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July 2003 Vol. 18, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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New Dive Destinations

from our fearless subscribers

from the July, 2003 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

When we get good tips from readers that check out, we offer periodic updates so you don't have to wait until the year end to get from the Chapbook. Here's an update on some unique dive destinations that you might want to consider as you make your travel plans.

Bahamas: Too many Bahamas operations cater to novices, but not Abaco Dive Adventures, says Gerald Canning, Reno, NV. A new operation he dived with in May, it specializes in small-sized adventure diving on a sixpack. "Divemaster Tim was born in the islands and has been diving since he was eight. He led us through some fantastic coral formations, tunnels, and schools of shiners so thick you couldn't see the person in front of you. We saw tarpon and reef sharks and were allowed to dive as long as we had air." (www.abacodiveadventures.com, from the U.S.: 321-284- 0162, from Abaco: 242-367-2963)

Belize: Slickrock Adventures is an ecoresort that "walks the walk." Located on Grover's Reef, it's well suited for the youthful -- not necessarily young -- adventure-oriented travelers, such as Tom Snyder (Shelbyville, TN) who visited there in January. "Long Caye wall is spectacular with huge coral heads, deep canyons, a 3,000-foot wall, and above average large and small sea life. It's a 1.5-hour boat ride across open water from Belize City, but the 13-acre Caye is paradise. Slickrock Adventures (www.slickrock.com) operates the Long Caye Island Resort and Adventure Week tours, providing a tropical getaway with basic cabanas or tent palapas, solar power, excellent Belizean meals, and unlimited access to every type of water sport equipment. Off The Wall dive operation provides personalized diving with a boat ride never exceeding five minutes. Jim and Kendra Schofield run the PADI operation (offthewall@btl.net). Divemaster Carlos has sharp eyes -- he showed us a rare white-lined toad fish, found only in Belize. Carlos is ready to dive any time you are and as many times as you want. All dives were drift dives, with Junior, our boat captain, following bubbles. Groups were small (two to three people). We usually started with a deep descent on the wall and then worked our way back up with the final 10 minutes frequently spent above 20 feet over gorgeous reefs and an aquarium of reef fish and critters. Lobsters are huge and turtles and nurse sharks are frequent visitors here to Glover's Reef." The area is also dived by boats from Manta Resort.

Grand Cayman: Without a doubt, the best diving is on the East End and the least expensive, most intimate (read "small") hotel is the Cayman Diving Lodge. In March, Steve and Cathy Mason (Sault Ste. Marie, MI) reported "tons of fish life, healthy reefs with lots of coral, sponges, and fans. Swam with reef sharks, turtles, tarpons, giant snapper -- all the usual fish in abundance. In the beautiful elkhorn stands we found red lipped blennies in three-color phases, octopus in the day, candy striped shrimp, lots of macro life, and scorpionfish. Awesome vertical walls that drop thousands of feet, miniwalls at 40 to 60 feet, caverns, canyons, pinnacles, shallow barrier reefs, and swim-throughs. Jim, the owner, makes you feel like a friend rather than a customer. A Pro 48 jet is the main boat. They even did an afternoon dive with just the two of us. Our room was on the balcony with a beautiful view of the ocean -- clean, roomy, and well furnished." (www.divelodge.com, divelodge@aol.com)

Carriacou: I dived here a decade ago -- it's north of Grenada -- and vowed to return. Damn, I haven't. Well-traveled Chuck and Nancy Anson (Oceanside, CA) visited in January and report that this small island (pop. 8,000) dotted with pristine reefs has a great abundance and diversity of underwater life. "Max and Claudia Nagel (Carriacou Silver Diving) take great pleasure in showing it off. Carriacou's gently sloping reef system (depth 30 to 70 feet) remains healthy due to its proximity to the open Atlantic, minimal human impact, and its distance from the hurricane belt. Abundant hard and soft corals and many varieties of colorful sponges; large lobsters and crabs, many eels, schooling fish by the hundreds, nursesharks, eagle rays, and plenty of macro critters. Ben & Jenny's Guesthouse, a fully furnished apartment, is a 12-minute walk from the dive shop ($35 US/night, www.grenadines.net/carriacou/bandj.html). It had a large kitchen, dining area, and good-sized sleeping area with a comfortable bed and TV. No phone or hot water, but the 'cold' was lukewarm. The second week we stayed at Peace Haven, an upstairs apartment on the beach ($45 US/night, 473-443- 8365, same amenities plus hot water). Sunsets were beautiful from both. We did most of our own cooking; fresh vegetables arrived twice a week by boat, and there was fresh bread daily at the bakery. There were plenty of good restaurants at reasonable prices. The Osprey ferry between Grenada and Carriacou is a modern, clean, and reliable form of transportation, taking 90 minutes. We were having so much fun that we extended our stay another week (www.scubamax.com, e-mail: scubamax@caribsurf. com)."

