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Dive Review of Caribstu/Top River Pearl in
Trinidad and Tobago/Speyside

Caribstu/Top River Pearl, Jul, 2010,

by Richard W Zuckerman, IL, US ( 1 report). Report 5840.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Dominica, Saba, Puerto Rico, USVI, AVI, Bahamas, Tuks & Caicos, Cuba, Roatan, Costa Rica, Cozumel, Hawaii, Florida Keys, Monterey Bay, North Carolina,
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather rainy Seas choppy, currents
Water Temp 78 to 80 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 30 to 75 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Diving permitted within limits of computer. Divemaster led every dive.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? no

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 4 stars
Large Pelagics 2 stars

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 2 stars Shore Facilities 1 stars
UW Photo Comments Caribstu's boat had been sunk and was in drydock. We were not informed of this before or after we booked and not until we arrived at the dock for first dive. Stu had hired local boat captain/divemaster and we dove from his boat. No camera facilities whatsoever. Used a Sea & Sea 860. Did not take a lot of pictures. Caribstu's own boat had a complete camera table setup and facility that would appeal to the most ardent photographer.

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food N/A
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling 3 stars
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments Caribstu-Stuart Samson-is a very experienced diver's diver who has created a concierge-style diving experience in Tobaga. My wife and I flew to Tobaga through Trinidad from Bonaire via Curacao. We had spent our eighth bi-annual week at Bruce Bowker's Carib Inn so we had already been spoiled by small boat crowds and the comforts of Bonaire. We always combine Bonaire with another destination. We paid premium prices to dive with Stu based on his extensive website and reviews we had read. I am a Master Scuba and my wife is AOW. We have extensive Caribbean diving experiences including liveboard, boat and shore diving.

We had decided to stay in Charlotteville as Stu was based out of there and we were able to find Top River Pearl apartments. We rented a car at the airport and, after adjusting to the English drive and road rules we drove to Charlotteville. TRP is an apartment building set in a hillside above the town. Beautiful views of the ocean, town and rainforest. Apartments are nice with basic cooking appliances and decent beds. In high season there is an expresso bar on site. Unfortunately, Stu's covered, beautifully appointed 28' pirogue was in drydock undergoing extensive repairs and Stu had arranged for a boat in Speyside with a local boat captain/divemaster-Anthony.. We had to drive each day to Speyside and were limited to diving that side of the island. The boat had no canopy or camera table but did have a rinse tank for cameras. Stu did not offer any refunds or reductions in his substantial fees even with the boat change.

Although we were in Tobago during the rainy season the diving was still impressive. We had contracted with Stu for 6 dives over 3 days. We were the only two divers so the daily 2 tank dives were built around our requests and our profiles. Briefings were in-depth and comprehensive. All entries were back rolls off the side of the boat. Most dives were drift dives and recovery on a boat ladder hung off the side. First day we dove Black Jack Hole which was basically a check-out and 'get to know you' dive. Visibility was limited due to the runoff from Venezuela. Reefs were pristine and in great condition. Depths were never in excess of 90'. Dive were at a leisurely pace with ascent and safety stops beginning with first diver to reach 1000 psi. Anthony saw a Manta on the surface while we were down. Surface interval was at Goat Island. Second dive was at Angel Reef with huge Angel Fish and healthy corals. Strong current at entry point but no problems on dive.

Second day of diving started with Stu being unable to dive due to back spasms. Anthony became divemaster and Stu became boat captain. Anthony took us to Coral Gardens where we saw turtles. Surface interval was at Goat Island. Second dive was Kelliston Drain which contains the world's largest brain coral. Also saw nurse sharks on this dive. Visibility on both dives was adequate but not exceptional. Anthony did a very nice job leading the dives.

Third day we dove with Stu. Dove Cathedral off of goat island. Maximum depth of 60 feet. Lots of Garden Eels and and more Angelfish. Surface interval included snorkeling and drinks and fruit, which we had on every dive. Last dive was at Spiny Bay where we saw a giant free-swimming Moray eel out sunning himself on a rock. Also saw flounder and very large sea fans and soft corals.

Pros-Stu is very safety conscious. Water on every trip for hydration. When my wife exhibited skin bends after last dive he gave her oxygen, called DAN, tried to contact the local dive doctor and would have taken her to chamber if necessary. Dives were slow and at our pace not the divemaster. Stu also put us in touch with a guide for rainforest trip. Overall we appreciated the level of service we received although we certainly paid for it.

Cons-The previously described issues with the boat. The visibility conditions due to runoff which were obviously beyond Stu's control. The lack of Mantas and other large fish. (Again, not Stu's fault.) The fact that Stu may be moving to Trinidad and may not be available in the future.

Assessment-If you are looking for a private guide experience on a remote island with unique diving experiences in a laid-back atmosphere this is the place for you. We would definitely go back during the dry season when the visibility is 100' or more and the mantas and sharks are back in the colder water. Tobago is a South Pacific-like island close to home. The experience is well worth the effort of getting to Trinidad and Tobago.
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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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