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June 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 40, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Let Someone Else Plan Your Dive Trip for You

from the June, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Our Cozumel reviewer is forthright about his highs and lows of booking travel through his dive shop. There are plenty of benefits of using a dive shop to book your next dive trip overseas. You don't have to use the one down the road -- many dive shops welcome divers from anywhere to sign up.

Ken Kurtis, owner of Reef Seekers in Beverly Hills, CA ( ), who books overseas dive trips regularly (next up is Manado, Indonesia in July and snorkeling with whale sharks at Isla Mujeres in August), says the biggest benefit of using a dive shop owner is ease of travel. "I take care of all the details, except for booking plane fare (which is too much of a pain in the butt, although I do tell you the preferred flights). For my Reef Seekers trips, I include everything: diving, hotel or boat, transfers, rental car if needed, crew tips, and stuff like that. I have a saying that all you need to do is get yourself to the airport, and then (within reason) you can turn your brain off from there. I'll deal with logistics." And there's power in numbers. A dive group has more clout than a solo diver, whether it's at the resort, on the boat, or at the airport.

The costs aren't necessarily cheaper. You could book the same trip yourself for a few hundred bucks less, but Kurtis says you won't get more bang for your buck. "You won't get a boat to yourself to run your own schedule and sites, you won't know how to get the best rooms or cabins, and other "insider tips" you won't know about. Case in point: I booked a trip to Australia in November 2012 to see a total solar eclipse. We booked half of one of Mike Ball's liveaboards and made sure we were going to be exactly on the centerline of the eclipse. It took them far from their normal dive path, but they were willing to do it. On your own, there's no way you could have made that happen."

There's no one "group dive travel" website to search for, say, group dives to CoCo View in November, but the best way to find a group trip heading to a destination you want to go to is by calling dive shops in your local area or elsewhere, or viewing their websites to see if they offer trips. Even if they don't, the shop owner often can refer you to a shop that does. PADI has a "Find a Dive Shop" page on its website ( ), and here are a few shops across the U.S. offering some good trips this year.

West Coast: Besides Ken Kurtis's Reef Seekers in Los Angeles, consider trips by Bamboo Reef in San Francisco and Monterey, CA; its next trip is to Kungkungan Bay Resort in Indonesia's Lembeh Strait July 23-August 2, and it runs frequent trips to the Channel Island, the next being July 29-August 2 ( ).

Central: Ocean First Divers in Boulder, CO, offers an array of trips, from a week's diving with Aldora Divers in Cozumel (June 21-28 and October 4-11), to off-the-beaten-path diving on the Nautilus Swell in Alaska July 22-August 1, and a dive/safari expedition in Tanzania September 22-October 7 ( ). Midwest Aquatics in Overland Park, KS, is focusing on the Caribbean this year, with trips to Saba in July and St. Lucia in September, but its first 2015 trip is to Antarctica in March ( )

Northeast: Sharon Corcoran coordinates group trips for Aquatic Adventures in North Syracuse, NY, and her upcoming 2014 trips are Anthony's Key Resort in Roatan and Bonaire's Divi Flamingo in early August, Cuba's Gardens of the Queen August 14 - 24, and St. Lucia's Anse Chastanet for the week before Thanksgiving ( ). The Dive Shop in Fairfax, VA, is also Caribbean-focused this year, with trips to Roatan's CoCo View in early July, Bonaire's Buddy Dive in mid-August and Scuba Club Cozumel in mid-October ( ).

South: Just in July alone, Sea Sports Scuba in Houston has trips planned to Cozumel's Casa del Mar, Bonaire's Buddy Dive and Small Hope Bay Lodge on the Bahamas' Andros Island. It also books two-day dive trips to the Flower Gardens aboard the M/V Fling until early October ( ). Scubaland Adventures in Austin, TX, sells out fast with regular trips to Caribbean and Indo-Pacific dive sites, but there are a few spots left for Kasawari Resort in Lembeh Strait on August 8-16, and more space for its Socorro Island trip on the Nautilus Explorer in January ( )

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