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SCUBA Penguin's Dive Shop Ratings

In the table below, the blue dates are trips where I went on my own, and the white dates are trips with my wife, Kathleen.

Saba Deep (Saba, NA)
Jul 1995
Sep 2001
The first time I went, I only dove with them for two dives, but they made the trip to Saba worth it. It was a bit of an ordeal to get to Saba by boat, and several people got sick on the boat ride, so my memories may be a bit clouded. They were well-organized, and had a nice shop. My second trip was even better, partially because I took the plane over from St. Maarten, which allowed for the deeper 9:00 AM dives, and partially because there were only 2 or 3 of us on those dives (the afternoon dives on Wednesday were more crowded when the "boat people" came over from St. Maarten).

Bubbles Below (Kauai)
Dec 1994 Overall, the best dive professionals I've gone diving with. Linda is quite an expert in marine life, and she helped me relax and reduce my air consumption to an acceptable level (although I'm still a bit of an "air pig"). The boat normally went out with me and maybe two or three other divers, so we all got personal attention. They also supplied all divers with computers to guarantee better dive safety. If you're into sea life, this is definitely the dive operator for you! They also have afternoon charters if 2-3 dives a day isn't enough for you.

Eco-Adventures (Kona, Hawaii)
Sep 1993
Nov 1997
Apr 2000
An excellent dive center, and probably the best on the Big Island. I got my certification with them, so there will always be a special place in my heart for them. The only reason they don't get the full 5-star rating is that their charters have grown to 10-20 people per dive, and I prefer smaller charters. Of course, they got this big because they're so good. But even with the large charters, the dive groups tend to be between 3 and 6 people, so it's a really minor point. If you do decide to go to Hawaii, you must do the night manta dive. Check out the video from my dive.

Ocean Explorers (St. Maarten, NA)
Sep 2001
Jul 2003
Jul 2006
A small dive operation, with nice people. LeRoy and Dominique are great. I like the small boat (which means fewer people). First trip: I didn't like only making one dive per day, but that was because tourism was really down (this was just after 9/11) and they couldn't justify doing multiple dives. Second trip: Kathleen's got her NAUI certification on this trip, so it will always be something special. It was fun actually diving "with" someone. The operation has gotten even better (hence the increase in rating) with the addition of some assistants. On our last trip, we basically had private charters for three out of four days.

Princess Divers (Koh Phi Phi, Thailand)
May-Jun 2004 Very nice people, and probably the most experienced dive shop on Koh Phi Phi. One of our days, we had the dive boat as a private charter, which is always nice. Our last day diving, their boat was in for repairs, so we had to load on a larger cattle boat. Even so, our group was still just 6 people, so it wasn't a real problem.

Extended Horizons (Lahaina, Maui)
Oct 2003 We had several problems of our own (poor choice of weights and a case of severe acute barotitis), but the people and the operation were excellent. The guides were very knowledgeable about the wildlife and knew just where to go to find white-tip reef sharks, spotted eagle rays, octopi, hammerheads and other interesting underwater fauna.

Trade Winds Diving Center (St. Maarten, NA)
Jul 1995 A small dive operation, with nice people. They took us out in rubber rafts, maybe 4 or 5 people per dive. I like the small boats, but I didn't like only making one dive per day. They also did a good job in the small wrecks we dove. (I don't think they're in business any more.)

Xanadu Dive Center (Freeport, Bahamas)
May 1994 Of all my diving trips, I did less diving on this one than on any other, probably because I was travelling with a friend. I picked Xanadu pretty much at random, and they were pretty good. Most likely, if I dove with them more, I'd rate them higher, but I can't really justify it in only two dives.

Parrot's Landing (Grand Cayman, BWI)
Sep 1998 This dive operation is the Grand Cayman dive tour operator for the Carnival cruise I took on board the M.S. Imagination. Things were a bit rushed, but the dive crew was very professional and we all had a great time. I'm sure I'll be back when I have more time. Again, it's hard to judge a dive operation on one day of diving.

Sand Dollar Sports (Cozumel, Mexico)
Sep 1998 This dive operation is the Cozumel dive tour operator for the Carnival cruise I took on board the M.S. Imagination. Things were a bit rushed, but the dive crew was very professional and we all had a great time. I'm sure I'll be back when I have more time. Again, it's hard to judge a dive operation on one day of diving.

Red Sea Sports Club (Eilat, Israel)
Mar 1994
Sep 1996
When I go visit my mother in Israel, I like to dive (so I won't have to spend as much time with family, I guess). So, I usually go down to Eilat in Southern Israel. The diving is pretty good, although I hear it's better further on down the Red Sea towards the Sinai Peninsula. They are very insistant on following their ways, especially in making you wear more weight than you need. They insist the Red Sea is that much more bouyant than anywhere else. Yes, you may need an extra pound or two, but not the 8 pounds they insisted on for my first dive. Also, all their dives are shore dives (except the Coral Island trip), and I much prefer boat dives. Finally, the dives were too short. I had between 1200 and 1500 pounds of air left on all my dives.

Lahaina Divers (Lahaina, Maui)
Dec 1994 A good "large" shop, but as I've said, I prefer smaller operations. Some might term their operation a "cattle boat", and it wouldn't be far off. However, they do go to some nice sites, especially the back side of the Molokini crater, a dive I highly recommend.

<Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the shop> (Oranjestad, Aruba)
Jul 2003 This dive operation is the Aruba dive tour operator for the Carnival cruise we took on board the M.S. Destiny. While these trips in general were OK, we were not at all impressed by the operation's lack of emphasis on safety. They were far more interested in funneling people through than in ensuring the equipment was in satisfactory working order. When I got a tank with a faulty O-ring, they tried to slough it off and chided me for making a big deal out of it. I was very tempted to just walk over to the divemaster's tank while he was talking with someone else and swap his (good) tank for my (bad) one, but I managed to get a new tank through diplomacy instead.

Dan's Dive Shop (Honolulu, Oahu)
Sep 1993 By far the worst dive "professionals" I've gone diving with. These are the only people on the list I would never dive with again. My biggest beef with them is that they have no respect for sea life. On my seconds dive with them, they not only encouraged the divers to harass the Hawaiian green sea turtle (which is illegal), they also participated in the ordeal. I swam as far away from their group as I could while still keeping within the realm of safety.

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This page was last modified on
Monday, 10 July 2006 at 20:27 PDT.