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Dive Review of Down Under Watersports in
Virgin Islands/St John

Down Under Watersports, Jun, 2007,

by Greg Harnish, NJ, USA ( 1 report). Report 3464.

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 N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments This was my first visit to St John. My wife (who is a non-diver) and I chose St. John to enjoy a relaxing, off the beaten path vacation that allowed me to dive in the morning and both of us to snorkel in the afternoon. Unfortunately the week we arrived, the dive operator I had contacted before our trip was not running. I was referred to Down Under Watersports, and was pleasantly surprised to discover an excellent 6-pack dive operation run by couple Bill Cunningham and Cindy Adams, both of who are USCG licensed captains and PADI instructors.

Down Under has everything I look for in a 6-pack operator. Bill and Cindy have experience as captains and divemasters throughout the Caribbean. Bill has been diving on St. John since the age of 10. Bill and Cindy have great personalities, which translate into a fun and safe experience for their divers. Their operation is based near Cruz Bay, very close to the Westin resort. They take no more than six divers in a 28 foot Ellis lobster boat which has been renovated with a dive platform, benches, tank racks, spray curtains, ladder, and a fresh water shower. Safety features include a GPS, VHF radio, cell phones, first aid kit, DAN O2 oxygen unit, flares, personal floatation devices, and fire extinguishers. They regularly visit at least 16 sites around St. John.

Bill and Cindy held thorough dive and eco briefings before each dive, including a sketch of the dive site and points of interest along the route. The divesmaster leads the dive, but flexibility is given for different levels of experience. Divers ascend the anchor line as air is depleted, with remaining divers continuing their dive near the boat. On the days I dove, Cindy was holding checkout dives for a new cert and had no problem allowing me flexibility in terms of profile and pace of the dive. I was happy to go slow, relax, and get good use from my new camera. You can tell a lot by how an instructor handles a new cert. Cindy was relaxing and encouraging in her manner, but made sure all requirements were thoroughly covered. I would have no issue with a family member being certified by Bill or Cindy. In addition to open water certification, other PADI classes are offered up to the level of divemaster.

St. John diving tends to be relatively shallow, anchor line dives, although some sites can be done as drift dives. During my trip a combination of schedule and sea conditions kept me to the northwest side of the island. Depths were generally 60 feet or less. My favorite site was Carvel Rock. St. John has very health coral, particularly soft corals, which can be enjoyed by diving and snorkeling. In terms of fish life while diving, I was treated to the expected array of tropical reef fish, plus schools of Atlantic Spadefish, several Great Barracuda, adult and juvenile Spotted Drums, large Southern Stingrays, a Honeycomb Cowfish, and a Longlure Frogfish. In addition to the dive sites off shore of St. John, you are a moderate boat ride away from dive sites in the British Virgin Islands, including the RMS Rhone.

After a morning of diving, my wife and I hit the beaches for snorkeling. It would take weeks to sample all of the snorkeling sites on St John. The sites were close to shore, accessible from beautiful beaches, relatively shallow, and the underwater action was superb. She was mesmerized by the coral reefs and abundant sea life. Not only did we enjoy the sampling of tropical reef fish, we saw nurse sharks, an octopus, Hawksbill turtles, stingrays, and even swam with a Spotted Eagle Ray—most of these my wife had never seen before. We struck a balance between my diving and our snorkeling that left us looking forward to a return trip next year. We spent so much time snorkeling and diving, that we didn’t have an opportunity to trek the numerous hiking trails around the island.

The water in St. John, at least on the north coast, tends to have a relatively high salt content, so I needed a couple extra pounds in the weight pouches. Visibility was good, but not exceptional (I experienced 50 to 70 feet), likely owing to the shallow dive sites and lack of ocean current. Nitrox is not available on St. John, but its benefits would have been limited given the relatively shallow dive profiles.

St. John is known for its villas. Many are secluded, with amenities such as open air showers and sometimes a swimming pool. A friend at work hooked us up with Windspree Vacation Homes and we had a great experience. Bill and Cindy are happy to make referrals of other reputable villa companies. Air conditioning is not always standard, particularly on the Coral Bay side of the island where trade winds can be refreshing for much of the year. We opted for an air conditioned villa and, in mid-June with a lull in the trades, were quite happy with our choice. We stayed on the Coral Bay side of the island and loved this laid back side of St. John—our pre-vacation stress melted away during our first couple of hours on the island.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 51-100 dives
Where else diving Cozumel, Bahamas, Florida, Hawaii, Thailand
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 82-82°F / 28-28°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 50-70 Ft/ 15-21 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Profiles well within recreation diving limits. Recommended safety stop. Flexibility in profile for divers of varying experience. Divers ascend anchor line as air is depleted.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

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