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Dive Review of Sea Saba/Juliana's Hotel in

Sea Saba/Juliana's Hotel: "Steep roads, deep dives and plenty of friendly natives", Nov, 2016,

by Jeffrey D Haines, NY, US ( 2 reports with 1 Helpful vote). Report 9359 has 1 Helpful vote.

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 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling 2 stars
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments I have been seeking out the more remote locations for diving for the same reasons most experienced divers do, avoid touristy crowds and cattle boat diving and to find environmentally healthy dive sites. Saba satisfies all of those desires.
Once you arrive the charm of a small island with less than 2000 residents greats you with no-hassle passport and immigration at the airport and friendly and prompt cab service to your hotel. I travelled as part of a REEF group and found that the coordination between the dive operator, Sea Saba and Juliana's hotel to be top notch. The taxi service delivered us to and from the docks on time with no stress. Sea Saba provided boat bags and collected dive gear the first diving day. Once it was transported to your assigned dive boat it stayed there the entire week. The professionalism of the dive staff was top notch, from thorough rinsing of dive gear each day, to fixing minor gear problems and providing quality rental equipment if requested. I used all my own gear, but several people in our group rented.Weather just a BC or computer, to an entire kit with no issues.
The diving was very good with average visibility of 70-100'. There are a variety of depths, though Saba does tend to be deeper than some other Caribbean destinations. Some members of our group were beginners and the dive staff were able to take us to sites that accommodated both relatively shallow profiles at 40-60 feet that also allowed for deeper profiles right down to recreational limits.I got the impression that they normally dive deeper than our group requested with many sites well below 80'. Dive guides were in the water on all dives, and though you were encouraged to keep them in sight, you were definitely not led around on a leash or restricted to come up as a group. My wife and I usually opted to do our own thing often dipping down below 100 with the only request being that we let the divemaster know when we split off from the group. As an avid photographer who hates being rushed and herded on a dive, Sea Saba provided just the right mix of knowledgeable divemasters to point out the interesting stuff, and enough freedom to dive our own profiles. I highly recommend nitrox, as most of the sites are on the deeper side.
Juliana's hotel served us well with comfortable, if somewhat out-dated rooms and very attentive staff. Our rooms hot water heater broke, and was fixed within hours, even though it required a new heating element on a sunday afternoon.
The bar and restaurant at Juliana's was excellent with ample portions, varied menu and a fully stocked bar at very reasonable prices. We tried several other restaurants and found them to be very nice also, though some charged high prices for bottled water.
You will need to take a taxi to get to and from the dive boat and the airport, but everything else, including the dive shop was in easy walking distance. There are also several hiking trails, but be aware that many will take you to a higher altitude than you should go if you have been diving. We explored one of them and had to forgo climbing up for the best views. Planning on a mid week 24 hour surface interval will be worth it if you enjoy some strenuous hiking.
The reefs are not the typical coral structure found throughout the caribbean, but rocky drop-offs that you would expect on the underwater side of a volcano. There was plenty of coral, that was for the most part healthy. There was even a new colony of staghorn coral that gives me some optimism that the reefs of Saba are looking good for the future. There were plenty of fish, including nurse and reef sharks, southern and yellow stingrays, eagle rays, some very large snappers, jacks and a school of tarpon. The typical reef fish were abundant, but with some lack of diversity. I was shooting macro for the week and found some very nice subjects including spinyhead blennies, yellowline gobies, sharknose goby, peppermint goby, sailfin blenny, lettuce sea slugs, sunshine fish and when I dropped down deep a small school of yellowcheek basslets. You can see my shots of the week here: [ link]
All in all my trip to Saba was one of my best dive trips and well worth the extra expense and time to get there. When I go back it will be for more than a week as I only scratched the surface in the short time I had.
Websites Sea Saba   Juliana's Hotel

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Nassau, Grand Bahama, Pennsylvania, Crystal River Florida, Hawaii, Cayman Brac, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Puerto Morelos, Fiji, Catalina, St. Lawrence Seaway, Revillagigedos(Socorro), Florida Keys, Jupiter Florida, Antigua, Bimini, North Carolina, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts
Closest Airport St. Maarten (SXM) Getting There Winair flies from St. Maarten several times daily. Strict baggage limits are enforced so travel light.

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 85-90°F / 29-32°C Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 50-100 Ft/ 15-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions If you want to dive your own profile you need to file your dive plan with dive staff ahead of time, and remain within recreational limits. They also asked us to check in with the divemaster leading the dive when we chose to split off from the group and be back under the boat according to your plan.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities 4 stars
UW Photo Comments Although the dive boats do not have dedicated camera tables, they will provide you with a large cooler bag to store your camera in that serves as your own private rinse tank. The boat also has ample fresh water for a quick rinse while on the boat. The dive staff were experienced at handling cameras and I was very comfortable with the care they took care of expensive camera gear.
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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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