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Dive Review of Down Under Watersports in
Virgin Islands/St John

June, 2007, an Instant Reader Report by Greg Harnish, NJ, USA (1 report)
Report Number 3464
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
51-100 dives
Where else diving
Cozumel, Bahamas, Florida, Hawaii, Thailand
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

Water Temp
82   to 82    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
50   to 70    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Profiles well within recreation diving limits. Recommended safety stop.
Flexibility in profile for divers of varying experience. Divers ascend
anchor line as air is depleted.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
1 or 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  5 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  4 stars
Large Fish
3 stars  
Large Pelagics
  3 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):
4 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
3 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
5 stars   
4 stars    
This was my first visit to St John. My wife (who is a non-diver) and I
chose St. John to enjoy a relaxing, off the beaten path vacation that
allowed me to dive in the morning and both of us to snorkel in the
afternoon. Unfortunately the week we arrived, the dive operator I had
contacted before our trip was not running. I was referred to Down Under
Watersports, and was pleasantly surprised to discover an excellent 6-pack
dive operation run by couple Bill Cunningham and Cindy Adams, both of who
are USCG licensed captains and PADI instructors. 

Down Under has everything I look for in a 6-pack operator. Bill and Cindy
have experience as captains and divemasters throughout the Caribbean. Bill
has been diving on St. John since the age of 10. Bill and Cindy have great
personalities, which translate into a fun and safe experience for their
divers. Their operation is based near Cruz Bay, very close to the Westin
resort. They take no more than six divers in a 28 foot Ellis lobster boat
which has been renovated with a dive platform, benches, tank racks, spray
curtains, ladder, and a fresh water shower.  Safety features include a GPS,
VHF radio, cell phones, first aid kit, DAN O2 oxygen unit, flares, personal
floatation devices, and fire extinguishers. They regularly visit at least
16 sites around St. John.

Bill and Cindy held thorough dive and eco briefings before each dive,
including a sketch of the dive site and points of interest along the route.
The divesmaster leads the dive, but flexibility is given for different
levels of experience. Divers ascend the anchor line as air is depleted,
with remaining divers continuing their dive near the boat. On the days I
dove, Cindy was holding checkout dives for a new cert and had no problem
allowing me flexibility in terms of profile and pace of the dive. I was
happy to go slow, relax, and get good use from my new camera. You can tell
a lot by how an instructor handles a new cert. Cindy was relaxing and
encouraging in her manner, but made sure all requirements were thoroughly
covered. I would have no issue with a family member being certified by Bill
or Cindy. In addition to open water certification, other PADI classes are
offered up to the level of divemaster. 

St. John diving tends to be relatively shallow, anchor line dives, although
some sites can be done as drift dives. During my trip a combination of
schedule and sea conditions kept me to the northwest side of the island.
Depths were generally 60 feet or less. My favorite site was Carvel Rock.
St. John has very health coral, particularly soft corals, which can be
enjoyed by diving and snorkeling. In terms of fish life while diving, I was
treated to the expected array of tropical reef fish, plus schools of
Atlantic Spadefish, several Great Barracuda, adult and juvenile Spotted
Drums, large Southern Stingrays, a Honeycomb Cowfish, and a Longlure
Frogfish. In addition to the dive sites off shore of St. John, you are a
moderate boat ride away from dive sites in the British Virgin Islands,
including the RMS Rhone. 

After a morning of diving, my wife and I hit the beaches for snorkeling. It
would take weeks to sample all of the snorkeling sites on St John.  The
sites were close to shore, accessible from beautiful beaches, relatively
shallow, and the underwater action was superb. She was mesmerized by the
coral reefs and abundant sea life. Not only did we enjoy the sampling of
tropical reef fish, we saw nurse sharks, an octopus, Hawksbill turtles,
stingrays, and even swam with a Spotted Eagle Raymost of these my wife had
never seen before. We struck a balance between my diving and our snorkeling
that left us looking forward to a return trip next year. We spent so much
time snorkeling and diving, that we didnt have an opportunity to trek the
numerous hiking trails around the island.

The water in St. John, at least on the north coast, tends to have a
relatively high salt content, so I needed a couple extra pounds in the
weight pouches. Visibility was good, but not exceptional (I experienced 50
to 70 feet), likely owing to the shallow dive sites and lack of ocean
current. Nitrox is not available on St. John, but its benefits would have
been limited given the relatively shallow dive profiles.
St. John is known for its villas. Many are secluded, with amenities such as
open air showers and sometimes a swimming pool. A friend at work hooked us
up with Windspree Vacation Homes and we had a great experience. Bill and
Cindy are happy to make referrals of other reputable villa companies. Air
conditioning is not always standard, particularly on the Coral Bay side of
the island where trade winds can be refreshing for much of the year. We
opted for an air conditioned villa and, in mid-June with a lull in the
trades, were quite happy with our choice. We stayed on the Coral Bay side
of the island and loved this laid back side of St. Johnour pre-vacation
stress melted away during our first couple of hours on the island. 

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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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