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October 2008    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 23, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Bahamas, B.V.I., Ontario, Roatan…

the good, bad and ugly in dive resorts, boats and service

from the October, 2008 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas. I dived with Brendal Stevens when he was a mere lad at Small Hope Bay, and he’s still getting high marks. Tripp Jones (Columbia, SC) dived with him at Brendal’s Dive Center and stayed at the Green Turtle Club, a 15-minute ferry ride from Abaco, in August. He reports nice, clean rooms and good food. “Dive sites were a 20-minute boat ride away. Visibility ranged from 40 to 70 feet, and depths averaged 55 feet, with long bottom times – the shortest of my 13 dives was 62 minutes. Now I know why Brendal, who leads all dives, is called ‘Bottom Time Brendal’ – he and his staff are great at pointing out the tiniest critters. We saw a good number of reef sharks, plus a bull shark, and large grouper were plentiful. Coral was good, not great – there was some elkhorn bleaching near the surface.” Golf carts are a must to go to town for meals; Tripp recommends Miss Emily’s and Harvey’s for good, reasonably priced dinners. (Green Turtle Club - www.greenturtleclub.com; Brendal’s Dive Center - www.brendal.com). P.S.: Winter in the Bahamas can be chilly, and water temperatures are in the low 70s.

Boo for Bonaire’s Buddy Dive Boat Overbookings. Jim Hopkins (Jenks, OK) was disappointed with Buddy Dive’s boat dive options while there in June. “Three of us paid for boat dives when booking ahead, but the boats were full most of the time, so it was a waste of money. We were told to put our names on a board, but most times the board was full and I was told the boats were primarily for tour and dive groups. The boat dives I could go on were disappointing. One time, the captain just wanted to get the dive over with, argued with the divemaster about a site when the latter said the current was too strong, and would not go to another site the divemaster suggested. Buddy Dive did not seem to care that boat diving was part of our package, and they offered no compensation.”

Boat Alert at Bonaire Dive and Adventure, Den Laman. Helen Brown (Lakeville, MN) tells us that if you get a dive package, the clock starts running on day one. If you have a six-boat dive package, you have to use it in six days. “We were there for 10 nights and would have liked to have a day or two off in the middle of our stay, but had we done that, we would have lost a prepaid dive.” Kind of chintzy, we’d say.

Duty-Free Liquor Warning. If you’re carrying duty-free booze on board and are changing planes after going through U.S. Customs, you must check it before your next flight, otherwise you’ll lose your booze. Reader Lou Oberle (Cary, NC) purchased two bottles of good stuff at Bonaire’s Flamingo Airport, carrying them on board his flight. On the way to Atlanta, he was informed that any container of fluid or gel larger than three ounces purchased at Flamingo would need to be put in checked baggage for the connecting flight. Luckily, Oberle had enough time between flights to pack it away in his checked luggage. Otherwise, he would have had to leave it in Atlanta for the TSA to enjoy.

GiGi Divers, Roatan. Don Anderson (Sebastopol, CA) signed up with this new outfit during his Roatan trip in June. “Willie (pronounced Villie) DeBeer and Noelle Gatti run Moody Blues, their new 32-foot, custom-built dive boat with twin 200-hp engines. They don’t have a dive shop, but with one phone call they brought what gear we needed and picked us up at the nearest dock. We were allowed to extend our dives as long as safely possible. At Forty Foot Point, Willie held my BC while I videotaped creatures on the wall. Talk about a Steadycam! I would recommend their ‘personal touch’ dive experience to anyone.” (Contact them via e-mail at gatti.noelle@hotmail.com.)

Peter Hughes’ Paradise Dancer, Indonesia. A couple of issues ago, we reported dissatisfaction by a reader, and received e-mails from other readers exalting the craft. John Singer, Peter Hughes’ V.P. who runs the boat, told us that once the problem of crew smoking was disclosed, the crew has been prohibited from dropping their butts in the sea. Singer reminds us - - and future visitors - - that there is some garbage in the Lembeh Straits (that’s often where the critters hang out) and this is not the destination for constant pristine coral diving. It’s where sophisticated divers head for the unique diversity and plenty of muck diving with your macrolens poised. Unless you’re excited about looking for critters the size of a fingernail, you will have disappointing dives, even though you might come across such bizarre critters as the mimic octopus and rhionpious, those frilly scorpionfish. Have your expectations in order. (www.peterhughes.com)

Amoray Dive, Key Largo. Before you go to the Keys, no matter what shop you choose, find out what sort of guide requirements they have if you’ve been out of the water for a while. When Jorge More (Downers Grove, IL) chose Amoray Divers in August, he was told he and his son needed a guide if they hadn’t dived within the last year, at $40 a person and per dive. “I had dived many times but my son had not, although with 100 dives, some to 120 feet, he was not a beginner. But they were firm and I could not dive with them unless I also had a guide. The first dive’s maximum depth was 28 feet and the second was 30 feet, so there was no need for a guide. Then Amoray told me we needed a guide for Spiegel Grove because my son didn’t have four dives to at least 70 feet within the last year. We argued, but they wouldn’t budge. Be aware they have a lot of rules, which may not be made clear until the last minute. Its web site does state its rule about hiring a guide if your last dive was more than one year ago, but all these regulations added $140 to the cost of our dives.”

