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Kevin Hampson (DiveRat) just posted this on D-Net:

"Tobago dive trip. 3rd to 13th November

The flight out with B.A. was a real treat the joys of over 60 kgs. of baggage each and scheduled flights was a real change from package tour haggling over an allowance for dive gear. To cap it all it was an air miles flight which left loads of cash for the bar bill in Tobago. The accommodation for the trip was booked over the Net with the Bluewaters Inn at Speyside and I'll not bore you all with a report on them as I could do no better than the one on www.mytobago.info, which is a web site run by Steve Wooler and well worth a visit for anyone planning a trip to Tobago. There's currently very little on diving but for general information the site cannot be beaten. A couple of things that aren't mentioned in detail on Steve's site are the cliental; there's a rough split between divers and “twitchers”, which if your interested in people watching, makes for interesting sport. One of the biggest differences was the bar; most of the bird watching fraternity seemed to be an abstemious bunch and in bed by 8:30 to be up to photograph the dawn chorus at 5am. The divers on the other hand begrudging left at midnight most evenings when the bar shut. Watching the groups at breakfast was also good sport with more binoculars and cameras than the average branch of Dixon’s, along with woops of delight when some sparrow in a posh frock tries to drown itself in a glass of juice. The rest of us are just trying to protect our toast from the tarted up sparrow’s mates.

The dive center at Bluewaters Inn is run independently by Aquamarine Dive, a PADI Gold Palm 5* center, who recently were awarded the accolade of best-run center in Tobago. The center has a small shop that seemed to be well stocked with mostly Sherwood and Scubapro gear along with good selection of books and accessories. Some of the rental equipment was looking a little tired and I noted a few people found minor faults while kitting up such as leaking O rings, all of which were dealt with reasonably well, and I did not notice anyone left with any major problems. The setup was typical for the Caribbean as far as tanks went with alloy 80cui and “A” clamp valves. These cannot be changed to DIN fitting by removing the slug so if you don’t have “A” clamp don’t forget to take a converter as the center only has a few of their own

The center runs two covered dive boats that are large enough for about a dozen divers and as Bluewaters Inn has an 80ft jetty getting kit in was never a problem and most of the time this was done by the dive guides anyway. One of the divers while I was there was a 78 year old American who had had a number of hip replacements and even he managed OK. One small issue was keeping track of your weight belt (I went through 3 changes in 10 days) as most of the time these were left in the boats after the dives and there was no guarantee you would be in the same boat every day, but I suspect the dive guides are used to sorting things out.

The dive guides all seemed very knowledgeable and the briefings were conducted well with the focus on safety and environmentally friendly diving skills. When diving with larger groups there were always 2 guides one at each end of the group and surface floats were always used unlike other operators as I experienced later on in the week.

The usual daily plan was for 2 dives one morning around 10:30 and one after lunch around 1:30. We also managed a couple of early days with an 8:30 start, which meant 2 dives in the morning. All of the dive sites around Speyside are with in 15 minutes of the center so no long boat rides. Aquamarine will visit other areas such as the Sisters or London Bridge, but only if enough divers request it and then only if conditions are perfect. As it was I never made it round to dive the Caribbean side which was a bit of a disappointment. I would suggest anyone else faced with the same situation takes a trip round to Charlottesville and dives with one of the centers there for the day. Night dives are also available but, once again it was up to the divers to request it and many of the other divers there felt the viz. would be too poor (Come on guys have you never dived in the UK!!!)

The first dive was Coral Gardens also known as Kelliston Drain. Talking to the guides it depends on how far down the wall you dive; Coral Gardens is dived on the plateau and Kelliston Drain along deeper along the wall.

The dive started on the plateau in about 14m of water just off the south end of Little Tobago Island and then dropped over the reef wall with a slow drift ending at the 4m diameter world famous brain coral. There was a good mix of both hard and soft coral and plenty of fish, mostly angel, trumpet and damsel fish, deeper along the wall there were a few solitary barracuda and shoals of jacks. Viz. was really good around 30m and with the bright conditions this really showed the colours of the coral very well.

Bookends was a site that we visited a couple of time so I’ll put both the dives together. Rough surface conditions so negative entry off the boat down to about 17m., fast drift at the start to the two granite pillars that give “Bookends” its name. Once in the amphitheater washed out but the current between the rocks, the main current dropped off and we could look up at 7 tarpon in the "clouds". Once out of the bowl the current slowed to a nice gentle drift with good coral, trumpet and parrot fish. On the second dive we saw our first free swimming shark, a 2m black tip reef shark feeding and moving in and out of divers; very exciting! I later found out the one of the Americans had a small cut on the back of his hand (good reason for another rum punch to calm the nerves).

