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Dear Past, Present & Future Customers:
Here are some of the most memorable letters, postcards & e-mail messages that U.S. Dive Travel has received from satisfied clients in the last several years. In a world where the personal touch seems to be vanishing day by day -- something the staff & partners at U.S. Dive Travel try hard to mitigate -- these letters were the ones that touched us the most deeply. Here are clients talking straight from the heart, without prompting or political agendas. These letters are spontaneous expressions of opinion, & were not solicited by us in any way. Several have been edited only slightly -- a few words here & there -- for brevity or to protect a client's privacy.
Sometimes after a 12-hour day of relentless phones & voice mails, all it takes is one e-mail, postcard or letter like these gems to help us remember why we got into dive travel planning in the first place. It IS all about you, folks. Thank you all -- so much -- for being our guests. Whether you chose a live-aboard vessel or a dedicated dive resort, we feel sincerely privileged to know you & to serve you. You folks are the most important reason why U.S. Dive Travel is successful today; & we never lose awareness of that key fact.
Blessings, Health & Humor.
Susan Hessburg & John Hessburg
U.S. Dive Travel Network.
St. Paul MN / Miami FL / Kailua HI / Vancouver BC.
May 25, 2018
We had a great time at Blackbird Caye and were really happy with the experience. Thanks for organizing. We wanted to give you some feedback on the Blue Hole as we did end up going on the (side) trip.
Trip requires 8 people in any combination of divers and snorkelers, not just divers. Requirement to dive the Blue Hole is an Advanced Open Water cert. No exceptions. They also take you out the day before to do a deep dive to 100/110 ft to see how you do.
The trip is a full day with Stop 1 at the Blue Hole. Stop 2 at Half Moon key to dive "The Aquarium," have lunch on the island and see the Red-footed Booby nesting sites. Stop 3 is off Long Caye to dive "Playground."
Stocky did the Blue Hole dive; and I decided just to snorkel. He enjoyed the dive and was really happy that he did it. The (Blue Hole) dive doesn't have a lot of fish - they saw 2 reef sharks only. It is all about the architecture and structure of the stalagtites down deep. He likened it more to cave or wreck diving, both of which he loves as he is generally more interested in (undersea) architecture/structure than seeing lots and lots of fish.
The snorkeling at the Blue Hole was terrific and I was super happy I chose to do that instead. I saw a number of fish (such as juvenile Sergeant Majors) that I did not see on the dives around Turneffe Atoll. The very shallow reef (5 ft to sea level) was also more healthy so it was interesting to see that. And also saw Reef Squid!
The other two dives of the day were absolutely worth the trip, especially "The Aquarium." Lots of fun swim-throughs and a Nassau grouper hung out with us the entire time.
So, bottom line, the day trip is worth doing even if you don't dive the Blue Hole and, if you're a structural person, the Blue Hole dive is worth doing (in Stocky's opinion).
A few questions for the future:
1. We met a couple who recommended diving the Sipadans (in Malaysia)... What are your thoughts on the Sipadans? And where to stay/dive around there?
2. We have honed in on the fact that both of us love wall diving. Where are the best places in the world to do that in your view?
3. We are interested in going to Ningaloo Reef in NW Australia at some point. Do you have thoughts/recommendations for out there?
4. What about Palau? We keep hearing great things about (diving) there...
5. And we are still interested in Sulawesi and Chuuk.
Sarah Preisler & L. Stockhausen
San Francisco, CA
June 27, 2017
John & Susan,
I wanted to let you know what an almost magical time we had celebrating our 40th anniversary at Blackbird Caye Resort. I was concerned that it wouldn’t live up to our expectations from our last visit there in 2002. But that disappeared as soon as we landed and were met at the airport by the same Mr. Moreno who met us the last time. Another couple arrived slightly later so we waited in the airport bar where I was reacquainted with an old "friend," Belikin Stout. The other couple had never been to Blackbird before. We assured them that they wouldn’t be disappointed.
The new co-managers of the resort are such a joy! Naturally friendly and helpful. There was only one couple and their daughter at the resort when we arrived so we suggested moving the tables together in the dining hall. We ate as a group for the entire week. Louis the chef even made us a cake for our anniversary! All the food, service and accommodations were excellent. The staff were all very good at their jobs, making it appear that maintaining this little bit of heaven was effortless.
Blackbird Caye has changed in the 15 years since our last visit. Not better, nor worse -- just different. The new Palapa Bar on the water is a nice addition. The pool is nice. The food was outstanding, just like the last time. The cabanas are clean and well kept. Snorkeling was great! Reefs look healthy, plenty of variety in fish and other sea creatures. We say several eagle rays close up, a nurse shark, stingrays, eels, cleaner shrimp, starfish, etc. We ate plenty of lionfish snacks. Fried, ceviche and sushi. I got to (hunt) lobsters for dinner and dive for conch.
I just can’t say enough about the whole experience. When our time came to leave, we got to fly out because they said fuel costs were so high that it was less expensive to fly. An added bonus for us! A tip of the hat to Brandon and Bernie (co-managers), Kirk (restaurant mgr), Oscar (bartender), Loius (chef), Chris (snorkel boat captain), Aldo (dive boat captain), Maria (housekeeping) and all the rest of the staff! Chris was the only person still there from our last visit.
Also a big thanks to John & Susan Hessburg of U.S. Dive Travel for helping make it all happen. Here are a few pictures.
Daniel P. Snyder
& Carol Snyder
June 22, 2017
(Transcribed from a voicemail & text). Just wanted to thank you very much for all the (Belize) preparations; they worked out perfectly well. The Belize Aggressor was wonderful, absolutely sensational; and Blackbird Caye Resort was even better! Brandon and Bernie, the managers at Blackbird, were tripping all over themselves to take care of me. I just wanted to let you know; I will recommend you and U.S. Dive Travel. You'll hear from me again. Thank you, mi amigo.
April 11, 2017
I could not do this trip (Belize Aggressor + Blackbird Caye Resort) without your caring help. You are very good at your job, my friend.Peace & serenity,
April 6, 2017
We're on our return trip from our stay at Matangi Island Resort. We had a fantastic time and wanted to thank you both for the recommendation and arrangements. The accomodations, food, staff and diving were all first class. It is a special place that combines luxury with a casual comfort feeling. After our week in New Zealand with friends hiking it was a perfect end to a great vacation.
Laurie and I are thinking of visiting our friends again in the next year and want to do a similar "NZ hike and South Pacific relax/dive" adventure. I'm sure we will be interested in your ideas. This is my second visit to the South Pacific (the other being Tahiti) and this is Laurie's first. We've heard about Bora Bora, Tonga and other spots but will be interested in your thoughts about the next "must-visit" spot. :)
Sept. 6, 2016
My trip last May to Palau/Yap was everything I'd hoped for. Thanks so much for helping me put it together. The travel portion was no problem this time and the weather mostly cooperated. The Palau Aggressor was just as you said, a real class operation, and I'm still amazed by the underwater portion. Reef hook diving is awesome! We also hit the monthly humphead parrotfish mating spectacular, so that was pretty cool. I enjoyed Yap, too. The ambiance at the Manta Ray Bay Hotel is not to be missed. Bill Acker wasn't there that week but I was well-taken care of. The only downside there was that the prevailing winds kept us away from some of the sites. It was also well after manta mating season so there weren't too many around. We saw a few in the distance, but none at the cleaning station. However, I did see one in Palau at a cleaning station. We did just one cleaning station dive there and got lucky. I may have to do a return trip to the (Yap) area during manta mating season...
