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Dive Review of Felipe's Diving/Sol Caribe in
Colombia/Providencia

Felipe's Diving/Sol Caribe, Nov, 2003,

by Sandy Falen, KS, USA (Sr. Contributor Sr. Contributor 24 reports with 4 Helpful votes). Report 865.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Curacao, Bonaire, Saba, Dominica, Statia, Tobago, Guanaja, Belize, Los Roques, Costa Rica, Cozumel, Grand Turk, South Caicos, Fiji, San Salvador, Little Cayman, Cayman Brac
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather cloudy Seas calm
Water Temp 81 to 83 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 0
Water Visibility 70 to 110 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions None
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics 2 stars

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities 1 stars
UW Photo Comments There were no special facilities for photographers.

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

Accommodations 2 stars Food 2 stars
Service and Attitude 2 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments This is remote and virgin diving, and the island is a step back in time compared to much of the Caribbean.... which is a large part of Providencia's charm. After an overnight in San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO), my companions and I flew West Caribbean Air (WCA) to San Andres, connecting on to Providencia. WCA was efficient and friendly, and when our flight from SJO was late, the WCA staff whisked us through the San Andres airport to ensure we'd make our connection.

The Sol Caribe Hotel was modest but adequate. Rooms were spartan, clean, and included a little frig and plenty of hot water (which at times was dangerously scalding). Service, though, was hit and miss, and the food non-descript. The poolside bar was rarely staffed, although service is available if you can pry someone out of the kitchen. Lunches at Martin's Place (about a quarter mile down the road), were fabulous, and Martin graciously accommodated us even when our long dive times meant we often didn't arrive until mid-afternoon. Lunches were so satiating and filling that we often weren't hungry at dinner time -- which, given the caliber of food at the Sol Caribe, was just as well.

The diving conditions were superb: warm water (81 to 83 degrees), calm conditions with almost no current, and while the vis varied during our 8 days of diving, it was, at times, breathtakingly clear. Felipe Cabeza was a delight to dive with -- laid back and friendly, with a great sense of humor. The dive shop is just a short walk down the road from the Sol Caribe, and divers set up their gear on shore before wading out to a small, open skiff. While I carried my own small gear bag, Felipe or one of the staff members would carry the tanks and BCs, and they were always helpful when it was time to suit up. This isn't valet diving, but the trade off for pristine and uncrowded conditions was more than worth it -- my friends and I were frequently the only divers on the boat.

While we didn't see as many large fish as I'd hope for, we did catch sight of one Goliath Grouper, a few Eagle Rays, large stingrays, nurse sharks, midnight parrotfish, and some of the biggest angel fish I've seen anywhere. "Curtains of fish" aptly describes the huge schools of reef fish seen on some of the shallower sites, and the little critters were equally fascinating. We sighted juvenile lobsters, masked hamlets, arrow blennies -- and a more abundant grouper population than in other Caribbean islands. Much of the diving is along deep crevices -- straight vertical walls that were encrusted with healthy and beautiful sponges and black coral. On our last day, we cavorted in the water with a pod of dolphins for at least 20 minutes before moving on to our morning dive.

Boat rides were from generally from 10 to 20 minutes, and most surface intervals were spent in some quiet cove, or at the "downtown" pier. There is little to no tourist infrastructure in Providencia, and almost no one accepts U.S. currency (including the hotel), so try to get some Columbian pesos when you pass through San Andres. There is an ATM downtown, but owing to unreliable phone lines, we were never able to complete a transaction. We were able to change some currency at the little art & jewelry shop near the hotel, but in limited quantities. Moped and "buggy" rental is easy to arrange at the front desk, but you'll have to pay cash in local currency. It's cheap, though -- at about $8/day for a moped and $27/day for a buggy -- and you don't even have to sign a contract. The Columbian beer we purchased at the market next store was quite good, and net of the mandatory bottle deposit, it cost about 35 cents per bottle! Beware of credit card transactions at the Sol Caribe -- they have trouble getting authorizations due to those unreliable phones. When the desk clerk seemed to think I needed to stand there for hours while she made continuous attempts, I tactfully suggested that it wasn't my problem.

We made our dive, hotel, and WCA flight arrangements with Lauren McKinney at Scuba San Andres (www.scubasanandres.com;
lauren@scubasanandres.com) and were pleased with the service. On the return trip, we discovered that connecting in San Andres can be a cluster of inefficiency, requiring no less than 3 x-ray machines and a hand search. Since our schedule returned us to SJO early in the day (but too late to catch a U.S. bound flight), we stayed at the Vista del Valle Plantation Inn. It's a stunning mountain resort only 20 minutes from the airport, and our only regret was that we were staying only one night.
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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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