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Dive Review of Golden Rock Divers/Old Gin House in
St. Eustatius

Golden Rock Divers/Old Gin House, May, 2003,

by Sandy Falen, KS, USA (Sr. Contributor Sr. Contributor 24 reports with 4 Helpful votes). Report 505.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Guanaja, Cayman Brac, Little Cayman, Saba, Tobago, Dominica, Belize, Costa Rica, Grand Turk, South Caicos, Los Roques, Bonaire, Curacao, San Salvador, Fiji
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas choppy
Water Temp 78 to 79 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 0
Water Visibility 40 to 80 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions None - dive your computer.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics 2 stars

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 3 stars Shore Facilities 1 stars
UW Photo Comments The boats and shop had no specific accomodations for photographers, although a salt water bucket was provided to keep equipment wet and protected on the return boat ride. Given the short distance to reefs, and the time between dives, the lack of special facilities was not a problem.

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

Accommodations 3 stars Food 2 stars
Service and Attitude 1 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments St. Eustatius ("Statia") is a step back in time: a Caribbean island with limited development, and roaming goats, donkeys, cows and chickens at every turn. The diving is relaxed, and the reefs are healthy.

The reefs of Statia were covered with giant barrel sponges and large, beautiful gorgonians, along with tunicates of every color. We noticed a great deal of brown algae, although we were told it alternately grows and recedes. Statia seemed to have less coral bleaching than I've observed in other Caribbean destinations.

The fish life appears healthy and fairly abundant. Huge spiny lobster were seen on virtually every dive sometimes 10 or more in one crevice. It seemed to be "mating season" for many of the critters, given the level of activity on the reefs, and the number of juvenile fish observed. Interesting finds included burrfish, mating coral crabs, fighting lobsters, a school of six tiny juvenile drums, a yellow phase coney, king mackerel, nurse sharks, hawksbill turtles, very large angels, friendly morays, numerous large stinrays, and one yellow seahorse. The fish, in general, seemed more curious and less fearful than typical, which may be due to the small number of divers that visit the island, as well as the marine park protection.

We encountered currents on a few dives, but nothing too serious. When the currents slowed down mid-week, the vis fizzled, too, dropping to 40 feet on some occasions.

The staff at Golden Rock ("GR") was friendly and accommodating. Divemasters Benji and Annouck were terrific but don't look for them there in future, as they're moving to Bonaire. GR just took delivery on a new boat a large pontoon that's fast and has tons of space in which to spread out. We often went out on the older, smaller boat, but had no complaints; the boat ("Stumpy") was more than adequate and GR was making an effort to separate divers based on expected dive profiles -- which we appreciated greatly. We were diving Nitrox exclusively, and found it to be a huge advantage with Statia diving. The reefs are fairly deep, and without Nitrox, dive times would be significantly shorter. Several divers found blue beads at the infamous Blue Bead Hole; and while I didn't find an artifact, I found the dive site to be utterly fascinating for its critters including flying gurnards ("walking" along the bottom), sailfin blennies, jawfish, garden eels, and juvenile fish of a multitude of species.

The Old Gin House does have its charms, but I wouldn't list the wait staff among them. Service at the ocean side bar/restaurant was surly and rude, or simply non-existent. The breakfast that's included in the dive/hotel package is marginal. While it was to include cook-to-order eggs, the staff seemed to resent having to make the effort, and sometimes didn't bother. Bacon appeared or disappeared, depending on their mood. For cold drinks in the afternoon, I resorted to serving myself including writing up my own ticket. We asked for ice cream several times and were told there was none, although I later noticed a large container of it in the main kitchen's freezer, when I retrieved some ice for my room. The fabulous cuisine I'd heard raves about never materialized, as the chef was on vacation for the entire 10 days of our stay. Of course, no one bothered to warn us about that ahead of time, or even upon check-in. Finally after two days of seeing no activity in the main restaurant, I inquired of the staff. I was told a guest chef would be arriving the next day, but that never happened, either.

The pool-side rooms are roomy and clean, with nice furnishings, but have almost no natural light. The beds were comfortable, there was decent water pressure and plenty of hot water, and the a/c worked well, but unfortunately, there was no in-room frig. The pool area could use a bit of sprucing up, and the pool itself needed a good scrubbing. The ocean front rooms were quite nice, but unless you spend a lot of time in your room, they probably aren't worth the price differential.

Lunches next door at Golden Era Hotel were very good and reasonably priced. I would also recommend Intermezzo, the coffee shop in town (which makes fresh bagels and Panini sandwiches), as well as Ocean View Terrace for wonderful grilled fish. Meals in "upper town" were generally less expensive than along the water front, and you really earn your dinner climbing that steep road up the cliff.

It's worth the climb to explore Fort Oranje, and I was treated to a personal introduction to the historical museum, courtesy of the charming gentleman on duty. Statia is loaded with colorful history, and the locals are friendly and happy to share it. This island is very much "old Caribbean," and well worth a visit. Don't go if you're looking for fancy resorts and night life, and non-diving companions might be better left at home.
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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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