In the more near-term, I have a couple of friends who are interested in going to the Caribbean with me next year. We're looking at a week at the Little Cayman Beach Resort next July. I've been there before and it's always been great....
Sept. 3, 2015
Beth and I had a good trip over here (to Matangi Island, Fiji) and there was space on the morning flight. Everyone absolutely loves it here. Weather is cool in the evenings. Diving tomorrow and fun planned for all. Once again our faith in you is rewarded!
We made a great day in L.A. with a visit to the Getty museum. Wow! Highly recommended if you ever need to kill a day.
The Pohles. (This is John writing on Chris's phone.)
Sept. 9, 2015
(The day they returned to the USA from Fiji).
Just a couple of pictures from Matangi to make you jealous. It was a GREAT trip!
All back safe and sound! The old man only dove to 154' much to his disappointment. (Editor's note: think he might be kidding? ;)
Good diving and the staff was great. George Pohle was our official underwater photographer and he's got great pictures.
Back to the office this AM.
Warmest Regards...John and Beth Pohle
March 10, 2015
Hi John & Susan,
We had a fabulous time on the Silver Bank with Captain Gene, the Sun Dancer Crew and the Humpback WHALES!!! Thank you ever so much for all your hard work in making this trip a reality. We learned a lot and had amazing experiences with those absolutely stunning creatures. One in particular was a "Dancer" whale... single female doing all kinds of graceful moves for us. I kept wanting to pinch myself and rub my eyes to make sure I wasn't dreaming and kept wanting to open my eyes wider & wider to make sure I was seeing things correctly and so I could take it all in!!! :-) They are so beautiful and inspiring. Not a day goes by that I don't think about them and our encounters.
You may want to know that I would not recommend this trip to anyone who is prone to sea sickness, balance issues or brittle bones. The trip from Dominica to the Silver Bank was (rugged)... mostly bouncy and it was sometimes a challenge to stay upright. Really got exhausting even for us and we are in above-average condition. You really need to be in decent physical condition to swim out & back to the whales, and probably more importantly, to have the strength and coordination to get from the tenders back onto the Sun Dancer...
We also had a lovely time in Little Cayman and enjoyed gorgeous, spectacular dives. The condo was really great and, of course, the dive crew & management, resort, staff, food and diving were all top-notch as always. We are so eager to go back!
As you know, it was my dream birthday trip and you helped to make my dream celebration come true in a truly big way. We are so grateful to you. So, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
Here's hoping you and family and business are doing well and wishing you all many blessings,Laurie & Todd Howard
March 1, 2015
Dear John and Susan,
Our vacation to Blackbird Caye Resort (Belize) last month was as perfect as can be. My son and I went snorkeling every day we were there. It was amazing.
The management and staff were very attentive and quick to accommodate any request. Lia and Dominic, the wife-husband management team, I now consider friends. Letti, the server, took a special interest in looking after my son, Levi (age 6). Bo, the snorkel guide(divemaster), was extremely knowledgeable in all aspects of reef wildlife and asked us what we wanted to see. He never failed in showing us octopus, squid, conchs, starfish, and other species too many to name. We even got to hunt lionfish. He gave us the independence to explore while warning us of the hazards and staying mindful of our safety.
The routine of snorkeling, kayaking and delicious meals was paradise for a 6-year-old -- as well as his 41-year-old father. I hope to return in the future and I hope nothing changes (at least not too much). Thanks for the help in setting up this wonderful experience that will never be forgotten.
Gratefully yours,Gary P. Cones
Nov. 22, 2014
I loved the KONA AGGRESSOR and the diving. People were wonderful, food great and accomodation good. Took a day to get climbing into the top bunk down.
First ever night dive was the Manta Dive, 4th was Pelagic Magic. The diving was awesome!
Thanks so much for the recommendation.Paul S. Jarvis
Nov. 19, 2014
I wanted to thank you so much for all that you did to get me on board the Kona Aggressor this month. Not only was the trip fantastic, but your last-minute efforts are truly appreciated.
The boat is truly special, as the crew were extremely professional and accommodating. And the food … don’t get me started!!! The Manta dive was one of the best encounters in the sea that I have ever had. 50 minutes of bliss! Incredible!
I would not hesitate a second to recommend both you and the Kona Aggressor to anyone who asks. I look forward to booking other trips with you in the not too distant future.
Come up slow!!!Michael P. Ring
May 28, 2014
This is just to let you know that Ben, Paul and I had a great time on the Red Sea Aggressor May 10-17. The only security problem seemed to be getting through US customs at the Toronto airport...
Here is a 10-minute video/slide show I put together: http://jrudick.smugmug.com/VideosSlide-Shows/Videos-and-Slide-Shows/i-6Ndf8M8.
Thank you for all your meticulous help and organization. It all came seamlessly together for us.Dr. Jim Rudick
March 7, 2014
Dear U.S. Dive Travel:
Thank you so much for referring me to Blackbird Caye Resort (in Belize).
Diving was great, food was great, people were great, cabana was great (that porch is to die for!)
Now have 19 dives under my belt and feel much more confident while diving.
Thank you again,Paul Jarvis
Dec. 18, 2013
John and Susan,
In a couple of days we are headed to our first live-aboard experience on Belize Sun Dancer; you guys have been first-class for customer service. We are excited about the trip....
Thanks for all the information, always prompt responses, and humor.
Happy Holidays!Rene Cote & sons
Dec. 4, 2013
Dear John & Susan & Team –
Thank you so much for working with us to plan our Fiji trip for our 25th Anniversary (Island Dancer and Matangi Island Resort)!! We have loved your ideas and your input. And we are soooo excited!!!
I so appreciate you waiving the fee as well as your kindness.
Merry Christmas to you and your families!!
Warm regards,Lauri and Derek Smithee
November 15, 2013
Thanks so much John - can't believe how lucky I am that you moved heaven and earth to help me save my dive trip on Cayman Aggressor!
Thank you so much for the good wishes too... This will truly be a year to give heartfelt Thanksgiving!
I have filled out the GIS, and will be sorting out my dive and trip insurance and kit next week.
Oct. 29 / Oct. 30 / Oct. 31, 2013 (e-mail thread)
Dear Mr. Hessburg,
I don't know what to say except that YOU ROCK! Arrival in Belize is 11:30 a.m. and departure is 1:30 p.m. in the afternoon. If that gives me enough time, life is good. I will look for flights and then get back to you about dates. Thank you SO MUCH for your replies and answering my questions (about Blackbird Caye Resort, Belize).
One other thing, do you have a Facebook page? I want to like it and spread the word how helpful you have been! When you have wonderful, friendly service then you should be applauded!
God Bless you John! I will be booking a bit later, I can't book flights 12 months in advance. You have been absolutely WONDERFUL! Your website went out on Facebook so those interested can see what you offer.
