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Dive Review of Tilden's Scuba Center/Blackfin Resort in
The Continental USA/Florida Keys

Tilden's Scuba Center/Blackfin Resort, Jul, 2011,

by Patricia , La, US (Top Contributor Top Contributor 31 reports with 10 Helpful votes). Report 6131.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 2 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling 4 stars
Value for $$ 3 stars
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments Arrived in Miami about 1.5 hours late, AA was late coming in to MSY and so, we were late leaving. Met Natalie at the airport and proceeded to get our rent car and head to the Embassy Suites (airport) for the night. Got there too late for dinner, and though starving, went to bed sans dinner. Got up early, took luggage down to the car, grabbed some coffee and headed out to the Keys. Stopped on the way at a McDonald, got some coffee and a bit of breakfast and then drove on. Got to Florida City, stopped at the Starbucks and got more coffee, so I could continue the drive. Arrived in Marathon and checked into the hotel by 10:00 AM. Checked in at the dive shop – produced c-cards (or rather, had them look mine up, since I left my log book and c-cards at home – dumb!) The plan was to do 14 dives in 3.5 days, depending on weather, etc.

On all dives there was surge, but the last two days it increased quite a bit and the viz dropped from 35 to 40 feet maximum to 15 to 20 feet at best. On dives where the viz started out at 35 to 40 by the end of the dive it would drop to 15 to 20 when the green came onto the reefs. The water temps were consistent at about 84 degrees and required only lycra shorts and short sleeved lycra top.

BTW - what is a dive trip without an injury? I have never managed to do one dive trip without hurting myself somehow - can we say klutz? This time I was walking through the boat before the first dive when my right foot (left side) hit the metal clamp thingy-majiggy that held the cover down over the boat motor. Nice and purple/black for two days, limping on day 1 of the injury and it was swollen to beat the band for the entire trip!

One can negotiate a deal on Nitrox with Tilden's - as a repeat customer I got it for 5 a tank, not their usual cost of 10 a tank. This was for me a 70 dollar savings.

Saturday, July 2nd – afternoon dives Sombero Reef Buoy 8 – 57 minutes, 25 feet. Dropped down on some cute yellow-headed jawfish. Managed to get one good shot. Viz at about 25 to 30 feet, but by the end of the dive it dropped to 20 feet as green water moved onto the reef. Ivory Wreck. – 40 minutes, 22 feet, usual tropicals, grunts, grey angelfish, yellow goatfish, juvenile queen angelfish and lots of pieces of wreckage lying around.

Sunday, July 3rd – morning dives at Sombero Reef Buoy 6, 50 minutes, 25 feet, found a Wrasse Blenny, found tons of lobsters and flamingo tongues. 2nd dive at Delta Shoals (near the Ivory Wreck), 52 minutes 22 feet. Found a redlip blenny on a purple seafan base. Many schooling tropicals.

Sunday July 3rd – afternoon dives at Delta West (near the Ivory Wreck)- 52 minutes and 22 feet. Porkfish, goldentail eel. Camera issues, put it into housing incorrectly and was unable to turn it on. 2nd dive at Sombero Reef Buoy 13 – 57 minutes, 25 feet. Found speckled eel, hogfish, queen angelfish, juvenile spotted drumfish. Close to buoy 15 there was a HUGE bait ball of young silversides and they were everywhere, so deep/thick that you could not see the reef structure behind them. Also, on this dive saw a large (about 8 foot) female nurse shark which appeared to be pregnant, judging from her massive girth. Large Tarpon (about 4 foot long or more) were swimming around and over the bait ball as well. Large numbers of snook here as well, very rarely have I seen them on this reef.

Monday, July 4th – morning dives at Sombero Reef Buoy 15 – 47 minutes and 26 feet. Lots of current and dive buddy who dropped first did not stay with the instructor as we had agreed. She was to wait with them while I dropped down, since she wanted to maximize her bottom time. She was blown back by the current and I was not able to find her. I surfaced and the Boat Captain pointed to where he thought she was – I swam over there, it was not her. I surfaced again and said I could not find her, mate told me to return to the instructor and wait. She had apparently surfaced near the other boats, and indicated she wanted to be picked up so he swam to her and brought her over to me. I was not happy with her on this dive. Swam over to the Bait ball which was still at the same place on the reef. When I got it to open up, I found a large scorpionfish at the base of the reef structure. Yellowtail snapper were everywhere – eating the silversides, the huge tarpon were still hanging around as well, but getting pictures of them, as the zoomed by with no warning that they were coming was impossible. 2nd dive was the Ivory Wreck, 47 minuted and 20 feet. I dropped first based on our discussion during the surface interval and waited until she was next to me. Then I took off…when I turned around she was missing again. Apparently, as she told it, she had equalizing issues and returned to the surface (but did not let me know). I turned around traced my way back, the mate swam down and indicated the direction that she had taken. I found her and this time never took my eyes off her.

