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September 2002 Vol. 17, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Hawk’s Nest Resort, Cat Island, Bahamas

now, if they’ll only get a dive operation

from the September, 2002 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The Bahamas out islands have some pretty fine Atlantic/Caribbean diving, so in July 2001, I headed to Cat Island and the Hawk’s Nest resort, where word had it that a pleasant little resort was developing a dive operation. Indeed, the reef formations were excellent and the fish life prolific. However, when I arrived I learned the divemasters who owned the dive boat had departed. I could only dive by driving forty-five minutes along washboard roads to another resort. I managed to dive at Hawk’s Nest, though the boat could handle but four divers at a time. Nevertheless, I saw the potential, so I stayed in contact with the folks at Hawk’s Nest, who promised a new dive boat, divemasters, and a full-service operation this summer. With that, I arranged a stay for eighteen family members, ranging in age from nine months to seventy years and residing in five U.S. cities and England.

Thanks to a twenty-eight-slip marina about ten minutes away and a nearby forty-six-hundred-foot airstrip, vagabond sailors and private pilots from the U.S. frequent Hawk’s Nest, but divers have yet to discover it. Hawk’s Nest Resort, Cat Island, BahamasWith only ten rooms in two buildings facing the sea (and a private two-bedroom cottage with a kitchen),Hawk’s Nest is small and intimate resort. The rooms have TV/VCR to play the huge selection of movies available. In the clubhouse, there’s a satellite TV, an honor bar, and an open-air dining room with many windows overlooking the pool and the sea. Bicycles, adult tricycles, a tennis court with a basketball goal, table-size chess and backgammon sets, hammocks and thatches on the beach, kayaks, and jeep and van rentals -- and even hair plaiting and massages -- will keep you busy. At the marina, the Plane to Sea Pub, which was open only occasionally, sports a pool table, dart board, and good drinks. With palms, casuarinas, and blooming hibiscus, the Hawk’s Nest environs, it seems, would be the perfect destination for a dive club or large family.

By Bahamas standards, the diving was very good. Close by, Hawk’s Wall is a big coral formation with lots of gorgonia and sponges at seventy feet. Grooves run through it like rivers. A big scrawled filefish greeted me as I descended, and there were clouds of blue and brown chromis with a few sunshine fish swimming along. A big school of white margates cruised past. Everywhere were blackcap basslets with their bellies aligned with the coral. On another dive here I saw a big spotted moray curled under a coral ledge and a huge Nassau grouper being cleaned by tiny Spanish hogfishes, as well as four queen angels along the way.

At B.C., several patch reefs on a wide expanse of sand attracted a variety of fish. You can’t dive deeper than 42 ft. here without a shovel, so dives are long, with plenty of time to count fish. One big coral head with overhangs and tunnels was home to schools of white margates, white grunts, French grunts, schoolmasters, Nassau and tiger groupers, queen angels, triggers, and lots of sharpnose puffers. Tube blennies poked their heads from holes. Two enormous lobsters hid under ledges. The sandy area was dotted with occasional patches of garden eels and populated with yellowhead jawfish hovering above their holes, only to disappear tail first when I got closer. Once, a huge barracuda stared me down. Indeed, a fine site for fish photography.

Hawk’s Nest Resort, Cat Island, BahamasAt Playground, five queen angels maneuvered the channels, tunnels, and overhangs. Along one side, a sheer wall dropped to at least 200 feet. While big growths of lettuce-like algae appeared on some of the reef, the coral appeared healthy and the fish were prolific. A 5 ft. barracuda checked me out, as did a queen trigger. Six majestic ocean triggers swam past, and I spotted stoplight parrots, a pair of white-spotted filefish, several tiger groupers, and lots of “dancing” diamond blennies. While a big trumpetfish hunted, blueheads cleaned two red hinds. Big mutton snappers followed me around. We dived this site four times, and we usually saw a couple of reef sharks, and we were once accompanied by a big school of horse-eye jacks.

