Stefanīs divetravel site

Dive trip reports mostly from rec.scuba.locations

Here I have saved good messages from rec.scuba.locations and rec.scuba.

The posts on this page are all written in the October and November 1998


From: Lenore Neigeborn <neigeborn@erols.com>
Subject: Re: Dominica??
Date: Wed, 14 Oct 1998 23:04:17 -0400

We were there last year. We dove and stayed with Castle Comfort/Dive Dominica and loved it. Diving was among best in Caribbean and way better than Bahamas. Dive Dominica did two dives AM dives and there's a shore dive (unlimited) right off the dock - great for night dives. Dive staff was terrific - they took note of your skills and experience and tailored the dives and profiles to fit. The island is great too! Try to spend some time above the water (that's what aftenoons are for) - the hiking is amazing: boiling lakes, secluded waterfalls, rainforest. There are no sandy beaches on the leeward side of the island (there are some on the windward side, but the surf and rocks are too much for swimming or even wading). Dive package comes with 2 meals a day which were excellent. Restaurants in town are varied and lots of fun - their prices are reasonable so you can skip a few dinners at Castle Comfort and go into town if you want. We did alot of lunches in town.
I highly recommend the trip!


From richard.newbold@zetnet.co.uk Thu Oct 29 11:53:13 MET 1998
Subject: Re: Diving Cuba
Date: Wed, 28 Oct 1998 19:35:06 GMT

Hi Miguel,
Here's a trip report I posted a while ago

> hi folks
> Anyone with info about Cuba?
> Best sites?
> If any of you been there please let me now about your experience.
> Thanks
> Miguel Angelo

Hi all
Just back from Cuba so I thought I'd post a quick report
We went to Guardalavaca for 2 weeks,where I managed to fit in 14 dives.
The diving varied from ok to excellent.

Most of the diving in the area is on walls,which vary in size from 15m to several hundred metres.There are plenty of caves and crevices to explore,some of the scenery was spectacular when the viz was good(40m+) viz did drop as low as 15m on one dive,but there was plenty of life to see. Larger species included Tuna(Which I saw feeding-that was good),Barracuda, Moray eels,Snapper,Grouper. Dived on 2 small wrecks (35-40ft) which looked like they had been sunk deliberately for diving.

The sea temperature was a constant 30c (86f) so I didn't bother with a suit after the first couple of dives,although I did get a couple of small stings,so it might be worth wearing one if that is a worry.

Of the 14 dives I did 11 were 30m+,1 to 41m,so I would not recommend this for novices.There are two dive operators in the area,Ocean Lovers at Esmeralda Beach and Eagle Ray at Guardalavaca Beach.I did most of my dives at Ocean Lovers as this was handier.A ten dive package cost 250us inc tank and weights,plus equipment.I hired a stab jacket for 17us for the duration.

I would strongly recommend taking your own valve at least,stab jacket too if you have room,as the equipment there wasn't great,old cressisub gear that needed servicing.

Ocean lovers used a large,comfortable boat and all the sites were within 15 minutes,there is no jetty so you have to swim out to the boat,no great hardship in the Carribean.Ten litre cylinders are standard,which I was ok with,but they had 12s if requested.Diving was cancelled for a couple of days when Hurricane Bonnie was at its closest,but all we saw of that was a stiff breeze.

My fellow divers hailed from a large diversity(unintended) of European countries,plus Canadians,and most were both friendly and competent.

The hotel we stayed in was Sol club rio de Luna,an all inclusive,which was very good.We ate out a few times,but if you like exotic food I wouldn't bother.Only take US currency as it is standard in the thriving Cuban free market.

Cuba is a lovely place,with a lot of culture,good diving and the people are very nice, I would recommend it to anyone interested.

If anyone has any questions feel free
Cheers
Rik,Shetland


From: mrs_hamilton@hotmail.com
Subject: Re: bahamas shark dive report
Date: Sun, 25 Oct 1998 17:15:46 GMT

Steve,
After one shark dive I am hardly an expert, but I will answer your questions based on my dive and my conversions with a couple of the feeders and camera personnel that go on these dives regularly.

