In November 2010 I visited St. Croix for a week of great diving and met Ron, a diver from the local area. As it turned out, Ron and I like to frequent the same restaurant and met by chance and talked about our St. Croix trip. I mentioned I wouldn't mind going back and he agreed. So we made our plansn to re-visit St. Croix.
The plans got a bit side tracked when Ron called and said he had located a trip to Grand Cayman. Ron had been there some years ago but not recently. I had never been to GC to dive. It was literally at a coin tossing stage between the two destinations but Grand Cayman won out simply because I had never been there.
We decided to go with Cobalt Coast Resort and Dive Tech. While these are two separate businesses, they work in a symbiotic relationship, complimenting each others service to the divers. If either made the diver's visit less appealing, the other would suffer. In this case, both Cobalt Coast Resort and Dive Tech made every effort to provide an enjoyable experience for their guests.
Our room at Cobalt Coast was a spacious suite with two TV's, a telephone, refrigerator, and sink. The sofa pulls out to a second bed if desired. The bathroom is spacious, clean, and everything was in good working order.
Cobalt Coast owner, Arie, a tall congenial fellow is very approachable and checks to make certain everything is OK, occasionally helping out with meal service. There were two topside activities I wanted to do while in Grand Cayman. (1) Visit Hell. Yes, for those who may not already know, there is Hell on Earth and for all those in my lifetime that have told me to go there, there wish has been granted. I will not belabor the myriad of double entendre's from my visit to Hell. (2) I wanted to go to downtown Georgetown and look around some of the shops.
I asked Arie about renting a scooter to look around the island. He told me it was not a very good idea. With the narrow roads scooters did not fair very well. He said he would be glad to take us to Hell the next day. Hell was only about a mile from our resort. A short visit, a couple of postcards with the appropriate postmark, and a T-shirt and we were headed back to the resort. Just a note, Hell did not come by that name as a result of some religious connection or belief or some super natural event. Rather, there are rock formations in very sharp pointed configurations. These were at one time coral. When they became a part of dry land, eventually, acidic rain eroded the coral to these sharp pointed spikes and apparently someone made the connection between the rocks and "this must be what hell looks like".
An alternate and fairly efficient way of getting into town is by "bus". When I say "bus" don't get the mental image of one of these large 45-50 passenger buses you see in most US cities. These are small vans carrying perhaps up to 8 passengers. The operate about every 10 minutes and drive prescribed routes. Cost is $2.50 (US) for the ride. The bus stops about a quarter of a mile from the resort so the walk is not unreasonable and since I only wanted to go into town that one time, it was much less money than renting a car. The bus drivers have unique and effective system of spacing themselves out. While on the way back from downtown, I saw our driver giving hand signals to the other buses. This let them know how many buses were ahead of them and how close they were to each other.
Before I went to Georgetown, I confirmed from Arie where the bus stop was. Arie told me he was going into town in about 45 minutes and was welcome to ride with him. Arie pointed out the buses (they are not marked with signage indicating they are a bus, just stickers on the front with the a "1" or a "2" and two letters indicating their route).
Arie pointed out where to pick the bus up from downtown and went on about his business.
DiveTech, the diver operation, actually has two shops. One at Cobalt Coast, where we stayed and another known as Lighthouse point which is several miles away. We were assured we were welcome to dive either location. To get to Lighthouse Point, all we had to do was let someone in the dive shop know, and they would shuttle us over there in a van.
All they asked was that we be out of the water in adequate time so they can get someone to take us back before the shop closes.
Our diveboat, the "Atatude" is a single engine diesel with a half covered area and half open area for the divers. Our package included a two tank morning boat dive. Each boat run had a "divemaster" or guide. You were welcome to stay with the guide or if you and your dive buddy wanted to venture off on your own, they were perfectly OK with that as long as you let them know either on the topside or signaling once on the bottom. I found it more enjoyable to follow the guide since they were much more familiar with where to locate the interesting marine life.
We arrived on Saturday and our first dive day was Sunday. Our first 5 days of diving feature practically flat seas. Although we were not far from land, the ocean was practically flat. Friday, our last dive day, the weather turned on us. The seas got quite choppy and it started pouring rain. Several on the boat decided to abort but I saw no need to stay ashore so the boat left with 6 divers. It eventually got to what I would estimate, 2-3 ft seas, but we were oblivious to the surface conditions once the dive had started. The only indication was the dim light from the cloudy skies.
Marine life featured several skates, a stingray, and several eagle rays, scorpion fish, lion fish, a slipper lobster, green morays and the usual tropical fish variety.
Two optional trips we declined were Stingray city and the wreck USS Kittywake. The wreck trip was an additional $100. While I enjoy a wreck dive, it was not worth the extra money to me. I don't know how much the stingray dive was.
Cobalt Coast features an on site restaurant and our trip package included the meals. Meals were plentiful and tasty, featuring grilled Mahi Mahi, steak (an additional $5 US if on the meal plan), salads, various chicken entree's. Our meal plan included an appetizer, entree, and desert from the menu. Alcohol is extra. There was also the house special, which may or may not be on the menu if we so chose. One night, my buddy tried the special which featured Lionfish. He said it was good and may try it again in the future.
While at Cobalt Coast, we met Frederick (sp), a Marine Biologist from Sweden. Frederick was a most interesting person and is as far ahead of me in underwater photography as the MVP of the winning team of last years SuperBowl is over the local "shirts vs no shirts" pickup game on the neighborhood vacant lot. Frederick's work, either photo's and/or articles have been published some 400 times. When he showed me some of his pictures on his D200 camera, I can see why.
Cobalt Coast offers free WiFi, if you want to bring your laptop or netbook computer along.
The only negatives I could find were the entry and exit from the shore diving. The dock stretched to the ocean probably 200+ ft and still only brought you to about 3ft of water. This of course prohibits a giant stride entry and forces you to use the fins off ladder for entry and exit. Not a big deal in my book.
All in all, I have to give both Cobalt Coast and Dive Tech two thumbs up (sorry I ran out of thumbs).