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My Dive Map

Reviews (7)

Anilao Photo Workshops Spring 2018

5
4
5
4

My latest trip to Anilao was to help lead a Bluewater photo workshop. Knowing the tremendous diversity of marine life, especially macro subjects, I was very excited to meet a whole bunch of fellow underwater photography enthusiasts and hopefully help them capture some great images. The dive guides are truly exceptional, with incredible skill at finding the often tiny creatures - frequently spotting exactly what you 'order'. So we began the week with a talk on 'What to expect', which left us all excited to get in the water. The guests had a wide range of diving and photography experience, from those setting up brand new cameras for the first time, to seasoned enthusiasts and of course the whole range of equipment from compact to mirrorless, slr and video. This made the daily screening of guest photos extra fun and by the end of the week there was some real improvement to be seen.
The high guide to diver ratio makes for amazing photo opportunities - no waiting around for your turn on a subject as the guides always find something for everyone. Anilao is surely one of the best places in the world for macro photography and the ease of diving at Crystal Blue means you are given every opportunity to spend the time you need to get the shot.
The location is right on the water, and the boats leave from the shore just steps away from the resort. All your gear is looked after by the dive crew - all you need to do is show up for the boat and within minutes you are at yet another amazing dive site. The night dives are truly awesome and not to be missed, with a whole different array of creatures appearing on the reef and in the muck.
The rooms are good value, the food is easy and plentiful and the dedicated camera room is brilliant, both for keeping your gear charged and dry and from a social aspect too - there is always someone in there changing a lens or swapping out batteries (and it's just across from the new bar!).
I would recommend Anilao and the Bluewater workshops for everyone from beginner to pro - the enthusiasm of your fellow guests makes for a really great week with more photo opps than almost anywhere else and all at a very reasonable price.

Visited on 12/2016 - Submitted on 10/31/2017
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CoCo View Resort

5
4
4
4

We have now been to Cocoview three times. For us, like many others it seems, it's an easy place to meet up with old diving friends and get masses of underwater time in the most relaxing way possible. We love to be left to our own devices in the water so that we can spend as much or as little time on a photo subject as we wish. Cocoview is the perfect place for this. The second boat dives, both morning and afternoon, are 'drop off' dives, where the boat drops you at your chosen spot and you make your own way underwater, back to the resort in your own time. But for me, the best feature of all is that at any time of day or night, you can grab a tank and make your own way out to the house reef (or the interesting wreck right in front of the resort) even if you have no dive buddy. There is masses to see in the shallows, and I have been known to spend two and a half hours underwater (thank goodness for Nitrox) not far from the resort playing around with different settings on the huge variety of macro subjects.

We have only good things to say about the resort itself - the rooms are great, the food is very good, the bar is fun and the staff are helpful and friendly. The same can be said about the diving facilities - there is even a new camera room now for the serious photographers and the dive crews are wonderful. But for me, the real reason to go is for the never ending supply of new photo subjects.

You can spend hours watching the numerous jawfish, waiting for the perfect shot of them aerating their (mouth incubated) eggs or with the sergeant majors as they tend their patches of purple eggs on the remains of the plane wreck nearby. There are always many different juveniles, from drumfish, to filefish and angelfish. The rocks are full of blennies and you can find pikeblennies and sailfin blennies in the sand. In a week of diving, you'd be sure to see turtles, morays, octopus and reef squid and the hard and soft corals are beautiful in the sunlit shallows. It's a great place for watching out for interesting behavior too, as you can take the time to look, especially around the reef at night. It could well be the best biodiversity in the Caribbean from our experiences, so I'm sure we'll head back there again soon.

Visited on 05/2017 - Submitted on 10/31/2017
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Guadalupe Island

5
4
5
5

We visited the Guadalupe Island in November 2013 and we are about to head back, three years later, to repeat the awesome experience.

This is an easy trip in many ways – less gear to pack than for a full dive trip, and the transfers are made super easy every step of the way. It is never cheap, but there is a pretty much 100% chance of seeing multiple great whites – better than any other cage diving destination. The boat journey out and back is long, but there is a good chance of seeing whales, dolphins and other marine life along the way. We experienced pods of pilot whales and were also involved in extracting some ghost nets from the water. Just take a book, sleep, watch movies or enjoy the company of your fellow travelers and you find you are soon pulling into the bay where the adventures await.

The crews work hard to draw in the sharks and bring them as close as possible to the cages for a really thrilling experience. It was when a large shark side-swiped my cage that I began to feel the power of these impressive animals – the repeated close passes really make the experience memorable. We found plenty of opportunity to spend masses of time in the water and, on our trip at least, never entered the cage without seeing at least one shark.