Thanks again!Lisa Reuvers
Oct. 24, 2013
To U.S. DIVE TRAVEL:
I just opened the mail and was pleasantly surprised to get the rebate (for Cayman Aggressor trip). It was perfect timing because my birthday is this weekend. Once again thank you and I'll be contacting you next year for next year's trip.Pete Conner
Sept. 6, 2013
Re' great trip
My favorite memories of the trip to Guanaja Island, Honduras this summer were wandering in the paradise of Graham's Island and snorkeling with Denis and Daniel (from Dunbar Villa).
For my next trip, I want... access to a beach, and of course, lots of snorkeling adventures.
Thanks again for all of your hard work.Helene Diamond
Aug. 29, 2013
Things are great here at Dunbar Villa (Guanaja), love the place! Wonderful.
I was looking at our flight info, and it shows us leaving on Saturday. I recall it got moved to Friday, with driver picking us up in La Ceiba, driving us to San Pedro for the night. Can 't find the info on the updated flight times. Can you please confirm flight time/date from here to La Ceiba?
Thanks much. They even baked a cake to celebrate my wife's 100th dive. Fabulous!
Best,Mark and Paula McCrocklin
Aug. 25, 2013
Thank you very much for the phone call the other day, and for letting us know that you included our photos in your video for Dunbar Villa on Guanaja.
Wow, what a great gift you gave us! My daughter, Anna, is visiting from London where she works now; so we got to look at it with her too and it brought back great memories. We had a great time on that trip. Makes me want to go diving again.
Hope all is well with you and your family as well. Traveling with your son is such a blessing too.
Beth and I must look you up when we are in Minneapolis next to visit her parents.
Warmest Regards.John Pohle, Beth Pohle and family
June 25, 2013
Thanks for a great trip to Lahaina, Maui! We dove twice with Lahaina Divers - in Molokini Crater and Turtle Reef – and stayed within walking distance of the boat at the Lahaina Inn. The dive shop staff and boat crew were friendly, efficient, well-equipped and relaxed. We found what we were looking for on the dives – shallow, protected areas (40-60ft) with a guided dive for our family of four (Mom, Dad, and boys - ages 12 and 16). The highlights of our Molokini crater dive were sightings of a 4-foot barracuda and a giant manta ray (over two arm-spans!) A sea turtle approached the boat at turtle reef, but left when divers entered the water.
A side benefit of the Lahaina Inn – resort priviledges, towels and free parking at the Royal Lahaina resort – led to a great snorkeling opportunity. We drifted southward with the current from the beach at the Royal Lahaina, around a huge black rock point and cove, to the Hyatt Resort beach, and walked back on the beach access path. We swam with four sea turtles –sleeping and swimming in the 20ft depths, and one resting at the resort beach in 5ft of water.
That covered 3 days of our two-week trip. We also stayed 3 nights in Hana. The fresh water caves and and sea caves at Waianapanapa Beach Park in Hana were worth a whole day. We hiked a total of 20 miles near Hana, and the coastal and mountain peak areas of Haleakala National Park. Surfing lessons in Kihei with Maui Waveriders were also a blast. We finished with 4 nights in Volcano, Hawaii, and a great guided 6-mile hike to see the current lava flows at the ocean cliff vents with Kalapana Cultural tours. Snorkeling in the huge tide pools at Kapoho was also a lot of fun.
Thanks again for your great service and recommendations!John and Jenny Simmons,
May 17, 2013
You booked a great dive trip for me in Palau a couple of years ago and I am thinking about this holiday season and where to go. Am thinking of New Zealand and maybe a live-aboard too. Any trips? Hope you are well.Nancy H. Glass
Feb. 22, 2013
Hi John !
I wanted to write at the first opportunity. The internet is a little sparse here (in Copan village).
I have learned 3 things about you and us on this trip so far:
1.) We are really having a BALL doing this dive thing. Especially Liz. I can see more of these trips in our future.
2.) So far everything you have promised, suggested, intimated... has been true, except where you were being overly conservative and modest. For example, there IS normally WiFi internet at Dunbar Villa. However, lightning hit the router the day before we got there. Also took out the satellite TV. (Manager fixed it immediately). No worries, Denis's guys took me to Bonacca Town one day to the internet cafe where for $1.50 I uploaded pics and answered a couple e-mails. Later in the week, Denis loaned me his internet stick for my computer, so I could answer a few more e-mails. YES, I brought my computer...it is attached to me.
3.) When -- not if -- we book another trip, U.S. DIVE TRAVEL will be the first, last and only place we go for ideas. And you can put that on your website.
Can I tell you, too, that the renovations at Dunbar Villa are going to up the class more than a little. I assume the price, too. I am glad we got in before either happened. However, I think you could do a BANG-UP business booking corporate retreats there. If you are interested, we can talk more.
That's all for now. We'll be back to the cold soon enough. Speak soon.
Daniel H. Harris
Jan. 21, 2013
Greetings from Sand Dollar Condos in beautiful Bonaire from Lynn x 2 + Andrew! We arrived safe and sound Saturday and so far have done beach dives from the condo. (Had to do checkout yesterday so missed the boat and today Lynn L has a morning conference call). Boat dives commence tomorrow. Lovely setting, condo is perfect and weather is superb. If you've got a Skype account, we might try to raise you and chat and say thanks "live!"
Huntington Beach, CA
Lynn & Andrew Lewis
Nov. 1, 2012
Hi John --
I recently returned from a 10-day sail on the Cayman Aggressor IV, booked through you, and wanted to let you know it was spectacular! A total of 40 dives were offered (I got off a day early but still managed 34 dives in 7 days!). Now I need to look into the Galapagos Aggressor for travel in September of 2013. At this time my dates are wide open but I’m sure these yachts fill up fast. I will likely be traveling as a single again (guaranteed share). BTW, my roommate on the Cayman trip was wonderful.... I had told you Fiji was next but Galapagos is calling now. Just very curious right now but appreciate your input. And if you have suggestions on a better time to travel (main goal is whale sharks) then I am eager to listen.
August 14, 2012
We returned from Blackbird Caye Resort (Belize) a couple of weeks ago and wanted to let you know that all of us had a fabulous time! The hidden jewels of this experience are the guests you meet and the people that work at the resort. Like everyone else, it was hard to get on the boat and leave this paradise....
Tom, Susan, and Casey Weis
July 6, 2012
I believe you and your family are still away on your trip so you won’t be reading this for awhile. I hope you had a great trip.
Just wanted to let you know that Peter and I had a fantastic trip on the Wind Dancer to Cocos Island. The boat, our cabins, the crew, the weather and the diving were all great. Really, I can’t say enough about the experience.
So, thanks for organizing it for us.
All the best,
New York, NY
Feb. 18, 2012
I just wanted to drop you a note with high praises for the Little Cayman Beach Resort and their Reef Divers operation. Lynn (x 2) had a terrific trip to Little Cayman. The spirits were in our favor as we had really terrific conditions the entire time -- beautiful days. Any breeze or rain came at night. The water, even on the windward side of the island, was almost glass. Diving conditions, viz, critters -- all were great.
