TRIP REPORT: December 27, 2008 to January 4, 2009

San Salvador, Columbus Island – Club Med

Club Med boasts a dedicated dive operation at their San Salvador Columbus Island resort. Bring all your own gear or rent everything from them. I prefer to bring my own set up. You never know what has gone on in the house 5mm wet suits and whose mouth has wrapped around the regulators in the dive shop. The scuba shack has a place to store your gear once there but good luck finding anyone to help you transport your gear from your room to the scuba shack. By the way the property is large and it was a fifteen-minute walk from our room to the scuba area. Carrying my video system back and forth was a strain even for someone in reasonable shape. After a couple of trips I used my dive bag on wheels to transport the camera back and forth. The staff was friendly enough but clearly not of the helpful mode in moving gear from the scuba shack to the boat and back or resetting BCs and regulators on fresh tanks between dives. One also has to break down and carry gear back and forth between AM and PM dives and certainly each day. If you are a diver that needs more help I would select another resort.

My trip was over the Christmas week and New Year so it was winter in the Bahamas. The air temperature was 78 to 80 degrees in the day and 70 at night. On some days the winds kicked up and clouds covered the skies. A windbreaker was a must have both at the resort and on the boat between or after dives.

Now to the diving… The water is the beautiful Caribbean blue of different shades depending upon the depth of the water. It looked very inviting. Water temperatures however in the winter are chilly at around 75 to 77 degrees maximum. A 5mm suit and a hooded vest did the trick. Any less coverage and I think one wound regret it after a day or two. Visibility was around 100 feet except on the stormy days when it drops to 70 feet or so. As a heads up, they do not allow the use of gloves at all to preserve the reefs. It was a look but do not touch policy.

Buddy diving was one option. The dive master gives a briefing and you and your buddy take care of the rest. The other option is to pay a little more an have a dive master led dive across the reef. The staff asked that we kept our dives to 45 minutes and that meant at 41 minutes to be at the safety stop. They enforced a 45-minute surface interval while changing dive sites during the morning dive.

The dive sites are all walls with the top of the wall and reef at 45 to 50 feet. The bottom of the walls is too deep for recreational diving. The walls have hard corals in good shape. One can find on most dives, large barrel sponges, elephant ear sponges, brain coral, and large tube like coals. On the reefs there are many small colorful reef fish but very few mid to larger size fish. You have to wonder what happened to them. Lionfish not endemic to the Caribbean are on every dive site. Were they eating the fish on the reef? A cruising Reef Shark or two was seen on just about each dive along with an occasional Hammerhead. I saw one swimming away but another diver/ photographer scored a nice image of a good size Hammer Head on one of the dives. Barracudu some quite large and other small visited us on each dive. Other animals commonly seen include turtles, stingrays in the sand, a sprinkling of Flamengo Tongues and rarer Fingerprint Tongues on the corals, Angel Fish, friendly Groupers as well as an occasionally crab or lobster on the reef. Multiple cleaning stations are set up across the tops of the reefs but with small fish cleaning other relatively small fish. An Octopus was color shifting and moving across the reef on the night dive, which they do once a week on Sundays.

My final analysis is this. Club Med is a wonderful place to vacation with beautify beaches, plenty of activities at all times of the day and night, a good place to go with families and food quality and quantity that is hard to beat anywhere. The whole setting is conducive to meeting others with group table sittings and the common sports on interest such as tennis, sailing, wind surfing, archery, pool aerobics, and nightly shows. However, for the best diving and photography opportunities go west to the South Pacific.