St. Lucia

So folks I’ve been on a family break to the Caribbean. As I’ve always done with family breaks, a lot of the details here will be left out I’m afraid. However, I think I’ve got enough for a post about it.

We stayed at the all-inclusive Smuggler’s Cove Resort. This place was pretty good but flet a little dated and very family oriented. It was also like stepping back to the UK for me. I heard so many British accents everywhere I went. The beach was a mixture of volcanic sand and the water was blue and clear. The all in food was good, but they have restaurants that you could book… these felt severely over used though, always booked. We also found that you had to get up early and queue for everything! Internet was poor to say the least.

However, it was great to see the family so all of the above hardly mattered. We had a great time! The resort grew on us! Bugs were no where near as bad as we expected and the breeze was well received at night. Something about the cloudy days hardly ruined them… we were outside in the heat and no risk of sunburn…

I got three great days of Diving in with Eastern Caribbean Diving, who were great to me the whole time I was with them. Really made me feel involved and very friendly, exactly what I wanted from a dive shop! Met great people on the boat and saw some good things, even if I did take a Fire Coral hit! Watch out for stuff underwater that looks like someone spraypainted a surface orange.

I also got some golf in and a Segway tour. Was a great time! Great to see the family. Here are the photos!

Roatan

I needed a holiday. I repeat, I needed a blinking holiday.

I got out of work on Wednesday before last (9th June 2010), went home, got my bags and headed to the airport for my 14 hours of flying from YVR –> SEA –> HOU –> RTB… the last one being Roatan!!!

So getting here mid day on Thursday 10th June, I basically decided I didn’t feel like my browse round until I find a spot I liked tactics that I normally use when I’m travelling (well, at least as I used last year). I just leapt in a taxi and told them to take me to Coconut Tree Divers, who I knew had diving, courses and accommodation.

So, within an hour I was checked into a private cabin. I went straight over and found they had a boat leaving  for a fun dive. Perfect. I was in the water about 2 hours after landing! Liked it so booked my Advanced Open Water to start on Saturday. Time to explore:

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That evening I did quite a big bar crawl, trying out everywhere I could see. I quickly determined that Sundowners was still the starting point of the night, but they start around 6pm, even earlier some nights. I’m used to much later starts in the big city. Wikitravel’s advice on the rest of the nightlife needs a bit of updating (note to self: update it), but the other highlight was Blue Marlin. It had been rebuilt last year and was a great place to chill out.

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Anyway, Friday, another fun dive and more exploring. I did break out the new camera to snap this new Facebook Profile Picture:

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And I did a decent walk half way to West Bay to get this:

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And I find I have a housemate:

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I suppose it’s time to let you know what a Tipico, a typical island lunch, is:

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Those are fried plantains in the middle, behind the fish. They are FANTASTIC!!!

Saturday I promptly start Advanced Open Water with my Deep Dive (a mixture of a Nitrogen Narcosis check and seeing what was what 30m/100ft down) round the wreck of the El Aguila, a cargo ship sunk in 1995 by Anthony’s Key Resort to provide all the divers with somewhere to go. It’s great! Blinking huge underwater let me tell you.

Navigation Dive, mostly what it sounds like, navigating using a compass underwater and doing distance estimation by way of counting fin kicks. Great fun.

The Sunday after was for 2 of our 3 selected speciality dives. Firstly was Drift Diving, an easy form of diving that I find difficult since I keep bumping into my buddy (sorry Jen). We headed down a reef called Tabyanas, using the current for help… this of course means that it moves you where it wants to and if you don’t keep your eye on where your going (which I did not) you will find yourself colliding with something. Still, non the less, good times.

The second was Peak Performance Buoyancy. Many challenges here, but the main one was swim through a hula hoop under water… more difficult than it sounds!

Did some exploring all the way to West Bay this time, took these on the way back.

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And there is nothing like a watertaxi picking you up to make the ride home easier:

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Monday was half spent doing the Emergency First Responder course which was a pre-requisite of the 2nd half of the day, the Rescue Diver course. This course is basically to equip you to handle the vast majority of diving accidents. You handle all of panicking divers, tired divers, unconscious divers, injured divers and the most unfortunate, heart attacks underwater! The whole thing takes 4 days of classroom and scenarios.

