Report and photography by Carol Cotton
DEMA 2008 was held October 22-25 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas. This was the 32nd gathering of the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association, and a massive one at that, with over 600 exhibitors filling the South Hall of the giant Las Vegas Convention Center (See our full report on DEMA 2008).
In this section I am reporting about dive destinations around the world that were represented at DEMA 2008. I had the opportunity to speak with many of the representatives in the dive travel arena and I am happy to say there are a LOT of fabulous places to go diving! In the past, many of these destinations have been difficult, if not impossible, to get to. But thanks to modern-day technologies, more flights, and better boats, these dream destinations are often no more than a day's travel away.
The South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center was a great location for this event. The floor plan was well thought out and everyone did a great job personalizing their booths. Dive travel was laid out neatly by location. Each of the major areas had its own aisle ... Indonesia, Micronesia, Mexico, Cayman Islands, Bonaire, Bay Islands, Hawaii, Bahamas and more. With well over 500 travel destinations and planning companies represented, there was no way I could talk to every one of them. So, here are the highlights of what I saw:
Aggressor Fleet (www.aggressor.com) "Exploring the World Since 1984" In January 1998 I first stepped aboard an Aggressor Fleet boat in Galapagos. I was wowed then and I've never stopped being impressed by their boats or their service. The Aggressor Fleet has dive yachts in 11 of the World's most desirable dive destinations. I'm almost certain their presence in these locations has something to do with that! Serving divers in locations such as Belize, Caymans, Turks & Caicos, and Utila in the Caribbean, and Cocos Island, 2 yachts in Galapagos, 2 yachts in Fiji, Kona Hawaii, Maldives, North Sulawesi, and Palau.
Explorer Ventures (www.exploreradventures.com) Liveaboard diving itineraries throughout Australia, Bahamas, the Caribbean, and the Galapagos. Unique diving experiences, exceptional value. I was on the Caribbean Explorer II a few years ago and I cannot wait to go back!
Peter Hughes (www.peterhughes.com) I talked with Sarah Moody for a few minutes, but they were so busy and we had so much to see! Sarah offered me a USB drive with an entire presentation on their boats and services. Thank you, Sarah. The Peter Hughes Fleet has a number of Liveaboards in desirable destinations including the Island Dancer II of Fiji, Komodo Dancer of Bali, Ocean Dancer of Maldives, Paradise Dancer or Raja Ampat, Sky Dancer of Galapagos, Sun Dancer II or Belize, Star Dancer of Papua New Guinea, and Wind Dancer of Grenada.
Solmar V - Jose Luis Sanchez (www.solmarv.com) I have been on this boat twice ... Once to the Sea of Cortez and once to Socorro. The Solmar V is one of my favorite Liveaboards and I hope to go back sometime soon! This is an awesome boat with just about anything you could wish for onboard ... Private staterooms with private baths, large flat screen televisions in the salon, tons of space on the dive deck, plenty of table space for cameras and video equipment, incredible food, a friendly experienced crew, and amazing diving. It's my understanding that the Solmar V has added Nitrox, Satellite phone, email and pillow top mattresses since I was there last!
Dive Travel Companies
Caribbean Dive Tours - Ron Grzelka (cdtusa.com) I have personally known Ron Grzelka, owner of Caribbean Dive Tours since 1995 when he joined our group for an outing on Bonaire. His travel agents run a top-notch company and will do their best to help you with all your travel needs including accommodations, diving, rental cars, trip insurance and more. CDT specializes in Caribbean travel, but it doesn't stop there. They can also help you book trips on Liveaboards around the world. CDT's customer service doesn't end with the sale. If you have problems with cancelled or delayed flights they will do all they can to get you to your destination.
Caradonna Dive Adventures & Trips-N-Tour (www.caradonna.com & www.trip-n-tour.com) I stopped by their booth and picked up a catalog of what they have to offer. They offer dive packages to Aruba, Australia, Baja, Bahamas, Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire, BVI, Caymans, Costa Rica, Cozumel, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Galapagos, Granada, Hawaii, Honduras, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Red Sea, Riviera Maya, Saba, Solomons, South Africa, St Eustatius, St Kitts, St Lucia, St Vincent, Tahiti, Thailand, Tobago, Tonga, Turks & Caicos, USVI, and Vanatu. Whew!
Divi Resorts - (www.diviresorts.com) Bright tropical colors filled the booth of Divi Resorts. Kind of made me want to stop and book a trip right there and then! They offer all-inclusive packages to their own resorts on Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire, St. Croix, and St. Maarten. Spend your days scuba diving, playing golf, relaxing on the beach.
