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Diving with…George Gross, Valentines Dive Center, Eleuthera, Bahamas

Caribbean DTA Team

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In this ongoing series, we speak to the people who run dive centres, resorts and liveaboards from around the world about their businesses and the diving they have to offer…


What is your name?

George Gross

What is the name of your business?

Valentine’s Dive Center

What is your role within the business?

Owner

How long has the business operated for?

Over 25 years

How long have you dived for, and what qualification are you?

I have been diving since 1975, I am a PADI Dive Master

What is your favorite type of diving?

Big animal action diving (sharks, Eagle Rays, Manta Rays, seals, whales)

If you could tell people one thing about your business (or maybe more!) to make them want to visit you what would it be?

Top shelf service on a great island with complementary professional underwater images provided to customers of all our dive and snorkeling trips.

What is your favorite dive in your location and why?

Current Cut is a high speed drift dive with high probability of big animal action. We have seen sharks, squadrons of Eagle Rays, turtles and more…

What types of diving are available in your location?

We have wreck dives, shallow and deep reef dives and drift dives.

What do you find most rewarding about your current role?

I get to dive daily with visiting clients and provide them with free underwater images that will keep their memories of diving with us alive.

What is your favorite underwater creature?

Sharks!

Are there any exciting changes / developments coming up in the near future?

Yes! We are working with the Perry Institute of The Bahamas and Florida to set up coral nurseries.

As a center what is the biggest problem you face at the moment?

We see the potential resources of our seas being depleted due to the high demand from customers for seafood.

Is your center involved in any environmental work?

Yes, as I mentioned above we are involved in an exciting project to help our coral reefs by setting up a coral nursery.

How do you see the SCUBA / Freediving / snorkeling industry overall? What changes would you make?

I would love to see the government policing the marine resources here in The Bahamas. We need Marine Protected Areas, limits on catch sizes and more protection of vulnerable species.

What would you say to our visitors to promote the diving you have to offer?

We specialize in divers just starting out, as well as those on vacation in The Bahamas.

Where can our visitors find out more about your business?

Website: www.valentinesdive.com

Email: dive@valentinesdive.com

Phone: 242-333-2080

Facebook: @Valentines.Dive.Center

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News

Jeff chats to… Dr Katey Lesneski from Coral Vita, winners of the Earthshot Prize (Watch Video)

Jeff Goodman

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In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Dr. Katey Lesneski, Director of Restoration Science at Coral Vita, about the future of coral reefs.

Coral Vita are the winners of the £1million Revive Our Oceans Earthshot Prize. You can read our story on this HERE.

While often mistaken as being from lower latitudes, Katey is a true New England native at heart. Escaping the winter at opportune times, Katey has volunteered, studied, and worked in Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos, Belize, and the Florida Keys. Her time in these communities before college, studying abroad while at Brown, and during her PhD at Boston University led her to appreciate the importance of community involvement, which she gained a deeper understanding of as a 2018 Switzer Environmental Fellow. Katey has enjoyed weaving her knowledge of coral reef conservation and management into lesson plans for when she was a middle school science teacher, a graduate Teaching Fellow, and a divemaster and assistant scuba instructor.

Katey currently works as the Director of Restoration Science at Coral Vita, where she applies her background of marine ecology and genetics to reef restoration projects. Now that she is done with her PhD she is rediscovering “free” time, and enjoys freshwater fish husbandry, plant cultivation, reading sci-fi novels, and just about any watersport. She lives with her adopted potcake pup Dogtor Pepí in Freeport, Grand Bahama.

Find out more about the work of Coral Vita at www.coralvita.co


Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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Blogs

The Scuba Genies head to Bonaire! Part 2 of 2

The Scuba Genies

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In the second of this two-part blog, The Scuba Genies share their trip report from the Come Dive with Us hosted trip to Bonaire in September 2021. Missed Part One? Read it here!

There is another dive we just must share with you and one that we can confidently call a ‘Dive of a Lifetime’. There were 12 of us in our group, and collectively we have logged in excess of 8000 dives in some very special places around the world. And every one of us was totally blown away by this dive! A fellow diver, by way of the Girls that Scuba FB group mentioned that if the timing was right, an ostracod dive was one not to miss. A link to an online article noted that 2 to 5 days after a full moon and 45 minutes after sunset, was the best time to observe the mating ritual of these tiny creatures. And only if they have not been exposed to light of any kind. That meant no streetlights and no torches. NO TORCHES!

