Unbiased Scuba Vacation Reviews

St Vincent

St Vincent and the Grenadines are located in the windward islands and is comprised of more than 30 islands and include the islands of Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, Mayreau, Union Island, Palm Island and Petit St Vincent.

St Vincent is a photographers haven due to the popularity of muck diving made popular by Bill Tewes of Dive St Vincent.

St. Vincent Dive St. Vincent June 2015

Dive St. Vincent and Mariners Hotel

RAC_4173RAC_4164We 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!

in Short

Diving Pros

  • 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

Diving Cons

  • 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.

Hotel Pros

  • Reasonable Price
  • Has Restaurant
  • Has Pool
  • Short Walk (100 yards/meters) from dive operation on boardwalk
  • Basic business hotel.  Equivalent to Econolodge

Hotel Cons

  • 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

IMG_1479Mariners 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.

 

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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.

 

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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

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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.

IMG_1477The 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

IMG_1475 IMG_1474Dive 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.RAC_4216

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

 

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The Reef

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