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Dive Review of Coiba Dive Center/Lost Coast Explorer in

March, 2008, an Instant Reader Report by Dana Fisher, TX, USA (1 report)
Report Number 4013
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
Over 1000 dives
Where else diving
Galapagos, Philippines, Solomon Islands, Soccoro, Palau, Truk, Belize, etc.
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, windy  
surge, currents  
Water Temp
77   to 81    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
15   to 30    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Generally one (1) hour max dive time or 750 psi.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
1 or 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  2 stars
Tropical Fish
3 stars  
Small Critters
  3 stars
Large Fish
1 stars  
Large Pelagics
  1 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
1 stars  
Boat Facilities
1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
1 stars  
Shore Facilities  
There were a few "still" cameras on board even though the Coiba
National Park bans all types of photo equipment both above and below the
surface.  There were no fresh water rinse tanks or any type of photo table
onboard.  Rechargeable batteries were handled in living quarters.  Very
happy that I did not take my video equipment as viz was so bad, there was
little to photograph.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
2 stars
3 stars
Service and Attitude
1 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
1 stars  
Shore Diving  
1 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
2 stars   
2 stars    
To begin with, the Boat operation and the Dive operation were run by
totally separate companies.  Therefore, they will be discussed separately.

The Lost Coast Explorer is an old Alaskan King Crab boat that has been
converted for use as a "Live Aboard" boat for various excursions.
 They take on SCUBA divers once every four (4) to six (6) weeks.  The
remainder of the time they cater to fishermen or surfers.  From the way
things were handled, they were much more comfortable with surfers than any
other group.  The rooms were small, but adequate.  The biggest drawback was
that two (2) rooms shared a bathroom, so you were often left "locked
out" so you would have to chase down the other party to have them
return to their room and unlock the door.  Additionally, there were no
"common area" heads on board for passenger use.  During the week
long excursion, there was no room service.  The beds were never made
(unless we made them) and there were no fresh linens or towels for the
entire week.  The food was adequate, however, the cook was also the server
so often times it was lukewarm at best.  There was no Air Conditioning in
the dining area and windows could not be opened.  Many meals were served on
the severely sloping back deck with no lighting.  With the salon/dining
area without A/C most time was spent in individual rooms as there was not
any covered space on board to "get out of the sun" between dives
and meals.  The two (2) tenders that were to be used by the dive operation
were nice boats but offered no cover on transit to and from dive sites. 
Many of the dive sites visited were up to 40 minutes transit time one way.

This leads to the Dive Operation, Coiba Dive Center, which was run by a
husband and wife team.  Along with themselves, they provided drivers for
the tenders and a deck hand to help with gear.  A stainless tube tank rack
had been built for eight (8) tanks(although we had 9 or 10 divers on a
boat) and placed in the front of the boat.  Unfortunately, they also welded
"lifting eyes" onto the top of two (2) corners creating a
hazardous condition.  The husband and wife (Glenn and Julie) served as the
dive masters for the two (2) boats.  Neither appeared to have great
knowledge of the dive sites, therefore we became explorers of sorts (this
was actually some of the limited fun of the trip) as new potential dive
sites were visited.  The boat drivers did an admirable job of maneuvering
the boats near the mother ship and at dive sites.  They were generally
close at the end of dives as the divers appeared on the surface.  The deck
hand, on the other hand did not have a clue as to what he was doing with
handling dive gear.  The trip leader and others began "helping
divers" with their gear so that all could get in the water reasonably
close together.  At one point, he placed a tank on the side of the boat
behind a diver then turned around to go to the other side of the boat
allowing the tank and BC to fall back into the boat and landing on the
lifting eye of the tank rack.  This split the BC (causing irreparable
damage) and putting a "gouge" into the new tank such that it had
to be removed from service.

On several of the dives there was a very wicked surge that was difficult
for even very well trained technical divers.  These were often in the
"unknown" dive sites to which we were taken.  There were also
some very strong surface currents that made entries a challenge.  Tag lines
or float lines were not put out, instead they had the diver hold on to a
rope then get "dragged" to the anchor line at the front of the
boat.  Sometimes the current would dissipate during the descent and other
times not.  On one dive this current stirred up the "mucky"
bottom so much that the dive was immediately aborted.  In general, the
overall visibility never exceeded 30 feet and most dive were in open ocean
rather than near the coastline.  Many were underwater outcroppings of rock
that afforded some small fish life but nothing spectacular.  The "big
stuff" was probably close, but due to poor visibility none was seen. 
The best dive of the trip was a 90 minute dive to a maximum depth of 14
feet.  During this dive while watching an octopus move rocks from a hole
two (2) Harlequin Shrimp were spotted.  We watched the shrimp playing and
the octopus moving rocks for about 20 minutes.  putting a hand down in
front of the octopus and he eventually came out and touched it.  As he
finally swam off to a new area we moved on as well.  This was undoubtedly
the high point of the trip.

All in all, it was an experience that is not high on the repeat list. 
Given time and more exposure to divers rather than fishermen or surfers,
this could be come a much better destination. The Dive Operation (Coiba
Dive Center) needs to do more research on the area and have a better
understanding of the skill levels of the divers on board.  This could he;p
them provide a much nicer experience than we had.  The Lost Coast Explorer
needs to understand that divers have "wet" items more so than the
other groups they are catering to, therefore be more attentive to towels
and linens and emptying trash from the rooms.  The two operations also need
to learn to work more closely together, assisting each other with daily
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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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