Jamaica

This isn’t Muck Diving!  True, but that doesn’t mean those in the Midwest cannot treat themselves to some of the more exotic diving experiences.  Because the traditional Muck Diver doesn’t dive in paradise everyday information on dive ops, hotels, what should I do and not do become essential when planning a trip to paradise.  Because of all these questions, we thought we would give everybody a one-stop place to go to learn about these places and hopefully help with planning your next trip.  Once again, the success of this relies upon those that have taken the journey.  So, please help out and tell us about your trips and what worked and what did not work.

3 Responses to “Jamaica”

  1. snagel says:

    Negril, Jamaica Trip Report (Nov. 18 – 25, 2008)

    Original Post by RainMaker on ScubaToys

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    My life-partner Carol and I arrived in Montego Bay, Jamaica on November 18, 2008 via a direct flight on US Airways from Charlotte, NC. After clearing Immigration & Customs at Sangster International Airport without incident, we proceeded to the desk of Tourwise Transportation to book passage for the 50-mile shuttle on the coast highway to Negril. The trip took almost 2 hours and it cost $20 for each of us. The driver kept us amused by pointing out landmarks and historical places along the way.

    Our driver dropped us off at Hidden Paradise Hotel (where we had a reservation) and we were pleasantly surprised by the beautifully landscaped grounds and our spacious, comfortable room. The hotel is small and family-run, and is located on the highway that runs parallel to the beach. It is about 1.5 miles north of the Negril River.

    The weather was not good. It was very warm, but conditions were rainy and windy and I knew that there probably wouldn’t be any diving for a day or so. When I called and checked-in with Craig at Sundivers, he confirmed my fears. There was no diving on the 19th or 20th, and I didn’t make my first dive until Nov. 21. The sun came out, but the windy weather continued. As a result, I made only 6 dives the entire week.

    On the days I didn’t dive, I spent some time at the beach and at the hotel’s pool. Also, Carol and I walked to nearby West End each day (just south of the Negril River) to eat supper and to shop. Most Jamaicans are warm, friendly and hospitable, however, the taxi drivers, hustlers and vendors can be a real pain. When we were walking along the beach or the beach road, we would be approached by strangers at least once every two minutes. This could get scary after dark (especially on the beach), and toward the end of the trip, my patience and tolerance began to wane. However, no one ever threatened us and there were no real problems.

    When we left on Nov. 25, we decided to use a taxi to return to the airport at Montego Bay and used a driver that was recommended by an employee at our hotel. The total cost of the taxi (for both of us) was $60. I don’t quite know how to describe the taxi drivers in Jamaica. Somehow, transporting people in taxis seems to have become some kind of competitive event with points awarded for how fast the drivers can get from pickup point to destination. It is difficult to imagine a group of individuals with a greater disregard for the basic laws of physics (mainly, that two objects cannot occupy the same place at the same time). They seem to drive very fast and don’t hesitate to pass when they shouldn’t. I was trying to think of a slogan to describe the taxi drivers. I thought of “Live Fast, Die Young” until I saw a sign painted on the taxi in front of us. It said “Refuse to Die!”. I decided that I couldn’t do any better than that. Our driver drove fast, but was mostly focused on the road, until he passed two young Jamaican women in a car. At that point, it appeared that his testosterone level briefly got away from him. However, after a minute or so of waving, whistling, shouting and horn-blowing, things returned to “normal”. The odometer in our taxi was conveniently disabled, however, I’d estimate that our top speed hit 80 mph on several occasions. A bit shaken, but uninjured, we arrived back at Sangster Airport to board our flight to Charlotte.

    We cleared Immigration and Customs without incident, though Carol did get patted-down by a female officer, and she was asked to open her carry-on bag. There is a departure tax from Jamaica ($27?), however, it was included with the price of our plane tickets.

    My still photos for this trip are located here: Jamaica Photos Slideshow

    A short (1 minute) video of the “Shallow Plane” dive site is located here: YouTube – Negril, Jamaica “Shallow Plane” Dive Site

    A longer (6 minutes) video showing underwater and above water photos and video clips is located here: YouTube – Negril, Jamaica Scuba Diving Trip

    Additional information concerning the diving and dive operators, hotel, food, total costs and my overall feelings about Jamaica are shown below:

    The diving and dive operators:

    I was pleasantly surprised by the reefs in Jamaica. They are in great shape, and they are beautiful. They compare favorably with reefs I have dived on in Cozumel, Roatan, Belize and Bahamas, and I liked them better than the reefs in Costa Rica and the Florida Keys. However, the sad part is that the reefs in Jamaica are over-fished. This is not the place to come to see a lot of large marine animals. There were numerous lobster and fish traps on every reef I dived on, and only a few small tropicals were swimming on the reefs.

