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Exuma trip report - Long

Discussion in 'Bahamas' started by ColoDale, Jul 11, 2010.

  1. ColoDale

    ColoDale ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Cozumel
    Land based trip report for Exuma Bahamas

    Prior to diving Exuma, I had searched for Exuma trip reports, found few and even less land based reports. So here are my experiences and a few photos.

    General information
    My wife and I visited Exuma from June 1st through June 8th, 2010. We flew from Denver to Miami to Georgetown, Exuma with AA and American Eagle. The return was Georgetown, to Rock Sound, Eleuthera (not listed in the itinerary), to Nassau, to Miami to Denver with BahamasAir, American Eagle and AA respectively. The return took quite some time. All flights were on time but the domestic flight from Georgetown to Nassau was full from Rock Sound to Nassau due to a high school class boarding from a semester in Eleuthera (though noisy I appreciate the birth control reminder). Additionally, The Georgetown to Nassau on BahamasAir was considered a domestic leg and beware of additional baggage and weight fees.

    We decided to stay at Sandals Emerald Bay due to heavy discounts and reports of Exuma being a good place to dive. At the time, Sandals neglected to mention that they had currently only one boat so the diving was single tank per trip for certified divers. Their single boat had to take certified, certifying/resort course divers and snorkelers per day. This means that due to time constraints and only one boat that all dives are single tank dives. We were told the second boat was to arrive the third week of June, 2010 which should alleviate this situation.

    The diving
    Since we arrived late the first day, and going through Sandals process of signing up, we did not dive until the third day. See general notes below. Generally, reefs sites are shallow and are surrounded be sand. My wife and I brought all our gear with us to Exuma.

    The first day we dove the Emerald Isle site and was 49 feet w/ total dive time 49 min. The second day of diving was supposed to be a dedicated trip to Long Island for a two tank dive but a lightning and rain storm cancelled it. We were able to get the single tank dive later that same day to The Cut and was 45 feet w/ total dive time 42 min. Currents were relatively light or nonexistent but tides must be considered. While some sea life exists and the reefs are healthy I have to say that the dives were uneventful. Both were moored dives. I was told that drift diving is not generally practiced in Exuma but I could see doing it during tidal flows in cuts between islands but that was never offered by any dive shop.

    Since the diving was somewhat restrictive where we were, we decided to try out Dive Exuma in February Point along with another guest of the hotel. We needed to take a taxi to Dive Exuma from our hotel and unfortunately it is expensive (~$100 US). However we spread out the cost among 3 people as the taxi charge is per vehicle. The more people the better but make sure to check the cost with the driver before leaving. The taxi was late both days.

    The first day of Dive Exuma diving we arrived at the dive shop after the taxi driver could not find it and we initially ended up at a residential marina restaurant and got directions. The entrance to Dive Exuma is nearer to the main road along the main entrance road and Dive Exuma has small signs with blue letters along the way. The dive shop is located on the water where their boat is tied up. The boat has a cover in the center of the boat but in June in can be quite hot fore and aft, is clean and is well maintained. All tanks are AL 80 cu feet. Water entry is giant stride or backroll off the stern sides. Boarding the boat is via an enclosed ladder on the stern between the engines where we removed our gear that was pulled up by a crew member. I think this was to save stress on the ladder attachments though it looked sturdy to me. All dives were moored dives.

    We were accompanied by a local diver and an intern for Dive Exuma for the first day. The owners and DM's, Stuart and Robbie were on the boat. We split into two groups to dive Angelfish Blue Hole. Our group entered first and proceeded to the bottom of the blue hole which at the bottom angles off to a constriction where a rope across the passage blocks further entry. Depth here per my computer was 93 feet w/ total dive time 36 min. A dive light is recommended for the bottom portion. Natural light is still visible at the roped off part but it can become silted up easily. We did spot several large terminal phase Blue Parrotfish which were referred to locally as Bumphead Parrotfish. Several small schools of fish are also inside the bluehole. I recall that they were grunts but have no photos. There is not much coral inside Angelfish bluehole. We exited after a time and spent the remainder in shallow water above the opening. The entrance area is very shallow here.


