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Dive Review of Sea Saba/Iris House in

August, 2011, an Instant Reader Report by Mark Thorne, NC, US
Contributor   (13 reports)
Report Number 6175
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
501-1000 dives
Where else diving
Throughout Caribbean
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

no currents  
Water Temp
82   to 85    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
50   to 75    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Yes, Limit to 110 feet with Nitrox 32  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  5 stars
Tropical Fish
5 stars  
Small Critters
  5 stars
Large Fish
Large Pelagics
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
4 stars  
Boat Facilities
4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
4 stars  
Shore Facilities  
Staff friendly and helpful with UWP gear. Camera tank is saltwater.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
4 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
4 stars
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
3 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
3 stars   
5 stars    
Why do I love diving? The answer to this simple and complex question is
found on a small Caribbean Dutch island called Saba.  For almost 20 years
now, my wife and I have devoted several weeks a years to diving somewhere
in the Caribbean.  While we tend to enjoy every location  we visit, we
absolutely love Saba. So let me count the ways...
The Thrill...The simple act of arriving and departing this little paradise
gets your heart beating.  With its aircraft carrier-sized 1300 foot runway
planted onto the only horizontal piece of land on the island, you get your
monies-worth on this short 15 minute hop to/from St. Maarten to Saba. 
Whether making that last minute 90 degree left turn just before landing or
seeing yourself catapult off the end of the runway  barely  over the ocean
below while taking off, Saba plane rides always guarantee to deliver a
Beauty Queen...Saba is called the "Unspoiled Queen", a name that
truly fits this place.  Words seem to fall short when trying to describe
the dramatic and majestic vistas seen at almost every hair-pin turn on
Saba's rugged winding road from the airport near "Hell's Gate"
then up, up, uphill to "Windwardside" which is perched  1,400
feet above sea level and is near Saba's geographic center and the home of
SeaSaba Dive Center.  Staying in Windwardside means you are living
literally amongst the clouds as they pass you by like mammoth cruise liners
in the's very cool!  From Windwardside, you take a delightful 20
minute taxi, (usually a well equipped minivan), to a super-steep downhill
adventure ride to the island's only harbor near the island's capital aptly
named "The Bottom".  Oddly enough, we passengers enjoy the taxi
ride down, with its breathtaking scenery, almost as much as we do the
diving itself.  
Enchanted Forest...I would not be exaggerating to say that the landscapes
of Saba have a kind of Hobbitsville quality about them.  Mostly nestled on
mountain and hillsides, all houses, (most of which are small and quaint),
have red roofs, white siding, and green shutters.  Many of the houses have
a ruffled-looking trim giving an old-world charm and mystique.
Non-diving on Saba does not mean nothing to do, far from it.  Assuming you
are generally fit, there is a lot of exciting exploring to do.  Because
this place is so hilly, anyone with impaired mobility would likely have a
difficult time on Saba. Saba's many hiking trails offer both weekend and
serious hikers/climbers fantastic outings.  Lush green canopies offer up
singing competitions between tree frogs, tropical birds, goats, and
chickens.  Often these tropical trails give way to up and down steep rocky
pathways, all with frequent sightings of the gorgeous Caribbean sea calling
you down from below.
Surprising Culinary Pleasures...To add to all of the physical and visual
sensory experiences on Saba, the many restaurants are a truly pleasant
surprise with very good food.  How such a small group of islanders pulls
this off is impressive.  My favorite restaurant is The Brigadoon with its
unreal cheesecake like no other I've tried and a melt-in-your-mouth prime
rib...yummy...need I say more.   We ate at many places on the island and
were never disappointed. Additionally, because we had a villa with a fully
equipped kitchen, we got groceries from several of the grocery stores in
Windwardside.  We usually made our own breakfast and lunch and ate out for

Undersea Treasures...Although I am completely enamored by all of the
topside sights, sounds, tastes, and activities, it is the diving that makes
Saba my top Caribbean dive destination.  Like most Caribbean dive locations
today, large pelagics and fish are not frequently seen, however, the health
and diversity of the coral, fish, and critters here is by far better than
any of the dozens of places I have been to in the Caribbean over the past 2
Additionally, there is a healthy diversity in the makeup of each dive site
from another.   Deep dives are often deep peaks of underwater
mountain/volcanoes rising just 85 to 100 feet below the surface of the
water.  These pinnacles offer an exciting experience as they gradually
appear through the blue water as you descend down the mooring line.  There
are also a large number of mid and shallow dive sites that are all less
than a 15 minute boat ride away.
SeaSaba Divers...Although, I have long since exhausted my superlatives on
the above and below water jewels of Saba, I cannot say enough about the
people who put all of this together to give the visiting diver an
experience of a lifetime.  SeaSaba, with its owners Lynn & John and
their staff, consistently go beyond expectations, and reminds me of why I
love diving.  It's not just one thing, it's the combined encounters from
their corny jokes, friendliness, attention to safety, and their own genuine
enjoyment of diving.  I found an instant rapport and commonality with all
the people at SeaSaba.  They are truly the magic behind majesty of Saba.
So yes, I am in love with everything about Saba.  It people, its rugged
beauty, and its ever inspiring priceless underwater riches.  I cannot get
enough of Saba and I hope to be back soon.

Note:  Windwardside is one of Saba's three main towns and it is the main
base for most of the visiting divers, with a dozen or more places to stay,
all with awesome views of the mountains and valleys below.  On my 2 visits
to Saba just recently and last year, I have stayed at Hummingbird House and
Iris House, both great places.  From what I hear from other divers on our
boat, Cottage Club & Juliana's are also great stays.  For advice and/or
assistance on where to stay or dive packages, I use Beth Jansen from
DiveSaba.Com. Beth is the ultimate Saba travel agent with deep connections
to the people of Saba.  I found her online and she is a great resource on
Saba. (I have no connection or financial interest to any entity or person
in Saba so my advice is from direct experience only.)
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