    Most dives in Negril are in the 50 – 60 ft. depth range, but there are a few deeper dives. My deepest dive was 88 ft., made at the Deep Plane site (however, I never did see the plane). Visibility ranged from 30 – 60 ft., and the water temperature was just over 80 degrees. I was toasty warm in my full-length 4/3mm wetsuit. Visibility would have been better except for the wind.

    I had planned to make all dives with Sundivers. However, they have a small, 6-pack boat and for safety reasons, they were reluctant to go out in the rough seas that resulted from the windy conditions. Also, I was very disappointed to learn that the maximum dive length allowed for a dive with a maximum depth of 60 ft. was only 40 minutes, and that included the ascent and 3-minute safety stop. In addition, they wanted all divers to end their dive and begin their ascent when they reached 1000 PSI in their tanks, and they wanted all divers to end their dive at the same time. Also, diving was canceled on Nov. 23 and no one from Sundivers called to tell me. As a result I needlessly got up early, rushed through breakfast and then waited outside with all my gear to be picked up for about a half-hour.

    The remainder of my dives were made with Negril Scuba Centre. I made a beautiful 56-minute shore-dive with them (called a cliff dive locally) on the 23rd. They have a larger boat, and can sometimes go out when operators with smaller boats can’t. And when boat dives are not available, they can offer Dive Master-guided shore dives (maximum depth about 60 ft.) on a beautiful reef near Negril Escape Resort. I made two boat dives with them on my final day of diving, which was Nov. 24. They allow slightly longer dives, but for every dive I made in Jamaica, I hit the surface with between 1200 – 1800 PSI in my tank and lots of no-deco time showing on my dive computer.

    Neither dive op that I used offered water, snacks or towels on the boat.

    Our hotel:

    We really enjoyed our stay at Hidden Paradise. The owner Heinrich was always close by, asking us if everything was alright. Our large, spacious room had two double beds, a full dresser with large mirror, refrigerator, large closet, telephone, air conditioning, large private bath with shower and a ceiling fan. A small safe was available in the room. Its use was free, but there was a $50 deposit for the key. There was also a large pool. A security guard was on the premises each night. A full breakfast was also included, and we were free to order any breakfast on the menu. It was a 2-minute walk to the beach. We received an “Internet Special” rate, paid for 6 nights and got the 7th night free. As a result, we paid a total of $360 for 7 nights, including breakfast and all taxes.

    I asked Heinrich if it was safe for us to drink tap water, and he recommended that we buy bottled water.

    Food:

    Concerning suppers, we had a bad experience at a restaurant the first night we were there. Basically, my $9 chicken dinner was inedible, and they didn’t want to do anything about it. Eventually, I got my money back, but we didn’t go back. As a result, we had our remaining dinners at Burger King, except for one night when Carol prepared supper in our room from food we’d bought at the local supermarket. The prices at Burger King, and the quality of the food, was about what you’d expect in the US.

    Breakfast was included with our room, and my lunches and snacks consisted of chips, local bread products and fruit purchased at the supermarket. There are two supermarkets in nearby West End. We liked the one that was right across the street from Burger King. I probably spent $8 – $10 per day on lunches, suppers and snacks.

    Overall costs:

    My round-trip plane ticket from Charlotte to Montego Bay cost $389, my portion of the hotel bill amounted to $180 and I spent a total of $225 for my 6 dives. In addition, my portion of the shuttle and taxi costs was $50 and I probably spent about $100 on food and souvenirs, for a total of about $950. In addition, it cost us a total of $34 to park Carol’s car for 8 days at Charlotte International Airport.

    My feelings about Jamaica:

    Jamaica is a beautiful country, with lush jungles, beautiful waterfalls and beaches, and forested mountains that come nearly up to the Caribbean Sea. The reefs are beautiful, but severely over-fished.

