Reviews of Caribbean scuba diving vacations
This was our 4th visit to Huracan Diving in Belize. Obviously we like the place! The diving is excellent, however, there is signs of distress this year on the reef. A disease has hit some of the large sponges and it is killing the sponge. Lighthouse reef still has lots of large groupers, sharks, spotted eagle rays and this year we were treated to a dive with 6 dolphins who swam back and forth for about 20 minutes.
I will keep this review short as there is plenty of info on Huracan on the other reviews. As usual, the management and staff at Huracan did an excellent job. Overtime we go there are a few new improvements. The rooms now have a curtain divider between the bathroom and the bedroom. The dive shop has moved back to the main building/hotel. The food is still excellent and this is amazing considering how difficult it is to get food out to the island.
This year we had some more very hard rains at night. Very little to no rain during the day. Weather was good considering this was November/December which is known as being a time where the seas can be a bit rough. The ride out was rough and the first 2 days had some strong winds and this stirred up the vis a bit. The visibility varied from 30 feet to 80 feet depending on the day and the dive site. Overall it was good considering this is probably the worst time to go. Summer is hot and dry with no rain, excellent vis and you will have mosquitos. November will have lots of rain and no mosquitos and some varied vis. Remember this island uses rain water for showers and such so rain is good……
Dive St. Vincent and Mariners Hotel
We dove with Dive St. Vincent in St. Vincent during June 2015. We choose Dive St. Vincent over the other operations on the island due to the reputation of Bill Tewes and the muck diving that he made famous in St. Vincent. For those that have never done muck diving it is a type of diving where you concentrate looking for tiny, weird and cryptic life that is found in the sand beds and sea grass areas. It can be a highly rewarding type of dive if you have any desire to see rare critters. If you want to see sea horses, pipe fish, pipe horses, frog fish, pistol shrimps, conch shrimp, nudibranch and other critters that are rarely seen in the caribbean, Dive St. Vincent is the place to go. The other operations may or may not have the experience and ability to find the critters. Without a doubt Dive St. Vincent finds the critters.
Unfortunately, Bill Tewes is no long active in Dive St. Vincent due to bad health. However, his dive masters who have dove with him and Dive St. Vincent for 20-25 years each are still there. After 20 plus years of diving the area they know where the critters are. After 20 plus years of diving, this is not new to them so they have lost a little of the enthusiasm of find new critters. The staff is HIGHLY EXPERIENCED in finding the local critters!
- Incredible critters seen and lots of them. This is why you go.
- Highly experience dive masters. This is why you dive with Dive St. Vincent
- Free unlimited Shore diving. Lots of critters on house reef/ muck area
- Healthy corals within short swim of muck sites.
- Excellent for Photographers
- No Coral Bleaching
- lots of small fish
- No dedicated camera rinse tank on shore
- No rinse tank for wetsuits. You must take wetsuit back to hotel which has not rinse tank
- No dive briefing maps (helps to find muck area and coral areas)
- Older operation, boat and shop is old and a bit run down
- Not known for large fish.
- No one is left on boat. No drift dives, you must get back to the boat.
- Reasonable Price
- Has Restaurant
- Has Pool
- Short Walk (100 yards/meters) from dive operation on boardwalk
- Basic business hotel. Equivalent to Econolodge
- Restaurant a bit expensive
- Rooms a bit dated
- Dive shop is about 100 yard walk. (it is the closest hotel)
The one question you always need to ask yourself. If you were to go back, would you go to the same shop. In the case, without a doubt, yes, I would return to Dive St. Vincent. I may or may not choose a different hotel. Mariners was good and convenient, but so were the other hotels.
Getting to St. Vincent
American Eagle no longer flies to St. Vincent. The best way to get here now is to fly to Barbados and then take a Liat flight to St. Vincent. SVG Air also flies to St. Vincent. SVG is more expensive and it appeared that they provided much better service with agents waiting for you before you entered immigration.
LIAT has a terrible reputation with divers with gear. There are luggage embargo times where you will fly, but you luggage will arrive at a later date. List also has an extremely low carry on allowance of 15 lbs. Most bags weigh 8-10 lbs empty. I was tired and put our carry on roll aboard on the scale and quickly took it off. They made a big stink about the weight. We spent 15 minutes repacking and we almost emptied the bag and it was still over weight. The bag had a go pro camera some batteries and 2 dive computers and it was over weight. Eventually, they gave up and let us go. This was my mistake of putting the bag on the scale. Suggestions, pack with packing bags. Take the packing bag out and have them weigh the bag. Weight ok. Leave and put the packing bag back in. Also, don’t make the dumb mistake and place your carryon on the scale. Keep it hidden from them.
At the LIAT gate lots of people had roll boards that I am sure weighed over 15 lbs. No issue here. Only at the counter.
We flew outside of the luggage embargo periods, so all of our luggage made it. On the return flight they asked us about our connections and they marked the bags. I assume return flight luggage with connections gets preference. Nice to know.
Overall the addition of the LIAT flight adds about $200-300 per person to the airfare. This makes St. Vincent one of the more expensive destinations in the Caribbean to get to.
St. Vincent is building a new much larger airport which will hopefully attract major airlines to go there. It has been under construction for 8 years or so, and it appears fairly close to being complete.
Mariners Hotel is a basic business hotel. Most of the guests are there on business. You do get a few disapproving stares if you eat breakfast in swim trunks with a t shirt as you are going from the restaurant to the shop….. We were the only divers there during this week. Hotel and dive shop.
The rooms are very basic at Mariners. Nothing fancy. Comfortable and reasonably clean. It had AC (which leaked) which kept the room cool. We thought we were the cause of the water on the floor from carry wet gear around. It turned out it was the condensate line that was back up. Minor issue.
I have stayed in better and much worse in the same price range. This is not a Hilton or Marriott. If this is what your standard is you will be disappointed. If you expect something like a Quality Inn or older Comfort Inn or similar you will be happy. The salt, heat and humidity is very rough on rooms.
The bathroom was OK. The mirrors over the sink were useless due to a window above the sink. Made shaving a bit difficult. Rooms had 220 v out lets and a couple of USA 110 v outlets.
There was a very nice view of the water, pool area and Young Island from our room
The grounds around the Mariners Hotel were attractive. There was a nice pool. lounge chairs, tables with umbrellas etc.
There as a tiny, barely there beach. At high tide it was gone, low tide, there was a spot of sand. However this is not why you go here. You come here for the muck diving and seeing fantastic critters
As I mention it is a short walk to the dive shop. From the Mariners Hotel to Dive St. Vincent there is a boardwalk. Some of the local kids have vandalized the railings, but the presence of the board walk makes it much easier to get to the shop as compared to walking across the beach which would be the case if you stayed at the other hotels. The other hotels might be a bit more updated, but the walk over sand while carrying cameras and gear would be the downfall.
The Restaurant at Mariners Hotel as the French Veranda. This was considered to be one of the best restaurants on the island and it is a bit pricy. As a diver on a package you get a 20% discount which makes it more reasonable. The food was OK. I personally did not think the food was great an there was another restaurant a short walk away (High Tide) that had better food and offered a 10% discount to divers. High Tide Restaurant is located on the boardwalk about 50 yards from Mariners Hotel.
As some else put it, all of the restaurants in the area are hotel prices. Expect to pay about 40-60$ per couple for food for Dinner and drinks. There are a couple of local restaurants about 1/4 mile away in Calliaqua. However, we did not have the chance to go there for food. In the future, I would have made the effort to try the 2 local restaurants.
For those who want a very upscale and expensive meal, you can take the Young Island ferry to Young Island for Dinner. The ferry leaves from the Dive dock and it is a very short 200 yards of so.
