Since we didn’t get to go on a trip in 2015 because we chose to renovate our kitchen, and we were too close to our passport expiration dates to be confident we’d get them back in time to go elsewhere, we decided to make our 2016 dive vacation another trip to the Florida Keys. Quite honestly, there’s just nothing like the Keys if you’re on a budget and prefer tropical waters — which is pretty much us. We’ve stayed on Key Largo a couple of times now, and decided to stay further out in the Keys this time. So, after a bit of research, we decided Islamorada was our spot.
Our 7-day stay was at the Chesapeake Resort and we were very happy with the accommodations. The rooms were nice, comfortable, well-maintained. Since you don’t get a lot of natural beaches in the Keys (being largely mangrove-lined), the beach at the resort was welcome. There were plenty of wonderful restaurants in the area, as well.
We dove with Key Dives, www.keydives.com, and couldn’t be more pleased. Mike & Marcia Goldberg absolutely took great care of us and made sure we had the best dive experience possible–and all at reasonable prices. They have a nice special negotiated with Chesapeake Resort, too! I will say that I feel we had more lush coral around Key Largo, and one of the dives really suffered because of weather and current bringing down the visibility significantly. But it was still a great trip with plenty to see. One thing I’m a huge fan of is wrecks, and there really aren’t many around Islamorada, so you have to hope the seas and time allow for the trip out to them. As it was, we again hit the Vandenberg, which we had dove on before, only one month after it was sunk as an artificial reef. Still a beautiful dive–although this time the current was a bit stronger.
If you have been to Key Largo a number of times and want a little change of pace, some great diving, and a little quicker access to Key West without paying the higher cost, Islamorada is an excellent choice! Enjoy the video highlights of the trip!
Many people, particularly divers, have urged us over the years to include Belize in our list of future dive trips. Well, 2014 was the year! Terra and I stayed at the SunBreeze Hotel on the island of Ambergris Caye for seven days. Diving was provided Hugh Parkey’s Dive Center, located on the grounds of the hotel, which was beachfront. We did all our dives with them with the exception of the Blue Hole, which was through Ramon’s Dive Village. We had looked at Ramon’s Dive Village as a potential place to stay when we were researching, but it was more expensive than SunBreeze. However, when we were walking around doing some of our sightseeing we had an opportunity to see firsthand what Ramon’s was like. We also had lunch there. If we go back to Belize we will definitely be staying at Ramon’s. If Gilligan’s Island had turned upscale dive resort, Ramon’s is what it would look like.
The diving around Ambergris Caye was very good, although visibility wasn’t nearly as clear as Cayman or Curacao were. And, apparently, it is normally much better, judging by the comments made by returning visitors. Although for overall colorful variety of sea life Curacao is still my personal favorite, the opportunity to see a lot of sharks, turtles and eagle rays was hands-down better at Belize. The most expensive dive on the trip was clearly Blue Hole, but it was absolutely worth it. I was not going to make this trip without including the breathtaking dive on Blue Hole. There were actually three dives included in the Blue Hole package, The Aquarium being one–and it lived up to its name.
There is plenty of shopping to be done within easy walking distance, and the same is true of the restaurants. All of the ones we visited were excellent and reasonably-priced. A majority of the eating establishments in the San Pedro area are on the beach. The common practice is to simply walk up and down the beach until you happen upon a restaurant you would like to try. One thing we found particularly awesome was that most places had their menus conveniently posted in an attractive fashion on a walk-up billboard in front of the restaurant. See something that tickles your fancy? Step right up and enjoy some of the local cuisine. The shops along the adjacent streets are very closely packed and, as you might expect, a bit on the run-down side, but in most cases the staff are friendly and the products are the right value. The exchange rate was 2 Belize dollars for each U.S. dollar. By the way, if you’re hoping to get a good deal on any dive equipment, you can give that thought up. There’s not a lot there since almost everything must be brought in from the Belize mainland, and most divers bring their own gear or rent from the dive operators.
Finally, we don’t take these trips to spend a lot of time in the room, so having 5-star accommodations isn’t our goal. The SunBreeze wasn’t the best place we’ve stayed, but it wasn’t the worst. The internet service is horrible on the island, so when we tried to do our second international video podcast of Two Guys Who Dive we simply couldn’t get enough bandwidth to do anything other than execute a local-recording and upload it later (it is available on our YouTube channel). Also, we’re not big drinkers these days, but I’ll try something unique if it looks good. Such was the Horny Monkey. Fantastic drink…you should try it.
In the end, we had an absolutely wonderful time, had fantastic diving, wonderful meals and good weather. We highly recommend a 7-day trip to Belize if you can afford it. To view a video of our trip just click here: http://youtu.be/PY20azxbjGI?list=UUymXvHTzNqRLiXM4g0CIejw
You don’t become a scuba diver without education. But it doesn’t stop once you get certified. Although we do encourage advancing your certification to that you have the tools you need to expand your dive adventures, it’s not just about the formal training. The more you dive, the more you learn about yourself. You discover things about your dive profile, the equipment you prefer, the places you like and even things you never realized before about your body. The equipment you first buy as a new diver often give way to new equipment that you come to discover gives you a much more pleasant dive experience or better matches the type of diving and locations you prefer. You also learn more about the underwater environment you dive in. It’s one thing to read about how sharks or turtles or eels behave, but it’s quite another to actually be there and observe first-hand. While certainly not as much of a thrill-seeking adventures as diving some tropical reef system, diving in fresh water lakes can also provide you hours of ad hoc learning. We encourage divers to dive often, dive different locations, and absorb as much as possible in the process. Your learning and awareness can not only help the underwater ecosystem, but it inevitably gives you great stories to share!