As soon as the boat arrived at our destination, we saw a couple of sharks in the water. I have to admit I didn't have any spit for my mask at this point, so I guess you could say I was anxious. I overcame my fear by remembering how many people do these dives every day and come to no harm, and because husband and dive buddy is an experienced and competent dive master who would never let anything happen to me! Honestly, I was too concerned with equalizing to worry about sharks, as I still have problems with one of my ears and it takes me a couple of minutes to get down.

Sharks began coming around on the first wall dive but they just look at you and swim away. The second dive is the feed, and when it is over the feeder ascends while everyone else stays down for a few more minutes. The sharks that stayed around kept their distance. You can surface with your buddy when ever you are ready. In addition to the feeder there was a videographer and a still camera operator. During the feed you just want to keep your arms and hands near your side so they don't think you have food. I was a statue, believe me.

The bumping was slight, mostly when a shark swam toward you and then turned, the tail would sometimes get you. One bumped against my hand which was against my body, and I got a good accidental feel. They are medium sized sharks, maybe in the 4-8' range. We had approximately ten divers on our trip, I suppose that is an average number.

I imagine there are those who have 'freaked out' before during or after, but i didn't see or hear of any occurrences. The feeders sometimes get nipped, but if you just listen to instructions and keep your hands to yourself, there is no reason to fear. Even on the rare occasion when someone does get bitten, they just ascend to the surface without the human feeding frenzy of which you might be thinking (so I am told). The sharks actually prefer to eat fish over humans.

I hesitated to try this dive, but I couldn't let my husband do it and call me a chicken! I figure if hotel guests were constantly returning all chewed up by sharks, I believe the shark feed dive would no longer exist. Besides, the video and photos have great entertainment value for our families and friends. Now that it's over, I would terribly regret not having done it. For me it was a one time thing though. I wouldn't pay the money to do it again, but now I'm more comfortable diving if there are sharks in the area.

Hope this helps, and be sure to read the opposing posts regarding this dive experience to get some other perspectives before making up your mind.

Lisa Hamilton


From tecnom1934@aol.comnospam Sat Nov  7 15:10:00 MET 1998
Date: 5 Nov 1998 21:08:10 GMT
Subject: Cozumel Trip Report - The Diving (long)

COZUMEL TRIP REPORT

The Dive Operator

I spent months reading posts in the newsgroups, looking at web sites and researching old posts in Deja News. Also, I had a mandate from the rest of the group for a relaxing carefree diving vacation. All these factors along with never having been diving in Cozumel before led me to select Aldora for our first experience. Jorge met us at the airport as advertised although we already had all the initial information we needed from e-mail. He provided the sign-your-life-away form. We dropped our regulators by the shop on the way to dinner that first evening for conversion to DIN fittings and were looking forward to our first day of diving the next morning.

Diving the Aldora Way (IMHO) The tanks:

Much has been made of the high-pressure steel tanks; some have implied that Aldora is the dive operator of choice if you are an air hog. Dave Dillehay himself told me he started using steel tanks because he was a huge air hog when he first started diving and that they gave him a chance for decent bottom times. In using them in his dive operation, it levels the field so those who are air hogs don't detract from the dive times of those who aren't. The increased weight of the tanks is not a burden. I was able to drop from 12 lbs. to 6 lbs. in my weight belt thanks to the steel 120s with my buoyancy being the same at the end of the dive as at the beginning. My first tank always had 3300 psi and my second tank always had 3400.

Boats and pickup:

The boat was on time each day at the Fiesta Inn dock. In fact, they were early for our twilight/night dives. After the first day, we found our bcs already set up on the first tank when we boarded the boat and they were in the same spot on the boat each day. These are spacious six-packs with twin 150 Yamaha outboards. They aren't kidding about getting to the reef before everyone else. There is a covered area forward for dry items and a single ladder on the starboard side for boarding after a dive. The captain drives from a crows nest above the canopied diver seating.

Briefings & Dive site selection:

The divemaster asks where everyone would like to go and where everyone has already been. He/She takes into account how many dives you have done in Cozumel and which sites you have already been to on your current vacation. On the way to the first site you get a general description of the rules & regs such as the signals the divemaster will use to ask you for your amount of remaining air and how far into the yellow your dive computer has gone. You are requested to keep your computer from going more than 3 ticks into the yellow or to get no closer than 5 minutes from decompression mode for those who don't have a visible graph on their computers. You are also given a requested maximum depth for the site, but they don't keel haul you if you exceed it. By the time you get to the site you are geared up and ready to go.