Little Cayman Beach Resort has done some updating since we were last there (I figured 11 years ago). The place was pretty full, but never felt crowded and the food was really very good (much better than we remembered). When all were diving, they put all 4 boats in operation, so the diving was smooth. Great divemasters -- we were with Sharon and Dottie -- they make quite the team. I'd highly recommend them, and we've already talked that this is a place to go back to -- the diving is that good.
Hope all is well with you and thanks for putting together yet another terrific dive trip for us!
Huntington Beach, CA
USDT owners' note: Our two clients here -- globe-trotting dive buddies Lynn + Lynn -- have blessed us with so many bookings over the last 17 years that our office coined an affectionate nickname for them years ago: "Lynn to the Second Power" ! BTW: Warm congrats to the former Miss Kippenhan from Hoosier Country, who recently married & became Mrs. Lewis!
Dec. 12, 2011
We just wanted to let you know that we had a wonderful time at the Villa at Dunbar Rock. It wasn't all about the diving....it was all about the fun! We took lots of pictures but have not had time to even sit together and go through them. Lots going on as you can imagine. Eve and I are getting married on the 31st so we have much to do to get ready.
The trip to Copan Ruins was also wonderful. Our driver was good and polite and the tour guide at the ruins was a wealth of knowledge. We thoroughly enjoyed the entire Honduras trip.
And our engagement went off better than planned. No one leaked the secrets and Denis and his wife and Rosa had a really nice engagement party for us on the upper deck (at Dunbar Villa) after proposing to Eve at Lisa's Reef (40' down). Eve was beautiful (as she always is)! It was a special time for us both.
Our many thanks to you for all your help to make the Guanaja trip possible. We will be in touch.
Vince Hobson & Eve Kohlman
Evergreen, CO & Seattle, WA
June 21, 2011
Great trip on Truk Odyssey. I learned a lot from the experienced divers and guides. There were only 6 guests onboard! What a bonus and all nice. Excellent crew and service.
Michael H. Smith
Washington, DC area
Jan. 28, 2011
Barbara and I have returned from a wonderful and exciting trip to Costa Rica and Cocos Island (on Wind Dancer). We thank you very much for the careful arrangements and great advice. It allowed us to enjoy the trip and not worry about the arrangements.
We must also offer our thanks to the folks at Bill Beard's that provided the arrangements for our tour in Costa Rica to Monteverde Cloud Forest and the Arenal Volcano area. From the driver who met us at Punteraneas to take us to Monteverde to our return to San Jose the trip was a success. He was very informative and more of a guide that a driver. From the moment we confirmed our pickup the night before while still returning from Cocos Island we knew we were in good hands. The same can be said for the drive from Monteverde to Arenal and from Arenal to return to San Jose. They were so well informed and willing to share their knowledge of Costa Rica. They also ensured that our journeys were comfortable (a task not easy traveling for hours over bumpy dirt roads). The accommodations at both Monteverde and La Fortuna (Arenal) were superb; we could not have picked better.
Thank you again for the arrangements and support of our travels. We had a great time. Please pass this along to the representatives of Bill Beard's and express our thanks to them as well.
Frank and Barbara Maloit
Jan. 5, 2011
Happy New Year!
I wanted to thank you so much for helping us to plan our trip to Palau. We definitely had an angel looking down on us - perfect weather, we got to dive everywhere we wanted to go, the staff of the Ocean Hunter I were incredible, and the icing on the cake was we had the whole boat to ourselves. Needless to say, it was a trip we will never forget. Thank you again for your advice and helping us to coordinate everything. I know we made the right choice to go on the Ocean Hunter, and we are already planning our next fantasy adventure.
Catherine & Scott Diamond
Honolulu, HI & New York, NY
Dec. 3, 2010
I've been remiss in not writing earlier, as we've been back from the Galapagos for nearly a month. We had a wonderful time!
The Galapagos Aggressor I is as close to a perfect live-aboard experience as we could imagine. Beautiful accommodations, excellent food, highly professional and personable Ecuadorean crew and dive masters... in short, faultless and delightful. We were fortunate that all of the 13 divers -- from four nations -- were advanced and reliable, and that almost everyone in this diverse assembly added to the camaraderie on the boat. There were some lovely folks there with whom we hope to stay in touch.
All of your arrangements for us went perfectly. Our transfers, our excellent accommodations at the Nu House in Quito, our air connections to the Galapagos. Like clockwork. We arranged with your Quito travel agency for a driver for two days of excursions to the "cloud forest," the Indian Market, the Middle of the World -- which were great fun -- and very inexpensive by American standards for a car and driver/guide for $120/day (or $10/hour!) plus tip.
In short, it was a great trip, in no small part due to your management -- through trusted vendors -- of all of the details. Thank you again.
Jonathan has "floated" the idea of Palau as a top contender on our bucket list. What can you tell us about Palau? How does it compare to options? Time of year? Options to do it best? Also, Jonathan's wife was certified earlier this year and appears to be a natural. She would not have been at all prepared to deal with the Galapagos, but, having done nicely in Florida and the Bahamas, and with another year of diving behind her, would Palau be appropriate (water temp, currents, surface conditions and temp, etc.)? My grandson is almost 13 and a natural water person. He may get certified when we take him to Coz this month. If he can get in 15-20 dives before Palau, would he be ready for that? Let me know your thinking when you have some time, but, in the meantime, thanks again for the Galapagos, and the best wishes of the Fisher Family to you and Susan for Chanukah, Christmas, and the New Year.
Bob Fisher and son Jonathan
San Francisco, CA
April 29, 2010
Hi Susan and John,
We are back from paradise! What a beautiful trip.... whale sharks, mantas, nudis, sun, sails, and the list goes on..... The Maldives Aggressor and it's crew couldn't have been better. Thanks so much for all your help sorting out our last minute celebration.
All the best,
Linda & Ian Fraser
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Jan. 21, 2010
E-mail from Villa at Dunbar Rock, Guanaja, Honduras:
We are having a great time on Dunbar Rock! The weather is great and the diving fantastic. Dennis (the dive guide & manager) is a Prince. I had a question about tipping, how much is appropriate ... and do I just give it to Dennis who distributes it to all? Your suggestions and advice would be appreciated, John!
Cole Thompson & family
June 23, 2009
Dear John and Susan,
Once again you really outdid yourselves with our recent trip to Bonaire. Our accommodations at the Sand Dollar Condominiums couldn't have been better -- with a great location, excellent snorkeling right in front, and kind, courteous, friendly and very helpful staff -- from the office people to the maids, breakfast cooks and even the maintenance guys. Everyone would smile, wave and ask what we were doing that day. They were quick to offer suggestions and offered their opinions freely. We even went on a tour of the island with the wife of one of the maintenance guys. I am sure we learned a lot that we wouldnt have otherwise....
The snorkeling in front of the Sand Dollar was excellent with probably the largest variety and total number of fish I have seen on a trip. We snorkeled at a variety of spots from One Thousand Steps south to Bachelors Beach. After a late lunch we would usually snorkel some more at Bari Reef, in front of the Sand Dollar. With 67 named sites, one week definitely isnt enough time to see it all. We did take a boat to Klein Bonaire for snorkeling one day and saw a lot of turtles and a couple of spotted eagle rays.
