“Wonderful, first time to Bonaire, loved it.” Bobby Pierce
“Atlantic wreck diving in the Graveyard of the Atlantic off of Morehead City, North Carolina with Olympus Dive Center. I went on 10/24/20 and 10/25/20 for 2 dives a day. The first day was a bust as visibility was 4 feet, so no diving offshore and we headed inshore to a no name wreck at 60′ deep, not worth traveling there for that. Then came Sunday. The day started off with poring rain, but a 2 hour boat ride out to a wreck and the pool was open. 120′ down, we were engulfed in a huge bait ball, sand tiger sharks, lion fish, barracuda, amberjacks and more. Well worth the trip if you like wreck diving and sharks.”
What a fantastic trip! As you’ll see from the photos, the diving is superb, particularly if you’re into macro critters, nudibranchs and beautiful reefs. But, to top it off, Scandi Divers, is an incredible dive resort. The rooms are super comfortable, air conditioned and clean. The food is plentiful and tasty. I don’t typically gain weight on a dive trip with 3-5 dives a day, but I did at Scandi. And, most importantly, the staff of Scandi Divers, from Luke, the manager, to all of the dive staff, to the cooks, the servers, the cleaning folks and the front desk: my hat is off to everyone of them. They take care of every need and do so with genuine friendliness that pervades every action.
You’ll find incredible reefs, small wrecks and a significant number of much dive sites. The best reef diving is a 30 minute boat ride to Verde Island…though, because Covid restrictions were already in place, we couldn’t partake in the typical Verde Island picnic after a couple of morning dives there, we were taken to another island and had an amazing barbeque! Almost every dive is about a 10 minute boat ride, so the surface intervals are back at the resort where you have enough to time to refresh and get ready for the next dive adventure of the day.
There are direct flights from LAX to Manila, so that makes for a fairly short travel day. We did arrive just as Philippines were placing restrictions within Manila — mandatory temperature checks at the hotel, nearby restaurants, etc — but we got a decent night of sleep near the airport and headed to Puerto Galera early the next morning. A long van ride followed by a shorter boat ride and we made it to Scandi Divers.
There’s not a lot to do in the nearby town, but there are a few night clubs and we did go out one night, but most evenings we did night dives and one night was a blackwater dive. Unfortunately, I had camera trouble that night so didn’t get any photos on the blackwater dive.
Several days into our trip and a few days before we were supposed to leave, we were informed that Philippines was restricting all flights into and out of the Manila airport. Of course our initial reaction was, “well, we’ll get to dive every day for next god knows how long, so we’ll make the most of it!” However, that quickly turned to a dark reality when the local island officials decided to shut down all diving activities. I mean, yeah, the island was beautiful, but not only was diving restricted, but also all hiking, biking and other activities were shut down.
That made it quite the adventure to leave the island because all boats were restricted from taking us off of the island and back to the main island so we could get to Manila.
After much wrangling with the local officials on our behalf by the manager of Scandi Divers, we were able to somewhat stealthily make it back to Manila where some international flights were given a short window to allow foreigners to leave.
Two boats, a several hour long van ride through a number of military/police checkpoints and 4 flights later (with a number of cancellations and rebookings) and I finally made it back to Tucson.
Despite all of the “troubles,” I’d do it all again. That’s how awesome the diving and the resort are.
I plan to return in 2021 and hope you’ll ask to join us!
Photos and Trip Description by Dr. Cynthia Gerszewski
“I went to get certified and had 2 dive days right after the certification days. I was nervous about a few things- mask fit, panicking while under water, not being skilled enough, making a mistake. But being side by side with my instructor, calm and experienced Steve Backerman, I surpassed those issues easily and got to the fun and wonder of diving and LOVED IT! Its a whole new world of AWE that feels isolated from the human world above. I felt like I was interacting and part of nature in a way that is difficult to do on land sometimes. I love many things about the whole experience- water, boats, friendly active people with the similar interest of loving underwater life and adventure. I will definitely go back and want to have Steve do my Advanced Certification so I can feel even more safe and at ease down there so I can have even MORE fun! Dr. Cindy”
In November 2017, I did a week of diving from Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas. I had such a great experience that I decided at that time that I would do a live aboard through the Exumas. I finally made the live aboard trip on the Bahamas Aggressor in November 2019.
Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this trip. The trip began from and returned to Nassau, so the travel is pretty easy. From Nassau, we motored over to the Exumas. Frankly, I was shocked at the lack of fish. There were definitely highlights which I’ve captured on film, but for the number of dives we did, the highlights were rather few and far between. Now, of course, no one can control Mother Nature, so maybe conditions were simply off for some reason. It was pretty chilly throughout the week and rainy, too, at times. And the water temps were never above 75f, which was colder than typical from what I understand. Maybe at another time of year the diving might have been better.
We did see a single Great Hammerhead Shark and a single Tiger Shark. In both cases, the experience didn’t last long (and not even enough time for me to get my camera into position) as one of the other divers decided to swim at the sharks and both were scared off rather quickly.
But, what really disappointed me was the way the boat and its crew conducts itself. First of all, the dive guides don’t really do too much guiding. While it’s nice to have freedom to dive without feeling like you’re constantly being herded, the guides, for the most part, didn’t seem to have too much knowledge of the sites and where the divers might be able to see this or that.
On one dive, in fact, the dive guide was quite negligent in guiding the dive at all, to the point where at least one diver ran out of air and had to share air and then everyone ended up having to surface and devote themselves to a long surface swim back to the boat against a significant head current. When I asked the dive guide what happened, his response was that it wasn’t his fault that so many divers went too far away (yet he himself was following those divers’ lead).
To make matters worse, there were three of us who would tend to go deeper on our dives (110’ or so). I’m a Master Scuba Diver Trainer and the other two are highly trained technical divers, so we weren’t violating any industry standards. After one such dive, the captain of the boat admonished us and told us that the boat’s policy is that no one can dive below 100’ and if we did it again, we’d be prevented from diving for the remainder of the trip. Turns out that it was a warning she didn’t need to give, as we never went to another site where we could even remotely get below 60’. Or maybe she was punishing us. Who knows?
After the trip, I dug up my “know before you go” materials for the trip and found that the actual policy for the Bahamas Aggressor is that no diver is permitted to dive deeper than their certification level. As such, the boat captain’s admonishment was neither called for nor correct.
To top it off, there was visible tension amongst the crew and between the crew and the captain.
I will say that the chef was fantastic and friendly and a great cook. The food was always plentiful, nutritious and yummy. The boat itself has a lot of carpet, on the floors and the walls, and I’m told that’s why the air conditioning runs 24/7 even though most of us were freezing as the A/C wasn’t needed given the chilly conditions.
Once we returned to Nassau, I decided not to spend the last night on the boat, as I had an extremely early flight out of the next morning and wanted a proper shower. I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Nassau where the single night ran over $250.00. I guess that was a poor decision on my part, as when I awoke to shower, there was no hot water. Despite my complaint to the front desk, the manager and to InterContinental Hotels Group directly, I was offered no compensation or credit.
So, of all of the trips I’ve reported on this site, this has been the only one where I’d honestly say that I wish I had gone elsewhere. Maybe luck of the draw with respect to the diving itself, but there’s simply no excuse for the boat crew and conditions on the boat. While I expressed my experience to both LiveAboards.Com (through whom I booked the boat) and directly to Aggressor Adventures, neither company has reached out to me in the 2 months since.