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  • Review: CoCo View Resort | ATA/BAR Divers

    Review: CoCo View Resort Bottom Line CoCo View Resort is a well-oiled, all-inclusive dive center where nothing is left to chance. The grounds are beautifully manicured; rooms are spacious and comfortable; buffets offer ample, tasty food at every meal. Shore dives, dive spots, boats, and staff are all exceptional. This place has a loyal following, and for good reason. The Longer Story During the Fall of 2016, a group of eight California divers made their first trip to the revered CoCo View Resort on Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras. A shuttle van transported us about 20 minutes from the Roatan Airport to a small dock where we took a two-minute ride across a waterway to CoCo View Resort (CCV). We were warmly greeted dockside with the question, “Have you stayed with us before?” It became apparent that those of us that hadn’t were very much in the minority. Other divers aboard our shuttle boat quickly disembarked and began exchanging pleasantries and hugs with CCV staff members in the vicinity who welcomed more than a few of these newly arrived guests by name. In this YouTube video , CCV claims to be the most returned to dive resort in the world. That is an awfully tall claim that none of us newbies readily accepted at face value, but by trip’s end, we few naysayers were believers that this claim was well-deserved and very, very accurate. The grounds of CCV are beautifully maintained and manicured. Upkeep on a place like this is a never-ending process. During our stay there was renovation to a overwater walkway and what appeared to be new construction to an outlying area of the resort. Rooms were roomy and beds comfortable. Housekeeping made daily visits to keep the rooms tidy and exchange used linens. If you are traveling with your significant, consider the overwater cabanas. Quiet, spacious, and well, over-the-water… Need we say more? The screened-in dining hall is large and comfortable, and offers a nice view of the water and shore dive entry point. The full service bar is reasonably priced. Live entertainment is offered on alternate days during the week and proved to be popular with the guests. Food is served buffet style and is very good. Menu items are not repeated during the week. Kitchen staff is friendly and very helpful. The dive boats are staffed by exceptional crews, many of whom have worked at CCV for decades—and that fact alone speaks volumes about this place and how it’s run. Our group was assigned to the CoCo III boat. Our crew was captain Jorge and Divemaster Eddie. Both gentlemen were knowledgeable and helpful. Eddie was particularly adept at spotting macro life; his English speaking skills and knowledge of local sea life were both superb. Our group thoroughly enjoyed our time with them. As testament to CCV’s repeat customer base, our boat had one diver who had visited the resort over 30 times since 2004. At the conclusion of our week’s stay, resort management recognized a number of returning guests and those who had attained “CocoNuts " status—five trips qualifies you to become a “Nut,” and your tenth trip is free. There was talk at the resort about one particular guest-family that spends every other week at the resort yeararound! And we can completely understand why. CCV has been in business for a long time; it is truly a well-oiled machine. No matter the activity or the scenario, there is a procedure established for guests to undertake that makes perfect sense. This is not to say that CCV is stodgy or inflexible. It means there is nothing left to chance, from conducting shore dives or night dives to drop-off dives onto the house reefs (Newman or CoCo View walls). Shore dives from CCV offer quick access to the house reefs and the nearby scuttled wreck, the Prince Albert, a 140-foot tanker sank as a dive destination. Make sure to take in one or more night dives during your stay. The resort has its own dive operation, Dockside Dive Center , its own resident underwater photographer, and a registered nurse/DAN medic whose services are regularly accessed by divers who find themselves with various ailments during the trip. There are many dive sites that CCV frequents. The boats leave for the morning dive after breakfast and the afternoon dive after lunch. Some divers on our spacious boat became bored with the “drop-off” dives that followed each of the morning and afternoon dives of the day. In essence, CCV schedules two boat dives per day. On the way back to the dock, the boat will drop divers off alternatively on one of the two house reefs, either Newman Wall or CoCo View Wall. While these sites are fine, they do become long in the tooth by week’s end. Considering that most Bay Island dive operators offer three or four true boat dive destinations per day, we would have been happier with fewer drop-off dives and more actual dive destinations accessed by boat. With that said, our group gives CCV high marks in all categories and most of us plan on a return trip as soon as next year… And it would be no surprise at all if a few of us go “Nuts” like so many guests before us. ​ This review is solely the opinion of ATA/BAR DIVERS as a product consumer and is provided without compensation, affiliation or consideration of any kind.