    We spent our surface interval on the boat and proceeded to the tugboat wreck. The old dive site books I have (2001) do not list this site. We were told the previous Dive Exuma owners cleaned it up and sank it in the last few years. This wreck is in good shape, sits upright, and not too large but has quite a bit of life on it including lionfish, jacks, channel crabs, numerous small fish, and some resident barracuda along the mooring line. The depth was reported to be at 90 feet but I found the sand bottom to be 74 feet w/total dive time 35 min. Next to the tugboat is some healthy reef which on this day had quite a few lionfish.




    Returning to the dive shop, we paid the bill and the taxi we arranged was waiting for us. Taxi payment is paid upon return to the hotel.

    The second dive day we dove Elizabeth reef. This is a healthy reef is near Stocking island as I recall and is healthy but not large amounts of fish life though a few large lionfish were present. To be fair since our taxi was late, we dove late, so it could be different earlier in the morning. Having dived in other parts of the world we thought that the reefs in general were somewhat monochrome to the naked eye, the strobes on my camera did bring out more greens, yellows and some blues. This dive is shallow and ranges from 15 to 30 feet. My dive was 29 feet w/ total dive time 63 min.


    Since we could not decide at the dive shop what we wanted to do for the second dive, we dove the deep dive second which was the tugboat again. In addition to the same description above, we found two octopi in the reef next to the tugboat. The first had drawn in a conch and was apparently having lunch (and the photo is not clear). The second withdrew into a hole before I could get a photo. My dive was 74 feet/total dive time 43 min.

    The water was very calm at all sites including the tugboat. It was reported that the water could be quite rough at the tugboat site as it nearly borders the Atlantic. The weather was hot. On sunny days, the air temperature was high 80's and low 90's F a couple of days. The water temperatures were at a minimum of 79 F and a max of 82 F on all dives and at depth. Sites were near Stocking and Elizabeth islands.

    I don't think Dive Exuma’s boat is suited to travel to Long Island however. The only downside is the cost at $175 US per two tank dive with discounts for packages. Additionally, have a 5% surcharge for credit card use onsite (no Amex).

    As described the taxi fares are high. Rental cars were available at $75/day. Driving is on the left. The dive shop reported that the previous owners had a shuttle they ran to pick up divers but the taxi drivers seemed to have a problem with it so there is no hotel pickup by Dive Exuma. It reminds me of the taxi union situation in Cozumel Mexico. Sharing a car may be the way to go but check with the rental company on allowed drivers.

    Sandals diving
    We have stayed at other Sandals resorts and, concerning diving, I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself. The Sandals dive operations are run professionally and with safety in mind. They are geared for beginner and honeymoon divers. Their boats I believe are 42 foot Nekton and very new and clean. Their rental gear appears to be new and maintained from what I observed. However, when the first person in the group reaches 1000 psi, the entire group has to come up. This can lead to short dives. They can be somewhat draconian about playing follow the DM, total dive time, etc. I have close to 400 dives from Fiji to the Caribbean but was still treated like a new diver. It is their operation and boat, so it’s their rules but we moved on to another dive op. All dives we did with them were shallow reef dives (30-40 feet). The total dive time starts when the last diver in the group enters the water.
    In addition, I have not logged my dives for about 13 years and just download the dives off my computer when the functionality existed. Sandals wants to see log books, but fortunately my last twenty dives were on my dive computer and they were accepted. Otherwise I might have ended up in the pool demonstrating skills.
  2. fhlh

    fhlh Registered

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: HouTX
    Bringing up an old thread, but I just wanted to thank the OP for posting all this excellent information.
    My wife and I will be at Emerald Bay next week and are looking forward to our first ocean dives. To us (beginners), this sounds like it will be the perfect dive situations. We will be taking are own gear and will be certain to bring our certs and log books.