I finally got to see wild flamingos. Hundreds of them! They are so beautiful in flight. I didnt realize the young ones were white. The variety of beautiful, colorful birds always kept us on the lookout -- plus donkeys, goats, large iguanas and many varieties of lizards -- helped to make this an absolutely incredible vacation.
Thank you again for the excellent service you provide! We will talk again next year hopefully.
Dan and Carol Snyder
Larry and Sally Snyder
Dec. 24, 2008(....on a Christmas card)
We had an excellent trip to Fiji (at Matangi Island & on Fiji Aggressor). Thank you. All the best to you & yours.
Jeff Palmer & son
Dec. 1, 2008
Thank you so much for setting up our group trip to Curacao. My group had a great time at this amazing destination. The Lions Dive & Beach Resort was very well set up and the accommodations were top notch. The staff at the hotel and dive center were very easy to work with and made our trip very memorable. As you know, this is definitely a place to be highly recommended for future travel! We also really appreciate all of the work you did to make this trip easy and fun once we were there!
Almost everything was perfect on this trip but we did have one problem. One of my (ten) customers did not receive his bag when we arrived to Curacao and tried to locate it for 3 days before finally having to go back to the airport himself.....maybe you could call (the airline) and have the “right” person call him or give us the # for the “right” person to talk to to get this straightened out.
Thank you so much again for everything,
Oct. 15, 2008
We want to thank you and your staff for the trip of our lives. Mary and I will never forget the experience we had (on Fiji Aggressor II and Matangi Island), and of you planning and getting us ready for the experience. We will use U. S. Dive Travel in our future dive trips. I hope things are going well with you and your family.
Jack & Mary Kennedy
Panama City Beach, FL
Sept. 16, 2008
My trip was fabulous! The crew on Fiji Aggressor III was great and the diving was unbelieveable. It truly was a trip of a lifetime. Thanks for taking such good care of me.
Dr. Tamarin McCartin
July 1, 2008
Dear John and Susan,
Sorry it has taken so long for me to follow up with you, but I just wanted to let you know what a great time I had at Blackbird Caye Resort last month. The diving was great, the resort was perfect, the other guests there (only about 9 people) were wonderful. I could not have asked for a better week. Thanks again for all your help in setting everything up. I look forward to working with you on my next trip (soon I hope...)
Jill P. Rubin
Los Angeles, CA
June 14, 2008
To U.S. DIVE TRAVEL:
Carol and I had an absolutely wonderful time on Guanaja ! Lucky for us, though it was overcast the first few days (at Dunbar Villa) the last two days were spectacular. Clear and bright sun. Pristine reefs, great snorkeling, wonderful staff on the island and on the boat. We usually were on the boat at 9:00 a.m. and would return to Dunbar Rock about 4:30 pm. It was windy the whole time which in the tropics is a good thing. (Bugs!) We had to leave Guanaja on Thursday afternoon for Le Ceiba in order to get back to San Pedro Sula Friday for our flight home. Lobsters for lunch, life is good !
Carol and Dan Snyder
June 9, '08
Great trip on Caribbean Explorer I -- a terrific time was had by all ..... we did the trip with 16 divers - 15 in our group and one guy that got in at the last minute through the C.E. Office - John from Kentucky - he was one funny guy :) :) :) I was in stitches between him and Jerry, all week long -- lots of laughs.
We saw hammerheads, reef sharks, lionfish, turtles, rays, lobster, barracuda, morays, etc., etc., etc. The swim-throughs were awesome !!!!!
We had great weather and the crew was spectacular !!! They all took turns helping me put on my tank down on the dive platform because of my recent back problems. I even took it off in the water a few times and they were right there helping me with that also. Probably one of the best crews we have ever had, on any boat !!!
No issues with anything in the end. I did get your (free Nitrox) message on my cell when I arrived home this past Saturday night. All is well -- no worries :) :) :)
You will hear from me next when you receive our next Truk Odyssey deposit this week coming up.
Thanks for everything -- you and everyone at USDT really work hard for your clients, and we are very happy to be among them.
Bottom Dwellers Dive Club
New York , NY
May 14, '08
Just a note to say that both Blackbird Caye Resort and Windy Hill Resort in Belize were great places to stay. The diving was excellent (as was the snorkelling for my wife) and the Mayan Mountains were a great counterpoint. The guides and divemasters were also good. A bit pricey, but Belize in general was more expensive than I anticipated. I would definitely recommend these places, and I appreciate your advice and your work to organize the trip.
March 18, 2008
You recently recommended that I take one of my exotic dive trips on the Palau Aggressor II. So sight unseen, I blast off to the Republic of Palau for a week's worth of diving.
John, what you did not tell me was that we would do five Nitrox dives a day -- four in the day and one at night -- and the things I would see there were things I could never see any place else in the world, that the divemasters and crew just bent over backwards to make sure that everybody had a good time, and that the diving would be so easy.
You have to understand that the skiff that takes us out to the dive site is hydraulically lifted from the ocean up to level with the dive deck on the big boat. Once we got our tanks on the skiff, then we just walked back and forth every dive with our Nitrox gauge to log in partial pressure and get in the boat, then hook up and go. All the lines from the big boat went to the little boat to fill the tanks between dives.
Now, I have been diving since 1966 and there are easy dives and hard dives. I tend to think this is the easiest. Up between 6:00 and 6:30, a full breakfast waiting for us in the salon, the first dive at 7:30, back by 8:30, a hot shower on the deck and then hot tub before snacks. Second dive at 10:15, go back by 11:30, hot tub and hot shower, etc., full lunch, two dives in the afternoon and then one dive at night with hot chocolate and snacks waiting when we got back on board.
The accommodations were great. In my stateroom, I had a double bed with complete shower and head inside the cabin. There were mostly couples on board except for me and Kevin, a diver from Scotland. We all had just the very best time. At night the staff would put together slide shows or presentations from various places and then after that everybody was ready to see DVDs if they wanted. I was usually in bed at least by 10:00 pm, up by 6:00 am.
In terms of "bang for the buck," I had five hours of bottom time each day in a place that is just unbelievable. I had never seen giant clams, electric clams, lion fish, scorpion fish, nudibranchs, and the seas of coral that were just overwhelming. John, you have recommended some really good dives but this is the best. What are you going to do to top it?
Very truly yours,
Dennis B. Kelly
Feb. 18, 2008
I just wanted to let you know that my son Ben and I had a great trip; you were right on with all the help and planning. Here are some of my photos of the Big Island: http://jrudick.smugmug.com/gallery/4233607_CehhX#247647258 and photos from the Kona Aggressor are the first album on my website: www.jamesrudick.com. We also made photo books ....and will send these to you.
Thanks for everything,
North Canton, OH
Feb. 12, 2008
Hi John & Susan,
Thank you for helping to make our dive vacation so awesome! The Greens did really well and seem hooked on diving! We really loved the incredible underwater life & beauty of Little Cayman. We dove the wreck off of Cayman Brac, too. We saw so much...turtles, spotted eagle rays, reef & nurse sharks, eels, etc. etc. ... I can send some photos if you’d like. Is there anything in particular you’d like to see?
