13 -17 Oct 2010 - We signed up for an 8-day, 7-night, all inclusive resort stay with 5 days of diving at Villa Sol. We booked our trip through BillBeard.com since that site ties Resorts with Diving opportunities.
We met the Rich Coast dive team every morning on the beach in front of our hotel. The crew all wore red t-shirts which were very helpful to identify them amongst the vendors cluttering the beach. We would jump into a small boat that would run us out to the larger boat in which we were to dive off. Both were old and worn, but safe and served their purpose. We were greeted by our dive master once we reached to main boat and she introduced herself and the crew as well as told us the boat layout (where to sit, where to enter the water, location of the drinking water, snacks, and a small restroom). She checked our dive cards and then we had to fill out some paperwork that didn't take very much time. She went over the day's dive spots, hand signals, Rich Coast rules and procedures, and what we should expect to see while at this location. She did this brief before every dive. She was very safety conscious and always aware of our location and air levels. I wore a full 5mm suit which was sufficient, but by the 2nd dive I was usually shivering in places due to the coolness of the current. Average dive was between 50 to 75 ft deep. Visibility was around 30ft and sometimes 45, usually bad at the surface and clearer near the bottom. The vis didn't hinder us from seeing anything. There was enough life down there to keep even the most experienced diver occupied. Sea turtles were spotted about every other dive (large and small), several spotted eagle rays, 1 huge manta ray, several shovel nose rays or guitar sharks (depending on who you talked to), massive schools of fish, moray eels galore, few sea snakes, and so many string rays that I thought I might hyperventilate for as close as they were swimming to us. Really too much to list.
Since we were there during the low season, the boat was pretty empty. Three of the five days, it was only the two of us and two dive masters. One day, we paid extra to go out to the Catalina Islands where its supposedly the best diving. That day we did three tank dives. We saw tons of creatures in particular that huge manta ray on just the descent from the boat. It looked massive even next to the medium sized vessel. We saw a few turtles amongst others pass by while simply waiting at the safety stop. Every dive got better and better. One thing about the safety stop that I didn't like was the dive masters made us wait for 5 mins instead of 3. Shop rule I guess, to be extra safe, but sometimes I was cold and was annoyed to be waiting that extra time.
We rented our equipment from Rich Coast and for $25 a day we got pretty good stuff. No dive computers though.
Overall, we had an excellent time with the staff from Rich Coast and would definitely use them again. One more thing, they have several individuals that work there that speak multiple languages. There was a guy from Belgium on the Catalina trip and he had his own dive master that spoke Dutch with him. Luckily, he spoke english too so I was able to ask him questions about his country and European diving adventures.
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