Bahamas

4 Responses to “Bahamas”

  1. Snagel says:

    SGJ & JET’s Bahamas Trip: Stuart Cove and Orange Hill Inn
    May 2012
    Original Post by Jet126 on ScubaToys

    Friday morning. I booked our 6:30 flight months ago and as we take our seats we find ourselves in baby land. There is a crying baby in row 2 in front of us, in row 4 behind us and in 3D to our right. How did this happen? Fortunately the flight is less than half full and we are able to move.

    Barely 30 minutes later and we are touching down in Nassau. Customs is a breeze, the taxi courteous and prompt. At 8:00 we are checking into Orange Hill Inn, our home for the weekend. Orange Hill is second-generation family owned and operated. Rick’s young son scampers about the property: the future manager of this lovely estate overlooking the ocean. The sea is an impossible shade of blue. Flowers bloom everywhere. We find it charming. Our room is not yet ready – we have arrived too early. But they graciously provide a small room for us to nap and organize our dive gear. By 11:00 we are checking into #26. Two queen beds, microwave, coffee maker, mini fridge, good water pressure in the hot shower and a private balcony overlooking the pool. What more do we need?

    We have arranged for the afternoon shark dive. There has been much debate about shark dives and whether or not they are appropriate. The Bahamian government banned the finning of sharks when they realized that a living shark is worth far more than a dead one. A dead shark brings about $800 to the fin market. Each living shark brings over $35,000 to the local economy. The effect of this is visible throughout the island. The airport is expanding, the roads greatly improved, construction booming. Even Orange Hill is in the process of renovating. The taxis are clean and air conditioned with friendly drivers in neatly pressed shirts. Our driver proudly tells us that the island expects to surpass 6 million visitors this year. Shark diving and the tourism dollars it brings to the local economy cannot be disputed.

    The Stuart Cove shuttle picks us up at 1:10pm. We arrive at 1:30. It is an impressive organization. Pink-shirted employees are there to help you carry your bags, check you in, assist with any rental gear and help you on the boat. We are assigned to Phonecia. There are only 12 divers this afternoon.

    The first dive is an orientation dive. The purpose is to get comfortable in the water and also, we suspect, for the guides to assess our skills. The water is clear and blue. We see sharks and some swim close by us. They are magnificent. We swim to a wall that starts at about 45 feet and drops down, 6000 ft. or more, into the deep. I spy one lion fish, then another and another. They are big compared to So FL. It is a beautiful dive and I am disappointed when we turn and head back after only 30 minutes.

    Terri gives us the briefing for our shark dive. It is long and detailed. This is definitely a “don’t try this at home” affair. Keep our hands tucked in, stay in one spot, no sudden arm movements… the list of instructions is long and she is all business. Frenchie gives a photo briefing, repeating much of what Terri has already said. We drop down to the arena and are placed in small groupings around the circle of sand. We hang on to the small boulders in front of us.

    I expected sharks and they come in awe-inspiring numbers. Impossible to count as they swim so close I want to reach out and touch their beautiful shiny skin. But Terri warned us to not do so, tempting as it is. I am overwhelmed. I don’t know which direction to look, where to point my camera, when to take a photo. I turn and look behind me. The sun is shining through the water 50 ft. above me. If a shark swims overhead I might be able to capture the silhouette against the bright sunshine. I twist my body to take the shot and miss the feeding frenzy going on in front of me.

    Happy with my photos I focus on Terri and the bait box. Just as I turn she is kissing a shark on its mouth. There are two shark handlers in the water, along with two safety divers, for the 12 of us. I feel no fear, just awe at these beautiful creatures. I expected sharks. What I did not expect were the groupers. They swim between and around us, bumping into us to compete with the sharks for the food. They are comical. I cannot believe it when Frenchie gives us the signal to ascend. It is over too soon. My memories are a blur of swirling sharks and bright sunshine in crystal clear blue waters.

    We head back to Orange Hill. We are exhilarated and tired. A simple dinner in the hotel restaurant and we are early to bed.

