Okay, here's the short story:
The Good: The dive masters are great, the boat is nice, the dive sites are good.
The Bad: They don't always deliver what they promise, and the owner "Fifi" can be a jerk, the prices are on the high side
All in All: I'd say it's a good shop for experienced divers, but skip it if you're training, a beginner or rusty.
The longer story: We are a family of five that booked our spring break to scuba dive in Turks and Caicos. We wanted to get our three kids (10, 12 and 15) their Open Water Certification, and I put a lot of time and energy into researching a good teacher and operation. We chose Caicos Adventures because we'd heard wonderful things about an instructor there, Matt. We booked him as the kid's private instructor, which I though was important given their ages. We also booked him as our private guide for several family dives after certification, as he'd know our diving habits and would be bonded with the kids. Also, my husband and I were very rusty - we did a refresher course, but before that hadn't dove in 17 years! - so thought a private guide was prudent. Caicos was more expensive than other operations we'd priced out, but we figured having the better instructor and operation was worth it.
Things started going wrong almost immediately. We arrived at the dive boat only to find out that Matt wasn't there. Someone had gotten sick and he had to drive the bus (!). On top of this, the kids weren't in a private class, but in a rather large group class with eight students. This after choosing Caicos Adventures BECAUSE of Matt, and confirming that he was their private instructor! On top of this, they didn't bring the right size wetsuit for my youngest. I'd told the operation all the sizes of my kids, but hers was too big and she was shivering and blue by the end of the first dive.
All of this was upsetting enough. Add to this "Fifi", the owner of the company. While the kids were in their classes, we were doing a couple days of diving - but remember, it had been 17 years, plus we were distracted with the kids. We'd told the company how rusty we were well ahead of time, and figured the divemasters would help us with whatever gaps our refresher didn't cover. And indeed, the divemasters did just that - they were great, supportive, matter-of-fact. Fifi, the owner, was a different story. He's the kind of guy that likes to tease struggling beginners. A strange trait for someone in the tourist trade. Or maybe, to be charitable, he doesn't know it upsets or embarrasses some people to be publicly teased for their every mistake or moment of confusion? In any case, instead of watching out for us, FIfi mocks us. I'm slow getting my gear on; I put my belt on the wrong way; I find the tank heavy when I stand up. He calls me "grandma", asks "where did I leave my brain", calls me disorganized in front of the whole boat at the morning briefing. Being publicly embarrassed of course makes me more confused. The mocking eases off as my competance increases, but still. My daughter says she doesn't like Fifi because "He's mean to Mom." Don't get me wrong - Fifi is also professional, and runs a tight ship. My husband likes talking to him. If you're a buttoned-up, experienced diver he'll treat you fine. But his way of mocking struggling divers almost ruined my long-planned, precious family vacation, and is so unnecessary. Looking back, I wish I'd known about Fifi and gone to a different operation, one better for beginners and rusty divers.
On the other hand, the boat was clean and nice, with good bathroom facilities. Our divemaster was good, and the kids' teacher was a harried but lovely woman named Sarah.
The next few days of diving were only a little better. The kids had a private instructor - Sarah again - for their second and final day of certification, but it still wasn't Matt. For the first day of family diving they had yet a different guide, still not Matt. It wasn't until the fourth day of diving that we finally met Matt - the third guide in four days. This was NOT what we had contracted for. They were supposed to have been fully bonded with one instructor/ guide by now.
Matt ended up guiding us on our last two dives, and he was wonderful. If only he could have done the whole thing! He was great with both the kids and the adults - patient, knowledgable, supportive, enthusiastic. A highlight was a night dive off Grace Beach - just him and the family, no Fifi, octopi and spanish lobster and squid and glowworms - hurrah!
Our other great guide was Chris, who had written several in-depth articles about marine life and was hilarious, kind, patient and knowledgable. On his dive we saw a giant eagle ray and tiny scarlet Lady shrimp.
One thing I will add is that Donna, in the office, was flexible with me on price, which I appreciate. Not only did she give me a significant break on the whole package, but when my son and husband had to skip dives with less than 24 hours notice she gave us a credit. On the other hand, I don't know who in the office was responsible for booking Matt as our private instructor and guide, but they seriously screwed up.
So all in all, I give a mixed review to Caicos Adventures. They're a pro operation with good equipment, experienced divemasters, a nice boat, good dive sites, etc. On the other hand, if you want a specific guide, forget it - you get what you get. The office isn't well-organized, so double and triple-check everything you've booked well in advance and right before your trip. If you are an experienced diver or have a very thick skin, you'll be fine with Fifi; otherwise you might not want to sign on for that kind of fun on your vacation. I wouldn't recommend Caicos for training kids - too disorganized. If you book with them for regular diving and can somehow get Matt or Chris, go for it, they're awesome.
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