The wind and rain stirred up the bottom and we cancelled doing the afternoon dives. No loss since viz was 20 feet, maybe.

Spent the night of the 4th sitting on a boat off Sombero beach watching the fireworks, Tilden's ran a boat out to the site (for money, of course!) They provided adult beverages and the evening's food, as well as convivial company. Quite enjoyed the evening! Champagne was served at the end of the fireworks display.

Tuesday, July 5th – morning dives at The Elbow, 58 minutes and 26 feet. Nice little reef, saw some southern sting rays. Camera battery died, so got no pictures on this dive. Did not go too far from the boat, since the previous day's dives made me nervous about losing Natalie again. 2nd dive was the Pillar Patch, 52 minutes and 22 feet. Totally missed finding the pillar coral since we had moored up quite a way away from it. I was worried about losing the dive buddy again, so I did not stray very far from the boat. Found a really nice brain coral with lobster underneath and saw many juvenile queen angelfish and juvenile yellowtail damselfish.

Tuesday, July 5th – afternoon dives at Flagler's Barge – 46 minutes and 25 feet. The growth in the last 7 years is really surprising! Lots of surge on this dive. As always, since this is in the middle of nowhere, everything was on this old wreck. Since there is nothing else there, except sand, I wasn't too worried about losing Natalie on this dive - it is a very small area, so finding her would be relatively easy. Schooling fish so thick you could not see through them. 2nd dive at Sombero Reef, buoy 15 - 1hour 6 minutes and 25 feet. Again, tons of surge and the viz dropped to 15 feet midway through the dive. With the viz as it was I was nervous about losing Natalie so we stayed in a small area and looked at the bait ball, the snook, blue angelfish and all the other schooling topicals, amazing what you find in a small area, flamingo tongues, butterfly fish, tarpon whizzing by, snook lumbering around, filefish and many, many more!

In all got in 12 dives and 10 hours and 24 minutes underwater.

Other notes - There were tons of small fry everywhere on the reefs, so thick that they made taking pictures very hard. I have never seem so many before small ones before.

I saw not one lionfish on any reef I dove. Last year I found tons of them, but this year nothing. Maybe that explains why there were so many small fry around.

On each dive, other than the first two, I was diving 63's. For those first two dives I went in with 3000 PSI and returned to the boat with no less than 2000 PSI. Once I went to the 63s I usually went in with 3000 PSI and returned with (for the longest dive of 1 hour and 6 minutes) no less than 1750 PSI. My air consumption and comfort level in the water has greatly improved in the last 2 years. I am working on getting even better with the air consumption, I think diving more often has been the trick for me to learn how to properly relax.

We stayed at the Blackfin Resort, which is right next to the dive shop we were using (Tilden's.) Tilden's is a fairly nice operation, but tends to go to the same reefs over and over since they put snorklers on the boat with the divers. As a result it is hard to get to the better reefs, like the Barge (which can viz out due to shallow depth), Donut, Angelfish, etc. On the other hand, with that bait-ball on Sombero, it made for some really nice fish watching - everything was feeding on the little silversides.

Another note - someone stole my bathing suit bottom (Cobalt blue high waisted that matched the top right next to it) from the chair in front of the room!!! They were out there to dry - can't imagine why someone would steal only the bottom and leave the top still there. As there was no wind in that area, and everything else (including near weightless lycra shorts) were still there, someone had to have taken them. By the way, the weight of the fabric made them too heavy to "blow away". Things never cease to surprise/amaze me.

Trip home to the airport was great fun (NOT!) I did manage to stop at the McDonald's in Marathon for coffee - got two LARGE cups and then stopped at the Stabuck's in Florida City. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the caffine - an IV might manage to deliver enough for me during long car trips. It rained non-stop from Marathon to the Turnpike, and the windshield wipers did not work properly. I need to call the (ACO) Rental agency and get them to refund me something for that problem. Making them work, required holding them up in (to) the on position, since they would not stay in that position. Even then, they did not operate as fast as they should have (only a slow wipe) which made seeing very difficult. Hence, the 2.5 hour drive to Miami took about 4 hours (I drove very slowly until Florida City, averaging 40 miles an hour.)

The AA flight was over 1.5 hours late leaving MIA for MSY - causing me to miss picking up the dogs Wednesday evening. Apparently I was a bit snake bit on this trip!

Websites Tilden's Scuba Center   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, Cayman Brac, Cozumel, St Eustatius, Bahamas, Florida Key, Curacao, Bonaire
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy, rainy Seas choppy, surge
Water Temp 84-86°F / 29-30°C Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 15-40 Ft/ 5-12 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions time limit
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 3 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 2 stars
Large Pelagics 1 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 When asked, Tilden's set up a camera tank and ensured that no masks went into it.
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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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