Time of Year You Went: November 2004
We did the Turks and Caicos Explorer Live-aboard. We visited various dive sites around West Caicos, French Cay and West Sand Spit. Strong winds causing "rough" seas made diving around the north side of the Turks and Caicos chain undesirable. The crew did a great job of finding plenty of good sites in relatively calm waters south and southwest of Provo. Diving in Turks and Caicos is typically wall dives, starting with a shelf at 45-50' then dropping off to... way deep anyway. Weather was consistently 80 degrees or so, sunny and breezy. Water temperature was 81 degrees and would be just fine either naked or in a shorty for a 2 tank dive, but I would strongly recommend a 3-5mm full suit for the week - I wore mine all week and was still getting a bit chilly by the end of the week due to the repeated dunkings (25 in all).
Current was generally very mild although there were a couple of individual dives which required a bit of aggressive swimming. Visibility was generally very good, although it got down below 50' (still not bad!) due to the constant winds(?).
Plenty of sea life: reef sharks, eagle rays and stingrays, turtles, green and spotted moray, octopus, lobster plus lots of the usual gang of angel fish, blennies, grouper etc. Great diving. Not quite as profuse as Cozumel say, but also nobody else around! A huge variety of corals and gorgonians, not too many anenomies and urchins though.
In general terms the live-aboard experience is fantastic if:
You just want to dive: typical day is up to 2 morning dives, 2 afternoon dives and a night dive, and the day pretty much consists of "breakfast-dive-snack-dive-lunch-dive-snack-dive-supper-dive-drink(if you're still awake)-sleep-rinse-repeat. I got in 25 of a max of 27 dives in the 5 1/2 days available for diving.
You can get in the "zone": it's reasonably close quarters with the other divers and crew and the cabins are pretty small, so if you need your space or need to go for a run every day it might not be a great choice. On the other hand if you're in the groove it's a super relaxing way to spend a week.
You're not unlucky with the group: my trip was great, but given the close quarters if you got stuck with the Harley-Davidson-Bike-and-Dive gang for a week and it wasn't your thing, you'd be out of luck.
The diving was great and I would definitely recommend going. I've only been to Jamaica and Cozumel so my list of comparisons is limited, but there were a number of well traveled people on the boat and they seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. The dive-masters were great. They had their act together, pointed out heaps of neat stuff, and were always available as buddies or guides, but at the same time didn't spend much time baby-sitting anyone. I had only 27 dives when I arrived, and I really felt that they treated everybody based on what they saw underwater as opposed to what their log book said.
This was my first live-aboard trip, but the boat seemed really well set up for dive operations, the rented BC and regs were fine. About half the boat (me included) dove Nitrox 32 all week (I actually did the course on the boat). They blended Nitrox with a membrane system on the boat.
A number of people on the boat were shutterbugs and their shots were incredible. The crew put together a DVD of VIDEO dive footage from the week (a fantastic job, although a bit pricey at $60US) as well as a CD of digital stills.
Given the number of alternate destinations available I'm not likely to return to Turks and Caicos simply because there's so many other places to see. I would however, definitely book with Explorer Ventures again on one of their other boats. The food was great too!
In addition to the general live-aboard comments above, it's worth noting that the cabins are pretty (really) small. Going as a single and sharing a cabin with a stranger would be seriously hit-and-miss (I got lucky and got a cabin to myself). I would have liked the boat to travel a little further or a little more often, but as noted above the constant winds limited options a little and was a consequence of the season, not the crew (I think).
Other than that, no complaints whatsoever. Great trip.
Author: Chris Mealing