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Dive Review of Rainbow Reef Dive Center in
The Continental USA/Key Largo, FL

Rainbow Reef Dive Center, Jul, 2009,

by Tim Schultz, MO, USA ( 1 report). Report 4961.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 0-25 dives
Where else diving Jamaica
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas
Water Temp 82 to 84 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 60 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Dive time
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]

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

Accommodations 3 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 3 stars
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 2 stars
Comments We recently spent a week in Key Largo with the Rainbow Reef Dive Center. The dive center is located in a kiosk in the front parking lot of the Ramada Limited, right next to the marina where their three boats are docked. The dive center is also easily gotten to from the Holiday Inn, which is just on the other side of the marina. All other accommodations are just a little bit more of a hike (maybe 1-2 city blocks distant at most.) They recently opened up a storefront, just a little north of the marina.

The Good:
We went down to Key Largo to get our Nitrox and AOW certifications while diving at an easy-to-get-to location (read: "cheap"). RRDC offers discounts if you book hotel+diving through them, so reservations were made for the Ramada and 5-days worth of diving through RRDC. I got reservation confirmations via email the next day.

The dive center and hotels are right next to a HUGE "Diver Direct" store. It is literally less than a five minute walk from the hotels, and has pretty much everything. We shopped there three times during our trip for all kinds of nic-naks, including dive gear bags and new mouth pieces for our regs.

The diving was wonderful most days. Visibility started out very high, and on the first dive saw a nurse shark, lots of lobster, and a large sting ray. Everyone we dealt with at RRDC was courtious and friendly. Our instructors (Sadie and Dean) were very knowledgeable and helpful. For example; my wife had some issues during the deep dive on the Spiegel Grove. Sadie was very patient, and helped her overcome the descent, and even held her hand until she was comfortable.

RRDC is one of the few (only?) dive centers that supply a guide for free on all dives. This came in handy in areas where we were unfamiliar, and to locate underwater life. They are also very safety conscious. Their procedure for role call is to call out your name, and VISUALLY locate you on the boat. This happened consistently on every dive. They even prevented one diver from jumping back in to free-dive to go after his lost computer.

The Bad:
Did I mention they had three boats? We were spoiled early in our trip (starting on Tuesday) by going out with about 8 divers for the first few days. This changed on the weekend, and we ended up on cattle drives with a total of 30 divers on our dives. To aggravate the situation more, these crowded days were also the choppiest days at sea. Most of the divers with us were newbies, and above-water and underwater collisions were constant. Once, while drifting 12 inches from a brain coral trying to take a macro shot with my camera, another diver swam up between me and the coral!

Being cattle boats leads to another problem - lack of choice on dive sites. We did 10 dives total, and of those dives, we went to 6 unique places, diving twice at two locations, and three times at another. This was decided by majority rule of the boat, which is understandable, but still became a lesson learned. 6-pack boat operators are not that much more expensive, and will be a consideration on the next trip.

The only other disappointment that was a surprise to us when we arrived was the recent closure of their Islamorada facility. We had hoped to jump down there if we ran into the dive site issue that I mentioned above, in order to utilize our purchased dives at different locations. That obviously didn't work out.

The Ugly:
Office management. After successfully making reservations, I only received one AOW book. After three weeks, and three calls, I finally received the other AOW book, and two Nitrox books. Then, one week before our trip, RRDC called to let us know that they were sorry, but had not shipped us our Nitrox books, and wanted to let us know they were going to ship them!!??

After arriving, I found out that they have gone through several office managers, and the call regarding the Nitrox books was from a new one trying to sort things out. While the office mismanagement of our paperwork didn't cause us great grief, it could lead to some serious issues for vacationers.

The Bottom Line:
Overall, we had a pleasant experience, with no large vacation spoilers. Would probably not go with RRDC again due to the crowding issue, but the dive operation itself seems very solid.

A few tips:
1) Go to Sharky's pub for the fish 'n chips!! Best mahi-mahi I had all trip!
2) Don't go to Coconuts for the food (drinks are fine). Very expensive, and not that good. 3) Ocean Divers, next to Sharkys, has a good selection very nice souvenir polo shirts (couldn't find them most anywhere else!)
4) Don't buy coral from Shell World (or anywhere else for that matter... most is harvested from living coral overseas).
5) Doc's Diner, across from the Holiday Inn, has the best breakfast deal (but get there early its popular!).
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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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