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Dive Review of Aqua Cat in
Bahamas/Northern Exuma Cays

October, 2004, an Instant Reader Report by James Heimer, TX, USA
Contributor   (15 reports)
Report Number 1403
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
251-500 dives
Where else diving
Hawaii, S & N California, Norway, Belize, Honduras Bay Islands, Cancun,
Puerto Vallarta, Tahiti, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Bonaire
Closest Airport
Getting There

		

Dive Conditions

Weather
sunny, windy, dry  
Seas
choppy, surge  
Water Temp
79   to 82    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
0
Water Visibility
10   to 50    Feet  
 
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
yes  
 
Enforced diving restrictions  
Max depth 130 feet  
Liveaboard?
yes 
Nitrox Available?
N/A 
What I saw
Sharks
Lots 
Mantas
None 
Dolphins
None 
Whale Sharks
None 
Turtles
1 or 2 
Whales
None 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Corals
  3 stars
Tropical Fish
3 stars  
Small Critters
  3 stars
Large Fish
3 stars  
Large Pelagics
  3 stars
 
 
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
4 stars  
Boat Facilities
4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
4 stars  
Shore Facilities  
N/A  
Comments
Camera table in the center of the dive deck provided adequate and safe
storage between dives and room to set up cameras. Two large rinse tanks for
camera gear on the dive deck; also low pressure air to blow equipment off. 
Photo processing on board.  Limited facilities to display digital photos
(computer with 17" lcd screen, and had to compete with crew (doing
daily accounts) to download cameras to CD's.  Computer had Photoshop for
editing.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Accommodations
5 stars
Food
5 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
N/A
Dive Operation
3 stars  
Shore Diving  
3 stars  
Snorkeling
N/A  
 
 

Overall Rating

Value for $$
N/A    
Beginners
4 stars   
Advanced
4 stars    
Comments  
The Aqua Cat is a new (2002) catamaran purpose built dive boat with a well
thought out lay out.  The cabins are spacious, comfortable, and clean with
plenty of storage space and an ensuite bathroom with shower (we never ran
out of hot water!).  The salon is large and easily handled the 20 divers on
board for meals with a separate area for dive briefings and
"lounging." There were plenty of topside areas for sunning or
enjoying the scenery (or dining al fresco).  The dive deck was well
designed with plenty of room to suit up and easy access to the water
directly form the deck or by steps to the dive platform.  The only
critiques are that there were no rinse tanks for gear, but there were
shower stalls on the dive deck that could be used while removing gear, and
the rails for hanging wet suits were crowded.

The diving suffered somewhat from the recent hurricanes in the area
(northern Exuma Cays and area around Nassua).  There was a lot of silt on
the bottom that was easily stirred up by a fin kick, and there was a
noticeable absence of conch and other bottom dwellers, since the sand areas
were buried by 6 to 8 inches of fine muck; there was a lot of sand on the
hard and soft corals.  Sharks and rays (eagle and sting rays), morays, and
turtles were seen by someone on all dives, and there was a variety of deep
diving on walls and shallower dives on the reefs, mostly around Highbourne
Cay.  The captain did his best to find sites with good visibility, low
current, and relatively calm conditions without swells.  That meant moving
the boat a lot (usually did only one dive per site), and 4 to 6 foot swells
with light chop were commonly encountered.  We did two "high
speed" drift dives from the Aqua Cat, which were a lot of fun.

The dive staff was competent, but kept pretty much to themselves (with some
exceptions).  Most problematic was that the dive platform was not manned at
all times that divers were in the water.  The dive staff usually went up to
the dive deck after most divers came out of the water, and several times my
wife and I had to call up to get someone to assist us with our cameras at
the end of the dive.  However, during the roughest exit, swimmers were put
in the water to assist with cameras, fins, and other gear, which was much
appreciated.  Dive breifings were cursory.  The dive staff usually did not
know where the boat was with respect to the mooring, and no one was put in
the water to check current and visibility before the dive began.

My wife and I completed a trip on the Nekton Pilot to the NW Bahamas
(Bimini area and around Grand Bahama) in July before the hurricanes hit. 
The diving and dive staff were better on the Pilot (now in Belize, with the
Norqual doing the NW Bahamas route), but the Aqua Cat has the better
facilities.  I would dive the Nekton again, and the Aqua Cat if it went
somewhere else for the diving. 
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.


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