Haiti: I dived here long ago; the coral was very nice with plenty of small fish, but anything big enough to cook had been. Haiti is a dirt poor, fascinating country, visited occasionally by Europeans, seldom by Americans. At the Kaliko Beach Club (509-928-4607) in January, Sue Sepelak (Columbia, MD) says she visited pristine reefs with colorful varieties of coral and reef fish -- spotted morays, puffers, wrasse, and squid were abundant. "Drove from Port-au-Prince to the resorts along Cote Des Arcadins. It was a long trek due to lack of paved roads. Very friendly staff at resort and dive operation (next to the resort). Pegasus Services is probably one of the few remaining dive operations in Haiti. Operation run by Nicole and Jose Ray (509- 558-5368). The diving is well worth the adventure you will have getting there."

Niue: While Aussie and Kiwi divers travel here, Americans are rare, because one goes through Auckland or Samoa to get there. As Ann and Dan Goldsberry (Golden, CO) say of their March visit,"Niue is an island of uplifted coral so there are no beaches, but rain flows into the island instead of entering the ocean as runoff. This means exceptionally clear water. Poor visibility is still well over 100 feet. Inflatable, hard-bottom dive boats are lowered into the water by winches as most of the island's coast consists of dramatic cliffs. The people are friendly and helpfu Niue is a totally unspoiled island with a minimum of touristy development. The diving consists mostly of caves, chasms, and swim throughs filled with crayfish and schooling fish. One cave, the Bubble Cave, opened to a cathedral of stalactites above the water. Ledges above the water in the caves had sea snakes taking a break. In fact, sea snakes are prevalent on every dive. On one dive, at Snake Gulley, snakes were so plentiful that their returning to the surface for air left a curtain of snakes in almost every direction. The night dive was exciting as the snakes would constantly move into and out of view. Niue sea snakes are curious and frequently follow along to see what divers are doing. We found many beautiful hard corals and a fair number of soft corals and colorful giant clams. Octopus, three species of lion fish, squadrons of squid, an occasional anemone fish, blue ribbon eels, nudibranchs, bump-headed blue parrots, three species of moray eels, and the occasional white tip shark made every dive a discovery. There were schools of dolphin alongside the inflatable several times and in their winter whales are present right off shore. The water was virtually flat, though they told us this was the rough season; water ranged from 82 to 84 degrees. Dive Niue is the only operator and they're great to dive with. Ian and Annie are ex- Mike Ball trip directors. We had dived with them previously at the Great Barrier Reef and in the Coral Sea. There are a handful of places to stay that are quite comfortable. There are no luxury accommodations but one, the Matavai Resort, has air conditioning and nice rooms. It also has one of the better restaurants on the island." (Matavai Resort: +683 (0) 4 360; Niue Dive: www.dive.nu, niuedive@dive.nu)

"Niue sea snakes are
curious and frequently
follow along to see what
divers are doing."

Cozumel: Try a house rental, such as Villa Miranda, says David Rand (Anchorage, AK). "It's two blocks east of Plaza Las Glorias. It has four bedrooms, four baths, and lots of space. The first floor has an open-air kitchen, living room, and dining room complete with a pool. The on-site managers, Brent and Jennifer, were helpful but careful to allow us our privacy. Villa Miranda is two blocks from the largest supermarket on the island and within walking distance of many decent restaurants. Every day I'd take a five-minute walk down to Plaza Las Glorias where Dive Paradise would pick me up. Though my wife was pregnant and unable to dive, she also enjoyed herself with walks to the beach, lots of swimming, and relaxing." Weekly rates range from $1,100 in the summer to $1,800 over Christmas (www.rentcozumel.com, phone: 011-52-987- 872-7000).

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