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Dive Review of Saba Divers/Scout's Place in

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Saba Divers/Scout's Place: "Saba--Tops in the Caribbean", Nov, 2016,

by Michael Wood, WA, US (Contributor Contributor 18 reports with 10 Helpful votes). Report 9303 has 2 Helpful votes.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 3 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments It’s been 9 years since I first dove Saba, and it turns out to be considerably better than my foggy memory produced. Saba has top-notch Caribbean dive sites. Put it on your Caribbean bucket list.

First, getting there isn’t easy from the west coast. You have to make your way to St. Maarten somehow—my daughter and I took a red-eye from Seattle/Portland to Charlotte on American, then down the next morning non-stop to St. Maarten. We had a 3 hour layover, so we checked our bags in on WinAir, then took a cab to the beach at the take-off end of the runway and had a couple of drinks, looking out to the sea and seeing the crazy people on the beach take selfies as jets blasted sand and hot exhaust, pushing them into the water. Some people never learn. One guy we were told got killed when he couldn’t hold on to the fence and tumbled back and broke his neck when a 747 took off.

Then we took the local airline WinAir’s twin otter for the 15 minute flight to land on the world’s shortest runway—400 meters, carved out of a mountainside (Saba is a dormant volcano). It’s not for the feint of heart, but has a great safety record, I was told. The takeoff upon leaving is even more exciting: A big rev of the engines, lurch forward and taking off at the end of the runway, which just ends at a cliff, and catching the wind to bring the airplane up quickly.

For those with fear of flying small planes onto short runways, there are ferries every day from St. Maarten to Saba, but it takes a couple of hours and seas can be rough. Take a Bonine an hour before you get on.

Saba is only 3 miles across, with no beaches, but great scenery/views, twisty/step roads, nice locals and a place I could see retiring for a quiet, relaxing existence. The Dutch support the island, keep it running, safe, clean and attractive to divers.

We stayed again at Scout’s Place, run by German ex-pat Wolfgang, a happy-go-lucky guy living out his dreams, hosting and singing in his Friday night “Sabaoke”. Scout’s in Windwardside and is rustic but clean, a little tired, but friendly, helpful and responsive—and inexpensive—about $150/night. Comfortable beds, ceiling fans, (it’s actually 10-15F cooler half-way up the mountain here, in Windwardside, with a nice breeze usually.) Continental breakfast is included, which can be upgraded to include eggs for $3.00 or fish/other options for $5-$7. Their lunches are good, Caribbean fare like creole or curry, albeit not cheap ($12-$18). Dutch government officials routinely stay there, as a contingent were during our stay.

When we checked in, the young man at the front desk didn’t offer to help us with our 50 lb. scuba bags, so we had to schlep them up 2 flights to our room with a beautiful view. Wolfgang should do something about that—many smaller clients and older divers can’t manage such luggage challenges.

We didn’t eat dinner there because there are lots of good options—Brigadoon, The Hideaway, Swinging Doors (bar-b-que on certain nights), Bubba’s, Tropics, Queens Resort (fancy white tablecloth French). Saba Snack is a great alternative for lunch, run by some enterprising Columbian women. Dinners run $30+.

I pre-paid $1400 for 28 dives for the two of us with Saba Divers, including nitrox. Turns out Wolfgang sold Saba Divers right before I made my payment last year to a delightful couple Mirek and Ivanka from the Czech Republic and Slovakian Republic respectively. Unfortunately, their boat was down our first morning of planned diving, so we went with Sea Saba, a bigger operation with two big boats, big shop in town and lots of American clientele. Sea Saba did a very nice job, albeit our first two dives—Needle (a pinnacle at 110 feet) deep dive and Outer Limits—weren’t very good at all. Ten minutes on the Needle, the rest spent getting down to it and up from it, for a total of 30 minutes bottom time. That was the last deep dive we did by choice that week, and were we ever pleased with that decision. The second shallower dive, Outer Limits, happen to have crappy viz. Sea Saba charged us $250 for our 4 dives, because we hadn’t pre-paid.