Comfort Suites on Grand Cayman was great... had a nice breakfast. Thanks for getting us into Little Cayman earlier. Grand Cayman is so crowded (7 cruise ships). Coming back, we had lunch on the main drag and it was wall to wall people. It really made us appreciate the quiet at Little Cayman Beach Resort.
The LCBR dive operation & huge, beautiful boats were second to none. The dive orientations, safety measures, and valet service were the very best. We did encounter some very rough waters making it tough to get to some better dive sites. Plus, it was very difficult & dangerous to get back onto the boat at times. The rough seas also made for some seasickness and missed dives despite our best efforts. I wouldn’t recommend traveling there if that weather is common during this time of year (July 19-29, '07). Water temps were 78-80 degrees.
All the staff at Little Cayman Beach Resort were great. We had a really nice surprise... Sunny (Sara Moore) formerly of Bohio, Grand Turk is now a divemaster, instructor & captain at Little Cayman Beach Resort. She ended up completing Tim & Lu’s open water checkout. They loved her, too. She was our divemaster on all our dives. She’s bubbly and professional, so it made for an even better vacation....
The LCBR chefs were really good to us. The buffets were delicious and dessert divine. Since we are vegetarians they made sure we had something special every night, too. We were so grateful.
That first Sunday, we had appetizers (just OK, though everyone says their food is great) at the Happy Iguana and watched the Green Bay Packers lose. At least we were in warm weather. Our last night we ate at a resort down the beach (name escapes me now)... it was a small, tasty buffet but super expensive. I would recommend that everyone just stay & eat at LCBR... the variety and desserts are so much better.
Todd & I stopped into the bird sanctuary down & across the street from LCBR. We got good looks at the boobies & frigates and their young. We also met Brigitte, their devoted “care-taker”, so sweet.
Todd & Tim did a little sailing... winds were great for that. They also did some catch & release fishing... lots of bonefish and even a shark. Sadly, there are no photos of any of it... a “fish story” for sure! Anyway, the resort made it all happen and they had a blast.
All in all, it was a spectacular trip. Thanks again for all your assistance in making our dive dreams come true. We look forward to next time! I hope you and family are well.
P.S. Something you should know, the upper rooms at Little Cayman Beach Resort have carpeting. It is (unpleasant) considering the sand & humidity..... (Editor's Note: The clients here described their initial room as not ideal, while other ground-level rooms in one wing were somewhat noisy from air compressors. The clients also said their room needed more water pressure & also seemed overdue for some creature-comfort remodeling. Our clients alerted onsite managers who changed their room immediately, & all was well. Resort reps told us that "massive renovations," to the tune of several millions of dollars, will begin in fall of 2008; & LCBR managers are grateful for this helpful client feedback.)
Laurie & Todd Howard
Jan. 7, 2008
Just a short message to let you know how much Jody and I enjoyed our trip to Guanaja and Copan. If I had specifically ordered all the details, it couldn't have been better. Dunbar Villa was superb (even a full moon to look out over the bay with). Dennis the diving guide, Daniel (and his brothers), Julie, Celli, and Casey became family and we will be a long time remembering how wonderful they are. The diving was far better than I had any right to expect and Nautilus Dive Resort and the Neptune (boat) are a first class operation. I would be extremely happy to relate our experiences to prospective customers. Just do what I believe you have already been doing. Send them only your best customers. They deserve it.
The Copan Ruins were simply out of sight and Eli is an absolute gem. I suspect he could qualify for a PhD in Mayan archeology and we tried to invite him to supper with us. Other tourist needs got in the way, but he is amazing and showed how passionate he is about his chosen profession. Absolutely awesome.
John, I wish you could see my face and know how ecstatic we are with the trip and all the arrangements. You did us proud and I will always give you the first call when I am looking for a new adventure.
Even the other tourists and local people we met were larger than life and living la vida loca.
I want to do Bikini Atoll (Is that on your list?). Jody and I were very impressed with Guanaja and would like to discuss other trips -- properly planned ahead of time to take advantage of your knowledge of the best location and best price -- and please keep me informed of great stuff to do. Jody is an accomplished climber and I have enough experience to keep up, so we are interested in many more over-the-top adventures. She took to diving like a duck to water and I would seek ever greater challenges in that arena with her (any inexpensive ways to do Komodo?). Also, please keep us in mind for those kind of trips where we can give back. Advancing science, knowledge and enabling those a bit less fortunate just makes the vacation more meaningful.
Now if we could just figure out how to dissuade the sand flies (grin).
Many thanks again.
Earl Huff Kent Jr. & Jody Dungan
(Homes in Colorado & Virginia, USA)
Dec. 20, '07 -- Christmas card
Dear John and Susan,
Thank you for all your help arranging my next dive trip (on Turks & Caicos Explorer). I enjoyed all our conversations and look forward to working with you. Have a great holiday season. May it be joyous and special!
GO TRIBE !
Robert L. Ganley
Dec. 15, 2007
How are you doing? We had a great trip to Cocos Island (on Okeanos Aggressor) and we possibly want to come again. Is the four bunker stateroom free for four persons in June or July 2008?
Marcel G. Xander Van Laten
Dec. 10, 2007
We are back from a great trip. Two dives in the Indian Ocean, a week at Lamington National Park and Brisbane, then Heron Island. Got in 11 dives at Heron, snorkeling, etc. Great wildlife experiences on the entire trip -- above and below water! If you'd like to give me a call (will be in the office during normal hours the week of Dec. 10.) I can give you a download of what goes on there now.
I was favorably impressed with the skill of the guides at Heron Island (divemasters and on-shore ones too) and the safety precautions of the dive ops. Carla did great as a new diver -- she came a long way!
(See attached files: 3 sea turtle photos.)
Manager's Note: Mr. Pedersen, an esteemed repeat client, booked his first trip with U.S. Dive Travel nearly 15 years ago, when we all were amigos del mar back in the Puget Sound region. Welcome back, Rob; always cool to hear from you.
25 June '07
Just returned from a fabulous time at Little Cayman Beach Resort! The trip was wonderful. Now we're starting to plan our next trip. What do you suggest we consider, given the preferences below:
-- warm water
-- very little or no current
-- few bugs, especially the biting type (can't stand sand flies)
-- safe dive operation
-- beautiful underwater life
A couple of dive friends recommended Dominica and Saba, but we don't know these desitinations and so are interested in what you have to offer. Thank you!
June 4, 2007
Dear John and Susan,
I am happy to report that my boys and I are all open water certified divers. The boys were like little fish in the water, fearless. Blackbird Caye was nothing short of Paradise. There were no other children, no TVs, no video games, just a big ugly crocodile who visited us every night, oh and lots of iguanas. The boys weren't bored! We were able to reconnect as a family at peace. I can't begin to explain how fabulous it was. The dive master, James was soft spoken and patient but firm with the boys. At one point, one of my sons was having a tough time and James took him out on the dive boat alone! I never expected such individualized attention.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I'm exploring our options for our next vacation. I'm thinking sometime in October/November. The sea turtles, rays and eels were great on Turneffe but, we were a little disappointed with was the lack of larger animals. I know the boys can only dive to 40 feet but we would like to see a shark or two and I need to see a whale shark.