Booking through Bluewater is a breeze – they are now our go to agent for private as well as group trips, always getting a far better price than we can find ourselves and drawing on their tremendous experience to offer the very best advice every step of the way. It’s always fun going with a Bluewater group and we can’t wait to get back to Guadalupe with them soon.

Visited on 11/2013 - Submitted on 08/02/2016
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Jack's Diving Locker, Kona, Hawaii

5
5
5
5

We were going to be in a condo in Kona for a week, so we figured it would make life easier to pick one dive shop and do all our diving with them - and we are so happy we picked Jack's!
Firstly, it's a big, professional dive operation so they have plenty of dives to choose from. The shop itself is huge and has everything you could want, whether to rent or buy. They took our gear on day one and brought it to and from the boat for every dive, rinsing it at the end of each day. If you don't have a car to get to the marina, they will transport you from the dive shop in the center of Kona. So in short, they make life very easy.
Secondly, they offer a great option for divers with a bit more experience - one boat each day heads out with only 'advanced divers'. OK, it's slightly more expensive, but you have your pick of dive sites that are not on most itineraries. Some of these sites are a longer boat ride away, but not all, and we never ran into another dive group on any of them. The crew and guides are very flexible too - if you have a preference for a site or type of dive, they will do their best to accommodate you. They also go to great lengths during the surface interval to seek out whales, dolphins etc - and you can jump in with mask and snorkel for a closer look. 'Advanced' dives may include lava tubes, drift diving, slightly deeper wrecks etc.
Thirdly, Jack's really understands that after spending thousands of dollars on a trip, you don't want to be told that you have to surface after an hour, or when the first person gets low on air. The norm was 80mins, but we often had longer. This was a big plus in my book.
Next big plus was the marine life. We added all sorts to our tick list - conger eels, dragon morays, viper morays and an assortment of fish that are only found in Hawaii, such as flame angelfish and various butterfly fish. The dive guides were great at letting us know what to expect to see at each site, so we knew what to look for and where, plus of course they also found many of the creatures for us.
And I've saved the best for last - the Pelagic Magic dive. I would go back to Kona and do this every night for a week if possible. Jack's offered this dive twice, but we were so desperate to do it again we added a third with another dive shop. Jack's definitely have the edge - they show you an intro video at the dive shop before you go out for the first time, which is very reassuring for those who need it and also very informative. The dive is limited to six, plus guides, which works well and once again they allow an 80 minute dive time so no one feels cheated. Jack's use a parachute in the water to keep the boat from drifting in the wind - this is a great feature as without it all the tiny creatures drift by too quickly to see them properly or take photos. I can hardly begin to list what we saw, mostly because they all have long latin names, but it was awesome and each of the three nights threw up a myriad of different creatures from the depths, from larval stage fish, crabs and lobsters to pelagic octopus and box jellies. One night we had dolphins hunting around us for a full hour, on the others we had squid darting all around feeding.
So, in short, if you are considering Kona, head to Jack's Diving Locker and you won't be disappointed.

Visited on 11/2014 - Submitted on 12/16/2014

Presidente InterContinental Resort & Spa Cozumel

4
5
4
3

The Presidente Intercontinental is amongst the top end hotels in Cozumel. Most aspects of this hotel are of the standard one would expect in this market sector. Our Pool View Room was large and comfortable and only a short walk to the dive boat. There was also a sizable terrace - great for spreading out any wet gear that we hadn't left with our dive valet. The room wasn't hugely light, but there were at least plenty of surfaces for camera gear and lots of electrical outlets for charging cameras and strobes.

All hotel staff are very friendly and helpful, from reception, to restaurants, bars and maintenance staff. The grounds are beautiful with a couple of pools and plenty of greenery (and many resident iguanas). There is wifi throughout the hotel, which can be a bit spotty, but broadly works. The beach areas are protected and pleasant. The food service in the hotel is quite good, but not great – if you are there for a full week it lacks variety and even the non-Mexican dishes have a definite Mexican flavor. It is of course not cheap either. It is about a ten-minute taxi ride to town, if one is seeking variety, a ‘local’ experience, or just a cheaper meal.

For divers, ScubaDu operates from a dive center and dock conveniently in the heart of the hotel. ScubaDu is a professional operator, with several boats and as much diving as one could want, though afternoon dives and night dives are subject to demand, requiring a minimum of four divers. A scuba package that includes unlimited shore diving is a must for keen divers as the two house ‘reef’ areas are teeming with life, especially at night. For divers staying at the Presidente, the dive valet service is very welcome, especially when you arrive back at the dive center after a night dive. Every member of the Scuba Du staff is extremely helpful and fun, on shore and on the boats.

All of the diving in Cozumel is toward the south end of the island. The Presidente Intercontinental is located somewhat closer to these dive sites than the numerous hotels in the town and near the airport. This means a thirty minute boat ride to the dive sites rather than a forty-five minute boat ride – so not great, but better. There are a few resorts well down the coast to the south, which would more or less eliminate this boat ride – so perhaps worth considering for every-day divers.

