Given the opportunity to spend time underwater, I find it hard to resist. Facing five days on the beach in Puerto Rico – hardly a burden to begin with – I was quick to schedule about as much time as I could diving with the operator at the hotel. That meant three days of spending the morning below the surface. The plan seemed sound.
The good news is that I was underwater, breathing canned air and generally at peace. The bad news is that the diving, particularly the first couple days, was not particularly great. I wasn’t expecting the best conditions or most amazing dives of my life, but the 20-30 foot visibility and minimal life of the reefs was below even those limited expectations.
There were some moments of awesome, scattered through the monotony of silty fan corals, that ultimately made the dives worthwhile. Day one included a spotted ray, swimming along not too far from us.
On day two we caught glimpse of a turtle at one point, and the conditions started to improve a bit. The parrot fish, plentiful throughout the week, were a bit less skittish and willing to pose for photos.
Day three was the best in terms of animal sightings, with a few different turtles spotted on the dive, including one that was not particularly skittish as I swam nearby, snapping a few photos.
Mostly for convenience we dove with the operator based at the El Conquistador Resort where we were staying. One of the crew, Nick, was awesome and diving with him for two of the three days was great. He was willing to respect the different skill levels of the divers on the boat and made sure that everyone was able to maximize their experience. The other guys were less than stellar, arbitrarily cutting dives short, stirring up silt as they guided and otherwise making things less pleasant during the dives.
That all said, I would still recommend them as an operator, in part because the overall level of care and comfort for customers was high. They took care of our gear between dives and overnight. They had great snacks on the boat for between dives. And, in a first for me, they had beer in the cooler for post-dive refreshments. Only for consumption after the second dive, of course, but it was a nice way to lead in to lunch time on the ride back to the dock.
That was quite nice.
I ended up with a few more photos, shared in the album here, that I’m reasonably happy with. Still, the overall quality and quantity of marine life left much to be desired. If I’m in the region again I’ll probably go diving again, mostly because sitting on the beach for a week would drive me bonkers otherwise. But I definitely wouldn’t go out of my way to dive the north eastern coast of Puerto Rico. There just isn’t much there to recommend it.
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How was El Conquistador for you? There have been so many mixed reviews on that property but we are booked to stay there in September.
Nice pictures. What camera do you use underwater?
I shot the photos and video all on the Canon ELPH 300 HS housed in the Canon WP-DC41 underwater case. I also have an Ikelite strobe which I’ve used over the years but I was having some trouble with it on this trip so I’m not so sure it really helped. A few of the stills (like the parrot fish) definitely came out better because of it, but I also had a lot of trouble with it.
As to the El Con, I’ve got a couple posts scheduled for tomorrow with photos and more details but the short version is that the room was fine, the service great and the food awful. I’m not a resort guy and this didn’t change my mind, but it didn’t completely suck, especially if you have a car and can get off-property to eat.
Great thanks for the info, we have a car and plan on eating off site most of the time. Looking forward to the posts and any restaurant suggestions if you found some good ones!
@D Olsen The resort is just ok and as seth mentioned the food sucks and in my opinion the resort does not deserve the Waldorf brand. I stayed there over the Easter weekend and was disappointed in general. The island they ferry you off to for beach access takes 30 mins each way to stand in line, board the ferry and get off etc and the water around the island is full of dead corals and rocks that you really need some sort of footwear to walk in the water. Having said that I love to read Seth’s opinion when he posts in the coming days.
Thanks Ikonos, good to know that about the island.
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