Choosing a Caribbean Diving Destination- Rodales a good place to start?
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Choosing a Caribbean Diving Destination- Rodales a good place to start?
My wife and I got certified on our honeymoon in Grenada and St. Lucia in July and are now hooked. We are planning a one week vacation in the Caribbean and would like to do some diving, though we are by no means hardcore (probably will do a one or a two tank dive only every other day).
We obviously want good diving. My wife is a big beach person, so we want a hotel on a nice beach (preferably white sand). We prefer smaller hotels (less than 30 rooms) and want to avoid touristy islands. We really don't care about nightlife, but want decent food either at the hotel or nearby and a decent hotel bar. Since we are not just diving, I'm not sure if a "diver hotel" is the way to go since presumably they don't care as much about the beaches, rooms, etc. but I may be wrong about this.
There are so many options I am a bit confused as to where to start, even after reading the posts in this section going back the last 6 months or so.
In doing some research on the web, I noticed something called "Rodale's Readers Choice Awards" for certain islands, dive sites, hotels, etc.
Are these a good place to start or is it just a marketing gimick? If so, does anyone have the complete list so I can start a top-down process. I've looked all over Rodale's site and can't find it.
In addition, if you have any specific islands or hotels to recommend, I'm all ears. Two places that sound interesting so far are Grand Turk and Salt Cay, but I would love additional suggestions.
In my opinion, Rodale's ratings depend on the traffic a specific DO or resort gets. Example-- on Curacao, you will see Habitat rated and perhaps another popular operator. There are many other smaller ops there which offer excellent service but don't get enough votes to qualify. You can go to their web site and search the archives for trip reports by destination.
You'll need to decide what is most important. For a quiet island with no big hotels but great beaches and food ( but little nitelife 0 and only decent diving, try Anguillia. The BVIs are also quite nice but they're not mecca-like places like Coz, Bonaire and the Cayman Islands.
Until the good doctor is in the house, maybe I can help a little.
I have been to Virgin Gorda and Tortola in the BVI's. I have not been to Anguilla (rhymes with vanilla) so I can't compare them to Anguilla.
There are however several very lovely places on Virgin Gorda, and Tortola.
I would say look at Little Dix Bay, or The Bitter End Yacht Club, on Virgin Gorda.
Some people like Prospect Reef, and Sugar Mill on Tortola.
Check out www.britishvirginislands.com
I'm sure Doc V has much more info he can help you with.
You might try Cayman Brac or if the big beach would be your thing then Provo, Turks and Caicos would foot the bill. We went to Provo this year, they had some good restaurants, great diving (with Fifi) and the beach is really quite fabulous - yet, there was nearly nobody there.
Some of your comments suggest to me you are not really "hard core" divers yet, although it sounds like you'll get there pretty quick with some experience. Maybe you should first compile a list of Caribbean islands from basic travel sources that you would like to visit regardless of the diving. Then look into the diving from reports in the dive magazines and on the dive boards to be sure it's at least "above average" and suited to your skill levels. When you've made a few trips you will then have a basis of comparison from your own experience and know better just what you are looking for in your next trip.
That being said, let me suggest Cane Garden Bay on Tortola, BVI. The hotels are small, the beach is fantastic, the crowds are small (except on an occasional day when a cruise ship visits and the taxi's arrive from Roadtown for a couple hours), there are about 5-6 restaurants of various type on the beach you can walk to, and BVI diving is very, very nice. There are a couple operations within a few mile drive of the Cane Garden Bay area. The wreck of the Rhone is always a very memorable dive for anyone.
(Be carefull of other locations on Tortolla....most would NOT fit your comments.)
Another suggestion would be St. John, USVI. Beaches deserted and the best I've ever seen, smaller hotels in Cruz Bay area (a big one is the Westin Resort outside of town), lots of neat restaurants, and above average diving conditions most the time.
This is one of our favorite destinations for topside relaxation.
Just think.....in a few years you'll probably be giving advice to others on this board!
The place you are describing in the BVI's is an island called Anegada. It's the most quiet, beautiful, untouched island I have ever been on. I took a hopper plane over from Virgin Gorda. Tortola also has one and there is also a ferry.
Anegada is the only coral atoll in the BVI's.
Because it's population is so small (150 people) they turn all electricity off at 6PM. So if you want night life you need to make it on your own..by candle light.
Cool place. http://www.hvinet.com/anegada/ http://www.caribbeandays.com/anegada/
As a very long time reader of "RSD," not to mention several years of having my own column in the mag, it's my opinion that the Rodale's "Readers Choice Awards," "Reader Ratings" & travel pieces must be taken with a massive grain of salt.
The mag is very skittish about offending current & even potential advertisers. My resort/dive op reviews were regularly purged of even the mildest criticism, and the works of others obviously are as well. The travel pieces present every venue & dive shop as unrealistically without fault. Read a few--you'll see what I mean.
Or look at "Reader Ratings" like the latest, Oct '02, edition where some Bahamas dive resorts & ops are evaluated. The "Readers Say" section of each review arrays nearly 100% positive comments.
Beyond this, the ratings come only from readers, and only from readers who bother to write/vote. Clearly this group cannot be considered representative of the world's diving population. People in places like Europe, Thailand & Australia have their own popular scuba publications, like "Tauchen" & "Asian Diver," that cover regional diving & gear. They don't vote in Rodale's polls.
Moreover, for a destination, resort or dive op to be included in the Rodale's "Readers Choice Awards" it must get at least 25 votes, leaving the smaller, more remote & less trafficked resort/op at a distinct disadvantage. In addition, the majority of voters in these polls have not dived all over the world, and, with no disparagement intended, are not in a defensible position to vote for the world's best anything.
For example, in the most recent awards in the Jan/Feb '02 issue, the Iberostar in Cozumel was rated the 6th best dive resort in the world, and Jamaica as the top dive destination in the world based on the percentage of respondents who indicated they would return. Remember now, we're not just talking the Caribbean & near Atlantic; we're talking the world. I'm sorry, but this simply does not make sense. I can almost guarantee that if you survey a group of people who had dived all over the world, places like Papua New Guinea, Coral Sea, Maldives, Komodo Islands & Galapagos, you wouldn't find a single vote for the Iberostar or Jamaica.
BTW, there is no complete listing of these awards/ratings on Rodale's website. You need the magazine.
In summary, I'd use RSD location reviews & polls only to familiarize yourself with the most basic aspects of a scuba destination. Once you narrow down your focus, consult the latest edition of Undercurrent's "The Travelin' Diver's Chap Book" http://www.undercurrent.org/ . No ads, no BS.
Tomorrow I'll try to get to your questions about where you should go.