pterantula

pterantula

My Dive Map

Reviews (4)

Bahamas

5
5
5
2

5-star, 5-star, 5-star... 2-star? Well, The palm tree-lined beaches are pretty, but it's really kind of a hot, dry, bland area; if you're not going there to dive, I think you're just not going to see or do much. I suppose you could read and lounge, maybe write some journals or detective stories. Great diving though!
I hesitate to even call it “Caribbean” diving however, since the Bahamas are in the Atlantic Ocean and not the Caribbean Sea, but the crystal waters and shallow reefs make it similar enough I suppose (and no one like a literalist). As diving and tourism are so well-established there, it’s also relatively cheap, even coming all the way from the west coast of the US.

The spring and summer offer warm, beautifully clear waters, plenty of reefs, fish, dolphins, turtles, sharks big & small; be warned however, it’s pretty much a desert climate, and the sun can get downright brutal. Wear light but concealing layers, lots of sunscreen, and bring a big hat! I spent several days on the deck of a small private boat (looking for oceanic whitetip sharks, which can be abundant around Cat Island), and most of us barely escaped sunburn, even with full coverage. Mid- to late winter is a great time for big sharks, and it is cooler topside – but that comes at the price of much rougher and cooler waters*, and potentially iffy visibility. (*For Tiger Beach in Jan/Feb, I wear a 7mil suit, as even 75F water can get chilly after several hours at a time.) There’s no bad time to go though, and I think the region offers something for everyone – snorkeling, reefs, sharks, wrecks, deep walls, etc. I think it would be possible to spend years here, just exploring and discovering all the reefs and critters.

Getting in & out does require a passport, as close as it is to the US, but I’ve used US currency at stores. Not sure if that’s normal or not. As southern Florida is the most obvious gateway to the Bahamas, I also heartily recommend adding a few days to a trip so as to do some Florida diving. It’s a neat mix of tropical and temperate, and you can find goliath groupers, giant southern stingrays, even the odd hammerhead shark, as well as some really cool wrecks.

Visited on 05/2011 - Submitted on 10/31/2014
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Galapagos Aggressor III Liveaboard

4
5
4
5

Firstly, a representative greeted each passenger at the Guayaquil airport - which is very helpful! My Spanish is terrible, and Ecuador isn't Mexico - not nearly enough tourism or economic overlap to bridge the language divide here. (It's not impossible, but Guayaquil is not like big American tourist towns.) From there we were herded over to the small plane, reserved as a group, to take us to Isla San Cristobal. I could go into tons of detail about the port town - Puerto Baquerizo Moreno - but suffice to say it was clean, quiet in its own little bustling way, and very pleasant.

The Aggressor yacht was about what I expected, nothing more or less - roomy dive-deck where we all set up our rigs for the week, with stowage areas for gear, a smallish camera table with some shelves and a compressed air gun by the main cabin door, and an enclosed battery-charging station/closet with multiple US-style outlets.
The cabins were decently sized, with comfy bunks and enclosed shelving for personal items, clean bathrooms and lots of air conditioning. The main lounge was a little tight but very comfy, with videos, books and plenty of dry snack & candies. The crew clearly knew little English, but were very helpful and friendly. The food was what I expected from my liveaboard experiences - excellent and filling.

I won't go into a dive-by-dive description, but an overview:
The waters are temperate, which some might say means "cold", but actually in the middle; about 65-75F, depending on currents & thermoclines. The last day at Punta Vicente Roca was the coldest, at about 60F or so; most people were cold in their 5mil suits with no hoods, but I wore a 7mil and a hooded vest underneath as I like to stay warm for the whole week - which I recommend. Better to be a little warm at first, since you'll do a lot of diving and will get progressively colder. Temperate water also usually means poorer visibility, which ranged from 60' on a good day to about 15' (at Isla Wolf - which also thrashed us with powerful surge). We didn't hit any massive currents, like I've experienced at Cocos, but it can happen anywhere so bring strong legs and strong fins.
All diving is done from Zodiacs, so gear is doffed before hauling yourself out of the water - which can take a few tries, to the amusement of everyone. 
It's Adventure Diving all around, which is what I liked best about it.

As for wildlife, we saw pretty much everything you would hope to see (though photography proved very challenging and frustrating due to aforementioned conditions). Whalesharks, Galapagos sharks, hammerhead schools, marine iguanas, penguins, massive mola mola, seahorses, Galapagos horned sharks, sea lions, stingrays, eagle rays, batfish, sea turtles like an infestation, orcas, octopus, & almost every other fish imaginable. Even some pea-sized nudibranchs. It's one of the most jam-packed, vibrant areas I've seen, much to its reputation.