Dive Locations, Resorts, and Shops
Dutch Antillean Islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao
- Divi Aruba Resorts (www.diviresorts.com)
- SeAruba Dutch Caribbean (www.se-aruba.com)
- Plaza Resort Bonaire (www.plazaresortbonaire.com
- Divi Flamingo (www.diviresorts.com)
- Habitat Curacao (www.habitatcuracaoresort.com)
- Lions Dive & Beach Resort Curacao (/www.lions dive.com)
One of the wonderful things about the Bay Islands is that all the resorts seem to not only advertise what they have to offer, but what the Islands have to offer, as well. Dolphin encounters, shark dives, zip lines, iguana farms, and shopping to name a few.
- 78 - 84 degree water with up to 100+ ft. visibility is typical. Roatan has over 800 species of fish, including whale sharks, wild dolphin, and manta rays. Diving on the south side of the island is known for sheer drop-offs for great wall diving while the north side has more of a gradual slope for shallower dives with lots of corals.
- CoCo View - Liz Sanders (www.roatan.com) I've been to CoCo View two times and have a trip booked for December. You might get the idea I like the place. CCV is for hard-core divers. With 4 boat dives per day, 2 beautiful walls close enough to shore dive, plus a shipwreck in between, how could you not love this place! CCV has 24 air-conditioned guest rooms with private baths, a clubhouse, bar, 5 great dive boats, and a well supplied dive shop all on a private peninsula.
- Turquoise Bay Resort & Subway Water Sports - (www.turquoisebayresort.com & www.subwaysports.com)
Meeting Patrick Zingg at DEMA was the first exposure I've had of Turquoise Bay Resort and Subway Water Sports. After looking at their booth and looking over their material I'm impressed! The resort is on the north side of Roatan and is protected by a small peninsula and a mangrove island that lies just offshore.
- Bay Islands Beach Resort (www.bibr.com) "Looks like a resort ... Feels like Home" This resort sits on 44 acres on the south side of Roatan. The resort consists 15 air-conditioned guest rooms with private baths, 4 dive boats designed for 8 - 12 divers, three meals per day, a beautiful beach with a 14 acre Natural Aquarium just offshore, and more. They offer complete packages for divers and their non-diving companions. BIBR will arrange for off-site activities on the island, as well.
- A smaller Bay Island to the west of Roatan known for encounters with whale sharks, wild dolphins, pilot whales, and occasional sightings of orcas and sperm whales.
- Utila Lodge Resort (www.utilalodge.com)
"Paradise as it was Intended" ULR is a small resort with only 8 guest rooms that have recently been remodeled. Each room has a private balcony with a hammock and great for viewing sunsets over the harbor. The Sea Sprite, a 41 foot dive boat, takes divers out for 3 dives per day. In addition to activities at the resort, there's plenty to do on the island and around town. ULR is associated with the Shark Research Institute and the staff helps with tagging whale sharks.
- Stuart Coves (www.Stuartcove.com) Located on Nassau, Stuart Cove has been there since 1978 running dive trips to some of the best dive sites in the Bahamas. Stuart Cove's has 3 great boats for scuba diving, snorkeling, or ride a SUB.
- Riding Rock Resort & Marina (riding rock.com) Situated on San Salvador, Bahamas, Riding Rock Resort has 42 Air-conditioned rooms that stretch along the ocean, ocean-side dining room & bar, a fresh water pool, and gift shop. Explore some of the 30 miles of walls, see schooling hammerheads, explore the beaches, ruins, lighthouse, or just relax on the beach or by the pool.
- UNEXSO-Underwater Explorers Society (www.unexso.com) My first encounter with UNEXSO was in May 1995. Our group participated in a shark dive through them and it was a wonderful experience. Not only do they offer daily shark dives, but they also offer dolphin experiences as well as daily boat dives.
- Turneffe Flats (www.tflats.com) I have friends who go to Turneffe Flats several times each year and they simply love it! She dives. He fishes. They relax! Belize possesses three of the four Atolls in the Caribbean. Turneffe Atoll is a little over an hour's boat ride from the mainland. Flying to Belize City from the US is relatively easy, as there are several direct flights offered. The resort is made up of several guest rooms and two villas, all of which are air-conditioned. Three delicious meals per day are included in the package.
British Columbia, Canada
- The booth for the Dive Industry Association of British Columbia was watched over by two delightful women who were happy to share chocolate with us. Not just any chocolate, but a cream filled chocolate square that's popular on Vancouver Island. They had brochures and business materials for all the following dive operators.