    Thanks again!
  3. ColoDale

    ColoDale ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Cozumel
    If you dive with Sandals, they will take care of you. They are professional but regimented. Make sure the first thing you do is find the watersports desk which was on the beach off the main pool. You must sign up for the dives there.

    They are strict on the medical forms. For example, if you have athletes foot and your Dr. prescribed an antifungal and you mark Yes on their form for prescription medication, you had better have a Dr's letter for it or no diving.

    Make sure to confirm you flights back, especially any puddle jumper flights. When we left, a honeymoon couple did not get their flight as the ticket agent said that no confirmation existed and resulting seats were not reserved. I think they got bumped but that's my opinion. They did charge for extra bags and weight. The plane was full on the stop at another island to pick up a planeload of high school kids. Maybe if emptier, no charges or confirmation problems but hard to say.
  4. ERdiver

    ERdiver New

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Ontario
    Just wondering if anyone has been to Sandal Emerald bay recently? Thinking of going this June (anniversary trip). We went to Sandals Royal Bahamian last year that time and had a great time diving, but thinking about staying on Exuma this time. The criticisms I've heard though is that dives can be cancelled quite often due to the wind, and have heard there's not as many dive sites?
    If anyone has been recently, it would really help us decide where to stay.


    (and thanks to the OP for the pictures)
  5. ColoDale

    ColoDale ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Cozumel
    Our trip was last year in June but maybe I can add something to this. They can cancel dives due to wind. Our June trip to Exuma did not have that problem but our trip to New Providence (Nassau) was a January trip and the winds from cold fronts all week did cancel dives. The wind in June was mild. We did have one dive day cancelled due to a lightning storm. That one was supposed to be a Sandals lead trip to Long Island - real bummer.
    Btw - Some of the pictures I have here were taken when diving with Dive Exuma not Sandals. I did not hear of Sandals going to Angelfish bluehole or the tugboat. You can always ask them where they will go. Maybe they do but did not at that time because they had only one dive boat and had to maintain schedules with it. They should have two now.
    If you want you can do some dives with Sandals, switch to Dive Exuma (assuming they are still the only other op on the island) for a day or two for more challenge or sites Sandals does not go to. Dive Exuma is not cheap.
  6. fhlh

    fhlh Registered

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: HouTX
    Wow... forgot to come back here and update you all on our Sandal's Emerald Bay experience

    Dates: April 14th-21st 2011

    Day 1... Relax and enjoy the resort and beach.

    Day 2, First dive in the ocean for my wife and I! Excited
    The big 48ft boat was down for some reason, so we took a smaller boat (38-40ft) with 2 dive masters and 13 divers. It was a rough ride as seas were easily 2-4ft once we got past the barrier of cays. I can't recall the name of the location. It was a reef dive. Deepest depth was 46 ft according to the computer. Dive time of 32 mins with a 3min SS at 15ft.

    That said, there was on small incident. I ate a big breakfast... BAD idea:no: The combination of the small boat on rough seas and bobbing up and down after surfacing did not sit well with me... need less to say, I left allot of chum in the ocean...:rofl3:

    Side Note: This was my wife and I's first dive in ocean waters (amazing!). She was in a 5mm and was not properly weighted and couldn't get down, had to wait on the Dive Masters to get he weighted while in the water. The Dive Masters are excellent, BTW. Very helpful. I underestimated my weight and had to go back for a few more lbs as well. Again, Dive Masters, Crew are all extremely helpful.
    The 5mm suit is not needed in these waters. The coldest temp I recorded was 76f
    Some divers were simply wearing shorts and and t-shirts.

    Day3, we took it easy! and enjoyed what the resort has to offer.

