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Dive Review of Sea Saba/Iris House in

Sea Saba/Iris House, Aug, 2011,

by Mark Thorne, NC, US (Contributor Contributor 15 reports with 4 Helpful votes). Report 6175.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling 3 stars
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments Why do I love diving? The answer to this simple and complex question is found on a small Caribbean Dutch island called Saba. For almost 20 years now, my wife and I have devoted several weeks a years to diving somewhere in the Caribbean. While we tend to enjoy every location we visit, we absolutely love Saba. So let me count the ways...
The Thrill...The simple act of arriving and departing this little paradise gets your heart beating. With its aircraft carrier-sized 1300 foot runway planted onto the only horizontal piece of land on the island, you get your monies-worth on this short 15 minute hop to/from St. Maarten to Saba. Whether making that last minute 90 degree left turn just before landing or seeing yourself catapult off the end of the runway barely over the ocean below while taking off, Saba plane rides always guarantee to deliver a rush.
Beauty Queen...Saba is called the "Unspoiled Queen", a name that truly fits this place. Words seem to fall short when trying to describe the dramatic and majestic vistas seen at almost every hair-pin turn on Saba's rugged winding road from the airport near "Hell's Gate" then up, up, uphill to "Windwardside" which is perched 1,400 feet above sea level and is near Saba's geographic center and the home of SeaSaba Dive Center. Staying in Windwardside means you are living literally amongst the clouds as they pass you by like mammoth cruise liners in the's very cool! From Windwardside, you take a delightful 20 minute taxi, (usually a well equipped minivan), to a super-steep downhill adventure ride to the island's only harbor near the island's capital aptly named "The Bottom". Oddly enough, we passengers enjoy the taxi ride down, with its breathtaking scenery, almost as much as we do the diving itself.
Enchanted Forest...I would not be exaggerating to say that the landscapes of Saba have a kind of Hobbitsville quality about them. Mostly nestled on mountain and hillsides, all houses, (most of which are small and quaint), have red roofs, white siding, and green shutters. Many of the houses have a ruffled-looking trim giving an old-world charm and mystique.
Non-diving on Saba does not mean nothing to do, far from it. Assuming you are generally fit, there is a lot of exciting exploring to do. Because this place is so hilly, anyone with impaired mobility would likely have a difficult time on Saba. Saba's many hiking trails offer both weekend and serious hikers/climbers fantastic outings. Lush green canopies offer up singing competitions between tree frogs, tropical birds, goats, and chickens. Often these tropical trails give way to up and down steep rocky pathways, all with frequent sightings of the gorgeous Caribbean sea calling you down from below.
Surprising Culinary Pleasures...To add to all of the physical and visual sensory experiences on Saba, the many restaurants are a truly pleasant surprise with very good food. How such a small group of islanders pulls this off is impressive. My favorite restaurant is The Brigadoon with its unreal cheesecake like no other I've tried and a melt-in-your-mouth prime rib...yummy...need I say more. We ate at many places on the island and were never disappointed. Additionally, because we had a villa with a fully equipped kitchen, we got groceries from several of the grocery stores in Windwardside. We usually made our own breakfast and lunch and ate out for dinner.

Undersea Treasures...Although I am completely enamored by all of the topside sights, sounds, tastes, and activities, it is the diving that makes Saba my top Caribbean dive destination. Like most Caribbean dive locations today, large pelagics and fish are not frequently seen, however, the health and diversity of the coral, fish, and critters here is by far better than any of the dozens of places I have been to in the Caribbean over the past 2 decades.
Additionally, there is a healthy diversity in the makeup of each dive site from another. Deep dives are often deep peaks of underwater mountain/volcanoes rising just 85 to 100 feet below the surface of the water. These pinnacles offer an exciting experience as they gradually appear through the blue water as you descend down the mooring line. There are also a large number of mid and shallow dive sites that are all less than a 15 minute boat ride away.
SeaSaba Divers...Although, I have long since exhausted my superlatives on the above and below water jewels of Saba, I cannot say enough about the people who put all of this together to give the visiting diver an experience of a lifetime. SeaSaba, with its owners Lynn & John and their staff, consistently go beyond expectations, and reminds me of why I love diving. It's not just one thing, it's the combined encounters from their corny jokes, friendliness, attention to safety, and their own genuine enjoyment of diving. I found an instant rapport and commonality with all the people at SeaSaba. They are truly the magic behind majesty of Saba.
So yes, I am in love with everything about Saba. It people, its rugged beauty, and its ever inspiring priceless underwater riches. I cannot get enough of Saba and I hope to be back soon.

Note: Windwardside is one of Saba's three main towns and it is the main base for most of the visiting divers, with a dozen or more places to stay, all with awesome views of the mountains and valleys below. On my 2 visits to Saba just recently and last year, I have stayed at Hummingbird House and Iris House, both great places. From what I hear from other divers on our boat, Cottage Club & Juliana's are also great stays. For advice and/or assistance on where to stay or dive packages, I use Beth Jansen from DiveSaba.Com. Beth is the ultimate Saba travel agent with deep connections to the people of Saba. I found her online and she is a great resource on Saba. (I have no connection or financial interest to any entity or person in Saba so my advice is from direct experience only.)
Websites Sea Saba   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Throughout Caribbean
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas no currents
Water Temp 82-85°F / 28-29°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 50-75 Ft/ 15-23 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Yes, Limit to 110 feet with Nitrox 32
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish N/A
Large Pelagics N/A

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Staff friendly and helpful with UWP gear. Camera tank is saltwater.
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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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