Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cooper Island and the Wreck of the Rhone

Cooper Island is largely uninhabited but is surrounded by fabulous coral reefs, unique dive sites and The Cooper Island Beach Club in Machioneel Bay, where we anchored for two days, to take advantage of diving the Wreck of the Rhone — one of the most famous dive sites in the world. 

Cooper Island Beach Club & Dive Shop

Located off salt Island, the RMS Rhone went down in 1867 in a hurricane. Struck by strong winds and heavy seas just before gaining the open sea, she was driven onto a reef near Salt Island. Seawater flooded the engine room, the boilers burst, and she went to the bottom in pieces. Only 23 of the original 147 passengers and crew survived. One of the first iron ships built, The Rhone has withstood the test of time and provides a spectacular dive site. Teeming with schools of friendly fish, the Rhone is one of my favourites dives, fully encrusted with over a century of coral and sponge growth, much of the wreck still remains intact including the bow, support beams and massive 15' propeller, with opportunities to actually swim through the enormous hull! It's also famous as the film site for the movie, The Deep.

Diving through the hull of the wreck!

The Pillars of the Rhone

A view from the top as our dive group descended

A school of Blue Tang drift by

The Cooper Island Beach Club sun deck was our first destination for a well earned beer and conch fritters after our 4-hour dive. We had just enough energy to make dinner reservations at the Cooper Island Restaurant for later that evening, having been tempted by their varied international menu including Mahi-Mahi Baked with a Coconut Lime Sauce, Rack of Lamb Marinated in Honey, Grenadine and Ginger, Yellow-Fin Tuna Glazed with Ginger, Soy, Balsamic & Honey and a 10oz. New York Strip with a Mushroom Peppercorn Sauce.

We had the Sun Deck and comfy outdoor sofas at 
Cooper Island Beach Club all to ourselves!

Before taking the dingy ashore for dinner, we took advantage of the sunset aboard the Alegria Del Mar and poured a glass of Pinot Grigio and Merlot, and planned our adventure for our next day in paradise.