The Diving in St. Vincent
Dive St. Vincent has 2 boats. Both are older and have no heads. They both have dual outboard motors. However, the one we were on was a brick. Very slow considering it had 400 horsepower. Lucky must of the dive sites are within 4 miles and this was not a concern to us.
The boats leave at 9 AM for a 2 tank dive. Afternoon dives are set up in advanced and left per our schedule. Most afternoon dives were around Young Island (which has 2 frog fish!). The guides at Dive St. Vincent take care of hauling your gear to the boat and setting up your gear every day. They ask you to pack your gear up in a bag, minus the wetsuit and they haul it back to the shop for a quick fresh water dip and they hang it for you. Your need to take care of the wetsuit.
The shop is old as well and could use a nice/better gear rinse setup. There is a single rinse tank in the back of the shop in the bathroom. It is not in a convenient place. They want you to take you wetsuits back to the hotel for you to rinse. They do not want to rinse a urine soak suit in the same tank that is being use for regulators. I don’t blame them. However, a dedicated rinse tank for wetsuits would be welcomed by many. Personally I rarely use the wetsuit rinse tank if there are other people using. I do not pee in my wetsuit and I do not want to rinse my clean piss free suit in a tank with others piss. But that is me. Others would welcome the rinse tank. I ended up tanking my wetsuit back to the room and rinsing it in the shower.
Also, there is a tank on the boat for cameras. It was painted, and the paint clouds the water. There was no rinse tank on shore. This is one thing that is missing that is really needed. A shore rinse tank for cameras. I ended up tanking my camera back to the hotel pool and rinsing it in the pool. Not ideal, but it worked.
Dive St. Vincent provides steel 72 ft3 tanks filled to 2500 psi. Not much air, but most of the diving is shallow and typical dive times were 70 minutes. They never complained about taking a long dive. This is a refreshing change from the typical dives are 60 minutes maximum. If you are good and air and want to stay down longer, it was not an issue. Once again. Most dives were in the 20-40 foot range with some being even shallower. Currents typically are very mild in St. Vincent. However, during our visit to St. Vincent, there were a few dives with strong to very strong currents. It can happen, but this is not normal for the area.
The reason you come here is the critters. All I have to say is wow! Dive St. Vincent did find critters! Ray Haberman dives with them on a regular basis and has set up “Condos” which are 2×2 ft pieces of sheet metal laying not he sand in various areas. These create homes for many critters and it makes it real easy. Pick one up, see what is there and put it back as you found it….including the rock on top!
Video of the reef areas of St. Vincent 12 min video of the reef areas
For divers who dive in the Pacific, these critters may not be that rare. However, this is the Caribbean. You rarely see nudibranch, sea horses, pipefish, and frog fish. For Caribbean divers these should be wows. Plus lots of rare shrimps. Also the reef is VERY HEALTY. No coral diseases or bleaching
This is my third trip to Huracan Diving in 18 months. This alone speaks volumes about how I feel about this scuba resort. I rate this spot as one of the best if not the best locations in the Caribbean. On the world scale it would rate a 5 or 6 out of 10, as the Caribbean is never as good as some of the top spots in Asia.
But I reside on the east coast of the USA and Belize is a very easy destination to get to. If you want top notch diving in the Caribbean with very small groups and uncrowded dive sites, this is the place to go.
Huracan is not for every one. This is a very remote island that has no other activities, no shopping no groomed beaches. Long Caye is in a very natural state. Don’t expect to see large pristine beaches lined with coconut trees and cabanas. The island is mostly
swamp and it is heavily forested. It is very jungle like. There are no restaurants and bars to go to. There are no stores. There are a couple of small beach areas. These are not swimming beaches as the water is quite shallow. There is a moon pool with steps off the main dock where swimming is possible.
The mosquitos can be terrible in the summer months. In the fall there are no mosquitos, but the water is more choppy and the vis can suffer a bit. If you go in the summer bring lots of insect repellant and it will be tolerable as most of your time will be on the boat and underwater. If we go back again, and there is a high likely hood of this happening, I would go in late spring or summer to get better vis and a few mosquitos as the downside.
The island has no power. Only solar. If you expect air conditioning, hair driers, fancy restaurants and getting dressed up….go elsewhere. On cloudy days they may need to run a generator. Their water is rain water collected from the roof. In the summer months there will be lots of electricity from solar, but they will be short on water. In the fall, lots of water, and less electricity due to the clouds. Remember, this is a remote eco resort.
The good news, the resort is tiny. They have 4 rooms for a total occupancy of 8. Small resort equals small scuba groups and no crowds underwater. Long Caye is also located in the middle of very pristine reefs with lots of fish life including reef sharks, rays, eagle rays, hammer head sharks, whale sharks and much much more. There is very little fishing pressure out here. There are 2 small fishing boats that fish the waters. Both are 20-25 foot long sail boats with 8 fishermen onboard. We have seen no large commercial activities and there is very little recreational fishing out here. The staff will fish or buy fish from the local fishermen for dinner.
The island has no cell phone coverage. The closest signal is about 1 hour away by boat. The resort does have limited internet available. Their bandwidth is VERY limited and it is very easy to exceed it and then there is no useful internet for the rest of the day.
If you want a small eco resort with FANTASTIC diving and a very personable feeling…go to Huracan.
December 1st is the first day of the dry season. However, this year someone forgot to tell the rain this. In the evenings, we had massive rains and flooding. The rains only prevented us from making one morning dive. However, the island was flooded.
This is not a common occurrence, but weather happens and lucky for us, it did not interfere with the diving. The staff did its best to make the situation tolerable by ferrying us on the ATV’s if needed. The water was not deep as it can not get much deeper than about 8 inches before it would roll off into the ocean.
The resort has recently changed ownership from Ruth to the new owner Bernard. I have been there under Ruth’s management as well as both Ruth and Bernard and now just Bernard. Basically it is the same place with new faces. Bernard has made a strong effort to improve the food by hiring trained chefs. He work has paid off. The food is improved, but this is a hard environment for a chef to work in as it is 40 miles off shore from food suppliers and many things a chef would want are just too far away. Considering this handicap, the food is excellent.
The rooms and the building are the same as the previous posts so read those posts for more info on the rooms.
One change some may notice is the dining tables in the center of the lodge, This was done one night due to heavy rains making the regular dining area a little moist. Once again the staff did a fine job of making the rains a minor inconvenience.
The main reason to come to Huracan is the fantastic diving.
On this trip we saw Eagle Rays, lots of Turtles, lots of reef sharks (2 spent 30 minutes with us with lots of close encounters), cuttle fish, octopus, groupers, schools of fish, decorated neck crabs, a variety of flat worm I have never seen and much much more.
Dives were guided with most having a 50 minute bottom time. Lucky for us that was a Carribbean 50 minutes and most were actually in the 60-70 minute range. This could vary depending on depth and who you are diving with and their air consumption. All dives were drift dives even though there is little to no current here.
All dives were done with aluminum 80’s on Air. Nitrox is not currently available (remember this is a very remote site). They may have nitrox in the future. All dives are done from the same boat that does the transfers to the mainland. The boat makes this crossing on Wednesdays and Saturdays. No diving is normally planned on these days, but on 2 of my trips we were able to get a dive in late Wednesday.
Another pleasant surprise are the large schools of fish. Huge schools of creole wrasse and jacks were commonly seen on many dives.
You will also see very large eagle rays that pass by very close. Typically the eagle rays are very shy and stay far from the divers. The eagle rays here will approach the divers and glide by 5-15 feet away.