Visited on 01/2014 - Submitted on 01/27/2014
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Presidente InterContinental Resort & Spa Cozumel

5
4
4
4

ScubaDu is located at the Presidente Intercontinental and operates as an in-house operation while also taking on outside divers. They are a well-run operation with four boats (if required), running two-tank morning dives daily and one-tank afternoon dives and night dives based on demand – four divers minimum. The staff is all friendly, helpful and capable. Nitrox is available for a separate fee.

If one stays at the Presidente, an added bonus is the house reef, sitting just in front of the hotel. While this relatively shallow reef is not the place to see giant pelagics, it is a fantastic place for ‘extra’ dives (included with a diving package) both in the afternoon as well as at night. There is a small barge wreck in this dive area, which provides a home to numerous very large crabs, eels, rays and schooling fish.

Another plus of being a Presidente guest, is the dive valet. Victor was our assigned valet for the week and he did a fabulous job of looking after our gear. Even coming back late from a night dive, there he was ready to take our gear, rinse it, have it dry by morning and ready to go on the dock for the next dive.

Perhaps the only caveat on ScubaDu also relates to diving generally in Cozumel. The visibility in Cozumel is fantastic and there is a lot to see in the large and successful marine park – but there are a lot of divers in Cozumel, really a lot. On every dive we saw several other dive groups and we were not there in peak season. Not surprisingly, the divers range in experience and abilities. So ScubaDu, like all of the many other operators, must play to the lowest common denominator. Typically this means groups of six divers per dive master (diving without a dive master is not allowed). It also means 45 to 50 minute dive times, so coming out with a fair bit of air in the tank for slow breathing divers. In our week of diving, we once had a group of eight divers with just one dive master, and two of those were very new to diving. This of course shortens the actual dive time for a bunch of different reasons. On another occasion, our second morning dive was shortened somewhat because the boat had to get back in time to take out a party of snorkelers.

It is probably fair to assume that ScubaDu, like most operators, would adjust the program to divers that wanted to pay extra for a private dive master or book the whole boat. This could be important in rather crowded Cozumel in terms of longer dives or perhaps getting to sites that are slightly less crowded. Bottom line, ScubaDu are a good operator, but just showing up and joining in with the crowd they have that week is subject to the risks of who else shows up at the same time.

Visited on 01/2014 - Submitted on 01/27/2014
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Bilikiki Liveaboard

4
4
4
4

When it comes to diving the Solomon Islands, the fact that (somewhat) sister boats Bilikiki and Spirit are the only game in town is not a bad thing. Neither of these boats would be called the prettiest girl at the ball, but they are very comfortable and well-suited to their task. At 125 feet, these large boats have plenty of space for the maximum 20 or so divers that they take.

Both indoor and outdoor common space is more than adequate and comfortably appointed. The camera room is not enormous, particularly for a full boat of hard-core photographers – but has adequate power points and can be made to work for a sensible group.

Rooms on the boat are comfortable (it is a boat and not a Four Seasons), with private baths and showers for most of the rooms. The staff onboard are very helpful and friendly, looking after any needs one might imagine. The food is great, with small but diverse buffets for lunch and dinner, and plenty of snacks (including fresh warm cookies) in between.

As with all live-aboards, a trip on these boats is about the diving, the diving and the diving. It is generally possible to do four or five dives a day, with bottom times of an hour at least. The diving itself covers everything from open water pelagics, to attractive reefs, to WWII wrecks to surprisingly attractive mangroves. The skipper and crew seem to choose wisely based on sea and weather conditions and the interests of the divers. The boats change location seamlessly in between dives or in the evenings, covering a long stretch of the island chain with no fuss or inconvenience.

Almost all of the diving is done from ‘tinnies’ – metal tenders that take the divers from the anchored boat to the nearby targeted dive site and this system really works. The local tinny captains are both friendly and highly competent at keeping track of their divers underwater. Diving can be done with a guide from the boat or just in buddy pairs – but regardless the tinny always seems to appear from nowhere when one reaches the surface.

The final bonus of a trip on these boats is the brief (optional) island visits, when the boat pulls up to fill its water tanks or buy fresh supplies from the local people. This is not the commercially packaged ‘village tour’ that one might expect from a cruise ship holiday. The lovely locals in these isolated islands are happy and welcoming in a manner that definitely makes this an additive part of the trip.

A journey on these boats begins and ends in Honiara, the very undeveloped capital of the Solomon Islands. While it is a basic place by any sensible measure, Honiara is worth a couple of days at the beginning or end of the boat trip – with an interesting WWII history for fans of such matters.

Visited on 07/2009 - Submitted on 01/16/2014
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