My "overall value" rating is less than perfect simply because it's very expensive and more logistically involved than most other destinations. Also, as a native California-coast diver who has dived the Channel Islands, Mexico, Cocos and the Revillagigedos, the topography and conditions presented by the Galapagos are frankly nothing new. Still awesome, but nothing new; I feel that land-locked or tropical dwelling folks will get the most benefit and enjoyment from this region. I doubt I would return unless I wasn’t paying for it, but not because of the boat, crew, fellow divers or Ecuadoreans – the waters and topography are just too similar to my local area to justify the expense a second time.

Visited on 10/2012 - Submitted on 10/29/2014
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M/V Shear Water - Tiger Beach (Bahamas)

0
3
0
3

The famous Tiger Beach – most divers have heard of it by now, shark-o-philes or not. It’s one of the best close-up shark encounters in the world, and even though there are never any guarantees in the natural world (especially not the ocean), you are pretty much guaranteed to swim with all the sharks you can handle at this otherwise unremarkable place. I have friends and colleagues who have come here via other charter boats as well as Jim Abernethy’s Shear Water, but I’ve been twice with the Shear Water and I very highly recommend his trips. Jim’s passion and knowledge are bar-none, and his very detailed 4-hour dive briefings keep everyone on the same page. Contrary to what media hype may have portrayed of the area and baited shark dives in general, I’ve found Jim’s dives to be some of the safest and best-organized of my entire dive travel ‘career’.
The biggest (and probably only) complaint you might hear of the Shear Water is its size; it’s a very small, very cramped boat. It is NOT what you might call “comfortable”, in the sense of larger luxury liveaboards, but let’s be very clear: you come to dive, eat & sleep. The group very quickly falls into a groove of sharing the cramped camera table and dining table, and there are small but usable cubby-hole shelves for cameras and batteries. There really isn’t room for lots of extra gear or large bags, and the best place to stretch out and relax is usually your military-like bunk. The dive deck is equally small and utilitarian, but serviceable for hanging out after dinner. You can also lounge on the bow, but there’s no furniture. I don’t see any this as a negative though – the boat is purpose-driven, the crew is efficient and professional, the food is tasty and varied, and the dives are awesome. So, a 3/5 for the rather Spartan accommodations, which could rub a more pampered diver the wrong way…?

The main site, “The” Tiger Beach, as it were, is a very broad, flat stretch of unremarkable sand, in about 20’ or so of water. You spend pretty much the whole of the day within a very small area in very shallow water, so divetimes can easily get up to 90 minutes or more. For this reason, I highly recommend a thicker wetsuit than you’d think for the temperatures (70’s in winter, 80’s in spring & summer), since you’re really just sitting around for hours at a time. You must have full coverage as well – no large patches of exposed skin, and no bright color dive gear – so the gloves, boots and hood you’ll need will help keep you warm throughout the day. (I wore a 7mil jumpsuit, 5mil boots, canvas “tropical” gloves, and a 1mil hood = not what you think of when you hear “Bahamas”!) Enriched Nitrox is available, and highly recommended; while you’re well within no-deco limits, you will be down there for a long time, even on the night dives. (– Oh, and don’t skip the night dives!)

So what’s the attraction? Sharks. Lots of ‘em. Easily a couple dozen lemons at any time, sometimes many more, and anywhere from a couple to more than a dozen (!) tiger sharks. Occasionally there might even be a passing bull or Caribbean reefie, but the big, awesome, gorgeous tigers are the stars. Most of them are regulars – what Jim calls “Supermodels”, since they slowly cruise the ‘runway’ all day long and even seem to deliberately pose for photos and videos. While most sharks quickly tire of divers and swim off, the Supermodels will hang out for hours upon hours.
For the shorter trips all you might see is Tiger Beach itself, but for the longer trips you get to dive several deeper sites. We spent one day at a 90’ bottom looking for bull sharks, and another day at a 60-70’-deep reef system with scores of Caribbean reefies and lemons. Great hammerheads may show up as well, but this is very rare outside the winter months, and they’re very skittish around so many other species. Also, on our first day, we did a baby turtle release while close to port – Jim has some arrangement with the local scientists/research center/etc. where they let him release many of their hatchlings into the ocean, and this provides photographers with a great opportunity for some rare shots.