The highlight was one of our last dives at Half Moon Caye. On this dive 2 large reef sharks joined us for 30 minutes. They made many passes and started getting closer and closer. Towards the end they were within 5-10 feet of me for several minutes. Then as fast as it started, they swam off and we continued on our way. This was a great up close shark encounter that did not involve feeding
The coral is in pretty good shape. Many locations in the Caribbean this is not the case
There are lots of wide angle reef scenes at light house reef atoll. Large healthy brain corals, large colorful sponges and even patches of recovering elk horn coral.
It is very refreshing to see a healthy reef over such a wide area.
I spent most of my dives with a wide angle lens, however, there are critters too. Flat worms, odd crabs and odd shrimps for those who like to go slow and explore.
One of the highlight dives is the Blue Hole. Hurracan is the closest resort to the blue hole and there arrive there first before the other divers arrive and muck up the vis. For the best blue hole experience go to Huracan. However, my personal opinion is the reef dives are much better due to the amount of sea life you will see. The blue hole is fun and it is interesting….but the reefs are better
I also have a 20 minute high definition video posted on youtube. The shark portion begins around 11 minutes.
In short, if you want great diving in the Caribbean. Small Groups and a very native/natural island setting. You don’t mind lack of some modern conveniences. Go to Huracan Diving.
Update: We enjoyed are trip to Huracan so much, we went back again in October of 2013. I can not say this for any other resort. We may revisit 4 years later, but not in the same year. Huracan is a fantastic dive spot in the Caribbean. I would rate it as one of the best. It is a must go to dive center. Hopefully the new owners do as good a job as Ruth!
We were the very first guests under the new owner. Ruth was still there for the transfer of knowledge and not many changes were evident. They hired a chef with the intent of improving the food. The chef was new so the food during our stay was good but not an improvement.
The mosquitos were not a problem on this trip. So be aware, they may be terrible, or not too bad. Pot luck. In October, the seas were much rougher. The front dock was not usable for much of the trip. During these seas, we used the sunset dock which is a much longer walk, but they did provide transportation on the quads if desired. We chose to walk. The visibility was OK in October, but June was much better.
Original review of Hurcan Diving from June 2013
Huracan Diving was a very pleasant surprise. It is very difficult to say anything bad about the experience on Long Caye except the mosquitos.
All of Huracan’s staff were excellent. They really made the trip enjoyable.
The rooms at Huracan Diving were very clean and well maintained.
The diving around Long Caye, Belize is some of the best dives you will see in the Caribbean. I would rate the diving in the top 3 of the Caribbean. Around Long Caye you will find very healthy reefs and you will see sharks (we even saw a hammerhead!), rays, turtles and lots of macro critters and even a very healthy reef with lots of coral. This is the closest land based operation to the best diving in the area including the Blue Hole and Half Moon Caye. This is as good as it gets in dive quality in the Caribbean.
Huracan Diving also gets a “A” for there honesty in their website. The rooms and the resort all looked like the photos on the site.
Getting to Huracan Diving at Long Caye.
We flew to Belize City and took a 20 minute ($25) taxi ride to Princess Pier to board Huracan’s boat.
There are lots of horror stories on the internet about how bad Belize City is and how dangerous and dirty, run down ………. Belize City looks like an average city in the Caribbean. It is a larger city, but far from big and there are few cities anywhere that are pretty. It is not a run down shanty town with people ready to rob you on every corner. …. On the other hand, I would not want to spend my vacation money staying in Belize City. Long Caye is much nicer.
Please be aware Belize City does have its dark side. There is significant gang on gang violence with the associated murders as many other cities do. The main difference is Belize City has a small population and the number murder rate is the 6th highest in the world on a per capita basis.
The boat ride is in an approximately 32 foot boat and takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes. Our trip out was very smooth due to the seas being extremely calm. However, I could see this being a rougher ride depending on the seas. Bring a jacket, you could get wet!
Once you arrive in Long Caye the staff will bring all of your luggage to the resort which is located about 100 yards from the dock.
The Island of Long Caye, Belize
Long Caye is almost a deserted island. Long Caye is in a very native state.
Much of the Long Caye has been sold off to investors in the form of small lots. However, almost none have built on it in the past 10-15 years. There are only about 3 or 4 homes built on Long Caye and one is a tree house!
There are 3 resorts and a rental house on the island. Itza resort is much larger with about 22 rooms and is located on the beach. The dining area of Itza is not screened to protect you from the bugs, however, the beach area seems to be less buggy. There is also a small Hotel called Calypso Beach next to Itza. Both of these resorts were fairly deserted during our stay and I did not see the rooms. If you stay at these resorts, the only diving is with Huracan.
Huracan Diving is located in what was built to be the island clinic/hospital and even still contains an old (non functioning) chamber. Much of Long Caye is mangrove swamp. Being a very rustic undeveloped island with swamps, there are mosquitos. While we where there the Mosquitos were quite bad. The island does make an effort to fog 2 or more times per day to keep the mosquitos at bay. This is a very necessary to keep these bugs at bay. The island does their best to be environmentally friendly with their spraying to protect the reef and land crabs. You will smell bug spray a couple of times per day. If this offends you go elsewhere and miss the great diving and great staff. If this does not bother you bring Deet and lots of it and be prepared and your stay will be more pleasant.
There are lots of trails that are well marked that allow you to see Long Caye.
There are beaches on Long Caye, but swimming is not easy or even possible as the water is very shallow and most areas are sea grass areas. Swimming is possible off of the docks. There are two docks, the main dock with a moon pool and the not often used sunset pier.
One of the best places to hang out on Long Caye is on the end of the main dock. There are a couple of chairs and a shaded area with a “moon pool” in the center. This is a great spot with a nice breeze (no mosquitos) and a wonderful view and you can take a dip if you want.
I wish we found out about how nice it is on the dock sooner during our stay. The dock is very quite, you have shade or sun and a great breeze!
Huracan Diving is a very small resort. It is located about 100 yards off the beach. They have 4 rooms which can hold 2 people each. There are few ways to experience the Caribbean in such a small and personal way. To me this is a major plus. Personal service and small groups. During our stay at Huracan the staff made us feel like family while at the same time pampered us.
All of the rooms at Huracan are off a main common area that is in the center of the building. The Kitchen and a supply room are also attached. The dive equipment storage (tanks and compressors) is located behind the main building in a separate building. You rarely hear the compressors running. There is also a dive shop more towards the dock that has the rental equipment.
The building is made with very thick hardwoods throughout. Most area stained very dark which makes everything appear darker. Low wattage bulbs used to conserve the solar power makes things even darker.
Mosquitos were never a problem in the room so the staff has done a good job creating a barrier of mosquito coils around the perimeter. There were mosquito coils in the room, but we never needed one during our 1 week stay.
There is no electricity on the Long Caye. Huracan has solar panels which provide electricity for the building. There is no A/C and the solar system can not handle high wattage items such as hair dryers.
The building is off in the dense jungle so there is very little airflow around the building so it can get a bit hot on days with little breeze. The rooms all had ceiling fans and a floor fan. The floor fan moves lots of air and made. Bring lots of light clothing as it is warm. You will not need shoes. Wear flip flops or go barefoot for the week. Shoes of some sort are recommended for the trips to Half Moon Caye.
The food was great. They will do their best to make accommodations to dietary restrictions. The meals were a blend of fish, shrimp, pork and chicken. All of the meals were fresh and well prepared.
Rooms at Huracan Diving
The rooms at Huracan Diving are small but very clean. The bed was very comfortable. The mosquito netting around the bed is decorative. During our stay we had zero mosquitos in the room. The room had a private bathroom which is quite large. Our room did not have a door separating the room from the bathroom which could be an issue for some. It had a ceiling fan and a floor fan. The outside wall is covered with a louvered window with screens to keep out the bugs. The ceiling fan barely stirs the air, but the floor fan did a great job of circulating air around the room.