Dr. Joanne LaMonica & Nicholas + Zachary (twins)
Staten Island, NY
May 14, 2007
Thanks for the nice trip you arranged for me last time, January 2006 to the Tahiti Aggressor. I really enjoyed it, except some minor mishaps (I paid for the trip DVD on board, but it was broken.....After hearing about how much you respect Finnish "sisu" (vigorous life-spirit) and all the effort you are putting into cross country skiing, I bought myself new skis as well and have done a lot of cross country this winter. Our country also hosts a World Championship event and I tried that track as well, really tough... Also, I started competing on local mountain bike marathons and have managed to get into the top 40% with one season. The end of the season was a 106 km cross country race with 1700 m of total ascent. That took me 6 h 30 min, the winner made it in 4 h 50 min, tough... Now I am recovering from a downhill skiing accident in the French Alps, I dislocated my shoulder and had to wait more than an hour to get medical help. Finally, they put my arm back without any anesthesia, quite painful. So, twice a day I have to do some special streching now, takes 1.5 hours every day. My doctor allows me to start competing in July...
Also, I have a wish to go to Galapagos end of 2007 or maybe 2008..... It would be nice to have some people my age on the boat also, in Tahiti I was by far the youngest. What about vacancies around November or December in 2007 and 2008? What other places do you recommend? A friend of mine went to Bikini and really enjoyed it. However, the deco sounds a bit too tough and I am more into marine life.
Tallin, Estonia, EU
May 3, 2007
In Copan and having a great time -- Gus is a lot of fun and has been a great tour guide! We went abseiling today through the treetops at the back of Copan -- this might be worth while adding this to the Copan Ruins experience (in Honduras highlands) ....
All the best.
aka "Jimmy Mac"
London, U.K. by way of Scotland
April 25, 2007
Dear John & Susan,
We had a fabulous trip! Even with half our luggage arriving late, we could still snorkel, and some could dive with some borrowed equipment from Denis. The Villa at Dunbar Rock is incredibly peaceful and beautiful, surrounded by crystal clear blue water (we could look over the balcony and see coral and fish below), and flowering plants in the garden. We stood on the balcony and watched pelicans diving for fish. It was the perfect place for family time when we weren't diving or snorkeling. We played games, read books, and had lots of fun telling jokes and stories. We enjoyed studying the fish and coral books to identify things we had seen underwater. The staff were all very helpful and friendly. Thanks so much for putting the trip together for us!
P.S. If you could get Tina's recipe for banana cake that she made for our picnic, I would love it.
The Otto Family
Dr. Kenneth Otto + Mrs. Merilee Otto + 7 children
(Ages 11 to 23)
April 14, 2007
To U.S. DIVE TRAVEL:
As you can probably tell since we are going back to Guanaja, we fell in love with Villa at Dunbar Rock and the people. Roy and I are finally in the same town at the same time and we put this letter together. I have attached the letter (below)....It was actually the first vacation that both Roy and I can remember where when it came time to leave we just wanted to cry. It was sad to end. If I could find some way to make some kind of an income, I would stay down there, find a place to rent and work with the people on health issues. I just don't know how to go about doing that. Roy could fly in and out like he does now. The family that owns this Villa have a wonderful place and wonderful people working there. Hope they realize how fortunate they are.... Though Dunbar Villa, Guanaja was just perfect for us as a family, it will not be for everyone due to lack of night life etc.
Thank you so much for guiding us to this place when I first called you about making plans for a trip. We are very excited about our August '07 trip (back to Guanaja) and wish we could just skip the next few months and go. We are starting to look at some place for January, (the first two weeks to three weeks). This would be for the three of us again. We are searching the web site to see what jumps out at us.
(Clients attached a brief essay about their March 9-16, '07 vacation at Dunbar Villa on Guanaja island, in the Honduras Bay Islands.)~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The stars came out for our visit to Dunbar Villa!
Our family members are newcomers to the diving world and this was our second diving holiday as a family. It's hard to imagine any place more restful yet focused on dive activities.
Although the bright white-washed villa sitting on top of Dunbar Rock is visually striking, the real stars of the villa are the staff that made the whole experience so enjoyable. Denis, the manager and divemaster, was always focused first on safety and then on our enjoyment. Chelley, El Capitan of the boat, would scurry around the deck setting up our equipment, doing everything in his powers to help us get into and out of the water; and always there when we surfaced from a drift dive. Tina and Karen made sure we were well feed on the local cuisine of fish, beef and chicken; and did what ever they could make the villa feel like home away from home. The rest of the stars worked behind the scenes filling air cylinders, maintance and best of all rinsing our gear every night. Talk about full service!
Each morning, as we boarded the dive boat, Denis would have us confirm our equipment was on board and then would ask what we wanted to see. Often we would ask for pelagic (sharks, whales, rays), specific sponges or corals (black) or some other exotic star. Denis would then pick the dive sites most likely to delivery and off we would go. We had been told to expect great visibility and were disappointed with 20 foot visibility on a couple of our early dives but (the viz) extended to 70 foot by the end of the week. There had been storms on the island a couple of days before our arrival. In spite of the lower-than-expected visibility, we were delighted to find the reefs are recovering nicely from the Mitch Hurricane damage in 1998 with an abundance of little blue chromis tending the growth. Although there is a wide diversity, the large fish seem to have been taken for export consumption. During the week we saw hawksbill turtles on two dives, barracudas on four dives, triggerfish, hogfish, angels, nurse sharks on three dives, rays on two dives and even a turtle rescue on the villa dock our last day. We were able to see many unusual, even rare species and some we haven't been able to identify yet. Our daughter found what we think is a disk corallimorph but we are seeking independent confirmation. It was uncanny how Denis would find the (fish) stars each dive, usually saving the biggest or the best for the last 10 minutes of the dive. Often, we accused him of planting rubber sharks or rays the day before for such timely "discoveries".
Not only is there abundant life under the water, we were able to find star birds as we boated around the island. It was quite easy to find common species including pelicans, blue herons, egrets and grackles. The uncommon star species included elegant terns, chestnut-breasted herons, tri-color herons and the yellow-crowned parrot (a rare local specie only found in the Bay Islands).
John and Susan of U.S. Dive Travel were the stars that pulled all the plans together for us. We made round trip travel arrangements to San Pedro Sula and the rest of the trip was arranged by U.S. Dive Travel. From our perspective it all happened without a hitch. The plane ride to Guanaja was on a small 15-seater with luggage strapped into the seats behind us. The plane was so small; the pilots would open their window during flight to hang their arms out. We arrived about five hours ahead of schedule. Denis was at the airport dropping off another couple and took our early arrival in stride. He called ahead to the villa, and Tina and Karen had a wonderful lunch ready for us when we got to the villa. We were able to even get an afternoon dive in!
Did I mention the stars? We were shocked by the number of stars we could see when the sun went down; they were so bright because of the clear air and so little light pollution. Each night we would sit on the patio and watch the stars, listen to the boat traffic below and reflect on the day's activities. Then off early to bed because the next day was sure to bring even more stars into view.
Thanks again for everything.
Roy, Cheri and Kara Small
April 4, 2007
Quick note guys. Had a wonderful time in Palau. Boat was great (Ocean Hunter 1); food was great; diving was great. Travel and hotel went well with only a very tight connect (they held past departure time ) in Guam to Koror. Thanks.
