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Dive Review of Tilden's Scuba Center/Blackfin Resort in
The Continental USA/Florida Keys

July, 2011, an Instant Reader Report by Patricia , La, US
Sr. Contributor   (24 reports, with 1 Helpful vote)
Report Number 6131
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
251-500 dives
Where else diving
Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, Cayman Brac, Cozumel, St Eustatius,
Bahamas, Florida Key, Curacao, Bonaire
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, windy, rainy  
choppy, surge  
Water Temp
84   to 86    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
15   to 40    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
time limit  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  3 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  4 stars
Large Fish
2 stars  
Large Pelagics
  1 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
4 stars  
Boat Facilities
4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
4 stars  
Shore Facilities  
4 stars  
When asked, Tilden's set up a camera tank and ensured that no masks went
into it.  
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
2 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
4 stars
Dive Operation
4 stars  
Shore Diving  
4 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
3 stars    
4 stars   
4 stars    
Arrived in Miami about 1.5 hours late, AA was late coming in to MSY and so,
we were late leaving. Met Natalie at the airport and proceeded to get our
rent car and head to the Embassy Suites (airport) for the night. Got there
too late for dinner, and though starving, went to bed sans dinner. Got up
early, took luggage down to the car, grabbed some coffee and headed out to
the Keys. Stopped on the way at a McDonald, got some coffee and a bit of
breakfast and then drove on. Got to Florida City, stopped at the Starbucks
and got more coffee, so I could continue the drive. Arrived in Marathon and
checked into the hotel by 10:00 AM. Checked in at the dive shop  produced
c-cards (or rather, had them look mine up, since I left my log book and
c-cards at home  dumb!) The plan was to do 14 dives in 3.5 days, depending
on weather, etc. 

On all dives there was surge, but the last two days it increased quite a
bit and the viz dropped from 35 to 40 feet maximum to 15 to 20 feet at
best. On dives where the viz started out at 35 to 40 by the end of the dive
it would drop to 15 to 20 when the green came onto the reefs. The water
temps were consistent at about 84 degrees and required only lycra shorts
and short sleeved lycra top. 

BTW - what is a dive trip without an injury?  I have never managed to do
one dive trip without hurting myself somehow - can we say klutz?   This
time I was walking through the boat before the first dive when my right
foot (left side) hit the metal clamp thingy-majiggy that held the cover
down over the boat motor.  Nice and purple/black for two days, limping on
day 1 of the injury and it was swollen to beat the band for the entire

One can negotiate a deal on Nitrox with Tilden's - as a repeat customer I
got it for 5 a tank, not their usual cost of 10 a tank.  This was for me a
70 dollar savings.

Saturday, July 2nd  afternoon dives Sombero Reef Buoy 8  57 minutes, 25
feet. Dropped down on some cute yellow-headed jawfish. Managed to get one
good shot. Viz at about 25 to 30 feet, but by the end of the dive it
dropped to 20 feet as green water moved onto the reef. Ivory Wreck.  40
minutes, 22 feet, usual tropicals, grunts, grey angelfish, yellow goatfish,
juvenile queen angelfish and lots of pieces of wreckage lying around. 

Sunday, July 3rd  morning dives at Sombero Reef Buoy 6, 50 minutes, 25
feet, found a Wrasse Blenny, found tons of lobsters and flamingo tongues.
2nd dive at Delta Shoals (near the Ivory Wreck), 52 minutes 22 feet. Found
a redlip blenny on a purple seafan base. Many schooling tropicals. 

Sunday July 3rd  afternoon dives at Delta West (near the Ivory Wreck)- 52
minutes and 22 feet. Porkfish, goldentail eel. Camera issues, put it into
housing incorrectly and was unable to turn it on. 2nd dive at Sombero Reef
Buoy 13  57 minutes, 25 feet. Found speckled eel, hogfish, queen
angelfish, juvenile spotted drumfish.  Close to buoy 15 there was a HUGE
bait ball of young silversides and they were everywhere, so deep/thick that
you could not see the reef structure behind them. Also, on this dive saw a
large (about 8 foot) female nurse shark which appeared to be pregnant,
judging from her massive girth. Large Tarpon (about 4 foot long or more)
were swimming around and over the bait ball as well. Large numbers of snook
here as well, very rarely have I seen them on this reef. 

Monday, July 4th  morning dives at Sombero Reef Buoy 15  47 minutes and
26 feet. Lots of current and dive buddy who dropped first did not stay with
the instructor as we had agreed. She was to wait with them while I dropped
down, since she wanted to maximize her bottom time.  She was blown back by
the current and I was not able to find her. I surfaced and the Boat Captain
pointed to where he thought she was  I swam over there, it was not her. I
surfaced again and said I could not find her, mate told me to return to the
instructor and wait. She had apparently surfaced near the other boats, and
indicated she wanted to be picked up so he swam to her and brought her over
to me. I was not happy with her on this dive. Swam over to the Bait ball
which was still at the same place on the reef. When I got it to open up, I
found a large scorpionfish at the base of the reef structure. Yellowtail
snapper were everywhere  eating the silversides, the huge tarpon were
still hanging around as well, but getting pictures of them, as the zoomed
by with no warning that they were coming was impossible. 2nd dive was the
Ivory Wreck, 47 minuted and 20 feet. I dropped first based on our
discussion during the surface interval and waited until she was next to me.
Then I took offwhen I turned around she was missing again. Apparently, as
she told it, she had equalizing issues and returned to the surface (but did
not let me know). I turned around traced my way back, the mate swam down
and indicated the direction that she had taken. I found her and this time
never took my eyes off her. 

