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Dive Review of Riding Rock in
Bahamas/San Salvador

May, 2009, an Instant Reader Report by Sandy Falen, KS, USA
Sr. Contributor   (23 reports, with 3 Helpful votes)
Report Number 4839
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
Over 1000 dives
Where else diving
All over the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Tonga, Fiji, Palau
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

Water Temp
75   to 76    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
80   to 100    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Dive time limited to 45 minutes.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  1 stars
Tropical Fish
1 stars  
Small Critters
  1 stars
Large Fish
3 stars  
Large Pelagics
  3 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
2 stars  
Boat Facilities
4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
2 stars  
Shore Facilities  
3 stars  
Rinse bucket on board.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
3 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
3 stars
Dive Operation
4 stars  
Shore Diving  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
3 stars   
2 stars    
San Salvador is a terrific, little island. It's uncrowded, and has some of
the friendliest people I've ever encountered in the hospitality industry. 
I flew AA to Nassau, then took the Bahamas Air puddle-jumper to San Sal,
and my travel went off without a hitch.

Riding Rock is clean, with plenty of hot water, decent beds, and good,
plentiful food -- the conch chowder & warm Bahamian bread makes for a
fabulous start to a post-dive lunch.  Breakfast choices were excellent, and
the quality of the food and the cheerful dining staff made every meal fun
and satisfying.

The marina is an easy walk from the rooms.  Riding Rock's boats were roomy,
and the staff is great.  Manager Lynne knows the business, runs an
efficient operation, and she's also a lot of fun. The boat usually leaves
the dock at 8:30 for 2 morning dives, returning by 12:30-1:00. That allows
plenty of time for a relaxing lunch before the afternoon boat departure at

For me, this was a return to San Sal after a previous visit in 1997, and I
was stunned and saddened to see the state of the reefs. The amount of dead
coral was breathtaking, with huge areas of the reef covered in algae. This
was seen both in shallow areas, and along the walls at depth. As to the
cause, I'm no marine biologist, but I was told the water temps often hit
85-86 in the summer. Additionally, we were told that the temperature spiked
even higher a few years ago.  Whatever the cause, I'd guess a die-off of
80% or more on many of the sites I visited.  One stunning exception was a
dive site near the tip of the island, where the currents are cooler and
more consistent. At that location, the coral was far healthier, and the
fish life more abundant.

In addition to coral death, San Sal is plagued by the now-infamous lion
fish invasion.  My friends and I were amazed to see multiple lion fish on
every single dive -- they were deep, shallow, in rubble, on sand, and along
the walls -- in short, they were everywhere.  Riding Rock is no longer
making a practice of killing them, due to past issues with shark aggression
around speared fish; and to be fair, it may well be a lost cause.

Unfortunately, I don't think it a coincidence that, coupled with the
proliferation of lion fish was a paucity of tropical fish. In all my
Caribbean diving, I have never been so astounded at the lack of even small
tropicals. I wanted to cheer when I finally spied a pair of butterfly fish
on about day three. From what I've read, lion fish are voracious eaters
that can consume an astounding number of fish, and they have no natural
predators in the Atlantic or Caribbean.  I fear for diving as this
non-native species continues to spread.

Yes, we saw sharks almost daily -- usually deeper and along the wall -- and
the sightings did include one hammerhead.  There were some good-sized
barracuda, turtles, frequent stingray sightings, and a surprising number of
grouper -- including a few friendly ones who will follow divers around like
big, wet puppies. The dive staff is trying to encourage local fisherman not
to place fish traps at the dive sites, but it's a constant battle, as we
swam past several traps during the week.

There is much to love about San Salvador and Riding Rock -- the excellent
vis, the wonderful locals, the comfortable accommodations, good food, and a
first-rate dive operation. I would love to give it a five-star
recommendation.  Unfortunately, due to the condition of the coral and the
depletion of the tropical fish, I doubt that I'll return.

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