It was February in Utah once again and that can mean only one thing, time to get away to warmer waters. This year we were headed once again to the shark and wreck infested waters of the Bahamas.
We had been to New Providence Island and Nassau two years ago. (see 'Take Your Mama to the Bahamas') so we knew what to expect in the diving but were staying at a new property. South Ocean, the place we had stayed earlier was under new ownership and was waiting for money to come in for remodeling.
Apparently it has some Japanese investors who plan to make it into a casino/resort but it has sat unoccupied for the last year and a half. We wanted to dive with Stuart Cove's again and they had packages put together with two other hotels. The glitzy Wyndham located on Cable Beach and the smaller, homier Orange Hill Inn. Originally we had planned to stay at the Wyndham but got bumped to the Orange Hill when rooms got scarce.
Orange Hill was nice. It is located on the north coast of the island, just a mile or two west of Cable Beach. As the name implies, it is on a small hill on the grounds of an old sugar plantation with a gorgeous view of the ocean. The main building houses the office, restaurant and bar with three small cottages in front. Behind that are two 2-story strips of rooms separated by a pool. The rooms were nothing fancy but they were clean and we had fresh linens every day. Some had small kitchens built in and all had at least microwaves and mini-fridges. The restaurant was good, especially for breakfast and lunch. Dinners were good but a little overpriced (of course, what isn't in the Bahamas?) The honor bar was convenient if you wanted a drink and the beach just across the street was great. Good snorkeling and lots of sand dollars if you wanted a treasure to take home.
Stuart Cove's was great as always. Since we had 18 people with us, we had a large boat all to ourselves. Our captain was Ervin, the same as last time. We had Enzo, a divemaster from France and Charlie was our photographer. Charlie is the fiancé of Beth, our divemaster from last time. Beth came to see us one afternoon and brought their little 14 month son Bruce. He was quite the charmer.
So the stage is set, here are the good stories.
The first night we take a taxi into town for dinner at Senor Frog's. The cab driver was Gibson. We asked him one question and he proceeded to answer it for the entire ride into town, all 20 minutes of it. Mostly he talked about how he walks for exercise, how his kids don't like to walk with him, how the Prime Minster asks him how many laps he's done at the local track. No kidding, 20 full minutes without a stop. Once we got to Senor Frog's, we were subjected to the worst karaoke version of "Hotel California" that you had ever heard. It is because there are people like that that I will never take a cruise. Imaging having to listen to that every night! During dinner it started raining. Not just regular rain but Noah's flood kind of rain. The host at the restaurant said there was a bus leaving in 10 minutes (the #10) which would run from downtown right past our hotel. Paul, the night bartender at Orange Hill put it best. He said, "The bus will pick you up anywhere along the road, just wave at the bus and if it stops, that's your bus. If it doesn't stop, it was the wrong bus." So we venture out in the rain looking for the bus stop. After a few seconds we are soaked to the skin. Every taxi in Nassau is stopping and asking us if we want a ride. When told we are waiting for the bus, they all respond with "There aren't any more buses running." Apparently that's Bahamian for "The bus will be here in 5 minutes." We even had a nice lady in a small compact car offer all eight of us a ride.
Tee and I had a great bus experience the next day. We decided to take the bus a few miles down the road to the local grocery store for a few snacks. No mishaps here except for when he tries passing a car on a curve, sees on coming traffic and another bus pulled over ahead of him and slams on the brakes, screeching to a stop just inches from the other bus. I still have finger marks on my arm from Tee grabbing on. The return trip was slower but just as eventful. We started talking to a nice local lady also waiting for the bus in front of the grocery store. The bus comes, we get on and she starts talking to the driver. The locals speak a wonderful, colorful, super fast mix of English, slang and who knows what else. This lady and the driver are yapping away and I am trying to follow along. I caught something about him needing water? And the next thing I know, he pulls over, strolls into the bushes for a second and comes back out a minute or two later, gets on the bus and drives off. Obviously, the Bahamian Bus Driver's Union needs to get these guys more potty breaks.
The diving was great as always. The water was cool as we expected, temps in the low 70's. Vis was good, about 50-80 feet on all the dives. We dove a mix of reefs, walls and wrecks. Everyone seemed to like the walls the best. Personally I loved the wrecks. I remembered most of what we saw from the last trip but did find a new doorway in the wreck of the Ray of Hope that lead down some stairs to the engine room. Unfortunately I was getting lower on air and didn't have the time to fully explore it.
We did a 2 tank shark dive one morning that was pretty exciting. For whatever reason the sharks were a bit more aggressive this morning and pushed Ervin around as he got ready to feed them. The divemasters get us arranged in a rough circle and the feeder stays in the middle. As the photographer and videographer film each person, the feeder moves a little closer to them to bring more sharks into view. They were aggressive to start with and Aaron and Julie were the closest and first to be photographed. Aaron took a couple of shots to the head by some fins which wasn't too bad until he also took a shot to the crotch! Too bad they didn't catch it on film; America's Funniest Home Videos loves crotch shots.
The very last dive was at a site called the Hollywood Bowl. This is also the site that they bring the Subs. Stuart Cove's offers a mini sub experience. You sit on these little self propelled scooters with your head in a big fish bowl that has air in it. We got to see some in action and they were pretty neat. Charlie, the photo guy, had brought out some fish food in a small container and we could take turns feeding the fish. There were tons of yellow tailed snappers and some big blue parrot fish. I had my turn and was getting ready to mug for the camera with Tee when I notice a lot more fish around my middle area. I look down and see a few pieces of fish food coming up from between my legs. Yes, that's right; my good buddy Jayson had put some fish food in a place not meant for that sort of tomfoolery. Ah, male bonding humor, it's a guy thing. Luckily I avoided a Funniest Home Video moment.
Out of the water we enjoyed our pizza party at the hotel the night before we left. Ervin and his son and Charlie and little Bruce joined us as we watched the shark DVD for the first time.
We had a number of divers reach some fun personal milestones. Sterling logged his 50th and Tee logged her 100th dive. Aaron, Julie, Kevin, Danielle and Christine earned their Advanced Open Water Diver certification. Kevin, Danielle, Sterling, Jayson, Ben and George earned their Nitrox Diver certification. Sterling, Erik and Kevin earned their Wreck Diver certification. Erik also earned his Deep Diver certification and his Master Scuba Diver rating. All in all, it was a great trip with a great group of people.
Next stop, Fiji in July!
Let's go diving!