I rated “marine life” a four, because you don’t really come here to see anything but sharks, so I would almost rate it a two for variety – but I absolutely love sharks and this is an unmatched place to swim with them, so it’s back up to a four.

Overall, please don't be fooled by the less than perfect rating scores - this is a great trip to do if you like sharks at all, and Jim Abernethy is one of the very best in the business.

Visited on 01/2010 - Submitted on 10/31/2014

Sea Escape - Revillagigedos ("Socorro")

4
4
4
4

This is a logistically easy and relatively affordable liveaboard trip, especially for anyone on the western side of the US. Fly into San Jose del Cabo, and take a shuttle or bus to Cabo San Lucas – where decent hotels & hostels are relatively cheap, and the whole of downtown is walkable (and pretty safe). A shuttle will take everyone to the harbor, which is only slightly out of the way, but you could make it on your own after breakfast if you absolutely had to.

The boat itself is very plain, and seemingly a little aged, but in decent repair and certainly provides most everything you need for a liveabord trip. The dive deck is a little cramped at times, especially on the first and last days when everyone is arranging gear, but the divers are split into groups throughout the day. There is a low platform at the stern with hot showers, which is a nice feature. There are no camera tables, but there were rinse bins; the main cabin had decent floor space for most people to assemble and tweak their cameras. The upper sun deck is arrayed with lounge chairs, but there are no tables or central congregating areas. The cabins are just as spartan as the rest of the boat, but honestly – who needs Ritz Carlton accomodations when you’re just there to sleep? I’ve never understood that…. The crew were very friendly and helpful, and the food was good, so that’s really all you need.

The early part of the year (Jan-Apr ish) is considered whale season, and humpbacks can be seen & heard throughout the week. Up-close encounters are tough though, and we had to skip an afternoon dive to swim with a mother & calf – for about a whole 30 seconds. The mid-year is warmer and supposedly calmer, and is famous for being chock-full of mantas. Mantas are around throughout the year, but apparently not as numerous or friendly as in mid-year.
Our early April crossing (from Cabo San Lucas to Socorro) was very, very rough, and the boat rolled side to side rather violently. Many dishes could be heard breaking through the night, and anything not secured was slung across the floor – including people. I went to the sun deck to get fresh air, and at one point the boat pitched so violently several lounge chairs almost flew overboard; I had to grip the railing pretty fast to avoid injury (or worse…). In the end no gear was lost or damaged, and they had enough plates with which to feed us, so that’s all that matters. :P

Overview of the diving:
The waters are temperate, which some might say means "cold", but actually a little warm in this region (depending on currents & thermoclines); probably in the low 70F range? I wore a 7mil full suit, as I prefer to be a little warm at the outset but will stay warmer throughout the week than others in their 5mils.
Temperate water also usually means poorer visibility, but most sites gave us at least 60'. We spent over two days at Roca Partida, and I would say we had an easy 100’ most of the time. We didn't hit any massive currents like I've experienced at Cocos, but most sites had a mild current; Roca Partida especially. Just be prepared with strong legs and strong fins. All diving is done from Zodiacs, so gear is doffed before hauling yourself out of the water - which can take a few tries, to the amusement of everyone. Diver pairs are also issued a Nautilus Lifeline radio; I actually brought my own, but it’s a nice touch.
As for wildlife, it’s a little barren – at least compared to most SCUBA-specific destinations. There are plenty of schooling fish and sharks, but the terrain is just rock. Very similar to The California coast I dive locally, but no kelp or algae beds, and similar to many parts of the Galapagos. It’s rugged, rough, edge-of-the-world sort of diving, and not for fans of calm, vibrantly colorful shallows as found in the tropics. There are a lot of sharks though, which I love, and reef whitetips, Galapagos, and silkies could be seen almost every day. We did find some small groups of hammerheads as well, but they mostly kept to the deep, and weren’t terribly interested in being around us.

My "overall value" rating might be less than perfect, simply because as a native California-coast diver who has dived the Channel Islands, Mexico, Malpelo, Cocos and the Galapagos, the topography and conditions here are frankly nothing new or particularly exciting. Not that it’s hum-drum or not worth the trip – we all had a great time, and many of the sites have an eerie, prehistoric beauty. The sharks, whales, tuna, mantas, etc. we did see were all awesome. It's also relatively inexpensive. I’m not sure I’d be in a hurry to return just because there are so many other places to see, but I would definitely like to go back for manta season.

Visited on 04/2013 - Submitted on 10/30/2014

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