks, tuna, foraging sea turtles and an abundance of reef fish.
Unique reef formations coupled with a rich and unique biodiversity make for spectacular diving. There are 25 unique dive sites within the park; details can be found on the website of the Saba Conservation Foundation. Due to the steep coastal zone, shore diving is virtually impossible. Therefore, all diving is done safely from a boat with one of Saba’s licensed dive centres.