It would almost be impossible to disconnect adventure from scuba diving. The same diver never makes the same dive twice. This means that you change with every experience, and the spot you dive will be different every time you dive. The awesome thing about being immersed in a living environment is that it changes from day to day, season to season, and it interacts with you differently, too. PADI teaches about the Three E’s: Education, Equipment and Experience. It’s a continuous cycle incrementally expands your options as a diver, which translates into even more amazing adventures! Diving in a creek or river is wildly different from diving in a lake or abandoned missile silo or a Caribbean island. We encourage people not to limit themselves to only one place to dive, one kind of diving. Diving gorgeous coral reefs presents one kind of experience. Diving on underwater wrecks presents and entirely different one. And both become something completely new during a night dive! Your adventures are limited only by your imagination, education and experience!
Recreational SCUBA Diving is all about having FUN! Not just underwater, but during our “surface intervals”, too! Getting together and sharing food, refreshment and stories add another dimension to the camaraderie of divers and non-divers alike. Whether we’re at a meeting, supporting local cleanup events with the city, career day events with the schools, group dives or just a simple party, the focus is always on weaving fun throughout. Ultimately, diving is what we do, and we try to encourage as many as we can to become active in the dive community. Although almost anyone can dive, diving isn’t for everyone. The beauty of the dive community is that you don’t necessarily have to be a diver to be a part. Including people who can help provide shore support is important, too — and often something divers simply can’t do without. There’s enough fun to go around!
In the middle of July 2013 Terra and Rob “Scubadog” Wade returned to Grand Cayman island for a week-long dive vacation. Trisha Urban and Gay Culbertson were also onboard for this island adventure. Interestingly enough, Grand Cayman was where Terra had her first salt water dive–an opportunity during their Caribbean cruise in 2005, and it was also Gay’s first salt water diver. The group stayed at Compass Point, which is also home for Ocean Frontiers. This place is valet diving at its best. In fact, you’d likely have to spend a week on a live-aboard in order to get the service you receive at Compass Point. The dive sites were almost all first-rate, and you’re missing out if you don’t insist on hitting places with some of the best swim-throughs anywhere. The couples went on a night dive, a shallow drop at about 25 feet, but it presented some nice surprises, including a fantastic encounter with a small octopus. This was also Gay’s first night dive, making it a great way to be introduced to the magic that happens when the reef wakes up. Since Compass Point is on the opposite side of the island from the main town and the airport, a lot of time was spent travelling back and forth in order to do some shopping and touring. Everything is pretty expensive on Cayman, nearly double what one would pay in the States. Having been a British territory, the driving is on the left, and when anywhere outside of the main town you’re more likely to see a “roundabout” rather than a four-way stop. If you’re willing to be adventurous in terms of both exploring and dining, there are some real gems for eating establishments. Rob finally got to try some lionfish—and it was delicious! Hopefully folks all over the Caribbean can push a new industry in lionfish. The Tortuga Rum Factory visit is, of course, a must, and the gang came away with quite a few rum cakes. Much to their surprise, there was a Divers Supply outlet on the island. Divers Supply happens to be Scubadog’s favorite place to buy gear and they have multiple locations in the States. Prices were higher than you can get online. Speaking of prices, the common mistake (one which the group made, in fact) is to always assume any gear you purchase at a dive resort carries a significantly higher markup than at a traditional brick-n-mortar. As it turns out, the exact same gear was almost always cheaper at Compass Point–there just wasn’t the variety. So, after it was all said and done, it was a fantastic week of diving, driving, dining…and the first internationally presented netcast of Two Guys Who Dive. If you’re looking for an easy Caribbean dive vacation, consider dropping down to Grand Cayman!
Terra and Rob celebrated their 24th anniversary weekend with a dive trip to Balmorhea State Park. This seems to have become a tradition now, and this year did not disappoint. Surprisingly, the park wasn’t as packed as it normally is this time of year, but there were of course the expected dive classes going on. There was a particularly large group of youth getting certified, and it was great to see the dive community expanding with so many at a younger age. There was also another encounter with the “purvey turtle”, although not nearly so dramatic this time. It was a nice, relaxing time, but it was a shame that none of the local Del Rio divers decided to come along. We really can’t stress enough that it’s diving that makes you a diver—not a C card. (Note: For anyone interested in the camera used for the pictures below, it was the Sea Life DC1400 Pro Duo–and amazing camera!)
If you are a diver in the local area we would like to get to know you! We don’t have a dive shop in town anymore (although that may be about to change) and we are challenged by the very fluid population in Del Rio of likely divers. Getting together, however, is a way to get to know other divers, their experiences and share diving opportunities here. We have Lake Amistad and San Felipe Creek for local diving, but depending on your willingness to drive, there are other places worth checking out, too: Chalk Bluff, Frio River, Balmorhea State Park, just to name a few. Although very informal, the Del Rio Dive Club meetings serve as a chance for divers and non-divers alike to gather, share, ask questions and enjoy a bite to eat. Meet us at Rudy’s Restaurant for some great barbecue 7pm on the third Thursday of each month. Help us plan more activities and do more DIVING! You don’t have to be a diver to come out and have a good time. Maybe you’ll even get the bug for it just by hanging around us! Don’t forget to like our Facebook page so you can keep up with what’s going on. We hope to see you there.
A club is nothing without people. And with today’s wide spread of social media, we’re hooking into different ways to make people aware that, yes, there ARE people diving in the Del Rio area! So, we’d like to encourage everyone to not just visit our website, Facebook page, UStream channel or YouTube channel, but subscribe, follow and like us, too! That way you get the latest information and get helpful reminders when things are going on! And word-of-mouth (verbally or electronically) is still one of the best ways to expand. Help us out by sharing!