My last review of Stuart Cove's Dive Bahamas was written from the view point of a group leader of 25 divers. This time it is as a "paying passenger". I took a little trip to New Providence Island this past August with my family including both of my adult daughters. We hadn't dove as a team of three in about 4-5 years and looked forward to getting "wet" together. On this trip we were picked up from the Sheraton promptly at 8 am and were whisked to the southwest corner of the island and deposited at Stuart Cove's Dive South Ocean for our two tank morning dives. We were greeted by a friendly staff member who pointed the way to the restrooms and the dive shop/registration area. Inside the shop, we were quickly attended to by one of the myriad of staff who efficiently registered the three of us, checked our c-cards and nitrox cards and assigned us to a boat. On my previous trip, as a trip leader, my group had it's own boat for the four days of diving. On this trip, the three of us were assigned to the "advanced boat" - a boat for people with advanced certification/experience or higher. There were also boats for novice divers, snorkelers, and a special charter for a "shark shoot out" for photographers (a previously advertised course). Our boat, Terciops (I hope I got the spelling right) was set up for diving; benches ran the length of the boat from inside the cabin aft to the dive platform with racks for the tanks, there was a rinse bucket for cameras, an ice chest for drinks you may have brought on board, fresh drinking water and a marine head (toilet). Safety equipment included a first aid kit, oxygen kit, life jackets and a vhf radio. Each day the captain would give a briefing at the dock as to the layout of the boat including location of safety gear, marine head, etc; introduce the staff, divemasters and photographer, who were working on the boat that day. A roster was passed around requiring you to initial it while the boat was at the dock. The same roster was used after each dive to ensure everyone was on board before the engines were started. Each day they tried to survey the people on board as to which dive sites they have already done and which they would like to do. In that way they tried to minimize any repetitive dives. The boat looked like it could handle 20 divers, we had no more than 12 each day we were there. Never felt crowded or as if it were a "cattle boat".
This trip we managed to visit the Port Nelson/ Bacardi reef - a sunken Bahamian National Defense Force ship and reef combo at around 90' followed by Southwest Reef - a terrific shallow reef system. The second day: Clifton Wall - a 100' wall dive followed by the BBC wreck - a small tug boat and reef system in around 50' of water. The third day: a trip south to Razor Back - another wall dive to 100' followed by a shallow reef dive on Mike's reef (around 35'-50'). Our final day: another trip south to Play Pen - a wall dive to 100' followed by Twin Sisters two wrecks lying bow to bow in the sand.
There was an excellent dive briefing before each dive reviewing safety procedures, diver recall system, depth, bottom time, over view of the area. Depth and bottom time for divers were determined by whether or not dive computers were being used by all members of the buddy team. With computers: 100'/30 minutes; without computers 80'/30 minutes. The reality was that the three of us were diving nitrox (enriched air 32%) with computers and on average we had bottom times of 45 minutes on the deep dive (with at least a three minute safety stop); the shallow dives we were given a time to be back on the boat with at least 500psi of gas in each person's tank - usually 1 hour of bottom time if you didn't dawdle around on the boat. The first dive was a guided dive, the second dive you and your buddy could do your own thing or go with a divemaster who would give a tour.
As for the diving: visibility ran 60-80 feet horizontally; no current/slight current; some wave action, but minimal. The critters: a large number of channel clinging crabs, lobsters, some rays both southern and yellow, Caribbean reef sharks (many), nurse sharks, lionfish ( numbers appear to be down from previous visits - which is good) and a host of the usual reef fish.
The reefs are in decent condition, less algae growth as seen in previous years, especially the more southern reefs.
On each of the two tank dives, a photographer was on board from Fin Photo capturing pictures of the divers and interesting subjects of each dive. There was no hard sell to purchase any pictures and you were invited to enjoy viewing them either at the photo shop or on line.
Stuart Cove provides an excellent experience for any level of diver or snorkeler or adventurer who is interested in an exciting underwater experience. It is an excellent value and opens up another facet of the Bahamas. I was not disappointed, Stuart makes sure that his guests get first class treatment whether they are a large group or an individual.
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