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Dive Review of Hawaiian Scuba Shack/Bay Club at Waikoloa Beach Resort in
Hawaii/Big Island

Hawaiian Scuba Shack/Bay Club at Waikoloa Beach Resort, Dec, 2009,

by Carol Thompson, FL, usa (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 11 reports). Report 5295.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Bonaire, Curacao, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, central FL, SE FL, FL Keys, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, Turks&Caicos, Nassau, Costa Rica, Hawaii - Maui and Big Island, Cozumel
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy Seas choppy
Water Temp 75 to 77 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 50 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions [Unspecified]
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 2 stars Tropical Fish 3 stars
Small Critters 2 stars Large Fish 1 stars
Large Pelagics 2 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 3 stars Boat Facilities 1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 1 stars Shore Facilities 1 stars
UW Photo Comments No devoted camera table on board. We were told, however, they'd set up a rinse container for us, but when we were on board and didn't see anything, we asked if they'd put some water in a bin. Smith refused. He said they'd "dump a little fresh water" over the camera during the surface interval. Not only unaccommodating in this regard, totally unacceptable practice for treatment of expensive UW photo equipment. Not pleased.

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 5 stars Food N/A
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation N/A Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling 3 stars
Value for $$ 2 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 2 stars
Comments This is NOT Charley Neal's Scuba Shack, which is on Maui. The owner of this one, Jay Smith, wanted to be perfectly clear about that up front. Smith drives the boat, while the "captain" is reduced to being a deck hand. Boat leaves out of Honokohau. Smith also acts as divemaster. He was good, finding a few small things and putting an urchin down in front of a big conch so that we could watch the conch devour it. Disappointingly, no whales. We heard they had made it only as far as Maui.

One big caution with this operator. Smith is a something of a moving target. When we arrived early in our trip, we were told that the full price is $129 per 2 tank guided trip, but if there were at least 2 other divers, the price goes down to $119. If there were more than 2 other divers, supposedly, it could go down "as far as $109 or even $99." This is what Mark who runs the shop on the weekends told us. So of course, we asked what days during the week had divers scheduled. We were told Monday or Tuesday. We said we'd set up for Tuesday.

Guess what? No other divers, so full price. BTW, $129 is standard for most operators on the island.

We then set up to do the afternoon and manta night dive, which costs the same as the morning 2 tank trip. Mark had told us that Jay is an electrical contractor, and his lights are so much bigger and better than anyone else's and we'd be blown away by all the mantas. When we got there, he had two other divers working on their certification and one snorkler. No mention of the price being lower - we were charged the full $129. When we said that we were told it would be less, we got from Jay that instead, he would let us take 2 tanks and weights ($11) for free for shore diving, if we booked 2 other shore dive days. And since he had 2 certs to worry about, the dive, although full price, was unguided for us.

Two mantas on our night dive, but many other dive boats there so it got crowded and silty from all the kicked up sand. Plus, since Jack's Diving Locker had put out their small light set-up, Jay never cracked out his much-vaunted lights, which was the whole reason why we were told going with him would be totally awesome/so much better than anyone else.

My mask frame broke on our first day while snorkeling. My lenses are prescription. Jay said he thought he could fit them in another mask. In the meantime, Mark offered us a few options that he told us were used masks, supposedly at a "deal" price. I found one that was a little stronger scrip than I needed, but I thought OK - if it's a deal. Guess what? No deal. Jay said it was brand new so it was full price. Another moving target.

Jay found another Akona to put my lenses into. He had said at first it would run $60 to do so. A little steep, since the other masks without lenses in his shop seemed to run about $39. But we said OK. When we picked it up, it had changed to $69. My husband objected. Jay reverted to his original quote.

The boat is not well set up nor comfortable. Wherever we stood, we seemed to always be in the way. The only shade is at the wheel, where there's only room for one other person to stand. No marine head. Sunglasses and hats, things you don't want to get wet, have to be locked up in a box, and it couldn't be unlocked if the boat was moving. So most times I ended up blind as a bat during the ride between dives. Smith said the boat would take 12, but he never takes more than 6. I have news for him. Six would be a crowd for this boat.

Skip the sandwiches offered. The captain/deck hand makes them, touching everything as he does, without benefit of hand sanitizer. Not good. One of the other divers had a sandwich and the bread was moldy. My husband had a Coke Zero that tasted plain nasty. I looked on the bottom of the can, and the date said "11/12/2007." More than 2 years out of date?? You've gotta be kidding...

Honokohau Harbor was a good shore dive. It was one of the sites Smith took us on the boat, which was just drive outside the marina and stop - not what we would have chosen had we known it was shore accessible, certainly not for $129. Two-Step was a dependable shore dive as always, but it was a snore. Not much in the way of interesting stuff, no schools, but several of the usual tropical suspects in lesser numbers than in previous trips. No turtles, which we always saw there before.

Smith prides himself on being safety conscious. But when we told him not to get alarmed that we often buddy breathe with my husband using my octo (good to practice) he immediately told us not to do that, that we should only do that in cases of emergency . On our afternoon dive, we were baffled when we saw him hanging out by the boat, all by himself, the new certs having boarded already. He stayed down there for at least another 25 minutes after we boarded, making my husband and me very uneasy. We thought perhaps he had missed us when we took our safety stop and was looking for us. The captain said no, that Smith does that "all the time" because he "likes to breathe up all his air." Huh? Great example to set for new certs who are instructed not to ever dive alone.

All in all, it's an OK operation, good perhaps for newbies, but it's bound to be a bit disappointing for experienced divers.
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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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