Four coral-encrusted spires shooting up from the edge of a wall.
Key Hole Pinnacles
One of the most famous and visually stunning dive sites in St. Lucia is the Key Hole Pinnacles. The Pinnacles are located at the northern entrance to the Bay of Soufriere. The most dramatic features of the site are the four spectacular volcanic peaks which rise dramatically from the depths to within a few feet to the surface. The Pinnacles clearly resemble the famous Pitons, which are located nearby. All are grouped within a radius of 150 metres so divers can explore in and around all of the peaks.
In 1994, world famous film maker, underwater photographer and book author, Leni Riefenstahl – best known for her coverage of the 1936 Berlin Olympics and being the reputed lover of Adolph Hitler – dove the Pinnacles and described it as her favourite Caribbean dive site, remarking it was “a mystical and out of this world dive experience”. Ms Riefenstahl, who was well into her 90s at the time, has written numerous books including picture series editions about coral reefs around the world.
The craggy peaks are encrusted with a profusion of black and orange gorgonia, a full colour range of sponges, soft and hard corals giving the site a mystical feel. Diving the Pinnacles is done as a drift dive starting well east of the site with the boat following along above for safety and convenience. As divers proceed with the current they pass over an impressive field of finger coral bringing them into view of a ‘cloud’ of fish surrounding one of the Pinnacles looming ahead. Divers continue their drift encircling and weaving between the dramatic peaks. The site is popular with divers of all skill levels.
The lacy network of the nearly vertical Pinnacle walls provides shelter for trumpetfish, filefish, frogfish and seahorses.Â Â Larger fishes such as grouper, jack and snapper can also be spotted around the Pinnacles. Recently a group of adolescent manta rays were seen hanging out in the area. Whale sharks have been sighted as well. The rarely seen sunfish has been found in the area to the delight of divers adding to the magical reputation of the site.
Unfortunately, due to the nearby Soufriere River, the Pinnacles are threatened by excessive run-off sediment loads during heavy storms which are increasingly more common as global warming affects the Caribbean and the rest of the world. In 1997 marine park rangers had to use specially designed ‘underwater vacuums’ to remove the excessive silt build-up from the corals and sponges to temporarily minimize damage. Local authorities are tackling the problem but resources are limited and much more is required. If a solution to the mismanagement of the adjacent in-land water shed is not found soon the site will be lost forever.
Diving in St Lucia is still among the best in the region and a large number of visitors regularly take advantage of the offerings of the dive industry to enrich their holiday experiences. No matter what your experience in diving might be, there are many opportunities to get out and enjoy our wonderful underwater world. But please always remember, coral reefs are the most important yet easily damaged habitats in our oceans. Look but don’t touch; swim but don’t stand; take nothing but photos and memories; and leave nothing behind but bubbles.