    The Stuart Cove shuttle is back at 8am for our morning dives. Once again we are impressed with the service and professionalism of this dive operator. We are put on the “advanced” boat. There are seven divers. The first dive is a reef at 60 ft. Shortly into our dive we see a green sea turtle. Magda, our photographer guide, gently herds it our way. Most of the group is stretched out along the reef and we stop to watch as it swims towards us. I have my camera ready for the shot. Just as I pushed the shutter I am kicked in the head. A diver swims above me in his excitement to get to the turtle. The turtle wants no part of this. We watch disappointed as it swims away, the kicker in hot pursuit. I have tumbled a bit and my mask is askew. Magda signals if I am ok. Later both Judy and I will have words with the kicker but for now I try to not let it upset my dive. I am disappointed when she signals the end.

    They take us to the “James Bond Wrecks”, a site containing the wreck used in the movie Never Say Never Again and the airplane used Thunderball. There is a very large black ray swimming about in the sand when we first drop down. The airplane is full of macro life and we spend our entire dive circling around it.

    We head back to Orange Hill. We have time for a nap before we leave for Atlantis. We have arranged for Balinese massages at the Mandara Spa. We check in at 6:00 and are treated to sixty minutes of pure bliss. Once dressed, we are off to the Mesa Grill for dinner. The food is delicious.

    We walk to the other tower to catch our taxi home. There are gift shops along the way and I buy a keychain. There is no one watching the entryway to the guest-only aquarium section. We go straight in. Although it has become somewhat commercial, the aquariums at Atlantis are like nothing else in the world. Huge schools of eagle rays, southern rays, sharks, fishes of all kinds swim in habitats reminiscent of lost cities and ancient civilizations. There are tanks with nothing but lionfish and jellyfish and seahorses. We walk around, looking through the underwater viewing windows and then up top, where you can look down into the open habitats. Two large manta rays quietly glide back and forth, easily ten feet across. Although clearly well cared for, there is no educational component to these exhibits. At Atlantis the animals are simply a part of the art.

    We can’t believe it: it’s almost 11. We take a taxi back to Orange Hill.

    Sunday morning we have nothing to do but pack. Our dive gear is dry and as I fold my wetsuit into my suitcase I see a movement. A little gecko has tried to stow away. I carry him outside to our balcony. Sorry little gecko, I cannot take you to America with me. The departure terminal is spacious and airy with plenty of food & beverage concessions, comfortable chairs and gift shops. We pass the time quickly before our 1:30 flight.

    Tall Guy is there to meet us when we arrive at Fort Lauderdale. Later we compare notes: it was a great trip. We had much fun together, managed to come in significantly under budget and we both lost weight. A girl’s road trip dream come true.

  2. snagel says:

    Black Beard Trip Review
    Black Beard – Morning Star Review!

    Orginal Post by Pandora on ScubaToys

    We were on The Morning Star from 7/31/10 – 8/6/10. We flew into Nassau on 7/30 direct from DFW on American Airlines.

    We stayed at the Nassau Palm on Friday night. It is a Giant Pink older hotel the I called ‘Hotel Rwanda. We had several drinks at the hotel bar and it was in walking distance to downtown. The cabs on Nassau are expensive. For 4 people from the airport to Hotel Rwanda was $35. The traffic is awful and there is a lot of horn honking and aggressive driving on the island. We left the hotel and headed to the Mariana at 11 am on Saturday. The cab was only $5 per person and $5 for all of our bags. The cab rates are negotiable.Just do it before you get in! There is NO free wifi on the island except for at starbucks! They want you to pay $10 per hour.

    When we arrived the crew was not ready for us to start boarding. So we dropped off our bags on the dock and walked around. Right across the street form the Mariana is a Starbucks (free Wifi), a KFC, liquor store, and a grocery store. Several people from our group picked up liquor & snacks, got a coffee or had fried chicken. The grocery store is large. we;; stocked and has cold AC!

    We started boarding around noon. They ask that you set up your gear a put everything else (wetsuit, fins, boots, mask, ect.) in your locker on the boat. Then they take your bag and lock it up at the office. The tank your gear is set up on is your tank for the whole week. However the spot your gear is in is not your spot for the whole week, but you locker never changes. We grabbed a locker under the canopy and close to the tank opposed to one that would always be in the sun and at the front of the boat. After you get your gear situated you can take your personal stuff to your bunk.

