Diving on ABC islands

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#1
85 Posts
Joined Oct 2015
I know this question has been asked to death, but I have an upcoming cruise very very soon, and have not finalized my dive ops for the 3 islands. We are docking from 8AM-10PM on each of the island. A few rambling questions.

Aruba.
Does the Antilla wreck live up to its hype? Or is there nothing else to dive in Aruba and the wreck is the best they got. I know cruise ship dive excursions are almost always to wrecks, is this just another one of those? Also, will it be packed with divers?

Most of the dive ops I inquired, they seem to limit dive time to 45 min, and have the group go up when one person runs out of air. This is ridiculously short, especially for shallow dives like the wreck.


Bonaire
Been there before, did boat/shore guided/unguided dives while there. I was planning on doing 1 guided dive, 1 unguided dive at the house reef, and 1 unguided night dive at the same house reef. Due to the spanning out of the dives, and night dive, I did not want to be too far away, or else we will be taking cabs back and forth non-stop. Either Divi Flamingo or Toucan Diving. I think with Divi Flamingo, I can walk back with my scuba and camera gears even after a night dive. But Divi have not been very responsive. They said they will find out if someone is available that day, but I can always come and rent tanks. I don't want to just do the house reef, but have them take me to some place like the Salt Pier.

Anyone have experience with them? Can I just walk up on the day and request guided dive? Is Divi Flamingo's house reef off a pier like Tucan's?


Curacao
Inquired a bunch of dive ops, most are shore dives. How is the shore dive in Curacao? Similar to bonaire, with the long walk on the iron shore, then swim in the shallow until the sloping reef starts? I've dove there before, but it was either boat dives, or off a pier on the house reef. Do they do long bottom time?
#2
Denver, CO
827 Posts
Joined Dec 2006
Aruba:

The Antilla is a great dive. I always enjoy "real" wreck more than those purposely sunken to form artificial reefs. As you noted, it's fairly shallow (40 to 50 feet) which allows for long bottom times. 45 minutes isn't really enough. It's generally considered an unsafe wreck to penetrate, as it has broken up enough over the years to have lost structural integrity, and consequently yours could be the bubbles that break loose a ton of deck. That being said, it's also a wreck than can be enjoyed fully without penetration. Since it has broken up you can easily see all aspects without penetration.

For Aruba I strongly recommend Happy Divers Aruba (www.happydiversaruba.com). No more than four divers on the boat, and the dives are controlled by air consumption, not time. Because it's a smaller operation, Jeffrey can be slower to respond to emails than the big outfits, so plan ahead a little. They will provide port pick-up/drop off.

I've not dove with Red Sail, but that's who the Cruise Ships use. I've seen their boats on the water, and they definitely are the stereotypical cattle boats. I've never heard anything about them that would make me book with them.

Bonaire:

When I go there, I dive with VIP Diving (www.vipding.com). They are excellent. It's all shore diving, and they aren't the cheapest, but they're worth every penny. They pick up a the port, and you decide where on the island you want to dive. If you know the sites, you tell them, If you don't you tell them what you want, and they suggest sites based on that, not on proximity, or any other criteria but what best meets your desires. Their price includes nitrox if you're nitrox certified. No more than four divers per group.

One caveat: don't book them unless you have travel insurance. They require a 100% pre-payment, and it's non-refundable. That includes if the ship doesn't make port.

Curacao:

I haven't got a good recommendation there yet. I'll be diving with Curious2Dive next week, and their responsiveness in making arrangements has been excellent.

Harris
Denver, CO
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#3
Washington, DC
111 Posts
Joined Feb 2014
For the trip cancellation coverages in Bonaire, would recommend GENERALI Travel Insurance (used to be CSA which covers the Divers Alert Network) as they will cover all non refundable trip costs, if you have to cancel. You'll want the medical coverages offered for diving in general, but GENERALI paid our claim for cancelled dive trip due to weather.
#4
85 Posts
Joined Oct 2015
I saw dive ops like VIP diving in Bonaire. Strange they are offering what looks like white glove service on an island where most people do a DIY diving w/o guides. Haven't found anyone that have one tank guided dive (mainly to go to some site where I can't get to (no car)). can't find out about Toucan Diving until much closer to the day of arrival. Worse case, we will just do house reef off Divi Flamingo (left, right and night).