And, therein lies the rub -- diving one site four times. You see, while the “new” dive boat had arrived (a twenty-eight-foot converted fishing boat) it held only five divers and the two guides. At that, it was crowded. And slow. Through choppy seas, the rides to these sites were uncomfortable and about thirty minutes each way, so we did well to manage two morning dives. Furthermore, Hawk’s Nest had booked six divers into the cottage, so our groups had to take turns between morning and afternoon dives, with neither group able to do both. Some of my family members never got to dive, and none did as many dives as he or she wanted.

The divemasters, Lani and Jeff Sloss, had arrived at Hawk’s Nest less than three weeks before. They did their best to get us in the water -- and they did certify one of our teenagers but Hawk’s Nest can’t run a dive operation without the essentials, and the resort simply doesn’t have them. Oxygen was on order, supposedly, but not yet available -- not good when a chamber is a flight away. Because of the lousy dive boat and overbooking, we got to only three different sites in the entire week. Of course, “there are wonderful sites a little farther away,” but the boat couldn’t get us there, and got us back for late lunches.

During the week, the buffet lunch, often spicy, included cold cuts, pasta salad, gazpacho, tuna salad, corn salad, BBQ chicken, cole slaw, crab salad, hamburgers, French fries, quesadillas, bratwurst, and sauerkraut. After begging for sweets, we got brownies, sugar cookies, and even pecan pie. Breakfasts were also buffet style, with decent variation, but not enough fresh fruit. For dinner, the staff set up two tables for our group. Comestibles included, soup, salad, and dessert, with two main course choices: pork tenderloin or grouper, red snapper or veal piccata, grouper or Chinese chicken, New Zealand rack of lamb or mahi-mahi. As a rule the meats tasted better than the fish -- cooking was spotty all week.

All week Murphy and his law beset managers Brian and Jennifer Campbell and Randy and J.R. Holder, as well as the divemasters. The dive boat wouldn’t start one day, and the backup boat, a small v-hull, broke down. Hawk’s Nest Resort, Cat Island, BahamasThe pool pump was broken, and by the time the managers noticed, the water was too dirty for swimming our last three days. The Jeep had a flat tire, and when the van wouldn’t start, they took us back to the clubhouse in a truck that had no inside door handles. The supply boat was three days late with the groceries. Furthermore, the details such as keeping the glass table tops clean and free from dirty glasses and empty cans -- will need to be managed if this is to become the four-star resort it claims to be in its brochure.

But let me note that Hawk’s Nest has plenty of potential. The reefs are much more interesting than, say, those at Andros around Small Hope Bay, and they compare favorably with Riding Rock. Fish life is good, with lots of species and numbers of reef fish and some cruising sharks and barracuda. It’s a pleasant property, boasting spacious, air-conditioned rooms with views of the sea, a comfortable clubhouse overlooking the pool and the beach, lots of activities, pleasant grounds, and 460 undeveloped acres. The beach is fine for swimming, and for snorkeling with the kids the sea life is decent (last year they took us to a good snorkel spot by boat, but this year no boat was available). It’s also a safe property -- they don’t issue room keys -- and none of us worried about where the children were. Management says the owners intend to get a “new” dive boat and upgrade the dive operation. They also “plan” to remodel all the rooms. If all this happens, then Hawk’s Nest will become a comfortable venue for easy diving, especially suited to groups. But, they’ll also need to get new dive guides. The couple who was there for our July trip has already departed.

-- K.I.

Hawk’s Nest Resort, Cat Island, BahamasDivers Compass: Hotel rooms (one king or two queen beds) are $134/ night, double occupancy, add $50/person/day for three meals. E-mail at info@hawks-nest.com; Web site is www.hawks-nest.com. Call 1-800-688-4752 or 1-242-342-7050. Individual dives are $55 for one tank, $75 for two tanks. They have some rental equipment, but no repair capacity. There are rinse and storage facilities at the dock. We flew to the resort’s airstrip on nine-passenger planes chartered from Air Flight at Ft. Lauderdale (1-954-359-0820), and customs agents checked our documents and collected fees. Bahamas Air and Cat Island Air have commercial flights from Nassau, and Lynx Air flies from Ft. Lauderdale; they all land at New Bight, an hour’s ride over bumpy roads to the resort. Bonefishing and

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