    Most Jamaicans are very proud of their country and their culture, and will go out of their way to make visitors feel welcome. Most are friendly, warm and hospitable. However, as stated above, the hustlers and vendors (and to a lesser degree, the cab drivers), can be a real pain. I’d like to say that we never felt threatened or in fear of our safety, but truthfully I can’t. Like most other tourists, we did some walking around at night and some of it was on the beach. I never got used to strangers walking up behind us and wanting a “fist-bump”, especially on the beach at night. To me, it appeared that it could be a prelude to a mugging or robbery. Basically, I started asking them to move away from us, or to leave us alone. This resulted in a few shouting matches, but nothing got out of hand.

    Like most areas (including the US), there is an ongoing problem with escalating crime and violence. We read an article in a local paper written by a Jamaican who said that the government and the police had to get a handle on the surging crime and violence, or else Jamaica was going to turn into another Haiti.

    I have no plans at the present time to return to Jamaica, partly for the reasons stated above, and partly because of the “shorted” dives. However, it is a beautiful country and I’ll always remember the friendly people we met, the adventures and experiences we had and the dives I made on the beautiful coral reefs in the warm Caribbean.
    __________________
    Rainmaker
    http://www.trailquest.net/scuba.html

  2. snagel says:

    Jamaica Trip report… June 2009

    Original Post by PTAaron on ScubaToys

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    Last week my wife and I took a trip to the Sandals Grande in Ocho Rios for our anniversary… and we had an awesome time!

    We went a little overboard and booked a villa with a private pool and a butler, which was a GREAT idea! We really loved having our own pool to hang out in, and the butler was awesome.
    The weather started out really overcast and humid for the first 3 days, then the sun came out and it was beautiful the rest of the trip!

    We took a TON of pictures, that I am in the process of editing so I can get them online for you guys. I’ll post up the link as soon as they are up!

    In the meantime I just wanted to share a little about the 8 dives we did while we were there… this may be kind of boring, but I’m gonna post it anyway

    Dive 1 – Katherine Wreck
    6/7/09 9:03am
    Dive time: 29 minutes
    Max depth: 48ft
    SAC rate: 1.105

    This was our first REAL dive since our open water certification, and it really shows in my SAC rate… WOW! I ended up being the air hog on the dive and having to signal “low air” when I hit 1000 before the dive was over.
    Highlights of the dive were seeing a huge boat underwater for the first time ever!
    As soon as we started our descent we were immediately surrounded by hundreds of yellow and black striped fish! Very cool. Came across a TINY moray eel – little guy was about the size of my thumb. The DM found a sea cucumber and we all passed it around. The dive involved circling the bottom of the wreck, circling the middle of the wreck, and then the wheel house with the DM pointing out interesting things. Dive ended with a swim through some impressive walls of limestone and coral – but we had to end before the dramatic finish because of my poor air use. Didn’t know about the finish at first, and was a little offended when the DM mentioned not getting to finish the dive on the surface.

    Dive 2 – Mafessanti Reef
    6/8/09 9:03am
    Dive Time: 30 minutes
    Max depth: 59ft
    SAC Rate: .704 (MUCH better!)

    Much better air use on this dive. Saw a huge moray eel this time though. I spotted something huge and green sticking out from under a rock so I went over to see what it was… the DM came over at the same time and poked at it a little with a small weight hanging off a string and it stuck its head out from the other side of the rock! Very cool!

    6/9/09 – had to skip the dives because I was REALLY sick the night before and was not feeling up to it at all.
    Ended up doing some snorkeling in front of the resort in the afternoon and got some great pictures of a little squid that I chased around for about 10 minutes along with a bunch of other fish I haven’t identified yet.

    Dive 3 – Jamaica Beach
    6/10/09 9:32am
    Dive Time: 34 minutes
    Max depth: 66ft
    SAC Rate: .817

    First time diving with waves on the surface… and first time getting tossed around a bit below the surface. Visibility was pretty poor, and for some reason I was coughing like crazy while at depth, which ate up the air a little more this dive. Brought the camera on this dive and got some pictures even though the vis was not so good. Saw a sea turtle on this dive, but didn’t get a picture because by the time I figured out what I was looking at in the distance he was long gone.
    Interesting dive site… off the edge of the reef it drops off to 200+ feet… so I stayed over the reef!

    Dive 4 – Katherine Wreck
    6/10/09 2:18pm
    Dive Time: 34 minutes
    Max Depth: 46ft
    SAC Rate: .835

    Completed the dive this time! Brought the camera along this time and managed to get some shots of huge amounts of brain coral covering the top of the wreck, some colorful sponges all over the wreck, a huge lionfish that was hanging out along the bottom of the ship, spotted a small octopus tucked into a crevice on the ships deck… and a spanish lobster hanging out on the bottom.
    The “big finish” that we missed out on the first time was great: The swim through the “canyon” continued on and ended with a swim through a short tunnel that went under one of the walls! VERY cool!