There are only 2 electrical outlets in the room (remember power is limited due to solar) and the outlets are 120 volt standard US style.
The bathroom is quite large and very clean. No mold or mildew that are common in many Caribbean locations.
The Toilet is a composting toilet which has the weird foot flush. It is not a marine head that you pump.
Water is very limited on Long Caye and is collected rainwater so water needs to be conserved. The room does have hot water which got very hot. The hot water is not really needed as the cold water is not very cold.
The Dive Operation
The boat that transfers you to the island and the dive boat is one and the same. On transfer days (Wednesdays and Saturdays) there will be limited diving due to the boat being used to ferry customers and supplies. Huracan Diving does their best to get dives in on those days, but the round trip takes over 4 hours.
The dive staff at Huracan are excellent. They take care of your gear for the week, transporting it back each night, rinsing it and hanging it up. Huracan is a first class scuba operation.
Entries are back rolls and exits are via a easy to climb ladder on the back. For those that can not climb a ladder with gear, they will pull your tank and BC out of the water for you.
Dives are very easy. Most dive sites are 5-10 minutes from the dock. Zero to very little currents around Long Caye during our stay. Most dives are drift dives so you do not need to see the same area twice (no current drift dives). Dive speed is very slow which is a welcome surprise. Most dive guides go way too fast. Diving slower allows to you see more and be more relaxed.
Huracan has lots of rental gear so you can easily get what you need there.
The dive staff at Huracan were very friendly, helpful and knowledgeable.
Most dives are 60 minute low speed one way dives. Surface intervals are on shore and are about 90 minutes or longer, typically at Huracan resort. When diving at Half Moon Caye the surface intervals are on Half Moon Caye which is a bird sanctuary for the red footed bobbies. There is lots of shade, restrooms and picnic tables at Half Moon Caye.
Huracan Diving makes a very enjoyable and relaxing scuba dive vacation.
Underwater there were lots of highly decorated neck crabs. These crabs can be very hard to spot at first and a slow dive rate allows to to find them and spend time to see them.
The reef around Long Caye, Belize is very healthy. There is lots of very large soft corals everywhere. The hard corals are also healthy. Many areas of the caribbean have been hit with various coral diseases which wiped out the staghorn corals and brain corals. This IS NOT the case in Long Caye. There were lots of very large brain corals in several species that showed no signs of disease. I even saw stands of staghorn corals which are quite rare in the caribbean now. It is refreshing to see a reef in the caribbean that is not damaged from bleaching and coral diseases.
Other noteworthy small critters are sea whip shrimps which were fairly common if you slowed down and looked.
Of course there are cleaner shrimps, gobies, blennies and the mandatory octopus…… There is lots to see from small macro critters to large groupers to sharks and rays. We even saw a hammerhead shark!
What separates Long Caye diving from most caribbean diving are the big critters. Lots of big groupers, hog fish, snappers, tarpons, jacks and other fish which have been over fished elsewhere. Overall, this maybe the best diving I have done in the Caribbean and I am picky.
Lots of Eagle Rays. One dive had 4 eagle rays that were sighted throughout the dive. 3 of the eagle rays swam as a group single file passing by us numerous times during the dive.
Lots of reef sharks
Lots of turtles
And of course the Blue Hole.
This site was made famous by Jacques-Yves Cousteau, who declared it one of the top ten scuba diving sites in the world. Many people come to Belize to dive the Blue Hole. Huracan diving and Long Caye is the closest dive operation to the Blue Hole. Travel time from Long Caye to the Blue Hole is about 15-20 minutes. Huracan Diving is the first operator at the Blue Hole in the Morning.
In 1971, Cousteau brought his ship, the Calypso, to the hole to chart its depths. Investigations by this expedition confirmed the hole’s origin as typical limestone formations, formed before rises in sea level in at least four stages, leaving ledges at depths of 21 m (69 ft), 49 m (161 ft), and 91 m (299 ft).
Some of the stalactites were also off-vertical by 5˚ in a consistent orientation, thus indicating that there was an earthquake which may have caused the ceiling to collapse
Huracan diving is the first boat to arrive at the blue hole which allows for better visibility and the opportunity to see the sharks. Later in the day the blue hole will be crowded with divers who will scare off the sharks and will muck up the visibility. Being first is best!
Los Delfines Hotel and Dolphin Dive on Little Corn Island Nicaragua
Little corn island, Nicaragua is the smaller of the Corn Islands which is located off the coast of Nicaragua in the Caribbean.
Little Corn Island is a wonderful little island that is what other Caribbean islands must have been like 50-60 years ago. There are no roads and no motorized vehicles. All supplies are moved via wheel barrels around the island. I highly recommend going for the experience of the island and you can get some very cheap diving in!
There are no big luxury hotels. Just small simple hotels. Some look a lot more simple than others.
The island was very clean. On many Caribbean islands it is common to see trash on the sides of the roads as you go inland. There are no roads on Little Corn Island., but there are pedestrian walk ways. These were all clean and the locals did a good job placing recycling stations around the island.
This is Nicaragua which is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Things are very cheap. The Los Delfines Hotel was $30 per night. It is not nice by USA terms, but remember where you are and what you are paying. There are hotels that cost less and hotels that cost more on Little Corn Island. If you are expecting a hotel with room service and 5star accommodations you should not go to Little Corn. If you are looking for a really laid back relaxing vacation you are looking at the right island.
When picking a hotel on Little Corn be very aware of whee your hotel is and how long a walk is it to town and dive shops. Remember there are no cars, you will be walking. There is a map of the island at the end of this article.
US Dollars are accepted everywhere. It is not worthwhile to convert any money to Cordobas unless you are going to a remote area within the mainland. Even in Managua US dollars are accepted everywhere. Almost all prices are quoted in US Dollars.
The electricity is 110 Volt with the same plugs as found in the USA
The Generator for the island shuts off every morning for 4 hours from 8 am to noon. On monday morning it shut down at 5 am.
Bring a flashlight. This is very important if you are on the east side of the island and you want to go to dinner in town. There are no lights for much of the walk. It is also nice when the power goes out.
Many of the hotels and restaurants have free internet. Internet is slow and unreliable.
Getting to Little Corn Island
Update. The New Ferry service via Yacht is operational as of March 9, 2013
- Departs Little Corn to Big Corn @ 5:30am and 12:30pm
- Departs Big Corn to Little Corn @ 10.30am and 5pm
Both the panga and yacht times work with arriving and departing flights.
Cost is 205 Cordobas vs 145 on the panga, both including the 5 cord. wharf tax (In dollars: $8.5 vs $6.0)
You must fly to Corn Island from Managua. There is only 1 airline that flies to Corn Island. La Costena. The roundtrip ticket is about $160.
The flight is about 45 minutes and it maybe a smaller Cessna or an ATR42. There are weight restrictions of 30 lbs luggage per passenger and excess baggage will fly standby. The flights I took were on the larger ATR and there did not appear to be anyone who had any restriction on their luggage. However they will charge $1.20/lb for excess.
The airports charge a 40 Cordoba tax each way.
Once you get to Corn you will take a taxi to the Dock and pay for a Panga ride to Little Corn. There are 2 crossings that are timed with the arrivals and departures of the flights. The Municipal pier charges a small fee to enter the dock area.Panga Schedule 10am and 4:30 to Little Corn 6:30Am and 1 PM From Little Corn
The Panga is 140 Cordobas or about $8. The Panga is an open boat with no protection from the weather or seas. Bring a rain coat, you may get wet. There was a new boat that was delivered in Feb 2013, it will be a new larger ferry with better weather protection. I do not know when it will start service or what the cost will be. It is a large cabin cruiser with seats on the bow and a covered area in the stern area.
