Friday, 29 November 2013

A Windy Week on Andros Island

Last week in San Salvador, we couldn't have asked for better weather or calmer water. This week, Andros Island has been experiencing a lot of wind and some rain. We completely missed one day of diving and several other days we did just one dive instead of three.

We stayed here at Small Hope Bay Lodge two years ago and really enjoyed it. It's a family owned business that has been around for more than 50+ years. The turnover of staff from two years ago was very low and they all seem to love their jobs and are treated very well.

When compared to Riding Rock in San Salvador, it's superior in terms of the accommodation and meals but from a diving perspective there are definitely fewer fish than around San Salvador, particularly larger fish which (to us at least) indicates the area is more fished out.

Having said that, the diving thrill of the week here was seeing a whale shark. We'd seen a turtle earlier in the dive and, when Andrew pointed to something behind me, I turned expecting to see a turtle. But above me was a very, VERY large black object with white spots. A whale shark!! Wow! They are not common in this area of the world. Dive staff told us that one might be spotted once a year or less. Unfortunately this was one of the very windy days so Andrew hadn't taken his camera. It was a thrill though and only Andrew and I and Dennis, one of the dive masters, saw it before it swam off into the darkness.

Of course, Andrew still got some great photos.

It was a very busy week here between U.S. folks taking advantage of the Thanksgiving weekend and a family of 20 being here for their dad's/grandfather's 75th birthday. It was a challenge for the dive and resort staff to keep everyone occupied in the not-so-great weather. Luckily there is a games room and some inland blue holes which they took people to for snorkelling.

We leave here tomorrow and have a week in the Florida Keys so diving is not necessarily over yet! :-)

A windy morning.

Andrew checking out the solar hot water setup.
Why is it called a "tourist tree?" Because it's red and peeling!
Taking a hike through one of the rocky mangrove areas.
A spot to relax . . . when it wasn't blowing a gale!
A full boat on a calm day. By the time we finished our first dive it was raining like crazy!
Sassy the dog.
Getting ready to head out on another windy morning.
It's hard to take photos in a rocking boat. And this wasn't the worst day!
Divemaster Frederico driving the boat. 
Big-ish waves.
Relaxing in the main lodge.
The outdoor eating area area, bar and barbecue was used whenever the wind allowed.
The main lodge.

The cabins. 

Bright decorations in preparation for U.S. Thanksgiving dinner.

This was one of three tables full of desserts for Thanksgiving dinner. Yum, yum!
For those who have made it this far, here's my rant of the trip.

When I booked at Riding Rock I specifically asked if they could accommodate vegetarian meals. Oh yes, of course they can. No problem! But yet they were surprised when we showed up and said we were vegetarian. They were completely unprepared and had no imagination whatsoever. We ate plain iceberg lettuce salad with a couple strips of green pepper and a couple chunks of tomato at every meal except breakfast. We had only rice and over-boiled vegetables for at least a couple of meals. They kept asking us what we wanted to eat but even when we made suggestions based on ingredients we knew they had, they only accommodated one request. On the positive side, the desserts and breakfasts were good.

On Small Hope's reservation form they specifically ask you to identify any dietary needs. But again, they made no accommodation for us and in fact kept adding the left over breakfast bacon to various salads until we politely complained about it to the right person. Luckily their variety of salads was greater than at Riding Rock, they had a few soups we could eat and, as above, the desserts and breakfasts were very good.

So, my suggestion to resort owners . . . if you're going to say you accommodate vegetarians or specifically ask if there are dietary needs, then pay attention and follow through. Otherwise, don't bother.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Dixon Hill Lighthouse - San Salvador

On our last afternoon in San Salvador Andrew and I rented a car and drove the ~55 km around the island. The most interesting stop was the Dixon Hill Lighthouse.

"Built in 1887 on a former plantation owned by John Dixon, this lighthouse is still occupied and operated by lighthouse keepers who refuel the 400,000 candle powered lighthouse by hand every 2 hours and 15 minutes. It stands 163 feet above sea level, with a visibility of 19 miles, and is one of the most visited landmarks on the island. It is one of the few remaining manually-operated lighthouses in the world and one of only three of its type in The Islands Of The Bahamas."

The winding steps to the top.
Looking at the lens.

Some funky patterns in the light of the lens.

Panorama view from the top.
Looking west toward the ocean.
Another panorama view.
There are a lot of inland lakes on the island.
WD-40 and oil . . . what more do you need?

San Salvador and Riding Rock Resort

On San Salvador Island we've been staying at Riding Rock Resort, a small family owned business. This week there are only Andrew and I and a father & son from Wisconsin, along with a couple others who came on just two or three dives each. This compared to 37 people they had last week so we're very happy we chose to come this week!

Riding Rock Resort
Shelley, Phil, Devon, Andrew
The staff are very friendly and tease and laugh and joke with each other as well as with us. It's a good group of people.

The island has a population of about 1200 people. One of the main employers is the large Club Med resort just a few minutes walk from our little place. We definitely prefer our little place!

In addition to tourism, the Gerace Research Centre which focuses on geology, biology, ecology and archaeology brings in a lot of people to the island.

The diving here has been absolutely amazing! Far more fish of all sizes than we've seen at many other places. Although fishing is done on the other side of the island, away from the dive areas, most of it seems to be for personal use rather than commercial. This has obviously allowed the fish population to maintain or grow. We saw sharks on every dive except the night dive and turtles on about three dives. We really love seeing the turtles and this time a couple of them even hung around for Andrew to get some good photos of them.

Here are links to his posts and photos.

San Salvador 1
San Salvador 2
San Salvador 3

Iguana statue at the main town area -- which consists of a few houses, a store, a bar and three churches. 
Had to take this photo for my great nephew Karsten, a 2-year-old who loves "diggers."
The reason they have the digger close by is because they often have to
move sand out of the entrance to the dock area.
Overlooking the resort from our 2nd floor room.
The main building with reception, dining room and lounge.

From the marina area, looking out towards the ocean.
Cockburn Town

Divemaster Bruce getting ready to hook the dive site buoy.
View of the resort as we enter the dock area.
As we walked to the marina one morning Andrew thought he saw a lizard on one of the plants.
He was right . . . sort of!
Divemaster Bruce in his usual spot and relaxed position between dives.
Andrew's relaxed position between dives.
"The Beer of the Bahamas."  The rum punch was pretty good too!