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For Divers since 1975
The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
"Best of the Web: scuba tips no other
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October 2012    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 38, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Bahamas, Carriacou, Puerto Rico . . .

and choose from land-based or liveaboard options in the Galapagos

from the October, 2012 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

We get a number of readers' reports, which we bundle into an online Travelin' Divers Chapbook and send out to subscribers in December. Many reports deserve special note, because they inform you of new opportunities you might not consider, or to alert you to problems you might not want to face.

M/V Spree. If you've been diving for a while, you'll remember the M/V Spree as that bunkroom boat that dived the Gulf of Mexico's oil rigs. She now uses several ports to reach Florida's Dry Tortugas and the U.S.S. Oriskany, and Texas' Flower Gardens, but let us report on the recent addition to her itinerary -- Puerto Rico's Mona and Desecheo Islands, where, over the years, intrepid divers have traveled in hopes of finding the last remnants of big fish in the Caribbean. Brent Barnes (Edmond, OK) took a five-day journey in April. "A couple of land-based operations go to Mona from Puerto Rico, but that is rare, due to the distance and weather in crossing the rough Mona Passage. The Spree is not a luxury liveaboard but is functional. Owners Frank and Melanie are fun to dive with. They limit trips to about 18 divers; the lodging is bunk beds, with three inside heads and an outside head. Food is excellent and plentiful. There are virtually no diving restrictions, other than dive with a buddy unless you are solo certified. Planned no-decompression dives are not allowed. There are typically four to five dives per day, but the diving was somewhat disappointing. The first dives of the day were drift dives, with all divers dropped over the wall in a short timeframe and then each buddy pair picked up by the Spree itself. It was somewhat intimidating to see the 110-foot Spree barreling down on us, but Frank was a master at guiding the boat. I was impressed with the wall off Mona, which would rival the walls of the Cayman Islands, San Salvador or Cozumel. The coral was healthy and the visibility exceeded 150 feet. Other than a couple of nurse sharks, we did not see a single shark, dolphin or whale, and little pelagic life at all. We did see several eagle rays and a few turtles. Smaller fish were somewhat plentiful. I was amazed at the small number of larger grouper and jacks. Clearly, fishing pressure has had an impact on Mona and Desecheo." ( )

"Five divers got lost in the murk
and couldn't find the reef ledge
. . . this points out how a third
dive guide could be of benefit."

Carriacou. Years ago, I reported on a few fine dives off this sleepy little Caribbean island northwest of Granada. In August, Katja Gorjup (Maribor, Slovenia) sailed in, got certified by Lumbadive and reports that "Diane and Richard from Lumbadive have a lot of experiences and are full of joy for doing what they do. It was great having a friendly and calm instructor who was not just highly competent in leading me around the reefs, but also showed me a lot of interesting species. Seeing turtles, 100-plus different types of fish, lobster, octopus and so on, I always end up being enthusiastic about doing a next dive." In May, Isabelle Groleau (Toronto, ON), spent two weeks there, got her divemaster certification and reports "Two beautiful weeks of dives, two highly instructive courses, which will make me a divemaster, besides a better diver. I shall remember for a long time my dive to Mushroom." ( )

Galapagos by Land and by Sea. For experienced divers, a liveaboard is the only way to go around these islands, but some divers prefer to be land based, and there are indeed land-based operations here. For example, the Red Mangrove Dive Academy is based at the Santa Cruz Lodge, on Santa Cruz Island, and with two solid boats, they can get you to plenty of big fish action, although at $1,800 per person for four nights and four dives, it's not cheap. On the website, they note that "Red Mangrove is proud to be a paddy (sic) dive resort" ( ). Another option is Scuba Iguana, also on Santa Cruz Island, which Carlyle Stout (Ashland, OR) says "is very well run: good gear, good safety instruction, knowledgeable dive masters, thorough briefs before each dive, good boats and divemasters. Pelagics and fish life were fantastic: manta rays, eagle rays, hammerheads, Galapagos and white-tipped reef sharks, green sea tortoises and barracuda." ( )

