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Dive Review of Olympus Dive Center/Hampton Inn in
The Continental USA/North Carolina

Olympus Dive Center/Hampton Inn: "Sharks and a Manta in the Outer Banks", Aug, 2015,

by Brent Barnes, OK, US (Reviewer Reviewer 6 reports with 5 Helpful votes). Report 8383 has 2 Helpful votes.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food N/A
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 2 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments I recently returned from a very nice dive trip to North Carolina. North Carolina had been on my list for several years, simply for the ease of getting there and the reported quality of the diving. For someone traveling by air specifically for a dive trip to North Carolina, I would recommend a mid or late summer trip. Just like the excursions to the Flower Gardens in the Gulf of Mexico, the diving is very weather dependent. Because the diving is miles off shore, weather will often result in dive days being cancelled or limited to the fewer inshore wrecks. The weather is much more calm in the mid and late summer, and the visibility is better so those are the prime months for diving. We traveled from Oklahoma, with travel on a Monday and plans for 4 diving days and returning on Saturday. The weather was superb and we made dives on all four days. We flew into Raleigh, which is the closest major airport. There are several closer, smaller regional airports but they will generally cost more to fly into. We rented a car in Raleigh and enjoyed the 3 hour drive from Raleigh to Morehead City, where Olympus Dive Center is located. In the summer peak season, the dive shop is open from 6 AM to 8 PM, we managed to get to the shop at 7:50 PM and despite being near closing time, the dive center employee was very helpful in answering questions and assisting us in completing paperwork so we did not have to complete it the following morning. We then checked into the Hampton Inn which is a 5 minute drive from the dive shop. The Hampton Inn was clean and very comfortable and I would recommend it. They serve a free hot breakfast, but as you will need to be at the dive shop at 6 AM you will not be able to have access to it as their breakfast starts at 6 AM. However, we were pleasantly surprised that they set out a number of "breakfast bags" which have an apple, breakfast bars, and mints and were very nice to grab on the way out at 5:50 AM every morning. The dive routine is simple at Olympus Dive Center. Arrive by 6 AM, check in (which was quick and very easy), analyze your nitrox tanks and set up your gear. We made it a routine after the first day to get our nitrox tanks for the following day when we returned each afternoon. We would then analyze the nitrox tanks and set up our gear for the following day. Thus, when we arrived at 6 AM we were simply able to check in at the store, quickly check over our gear and then we headed upstairs on the upper deck and enjoyed the sunrise and our breakfast bags on the boat while everyone else was scurrying around setting up their gear. Olympus likes to leave by 6:45 - 7:00 AM as the wrecks are 20 - 35 miles off shore and will take anywhere from 1 - 2.5 hours to get to. Their main larger dive boat is very comfortable and will easily hold 20+ divers, we had anywhere from 10 - 14 each day and did not feel crowded at all. There is an upper deck with a large bean bag chair and plenty of space for stretching out and sleeping on the way out to the wrecks and back in to shore. There is also a good sized cabin with padded seating and multiple tables with a large TV and many people would play back their video shot during the day on the way back into shore. A very nice marine head is present in the cabin. Lunch is NOT served on the boat, you will need to bring your own. They do have a cooler that you will be able to store your food in. We made it a routine to stop by Jersey Mike's sub shop the night before and order a six inch sub and would keep it in the fridge in our room at the Hampton Inn and take it with us the following day. We would have lunch in between the first and second dive. The Olympus dive schedule is simple. Arrive at 6 AM, leave between 6:45 AM and 7 AM and go to the first wreck. They would generally try and go to the offshore wrecks as the visibility is better there but sometimes the weather prevents that and they go to inshore wrecks. After arrival at the first wreck, a dive instructor drops in and anchors to the wreck. A detailed briefing is given about the wreck and the day's conditions. The dive deck is then open. First dive was usually started between 8:45 AM and 9:45 AM. We were completely allowed to dive our own profile. You may hire a guide if you want but in general most dove on their own. Buddy diving was required but there were no restrictions on dive time or profiles other than no planned decompression dives were allowed. After the first dive, the boat generally moved to a second wreck during the 90 minute to 2 hour surface interval and we would have lunch during that time. Then the second dive was done. After that, we headed back usually arriving back at the shop between 1:30 and 3:00 PM depending on how far out the dives were that day. Extensive rinse bins were available right at the dock and we would rinse our gear and set it back up for the next day. Dive gear was left on the boat each night so we did not have to lug it back and forth to the hotel each night. We used our own dive gear, but the rental gear looked like it was in excellent condition. The dives in North Carolina are more advanced than typical Caribbean diving as by nature they are deeper, have the potential for currents and reduced visibility and are far off shore. Thus, the typical diver is more experienced and many had extensive pony bottles or double tanks but many divers did not. The off shore wrecks are deep, generally in 80 - 120 feet of water. The inshore wrecks are shallower, usually in 50 - 70 feet. Usually, the offshore wrecks have better vis, but during our week it was reversed. On the offshore wrecks, visibility was about 60 feet or so from the surface down to about 60 - 70 feet, and then visibility dropped to a hazy 10 - 30 feet deeper than that. On our first day, we dove the famous German U-boat, the U352 which has a fascinating history and gives you the rare chance to dive on an actual U-boat sunk in WWII. Our