The Dives:

All six divers and the divemaster do a synchronized backroll at the count of three to keep from drifting apart, not to mention rolling in on each other. After everyone meets at the bottom you proceed to the reef and are expected to all stay within sight of the divemaster. He/She generally leads, especially where there are swim-throughs, and will attempt to point out the "good stuff" to you. If you come up on another group during the second dive, they will frequently have you take a break on the sand and let the others clear out. After all, as they put it, we have a lot more air than they do. After about 30 minutes they will check everyone's air consumption and where your computer stands in the caution zone. The person who is either using the most air or has the most conservative computer will determine when they will start to shallow up everyone. When it's time for the safety stop, the divemaster inflates a sausage on a line and everyone's drifts along at 15 ft. The safety stop will continue until all the computers are in the green. By this time the boat has become visible overhead and everyone takes their turn stripping. Co-ed naked diving? Not quite. Once surfaced near the ladder you remove and hand up your weight belt, remove your bc/tank which the captain pulls up and places back at your spot on the boat, and remove and hand up your fins. It's then quite easy to climb back aboard.

The Surface Interval:

The boat makes a quick trip to the Playa Del Sol beach resort where there are facilities (complete with attendants and tip jars) and a restaurant with lunch fare and beverages.
You have plenty of time to kick back, order lunch and discuss the first dive. This is good since everyone's computer is at the top of the green after the first dive. By the time you finish lunch, get back on the boat and arrive at your second dive site (also open to input from the divers) about two hours have passed and the computers are much happier.

Dive #1 - October 22 Boat - Aldora III Divemaster - Alexandra

The boat picked Dianne and I up promptly at 8:00. We were the last to board so after finding out that these would be our first Cozumel dives, Alexandra headed us out to Palancar Pillars. They told us the water temp was about 80 but as soon as I hit the water I knew it was much warmer. Some computers were reporting as warm as 87 but I think 84 was more like it. We met at the hard sand bottom at 35 fsw and started drifting toward the reef. We saw a couple of skates along with a few garden eels but the huge coral heads we were approaching soon riveted our attention. They turned out to be populated by all manner of tropicals which I have seen from the Keys to the Bahamas to Bonaire but all in one place. The highlights of this dive were the toad fish, which Alexandra found and partially lured out from under its rock and two turtles. These guys were much smaller than the turtles I see in the Gulf of Mexico but weren't skittish at all. I ended up with a max depth of 90 fsw and only one notch into yellow before we headed for the safety stop. The total time for this dive including the safety stop was 58 minutes. Starting psi was 3300 and ending psi was 1200.

Dive #2 - October 22

After our leisurely surface interval we headed out to El Cedral. Alexandra warned us that the current would likely be much faster here and that she would probably call for a break behind a coral head at some time. She wasn't exaggerating at all. We saw several large grouper right off the bat as we zipped right along. Even as fast as were going most of the time Alexandra was still able to find all kinds of critters in their holes including a very shy green moray. We also saw another turtle on this dive. Just as we were about to take our promised break we came upon one of the largest black grouper I have ever seen. He had to have been between 3 and 4 feet. He was also very accommodating about posing for pictures. After I took a couple he swam right up to me to see what was going on. Then he moved off a couple of yards and settled near the bottom facing into the current and just chilled out. I had a maximum depth of 56 fsw and with a long safety stop to get my computer into the green logged 68 minutes and still surfaced with 1000 psi in the tank after starting with 3400. The surface interval between dives 1 and 2 was 1:39.