If you do want a liveaboard, we have recent reports on the Humboldt Explorer. Hal Berson (New York, NY) chose it because "they did the most dives at Wolf and Darwin Islands, which are far better than the rest of the islands on this trip. They also depart on Monday morning instead of a Wednesday like most of the others, so this was good for conserving vacation days. The boat is relatively new and comfortable enough, though the beds are tight, and I often woke up with my arm or hip asleep. It's no high-end luxury cruise, but every member of the crew chipped in helping with wetsuits, getting into BCs, handing over cameras and fins. The panga drivers were outstanding, always there in advance of us surfacing, able to locate any pair who may have drifted from the main group, which happens in these tough currents. We used Leslie at Dive the Galapagos to book the trip and our land extension ( ). If you want to see whale sharks, a thousand hammerheads, a couple hundred silkies, and Galapagos sharks, turtles, dolphins, rays, fish, sea lions and free-swimming eels, then this trip is a must." ( )

Linda Rutherford (Montara, CA) was aboard the new 120-foot Wolf Buddy in August. "It has powerful twin water-jet engines that are quiet and provide a smooth ride. Not having a prop is safer for wildlife such as turtles and whales. The routine was to move, as quickly as possible, below surface surge and current to 30 feet below and meet up with others, then proceed as a group to a ledge at approximately 60 feet, crouch behind a large boulder, deflate the BC to rest motionless and wait for the fantastic display of fish to swim by -- nine-foot Galapagos sharks and hammerheads, huge whale sharks, manta rays, eagle rays and turtles. Large fish schools hindered visibility a bit when we were watching the exciting pelagic visitors. At times, there were strong currents and downcurrents. Pushing off the reef to follow the whale sharks into the blue, we had to be sure to remember to re-inflate our BCs to avoid being swept down. We had two good dive guides, but what would happen if one got sick? There were 16 people, divided into two groups, each with a guide. For the challenging conditions, it would be better to have a third dive guide available, for at least some of the dives. On the Mola Mola dive, the water was a cold, greenish, murky soup. Five divers got lost in the murk and could not find the reef ledge, where we waited for 20 minutes at 40 feet while the guide looked for them. In retrospect, divers could have been warned to take a compass reading on the wall, so they could have been swimming in the right direction. Again, this points out how a third dive guide would be of benefit. The lost divers surfaced and asked the dinghy crew where the dive guide was. The dinghy driver shrugged and indicated that he did not know. Our bubbles next to the cliff wall were not visible in the surge. Perhaps a tiny bit of apathy in the dinghy crew was a factor. A conscientious dinghy driver would know the dive plan and where divers should be." Interesting story. And regarding the compass, how many divers carry them -- and how many of those know how to use them? ( )

Cat Island. The Bahamas' 700 islands have several out-of-the way dive operations, and occasionally one is worth noting. In June, Jamie Pollack (New York, NY) went out with Epic Diving on relatively undeveloped Cat Island and was treated to oceanic white-tip sharks, reef sharks and silky sharks. "One diver saw a marlin pass by. They take you out for five days of shark diving, and you can be in the water for hours. Once they attract the sharks, they hang around for a long time. You get in the water first on snorkel to let the sharks get used to you. Then you can go on in dive gear. I didn't want to get out of the water, so my tank was passed to me right in the water! The water is crystal clear, and the weather was sunny and hot. My pictures came out amazing, as the sharks stay near the surface, and light from the sun reflects on the sharks beautifully. We even got the oceanic white-tips on the reef. These animals came right up to me and swam right by; they are beautiful and majestic. The season is only from April to June. There are two options for accommodations -- a house you can share with a group (which is what I did and liked a lot) or a hotel about 20 minutes away." ( )

- - Ben Davison

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