Thousand Islands, Ontario. Jeanne and Bill Downey (Baden, PA) recommend this part of the St. Lawrence River as a great area for technical diving and learning how to do it. “It’s an easy drive from many East Coast locations, the water is clear due to the zebra mussels, weather is seldom a factor, boat rides are short, the water is in the mid-70s in the summer, all skill levels can be accommodated, and there are many interesting things to do topside. The only negative can be the current.” They dived with Thousand Island Pleasure Diving in Rockport, making eight dives in five days, including the wrecks Keystorm with a maximum depth of 120 feet, the J.B. King at 150 feet, and the Kinghorn at 88 feet. Owner Wayne Green is very accommodating and the captains of his four boats know what they’re doing.” (www.islanddiver.ca)

Truth and Peace in California. In last month’s article “Dive Deals in the U.S.,” we wrote about dive boats going to California’s Channel Islands but mistakenly wrote that the Peace was part of Truth Aquatics’ fleet. The Peace sails out of Ventura, while Truth Aquatics’ boats - - Truth, Vision and Conception - - are based in Santa Barbara.

Reserve a Cabin, Then Take What You Can Get. Judith Kendall (Los Angeles) is a handicapped diver so she and a friend paid as early as possible to get one of the Celebes Explorer’s two cabins on the dive-deck level. “But upon arrival, we were dismayed that our booking arrangement was not honored and we were assigned to a cabin on the lower level. With no handrail leading down the steps to our cabin, I was very concerned about falling. Adding to my concern, staterooms provided the only restroom for each guest on the entire boat.” Kendall asked for a refund, which the Explorer refused. “Midweek, the captain read me a text message on his cell phone: ‘How are the old ladies doing?’ That was us!” She had other concerns about the boat and we’ve seen complaints from others, so be advised.

Blue Marine Diving, Seychelles. Bid a sad farewell to diving in these Indian Ocean islands. Stanley Zuk (New York, NY) dived with Blue Marine Diving on Praslin in August, and although the dive operation calls itself the “specialist of shark diving,” Zuk says sharks have disappeared. “I still saw big humphead parrotfish on some dives, turtles on every dive and a substantial amount of eagle rays, but no sharks, although they were there on my last trip three years ago. I found out why in a cruel way, when we had a surface interval on La Digue Island – a small fishing boat was unloading its catch, including a substantial amount of shark fins. The Seychelles are still a beautiful vacation spot but not for divers, not anymore.”

Car Rental Insurance for Amex Cardholders. We’ve warned about the need and expense of purchasing extended car-rental insurance for pickups and other big cars in places like Bonaire, but Marc Duggan (San Diego, CA) says American Express cardholders now have a good option. Their Premium Car Rental Insurance “seems to cover those types of vehicles, and for a lot less than the island rental companies charge.” The plan gives primary coverage for damage or theft, while its standard Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance option just offers coverage in excess of other sources of insurance. The premium plan covers all big cars in most countries. Charge the car rental to your Amex and pay a flat fee of $25 for $100,000 coverage ($16 for California cardholders). Details at: https://www152. americanexpress.com/fsea/travel/car_rental/product.do

Cuan Law, British Virgin Islands. Here’s an overlooked Caribbean liveaboard, a 105-foot trimaran, that ranks high in quality and service, says Terry Gee (El Paso, TX) who sailed in May. “Spacious boat, experienced owners and crew. The cabins are among the largest I’ve had on a liveaboard, with spacious bathroom and individual A/C. Top-quality buffet-style breakfasts and lunches, sit-down dinners, with never-ending snacks. Captain Steve enjoys running up the canvas when conditions permit. There are two Hobie Cats for guests to sail and three kayaks. Three dives a day, with a night dive if the vessel isn’t under sail. Diving is laid-back, but with excellent pre-dive briefings and personal help with gear and loading onto the tenders. Experienced divers can dive their own profiles while crew will show beginners the sights.” BVI diving is easy, pleasant, with few surprises; not many experienced divers return unless they are toting cameras. (www.bvidiving.com)

- - Ben Davison

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