Isla Descheo – A Scuba Diver’s Paradise
The small uninhabited island of Isla Desecheo is located 21 kilometers off the west coast of Puerto Rico’s main island and forms part of the Puerto Rico archipelago. The crystal clear waters with visibility ranging from 30 to 45 meters and the fascinating reef formations around Isla Desecheo make this island a popular diving destination. The island itself has been classified as a National Wildlife Refuge under the jurisdiction of the US Fish and Wildlife Services.
Christopher Columbus discovered Isla Desecheo during his second voyage of exploration to the Americas (also referred to as the New World). The Spanish explorer Nuñez Alvarez de Aragón named the island in 1517. No evidence has ever been found to suggest that the island had permanent human settlements at any time, but smugglers, pirates and bandits made extensive use of Isla Desecheo during the 18th century. During World War II the United States Armed Forces used the island as a bombing range and from 1952 to 1964 Isla Desecheo was used by the Unites States Air Force for survival training. All this military action on the island has resulted in the public being banned from exploring Isla Desecheo due to the possible presence of unexploded military ordnance. This restriction does not affect the scuba diving activity around the island.
Isla Desecheo, which reaches a maximum elevation of 218 meters, has no visible surface water sources. The flora of the island, limited by the lack of surface water, is restricted to small trees, thorny shrubs, weeds and a variety of cacti. The fauna includes three endemic species of lizard and a variety of seabirds as well as some rats and goats. A population of Rhesus monkeys was introduced to the island in 1967 for an experimental study on adaptation. Unfortunately, the presence of these red-rumped monkeys resulted in a large nesting colony of Brown Boobys abandoning their nesting sites.
The country of Puerto Rico and its surrounding islands are fascinating and beautiful, each with its own unique characteristics. Keen divers will be awe-struck by the natural wonders of the sea around Isla Desecheo – a worthwhile trip to make.