    The Living / Sleeping Arrangements:

    There are three areas on the Morning Star for bunks. Cabin 1 is in the front Cabin 2 is in the middle and the Galley. Each area has a head, and the one shower is in the Galley. Cabin 1 is larger than the 2nd cabin (sleeps 8). The passengers were complaining about he AC in this area.We were in Cabin 2 6 lower. This is the ‘couple area’ (sleeps 8 with four bunks). The bunks are not any larger, but there is a door that you can close off to the area you are in. Our area was more private than the others, and the HVAC blew cold. and the room stayed cold as long as you kept the door closed. The Galley bunks are in the eating / kitchen area The have curtains for privacy, this area does get late night traffic.

    The Bunks are about the size of a double bed. there are pillows on each bunk. There is a shelf at the end of the bunk that you can use for storage. We packed our clothes in 2 gallon ziplock bags. You do not need to bring allot of stuff! I packed 5 t shirts, 3 pairs of board shorts and three swim suits.There were several people to brought small plug in fans to keep their bunk area cool. There are plugs in the ceiling of the bunk areas. There is not a lot of space!

    The food was plentiful and better than most all inclusive. Everyday there was a big breakfast, nice lunch and a hearty dinner with dessert. They also provide snacks throughout the day (fruit, granola bars, nuts, ect). There is a keg on tap all the time. And at night the punch magically changes to rum punch! I was glad that I brought a no – slip thermal cup. The mugs they provide are small. It was nice to have a cup that would keep ice and not spill for on deck. They did have black beard thermal type cups for sale for $12.

    Overall it is camping at sea. I never had a problem going to sleep at night and never went hungry!

    The marine heads are marine heads. They break allot and stink.

    The Boat is in good shape and the crew works their butt off!

    Diving!:

    The dives were for the most part shallow (under 50′). The marine life was fair to good and the visibility was never less than 50′. Our trip logged 20 dives, with four being night dives. All of the dives are done with out a DM. I like this! They give you a briefing where the DM on board reviews a drawing of the dive site and tells you what type of sea life to expect. Our DM would give us a fish of the day for us to look for with back ground about it. The seas were very calm and no one got sea sick. There were 2 small rain storms that came and went very quick. They ask that you surface with 500psi.

    We sailed down to Eleuthera. This area has more network algae than I expected and tons of lion fish. I also saw more nudibranchs than I have ever seen on this trip. We also saw a ton of sharks. It is not uncommon to have several large reef sharks drop in while you are on your safety stop. We saw a few turtles and eagle rays as well. The water is warm and most people dove in their suits and a rash guard.

    Everyday at 7am the wake you up with the smell of cooking bacon or hot coffee! Then after breakfast you are in the water by 8am. This is one area that I had a problem with. I do not like to dive after eating a large meal. The you would have a 2 hour SI (it takes 2 hours to fill the tanks) have a snack and be back in the water by 10:30 – 11:00. After the 2nd dive you had lunch and time for a nap. Some days we did a late afternoon dive and some days we did a night dive. It all depends on where you are headed. We docked 2 times. Once on a small island to walk around, lay on the beach and feed the Bahamas Iguana’s and once at the Yacht Club on Eleuthera. We stayed overnight at the club (on the boat) and were able to take a REAL shower and use a REAL bathroom!

    We did the shark feeding dive at Amber Jack Reef. This is a reef in the marine park, so the coral and life was much more plentiful. This was the best shark feed I have done. They ask that the divers follow the mooring line down and sit on your knees as directed by the DM in the water. Once everyone is seated, the other DM brings down the Chum. After the Chum is clipped off you are allowed to swim around while the sharks feed. Other shark feeds that I have done, they want you to stay in your spot until the sharks have finished the chum. Since I was taking pictures I got very close. Truth be told, probably closer than I should have. DD was so close that he was being rained on from the chum bucket. After the Sharks are done they hung out for a while. There were also very large groupers on the shark feed. This was also a shallow dive (65 feet), so we got to stay down for a long time. *There are a few videos out there that I am waiting on.

    The washing machine dive was fun. It is like a swirling drift dive. They have you follow a DM with a DM at the back of the pack to make sure no one gets off track.

    General:

    Be careful with your gear. The tanks and gear are packed in very tight. A few times our high pressure hose or bladder on our BPW was pinched. They have them crammed in there. The camera table is less than idea. This table also doubles as a table for cigarettes, glasses, and what ever else someone wants to set down. There is a camera rinse bucket on the boat.

