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Dive Review of Aqua Cat in
Bahamas/Northern Exuma Cays

Aqua Cat, Oct, 2004,

by James Heimer, TX, USA (Contributor Contributor 15 reports). Report 1403.

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
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
UW Photo 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
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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