  • Saving Soles | ATA/BAR Divers

    Saving Soles: The Harsh Reality of Bonaire Beach Entries Bottom Line : Before traveling to Bonaire (or other destinations with rugged shorelines), consider some solid footwear in order to make a safe and pain-free shore entry. There is a lot of buzz about diving Bonaire … and for good reason. It is truly the island for DIY (do-it-yourself) Diving, where most dive operators include a rusty (but trustworthy) pick-up truck with your accommodations, along with an unlimited supply of air or nitrox tanks. Dive when you want, where you want, and how much you want at any of the 86 recognized dive sites in the Bonaire Marine Park . What you may not have read about is the composition of nearly every beach entry point. Tenderfoots beware! Your standard-issue dive boots will not withstand the harsh reality of Bonaire’s cobbled beaches, which are littered with billions of coral chunks that will definitely imperil your soles. The stacks of heavy-duty dive rental booties at one scuba shop (pictured above) were a late clue that the locals do not mess around with their coral-strewn beaches. After four days of unrelenting sole torture, we broke down and purchased a pair of TUSA DB-4000 heavy-duty boots, which proved very effective at neutralizing any coral-induced pain. But we can’t say we are completely in love with this boot because of its zipper design. The Tusa boots come unzipped far too easily while in the water. Only now do we realize there is not a Velcro zipper “keeper” on the Tusa DB-4000 that can be seen on other manufacturer’s boots (see images, below). There are many purchasing options when it comes to hard sole dive boots. Simply Google “heavy duty dive boots” or “hard sole dive boots” and you will see models from top manufacturers like Scuba Pro , Aqua Lung , Mares , Seac , and XS Scuba . Ocean Enterprises has a huge selection of hard sole boots to choose from. While the ultimate brand of heavy-duty boot is an option, purchasing a pair for your trip to Bonaire is not. Save your soles; your feet will love you for it.