Dive #3 - October 23 Boat - Aldora IV Divemaster - Daniel

The boat picked us up promptly at 8:00 again and we discovered we had Daniel as the divemaster of the day. He has a well-deserved reputation as being one of Aldoras' best. After surveying everybody's Cozumel exploits we headed out to Columbia. We put in at the end of Columbia Deep and finished in Columbia Regular. Daniel had requested that we keep to a 95 fsw profile but I managed to get down to 108 fsw to get a picture of a passing barracuda that Daniel pointed out to me. After I rejoined the group, Daniel led us on a leisurely tour through many coral swim-throughs for the majority of the dive. We didn't really see much animal life that wasn't around the day before but I still managed to use a whole roll of film. As we drifted on our safety stop over a sand bottom we spotted a ray that had a good-sized fish swimming directly on top of it. The fish appeared to be harassing the ray so it would stir stuff up out of the sand, which the fish could then eat. We then spotted three large silvery fish that were digging in the sand that Daniel identified as Permit fish. I logged 63 minutes including the safety stop and had 1200 psi left from my starting 3300. I was still using 10lbs of weight up to this point and having some buoyancy problems.

Dive #4 - October 23

After a two-hour surface interval at Playa Del Sol, we headed out to do Santa Rosa Wall as some rain began to fall. This site turned out to be my favorite during this abbreviated trip. Fantastic coral formations and the sheer drop off into a deep blue abyss. We stopped inside a coral swim-through at one point to allow another group of divers to move on. I took many pictures of nothing but coral formations and sponges on this dive. As at the other sites, the French and Grey Angels were huge and the Queen Angels much more vibrantly colored than the ones in Gulf of Mexico. I was also beginning to think that I have seen every variety of trigger fish that is native to the Caribbean. On our safety drift we saw more rays with their tag-along companion fish. I dropped to 8lbs on this dive and buoyancy was much better. I logged 60 minutes with a max depth of 87 fsw and had 1000 psi remaining from my starting 3400. The rain was still falling when we surfaced and would continue to fall, heavily at times, until mid-afternoon the next day.

Dive #5 - October 25 Boat - Aldora III Divemaster - Alehandro (sp)

This was to be our "twilight" dive of a twilight/night two tanker. We had begun keeping a close eye on Mitch via CNN. The rain actually quit around 2:00 PM but the water was quite rough at 3:00 when we were due to be picked up. This didn't stop an idiot instructor from taking an OW student out for a certification dive just off the Fiesta Inn dock. When we walked up she was trying to climb up the ladder sans mask and fins which had been lost in the strong surge during the attempted exit. Eventually both fins reappeared and were washed up where we could grab them and her instructor managed to find her mask/snorkel. Our boat was already on site although staying well away from the docks while waiting for us. After I signaled them they came in and picked us up. We discovered that we were the only two doing these dives and we were thinking, wow, our own private divemaster. However, Alehandro turned out to be the lone disappointment of our diving with Aldora. As some pundits have noted, it's the divemaster that makes the dive a good experience or a not as good an experience. Alehandro gave the impression that he had some other place he would rather be, certainly not diving with us. He gave us a very brief briefing perhaps assuming that after two previous days we knew the Aldora routine, even though he was using a different signal to query for our computer readings. He was also boasting about having gone down to 200 fsw at Columbia Deep the day before. He took us out to Tunich and referred to it as Cedra Tunich rather than Punta Tunich, perhaps a different section. This is also a wall dive like Santa Rosa but we stayed up on the ridge, which had coral of varying height, the entire time. Since the weather was overcast, it was actually getting a little dim down there. The dive started slowly critter-wise and very quickly current-wise. This was definitely the strongest current we had to deal with and it only occasionally gave us a break. Because of the shortage of critters, I again managed to wander down to 108 fsw looking for photo ops. I noticed Alehandro and Dianne well above me and made my way back up to their level. On this dive I was wearing only 6 lbs. and had no trouble getting way down <g>. Before I knew it I had more subjects than I could shake a strobe at. Mile after mile (literally as fast as we were going) of my favorite fish; Queen Angels, French Angels, Grey Angels, Rock Beautys, all manner of butterfly fish, and Queen Triggers. It was very difficult getting a decent picture of any of them because we were moving so fast. Naturally I was out of film by the time Alehandro spotted a dozing 7-foot nurse shark under a ledge (his lone discovery of the dive). We also saw several lobsters and some of the coral polyps had started to open. As we did our safety hang, we spotted more rays on the bottom while we were in the middle of a halocline created by the runoff from all the rain in the previous 24 hours. There were also a lot of drab-colored oddly shaped trigger fish hunting for food in the halocline. I was first back on the boat and then was very surprised to see Alehandro get back on while Dianne was still in the water. Our previous divemasters were always the last ones back in the boat.
Stats for this dive, which turned out to be our last one, 108 fsw - 65 minutes - 800 psi remaining from the 3300 I started with. The extra air consumption was due to fighting the current to get pictures and the long safety stop. My computer had gotten the three ticks into yellow and had to be closing in on the fourth and last one before we started our ascent. Since Playa Del Sol wasn't open this late in the day, we took a little trip over to the dive boat docks near the El Presidente. No facilities, food or drinks here, just a couple of stray dogs to play with during our surface interval.
After an hour of wandering around looking at boats that had so many tank holders that we could still hear the mooing from earlier that day, we boarded our boat and started out. The captain checked in with the office and discovered that Aldora had cancelled all the night dives for fear that the weather might deteriorate again. Actually it had calmed down during our first dive and the subsequent surface interval but we were on our way back to the Fiesta Inn.