The rest of our dives—5 more days of 2-tank dives starting about 11:30am because those doing deep dives we didn’t want go out at 9:30am—were really good, relaxing and fun. A big reason they were so was the French divemaster Benoit. He was flexible, knowledgeable, read the currents and expertly chose dive sites that were great. These included two dives on Diamond Rock (I’d do a third dive there), Ladder Labyrinth, Tent (several dive sites), Hole In The Corner and Third Encounter. All were prolific with life, with varied coral structures and fish. Their sturdy but older single wooden boat was roomy, although did not a lot of shade. Cameras lay on a big platform in the middle of the deck, with no rinsing facilities nor a head on board.

They arranged for Louis from Venezuela, who has a company Saba Free Divers, to be personal divemaster for our friend (a medical student at the school there) who just got certified and needed extra supervision for her dives 5-7. He was great—patient, instructive, calm. We gifted some of our extra dives we paid for in advance to our newbie diver friend, with no objection from Saba Divers.

Ivanka told us they are selling the business, which they had moved from next to Scout’s to down at the pier area, where everyone has to taxi down to every morning from the hotels up-island. Seems they got more than they bargained for in the day-to-day challenges with a dive business, and their partner seems to have walked out on them. Too bad, they were very hard working, accommodating, kind and thoughtful. Yvanka is also a massage therapist, and moonlights late afternoons doing massages in their living room, 50 paces down the path from Scout’s. She gave me a very professional massage with special attention to acupressure in my feet.

The diving was what I consider upper-end Caribbean—on par with Bonaire and Cozumel—fishier than Little Cayman or Grand Cayman. Healthy reefs, gorgonians, sponges galore that look like octopus arms, tube sponges, enormous barrel sponges, pillar coral. Regular encounters with friendly turtles, a few reef sharks and a good amount of standard tropicals—French Angels, Queen Angels, Grey Angels, parrotfish, surgeonfish, spotted trunkfish galore, schooling durgeons, trumpetfish, tarpon, BIG barracudas, an occasional tuna, jacks, snappers, gobies, wrasses, damsels, fairy basslets, various filefish, triggers, spotted drums under ledges, lots of sting rays and regular lettuce slugs (never saw a nudibranch or flatworm). We saw the grandma turtle that is enormous on Tent, reputed to be 100+ years old (I got some great shots of her with a free diver from Chile!) Fields of garden eels were common.

All in all, Saba is a good Caribbean dive destination that many don’t know about. The diving is in the top 3 spots of the Caribbean, the island is oh-so-friendly, safe and chill. You can also go hiking up in the “cloud forest” and go bird watching, the second most common tourist attraction.

Ask for Elliott, the Dutch ex-pat who runs an unofficial taxi/uber-like service priced under the regular taxis by 25%-50%. Get his number from any local—they use him all the time. But they also hitch rides, which is commonplace and safe.

If you’d prefer more upscale places, check out Juliana’s, which is just a 5-minute walk down the hill from Scout’s, or Queens Garden Resort on another part of the island, and expect to pay high prices there. Most of the hotels are up-island (a couple of small places are down by “The Bottom”.) If you buy a dive package the dive services will include your taxi service to/from your hotel, wherever it may be. Dollars are the local currency, but bring extra cash as the credit card machines often don’t work.
Websites Saba Divers   Scout's Place

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Caribbean, Indonesia, Maldives, PNG, GBR, Philippines, Hawai'i
Closest Airport Saba Getting There Fly to St. Maarten; puddle jumper Twin Otter to Saba; hold on to your hat! Shortest runway in the world.

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 83-83°F / 28-28°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 40-75 Ft/ 12-23 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Dive your computer
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 1 stars Large Fish N/A
Large Pelagics N/A

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

Subject Matter 3 stars Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's 3 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Platform on deck. No rinse bucket. Carefully handled.
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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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