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Dive Review of Rainbow Reef Dive Center in
The Continental USA/Key Largo, FL

July, 2009, an Instant Reader Report by Tim Schultz, MO, USA (1 report)
Report Number 4961
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
0-25 dives
Where else diving
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

Water Temp
82   to 84    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
60   to 100    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Dive time  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  4 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  3 stars
Large Fish
2 stars  
Large Pelagics
  1 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
Boat Facilities
Overall rating for UWP's  
Shore Facilities  
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
3 stars
3 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
4 stars
Dive Operation
4 stars  
Shore Diving  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
3 stars    
4 stars   
2 stars    
We recently spent a week in Key Largo with the Rainbow Reef Dive Center. 
The dive center is located in a kiosk in the front parking lot of the
Ramada Limited, right next to the marina where their three boats are
docked.  The dive center is also easily gotten to from the Holiday Inn,
which is just on the other side of the marina.  All other accommodations
are just a little bit more of a hike (maybe 1-2 city blocks distant at
most.)  They recently opened up a storefront, just a little north of the

The Good: 
We went down to Key Largo to get our Nitrox and AOW certifications while
diving at an easy-to-get-to location (read: "cheap").  RRDC
offers discounts if you book hotel+diving through them, so reservations
were made for the Ramada and 5-days worth of diving through RRDC.  I got
reservation confirmations via email the next day.

The dive center and hotels are right next to a HUGE "Diver
Direct" store.  It is literally less than a five minute walk from the
hotels, and has pretty much everything.  We shopped there three times
during our trip for all kinds of nic-naks, including dive gear bags and new
mouth pieces for our regs.

The diving was wonderful most days.  Visibility started out very high, and
on the first dive saw a nurse shark, lots of lobster, and a large sting
ray.  Everyone we dealt with at RRDC was courtious and friendly.  Our
instructors (Sadie and Dean) were very knowledgeable and helpful.  For
example; my wife had some issues during the deep dive on the Spiegel Grove.
 Sadie was very patient, and helped her overcome the descent, and even held
her hand until she was comfortable.

RRDC is one of the few (only?) dive centers that supply a guide for free on
all dives.  This came in handy in areas where we were unfamiliar, and to
locate underwater life.  They are also very safety conscious.  Their
procedure for role call is to call out your name, and VISUALLY locate you
on the boat.  This happened consistently on every dive.  They even
prevented one diver from jumping back in to free-dive to go after his lost

The Bad: 
Did I mention they had three boats?  We were spoiled early in our trip
(starting on Tuesday) by going out with about 8 divers for the first few
days.  This changed on the weekend, and we ended up on cattle drives with a
total of 30 divers on our dives.  To aggravate the situation more, these
crowded days were also the choppiest days at sea.  Most of the divers with
us were newbies, and above-water and underwater collisions were constant. 
Once, while drifting 12 inches from a brain coral trying to take a macro
shot with my camera, another diver swam up between me and the coral!

Being cattle boats leads to another problem - lack of choice on dive sites.
 We did 10 dives total, and of those dives, we went to 6 unique places,
diving twice at two locations, and three times at another.  This was
decided by majority rule of the boat, which is understandable, but still
became a lesson learned.  6-pack boat operators are not that much more
expensive, and will be a consideration on the next trip.

The only other disappointment that was a surprise to us when we arrived was
the recent closure of their Islamorada facility.  We had hoped to jump down
there if we ran into the dive site issue that I mentioned above, in order
to utilize our purchased dives at different locations.  That obviously
didn't work out.

The Ugly:
Office management.  After successfully making reservations, I only received
one AOW book.  After three weeks, and three calls, I finally received the
other AOW book, and two Nitrox books.  Then, one week before our trip, RRDC
called to let us know that they were sorry, but had not shipped us our
Nitrox books, and wanted to let us know they were going to ship them!!??  

After arriving, I found out that they have gone through several office
managers, and the call regarding the Nitrox books was from a new one trying
to sort things out.  While the office mismanagement of our paperwork didn't
cause us great grief, it could lead to some serious issues for

The Bottom Line:
Overall, we had a pleasant experience, with no large vacation spoilers. 
Would probably not go with RRDC again due to the crowding issue, but the
dive operation itself seems very solid.  

A few tips:
1) Go to Sharky's pub for the fish 'n chips!!  Best mahi-mahi I had all
2) Don't go to Coconuts for the food (drinks are fine).  Very expensive,
and not that good.  3) Ocean Divers, next to Sharkys, has a good selection
very nice souvenir polo shirts (couldn't find them most anywhere else!) 
4) Don't buy coral from Shell World (or anywhere else for that matter...
most is harvested from living coral overseas).  
5) Doc's Diner, across from the Holiday Inn, has the best breakfast deal
(but get there early its popular!).
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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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