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Dive Review of Sandals Grande St. Lucian in
St. Lucia

Sandals Grande St. Lucian, May, 2006,

by Steve Giles, CA, USA (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 7 reports). Report 2454.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Bahamas, Bonaire, Channel Islands, Cozumel, Fiji, Grand Cayman, Hawaii, La Paz, Mulije, Palau
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, cloudy Seas calm, noCurrents
Water Temp 81 to 84 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 40 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions Depth and Time limits were strictly enforced. All divers in a dive group (mixed beginner with experienced) required to surface together. Completed all dives with 1500-2000 psi remaining in 3000 psi cylinder.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 3 stars Boat Facilities 1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 2 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments If you plan on taking photos, plan on shooting either wide angle (divers, sponges, etc.) or macro (small reef creatures). Theree is nothing in between. A fresh water bucket is set up on the boat for cameras, however people were allowed to rinse masks in this bucket (mask de-fog is not necessarily recommended for use on cameras) AND people were allowed to rinse wet suits in this bucket --- we all know what people do in wetsuits. UGK!!

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 1 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 2 stars
Advanced 1 stars
Comments First of all, let me admittedly say that Sandals is not a "dive resort" per se. The Grande St. Lucian is beautiful with meandering pools and gardens. Food and service and condition of rooms are first-rate. SCUBA is offered as part of an all inclusive package. Four of us (all well experienced divers)were steered to St. Lucia by a travel agent who touted the island as an "up and coming dive destination" -- WRONG!
Prior to booking we contacted the resort dive operation by phone, spoke to the manager, and were told that as experienced divers we would not be required to dive with beginners. Our experience during our week at Sandals was that, although very personable and pleasant, the dive operation personnel would tell you what they think you want to hear, and then do as they pleased. We were misled on several issues.
Upon checking in at the dive operation at 8:00 AM, filling out several PADI release of liability, medical forms, etc., and having our certification cards scrutinized, we were told that in order to dive, we must pass an in-water proficiency test to be held in a nearby pool at 11:30 AM. All four of us passed with flying colors (a couple of us have nearly 3000 dives under our weight belts and the other two have over 1000 dives), but we lost out on one day of diving. To placate our displeasure, they put the four of us on an afternoon snorkel boat with about two dozen snorklers and allowed us to make a 20 foot dive (and burn nearly 1/3 of an air botttle).
The following day (and each day thereafter), we made a "deep dive" (70 fsw max. for 30-35 minutes) and a shallow dive (20-40 fsw for 40 minutes). Coral growth on these deeper reefs is healthy and beautiful, not so on the shallow reefs where pollution has taken its toll. During the week, we saw virtually no pelagics of any kind -- NONE! Reefs are dominated by small fish, crabs and eels. The largest reef fish we saw were in the neighborhood of 8-12 inches in length and these were few and far between. Fish traps are everywhere, which explains the scarcity of sizeable reef fish and the absence of pelagics. I would advise that experienced divers not bother with the diving at St. Lucia, unless you are there anyway, are absolutely bored with land activities and feel you have to get wet. Although we took our own gear, the gear at the Sandals dive operation appeared to be quality equipment, relatively new, and in good repair. There is no charge for the use of their equipment.
We were encouraged to pay an additional $100.00 (US) each for a side dive trip to Martinique which consisted of a "45 minute boat trip, 200 foot visibility, and an 80% chance of seeing whales and/or dolphins on the dive". The boat trip to Martinique took 1.5 hours with a 2 hour return trip, visibility was in the neiighborhood of 50 feet, and guess what? Not only were there no whales or dolphins, but the largest critter that any of us saw on two dives was a respectably sized spotted drum in one of the swim-throughs.
Level of experience is not considered when assigning dive groups aboard the boat. In fact, it appeared as though experienced and inexperienced divers were intentionally mixed in order to relieve some of the responsibility from each divemaster's shoulders. I would recommend the diving at St. Lucia (deeper dives)for beginning and low-intermediate divers (except for one really gross safety violation that we observed a divemaster commit with a newly certified diver -- one that this divemaster had certified that week). Stay on the boat and cath a suntan during the shallow dives. All in all, the hotel is wonderful, but their dive operation is in serious need of overhaul.
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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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