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Dive Review of Explorer Ventures --Caribbean Explorer II in
Saba/Saba & St. Kitts

Explorer Ventures --Caribbean Explorer II, Sep, 2012,

by Jeanne Reeder, MO, US (Contributor Contributor 15 reports with 14 Helpful votes). Report 6723.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Raja Ampat, Alor, Fiji, Palau, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Japan, Turkey, Sudan, Saba, St. Kitts, Statia, Bonaire, Cozumel, Cayman Brac, etc.
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy Seas calm, choppy, surge, currents
Water Temp 84 to 86 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 30 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions 70 minute dives, dive with buddy unless solo certified, 110 for Nitrox, no deco diving, carry safety sausage
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]

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

Accommodations 3 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments Caribbean Explorer II Saba-St.Kitts beckoned me for my third trip with their 25th Anniversary Special for only $1250; nice reduction from the usual $1895. Look for their frequent specials! Familiarity with a vessel is like wearing your favorite BCD -- you know its secrets. It's nice to know up-front the vessels procedures, where your cabin is, and the location of their complimentary liquor cabinet. As usual I felt welcomed even though the faces had changed. I set up gear in a preferred spot and got settled in for an enjoyable dive week. The night crossing from St. Maarten to Saba was relatively easy with waves topping at 4', providing some ample rocking side-to-side in this 115' vessel as sleep was attempted. Judging from the wan looks on a few divers faces the next morning, I knew it hadn't set well with some. Don't forget your med-of-choice if you are prone to seasickness, as you'll feel the waves on this boat.

We had full occupancy of 18 divers, all well experienced except for one beginner who was spooked by the more advanced diving at Saba, ie changeable and strong currents. Also, there was a 20 mph wind much of the time which made some of the exits challenging with the waves and surge. The 3 dive crew were generous in offering her a hand to hold undersea, and an easier entrance from the back of the boat. The rest of us took a long stride from the side about six feet down. Because of the currents and depth we usually followed the mooring line,gathered at the bottom, and dispersed in preferred directions from there with a buddy or following the dive master. On the dive at Tedran Wall, my buddy and I followed the dive master, pulling ourselves along the granny line and descending hand over hand on mooring line. At 75', I eyed the Wall, hoping to slip over it into calmer water, but the very strong current was not any less there. Finger-walking on the sand was nearly impossible, and after gaining only a few feet, the DM aborted the dive. Two other divers had made it to that point; most others had returned to the boat within a few minutes. All diving is done from the mother-boat. There is one tender, 16', for emergencies, but it is 'understood' that there will be no drift-diving and expecting the tender to pick-up.

Saba did not disappoint in its usual high quality of diving. Soft and hard corals are plentiful, colorful and the fish abundant. Sightings of all the stages of trunkfish bridled burrfish, drumfish, highhats, and jackknife were frequent. Crab, lobster, and nurse sharks were found under overhangs. Keep your eye out for scorpionfish -- they are there. The lettuce sea slug was a favorite at Torrens Point. Diamond Rock was as amazing as ever as I finned around the three tall outcrops, watching alternately for stingrays and morays -- it was teaming with life.

On day four, we were diving in St.Kitts calm waters, but visibility was lower. Paradise has interesting topography with sand gullies meandering around 20' coral fingers. I reveled in wending my way in these pathways, at times being led into a cul-de-sac where the fish seemed surprised I found them. It was definitely the dive for my light as I hovered, peering underneath overhangs and into crevices. I concentrated on finding smaller critters in the short seagrass at Old Bay Road such as baby octopus, grass squid, and pipefish. A 1" black and yellow-barred baby gray angelfish at Cornithian fluttered erratically near an outgrowth on the tugboat. On our last day of diving we went to Monkey Shoals where we all successfully searched for sailfin blennies.

Captain Ian, with his delightful sense of humor, was always available and set a professional tone of efficiency. He always gave his part of the dive briefing before the dive crew filled us in. Need something fixed? Engineer Chris was always at-the-ready with a friendly smile and eager willingness. Chef Sarah is a master in the kitchen creating unique combinations which amuse and delight the palate. The red wine sauce on very tender steaks was the best I've ever had; chicken cordon blu tasty; ample salads creative; and breakfasts substantial including offerings eggs, sausage, banana pancakes,& french toast. One evening a local fisherman brought wahoo, Sarah marinated it, and he grilled it.

There were three dive crew, Brett, Margo and instructor/purser Clair, who were ready to assist when asked. When not intent on spearing & killing lionfish, Brett was good at pointing out well hidden critters. The last couple of days Margo did not feel well, did not appear, and left when the boat docked at St. Kitts.

My stateroom was air-conditioned, barebones but very clean, bed was comfortable and the water was hot. Two reverse osmosis water-makers make drinkable water; we were just advised not to waste it. For this 7 night trip, four to five dives were offered for 5 days, and two on day 6.

CEX II varies from which port it sails. I departed from St.Maarten, ending the trip at St. Kitts. Then another group boards for the reverse itinerary. To avoid possible luggage delays before sailing, I arrived one day early, spending the night in St. Maarten at the very comfortable and the nearby Holland House. For additional off-gassing, I also spent an extra night at St. Kitts, at my favorite go-to place, Ocean Terrace Inn. For beginning divers, I highly recommend selecting the option beginning the trip from St. Kitts, as there is more time to adjust to ocean diving before hitting Saba's currents. My extra charges for the trip: Nitrox for one week = $150; Port & Marine fees = $115; Fuel Surcharge = $125.

I still wish Statia would be put back into the itinerary as a third island. Owner Clay indicates that he's recently met with the dive operators there, but... Other locations in the mix for Explorer Ventures? Stay tuned!
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Subscriber's Comments

By Ms Lynda Durfee in VA, US at Oct 13, 2012 01:30 EST  
I'm booked for my 3rd trip on the St. Maarten-St Kitts itineray next January. Last two times included Statia, and I, too, wish they'd add it back, but I understood that the Statia govt wanted a lot of money for the one day of diving. Glad to get a recent review and learn the quality of the dive sites, crew, and food (yum!) was still high.
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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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