Wanted to give a separate review of Dive Time, which is the dive facility associated with the Coral Bay Dive Resort. Also wanted to touch on the diving itself.
Dive Time has two boats.. a large modern dive boat, and a little "dorey". The big boat was out of commission for the week we were there, due to a broken engine belt, and then being grounded on a reef, which split a hull seam, so we took the dorey everywhere. The dorey is much faster, but has a much higher splash quotient!
We had a group of 6 and were met each morning by Pete and his son Eldon. The boat was loaded with enough tanks for several dives, which was a good thing, since often the tanks were underfilled or had leaky O rings. These are little steel tanks, which are much shorter than a regular tank, and much easier to manipulate. You also need MUCH less weight with them. I wore a 3mm wetsuite and was down to 4 pounds of weight by the last day, and still having to inflate my BC to accomodate being overweighted.. I probably could have gone with 2lbs or even none.
Pete and Eldon were always friendly and had our gear set up for us upon arrival. I would recommend checking, however, to make sure that the gear is on correctly, and that your tank is full (and air on) prior to jumping in. We swapped out a bunch of tanks during the week that were already setup. There were always plenty, and any issues never kept us from diving or delayed us in the slightest.. plus Pete and Eldon do all the switching!
The winds were high while we were there, making the water pretty choppy. We almost always went to the west side of the island in the morning, through the chanel that cuts through the island.. makes it very convenient to get to the sites. The west side diving is dramatic, and that's an understatement. There are huge caves and cravasses we swam into and through... sandy spits with towering coral pinnacles.. really interesting diving, and like nothing we've been to before. Even going back to the same spot and turning a different direction gave us different scenery. We mostly dove out and back, but several times, we just went along the reef until the end of the dive, and Eldon came and picked us up. Water temp this time of year was 80 at the surface and 77 to 79 at depth. I wish I had brought my 5mm, since I ended up cold on some of the dives.
In the afternoon, we usually went to a spot on the east side of the island... the reefs here are much more shallow... right up to the surface, so would be spectacular for snorklers.. the water here was much clearer than the west side, and warmer by a few degrees. The trip out to these reefs in the waves was usually a soaking wet adventure, and I actually put my mask on for a couple, so that I could continue to look around!
Getting into the water meant hauling yourself up onto the narrow edge of the boat, and back rolling into the water. The boat is small, so you have to be careful not to fin someone in the face! Getting out of the water was pretty easy... a ladder was lowered, and we took off fins, mask and BC in the water and they were taken from us, allowing us to climb the ladder without all our gear. Much easier!
Pete was an effective DM, and was careful to give us a briefing of what we were to see and which direction we were to go before each dive.. covering depth and times as well... we mostly stuck in a loose group following him.
Overall the reef systems of Guanaja are pretty incredible.. the corals and sponges are big and healthy.. we saw little evidence of damage, and although the reefs are still recovering from hurricane Mitch, which apparently was devestating back in 1999, they are already spectacular again. The only thing missing was fish and creatures. The locals still fish the reefs for their daily sustainenance, and it really shows. We saw a couple nurse sharks, two turtles, and only one adult trigger fish the entire week! The most common fish were the blue cromies, but even their schools were noticably small.
There is to be a moratorium on harvesting from the reef in the next few week, but unfortunately in order to take this away from the people of the islands, there must be something given as a substitute, and I don't think that's been well thought out, which means that illegal fishing will probably continue, or people will go further out to other reefs.
Overall Dive Time and Pete and Eldon were great... there were some issues with equipment, but again, nothing that kept or delayed us from diving. The topography of the underwater, especially the west side, with the caves and caverns might be a little advanced for a new diver, but there was always an opportunity not to enter, and just wait outside for everyone else to come through.
I would definitely go back to Coral Bay Dive Resort, and use Dive Time again, but I want to wait a few years for the fishing ban to really take effect, so that the quality and quantity of marine life matches the quality of the reefs themselves... the reefs are ready to sustain huge populations of fish and creatures.
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