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Dive Review of Explorer Ventures/Turks & Caicos Explorer II in
Bahamas/South Bahamas

Explorer Ventures/Turks & Caicos Explorer II, Nov, 2012,

by Carol D Cox, FL, US (Sr. Contributor Sr. Contributor 20 reports with 12 Helpful votes). Report 6844.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 2 stars Food N/A
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling 1 stars
Value for $$ 3 stars
Beginners 2 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments A few weeks of each year, the Turks & Caicos Explorer II heads to the south Bahamas. This was an area we had not explored before, so we booked many months in advance when we were emailed a special rate. My husband and I arrived on Great Exuma a few days early to relax and soak up some local culture. We were surprised to learn from one of our taxi drivers (they know everything happening on the island) that the boat is not based in George Town as the web site implies. It is an hour away at Emerald Bay Marina, part of the Sandals complex. I was glad we stayed on the island so we had a chance to see George Town and beautiful Elizabeth Harbor, something many of the passengers did not get to experience.
The day we boarded the boat, we hung around our bed and breakfast wondering when we would be picked up. Our B&B received a call about 10:30 from the taxi company asking when we wanted to be picked up. We were ready, so the taxi took us to the marina. Apparently, somewhere on the web site, it says we werenít supposed to board before 3:00. However, the info the company sent to us after we booked the trip didnít have this information. We were early and interrupted the crewsí lunch. Polly the Purser immediately stepped in to take care of us, but we were happy to drop off our bags and head to the Marinaís nice lounge to hang out until it was time to board. We understood the mix-up since this not a normal itinerary for the boat.
Close to 3:00, we walked back to the boat and settled into our cabin in the bow of the main deck. The main deck was ideal because my husband and I both do lots of photography, and we didnít want to negotiate the steep stairs with batteries and memory cards. We were both very pleased when we stepped into our room and found we had not one large window, but three, one on the port side, and two looking onto the bow. Our room had twin beds divided by a night stand. We had lots of storage in the night stand, two drawers under each bed, and a small closet. Our bags were stored in the engine room. There was also a little storage in the bathroom cabinet. The empty TV shelf made an ideal place to charge our strobes.
We were stuck in the harbor for two days due to the high winds. Itís unfortunate the boat isnít based in Elizabeth Harbor, there would have been much more to do. But the draft on the T&CII is too deep to safely navigate that area. Although we were right next to Sandals, you werenít allowed to use the facilities unless you wanted to pay $100 a day. A taxi into Georgetown was about $80 each way. Passengers walked around the marina or watched satellite TV in the marina lounge. Our cook, Stan, kept us well fed with his excellent meals; he is one of the best liveaboard chefs I have come across.
The water in the marina looked pretty clean to me, and we had seen several fish and a small turtle while walking the docks, so I asked if we could dive. The boat was in a section of the marina all by itself, so we were allowed to dive in this area. At this shallow location, we did not have any time limits. My two dive buddies and I did a 2 hour dive in 10 feet of water. We saw nudibranchs, yellow stingrays, an octopus, cleaning gobies, tons of upside down jellyfish (which my buddy tried to rescue), juvenile fish, and large spiny lobsters. It was a lot more fun than sitting on the boat all day. We dived again the second day and a few divers went in for a night dive, but didnít report seeing much.
At sunrise of the third morning we finally headed out of the marina and crossed over to Conception Island. It was a bumpy ride and a few passengers were too green to make the first dive. Conception, like all the reef dives we did, consisted of a fringe of coral at 40 to 50 feet deep, plunging down to the abyss. On Conception, we saw the usual fishes for this area to include bicolor damselfish, bluehead and yellowhead wrasses, blackcap and fairy basslets, gray snappers, schoolmasters, queen angelfish, bicolor damselfish, etc... We also saw a number of gray reef sharks and they would come in fairly close to check us out. Divers brought some lionfish back to the boat which we gladly ate, but others were left behind for the sharks to feed on, so the sharks were cruising by all the divers looking for handouts. Everyone enjoyed the encounters, especially us photographers. The night dive started a bit too early and was kind of boring between the lack of both day and night creatures. Subsequent night dives began later. Because of our delayed departure, we were able to do 4 dives at Conception before heading over to San Salvador early the next morning.