We lucked out and were in Bonaire during a full moon and planned our Ostracod dive carefully. One the fifth night after the full moon we headed south to Red Beryl, a site we had previously been to and knew the terrain. We were in awe of the soft coral forest at the site, and this was the perfect environment for the ostracods. As the ‘show’ only lasts about 20 minutes, we entered the water while it was still light and left a beacon on the shore to help guide us after the dive. We gently finned out over the sand and hovered above the soft coral at around 8 metres as the dark crept in. Little sparks of light started to appear in ones and twos, and then just as we had hoped, chains of these tiny creature were all around us, in hundreds and then thousands! Everywhere you looked, the ostracods were rising to the surface, like underwater fireflies linked together flashing their bioluminescence one after the other, giving us nature’s most amazing firework show! The only way I can explain it is seeing thousands of Tinkerbells all at once! 20 minutes later, it was all over so we turned on our torches and headed slowly back to the shallows, happy to find a sleeping turtle, scorpion fish, more octopus and lots of little creatures.

As our holiday inevitably came to an end, we chose a site within minutes of Buddy’s called The Invisibles. A highly recommended dive site, we parked up alongside the beach, kitted up and walked down the rock beach and into the water. 95 minutes later, we walked back up the beach with memories of green turtles feeding, free-swimming moray, immense sponges and a plethora of anemones with their tenant critters – shrimp, crabs, and all things fascinating. And back in the sandy shallows we didn’t know where to look! A golden spotted snake eel, juvenile angel fish and a box crab that scuttled across the seabed before vanishing into the sand in a finger-click.

In summary, the diving here was very special – it truly lives up to its reputation of being one of the best destinations to visit, and in fact, over-delivered when it came to our expectations from the Caribbean. To mix it up, in addition to shore diving we also scheduled 4 days of boat diving right from the dock at Buddy’s. We were able to explore all around Klein Bonaire and reach some of the more difficult shore-entry sites including Karpata and 1,000 Steps. We would recommend this highly if only to get away from a daily dose of sand in your boots!

Buddy’s is a full-service dive operation, offering quality accommodation, good food, and the dive centre is as slick an operation as we have ever seen or experienced. The drive-thru tank station is genius for shore diving, the house reef is easily accessed, and the boat diving from the dock on one of their 5 purpose-built dive boats is organised perfectly. Catering for newbies all the way through to technical and rebreather divers, Buddy’s delivers it all, and very well. The staff are fun, highly professional, and the whole set-up is geared to making a dive trip work without any fuss. Even the shop is very well stocked with kit, spares, forgotten stuff and replacements for broken things!

Importantly, Buddy’s is also a supporter and enforcer of the Marine Park protection rules – the whole of the island is surrounded by a protected marine reserve, so no touching, no gloves, no pointy-sticks. Turtle nesting and coral regeneration programmes are evident, and given the fantastic health of the reefs, the protection initiatives and regulations work.

Would we go back? Without any hesitation, and repeatedly!

Bonaire delivered the goods. Great diving, great accommodation and freedom to dive wherever and whenever you want – especially with the tanks on the house reef available 24/7. A perfect destination for dive clubs and groups as the 3–bedroom apartments really work.

Bonaire is exceptional value for money. There are very few places on this planet where you can dive so much for so little in a great marine environment.

Key Facts:

  • Getting there: Flights with KLM to Bonaire depart from any major UK airport via Amsterdam. From London Heathrow it was a 12-hour total flight time. An extra 23kg bag also costs less than £90 return if booked in advance.
  • Air temperature: Tropical – average daily temperature throughout the year is 31’, reasonable rainfall (passes quickly) and the sea breezes are most welcome!
  • Water temperature: 28-30°C. A 1-3mm full suit is recommended to protect from scratches and stings and to keep the sand out.
  • Visa requirement: No tourist visa was required, but under COVID there are protocols in place. See https://www.bonairecrisis.com/en/travel-to-bonaire/ for the current requirements.
  • Currency: US Dollar with ATMs easily found, and all major credit cards are accepted.
  • Electricity: 120V with American 3- and 2-pin plugs. Our US/UK converters worked without issue

Accommodation: You mention Bonaire and Buddy Dive Resort is the first place people mention. Only 10 minutes from the airport makes for a super simple transfer. Multiple room types, all with kitted out kitchens and air-conditioned bedrooms. Two pools, two restaurants, full-service dive shop and staff always around to answer questions or lend a hand.

Diving: With both world class shore and boat diving available, warm and clear water, abundant marine life, coral and sponges like you’ve never seen, what more could you ask for?

Price Guide: Expect from £1500 per person based on two sharing for 7 nights with bed and breakfast. Unlimited shore and house reef diving, Nitrox and car rental all included. Return flights and transfers also included.

Additional costs:

  • STINAPA Marine Park passes: $45 per calendar year. We purchased ours online prior to departure and carried a copy in the vehicle when shore diving.
  • Buddy Dive Vehicle Insurance: $19 per day of vehicle rental for one named driver for the duration of your stay. For an extra $5 you can name another driver for a day. This was added to the room bill, and we split the cost with the rest of our apartment.

Our Advice: Stay longer…. 10 days would be the perfect amount of time in our opinion to get the most out of the shore and boat diving. And with numerous flights during the week to choose from, any duration can easily be arranged.


Find out more about the worldwide dive itineraries that The Scuba Place offers at www.thescubaplace.co.uk.

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