The crossing takes about 25-40 minutes depending on the water condition. It can be a rough ride.
The return trip was interesting. The Panga leaves Little Corn at 6:30 AM. The airline told be to be at the airport at 6:15Am for the 7:30 flight. I arrived at the airport at 7:15. The flight is actually not scheduled to leave until 8 am. The flight also ended up being 2 different planes! I had plenty of time!
Once you arrive in Little Corn, you pickup your bags and walk to your hotel. There are no cars or other motorized vehicles. There are plenty of locals who will carry your bags for a few dollars if you choose. The dock is very crowded with people waiting for their luggage and locals trying to get your business.
The walk to Los Delfines was about 300 yards. There are signs pointing which direction most major hotels are. There are people handing out maps too.
Hotel Los Delfines
Los Delfines is a group of bungalows located on a narrow strip of land on the west side of the island. It is attached to Dolphin Dive. Dolphin Dive and Los Delfines are owned by the same person. The restaurant and the bar are on the water side and the rooms go back inland. The grounds are nicely landscaped.
The bungalows are fairly close together and thus get very little breeze. All of the rooms have a/c which is needed. This is the tropics with high temperatures and very high humidities and so my room was a bit musty. Most of the hotels on this island do not have a/c. However they are located in spots with a better breeze. If a/c is important. Los Delfines is a great choice. If you prefer a room with ocean breezes I would pick another.
There are only 2 dive shops on the island.
Dolphin Dive and hotel Los Dolfines are the most convenient combination. You can pay for your dives and hotel at the dive shop with a credit card. Many of the hotels DO NOT take credit cards. There are no banks or ATM’s on Little Corn. Expect a 5% fee to use a credit card.
The bathroom was a bit weathered.
The room does not have hot water. However the cold water is not very cold. This is common in many hotels in Nicaragua. If a hot shower is important to you contact hotels ahead of time to see if they have hot water. During my walk around the island I did not recall seeing any solar hot water heaters.
Better attention to scrubbing the bathroom to eliminate mildew would have been a big improvement. However, this room is very cheap and it is Nicaragua.
The restaurant at Los Defines was not exciting. It provided a choice of basic dishes. It had several choices of fish, meats, pastas and sandwiches. There are several other choices for dining within a very short walk.
Dolphin DiveDolphin Dive is the only shop I would recommend on Little Corn.
There is only 2 choices of dive shops on Little Corn.
Dolphin Dive and Dive Little Corn.
The other dive shop is Dive Little Corn. Dive Little Corn is part of the hotel Casa Iguana. The owners of Casa Iguana have not paid their staff for 2 to 3 months. While I was there the dive shop staff and the hotel staff was on strike.
In a poor country like Nicaragua it is in excusable to not pay your staff and I refuse to do business with companies that do this
In addition, Casa Iguana is a 15 minute walk from the dive shop. They are located on different sides of the island. (See map)
So needless to say. Dolphin Dive was very busy while I was there. Dolphin Dive has two small boats. The larger of the 2 holds 10 divers maximum. Several dives had 10 divers and its was very crowded. I was thankful that most of the boat rides were 5 to 10 minutes. There are sites further out but the seas were rough and we dove closer in.
Dolphin Dive caters to beginners. Very few divers had their own gear. Dolphin Dive had the process of staging gear for a constant influx of gearless divers down to a science.
Entries were back rolls into the water. The dive masters requested everyone stay on the surface so that they could descend as a group. This annoyed me a little as many of the newbies can take quite some time to gear up and I frequently use this time as my bonus bottom time. Most dives lasted 45-50 minutes. Most dives had a fairly square profile.
The staff was very friendly and attentive to the beginner divers. Boats returned to the shop after every dive.
The diving at Little Corn
The diving was average Caribbean diving.
The entire Caribbean is in a terrible state. Coral bleaching, coral diseases and now algae.
Algae is taking over many of the reefs in the Caribbean including Little Corn. Most of the Caribbean islands are massively over fished and this appears to be the issue with Little Corn. The Corn Islands have a large commercial and recreational fishing business. It has taken its toll. The reef is a very delicate balance of creatures, coral and nutrients. When fish are eaten by humans in large numbers, things go out of balance. The entire Caribbean is out of balance
In Little Corn island there were not many fish. There were huge patches of algae and the reef had a fair amount of algae starting to choke the coral
Things seen. Several nurse sharks, reef shark, several very large sting rays, pod of dolphins and a very large school of yellow snapper. Critters, cryptic teardrop crap, Peterson cleaner shrimp, several varieties of lobsters, channel clinging crabs.
Average diving, but there are great moments!
Other hotels on Little Corn
There are other hotel choices on Little Corn. Please be aware that these are not close to the dive shop and you will have a 15 minute walk to the shop (or longer)
One hotel that I did not see but was told is a very interesting place to stay is Ensuenos. Very cheap, very artistic, very rustic. It is a fairly long walk from the dive shops. My guess is about 15-20 minutes.
I was told by several that the nicest is Little Corn Beach and Bungalow. It is significantly more expensive ($>100 per night) and it is about a 10-15 minute walk from the dive shops.
Photos of hotels on East Side
The east side was even more laid back. Very primitive cottages on the beach.
I did not go inside. But the area was beautiful I would not expect fancy accommodations
Map of Little Corn with Hotels dive shops and restaurants
Note, the roads are sidewalks and paths
The island is a little over 1 mile long
Scuba Diving Nevis and St. Kitts
Oualie Beach Resort and Scuba Safaris.
Nevis is part of the 2 island country of Nevis and St Kitts. Nevis is the smaller less populated and less traveled to. This fit our description of a perfect, less traveled and less dove area of the Caribbean. The fact that cruise ships visit St Kitts but not Nevis sealed the trip. December is NOT the ideal time to dive in the Caribbean, but we were due for a vacation and we knew the risks of rough water and visibility. We were lucky as half the trip the water was calm as a pool with good visibility. We only had a day or two with rougher water and reduced visibility.
For those who want the very short version. Nevis is a great island with very friendly people that should be included in most peoples list of islands to visit. Oualie Beach Resort is one of the cheaper hotels on the island. Oualie beach Resort room was nice. Bathroom could use update. This is the closest hotel to the dive operation Scuba Safaris. Diving was mixed. Saw lots of very large turtles, nurse sharks, sting rays, eagle rays and a small school of reef sharks. Reef has significant algae coverage, small fish were not abundant. Staff at Scuba Safaris were excellent.
Getting to Nevis
Nevis can be reached by direct flights to Nevis or via flights to the larger St. Kitts airport combine with a ferry ride to Nevis. We choose to fly to St Kitts due to the availability of frequent flier tickets. The short 1 hour trip to Nevis from St Kitts can be done 2 ways. The easiest, but more expensive is to take a chartered water taxi/taxi for about $60 per person or take a taxi to the Government Ferry dock for $12 per taxi and $10 per person for the ferry and another $15 for the taxi to Oualie Beach Resort. $120 for 2- one way or $47 for 2 – one way. Big savings so we took the government ferry which was quite easy and reasonable price wise. Be sure to check ferry schedules as they vary.
Oualie Beach Resort
Oualie Beach Resort is an older hotel located on a wonderful beach which has Nevis only real scuba shop, Scuba Safaris. There are MUCH more expensive and nicer hotels on the island of Nevis. However, they are not as convenient for diving. For the price Oualie Beach Resort is a good value, however, a few small improvements could make this a fantastic hotel. The Oualie Beach Resort website is very honest, maybe too much. The rooms and the beach were actually much nicer than the pictures on the site.