The diving at San Salvador was the best of the limited locations we visited, with more life than Conception. The gray sharks, aroused by the smell of lionfish blood, were in abundance, and the captain had to put an end to the spearfishing when one shark got a little too aggressive, taking off with the lionfish stringer. One diver also took a painful lionfish sting on the thumb. The night diving here was better with turtles, squid, maurading black jacks, a couple of octopuses, and a few sleepy fish.
After a day at San Salvador we returned to Conception. The night life proved to be better with the later dive time. On the last day, we went to Long Island and did two dives on the wreck of the Comberbach. The vis here was great and there was a lot of fish life. The wreck itself seemed a bit small for a full boat of divers, but at least there were some surrounding coral reefs some of the divers explored, albeit they were pretty deep at 90 feet.
Now comes the good, the bad, and the ugly. As I mentioned earlier, we were stuck in the marina for two days due to high winds. The channel out of the marina is very small and it would have been too risky to try and maneuver the boat out in those conditions. Without asking, at the end of the cruise, the captain announced that the company had decided to offer a 40% discount on a future trip and details would be sent to our emails address. That was the goodóa very nice offer to make up for something that was beyond the control of the vessel. But sadly, when we got the offer, it turned out that we would have to do another south Bahamas itinerary within 1 year. My husband and I thought about this for 2 weeks, and decided even with the discount this was not a trip we wanted to repeat. And now, for the ugly. Earlier I mentioned we had two windows overlooking the bow of the boat. Below those windows, the curling wallpaper made me suspicious of problems ahead. Sure enough, I woke up on the second night with the drip, drip, drip, of water on my head, like Chinese water torture. The crew knew about this problem and had tried everything they could to fix it with no success. It was bad enough a couple of nights that I ended up trying to sleep on the sofa in the lounge. I know the berths are assigned ahead of time, and we had a full boat, but it is a mystery to me why the crew didnít try to rearrange the rooms at the start of the trip, switching us with a single. For our inconvenience, Explorer Ventures has offered my husband and me a much smaller discount on a future trip. I do have to mention that the boat was scheduled for dry dock shortly after our trip, so hopefully this problem will be fixed.
Just some other notes. Kudos to Captain Ken, Polly and Stan. Their experience shined through. Some of the other crew members were trying, but things just weren't meshing for them. There was one crew member that seemed very self-involved and obviously enjoyed being the center of attention. Not only that, but when I asked if anything could be done about the leaky window above my bed before we crossed over to Conception, I was told it wasnít her job. I was really shocked when she didnít even ask any of the other crew members if they could help. Also, besides my husband and a friend, the rest of the boat had been booked by a large group. I have to say we were very lucky dive with this group. Between being stuck in the harbor for two days and the rough crossings, there could have been a lot of grumping on board. But we were lucky to fall in with a great group of experienced divers that took all the problems in stride and made the best of things. This was a great example that the guests on board can make or break a trip.
Websites Explorer Ventures   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Red Sea, Palau, Truk, Guam, Turkey, Cyprus, Caribbean, Mexico, Roatan, Florida
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather windy, rainy Seas choppy
Water Temp 76-79°F / 24-26°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 30-100 Ft/ 9-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions Max depth 100 feet on Nitrox. Back on the boat 60 minutes after the first diver gets in the water. Return with minimum 500 psi.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins 1 or 2 Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 3 stars Tropical Fish 3 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish N/A
Large Pelagics N/A

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Large table on back of boat with compressed air, towels just for cameras, no food or drink allowed. Seperate camera rinse tank was good for a fairly large amount of gear. We were allowed to charge batteries in our room which was OK since we opted to be on the main deck. If I had to use the stairs, I think I would have insisted the crew clean off an area of the media center for battery charging.
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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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