Another site we had a few dives on was Spinny Colony off the headland at the south end of Tyrrels Bay (Speyside). The dive first dropped on to a plateau at 10m then a very gentle drift along the reef wall. Not much life on the top of the reef but good along the wall, bottom runs down to about 30m but we stayed around the 20m line. Very good hard and soft coral and reef fish mostly trumpets and angels, the viz. on the first dive was very good around 30m. but heavy rain had cut this to about 15 hazy meters on the second on so I took my UK Light Canon along. This was great for looking in the darker corners and turned up large spider crab, green moray lobster and cleaner shrimps which I find fascinating. We got a bit longer out of the dive this time with a slow drift and found a sandy plateau about 2/3 in to the dive at 15m.

Shark Bank is a rock outcrop on the sheltered south side of Little Tobago Island. A good drift dive but occasional current changes result in giving you a few hard swims to make headway along the wall. Most of the dive was spent around the 20m level but it would make a good dive down to 40m., with very good soft coral and sea fans along with the usual collection of reef fish. We saw 2 free swimming turtles and this dive was the best viz. of the trip, around 40m., but this was just before the rain really started to cloud things up.

Cathedral on the west side of Little Tobago Island is supposed to be good for Manta. We may have seen a small one at the edge of deeper water or it could have been a big ray but the viz. was starting to get a bit worse with the overnight rains and was now around 20 hazy meters.

A coral plateau around 15m. then a wall dive to 20m with a sandy bottom around 25-30m.

Really good photo of Queen angel, but the temperature drop mid way through the dive caused camera to fog badly so I lost some good photos’.

Picker Reef wall dive on the south eastern corner of Little Tobago Island, negative entry because of the poor surface conditions. A challenging, good, strong, drift dive because of the current and I noted more surge towards the end of the dive going up for the safety stop. Viz. started getting poorer around 10m. and surface conditions made getting back in the boat difficult.

Most of the dive was around the 20m. level on the wall, but it does drop away to over 40m. in places.

Lots of hard coral but the hazy viz. took much of the color out. Good size shoal of Jacks and a few Barracuda in free water also sleeping Nurse Shark, large spider crabs, lobster and a couple of turtle on the reef wall.

TD Special is a rock pinnacle of the south end of Little Tobago Island. Poor surface conditions left us with a few very seasick divers while kitting up and another negative entry because of the swell. Once in the water there was poor viz. near the surface and heavy surge, but once down a few meters there was reasonable viz., but dark conditions due to the overcast weather.

Really good hard coral and sea fans on the reef with a number of lobsters, sleeping nurse sharks and green moray, out in the deeper water there were large schools of Jacks and a few Barracuda.

I gave up with the camera because of the dark conditions, but had an interesting couple of minutes when my buddy’s cylinder slipped out of his BCD (don’t remember doing that on my PADI course). Getting back in the boat was very interesting with more seasick divers on the way back in.

Once in the boat we noted 2 divers on the surface with an SMB up closer to Little Tobago Island. A quick head count showed they were not from our group and on the way across to assist we saw a small boat bobbing around the headland 500m away and well out of site of the divers. All sorted out by the boat coxswain.

At the time I felt that this was the worst dive of the trip, but looking back, it was the most technical and challenging dive of the lot and I probably learnt more on this one than on any of the others.

Flying Manta Drift off the north east of Little Tobago Island starts at the end of Cathedral and ended with Kamikaze Cut. Cracking dive most of the time spent around 16m. I was really impressed by the really good dive brief by the dive guide the brief was due to proximity of the “Washing Machine” killer dive on outer wall of the Kamikaze Cut. This does not make sense, read it aloud and you should be able to fix!

Good life on the reef, as well as turtle, barracuda, and very lucky to see golden spotted eel out in the open just at the end of Kamikaze Cut, which is a very rare sighting and well worth hanging round when most of the group were going up to the safety stop. Despite the guide’s protests we managed to get just under the hour out of the dive.

To sum up I’ll definitely be going back, but next time I return to Tobago I’ll probably look at a two center holiday which will allow some diving on the Caribbean side. I’d finally like to thank Mike who ended up as my dive buddy for most of the dives for persevering while I took the photos and I would also like to thank all the staff at Aquamarine and the Bluewaters Inn for providing all ingredients for a spectacular but relaxing dive holiday.

All the Best DiveRat Have dry suit will travel! "

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Have myself just returned from this destination, this hotel this dive centre and these dive sites so have been pipped to the post with this trip report!!

However, will shortly post my own version anyway as would love to share the memories of my first ever pelagic encounters and 'interesting-but-nearly-killed-us' shore diving extravanganza...  

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Hey Lesley,

Don't worry about this other report, good as it is: we're very interested in hearing/reading your own personal account of your time and dives in-country!!

Please, post soon-as so we can get a read on how it went and what you experienced!

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