Summary:

Aldora is definitely a good operation but is still only as good as it's divemasters.

I would certainly consider diving with them again but wouldn't preclude trying other operators. I can't imagine being able to get the bottom times at depth that I got on these dives and still have enough air to get my computer back in the green using aluminum 80s.

Diving on Monday the 26th and Tuesday the 27th was also cancelled due to Mitch. We were having sustained winds of 30mph out of the northeast which were raising whitecaps on the west side of the island and some huge surf on the east side.

*******************
Ron Schmetzer
Tallahassee, FL

PADI OW 6/95
PADI AOW 5/96
SSI Nitrox 8/98
89 logged dives
Last dive 10/24/98 Cozumel - Cedra Tunich

From: Charlie Williams <charlie@quebec.demon.co.uk>
Subject: Re: Maldives - Paradise Island
Date: Tue, 10 Nov 1998 16:06:08 +0000

In article <7yMvnAAOCcR2EwsB@funparts.demon.co.uk>, I seem to recall
Malcolm Rose <malarose@funparts.demon.co.uk> said something like:
>Has anyone been to this exotically-named island? 
>
>It is in the N. Ari atoll. I think it is a new resort that was
>redeveloped a couple of years ago. Is it a good diving location with
>a house reef or is it more suitable for the sun-worshippers? There seem
>to be a number of package holidays there with some reasonable deals. Any
>comments will be most welcome.

Yes I went there very recently. I actually stayed at Hudhuveli, the smaller island which shares a lagoon with Paradise. At low tide it is easy to walk across from one to the other, so I did.

As far as diving goes, I am not really qualified to judge as my experience is very limited - an introductory course plus two dives on the reef at about 20m (hey - I can build from that!) Manta Point is a popular very local spot - I went there both times and saw seven Manta Ray at about 16m. Plenty of turtles. Also whale sharks visit there (though I never saw one). There are several wrecks in the area, I think the nearest is a very large (180m) one from 1980.

Divers I have spoken to absolutely love it in the area. Basically you can get to any spot within the Male atholl within an hour on a dhoni boat. As well as the wrecks, among the reef spots are points for checking out reef sharks and hammerheads.

Paradise Island itself I found pretty tacky. Whereas Hudhu is simple, small, quiet and unspoilt, Paradise has several bars ad restaurants, plenty of jet-skiers (read: a**holes), and it smells of doughnuts. I know there is a PADI dive centre at Hudhu from which I dived, I assume there is also one at Paradise.

I would love to hear of others' experience diving in the Maldives as I plan to return ASAP.

------------------------------------------------------------
Everything IMHO.

Charlie Williams

Remove PAINED_EXPRESSION before replying..