One skill worth mentioning is bringing an unconscious diver at the bottom to the surface. In that situation you establish they are are unresponsive (wave your hand in front of them and shake them), then sort of straddle their tank with your knees. Holding their regulator in place and opening their airway, you gently inflate their BCD in a controlled manner, deflating it to ensure it ascends both of you in a controlled manner. You also have to deflate your own (only one BCD does the work). Once at the surface, inflate both BCDs, dump both sets of weights and start rescue breaths as you hold the airway and tow them to the boat. Once on the boat, start CPR.

That whole sequence, plus a panicked and tired diver, plus a search is the final exam. I had to do all of that. Messed up the surface part of the unconscious diver so redid it much better. That, and a multiple choice exam, and your certified. To quote Helen, back in Ko Tao, I should be OK now to dive, with a buddy, separately from the group if I wish!

I’ve written all that, forgetting that I did my first Night Dive as well (as the certification dive for Advanced Open Water):

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The above was taken by a travel buddy I made at Sundowners. Let me tell you, diving at night is GREAT! Recommended for all at least once in your life. Lobsters come out from under rocks, more chance of seeing an Octopus and at one point you press your light into your chest, so you can see the photo luminescent plankton!

Ok, more photos time:

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Had to include one of the dive boat, Bottom Time!

The last couple of days were doing the more advanced dives in the morning that took me down to 30m/100ft. On Friday, I did the wreck again and this time did a load of swimthroughs. Not full wreck penetration but close to it. The PPB course paid off. We then visited quite a good underwater cave. The second dive was rather special, being the last, but also since we saw a turtle, quite a few spider crabs and our Instructor had a damn good go at killing a Lion Fish. 24 hours of decompression time later, I’m on the plane.

Anyway, here are a few tips for anyone going:

  • Dive Shop: Coconut Tree Divers
  • Stay: Coconut Tree Cabins (but I didn’t really look round anywhere else). $40/night for a private air-conditioned private cabin that would sleep 2.
  • Breakfast: Cindy’s Place (next to Coconut Tree Divers) for a Baleana
  • Lunch: Sundowners  for a Nacho Jalapeño Wrap, Noodle Shack for noodles
  • Dinner: Cannibal Cafe for Burritos, Eagle Rays  for pretty much anything, or try the lunch tips above
  • Drink: Sundowners (starting out), The Blue Marlin (moving on), Nova Bar (last stop)
  • Dive Gear: TGI Diving – sells Mares gear at a good price, bought a Rashy, Pure Vision Mask and a Snorkle from there
  • General Stuff: The little shop next to Coconut Tree Divers (but most places are good).
  • Explore: Get a moped. I wish I had
  • Internet: There is an internet cafe next to Noodle Shack, but it’s not cheap. To be honest, go without it!
  • Remember to bring: Suncream, Insect Repelent, Anti Malarials (I was on Malarone this time and did not have side effects), some sort of hat or bandana that you can wear in the water if you want to keep the sun off your head. DAN Diving Insurance isn’t a bad idea in addition to normal travel insurance, and it’s a year long policy.

Well, I’m writing this in the airport on the way back to Houston and then Vancouver. Will get back at 23:45, have to get a new work permit when I arrive as well!

One thing I regret is not getting out of the West End that much. I strongly recommend taking the time to explore or whatever you please, but don’t get West End/Diving blinkers like I did. I’m sure there was an Island Tours place but I didn’t find it.

A few more photos:

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That cat really liked sleeping on my drying board shorts or my rashy!

Roatan booked!

I’ve booked myself the flights to Roatan! I’m leaving YVR at 9pm for Seattle, then on to Houstan, before finally getting to Roatan for 10 days! Leaving on 9th June 2010!

However, both laptops have now decided to give up. Firstly the Dell broke AGAIN! In conversations with them about that (more soon no doubt)… but the backup Samsung N220 I purchased also gave out! Thankfully they have an international warranty that will sort that out, calling on Monday.

I’m also pleased to say I have my Panasonic DMC-TS2 Camera in hand and was trying it out yesterday! Will post some photos later… certainly from Roatan if not before.

EDIT: Photos, uploaded full size: http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/hpkarmitage/Vancouver15thMay2010