    Day4, Planned to dive, but went on the 007 Thunderball tour (it costs extra, but is worth it IMHO). Excellent snorkling! you see allot of marine life up close. coral, starfish, stingrays, seaturtles, etc..
    Plus you get to swim with Pigs... which is cool.
    It is a 8-9 hour tour of the Exuma Cays. So bring lots of sun screen!

    Day5, kind of windy, but the Big boat is up and running. Smaller group, 8 of us total. Location was a bit further out, another big reef.
    Dive was 36ft for 31 mintues with a 3 min SS at 15ft.
    Wife had another issue with weight. I on the other hand had a horrible dive. It's like I forgot everything I learned during my Peak Performance Buoyancy training.
    Arms paddling and using my BCD instead of my lungs. Might have had TOO much weight? Always felt like I was falling down forward. Doesn't matter, I was diving poorly, used up my air and we were only under for 31mins. Not sure why I behaved that way, I do recall being very winded before getting into the water. I'm not sure if it was me rushing to put on my gear or what. I'm not in bad shape, I crossfit 3-4 times a week... I know I was breathing short at the beginning of the dive.:shakehead: That behavior uses air quick! That behavior ended the dive too soon. I felt horrible about it.

    That reminds me, Yes... once one person hits 1000psi, the dive is over.

    Anyway... We returned to the harbor and were all prepared to pick up a couple more divers and head back out, however the the dive was called off due to wind.

    Day 6, called due to wind

    Day 7, I believe it was called again. I wasn't sure because we were on a plane the next day at noon. So they would not allow us to dive.

    Day 8, fly home, boo hoo.

    Since my Wife and I are newbies, it was a very comfortable experience at Sandals. The Dive Masters are very helpful. If you don't bring gear, they have quality gear available. It is all ScubaPro gear that is in good shape. All tanks looked brand new. If you do bring gear, you simply leave it with the Dive Crew, they will have it setup and ready for you every time you are signed up to dive.
    Also, The larger boat is very nice and is allot of fun to dive from. Cuts through the ocean like butter... the smaller boat, not so much :wink:

    The resort is very nice, we had a villa on the beach with butler service. very cool!

    Can't wait to get back in the Ocean.
    Last edited: May 17, 2011
  7. dhuhman

    dhuhman Registered

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Southern California
    I just returned from eight days on Great Exuma, May 31 - June 7. I was part of a large group that flies their own planes to the Caribbean every two years, mainly to relax and dive. The relaxing on this trip was good, the diving was so-so. 40 of us (10-15 divers) stayed at the Hideaways Villas at Palm Bay, a couple of miles from Georgetown and maybe 10 from the Sandals resort. Were scheduled to dive with Exuma Divers, with Gavin Turtle of Turtle Divers taking up the overflow when needed. Ironically, we arrived on Monday, the same day as the winds (which had been absent for the previous month or so). The resulting high swells caused reef diving to be cancelled all but two of the days we planned to dive. On windy days you can go to the blue hole inside the harbor at Stocking Island, but a couple times there is plenty. We also dove the tugboat (twice), Dog & Pup reef, and two other reefs that I don't remember.

    The operators at Dive Exuma, Tamara in the shop and Jonathon on the boat, were great. We certainly challenged them with numbers, and the weather didn't make it any easier. I would agree that the reefs, for the most part, didn't provide the "aquarium experience" I've had in the Caymans, or even in my home SoCal waters. The fish numbers at Dog & Pup weren't too bad, but the coral colors and viz everywhere left a bit to be desired. A different time of year may have made a difference, but the local people didn't really indicate that the conditions were unusual. Shore dives where we were would be almost impossible, because the water isn't more than neck high until you get to the Atlantic (reef) side of the barrier islands.

    We were able to salvage a pretty good trip out of the deal, with beach bars/grills and local activities filling up the cancelled dive days. The beaches are awesome at Great Exuma, and I imagine that the diving is probably decent if the swells don't make for dangerous boatwork.

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