From: Giovanni Senoner <jsenoner@tritecnica.it>
Subject: Polynesia Trip Report
Date: Fri, 20 Nov 1998 00:04:08 +0100

BORA BORA, 10-15 AUGUST

Despite the beauty of the island, a very disappointing dive experience. We've been staying at Le Meridien and diving with the Calypso Club. The hotel itself is extremely beautiful. It had opened just 6 weeks earlier therefore the service was not very tuned up. The location, on the Motu Piti Aau (an island part of the eastern reef of Bora Bora) permits a very beautiful sight of the mount Otemanu. However its position is VERY exposed to the dominant SE wind which results quite unpleasant after a few days. Furthermore the location is a big obstacle for any kind of serious diving, since the only dive for which the Calypso Club did pick us up at the hotel's pier was Manta Reef. For diving on the other sites of the lagoon and in the open ocean, they required us to cross the lagoon with the hotel transfer boat, in order to pick us up with a small van and bring us to their "headquarter". After unloading all the equipment from the van, crossing the street, walking though an hotel's garden and loading the boat, the boat trip to the dive site could finally start. This meant about 3 1/2 hours for every dive. All the process was so boring that we gave up this kind of dives and made only the daily morning dive to Manta Reef, in front of the Meridien. I suggest everybody interested in serious diving to check if the situation is still the same and if yes, to chose another hotel (BB Hotel, BB Lagoon Hotel, Pearl Beach Hotel) closer to the only pass to the open ocean, the Teavanni Pass.

Bora Bora Dives Sites
Manta Reef
Well known for the possibility to meet manta rays on the morning dives. Very easy lagoon dive, no current, no colors. Vis from 5 ( yes, five!) to 15 meters. Depth 20-25 m.
Le Cliff
Nice drift dive in the SW part of the lagoon. More corals and colors then Manta Reef, many big morays. Vis about 20 m, depth 25-30 m.
Other dive sites
The outer reef of BB should offer many nice dives with big pelagics, although not in the quantity you can see in Rangiroa. Vis in the 30-50 m range. Unfortunately the nicest walls of BB, i.e. the E-NE wall and the S point are practically not diveable because of their distance from the pass. The local operators usually dive in the area close to the pass and up to the N point of the island.

Calypso Diving Club
They have two good boats, a catamaran used for the lagoon dives and a fast Lomac used for the most distant dives. Steel tanks, 12 and a few 15 liters, DIN/INT manifolds. Professional service and not much more.

RANGIROA, 16-23 AUGUST
Top class diving !
Total 11 dives, 10 in the Tiputa pass and 1 in the Avatoru pass.
We've seen manta rays almost in every dive, even 5 at a time; schools of 50-100 gray sharks; dolphins 3 times, even 8 at a time, schooling barracuda on every dive, eagle rays, dogtooth tuna and bigger tuna, napoleon, turtles, white tip and black tip sharks. Other people saw hammerhead, marlin and sailfish during our stay. In Avatoru should be easy to see silvertip, but when we dove there the current was not the proper one. All the dives begin in the blue, sometimes you spend the first 10 minutes without any visual contact to the reef or the bottom, with 30-50 m of vis, waiting for the current to bring you inside the pass. This is the best time to meet big pelagics.

Raie Manta
The oldest diving on the island. Headquarter in Avatoru and two more bases, one in the Kia Ora Hotel and the other close to the pension Teina & Marie, in front of the Tiputa pass. At the time they have three old Zodiac inflatable boats. The offer a very sportive diving style. Although all the divemasters have without any doubt a big experience, they tend to have big groups and sometimes overcrowded boats.

Six Passengers
Other people staying at our same hotel have been diving with this operator and they were very happy of them. I’ve seen that the boat was looking much better, and that the groups were in average smaller. Six passengers tries to offer a better service and the price should be the same if not more competitive then Raie Manta.

MANIHI, 24-29 AUGUST
Although in the lagoon we saw manta rays, eagle rays, sharks and big moray eels, the pleasure of this encounter was strongly reduced from the poor visibility. Outside the pass there was very little to be seen, compared to Rangiroa. No manta, no dolphins, no tuna, very few sharks and barracuda. Even when Gilles brought some bait underwater the situation didn't change much. Manihi should be visited absolutely before and not after Rangiroa. Despite the small distance, their pass have an opposite exposure to wind and waves. This is probably the reason for such a big difference in the underwater life. One pro: In Manihi the boat ride to the diving points is almost always with calm see.

Manihi Blue Nui
The only diving in Manihi, located in the Pearl Beach Hotel. The diving club is very well organized: a comfortable boat, tanks on board, good equipment, lot of cooperation and attention from Gilles Petres and his staff. They are really engaged to make your diving very relaxing and safe. An approach completely different if compared to Raie Manta Club.

