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October 2005 Vol. 31, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Bananarama, Roatan

from the October, 2005 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Thumbs DownWhen experienced divers travel to a foreign country and find their dives limited to 45 minutes, no matter how deep or how much air remaining, they will not be happy. Certainly subscriber Elaine Mathews (Redondo Beach, CA) was not pleased with the strictly enforced 45-minute limit at Roatan's Bananarama Resort & Diving Center. "When we complained to Ron, the owner," Matthews said, "he told us that he had a schedule to keep and that all the operators on the island had gotten together and that we would not get more than 45 minutes wherever we were diving."

Ron Smith, owner of the PADI 5 Star operation, confirmed to Undercurrent that "We, as well as many operators here, enforce a 45-minute bottom time. We have schedules of two morning and two afternoon dives. We do our deepest dive first and dive more shallow after. We are strict about the surface time as well."

That sounded a bit fishy to us, so Undercurrent contacted 10 other Roatan dive centers, both large and small, and asked about their rules. None said they impose limits as short as 45 minutes. Some have 50-60 minute limits, but most, like Audrey Schlaff of Reef Gliders, say they tailor their dives to the diver, based on individual abilities. Another West End shop owner stated, "One of my pet peeves is a divemaster telling me I have to go up because of time."

Smith also said, "If we have a group of really good divers we will certainly let them dive a bit longer and even stay to themselves." Nevertheless, Matthews reported that in her experience at Bananarama, "Diving was one group (no matter the skill)."

So, unlike what Smith claims, we found no evidence that the operators have "gotten together" and agreed to a 45-minute limit. In fact, limits vary significantly between operators, based on dive depth, tank pressure at the end of a dive, and surface intervals. So, Ron, thumbs down on that flat 45- minute rule. Flying to Roatan for a week is far too expensive for a diver to put up with that malarkey.

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