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I was lucky enough to get to spend a long weekend on Andros, Bahamas, at Small Hope Bay. (www.smallhope.com) I thought it would be helpful to other divers for me to write a review of it.
We arrived on last Friday around 4 PM; the taxi driver takes your luggage directly to your room, you never have to touch it. While he is doing that, one of the staff gives a tour of the resort. The resort is literally at the edge of the water, arranged with the main building at the north end, and the rooms extending south along the beach. A long, wide, and high walkway leads out to a very large dock, where there are 'cubbyholes' for each cabin's occupant's to store their dive gear. Although I took all of my own gear, Small Hope's rental gear appeared to be in very good condition, and they had a lot of it. With a little poking around, I learned that they are set up to PP blend nitrox, as well as trimix, and can fill 100% O2 bottles. They have a few sets of OMS 98 doubles, about 6 40cf O2 bottles, and some ancient can lights for rent.
After a brief tour, and a while to unpack and get our dive gear together for the next morning, it was time for dinner.
All meals are served buffet style, except for 'hot' breakfast items. Seating is 'family' style, with no assigned tables for each room. (Personally, I loved this, as opposed to Hawk's Nest on Cat Island, where each table sits by themselves) The divemasters eat with the guests also, so you have a great opportunity to meet interesting people. Speaking of which, a certain TV network by the name of ESPN was there. I'm not sure if the show has been released yet, so I won't tell details, but watch sometime early next year for an episode of a show, featuring Small Hope.
The meals were very, very good. Excellent, actually. The chef is a very young local, early 20s, but has serious talents. I know you're dying to hear about the diving.....I'm getting there.
Since everything is packaged, there are two self-serve bars, one inside and one outside, with just about everything (tip: if you prefer Coke over Pepsi, stick with the inside one for your soft drinks). They have table tennis and a TV&DVD player in one room, and another room who's walls are covered with diving stuff, including a survey of Guardian blue hole. If the divemaster (Sorry, I forgot her name, I do remember she's German though...:06 who has a video camera goes diving with you, they will show the video that night on the TV....pretty cool.
Okay, I've drug this out long enough....on to the diving.
While we were there, seas were a steady 5' to 7', edging up toward 9 on the last day. (Yep, I'm serious. Got a video to prove it too....) Their dive boat is a trimaran "party-barge" type, and in 5-7 seas, there ends up being more water running down the deck than is under the boat. But anyway....
First day, we dove a blue hole where the 'plug' is still intact. Very awesome. At certain tide conditions and below the thermocline, a phenomena they call 'whale snot' happens. The water is filled with stringy white things, but even though you swim through them, you will not find them on you at the end of the dive. They even captured some in a bottle, and after a short time on the surface they were gone, and the water was crystal clear. Hmm. That dive is incredible, a must-do.
After that we dove reefs and the wall. The funnest wall dive was on Whipwire Wall, where you drop to 140' for 8 minutes, then back up to the 70' reef. It's unbelievably beautiful to see the wire coral sticking 4 feet off the wall against the blue surface up above. Sweeeeeet.
Small Hope Bay is definitley a place I'm going back to, hopefully very soon. Awesome people, awesome place, and awesome diving.
Small Hope Bay Lodge (SHBL) is one of our favorites.
We try to go there twice every year. We meet quite a few people there who have been returning for 10-20 years.
The diving is spectacular. We tend to do a lot of deep diving there. Their signature dive is called "Over the Wall." It's a dive to a ledge at 185 feet on a wall. The original founder of SHBL Dick Birch holds the world depth record on EAN21, over 400 feet deep.
SHBL gets four stars from us!
Nikon D300s in a Nauticam housing
Lenses: Nikon 105mm, Nikon 60mm, Tokina 10-17mm
Strobes: Inon Z-240 strobes
Probably fly into Nassau then a smaller plane from there to Fresh Creek airport. I really don't know however, maybe someone else will chime in.
I haven't been to SHBL in years, but there used to be two decent ways to get there: (1) fly to Nassau and catch a Bahamasair (sp?) flight to Andros or (2) fly to Ft. Lauderdale and catch a small plane to Andros.
I've been to Small Hope Bay a couple of times and it rocks. Great staff, good food, comfy accom and the diving is ace, if you are into your wall dives.
Did Over the Wall, which is a cool dive, and also the second level of the Blue Hole, which is also an awesome experience. Definitely one for those who like to go deep...
Talking of deep, Dick Birch did indeed hold the world record for air diving to depth, but Mark Andrews is the current holder, albeit his dive to over 500 feet was more of a deep rescue than a deep dive!!!!!!! He hit the surface in something like two minutes from his deepest depth and then was dragged back down to do some stops by his support crew. Ended up with bruised lungs and loss of feeling in one arm for a few hours – lucky, lucky bloke...