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January 2013    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 28, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Bonaire, Cozumel, St. Vincent…

legendary guide retires, dive shop disputes, and more

from the January, 2013 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Changes at Dive St. Vincent. This dive shop's owner, the legendary Bill Tewes ( if you've ever dived with him you'll know why he is legendary) has hung up his dive fins due to declining health. However, Dive St Vincent continues to run under the leadership of Callie Richards, who has worked with Bill for 23 years. Bill, after guiding dives in Papua New Guinea, opened his operation nearly three decades ago, and with his good eye for the small stuff, turned St. Vincent into the critter capital of the Caribbean. ( www.divestvincent.com )

Report from Bonaire. Longtime Undercurrent correspondent Carl Mintz (Washington, DC) visited Bonaire in November and sent me an important update about a popular dive operation, and other goings-on arpund the island. "There is quite a dispute going on between some Sand Dollar condo owners and Bonaire Dive and Adventure, the dive operation originally associated with Sand Dollar. If you call the reservations office in the U.S. and do not specifically ask for them as your dive operator, you will be pushed to use Dive Friends Bonaire, which recently opened a shop on the Sand Dollar property. While the Dive Friends operation is okay -- the people running the operation are friendly and helpful -- it is located at the back of the Sand Dollar property, so getting from the dive shop to the water's edge is somewhat of a chore if you dive Bari Reef in front of Sand Dollar. It is easier to use Bonaire Dive and Adventure because of its location, proximity to the dock, location of the tanks on the dock, the large gear room for hanging and storing gear, and the large rinse tanks - one is on the dock and the other is closer to the parking lot. Dive Friends currently has only a few small individual lockers with locks (several people in my group were short, so the upper lockers would be useless to them for storing gear) and one set of rather small rinse tanks. Dive Friends has no dock or pier of its own at Sand Dollar, and the shore entry/exit to Bari Reef is over rocky terrain, which could prove dangerous when the water is rough. For example, at my checkout dive on the first day, there was such a strong surge (unusual for Bonaire) that everyone needed assistance to get out of the water, the waves were that strong. Bonaire Dive and Adventure has a professional naturalist who leads dive trips (preceded by a detailed illustrated lecture), and also can take you out for birdwatching tours. ( www.sanddollarbonaire.com ; www.bonairediveandadventure.com )

"One of my favorite things is to dive with Dee Scarr, a naturalist and divemaster who really knows how to relate to the underwater creatures. She has been on the island for 30-plus years, knows the waters intimately, has an easy way with both new and experienced divers, and is adept at finding neat critters on her leisurely, unrushed dives. On one of them, I met up with nosy coneys and French angelfish, bristle worms, a 30-year old sponge, sharptail eels, morays, tarpon, cleaning stations, and a very shy octopus ( www.touchthesea.com ). Regarding restaurants, be advised that Bonaire is part of the Netherlands. Europeans still smoke a lot, and there are no rules about smoking and non-smoking sections in restaurants. It is disconcerting to go out for a fine dinner, only to have it spoiled by being seated next to folks who smoke throughout dinner."

Reef Environmental and Educational Foundation. REEF sponsors a number of interesting (and, to some extent, tax-deductible) trips to learn how to identify fish and help with the fish counts. Divers get great experiences and generally very good hotel accommodations or quality liveabords. Captain Jim Davis (Ponte Vedra Beach, FL) had no complaints about the diving and REEF program on his Cozumel trip last month, but cautions that most divers will do well to find a substitute for the assigned accommodations. "Being a long-time REEF member, I did not research the trip; the assumption was 'it's all good.' Safari Inn is bare bones and very noisy, with rooms no more than 50 feet from the busy, noisy main thoroughfare. Want cheap? This is it, with skimpy, uncomfortable beds, chairs and 'sofa,' an eight-foot piece of plywood with an inch of cushioning. Noisy A/C, a blanket the size of a small shawl, no phone, no TV, no refrigerator, a louvered door to the bathroom, with a sign saying 'no paper products in the toilet.' Out the door, it's an alley with a bit of trash hanging in a tree against a concrete wall. The photos I was sent made it appear the hotel was on the water. Not." If you're diving with Aqua Safari and want to lodge nearby, Davis recommends "spending a few more dollars to stay at the Casa Mexicana, perhaps a few hundred feet away, with a truly outstanding staff, furnishings, breakfast included, bar and lounge area, computers, TV, laundry service and elevator." See trips on REEF's 2013 schedule at www.reef.org

-- Ben Davison

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