I was scheduled to be in Pacific Harbor for four days and I wanted to dive with the sharks for two of those days. There are two dive shops in town and I did a bit of review for both of them. I still couldn’t decide so I emailed both and decided to dive with the first shop that responded. After they responded I learned that both shops only dive with the sharks on certain days of the week so I ended up diving with both shops. I will provide my thoughts on the differences and what I liked and didn’t like about the dives.
The largest difference by FAR in my opinion between both dive shops is style. Beqa Adventure Divers (BAD) is a dive shop run that runs like swiss clockwork but is choreographed so you feel like you are a bit player in stage show. No personal gear on the boat, everything has to be placed in a plastic pail (like at the airport security line), you must change before getting on the boat. No lockers to secure your valuables except cubbie holes in the one outdoor changing room. If you want them to lock up your money you must count it all out and make a receipt. I wasn’t sure if I was going diving or entering a jail.
Once on the boat you sit in your assigned seat at attention (ok maybe not at attention) while the staff lectures you what will happen and what your part is in the play. No deviation from the plan or you are out! The Divemaster’s were like Seinfeld soup Nazis.
Aquatrek on the other hand is more like a normal dive shop. Valuables are left in your bag and stored with the reception. You are free to take your own gear on the boat and sit where you want. Everyone acts like they are having a good time diving with friends. Relaxed atmosphere where you get the same information as at BAD but it doesn’t feel like a lecture.
The ride to the site is much easier with Aqua Trek because they have the better shop location. The boats are virtually the same.
The dive shops have their own shark sanctuaries in two different locations.
With BAD there was only one boat so the number of divers was small. The location was great and the setup was excellent for seeing the sharks. The problem again was the absolute control and choreographing of every movement. Get in line, jump when told, line up and decend when told, line up on the reef and shoot what comes by. If the person next to you gets in your shot too bad. Ascend as a group, up on the boat as a group. BAD makes a point of saying it is friendly to smokers and once on the boat they let everyone light up which I found distasteful. Overall great dive and as a professional photographer I got some good shots of bull sharks, reef sharks, black tips and white tips.
With Aqua Trek they immediately noticed my camera and said they would help me get some great shots. They had me drop into the water first. One of the guides made sure that everyone with serious cameras were located in front of the rest of the divers. There were more boats and divers with at the dive site but when it came to pictures they came out like I was all alone. During the dive the DM’s came and moved me around to be closer to the action and to get the truly GREAT shots and video. They kept me and another photographer down on the site after the others had ascended to again get the one of a kind shots.
All of the shots and video that I posted on my photography site after diving were from the Aqua Trek dives because the angles, light and setting was soooo much better.
The cookies and drinks on the two boats were virtually the same. BAD provides towels on the boat since you can’t bring your own.
If you are a relatively new diver, you are worried about diving with sharks or want someone to take care of you BAD is definitely the shop for you. If you want an once in a lifetime experience or some truly one of a kind photos you should choose Aqua Trek.
I have reviewed many dive shops on Tripadvisor and in the end you can't go wrong with either shop but when I go again it will be Aqua Trek all the way.
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