    Overall it was a great trip! I would do it again, but maybe next time leave from Freeport and head to Bimini. The amount of diving, food and drink you get for the money is worth it. It is ‘camping at sea’, but we were fine with that. It was a great week. No phones, computers, tv, kids or decisions to be made at all!

    PORT:

    When we docked Thursday night the crew took us down to Crazy Johnies. There was much fun had by all. At the end of the evening (4am) the crew was on the bar and we were ready to sleep one more night on the boat! There is a pool at the dock that pasengers can use as well as showers. The cab from the dock to the airport was $10 per person and took 45 minutes to get to the airport. Our flight didn’t leave until 5pm so we used the pool and the showers. You have to be off the boat on Friday by 9am.

  3. admin says:

    Blackbeard’s Trip (of a lifetime) Report Nov. 17-23 2007

    Original Post by Norine62 on ScubaToys

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    The wife and I were REALLY excited when Tom Ford (one of our OW instructors) was talking to us about the Blackbeard’s trips that he leads for ScubaToys – so much so that we WERE going to sign up for his last one in September. Of course, the wife being a schoolteacher and I being a professional grad student, the first week of September is fairly lousy for us to miss. So – getting the Blackbeard’s experience at least – we booked our own trip for Thanksgiving week, and resigned ourselves to the fact that we wouldn’t get to see Tom’s lobster hunting prowess.

    Getting down to Freeport via DFW was fairly painless, so that’s not going to be really a focus.

    We got to the docks about 11:30 – and they don’t kid. If you’re there early, you stand around until noon. Wasn’t really a problem, they posted Anita, one of the deckhands to keep us (and the others who were there early) company until the boat was ready, which turned out to be the Pirate’s Lady.

    Even then, it wasn’t really a big issue – bunks are pre-assigned as are tanks, so it’s not a Southwest Airlines-style rush to get the good spots. You get your choice of compartments for your extra gear – but they’re all equal, as far as I could tell.

    Accommodations – what can I say? It’s a bunk. It was comfortable. There was little room for anything else in the “room” we shared with another couple – but we were warned and packed accordingly (multiple t-shirts and shorts, a jacket, a sweatshirt, some towels – that’s about it) and left our empty bags at the house, so it was comfy, but not crowded. A word to everyone though – the heads are not electric. You must operate the pump manually – not that this was a big deal. The common area in the middle was nice, and had a table for eating – though most people just ate up on deck. There was a water faucet and beer faucet on the deck, so getting beverages wasn’t an issue either.

    OK, enough dillydallying – on to the trip.

    Day 1 – Saturday

    Got to the ship and checked in around noon. The crew knew beforehand that two people would be joining us later, so we ran out to a site right outside Port Lucaya to get weights straightened out and to get wet.

    Tiny T’s Tug – a site in 40-45′ of water, it was meant as a late afternoon dive but turned out to be a dusk dive thanks to the clouds – but we were warned and took our lights. This was a tugboat that had sunk apparently towing something, I think. It was upright in the water and had its tow lines out and trailing behind the stern. Nice range of fish around.

    Thanks to the lovely high pressure system that was trying to come out of the east (at this point it was swinging out of the NE) made boat re-entry very… interesting. Especially for someone like me, who had NEVER done something like that before. Seas at this point were 2′ with an occasional 3′ swell. So we ran back into port to pick up our last 2 passengers and had dinner. Did I mention this was my first time on a boat? So, yeah – skipped the Dramamine, ate a big dinner, and remember those 2-3′ seas? After dinner we made a crossing from Grand Bahamas Island to around Bimini – and I became “that guy” that christened the deck. Lesson learned I guess. Slept on the deck that night. Not fun – cold and windy.

    Day 2 – Sunday

    First dive of the day was at a site called 777. Fantastic site with some low profile coral heads scattered among a sand bottom. Depth to the sand was 60′ and the coral heads rose a good 5-10′ above that. We were warned beforehand we were near the shark feeding site, so there may be a shark or two around. I go ahead and jump in – and there’s a 6′ shark swimming not 10′ below me! Totally had a geek moment – it was one of the most beautiful things I had seen, and was fulfilling one of the things I had wanted to do since I was a little kid (I was the weird one who rooted for the shark in Jaws). Swimming around on the bottom, we ended up seeing 4 or 5 of them, ranging from 4′ to one that I swear was almost 10′. That one was interesting – he was swimming right towards me in a faux-chicken game, and pealed off lowly 25′ or so in front of me.

