Updated on September 12th, 2022
Visiting the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park in Grenada is an experience like no other. Seeing ghostly figures emerge as you explore the ocean is something not to be missed on any visit to the Spice Island. The National Geographic loved it so much they have named this underwater adventure among their 25 Wonders of the World. Whether you decide to snorkel or dive like I did, here is everything you need to know before adding it to your Bucket List!”
Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park, Grenada
I spent two months in the Caribbean earlier this year, one in St Lucia and the other, in Grenada. Among the top activities on my to-do list for Grenada were to see the giant leatherback turtles nesting and explore the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park. I am pleased to say that I achieved both!
The Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park was created by British eco-artist Jason deCaires Taylor. I last met one of his sculptures in The Bahamas, off the coast of New Providence. Then I didn’t realise the significance of the event. Ocean Atlas is the largest of all his artworks at 60 tonnes and 18 feet tall. The statue depicts a young Bahamian girl who appears to be holding up the ocean.
Back then I was snorkelling, with tonsilitis, in an oil slick. There was a lot going on! Clearly that’s a story for another day…”
Jason de Caires Taylor has gone on to erect underwater sculptures in many locations across the world, but Grenada was his first. As well as The Bahamas you can also see his talents in the UK, Australia, Mexico and Norway among others. What we see at the Molinere Sculpture Park now is not all the work of Jason de Caires Taylor. He created the initial 30 pieces, but his creations have since been joined by those of other artists from across the world.
National Geographic were so impressed with the park that they mentioned it among their 25 Wonders of the World. So, when visiting Grenada, what more do you need to persuade you to go?
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How do you get to Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park?
The Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park lies just off the west coast of Grenada, a little further north than the capital of St Georges. The park itself is now designated as a Marine Protected Area and covers 800 square metres. The statues are placed along a series of gullies and sand patches between the natural rock formations. Currently, there are 13 sculptures, with 76 individual pieces in total.
The art lies at depths between 5 and 8 metres from the surface of the water. They can be seen via glass bottom boats, snorkelling or scuba diving. Although they are possible to access independently, to make the most of your time here and see all there is to see, I recommend taking a tour. There are many operators which run tours to the park. I chose to take mine with Dive Grenada, located at the southern end of Grand Anse beach and part of the Mount Cinnamon Resort.
If you choose to go independently, you will need to buy a day pass from the Ministry of Fisheries. It costs US$1 for snorkellers or US$2 for divers. The proceeds go to providing rangers to manage tourism and fishing quotas. If, however you choose to go with a tour operator or local dive shop, the fees should be included in the price.
There are loads of choices for every budget along beautiful Grand Anse Beach, which puts you in an ideal position to head out on the water. For a more luxurious stay, right near Dive Grenada then you could opt for Mount Cinnamon Resort. It has a great beach bar and a beautiful garden. Again, right on the beach is Coyaba Beach Resort.
If you are on a lower budget and less bothered about staying on the beach (which saves a lot of money), I would thoroughly recommend going self-catering. At the Siesta Hotel, although the accommodation itself is a little dated, the staff are incomparable. I found them incredibly friendly and they bent over backwards to make my stay as good as possible. I also loved my time at Silver View Apartments. It was a little noisy as it sits just off the main road but I enjoyed how well connected it was with buses and just a short walk from the beach.
For options a little further afield and to fit your budget, check out the search box below:
Is it best to snorkel or scuba dive?
When I first went to enquire about seeing the sculptures, I was keen to snorkel. Although I have taken my PADI dive qualification (twice!), it had been 6 years since I passed it the 2nd time. I was a little anxious and lacked confidence in my diving skills. However, when I went to discuss the visit, I had a chat with Phil, the owner of Dive Grenada. He advised me I would be able to see far more and at much closer quarters by scuba diving. This is particularly true if you prefer to stay on the surface while snorkelling. All the artwork sits on the seabed.
He also assured me that if I was to dive, I would be in safe hands. I was sold. It was time to dust off rusty my scuba “skills”.”
The origins of the Underwater Sculpture Park
The other thing that sold me was when Phil described how the whole park had come about. He was having a beer one evening in 2006 with his neighbour. The neighbour started asking if he’d seen some sculptures in Hyde Park. Initially unclear why this was relevant, it transpired that Phil’s neighbour was a sculptor and they began to hatch a plan to build some artworks to exhibit under the water in Grenada.
Phil had been the one who suggested the location in Molinere Bay. The area had been hit hard by Hurricane Ivan back in 2004. The sculptures created a new base for marine life to regrow and drew tourists away from the undamaged but fragile reefs of nearby Flamingo Bay.
He shared stories of transporting figures on the back of their small boat before getting a barge involved to complete the installation. Overall, it took 2 years to finish laying all the sculptures.”
The sculptures themselves are created mainly from cement. This offers marine life a long-lasting, PH-neutral platform to attach to. It was amazing to see how the artwork has been enhanced by the otherworldly growth of coral polyps now covering the figures.
Diving the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park, Grenada
On the day I was diving at the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park, I’ll admit I was a little nervous. The dive cost US$90. Phil informed me that he would be my buddy. I felt relieved as I knew I was in safe hands. He explained that to see all the sculptures would take around 20 minutes, then we would have a little exploration to see what else we could find.