The rooms at Oualie Beach Resort are small cottages on the beach. Most were duplexes or triplexes. located 100 to 200 feet from the waters edge.
The rooms were clean and fairly large. There was a small living room area with a couch, a couple of chair, refrigerator and a TV.
he Bedroom area had a comfortable bed. Pillows a bit thick for my tastes….but overall the room was very nice for the price paid.
The only thing about the room that really needed improvement was the bathroom. It was small, outdated and really needed an updating. No soap dish in shower. Very old fixtures, water leaking in bathroom etc…..If the bathroom had been updated, Oualie would be a fantastic deal. Our room did not have a safe (some do), but I really don’t think one is needed.
Each room at Oualie Beach Resort had a screened in porch area which is needed as the no see-ums and mosquitos were out and biting on most nights. Porch area was a great way to watch the local monkeys in the morning.
I would recommend bringing and using insect repellent during the evenings in Nevis.
Several times a day the trees behind our room had a large group of Vervet monkeys. They are somewhat shy, but you could get within about 20 feet before they would take off for the safety of the trees. Very cute and worth the effort to see.
Restaurant and Bar.
Oualie Beach Resort had its own restaurant on the beach and a small bar that was very popular with the ex-pats. There are not many restaurants in this area of Nevis. There is one restaurant you can walk to that is open only on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for dinner….Galipots. So you are somewhat stuck with the Oualie Beach Resort’s Restaurant if you are unwilling to pay a $15 cab fare (one way) to other restaurants. You should take this into consideration when staying here as the taxi bills can quickly add up and it maybe cheaper to rent a car.
The food at Oualie Beach Resort was OK. Not great, especially considering the price. Typical dinner prices are $25 – $30 plus drinks, desserts appetizers etc. 21% is added to the bill for service charge and tax. The bill will show a 21% tax line which can be a bit confusing at first…..but this is service and tax. The dinner menu varies each night with a small selection that includes a fish, a chicken a beef and a vegetarian dish. The lunch menu did not vary during our stay. Lunches were about $10-13.
There are several other restaurants that are reasonable price wise and have great food but you will have to take a taxi to most. I recommend trying Sunshines or one of the other restaurants in that area. We prefer to try different restaurants and explore the local food scene. However, considering the price of taxis the lowest overall cost option would be to take the Oualie Beach Resort food package and eat at the hotel.
The beach is very nice with a fantastic view of St. Kitts in the distance. The water was flat, with a soft shallow sand bottom. Great for swimming and enjoying the view.
There were plenty of well spaced loungers and hammocks for the guests and the area was never crowded. There were trees providing shade for those who wish to hide from the strong Caribbean sun.
Scuba Diving in Nevis
The diving was a mixed affair. We dove with Scuba Safaris LTD in Nevis… The staffers of Scuba Safaris were wonderful, attentive and very friendly. The Managing Director Ellis was wonderful to deal with and his humor made the experience great. The staff would set up your gear for you and change tanks etc. The entire staff was great. Everyone was friendly and helpful and they made the trips enjoyable. Scuba Safaris has the only Nitrox system in the area. Other shops will get their Nitrox tanks from Scuba Safaris. However, nitrox is not needed since most dives are fairly shallow.
Dives were mostly shallow as it is hard to find deep water in the area of Nevis and St Kitts.. Most dives were 70 feet for the first dive and 40 feet for the second dive. Dives were guided but they allowed photographers to do their own thing. During our dives there was little to no current. Visibility was about 30-70 feet.
December is NOT a good time to dive Nevis or anywhere in the Caribbean. Swells from the North Atlantic can muck up even the best dive sites anywhere int he Caribbean and swells can make diving rough. The first few days the water was flat as a swimming pool, then December came back with 3-4 foot waves and reduced visibility.
June and July would be the best time to dive most of the Caribbean and a trip during the summer could be a completely different experience as you would visit different sites.
The reef areas around Nevis and St Kitts are very large with many having no defined edge. Many of the sites seem as if the reef continues in all directions. The reefs of Nevis and St. Kitts must have been an amazing reef 30 years ago before overfishing and coral bleaching has taken its toll on Caribbean reefs.
Most of our dives with Scuba Safaris were along the western (Caribbean) coast of St. Kitts to protect us from the waves of the Atlantic during Decembers weather.
Overall the area was pretty good for large critters. I saw 3 very large hawksbill turtles on the Christena wreck (often spelled Christina). The turtles were in the 3-4 foot of shell range. These were the largest hawksbill turtles I have seen in the Caribbean. I also saw several smaller turtles and a loggerhead turtle!
A refreshing change was sharks. Lately I have seen very few sharks while diving in the Caribbean. I saw a very large nurse shark and a small school of shy reef sharks who would not let us get any closer than about 60 feet. There were several eagle rays and a half a dozen very large southern sting rays. Pretty good for large critter sighting!
The downside was the reef. Most sites were covered in algae which is killing the corals. The lack of current and algae eating fish combined with other factors has resulted in a significant algae bloom. A good storm could wash this away. If it does, it could save the coral. If not, things look bad.
Smaller reef fish were not abundant. Most dives had lion fish. Typically 6 lion fish were sighted per dive. The dive guides typically speared any lion fish they saw, I don’t know who is winning, but lion fish are slowly taking over most of the Caribbean.
The wreck of the Christena is the exception to the algae issue. It is a must dive spots in Nevis and St. Kitts.
The Christena went down with over 300 people aboard. 266 died. The boat was massively overloaded and capsized going down in about 75 feet of water.
This is a fantastic wreck to dive as there is no algae and it is covered in soft corals. The colors are incredible. The hull of the Christena is heavily encrusted with soft corals. Crabs, lobsters and other critters can be found hiding in the many crevices of the wreck. During night dives the large hawksbill turtles sleep in the hull. I saw 3 very large hawksbill turtles on one night dive on the Christena.
Not all is bad with the diving. There were plenty of cryptic tear drop crabs hiding deep in their sponges, pederson cleaner shrimp and arrow crabs. Also seen were many very large lobsters and a huge green morey eel. Diving is very mixed. There are some incredible sightings and on the same dive you can see a smothered reef covered in algae.
There were numerous areas with very colorful encrusting sponges and even the occasional area with very healthy large sea fans and gorgonians. Some of the soft coral forests were close to 6 feet tall!
Scuba Safaris has two boats. Both quite big. There were roughly 4-8 divers on most dives and the boat was about 50 feet long. There was never an issue with space.
Scuba Safaris provided 1-2 large rinse tanks for cameras and one for masks. There were no camera tables or dedicated camera areas. This was not a problem as the boat was huge for the number of people aboard.
Entries are typical giant strides with ladders for exits from the water. All typical boat dives.
Nevis has some great things going for it. Pretty island, very friendly people and no crowds. The diving is mixed. There were some fantastic things about the diving, but there was also the issue of algae on many of the dive sites killing the coral. Huge turtles, sharks, lots of sting rays and eagle rays were a pleasant surprise when many islands have little to no large sea life.
Overall, it is a great place to visit and I recommend it as a combination Island vacation with diving.
Paradise Villas on Little Cayman
30 days after Hurricane Paloma 2008
Hurricane Paloma a monster 145MPH category 4 hurricane. Nearly destroyed everything on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
Our deposit for this scuba dive trip was no refundable and the resorts claimed that they had little damage and everything is fine. This was said even while they still had no power and people were still being evacuated from the island. How much damage was done? What is it like to visit an island that had a direct hit with a major hurricane? What does the reef look like?