Regards - Jean Senoner


From: catnthaht@aol.com (CatNthaHt)
Subject: Cayman Brac Trip Report
Date: 24 Nov 1998 21:17:15 GMT

Recently returned from 9 days/8 nights on Brac. We were at the Brac Reef Beach Resort.

We arrived late on a Wednesday night (12:30 AM) and to our surprise they had snadwiches and fruit/rum punch waiting for us at the desk. This was a nice way to start. We quickly unpacked and turned in and got 6 or so hours of sleep.

Thursday - Went down to the dive shop early and acquired our gear bags. We then went back to the room and loaded up our equipment. The dive staff came by and picked up our stuff and hauled it down to the boat. This was another nicety for us. We went out on the morning boat trip and on dive one had a little computer glitch so we missed the first dive. The second dive was at a site called Tarpon Alley. This was an OK site. The sea conditions were a little rough due to the tail end of Mitch. The current was also a little strong but we saw a lot of large tarpon. We skipped the afternoon dive because we were exhausted from the travel day.

Friday - Morning Dives at Greenhouse Reef and Garden Eel Wall. These were 2 very nice dive sites. Aburdance of fish life and healthy corals. The wall started at about 70 ft and we went to about 95 ft. Lots of sponges and fish in the blue water. Schools of cuda's and some eagle rays. Afternoon dive was to a shallow reef called Radar Reef. Another spur and groove reef with lots of fish.

Night Dive - We did the night dive to Elkhorn Forrest. This was an excellent spot for a night dive. Lots of lobsters and other assorted night creatures. We were lucky and encoutered no sea wasps, as some earlier in the week night divers had run into.

Saturday - Mornign dives to the Russian Frigate (which was nice) and to Fosters Wall. Viz was a bit poor (by Brac standards) at the wall but a nice dive. The wreck was interesting as the ship is literally coming apart. A poor display of craftsmanship by our Russian friends. But I would recommend it. The current was running a bit at this site but not bad. Afternoon dive was another reef called Charlies Reef. This site was named after the resident Moray that lives here (I did not see him).

Sunday - Slept in and took the day off to dry out. Spent some quality time in a hammock with a book and an adult beverage.

Monday - Went over to Little Cayman in the morning. Dove Marilyns Cut (Wall) and Jacksons Reef. The Cut dive site was the most spectacular dive I have ever done. A great reef that just drops off to a great wall and super blue water. Rates as my #1 dive not only of the week but of all my logged dives. Jacksons reef was a good shallow dive with great (200+) viz and a lot, I mean a lot of fish. Afternoon dive was to a reef on Brac that I cannot recall the name. (I dont have my logbook with me.)

Tuesday - We had the luxury of a "Bluff Run". We got to circle the island from the south side in the boat around the East Bluff. It was a great site to see. We dove 2 sites: Bert Brothers Boulders and End of Island AKA Airport Reef. These were 2 solid but not spectacular dives. The highlight for me was the spotting of a sharp tail eel on the last dive. My wife actually spotted him and nearly pulled my arm out of socket trying to get my attention to see him.

Wednesday - We rented a scooter and toured the island. Went to all the caves and essentially traversed the whole island in a day.

Thursday - Was our travel day. Left for Grand Cayman at 6:45 and spent 8 hours touring Georgetown before returning home.

The Brac Reef was great. The dive staff pampered us and made us feel "part of the team" (Even though we made some mistakes). The food at the resort was outstanding. We were very pleasantly surprised by this. Breakfast was your basic standard breakfast but the dinners were great. The grounds are very nice and the hammocks are top notch relaxation. The rooms were a little rustic but for those whose objective is to dive its not a problem. For those who are not diving, with that sun and a hammock...why be in the room?....All in all a great trip that is worth repeating. I would reccommend this place to any and everyone.....