I am always a little conflicted on natural vs artificial wreck. I feel sometimes they take divers to wrecks because their reefs are in terrible shape (seems to be the go to dive spot on every cruise stop). But then, most of those are artificial wrecks. Many of the natural historical wrecks are broken up piles of metal. We've dove enough wrecks in Bermuda to realize that. That's why my wife is weary of such wrecks, but then not diving on a wreck in Aruba might mean diving in a dull reef.
#5
New Mexico
1,743 Posts
Joined Sep 2014
Bonaire...I have been there twice on week-long vacations. Both times we stayed at Buddy Dive. House reef there is the BEST. Stair entry and exit right at dive shop on pier. Highly recommend it. Boat dives won't even get you any better but just different. If you can, I would take a taxi there for the day.
Salt Pier...is restricted diving and as of our last trip, off limits due to security. It was open for night dives when there was no ship, but we heard that has changed. Might have changed again since then but I wouldn't count on it. Night dive there was amazing but it was a hassle even getting it booked back in 2011. I would opt for night dive somewhere else if you want to do a night dive.
you can see our photos from our last trip there: https://rnrtackett.smugmug.com/Scuba...naireApril2011
As I said.... IMHO, the shore dive at Buddy Dive is as good as any boat dive there. We did it every day at least once.



video:



robin
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#6
85 Posts
Joined Oct 2015
Buddy's a bit far away since I wanted to do multiple dives on the house reef (including night dive), and I would probably go back and forth to the ship. They are also the cruise ship's dive ops, so no guided dive by them.

We did a day drift dive on Salt Pier via boat because the night before when we were scheduled to do it, we skipped it either due to current or condition. To not disappoint us, our DM snuck that dive in the next morning during our boat dive.
#7
85 Posts
Joined Oct 2015
Came back from the trip.

Bonaire, walked to the end of the pier and did 2 shore and 1 boat dive with Divi Flamingo. Wanted to dive more, but the morning briefing took so long that we didn't start our first dive until 11am. Briefing covered the whole island, how to do shore dives, and how to use their signup board for the boat dive. Also, the reef to the right is off limits when cruise ships are docked. The afternoon dive was a little hectic, with the whole boat going with 1 DM. But everybody were doing their own stuff once we were down.

Curacao, booked with thediveshop-curacao.com, whom took the 2 of us via truck to shore dives, including my requested Snake Bay, Bottom time was generous, with it being 61 and 65 min.

Aruba, was going to book with Dive Aruba, but waited too long and they got filled up, so booked with Happy Divers Aruba for the Antilla wreck. When I showed up at the gates outside the cruise pier, someone that was to pick me up from the shop instead told me due to the rain that's taking place in the north, the dive has been cancelled. I don't remember having dives cancelled due to weather or sea condition. The cruise ship's dive excursion to Antilla was still ongoing and has yet to leave, but being a 1 tank dive, I decided to not go. I could have picked up a cab and headed to some shop like Red Sail and got on their 9:15 boat, but I didn't have every shop's number and only had a short window to make all the decision. So just decided to take a tour and stopped by a beach to do some snorkeling, which I found to be devoid of any fish, and was not really able to go pass the swimming boundary and search the patches of sea grass due to those decapitating jet skis wizzing by.
#8
PA
975 Posts
Joined Jun 2006
Following...will be in the ABC’s in feb 2018. My local dive shop highly recommends Buddy Dive In Bonaire


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#9
85 Posts
Joined Oct 2015
Originally posted by murphy4
Following...will be in the ABC’s in feb 2018. My local dive shop highly recommends Buddy Dive In Bonaire
Buddy Dive is affiliated with our cruise line, so they won't take independent divers coming from the cruise ship.
#10
Tucson, Arizona and San Carlos, Mexico
4,260 Posts
Joined Jul 2009
Dove Aruba once, it was a wreck, and was very boring for both of us. We won't go back. We went with The Dive Bus in Curacao and it was a great shop. The dives were good and we would do it again. On Bonaire we went to Captain Don's Habitat and that is the best reef in Bonaire. We want to go back and stay for a week or so there.
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#11
PA
975 Posts
Joined Jun 2006
Originally posted by snoozcroozr
Buddy Dive is affiliated with our cruise line, so they won't take independent divers coming from the cruise ship.


That’s a bummer. I never do ship excursions, typically overpriced and overcrowded. Have you done scuba with the cruise line before?



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#12
85 Posts
Joined Oct 2015
Originally posted by murphy4
That’s a bummer. I never do ship excursions, typically overpriced and overcrowded. Have you done scuba with the cruise line before?



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The first few of cruises I did, I didn't know any better and dove only dove with the cruise line. Most were relatively short dives, and many, they get lazy and do the reef right in front of the shop as the second dive.

