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Dive Review of Starfleet Scuba/rental home in
Panama/Bocas del Toro (Caribbean)

Starfleet Scuba/rental home, Sep, 2011,

by David Ritchie, CA, US ( 2 reports). Report 6297.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Fiji, Hawaii, Mexico West Coast, and Cozumel, California, many Caribbean islands, Nicaragua, Honduras
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, rainy, cloudy Seas calm, surge
Water Temp 82 to 83 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 30 to 40 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile ?
Enforced diving restrictions max 50 minutes, although if 1st in/last out some dives over an hours.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 3 stars Tropical Fish 2 stars
Small Critters 2 stars Large Fish 1 stars
Large Pelagics N/A

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

Subject Matter 2 stars Boat Facilities 1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 1 stars Shore Facilities 1 stars
UW Photo Comments Although not a photographer, there was no rinse tank on boat; camera was handled appropriately

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food N/A
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 3 stars
Dive Operation 3 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 2 stars
Comments We traveled via Panama City and spent two days there touring the locks, etc. That was worth the time on this three week trip. Regional air to Bocas charges excess baggage fees for over 30 lbs. We found a rental house on VRBO.com situated on the water on Isla Carenero, two minutes by water taxi from Bocas Town. Bocas Town is a backpackers haven with lots of hostels. Upscale hotels and resorts, some all-inclusive, are there too. Restaurant food is very good with lots of variety at half the cost of the US. Common US groceries are readily available. English is widely spoken and the currency is the US dollar. Chitres (sand flies) and mosquitoes abound.
October is a dry month with the calmest seas. It is a tropical rain forest, so dry is a relative term. Plan on rain. Lots of runoff clouds the water and deposits lots of silt on the bottom. The bottom is at 60 feet or less. Dive sites are mostly within ten minutes of the dive shops. The two sites purported to be the best are full day trips that we were unable to dive because the trips are six diver minimum. We were unable to fill the boat and decided the $400 to $500 cost for the two of us was too much to bear. What we did dive was mediocre. We ended up diving six days of our three week stay.
We dove off of covered pangas with outboards. Backroll or put on gear in the water. Exit by a reasonable ladder after handing up your gear. Tanks and BCs are loose on the boat bottom. Mouthpieces often are in the bilge water until you take care of it not a good thing. No first aid kit, no oxygen, no radio, no toilet facilities. Any communication with shore is by cell phone. No camera bucket. Bring your own water and snacks. The divemasters, particularly Manuel, were excellent, moved slowly, and were good at finding something of interest on almost every dive. We saw lots of brittle stars and arrow crabs, some interesting coral formations, toadfish and scorpion fish (Liz is quite good at spotting them), some lobsters, and lots of lionfish. Lionfish arrived in 2009. Lionfish roundups are done regularly. See ISpearLionfish.org. Lionfish and subsistence fishing have taken a toll on the fish population. This is a big turtle nesting area, but that happens in July and we saw no turtles. Fifty minute bottom time is enforced.
We dove the first day with Bocas Water Sports. They accept PayPal, which gets around foreign transaction fees on your credit card. We did the rest of our dives with Starfleet because they would pick us up and return us to our private dock. These and one other are PADI operations. There are two additional shops in Bocas Town. Starfleet offers three day open water courses and three day advanced courses which are popular with the backpack crowd.
The beaches are beautiful, the rainforest flora and fauna are interesting, and the ambiance is neat. We got the diving that we expected based on other Undercurrent reports. We regret that we were unable to do the all day trips to what may have been better 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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