We planned our dive trip to Little Cayman in mid 2008 before Hurricane Gustav or Hurricane Paloma struck. I was very concerned after the first hurricane hit and when Hurricane Paloma struck 30 days before our trip….I felt it was time to cancel. However, Paradise Villas insisted the damage was minimal on Little Cayman and that things were fine. We decided to go.
Trip to Little Cayman
The flight to Little Cayman is on a Twin Otter which has very limited storage and weigh carrying capacity. We were prepared to be separated from our luggage by packing non-essential items in separate bags from essential items such as scuba gear and camera gear. On our last trip to Little Cayman the airline asked us which bag was going to stay for the next mornings flight. This time they did not ask. As we were boarding the plane the pilot notified us that some of the passengers bags were being left behind due to weight. Lucky for us all of our bags made it. Others had their scuba gear left in Grand Cayman for the next mornings flight. All were loaned rental gear for the next mornings dives and their gear arrived on the 9 AM flight.
The flight is about 30 minutes. The airport is a combination airport, fire department and post office. It is very small. The end of the runway or terminal area is a very short walk to Paradise Villas.
The staff from Paradise Villas is their to pick up your bags and deliver them to your room. The trip is so short this is not even necessary. It is maybe 200 yards to the furthest room. For those concerned about airport noise, don’t worry this is not a busy airport!
Paradise villas have 6 duplexes and the only restaurant/bar on the island that is open to the public, the Hungry Iguana.The rooms have had recent renovations such as new paint, towels, curtains etc. They are very adequate for most. They are not luxury.
Our room had a queen sized bed, a small kitchen with a refrigerator and a microwave. Hot plates are available on request. The kitchen area had a small breakfast sized table. There was also a couch and coffee table. Rooms are equipped with a TV (did not work due to hurricane damage to cable) Wireless internet is available at the main office, some rooms close to the office could get signals on their front porch. (Internet was also down during our visit due to hurricane damage)
Each Villa has a shared front and back porch that usable until evening when the bugs come out to play.
The beach at Paradise Villas is covered in coral rubble. Much of that rubble has been piled up to act as erosion control. The hurricane washed up a huge amount of sea grass onto the beach. The beach is not the reason we came so this was not overly important
The shopping district (use that term lightly) is a very short walk from the rooms. There is a scooter/ car rental agency, a liquor store and the grocery store . The grocery store has a very limited selection as it is about the size of a 7-11 or convenience store. Prices are VERY high, however this is your only choice. Expect most prices to be double of what you would pay in the US.
Paradise Villas no longer operates a dive shop Paradise Divers. They now use Conch Club Divers. Conch Club will pick up divers at Paradise Villas at 7:30 Am in front of the rooms. It is a short drive to Little Cayman Beach Resort where Conch Club Divers boat is moored. Conch Club Divers uses a 42 foot Newton dive boat. Most of our dives had 8 to 10 divers on board so their was plenty of room. Conch Club divers did not do afternoon dives unless there are 6 people on board. On days with fewer than 6 they would arrange to put you on one of Little Cayman Beach Resorts boats. We did 2 dives with Little Cayman Beach Club and the boats were very over crowded.
The trips to the north side are about 30 minutes. Weather in Early December is unpredictable and the seas were fairly rough on the south side most days. This made for a bumpy trip to the north. Several days both sides were rolling. On days were the north side is too rough for diving there are wonderful sites on the south.
For those who dove Little Cayman 8 years ago or more, there is damage to the reef. It is not as healthy and colorful as it once was. But most reefs in the caribbean have had significant damage. Dives on the north side have the spectacular walls of Bloody Bay with beautiful swim throughs. There is more small fish life on the north side when compared to other Caribbean sites. They have several very large and friendly groupers that act more like dogs then fish. One followed be and constantly swam between my arms and face as I tried to take picture. It is hard to imagine being annoyed by a fish that is so friendly it swims through you arms!
Most of the sea life is the typical life you see in the Caribbean, however we did see some rarer creatures. On one dive I spotted 2 sea spiders. Of course when I find something like this I have a fish eye 10.5mm lens on so no pictures. I went back that afternoon with a 105mm Macro lens and I would not find them. Also spotted on the same dive was a blue streak nudibranch.
I found another critter in a very tough spot to get a photo. To date I have been unable to identify it. To me it looks like an undocumented Cyphoma. It is close to the spotted cyphoma, but distinctly different.
For the larger creatures several turtles and a very large eagle ray and several sharks off in the distance.
The south side is dove less frequently. The sites were dove were quite nice. Large mounds of coral separated by areas of beautiful white sand. I also enjoy this type of site as the colors or the reef are more dramatic against the white sand areas. The south side even has a real wreck. It was a boat that sank after unloading its cargo of gasoline. The vapors somehow ignited, killing 2 of the crew and sending the boat to the bottom.
Overall, Little Cayman is still one of the better dive locations in the Caribbean. The reef has received a fair amount of damage. Little Cayman is not cheap. A scuba trip for 2, room, food and diving for 1 week is about $3,7000 without airfare!
Nothing is cheap in the Caymans and Little Cayman is the most expensive due to its lack of population.
Considering the short time from the Hurricanes to our visit, things were pretty good
Nature Island Dive Dominica Scuba Diving Review
We visited Nature Island Dive in Dominica in 2006
We dove with Nature Island divers and stayed at their cottages located in Soufriere. You two main choices for dive operators in Soufriere Scotts head Marine Reserve are Dive Dominica and Nature Island Dive.
Saba Divers and Scouts Place
We visited Saba in August of 2006.
We were scheduled to fly from St. Martin to Saba on Winair, but our plane was delayed in San Juan Puerto Rico. We missed the flight. We were able to catch the Dawn II Ferry at 5 pm. It looks more like a freight boat than a ferry, but it does have room for about 20 passengers. The Ferry cost $40 each way and it takes about 2 1/2 hours to make the crossing.
Saba is a very steep mountain that pops out of the water. The Roads are extremely twisty and steep. It is the prettiest of all of the caribbean islands that I have visited. All of the buildings are white with red roofs and everything is very clean and well kept. Many of the island’s have the ‘slum’ look with cinderblock buildings, wrecked cars on the side of the roads and trash piles in the back of homes. Saba had none of this. The short 15 minute taxi from the islands only harbor to Scouts place quickly showed the new comer that this island is different.
We reserved a “Luxury Cottage Room” it was adequate. It was small, but clean. It had a very small deck with a view of the ocean. The room had a small refrigerator, coffee maker and a TV. The TV remote and TV were different brands, but it worked the old fashion way of pushing the buttons on the TV. The screen would pop up with a message of calling an 800 number to prevent loss of service every hour (TV was of interest due to 2 storms/ Hurricanes in progress). After the speech from the owners of “conserve water” and “If it is yellow, let it mellow, if it is brown flush it down” and “take very short showers and use the waste paper basket for toilet paper”…. I would not describe our room as a “Luxury Cottage.”
Scouts Place had their own restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food was good and varied. However, I am the type that likes to explore and visit other restaurants for local flavor. The Swinging Door Restaurant is a very short walk and has Several BBQ nights. My Kitchen (Mijn Keuken) was an excellent restaurant that was a 5 minute walk from Scouts Place. My Kitchen is a place you must try if you visit the Windwardside, Saba.
Scouts Place owns Saba Divers. Saba Divers has Nitrox for free (same price as air $43 per dive). The dive shop is located in the harbour which is a 15 minute taxi ride from the hotel. The taxi fare is included in the dive price.
The diving is done from an older boat that would comfortably hold about 8 divers. There is very little shade and not much sitting room. 3 tank dives do not return to the dock between morning and afternoon dives. Basically it is 3 dives in a row with 60 minute surface intervals. Bring your own lunch and water. There is no food on the boat. They supply water in refilled water bottles. The refilling of water bottles was really tacky. The boat has no head.