The group was a mix of snorkellers and divers, 9 of us in total. We loaded everything onto the dive boat and headed out along the beach, and past St Georges.
When we first got in the water, I embarrassed myself. On instruction, I let the air out of my BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) and headed straight for the bottom. I saw panic in Phil’s eyes as he motioned me to start putting air in again. I was mortified! Heavy-handed as always, I put too much in and we ended up back at the surface, a big no-no!
He told me to calm down and then took charge of adjusting my buoyancy as we went, which I was incredibly grateful for.
Then we were off!
As I looked around, I couldn’t see anything and then suddenly the shadowy figures of a small circle of figures started to emerge as if from nowhere.
We slowly and thankfully (on my part) calmly started to negotiate the sculptures. They literally all did feel like ghostly forms emerging from the seabed.”
The Nutmeg Princess
One of the first sculptures we came across on my tour was the Nutmeg Princess. This was created by Norwegian artist Lene Kilde and inspired by the book of the same name. It depicts a princess emerging from a pod and reaching toward the surface of the water with a handful of nutmeg.
Grenada is famously called the “Spice Island”. The spice industry is huge here and Grenada is one of the top exporters of many products. Not just nutmeg but also cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, bay leaves, and turmeric are some of the spices you can find in abundance on the island. Unfortunately, nutmeg, one of its biggest exports was severely hit by the power of Hurricane Ivan. It takes several years for the newly planted trees to bear fruit. Hopefully, Grenada’s nutmeg industry will re-emerge onto the global market again soon.
A man sitting at a desk with a typewriter isn’t what you expect to see appearing as you glide over the rocks on the ocean floor. If you can get close enough, you can also see a collection of historical newspaper cuttings. They date back to the 1970s, with some reporting on the involvement Grenada had with Cuba. It is representing how rapidly communication is changing and how the correspondent himself is a relic in today’s society. The statue sits in a space among the rocks of a gully, making it even more reminiscent of an office.
Possibly the most famous of all the sculptures, Viccisitudes features a group of life-sized figures standing in a circle on the ocean floor, holding hands. The artist cast the individual statues from local children with a variety of backgrounds. The figures were originally intended to represent a symbol of unity and resilience; how adaptable children are to their environment. As the coral grows, it depicts how children change and grow through life. However, the sculpture has since been adopted as a tribute to the African slaves who were thrown overboard. The structures which bind them have a strong resemblance to shackles.
It is a poignant representation whichever perspective you come from. The figures looking eerie but beautiful and as if they are from another world. We stayed for a while admiring this sculpture and I did a few circuits to take it all in.”
One of the newer installations includes 14 sculptures, all based on the art, culture and spiritualism of the Amerindians. Troy Lewis, a local artist created this one. Visitors can still see a number of Petroglyphs and intricate carvings on rocks in certain parts of the island such as Duquesne in the north. The artwork is based on these.
The largest and most memorable for me represents Zemi, a stone-carved idol thought to have supernatural powers. It has 3 points; one pointing to the sky and the Creator, one to the underworld and the final to the world of the living. It is fascinating to me how closely this resembles the beliefs I learned about during my time in Peru and Bolivia with the power of Pacha Mama (Mother Nature).
Also created by Troy Lewis, Christ of the Deep recognises the fate of the Bianca C. Bianca C was a luxury Italian cruise ship, often referred to as the Titanic of the Caribbean. One early morning in October 1961, there was a major explosion in the boiler room of the ship. Local residents saved nearly 700 passengers and crew in their fishing boats. The community also created a makeshift hospital to care for the injured. They welcomed the other survivors into their homes. Only one person died in the end and the Bianca C sank two days later close to Grand Anse beach. You can also see a similar representation in Carenage harbour in St Georges.
For me this says it all about the strength and generosity of the Grenadian people, something I witnessed many times during my stay on the island. Each time I fell a little more in love with this gem in the Caribbean.”
After we had explored all the sculptures I was left in awe of this whole other world under the water. The ocean and its inhabitants have transformed these art forms in a magical way. A truly unique experience.
What else can you see?
Afterwards, we drifted along for a little longer. We watched a snake head eel and a spotted snake slithering below us along the way. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, Phil pointed excitedly at a plain-looking fish floating around beneath us. He indicated for me to watch as he reached out and clapped his hands a little closer. And like the ugly duckling becoming a swan, this plain fish exposed bright blue wings as it speeded away from us resplendent in its transformation. We followed it as it performed this amazing transition another couple of times before escaping us.
Once Phil decided the time was right, we emerged onto the surface of the water. I was in awe of everything I had seen. Phil was excited particularly by this last sighting. It was a Winged Gurnard, a species he hadn’t seen in the water for over a year.
I had no more words. What an amazing experience!
Needless to say, exploring the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park is an unmissable activity on any visit to Grenada. If you can, scuba dive, but if you can’t, definitely snorkel. You can even take a glass-bottomed boat tour if you’re worried about the water. Just do it. It’s too much of a unique experience to miss.
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