- Abyssal Dive Charters & Lodge (abyssal.com)
- Alpha Dive Services (www.divepowellriver.com)
- Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia (www.artificialreef.bc.ca)
- Dive & Sea (www.diveandsea.com)
- Emerald Dive Charters (www.emeralddivecharters.ca)
- Ocean Explorers Diving (www.oceanexplorersdiving.com)
- Pacific Pro Dive (www.diveshark.com)
(www.divecayman.ky) "Dive Cayman 365 different ways" Apparently there are now 365 dive sites around the Cayman Islands. Just imagine, you could go there for 3 months, dive 4 times per day never repeat a dive! Below are a few of the booths I visited.
Grand Cayman - The largest of the three islands.
- Lobster Pot Dive Center (www.lobsterpotdivecenter.com) The guys at the booth were truly a lot o fun. They made quite an impression on me ... So much so that I'll go see them when I go back to Grand Cayman. Located on the West end of Grand Cayman, the Lobster Pot offers small, un-crowded dive boats for spectacular diving on the West, South and North walls.
Cayman Brac - The larger of the two small sister islands, called Cayman Brac because of the dramatic bluffs on the island.
- Brac Reef Beach Resort (www.bracreef.com) I've been there twice, the diving is spectacular, and will definitely go back again!
Little Cayman - The smallest and most remote of the Cayman Islands.
Conch Club (www.conchclub.com)
- Little Cayman Beach Resort (www.littlecayman.com) A personal favorite. I've been there and I will go back!
- The Club At Little Cayman (www.theclubatlittlecayman.com)
- Bill Beard Costa Rica (www.billbeardcostarica.com) "When is the best time to come to Costa Rica? Whenever you can get here." That's what Robbie says on Bill Beard's intro DVD and I believe him! I am totally blown away at what all they pack into an eight day seven night trip! Dolphins, seahorses, king angels, spotted eagle rays, cow-nosed rays ... even humpback whales! You can go scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, whitewater rafting, tubing, canopy touring on zip lines, take a river tour, visit a butterfly habitat and a whole lot more.
Mexico has so much to offer -- From Cancun and Cozumel to Cenote and Cave diving in Akumal & Tulum to diving in the Sea of Cortez to Socorro and San Benedicto. Not only is there a lot of great diving in Mexico, but there's tons of sightseeing, partying and relaxing. Below are some of the businesses that were represented.
- (www.Islacozumel.com.mx) On the island of Cozumel there's a plethora of hotels and resorts to choose from. The diving is mostly drift diving and is great for scuba divers of all skill levels.
- Dive Paradise - Renee Applegate (www.diveparadise.com) I've been diving with them before and will go again!
- Hotel Cozumel & Resort (www.hotelcozumel.com.mx)
- The Wonders of The Island (www.Cozumelparks.com)
- Ultimate Diver Challenge (www.ultimatediverchallemge.com)
Yap - Known for frequent sightings of giant manta rays. Yap is surrounded by manta cleaning stations, and it's rare to make a dive there and not see mantas. You will likely see sharks, lionfish, pipefish, ocean triggerfish, mandarin fish, and crocodile fish, as well.
- Manta Ray Bay (www.mantaray.com) I first met Bill Acker when I was a guest at Manta Ray Bay Resort in February 1996. I was impressed with their resort then and was equally impressed when I returned several years later. The resort is neat and clean and beautifully decorated with themed guest quarters. The restaurant and bar are aboard a 100 year old Indonesian schooner, the Mnuw, and the diving cannot be beat. Everything is convenient and well maintained. Eight dive boats accompany a dive shop "for divers built by divers." The resort even has its very own microbrewery!
Palau - Most definitely one of the most incredible places I've ever been. Made up of 1000 islands, just getting to the dive sites is totally breathtaking! Crystal clear, warm water, a plethura of fishes, sharks, giant manta rays, shipwrecks, caves ... Just about any kind of diving for any level of diver. Even though it's a long journey getting there, it's well worth the effort.
- Palau Pacific Resort - (palauppr.com) One of the most beautiful tropical resorts I've even seen. I cannot wait to go back there someday!
- NECO Marine Corp (www.necomarine.com) Been diving with them and will go back!
St Eustatius (a/k/a Statia)
Saba & St Kitts - It's been several years since I've been to these islands, but I think of returning there often. Some of the most memorable diving I've ever done in the Eastern Caribbean was during that trip. Sea mounts, huge anchors, marine life galore, all surrounding these beautiful and historic islands.
- The Old Gin House - (www.oldginhouse.com) I talked with Glenn Faires about the Old Gin House and Golden Rock Dive Center at DEMA. The Old Gin House go it's name from it's previous occupation ... Ginning cotton! The resort offers 2 suites and 16 air-conditioned rooms with beautiful views, large walk-in showers, TV, and many other modern-day amenities. Also on the property are 2 restaurants, and fresh water pool, and the Golden Rock Dive Center.