The boat did not have a rinse tank for cameras. I dive with a Subal housed Nikon with dual strobes. They showed me a 2 gallon bucket that they suggested I put my camera in. After about 15 minutes of discussions on letting salt water dry on a camera and the costs of a flood they brought a 30 gallon trash can and filled it with salt water. Remember, conserve water. On shore they had 3 tanks for rinsing gear. 1 for wet suits, 1 for BCD’s and one for regulators masks and computers. I guess the regulator one will have to work for cameras too. They never changed the water in these tanks and the water was about 4 inches deep. The wet suit tank was quite murky after 4 days.
Our divemasters were fairly new to the island and did a decent job of trying to make everyone safe. They did not have the experience to know where all the critters were. They basically gave you a tour of the site pointing out the larger more obvious critters. They went too fast and too far for my tastes. I never asked to dive my own profile since I really do not think they would let me. As a photographer I like to hang way back to avoid the other divers. When I did this they asked me to stay closer.
If there are any new divers or inexperienced divers you will not dive the pinnacles since the shallowest dive on a pinnacle is about 90 to 100 feet. The deep pinnacle dives are not that great. The shallower dives are much better. The hard coral is bleached and much has died and is covered with algae from the bleaching event the occurred caribbean wide in 2005. There are still areas of soft coral that are quite colorful and healthy. There are flamingo tongues,
leech head sea slugs,
3 different colors of lettuce sea slugs,
cryptic tear drop crabs,
day swimming octopus
and other creatures to be found. If you dive slow enough, you will be entertained with some beautiful creatures. Sea horses and frog fish were not found. We did 1 muck dive around the boat moorings. This is not a “regular site” but if you like small critters and muck diving you will enjoy this area.
Scuba Vacation Review of Bonaire and Buddy Dive
Bonaire is one of the top destinations in the Caribbean due to the health of its reef. Bonaire’s reefs have large amounts of large seafans and gorgonians and it is one of the few destinations where you can see Staghorn and Elk Horn Corals.
Bonaire has large schools of fish
Diving is plentiful and cheap.
Bonaire has a problem with theft from Vehicles
Buddy dive is slightly worn
The island of Bonaire
Bonaire is a very dry island with lots of cactus plants
The main town of Kralendijk, Bonaire is a colorful town with many restaurants and shops
There are many nice restaurants with decent food.
Security and theft
I visited Bonaire about 15 years ago and I never returned until now. The main reason for not returning was for the reputation of the thieves breaking into vehicles while someone is diving. This was and still is a problem in Bonaire. The Bonaire locals try to downplay the problem by saying it is just kids. Regardless, the government of Bonaire should do something about this problem as I found it unpleasant to drive around with nothing in the vehicle.
On one remote site, Karpata, we were doing our surface interval. A father and 2 kids showed up. The father had the keys to small stand at Karpata so I assumed he was the owner. A few minutes later an island security guard showed up. While they were there we entered the water. When we returned from the dive the divers car parked next to us was broken into. Sunglasses and their bottled water was stolen. This site is fairly remote and these 4 individuals were the only ones around when we entered. It is hard to imagine that the father and/or security guard stood by and watched this happen…..
Buddy Dive is a very popular resort that has a large number of rooms and to a certain degree is a cattle processing operation. Upon arrival they will put your luggage in a truck for transport to the hotel and you board a bus with about 20 other guests. If you are the last to get off the bus it could take 30 minutes or more to check in due to the volume of people being process.
You are not allowed to dive on Bonaire until you go through a mandatory dive briefing that will occur the next morning. I found the time inconvenient as they are only offered 2 times a day and they are before major flights arrive. You lose a day of diving waiting for this briefing. A fair amount of the briefing is the photo shop doing a sales pitch for cameras, courses and driftwood art.
The rooms at Buddy Dive are a bit run down but were clean and there was plenty of space. Repairs are needed on the furniture and various other hardware around the room.
Buddy Dives rooms had a kitchen, a living room, bedroom and a porch.
The bathroom as fairly clean and large, but the drains were very slow.
The grounds of Buddy Dive are quite large. There are 2 pools, volley ball courts and lots of very nice landscaping. The pool by the poolside bar was not very nice.
Buddy Dive does not have a beach. There are cement bulk heads or rock the full length of the resort. There is an area with sand and beach chairs, but this is not an area you can stroll into the water from the sand.
Mosquitos and no see ums at Buddy Dive were bad. Bring DEET and use it at night.
Buddy Dive has lots of Mandatory add ons that quickly increases the price. Car insurance, Internet fee, Marine Park Fees etc. You must put down a deposit for extra keys and for the safe key. Personally I think that these should be added into the package so you know the full cost of your trip before you show up.
Buddy Dive is surrounded by cactus walls and razor wire. Nothing say’s “we have a crime problem” better than razor wire!
Buddy Dive has 2 scuba tank refill areas and 3 large boats. That combined with the drive through air station creates an environment where you can do a lot of diving.
Personally I did not think the boat dives were worth it. These were cattle boats with close to 20 people. The dive guides did a quick tour down the reef and back. With that many divers there was no time for the guides to point out critters. Our package came with 6 boat dives. We skipped the last 2. I would have thought all the boat dives go to areas not accessible by car. This was not the case. They frequently go to the same sites you can visit as a shore dive.
Buddy Dive’s Drive Through air station is well thought out and efficient. It has rinse stations for gear and cameras. There is also a gear storage room.
Buddy Dives Rental Trucks have manual tranmissions and AC. They are fairly new, but they have a rough life with constantly wet drivers and wet gear.
Scuba diving in Bonaire
The scuba diving in Bonaire is excellent. I was very concerned about the amount of divers on the island and how crowded the sites would be. I was pleasantly surprised to find many of the sites with no other divers or more common is you would be exiting as another group is entering. I rarely saw any other divers underwater during our 1 week stay in Bonaire.
The reefs are in good shape. Bonaire has lots of large gorgonians and seafans that are 4 to 6 feet tall. Many areas resemble forests of coral. Very impressive!
Bonaire still has a fair amount of large brain corals and other hard corals. While many of these corals have damage from white band and black band disease, they seem to be recovering. Bonaire has some of the healthiest corals I have seen in the Caribbean in recent years. There were areas with Elk Horn and Stag Horn Coral. I have not seen these in the Caribbean in this amount for quite some time.
Bonaire has large numbers of fish. Huge schools of tangs were seen on several dives.
Bonaire has a fair amount of critters such as lettuce sea slugs, cryptic tear drop crabs, star eyed hermits to keep a macro photography busy.
Bonaire has plenty of larger creatures to keep those with bad eyes interested as well. Bonaire has lots of turtles, eagle rays, eels and other large fish and creatures.
Our package also included 2 dives with Larrys Wildside Diving.
The dive guide and boat crew were a bit rude and the briefings were not clear. The boat is a bit cramped but the ride is very short. our first dive was to about 75 feet. We cruised about 50 to 75 feet off the bottom while we looked for rays, sharks and other large creatures. If you do see anything it will be from the distance since we were so far off the bottom. We say 1 Eagle Ray that was 75 feet of more below us. The first dive a gamble that you may see something. Personally for me it was a waste.
The second dive was to the Blue hole or white hole. This dive had a large school of tarpon, a large turtle and a huge school of snappers. On the way back to the boat we swam over a huge area of large sea fans looking for turtles. The second dive made up for what the second dive lacked.
The boat for Larry’s wild side diving is brought in on a trailer. There is no shop or any facilities. There are some public bathrooms that were clean when we were there, but the crew warn us before we entered as it can be a bit rough. They recommended using the bay instead.