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Dive Review of Riding Rock in
Bahamas/San Salvador

Riding Rock, May, 2009,

by Sandy Falen, KS, USA (Sr. Contributor Sr. Contributor 27 reports with 16 Helpful votes). Report 4839.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 3 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 3 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 2 stars
Comments San Salvador is a terrific, little island. It's uncrowded, and has some of the friendliest people I've ever encountered in the hospitality industry. I flew AA to Nassau, then took the Bahamas Air puddle-jumper to San Sal, and my travel went off without a hitch.

Riding Rock is clean, with plenty of hot water, decent beds, and good, plentiful food -- the conch chowder & warm Bahamian bread makes for a fabulous start to a post-dive lunch. Breakfast choices were excellent, and the quality of the food and the cheerful dining staff made every meal fun and satisfying.

The marina is an easy walk from the rooms. Riding Rock's boats were roomy, and the staff is great. Manager Lynne knows the business, runs an efficient operation, and she's also a lot of fun. The boat usually leaves the dock at 8:30 for 2 morning dives, returning by 12:30-1:00. That allows plenty of time for a relaxing lunch before the afternoon boat departure at 2:30.

For me, this was a return to San Sal after a previous visit in 1997, and I was stunned and saddened to see the state of the reefs. The amount of dead coral was breathtaking, with huge areas of the reef covered in algae. This was seen both in shallow areas, and along the walls at depth. As to the cause, I'm no marine biologist, but I was told the water temps often hit 85-86 in the summer. Additionally, we were told that the temperature spiked even higher a few years ago. Whatever the cause, I'd guess a die-off of 80% or more on many of the sites I visited. One stunning exception was a dive site near the tip of the island, where the currents are cooler and more consistent. At that location, the coral was far healthier, and the fish life more abundant.

In addition to coral death, San Sal is plagued by the now-infamous lion fish invasion. My friends and I were amazed to see multiple lion fish on every single dive -- they were deep, shallow, in rubble, on sand, and along the walls -- in short, they were everywhere. Riding Rock is no longer making a practice of killing them, due to past issues with shark aggression around speared fish; and to be fair, it may well be a lost cause.

Unfortunately, I don't think it a coincidence that, coupled with the proliferation of lion fish was a paucity of tropical fish. In all my Caribbean diving, I have never been so astounded at the lack of even small tropicals. I wanted to cheer when I finally spied a pair of butterfly fish on about day three. From what I've read, lion fish are voracious eaters that can consume an astounding number of fish, and they have no natural predators in the Atlantic or Caribbean. I fear for diving as this non-native species continues to spread.

Yes, we saw sharks almost daily -- usually deeper and along the wall -- and the sightings did include one hammerhead. There were some good-sized barracuda, turtles, frequent stingray sightings, and a surprising number of grouper -- including a few friendly ones who will follow divers around like big, wet puppies. The dive staff is trying to encourage local fisherman not to place fish traps at the dive sites, but it's a constant battle, as we swam past several traps during the week.

There is much to love about San Salvador and Riding Rock -- the excellent vis, the wonderful locals, the comfortable accommodations, good food, and a first-rate dive operation. I would love to give it a five-star recommendation. Unfortunately, due to the condition of the coral and the depletion of the tropical fish, I doubt that I'll return.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving All over the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Tonga, Fiji, Palau
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather cloudy Seas calm
Water Temp 75-76°F / 24-24°C Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 80-100 Ft/ 24-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Dive time limited to 45 minutes.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 2 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 2 stars Shore Facilities 3 stars
UW Photo Comments Rinse bucket on board.
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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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