    Second dive site of the day was Stevie’s Wonder. This was similar to the first site, only the coral heads were bigger in diameter and had more established corral growth. Depth to the sand was 50′ and the coral heads were a good 10-12′ above that. It was also right next to Red Neck Reef – which we (the wife and I) were thinking about slipping over to, but decided against because we would have to fight a small current to get back to the boat at the end of the dive. Ultimately, it didn’t matter as various storms had brought Red Neck Reef to us in the forms of a small concrete elephant and horse, a patio grill, and other small sundry.

    Third site was Moxon Rocks. This was a site nestled between two surface breaking rocks to the east of South Cat Cay. A very shallow site, the sand was at 25′ and the coral rose from there in a shallow gradient to the surface. It was a different site from anything else we had seen – it looked almost like an island on the bottom… the sand was clear, then one massive coral head. There were some cuts in the sides of the coral so you could stay at depth and not get basked on the coral and rocks as it got more and more shallow. We saw our first (and second, and third) eagle ray here, buried in the sand. Also we saw some lobster, a TON of sea urchins, and a peacock flounder that was one of the coolest things ever.

    Night dive that day was back at Moxon Rocks. Saw more lobster (who were out and feeding) some crabs, and our first octopus. I was totally unprepared for the color changing abilities they display – I first recognized him because I must have had my light trained on him for no more than 3 or so seconds, and moved it away – only a bright yellow/white blob was still there.

    Day 3 – Monday

    This was the only day that the weather was not great – the high pressure front cam through, the winds swung to the east and brought with it some rain. Not much – but just enough to be annoying.

    First site of the day was Cuberra Cliffs, which was the first “deep” dive of the trip. Sand I think was 95′ or so, but we stayed around the top of the coral, which was between 60′ and 80′ deep. Massive coral heads with channels cut into them – which was nice because there was a nice current between 30′ and 60′. The coral here was beautiful, and there were just massive clouds of fish of all sizes. We were there early enough to see the last of the turtles grazing and heading out for the day -they’re beautiful to watch when they’re swimming away. We saw the first o the Sergeant Major fish here – which amused us all week with their “savage” attacks on our fins. Some good short swimthroughs here, with plenty of room.

    Second site was Blue Chromis and it was covered with… well, blue chromis fish. And several others, of course. Bottom was at 60′ but this was mostly coral, not much in the way of sand bottom. It helped that this site was in the middle of a larger system called Victory Reef. This was also marked with some significant channels and swimthroughs, and if you went to the edge of the site, you could see blue water. The best part of this dive was hanging at 15′ during the safety stop, looking out towards the blue water and seeing a fleet (school? swarm?) of eagle rays fly along the ridge.

    Third site was the shark dive at Bull Run. Depth to the sand was 60′, which we were all at, safely out of the way. There were 20 or so reef sharks (at least by my count) going after the bait ball, plus several groupers as well as some damn brave smaller fish that had more hunger than sense. This site was beautiful in its own rights with scattered coral heads rising 10′ to 12′ out of the sand. They were spaced far enough apart so that you could swim between them. Lots of crevices at the base of the corals for crabs and lobsters to hide in. Maybe 6 or so of the sharks decided to stick around and keep us company. The memory of the trip for me was swimming back to the mooring line, and having a 10′ reef shark swim over my shoulder, at most 2′ away. I cannot even describe how beautiful it was. Then, to top it off, there were 3 around the ladder just hanging out and having a good old’ time.

    Night dive that day was back at Stevie’s Wonder. We got there just in time to see the eels come out to feed and the turtles come back to roost, not to mention a puffer fish as big as my steering wheel. Oh yeah, and the concrete horse and elephant.

    Day 4 -Tuesday

    First site was called Krispy Kreme – named for when the currents come in, the sand tends to wrap around the slender coral like doughnuts on a finger. I didn’t see it, but other people did. Depth was 95′ to the sand, and we came close. The site was massive coral head with one large cut in the middle that descended straight like a wall – top of the coral was 45′, so it really is considered a wall dive. Saw some more turtles here and a green moray eel that was settling in for the day. The wall was marked with several cleaning stations – it was fun to sit there and watch the shrimp go at the big groupers without fear.