The wind and rain stirred up the bottom and we cancelled doing the
afternoon dives. No loss since viz was 20 feet, maybe. 

Spent the night of the 4th sitting on a boat off Sombero beach watching the
fireworks, Tilden's ran a boat out to the site (for money, of course!)  
They provided adult beverages and the evening's food, as well as convivial
company.  Quite enjoyed the evening!  Champagne was served at the end of
the fireworks display. 

Tuesday, July 5th  morning dives at The Elbow, 58 minutes and 26 feet.
Nice little reef, saw some southern sting rays. Camera battery died, so got
no pictures on this dive. Did not go too far from the boat, since the
previous day's dives made me nervous about losing Natalie again. 2nd dive
was the Pillar Patch, 52 minutes and 22 feet. Totally missed finding the
pillar coral since we had moored up quite a way away from it. I was worried
about losing the dive buddy again, so I did not stray very far from the
boat. Found a really nice brain coral with lobster underneath and saw many
juvenile queen angelfish and juvenile yellowtail damselfish. 

Tuesday, July 5th  afternoon dives at Flagler's Barge  46 minutes and 25
feet. The growth in the last 7 years is really surprising! Lots of surge on
this dive. As always, since this is in the middle of nowhere, everything
was on this old wreck. Since there is nothing else there, except sand, I
wasn't too worried about losing Natalie on this dive - it is a very small
area, so finding her would be relatively easy.  Schooling fish so thick you
could not see through them. 2nd dive at Sombero Reef, buoy 15 - 1hour 6
minutes and 25 feet. Again, tons of surge and the viz dropped to 15 feet
midway through the dive. With the viz as it was I was nervous about losing
Natalie so we stayed in a small area and looked at the bait ball, the
snook, blue angelfish and all the other schooling topicals, amazing what
you find in a small area, flamingo tongues, butterfly fish, tarpon whizzing
by, snook lumbering around, filefish and many, many more! 

In all got in 12 dives and 10 hours and 24 minutes underwater. 

Other notes - There were tons of small fry everywhere on the reefs, so
thick that they made taking pictures very hard. I have never seem so many
before small ones before. 

I saw not one lionfish on any reef I dove.  Last year I found tons of them,
but this year nothing.  Maybe that explains why there were so many small
fry around. 

On each dive, other than the first two, I was diving 63's.  For those first
two dives I went in with 3000 PSI and returned to the boat with no less
than 2000 PSI.  Once I went to the 63s I usually went in with 3000 PSI and
returned with (for the longest dive of 1 hour and 6 minutes) no less than
1750 PSI.  My air consumption and comfort level in the water has greatly
improved in the last 2 years.  I am working on getting even better with the
air consumption, I think diving more often has been the trick for me to
learn how to properly relax. 

We stayed at the Blackfin Resort, which is right next to the dive shop we
were using (Tilden's.)  Tilden's is a fairly nice operation, but tends to
go to the same reefs over and over since they put snorklers on the boat
with the divers.  As a result it is hard to get to the better reefs, like
the Barge (which can viz out due to shallow depth), Donut, Angelfish, etc. 
On the other hand, with that bait-ball on Sombero, it made for some really
nice fish watching - everything was feeding on the little silversides.  

Another note - someone stole my bathing suit bottom (Cobalt blue high
waisted that matched the top right next to it) from the chair in front of
the room!!!   They were out there to dry - can't imagine why someone would
steal only the bottom and leave the top still there.  As there was no wind
in that area, and everything else (including near weightless lycra shorts)
were still there, someone had to have taken them.  By the way, the weight
of the fabric made them too heavy to "blow away".  Things never
cease to surprise/amaze me. 

Trip home to the airport was great fun (NOT!) I did manage to stop at the
McDonald's in Marathon for coffee - got two LARGE cups and then stopped at
the Stabuck's in Florida City. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the caffine - an IV might
manage to deliver enough for me during long car trips. It rained non-stop
from Marathon to the Turnpike, and the windshield wipers did not work
properly.  I need to call the (ACO) Rental agency and get them to refund me
something for that problem.  Making them work, required holding them up in
(to) the on position, since they would not stay in that position.  Even
then, they did not operate as fast as they should have (only a slow wipe)
which made seeing very difficult.  Hence, the 2.5 hour drive to Miami took
about 4 hours (I drove very slowly until Florida City, averaging 40 miles
an hour.)    

The AA flight was over 1.5 hours late leaving MIA for MSY - causing me to
miss picking up the dogs Wednesday evening.  Apparently I was a bit snake
bit on this trip! 

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