second dive was the Spar, but the visibility was less than 15 feet on the wreck itself. On the second day, weather forced us inshore to dive two dives on the Indra which I enjoyed. It is a very large wreck and sits in about 65 feet of water so we enjoyed long dive times. A resident loggerhead turtle was seen and was indifferent to the divers. An octopus was also seen. The third day was two dives on the Caribsea which made the whole trip. The Outer Banks are famous for wrecks and large numbers of sand tiger sharks and the sharks often localize to different wrecks each year. They have been extensively seen on the Spar and Papoose wrecks in the past but this year they are present in heavy numbers on the Caribsea. Upon dropping into the water on the Caribsea I immediately looked down and noted a massive school of thousands of cigar minnows moving in unison. Circling in the mass of minnows was a 12 foot manta ray which had about 30 remoras on her. Deeper than the circling manta I could see multiple large sand tiger sharks circling on the wreck itself. This was all noted within 30 seconds of being in the water! The manta spend a good portion of the dive with us and when we were the last two divers in the water she made a pass and actually came right up to the dome port on my camera touching it lightly! We likely saw over 40 sand tiger sharks on the dive making very close passes to us in a curious but non-aggressive pattern. There were likely more than that but due to the visibility we could never count more than a few at once. The Olympus Dive center staff reports they have counted as many as 100+ sand tigers on the Caribsea on a single dive this year. As the dive was tremendous, we all agreed to stay on the Caribsea and do the second dive on the same site and the second dive was a repeat of the first with continued sharks and manta encounters. Our fourth day kept us inshore due to the weather and we dove the Titan Tug and then the Indra again. The Titan Tug is a smaller wreck, but is intact and does give you excellent photo opportunities when the viz is excellent. In short, I have read excellent reports on Olympus Dive center, and after diving with them for four days have to agree. We found their staff to be very helpful and very safety conscious, but not intrusive and we were allowed to dive our own profiles completely. The Outer Banks are likely one of the best places in the world to dependably dive in close proximity to large numbers of sand tiger sharks. These are not rare sharks, but you simply will not see them reliably anywhere else in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, or Eastern Pacific areas. For budget travelers, Olympus Dive Center has a dive lodge where you can stay very cheaply. I did not see it but understand it is bunk beds with a large shared bathroom area. The diving in North Carolina is routinely $120 - $130 for a two-tank trip which is much more expensive than typical Caribbean dive shops, but this is understandable due to the dives being 20 - 35 miles off shore. In general, I would not recommend this diving for beginners but after getting some dives under your belt this is an excellent chance to see fascinating wrecks sunk in WWII and see large numbers of sand tiger sharks. Also, I will note that you will have some top side excursion time also as the boats return between 1:30 PM and 3:30 PM. I would highly recommend the NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores which is about 20 minutes from the dive shop and Hampton Inn. It is not large and you can easily get through it in one hour. It has a huge living shipwreck exhibit aquarium with a replica of the U-352 and scores of many large fish and sharks in the exhibit that can routinely be seen when diving the U-352. For dinners at night, I would highly recommend the Redfish Grill which is literally across the street from the Dive shop and would also recommend Floyd's 1921 which is about a 3 minutes drive from the dive shop. These are moderately priced but excellent. I would also recommend Clawson's on Front Street in nearby Beaufort. Also, nearby Beaufort (5 minutes drive from the shop or just over the bridge from Morehead City) is a beautiful and fascinating historical town with a wonderful waterfront area. There is a small private cemetery within walking distance of Clawson's that has some grave sites of multiple famous historical people dating back to the 1700's and is worth an hour of your time. There is a self-guided walking tour with a free brochure that leads you to several specific gravesides and tombstones. It is a great experience for those with interest in the 1800's and the Civil War.
Websites Olympus Dive Center   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Gulf of Mexico, Florida Keys, Bahamas, Saba, St. Eustatius, California, Socorros Islands, Cocos Island, Belize, Cozumel, Curacao, Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, West Palm, Cabo, Dominica, Mexican Cenotes
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas choppy, no currents
Water Temp 78-81°F / 26-27°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 15-60 Ft/ 5-18 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Must have a buddy and no planned decompression diving allowed. Other than that, you could dive your own profile.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 1 stars Tropical Fish 3 stars
Small Critters 2 stars Large Fish 4 stars
Large Pelagics 5 stars

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities 4 stars
UW Photo Comments The boat had a spacious table for cameras and the staff was very helpful and careful when handling cameras. My only complaint is they had a single small rinse bin for cameras and it was too small to even get my DSLR with 2 strobe system into so I simply rinsed off my camera on the dock with a hose each afternoon.
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Report currently has 2 Helpful votes

Subscriber's Comments

By Richard J Lunsford Jr in KY, US at Oct 05, 2015 19:59 EST  
Enjoyed your report. I was also there in August, apparently at a different time, & enjoyed 9 dives with Olympus Dive Center. No manta, though; gotta envy you that.
By Daniel Schuessler in PA, US at Aug 09, 2020 14:59 EST  
Great review!!
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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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