Welcome to ScubaBoard, an online scuba diving forum community where you can join over 205,000 divers diving from around the world. If the topic is related to scuba diving, this is the place to find divers talking about it. To gain full access to ScubaBoard (and make this large box go away) you must register for a free account. As a registered member you will be able to:
Participate in over 500 dive topic forums and browse from over 5,500,000 posts.
Communicate privately with other divers from around the world.
Post your own photos or view from well over 100,000 user submitted images.
Gain access to our free classifieds marketplace to buy, sell and trade gear, travel and services.
Use the calendar to organize your events and enroll in other members' events.
Find a dive buddy or communicate directly with scuba equipment manufacturers.
All this and much more is available to you absolutely free when you register for an account, so sign up today!
If you have any problems with the registration process or your account login, please contact the ScubaBoard Support Team.
It was Thursday evening and I had just announced to my research class that I wouldn’t be available to respond to questions or email for a couple of days because I was heading out of town to dive in the Bahamas!!! After an airport run to pick up friends from a cold and northern Vowel State (Chris of COVCI and his wonderful wife Ute -- famed for her Brats and cookies and ability to survive Chris), Jo and I set an alarm for an early morning flight to Abaco.
Nice flight! Six passengers on a Yellow Air Taxi (http://www.flyyellowairtaxi.com/) plane that could easily hold 7 or 8. Last trip we had a dog as a passenger, so precise info for the manifest isn’t always reliable. YAT flies out of Ft Lauderdale airport (not Executive Airport), but its home is the General Aviation section. That means, you have free and close parking, and security doesn’t fondle you or snarl. Other charters operate there, and you can easily bump into local sports teams, news writers, & celebrities. Nice airline, it’s a charter, and they’ll work a schedule out for you. On flight home there were only the 4 of us, and US Customs was a breeze.
At the airport in Abaco (Marsh Harbour) the owners of the dive op, Tim and Kay, stopped in just to make sure we arrived and we were ready to explore. We grabbed a van for a taxi ride to town ($16 – US and Bahamian dollar are equivalent), and checked in to The Regattas (http://www.regattas-of-abaco.com/). On a previous scouting trip, Chris and I rated The Regattas as the higher end of housing options, though not hoity-toity. Most of the housing alternatives are solid, and there are several good options for future trips. The Regattas has several buildings either on the beach, or on a bluff overlooking the beaches. Views are A+. This is a nice condo/timeshare situation, and we had a 2 bedroom / 2 bath condo for our stay, plus kitchen and coffee pot and refrigerator and pots and pans and a lanai and… well you get the point. It was clean, folks were nice, and we’ll stay there again! BTW, Abaco is a high island, and as such there is an ample supply of fresh water. Most of the main roads are paved, and there are stores that carry groceries, meat pies, coconut milk, diet soda, local pastries, etc. If you like Bimini, you’ll think Abaco is Mecca.
We dove with an operation that Chris and I visited back in November, Abaco Dive Adventures (http://www.abacodiveadventures.com/abaco.asp). Tim Higgs, Kay Politano, and Wayne Mitchell are owners, and the operation has been running for only a few months. Tim is a 9th generation Bahamian with roots dating back to the exodus of Tories from the American Revolution. Tim is a DM and captain and has incredible knowledge of the waters around the islands. His family has other talents as well, and Tim can connect guests with massages, manicures, pedicures, car rentals, fishing trips, and probably anything else a diver could think of. Don’t miss out on his sister’s artwork! Maureen makes quilted wall hangings, and several now adorn my house, Mom’s house, Chris’ house, etcetcetc. (http://community.webshots.com/user/mkoepp). Ask Chris about the turtle sometime! But I digress… Kay is a NAUI instructor and does Universal Referrals for folks from other agencies who want to complete their dives in the Bahamas. She is a wonderful instructor. Kay also takes awesome UW photos. She operated a dive store in FL before relocating to Abaco, so Kay has some good background teaching and guiding divers with different abilities. Kay and Tim recently got some good cave training, so they are prepared to show visitors some of the local cavern and cave systems in the islands. Wayne is the third partner, and is a 10,000 dives sorta guy. Wayne is on the NAUI Board of Directors, serves as Treasurer, and splits time between NAUI stuff in Florida and the operation in Abaco. After years overseeing safety and dive operations at Disney, Wayne has good sense about how scuba should operate and he’s brought that good sense to this operation. I’ve worked with Wayne before and his excitement is what got me to visit Abaco in the first place.
Those of you who dive with me know that I’m not easily impressed, and I have little patience for puffery. Diving in Abaco, and diving with this operation is impressive! We made 8 dives between noon arrival on Friday and a 4:00pm departure on Monday (including the 24 hour rule). If it wasn’t so darned cold (I was in a parka, Chris was in a t-shirt) we would have slipped in 2-3 beach dives. We dove a ledge that drops to 150’ before disappearing into the abyss. We dove a reef lip in 24’ where we had to avoid bumping into eagle rays. These waters are crazy with eagle rays! We dove a pass where the current rushes through at 3 knots. And those were our warm-up dives! The way Abaco is positioned, you can always find a way to dive in the lee of the island. Winds from the west means that the broad flat reef and the dropoffs between Marsh Harbor and Hopetown are calm. Winds from the east open up the diving along Bakers Reef to the northwest. The dive op has two boats, both power cats, which handle seas for a very stable ride. Since they are cats, there is ample room topside to move about, they don’t slam the water, non-boaters don’t get seasick, and there is shelter to get out of the wind. Both cats have easy entry platforms, and the ladders are easy to maneuver. All our dives were guided. Unlike those annoying baby-DMs that most dive ops hire, either Tim or Kay guide each dive, and their local knowledge adds a lot. Plus, its nice to dive with grownups who value the UW environment. We watched these guys jockey to see who gets to lead our dives – compare that to the DMs you know who grumble that they have to get in the water.