Out....
Murph


From: "MR. SOVEREIGN" soverein@nanaimo.ark.com                    
Re: diving in Cuba                                              
Date: Sat Nov 28 19:57:02 MET 1998

Following is my trip report to Cuba:

Left solo from Nanaimo BC; 0500 Oct 23, ferry to Vancouver, flew to Toronto, spent one hellish night at the concrete hell known as the Pearson Airport Gulag. (note to file: Don't be so damn cheap and get a hotel). Onwards by Air Transat to Holguin Cuba, then a 1.5h minibus to Guardalavaca consuming frosty Mayabe and Cristal beers. I had booked 7 nights at Club Guardalavaca (CG)- all inclusive (booze, water sports and food) $599cdn including flight from TO. Decent 3 star accomodation, somewhat tattered around the edges (much like me). Plentiful (if somewhat bland) food, but wonderful cuban rum. The CG seems much more laid back and friendlier than the neighbouring 4 star Las Brisas, where the security will not even allow tourists from other hotels on the grounds. Club Atlantico is on the other side - 3.5 stars, closer to the beach, but under renovations.

I arranged diving on arrival with Eagle Ray Dive Center, about a 10 minute walk. Full facitilities, very professional, safe and reasonably priced ($250US for 10 dives). The shore diving opportunities do not seem very good and Eagle Ray said they would not rent tanks only.

Diving here is varied and very close to the dive center. We were never more than a 15 minute boat run away from the dive sites. Weather, as the result of Mitch's leftovers was windy and we were shut down a couple of days. Still the diving was spectacular, the boats very uncrowded (maximum 8 divers) and the variety was excellent. Numerous coral walls, arches, swim throughs and caves.  1 small fishboat wreck. Dove: Corona, Punta Azul, Aquarium, Punta Engles, Punta Lizzie (New site) and others. I have a distinct impression that much of the area remains somewhat unexplored.

Maximum depths I dove ranged 50 to 128fsw, temperatures from 78 to 80F consistently, vis due to the windy conditions ranged from 10 to 100' +. Dive masters were competent, well trained, and were willing to allow the more experienced divers to expand a bit while keeping the groups as a whole,

well organized. Divers were Canadian, British, German, Swiss and Spanish. I brought my own equipment, but the rental gear seemed to be very good quality Cressi Sub gear. Rental is $5US/day.

Truly a memorable diving experience.

After the week was up, I rented a scooter and rode the 200km to Santiago de Cuba (600,000 pop). Spent 2 nights with a Cuban family in their Casa Particulaire ($20US/night - excellent accomodations) and 1 night at a forlorn, but scenic resort on the highway to Baconao ($27US including dinner). Santiago to Baconao is a beautiful highway that runs about 60km along the coast of the Sierra Maestre mountains in the Southeast corner of Cuba towards Guantanamo. This road ends at Baconao.

I dove with Sigua Dive Centers. Same price as Guardalavaca. (Everything, including the dive centers are government-run). The coral reefs here were no comparison to Guardalavaca.  Dove Sponge City (excellent chimney sponges), and the wrecks Goleta and Ferri. Ferri was a deep 120fsw dive, so unfortunately short. This is a huge dive site and would require 10 or so dives to explore. Nitrox or trimix is unavailable. Goleta is a small broken up freighter in only 50fsw. A bit disappointing so I returned to Guardalavaca for the last 3 days.

Points to consider:

Cuba is very safe. I felt safe even when following a car load of Cubans down the backstreets of Holguin to siphon 3 or 4 litres of gas out of their 20 year old Fiat.

This brings me to my next point: Transportation is extremely difficult to obtain outside of the tourist facilities. Gas is very scarce and expensive ($1-1.50US/litre on the black market). My little scooter was an excellent way to see the country at 60km/hr and reasonable - $23US/day.
Car rental can cost $100US/day and you may end up stranded without gas.

Expect to "misplace" small items, such as that water bottle on the table, those cheap sunglasses carelessly left on your beach towel etc. Remember how much better off you are than the Cubans and consider these as small gifts. I have not heard of significant pilferage, but it is best to keep money and valuables with you.

Cubans are incredibly hospitable and helpful. Don't forget to bring small gifts. You will be a cherished friend. Things like soaps, toothepaste, BIC lighters, candy, cigarettes are very difficult things for Cubans to obtain. One suggestion I heard was to pack your old clothes (not rags) with you to wear on your holiday and leave them in Cuba. I thought this was an excellent suggestion and will do this on my next trip.

Returned to Toronto Nov 11.

 



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Last modified: November 28:th, 1998
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