  • Traveling with Dive Gear or Not? | ATA/BAR Divers

    Traveling with Dive Gear... or Not? Bottom Line : There are three types of dive travelers: The PACKERS , The RENTERS , and The LIGHTWEIGHTS . What kind of a dive traveler are you? Those of us here at ATA/BAR Divers frequently travel for the sole purpose of diving. And, with rare exception, we are typically accompanied by mature, experience divers on our underwater world excursions. All of our diving friends own their own gear, but not all travel with their regular dive gear—the equipment they dive with in local waters. Over the years, we have unofficially divided our traveling diver friends into three groups: ​ THE PACKERS : Divers who bring all gear except tank and weights to dive destinations. THE RENTERS : Divers who rent nearly all necessary equipment at the destination. THE LIGHTWEIGHTS : Divers who own and pack a separate set of travel gear—dive equipment that is marketed for its compact style and light weight (see Image 1). ​ Full Disclosure: As this article was written by self-proclaimed PACKERS, it should come as no surprise that the mindsets of the RENTERS and the LIGHTWEIGHTS escape us, even though their justifications seem sound: Neither group wants to hassle with toting around large and heavy dive equipment bags. We get it, but let’s take a deeper (admittedly with a bit of tongue in cheek) look at each groups’ mindset and justifications: ​ THE RENTERS We love our own dive gear but hate packing it on trips. We have too much other stuff to take and would hate getting stuck paying overweight or extra baggage fees. Rental gear isn’t that bad. We would rather pay money for rental gear than extra airline baggage fees. We are afraid our expensive gear will get stolen while traveling. Infection, illness, injury (see Image 2) or even death from ill-fitting equipment, a malfunctioning dive computer, poorly maintained regulators, or BCDs that don’t hold air? Not a big deal. At least we aren’t schlepping gear through airports and into taxi cabs or rental cars. ​ THE LIGHTWEIGHTS ​ We love dive gear. The more we have, the better we feel about ourselves. Money is no object. Dive travel gear (see Image 1) shows we are uber-cool even though we only get to use the set-up once or twice a year. The equipment isn’t as comfortable as our regular gear, but the bloody feet and sore gums show we can have fun in spite of pain and discomfort. If my travel gear gets stolen, I’ve got insurance and another gear set waiting for me at home. ​ THE PACKERS We can pack everything we need in a lightweight dive gear bag and make the 50-pound limit for checked baggage on most commercial flights with plenty of room to spare for toiletries, sunscreen and clothing (see Image 3 and 4). We know our own gear. We maintain it. We feel more comfortable and safer in it. Why spend extra money on lightweight travel gear or rental gear that we’ll rarely use? Rental gear can be sketchy at times. We don’t know its condition or how its maintained. Did the last renter have a lung infection or a skin condition? They might not have my size. Will the Indonesian-based dive resort have size 15 booties and a XXXL suit? It is not unusual to dive four or more times a day when traveling. Dive trips without your own gear is like running a marathon in someone else’s shoes. Who would do that? (Oh, that’s right. Some of our diving friends would!) ​ ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS Temperature Matters . If you are headed for a cold destination, that 7 mm wetsuit or drysuit will probably make that single 50-pound bag weight limit a tough goal to meet. Similarly, if you’ve got a huge camera rig or rebreather, you’re already used to paying extra fees for that megalodon-size Pelican case. But if you’re destination is warm waters with a full or shorty 3 mm suit, hitting your weight target shouldn’t be a problem. ​ Renter Wounds . Too often we have seen injuries from ill-fitting equipment, like what is shown in Image 2, the beaten toes of one colleague who suffered through a week’s worth of diving with ill-fitting full-foot fins. In hindsight, this self-proclaimed RENTER is now a PACKER convert! ​ Get Into the Right Bag . Not all bags are made equally. Choose and use wisely. Pack with a strategy. Some things to consider: ​ Branded vs. Unmarked Bags . Some divers opt for a plain vanilla bag to stow their gear, avoiding prominently labeled dive gear bags for fear of increasing the likelihood of theft. Roller Bag or No Wheels . a 50-pound bag can be a good choice unless your destination requires lots of walking and forging crowded sidewalks, dirt, gravel, or cobblestone pathways. Two roller bags (one dive bag and one carry-on bag) can prove to be unwieldy, even across smooth surfaces. Many roller bags convert to a backpack with shoulder straps, but if one of your two carry-on bags are a backpack, your packing strategy might be in jeopardy. Lock vs. Unlocked . Consider locking your checked baggage with a TSA-approved lock. It’s not a foolproof method to avoid pilferage, but doing nothing is likely a worse idea. Carry-on Decisions . We carry-on our most expensive gear, such as regulators, computers, lights, and cameras. If you decide to carry aboard a BCD, make sure to check your dive knife, line cutters and/or shears. Confirm that airlines will accept loose batteries in carry-on. If not, check it. Padded regulator bags make a great option for carrying on gear (see Image 5 and 6). Pack Strategically . Lightweight gear bags, like the 10.5-pound Aqualung Traveler 1600 (see Video 1) are light for a reason: They lack impact protection seen in competing travel bags that come with padded sides. With this in mind, some strategic packing is suggested: Pack fins as instructed. They will add side protection to your gear. Place exposure suit at the bottom. It will provide impact protection and cushioning on the uneven, rigid back side of the bag. Pack durables along the rigid base and along the sides of bag. This adds additional protection. Pack less-durable items (BCD, mask, toiletries, etc.) in the middle and sandwich with clothing. Top off equipment with a light pillow and cinch with supplied straps. The cover of the bag offers zero impact protection—a pillow offers a great topper to your dive gear and you get to sleep with your own pillow. How perfect is that? Image 1. A typical dive gear travel package set. Image 2. Damaged toes from a week of diving with rental fins. Image 3. Strategic packing using the Aqualung Traveler 1600. Image 4. Topping off gear with a pillow and straps. Image 5. Padded regulator bag for carry-on containing expensive/fragile gear. Image 6. Aqualung Legend padded regulator bag: Perfect for carry-on gear. Video 1. Aqualung Traveler 1600 dive bag review by SimplyScuba.com.

  • ATA/BAR Divers | Divemaster Courses

    PADI Divemaster Course As a courtesy to local diving enthusiasts and potential scuba students, we offer this list of scuba class courses and schedules. These links reflect the latest information available from the noted PADI training facility on each class page. ATA/BAR Divers does not make or accept training class reservations. Please call or visit the respective PADI training facility to sign-up for classes. Prices subject to change —and classes subject to cancellation —without notice.