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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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February 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 29, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Santa Marta, Colombia

the colonial town is more scenic than the diving

from the February, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver:

Back in the good old days, whenever the weekend weather forecast was favorable, four of us loaded our dive gear into my single-engine Cessna Turbo 210 and we'd fly to San Carlos, Mexico, Baja's Punta San Francisquito, or sometimes as far south as Loreto. We'd rent a panga and off we would go: no divemaster, no ladder and no first aid. If I told you that in those days, we were taught to follow our bubbles to the surface, and during our surface time we would down a few beers, would I be dating myself? Dive rules have certainly changed, but what has this got to do with diving in Colombia?

My December trip offered 21st Century basic diving, but with today's rules, at a destination prized by Colombians but unknown to Americans. Santa Marta is a quaint town, located on Colombia's southern Caribbean coast. While it is no place for divers in search of exotic creatures, it brought back fond memories of laidback diving in the Sea of Cortez, with its multiple boulders blended with patches of soft and hard coral. While I saw no dramatic sea life, there were small schools of batfish, barracuda and squid -- and, unfortunately, an occasional small lionfish, apparently just getting a "fin-hold" there.

Quimera Divers' BoatSeveral hours after arriving at my hotel, Diego Ávila, owner of Quimera Divers, arrived to meet with us. He shared his marine conservation philosophy with us, took our dive gear, and said he would send a taxi ($5 each way) to pick us up at 7:45 a.m. the next morning. Though there are no other operations in Santa Marta, 13 shops in nearby Tayrona National Park, where we did most of our diving, carried scores of divers there daily. Santa Marta's ultra-modern marina is closely guarded with a swinging gate and armed guards. The boat run to the park was 20 minutes (we were required to wear life jackets to and from the marina). Sleek looking, the 25-foot, high-sided fiberglass speed boat with two 95-hp engines had benches on both sides, 20 tank holders in the center and a partial canopy. Diego, who speaks English well, takes no more than four divers, but even that would be a crowd. He offered two morning dives ($95 per person); afternoon must be siesta time....

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