    Second site was Rainbow Valley, also part of the Victory Reef system. This was marked with several swimthroughs and ridges. Not a lot of big stuff here, but there were many smaller fish and it was definitely spawning time – many many clouds of fry could be seen hanging out close to the coral. Depth to the bottom was 65’ and much of the coral was between 50’ and 60’.

    Third of the day was Big Greenie, in sight of Alicetown and the Sappona. This site was right off of Turtle Rocks and we were moored maybe 100 yards off of the middle one – the one with the sole scraggly little tree growing right on the middle. Depth was a shallow 40’ with some low profile coral heads sparsely scattered on the sand. The big feature of this site was a MASSIVE brain coral which (according to the divemaster) is big enough to be seen by satellite (must be a really good one). Lots and lots of Sand Triggerfish here.

    We then went into Alicetown, Bimini for the night and moored up at the docks there.

    Day 5 – Wednesday

    First site of the day was Hawksbill – a site off of North Bimini Island. Depth here was 70’ to the sand with the large coral heads rising to 45’ or so. We got caught in a massive cloud of sea walnuts and moon jellies near the entry point, it was the first time we dropped down right there as opposed to going to the mooring line first. Once we were underneath them, it was actually quite beautiful. However, when you jump in and they’re arm’s length away… I don’t care if they sting or not. Saw another group of turtles here, we graciously pointed out the moon jellies and they swam off in their direction.

    Second dive was Moray Alley. Depth was 50’ to the sand and the coral heads (which were fairly packed together) were low profile, 8’-10’ off the sand. We saw two massive (and I mean BIG) frogfish hiding out here, completely oblivious to us and our swimming.
    Despite the name, we saw no eels around – but we saw many places where they could be hiding.

    Third dive was the Strip – right off the beach of South Bimini Island. This was probably everyone’s favorite spot of the trip just because of the density of sea life. Depth to the sand was 40’ and the one strip of coral was maybe 5’ above that. We saw everything here – turtles, eels, nurse sharks, sergeant majors, lobster, puffers, crabs, spotted eagle rays… if it lives in the Caribbean, it was probably there.

    We stuck around and did another dive there as a night dive – it was even cooler than the first. More of everything above – plus a spotted moray eel that let me shadow him as he was on the reef hunting.

    Day 6 – Thursday
    First dive was Tuna Alley – our last foray to the Victory reef system. A deep dive right along the very edge of the system, coral heads started at 50’ and the slope on the edge went to 150’-175’ easily. The current picked up as the dive went on and we made the mistake of going to the blue water side of the reef – what a ride. But on the plus side, we ducked into the first cut we saw and stumbled on what had to be a 10’ nurse shark just laying there and hanging out. Dons of fish – and I saw a school of tuna out in the blue water area cruising along.

    Second dive was on the Sappona just off of South Bimini Island. This was an all concrete ship that was grounded in a shoal and used for different (and nefarious) purposes. Depth here was a VERY shallow 15’, and my wife actually did it as a snorkel (I sat it out). Supposedly there were some nice sea grass areas where the conch would hang out and the ship itself was filled with various fish.

    Overall – the trip was mind-blowingly amazing. The diving was fantastic, the food was good (and plentiful) and I cannot say enough about the crew. From Ryan (the captain) to Brad (the divemaster), Anita (the deckhand), Scott (engineer), Red (1st mate), and Carrie (the cook) everyone went out of their way to make sure everything was perfect. If there was a problem with the accommodations, it was fixed instantly. If there was any question about the diving (particularly the current), someone would gear up and make sure it was safe. If nothing else, this would make it worth it. Frankly, the value of the trip is much beyond what we paid and we will be going back again.

  4. snagel says:

    Bahamas trip report
    Original Post by Crunch35 on ScubaBoard (8/9/09)

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    Just got back from freeport, not much to do an land, hotels were expensive, reefs were bare but the shark diving was incredible. we saw 10 to 20 shaRKS ON EVERY SHARK DIVE. the wrecks were great also. Could use some conservation on the fish population as the reef was very bare.. over all a good trip..

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