- Golden Rock Dive Center - Glenn Faires (www.goldenrockdive.com) St Eustatius has it's own Marine Park and you're required to go with a guide if you're a nonresident. There's a nominal fee and the pass is good for a year. This is not unlike most other marine parks I've been to. Golden Rock Dive Center is a PADi facility with 2 great dive boats and they do have nitrox. They also offer a full line of underwater photographic equipment, a dive boutique, and overnight equipment storage.
- Sea Saba (www.seasaba.com)
Turks & Caicos
- Dive Provo (www.diveprovo.com) I talked to Alan Jardine for quite a while about what Turks and Caicos has to offer since I'd love to go there sometime. The packet he gave me has a lot of helpful information about resorts, diving there, and what to expect. The place looks amazing!
We have a lot of great diving in our own back yard. From Hawaii to the coast of California to the Florida Keys and everywhere in between.
- Shark Diving International (www.seesharks.com) - CEO Lawrence Groth told us all about the shark diving trips and encounters they offer all over the world, both with surface cages, deep cages, and swimming. Interesting man, interesting story.
Florida - Florida has literally thousands of dive sites to offer from the freshwater springs of North Central Florida to ocean diving in the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean.
- Crystal River Best Western - (www.crystalriverresort.com) I was happy to see a familiar face as I turned the corner and saw the booth for the Crystal River Best Western. Frances helped me with group reservations for well over 10 years when I lived in Tennessee and ran annual trips to Crystal River to snorkel with manatees. The resort sits conveniently on the main highway, while also on the banks of a large bay in Crystal River. CRBW has its own dive shop, boat launch, swimming pool, hottub, tiki bar, and recently renovated rooms. CRBW is within walking distance of several great restaurants and plenty of shopping.
- Florida Keys - Carolina Bustamante (www.newmanpr.com)
- Captain Slate's Atlantis Dive Center (www.captainslate.com) Captain Slate has 4 custom-built V-hull boats built specifically for diving. There are many great reefs and wrecks in the area of Key Largo. Walls, reefs, wrecks, even underwater weddings! Atlantic Dive Center is an internationally recognized training facility for PADI, NAUI, YMCA, SSI and CMAS certifications.
- Blue Iguana Charters (blueiguanacharters.com) Blue Iguana Charters is a live aboard located on Key Largo. They offer dive charters of all types from diving the reefs of the Keys to dolphin encounters, to shipwrecks, to the Dry Tortugas and even the Bahamas. This all takes place aboard their 65' motor-yacht with 4 crew members and up to 12 guests. Blue Iguana also offers courses in Open Water, Advanced, Specialties, Rescue, Dive Master and ITC.
Hawaii - Hawaiian Islands Recreational Scuba Association (www.hirsa.net) put together a bag full of brochures, stickers, etc. for the attendees of DEMA. The good people at Bottom Time Hawaii and
AND MORE ...
Waikiki Diving were handing them out. Below is the information provided.
- Botton Time Hawaii (http://www.bottomtimehawaii.com) Owned and operated by Captain Jeff, Bottom Time Hawaii has a lot to offer -- from 2 tank AM or PM dives to wreck diving to whale watching to snorkel tours to the world famous Kona Manta Night Dives.
- Waikiki Diving - Adam Rose (www.Waikikidiving.com) Adam was at DEMA and I got to talk with him for a few minutes. Their dive boat holds up to 10 divers, offers morning and afternoon dives, is conveniently located and they offer PADI certification classes.
- Hawaiian Rafting Adventures (www.Hawaiian rafting.com)
- Jack's Diving Locker (www.jacksdivinglocker.com)
- Kona Honu Divers (www.konahonudivers.com)
- Kona Village (www.kona village.com)
- Lahaina Divers (www.lahainadivers.com)
- Maui Diamond Sea Sports (www.mauiscubatours.com)
- Maui Dreams Dive Co (www.mauidreamsdiveco.com)
- North Shore Explorers (www.NorthShoreExplorers.com)
- Scuba Shack Maui (www.scubashack.com)
- Seasport Divers (www.seasportdivers.com) I went diving with these folks back in 2002 ... Nice operation!
Colombia - (www.visitColombia.com)
North Sulawesi - Safari Tours & Travel (www.Manadosafaris.com)
Panama - Inula (www.inula-diving.com) A beautiful catamaran taking up to 8 divers to Malpelo and
Philipines - Dive Philipines (www.experiencephilipines.ph)
Report and pictures by Carol