    Dive 5 – Mafessanti Reef
    6/11/09 9:14am
    Dive Time: 33 minutes
    Max Depth: 62 ft
    SAC Rate: .714

    On this dive we saw a stingray, huge lobster hiding under a rock, a crab hiding under a different rock … and I hit 1000psi early again, even though I had a better SAC rate – but this time I had started with a short fill on my tank (started at 2800). Not much to add this time…

    Dive 6 – Katherine Wreck
    6/11/09 2:10pm
    Dive Time: 36 minutes
    Max Depth: 46ft
    SAC Rate: .747

    Tracy had to skip this dive because of an ear issue… and it was POURING rain on the ride out to the site. I got paired up with an “insta-buddy” on this dive – and I didn’t find out until later that it was his first dive outside of a pool (according to what his non-diver girlfriend told Tracy). It wasn’t a problem, other than that he seemed to enjoy hanging WAY back from the DM and the rest of the group… which was OK because there were a few people in the very large group that were completely unaware of their location in space and ended up kicking me in the head while I was hovering around taking pictures.
    Different DM this time – so we did a slow lap around the ship and went through the wheelhouse, then did the “Canyon run” and came back going through the wheelhouse again. That would have been really cool, but the fairly large group of people with apparently poor bouyancy control made a mess of visibility, and they had their hands all over the wreck/coral on the swimthroughs. Combined with keeping an eye on a buddy that didn’t want to stay with the group – the dive wasn’t all that much fun… but I got some nice pictures.

    Dive 7 – ??? – Night dive
    6/11/09 6:58pm
    Dive Time: 42 minutes
    Max Depth: 42 ft
    SAC Rate: .686

    This was the 3rd dive of the day for me, and I was glad I had taken a nap after each of the first 2!! First attempt at a night dive, and it was simply AWESOME!! Prior to the dive I had mentioned to the DM/Instructor that I was kind of an air hog after he announced that we would be down for around an hour. He chose a shallower site for the dive, just in case air consumption became an issue – it wasn’t… I ended with 1200 in the tank.
    We saw a lot of amazing things on this dive: A lot of stingrays, at least a dozen puffer fish, 4 or 5 lionfish, HUGE crab – we’re talking “Deadliest Catch” size here!, and some squid.
    It was amazing to see the way the fans and coral sent out tendrils to catch their food… and beyond cool to see the bioluminescent microorganisms lighting up when we turned the lights off. The dive was nice and easy, right until the end when we encountered a pretty strong current heading to the “kneel down and shut off your lights to play with the glowing water” stop which made Tracy freak out a little bit. She had just noticed how incredibly dark it had gotten just as we hit the current… she calmed down when we all got into the group and I held onto her hand.
    Can’t remember the name of the site right now…

    Dive 8 – Sandals Reef
    6/12/09 2:16pm
    Dive Time: 33 minutes
    Max Depth: 44 ft
    SAC Rate: .674

    Final dive of the trip. This was a fairly large group of divers, and we had 1 DM and 1 instructor on this dive. Almost everyone on this dive were new divers, and all of them were doing their first dive at Sandals. I was a little surprised to see the Instructor leading one of the divers down to the bottom literally holding his hand. Never saw that before…
    We were REALLY relaxed on this dive and just spent the time slowly finning along taking pictures and ended the dive with a ton of air left. Got a few good lionfish pictures along with some shots of some really colorful reef fish.
    Found out later that one of the other divers that kept pushing me out of the way while I was trying to get pictures of things and also kicked Tracy’s reg out of her mouth as he came up from behind/below and split between us at one point was also a DM! That was a little surprising… I would have expected a little more awareness of other divers from a DM.
    Was a great relaxing dive anyway.

  3. admin says:

    Original Post by CompuDude on ScubaToys

    Lots of great stuff to do topside in Jamaica (YS river, Appleton’s rum tour, etc.) Dive if you’re there anyway and looking for other things to do, but if you have the options of real dive locations like Coz or GC, that’s definitely the way to go. I think it’s a stretch to say Ocho Rios is a dump, though. (Not the resorts, at least… most of the island is clearly third world, however, looking at the natively-inhabited areas)

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