Between overfishing and heavy traffic of diving tourists, the Caribbean’s coral reefs face constant environmental pressures. Responding to these challenges, amazing underwater sculpture parks have cropped up throughout the Caribbean sea, showcasing stunning artwork by international artists. These underwater sculptures provide unique attractions for locals and visitors alike, relieving some traffic pressure off the region’s reefs. Plus, many of the sculptures serve as artificial reefs, built with materials that support reef growth and marine life. Here, we’ve rounded up the most special underwater art sites for your dream diving destinations.
Grenada’s Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park
Grenada’s waters houses the first underwater sculpture park in the world, created by underwater sculpture pioneer Jason deCaires Taylor in 2007. An artist and passionate ocean advocate, Taylor placed the park down current from natural reefs, creating new spawning areas for coral polyps. Built from PH-neutral cement, the sculptures’ porous surface also encourages growth. The park includes various stunning works, but perhaps “Vicissitudes” proves the most iconic. It features a circle of children standing hand-in-hand. Taylor casted the face from local children. Radiant coral now covers their faces, which come alive at night. Scuba divers, snorkelers and even glass-bottom boaters can access the sculptures.
Grand Cayman’s Amphitrite
Named after the Greek goddess Amphitrite, the wife of Poseidon, this 9-foot bronze statue looms large over the ocean floor. Canadian artist and avid diver Simon Morris installed the statue in 2000, 55 feet below the waters of Sunset Reef, off the coast of Grand Cayman. The boutique scuba outfit Sunset House commissioned the piece as an additional underwater attraction. The goddess statue has been voted the most popular shore dive on Grand Cayman, the world’s single most visited dive destination. In 2014, the goddess also received a male partner to share the oceans with. Morris installed a 13-foot statue “Guardian of the Reef” — a half-human, half-seahorse protector of the seas.
The Bahamas Coral Reef Sculpture Garden
The Bahamas Reef Environment Education Foundation (BREEF) launched the Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Garden in 2014 as a tourist and educational attraction. Just 5 meters below water lies the park’s most famous piece, “Ocean Atlas,” by Jason deCaires Taylor. Towering at 17 feet, the sculpture echoes the Greek Titan Atlas, though reinterpreted as a young girl “supporting the weight of the ocean on her shoulders,” says Taylor. The largest single sculpture ever installed underwater, “Ocean Atlas” was modeled after a young local girl named Camilla. The project also includes stunning sculptures by award-winning Bahamian artists Willicey Tynes and Andret John. All works also function as artificial reefs.
Mexico’s Underwater Museum of Art
Just off the coast of Cancun, the Museo Subacuático de Arte (MUSA) features over 500 permanent life-sized and monumental sculptures. The first works were contributed by underwater sculptor pioneer Jason deCaires Taylor. But the park also includes work by a slew of Mexican artists like Karen Salinas Martinez, Roberto Diaz Abraham and Rodrigo Quiñones Reyes. This sheer variety of sculpture offers moving artistic explorations, from cultural identity to global environmental turmoil. One can access these stunning sites by scuba and snorkeling tours, as well as glass-bottom boats. Roberto Díaz Abraham, former President of the Cancun Nautical Association, and Jaime González Cano, Director of the National Marine Park, founded the project in 2009.