I booked a snorkelling trip with Oceans Unlimited (OU) to Cano Island after doing my own research and a couple of email exchanges with OU. Cano island is often renowned for its clear waters and since it was the dry season I thought visibility would be good, obviously this can never be guaranteed. I booked the trip by visiting the Manuel Antonio base for OU and a v helpful young lady explained what the trip would be about and to meet the staff and other members of the party at the dive centre in Dominical. I was quoted $125 dollars for the day trip (not inc transfer for Manuel Antonio). We arranged our own transport that cost $120 dollars by taxi as the price quoted by OU was more than this for pick up at the Mariposa in Manuel Antonio.
We joined the party at Dominical at 7 a.m. First gripe introductions were limited, the only person I was introduced to was Christian. The gear was loaded to a beat up old van as we waited for other members of the party some of whome didn't show up (I wondered whether other feedback posted to Trip Advisor about timings had been an issue for the no shows). Second gripe, I imagine the beat up old van that you use in Dominical keeps profit margins healthier but it doesn't really inspire your customers with confidence when the guys struggle to close and open the door!). We met the boat at the beach after a 10 minute drive or so and whilst being told you wouldn't have to do a thing the diving leader said if we felt like giving a hand then help out loading the gear - from a customer perspective if you want them to help load gear make it clear at the start and don't pretend everything is done for you - of course people will naturally want to help out and myself and other members of the party were happy to do so.
One of our party booked on the snorkelling trip for $100 and we were charged $125. If you are partnering with other dive shops then surely the price should be the same? Any chance of a refund on the difference? Regarding the other snorkeller I was surprised to find that she had never done snorkelling before and didn't even know how to put a snorkel in her mouth - I had to show her minutes before we started snorkelling. This particular snorkeller went in the water with no instruction or checking of her ability and the conditions were challenging for a first timer with some currents on site. This member of the party returned to the boat after 10 minutes and it was only then that the crew realised she needed more support in the water. In anybodys book this is not good form and you should check everyones ability before they enter the water.
The boat was good and powered by 200hp and I was impressed with the crews handling of the vessel when we were getting onboard on a beach break and there was due care and attention to everyones safety while boarding which gave me confidence in the overall trip out to Cano at the start. 20 turtles, 2 hammerhead sharks and 1 dolphin later we arrived at Cano. The trip out had me really excited for the snorkelling. Upon arrival it was clear we weren't the only ones out there snorkelling and to my surprise we were dropped off amongst the other snorkellers. It was somewhat chaotic to say the least and I clashed with a number of other snorkellers in the water as we all clutched our lifejackets (a requirement of the islands warden). Once in the water it was clear that the fabled visibility was not going to present and vis was a poor 10-15ft at best - I fully appreciate this can never be easily predicted but some expectation management from your base staff might have been helpful as this was a big disappointment to me and the only reason why I booked the trip was to get away from the nearshore coastl vis problems.
A specific mention has to go to Christian who did his best to keep an eye n everyone and did warn me on a number of occasions to be wary of rocks, thanks for looking out for us Christian.
The second snorkel trip was much better, the crowds had gone and the guys managed to find a very large langustine which was impressive and suggested that the islands protective status was working. I also spotted a white tip shark in the gloom, a highlight of the trip. The two divers in the group didn't fair much better with poor vis.
Overall it was an enjoyable day out and the marine life we saw on the way out to the island was fantastic but I score poor on the basis of value for money, poor evaluation of skills in the party, a very poorly organised first snorkel, the need for more customer focus and a bit more investment in transport kit - we joked at having to climb out the windows at one point when the guys could't open the van door!
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