If you never dove in the Bahamas, you need to know about the reef structure there. This is some of the healthiest reef on the planet. We found Elkhorn coral spans that were bigger than cars. Frequently, the reef structure runs from a sand patch at 60’ to the surface, with tunnels and swim throughs entering and exiting at multiple depths. At Bakers Reef, we dove different sites within a few hundred yards of each other, and they were completely diverse. The Fishbowl is an amphitheater, sand bottom at 60’, coral sides, with a maze of tunnels. Coming and going onto stage: a dozen black tip sharks and a dozen eagle rays. Two hundred yards away next to The Gardens is another series of tunnels, Guana Coral Towers with – did I mention there were eagle rays???
There is a lot of ocean and a lot of reef around Abaco. There are very few divers and dive ops. Tim and Kay are finding new and interesting dive sites each week, and most aren’t even named yet. On the northeast side between the island and Elbow Cay, there are a couple of miles of deeper flats, a bit grassy, with some channels. The scene reminded me of the prairies of North American and we shared some laughs over that – the area is now called Hopetown Prairie. There’s a channel along a deserted railroad, once used as a dump, but the sea has reclaimed it – it’s a beautiful lesson about the power of the sea. In hono(u)r of our Cold Water Barbarian brothers from the Vowel State quarry country, the area is now referred to as Gilboa South. There’s no school bus or soda machine yet, but we’re working on that. In two trips, we haven’t yet squeezed in any of the wrecks, beach dives, or the blue water trapeze hang. There are land-based blues holes, and a cave that rivals anything in north Florida. As you can imagine, that takes some special handling, but Tim and Kay and an incredible caver named Fred can arrange for a cave expedition if you are trained and so inclined. Warning – its beautiful.
Water conditions ranged from great to incredible. During our dives, temps ranged from 71 to 75 degrees, depending on whether we were getting warmer ocean currents or waters cooled by air temps. Abaco is on latitude with West Palm, so the weather is fairly predictable by tuning in to south FL conditions. Visibility was spooky. While drifting over a drop off, I was hanging on the ladder watching Kay who just had to bounce down to see a site. At 110+’ deep and 25-35 yards distant, I could clearly watch her ankle snaps during her frog kicks, and her yellow cylinder was clear as day. We regularly dove in blue water with 200’+ of viz. OK, so then there’s Gilboa South – like its namesake it had the lowest visibility of all our dives (still over 35’). I was reminded of a dive with OC (Officer Chuck) during his first ocean dive in FL a few years ago. During a moment accentuated by the irony of him using an Aluminum 80, OC paused at the surface before his descent, laughed, then asked, “Why do you need to dive if you can see down there?”
I guess by now you know that this was an excellent dive trip. Eight dives ranging from 21’ to 104’. Times spanned 45 to 65 minutes. All dives were on air, but the nitrox compressor is being set up. (On Jan 1, they moved to a new location on the water and are setting up another compressor.) Grouper to 4+’ long along the trench, only one turtle this time, cruising jacks in the 50lb range, starfish at one site – and did I mention the eagle rays? If you’re ready for some top notch dives and an excellent dive op with tremendous people, go to Abaco and hook up with Abaco Dive Adventures. No, I’m not on their payroll, no I don’t get commissions, blahblahblah. But I do know the difference between fluff and excellent diving and dive operations. You can’t get better than this!
I think it showed when I went back to work on Tuesday. The tan didn’t hide the glow, and by noon I was daydreaming again. If only I could get some of those darned eagle rays to grade these papers…
Last edited by MB; February 4th, 2004 at 05:35 PM.
As MB clearly illustrates with his report and description, Abaco is an incredible diving destination made even better by the folks at Abaco Dive Adventures.
Once the boat returned to the dock, Tim and Kay give everyone the option of leaving their gear on the boat. If you want to take care of your own gear, that is fine. But, if you are like me and you want to EAT, just leave your stuff on the boat. You will come back to the shop tomorrow for your next day of diving to find that all of your gear has been cleaned, hung to dry, and reassembled on a fresh cylinder ready for your new dive day.
I had taken two beach towels on the boat Saturday and shared one with MB. I left both of them at the shop with the thought that they would dry in the island breeze and I could use them again on Sunday...after all it was only seawater right? When I got back to the boat on Sunday, I found both of my towels folded at the base of my cylinder. Not only were the towels dry, they were washed, dried, folded and they had used a great smelling fabric softener!
This is just another aspect of the service level provided by these folks to the divers they serve.
Being that both Tim and Kay are cave trained, it was a pleasant surprise to find that my minimalist gear config was met with a well trained, knowledgeable crew. No strange questions about the bungee cord on my second. My 7' primary hose was correctly setup and my single pressure gauge was properly clipped to the waist d-ring.
This is a top-notch operation with friendly, well trained, and knowledgeable folks who are excited about diving and sharing the diving experience with others.
IL/IA (about as far from salt water as you can get on this planet)
Our first non-quarry diving was in the Abacos. Yep, we also live in a "vowel state." Warm, crystal clear water, beautiful reefs, friendly, sincere people, and kissing a grouper. Doesn't (and hasn't) been better than that! A lot of important and unimportant things have prevented us from getting back. This reminds me we need to make an effort. Where is Abaco Dive Adventures? We stayed at Abaco Beach Resort, so that's kind of my frame of reference.
I am a little annoyed with you for posting this report publicly, though. Now everyone is going to go to the Abacos.
Make sure you visit www.oii.net to keep in touch with the Abacos.