In Bonaire, there are many choices and most are catered to divers, so missing out on Buddy is not the end of the world.
#13
PA
975 Posts
Joined Jun 2006
Originally posted by snoozcroozr
The first few of cruises I did, I didn't know any better and dove only dove with the cruise line. Most were relatively short dives, and many, they get lazy and do the reef right in front of the shop as the second dive.

In Bonaire, there are many choices and most are catered to divers, so missing out on Buddy is not the end of the world.


Perfect. I will look elsewhere. Any recommendations for Bonaire?


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RCCL Adventure- Southern: St Maarten, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacoa 2-25-17
RCCL Anthem- Bermuda 10-1-16
RCCL Jewel- Southern: St Thomas, St Maarten, Aruba, Curacao 2-28-16
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#14
85 Posts
Joined Oct 2015
Originally posted by murphy4
Perfect. I will look elsewhere. Any recommendations for Bonaire?


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My requirement for Bonaire could be different from yours. Mine was to do 1 guided boat dive to somewhere not easily accesible by shore, and the rest doing shore dives on the house reef, and once I am familiarized with the reef, do a night dive. So we decided the most likely dive op to use is either Divi Flamigo or Toucan Diving, which both are at the end of the cruise pier area.


The original plan was 3 dives, then on the boat and as excitement built up, thought we can do 4 or 5 dives (do both left and right side of the house reef, and the night dive based on which one looked better). But once there, realized the reef to the right is off limits when cruise ships are there. So plan was back to maybe 4 dives, but time lost walking the long way there, walking back and forth to the ship for lunch and then to drop things off, washing lots of gears, there wasn't enough time to do 4 dives without getting back to dinner in reasonable time.

But because of the proximity of the dive op to the ship, we just played everything by how we felt. If you require 2 tank boat dives, they might accommodate you without having to go through the lengthy orientation.


Anyway, the other ones we inquired with are:
Capt Don - for hotel guests only
Buddy Dive - cruise ship op
Divi Ocean - fully booked
Wanna Dive - checkout dive on house reef required.
Dive Friends - no tanks avail after 5pm. Really close, but house reef seems to be right off the cruise pier's sea wall.
#15
507 Posts
Joined Feb 2011
We stay at Buddy Dive when we're on Bonaire for land vacations - Captain Don's Habitat is right next door to BD and they basically share a house reef. They've got a good rep and you can dive right off their dock.


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#16
PA
975 Posts
Joined Jun 2006
Originally posted by smokinmike
We stay at Buddy Dive when we're on Bonaire for land vacations - Captain Don's Habitat is right next door to BD and they basically share a house reef. They've got a good rep and you can dive right off their dock.


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Booking with VIP on Bonaire. They get excellent reviews on TripAdvisor!


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HA Koningsdam- Southern: Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk, Amber Cove, Bonaire, Curacao, Aruba 2-25-2018
Celebrity Summit- repo Bayonne to San Juan: St Maarten, St Thomas. 10-22-17
RCCL Adventure- Southern: St Maarten, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacoa 2-25-17
RCCL Anthem- Bermuda 10-1-16
RCCL Jewel- Southern: St Thomas, St Maarten, Aruba, Curacao 2-28-16
RCCL Oasis- Eastern: Nassau, St. Thomas, St Maarten 12-12-15
Carnival Splendor: Cozumel, Belize, Mahogany Bay (Isle Rotan), Grand Cayman 3-8-15
NCL Dawn: Bermuda--Hurricane Gonzolo-Nassau & Great Stirrup Cay 10-17-14
Coral Princess: Alaska 6-21-14 (land tour 6-14-14) -- canceled
RCCL Allure- Eastern: Nassau, St Martin, St. Thomas 1-19-2014
NCL Breakaway: Bermuda from NYC 9-22-13
RCCL Allure- Western: Cozumel, Falmouth Jamacia, Labadee Haiti 4-21-13
RCCL Oasis- Western: Cozumel, Falmouth Jamacia, Labadee Haiti 9-29-12
RCCL Oasis- Eastern: Nassau, St, Martin, St Thomas 3-10-12
Disney Dream: Castaway Cay 1-19-11 Christening Cruise
Disney Wonder: Nassau, Castaway Cay 4-25-10 First Disney Cruise
Carnival Glory Western: Cozumel, Belize, Nassau, Costa Maya 4-4-09
Carnival Sensation: Freeport, Nassau 8-27-06 First cruise!!