Jeff & Daniele Addis
Boca Raton, FL
Feb. 2, 2007
John: Matangi Island Resort -- Unbelievable in every respect. Upgraded at no charge to a treehouse as a perk to "John and Linda's customer." Only six people when we arrived, only four now. We have the whole dive boat to ourselves. Weather a little rough today so we didn't go out. Trying to get to the SomoSomo Strait but the staff tells us that they aren't allowed to take the boat there without six passengers. We'll try some other way to make it over. Too much to talk about so will fill you in when we get home (from Fiji). However, thanks to you we made the blind decision to come here, which, so far, seems to be one of the best decisions I've have made in recent memory. All the travel here went exactly as planned, arrived right on schedule, and it is obvious that they have things down to a science in getting to and from Matangi Island. Will check in with you later in trip if we have Net access. Waiting now for the drums to start beating, warning us that another elegant, five-star dinner will be on the table at our command. Bula!
Ray Nesbett and David Nesbett (son)
Jan. 29, 2007
To U.S. Dive Travel staff:
Hope this finds you both well. Roy and I just returned from a week at Buddy Dive in Bonaire and are now Advanced Open Water certified. What a wonderful world out there to be explored!!!!!! We are so looking forward to our trip to Honduras, to Dunbar Villa in March. We were looking at your web site and noticed all the deals you have out there. We just want to turn around and go back to Bonaire. Absolutely beautiful. The highlight was the day we left, we were just out sight seeing and watching a kite surfer when out of the water came a Humpback Whale, about 15 meters long. INCREDIBLE!!!! and we have about 50 pictures of the kite surfer and four divers right by it. Thanks again for all the work you did to get us to Honduras, we are very anxious to go.
Roy and Cheri Small
John and Susan --
Just a quick note to say that we had a really good trip to Blackbird Caye. All of the arrangements went as planned. The accomodations and staff were great. The diving was really amazing. Thanks for your help in putting this together and thanks also for the cake and wine -- that was over the top. We will think of you again when we start planning for our next dive related adventure.
Norman Baer & Family
January 5, 2007
Just a quick note to let you know how wonderful our stay at Dunbar Villa (Guanaja, Honduras) was last week. Little snafus in the travel/flight plans, but there was always someone there to inform us and help us get on our way. Our plane arrived late from Atlanta to SAP (San Pedro Sula), so we had the bus trip to La Ceiba and overnite there and it was actually good to see the countryside a bit.
The snorkeling was outstanding, such beautiful, clear reefs, variety of healthy coral and fish. We loved every minute in the water! The return trip to SAP and overnite stay at the Holiday Inn was very nice -- a beautiful new hotel, great service and good breakfast there. If I did it again, I would probably plan to stay there and go to the Mayan ruins at Copan before traveling onto Guanaja at the beginning of the trip. Just a suggestion for future travelers. The Delta flight is really nice with new large planes that have much more leg and elbow room. Everyone was very nice to us at Dunbar Rock. The food was satisfying and tasty. We got well-rested.
Thank you for your part in this.
Barbara and Don Fairfield
Dec. 12, '06
You're the best -- the whole USDT group is terrific. Hope you like the T-shirt !
( This dive club T shirt, in bright red letters across the back, states: "The Bottom Dwellers," & on the front -- "Sinking to New Lows. OK everybody, let's shut up & dive !" )
Rosemary Bellini +
the rest of the Bottom Dwellers.
USDT Op's Mgr notes: This is the "Bottom Dwellers' 7th full-boat charter via U.S. DIVE TRAVEL since 1999, with Miss Bellini at the admin helm. Rosemary was a World Women's Handball Champion for several years back in the early 1990s. Between 1980 & 1991, she dominated women's handball in the USA, winning six 4-wall national titles + eight 3-wall national titles. She was inducted into the World Handball Hall of Fame back in 1996.
18 Nov. 2006
I'd like to thank you and your staff for your patriotism and friendship during my deployment (in Operation Iraqi Freedom / Operation Enduring Freedom). It has been a great joy getting to know you. We look forward to your expertise in assisting us in our future travel plans.....
I'm not exactly sure where to start in my thanking you for the extraordinary experience we had at Blackbird Caye Resort. I think that we have found a "Little Slice of Heaven" on that caye (on Turneffe Atoll, Belize). The staff at Blackbird took great care of us during our stay. We didn't want for anything. I also have to thank you for the cake the staff made for me on the first night and also the wine that you bought us to welcome me back.
I hope that your vacation has been as relaxing as ours was and that you come back refreshed and revived. Thanks again Amigo.
Major Dion Moten, U.S. Army,
and the Fellow Gang o' Six Members
Macon, Georgia, U.S.A.
Managers' Note: For obvious security reasons we cannot discuss the specific arena of Major Moten's wartime service. However, we must say that we received on Nov. 18, unexpectedly, a special thank-you gift unlike anything ever seen at U.S. Dive Travel before. Major Moten had asked his commanding general to issue a Certificate of Appreciation "for Patriotism & Support," which the general personally signed. This steel-&-glass-framed certificate, printed over a full-color backdrop of the American flag, bears the motto "Ready Lightning!" It is now displayed in a prominent place in our USDT home office in Minnesota. There it will remain until the day we retire, Lord willing, a long ways down the road. Thanks Major Moten. All of us Americans -- we would have neither a stable international economy that allows for tropical vacations, nor the constitutionally secured freedom to take those vacations, if it was not for guys like you putting their shoulder to the wheel in the deserts of SW Asia. Thank YOU, sir, for what you have done, and for what your men are still doing. We at USDT are all grateful. And a generation of Americans is, too. -- Susan & John Hessburg, founding partners, U.S. DIVE TRAVEL Network.
October 26, 2006
My apologies that it took so long to write this email ! But I wanted to let you know how very much Alex and I enjoyed our trip to Blackbird Caye Resort. It was exactly what we were looking for -- remote, relaxing, and beautiful sites. From the time they met us at the airport until the day we left, the staff took great care of us; and the other guests we met were very friendly. Despite the rain, we were still able to get in 2 snorkels a day, and our guide Crispin was fantastic. We wish we had stayed a week ! Next time. We look forward to more trips like that, and I look forward to getting my scuba certification in the next year. Thanks again for all of your help in planning this wonderful trip. Hope all is well with you.
Brooklyn, New York
Oct. 26, '06
Dear John and Susan:
A few quick notes about our trip to PNG. The trip was a very safe and rewarding experience. The people were extraordinary and the diving breath-taking. My only disappointment in diving was not seeing any major pelagics. We did see grey reef and white tip reef sharks, but all else were absent. The corals were magnificent, Mike Ball's boat and staff was great, and the people of PNG were very congenial and charming. Walindi Plantation was a great place to unwind and yet do some diving and touring.
The Airways Hotel in Port Moresby was excellent. Gorgeous appointments and very secure. Others on the boat stayed elsewhere in Moresby, and felt somewhat threatened by the environment. In Brisbane the Sebel Hotel was nice and the location was fun. If we go again we would probably stay in a less costly area, but, the timing and planning worked very well for a nervous traveler such as myself.
We were safe, healthy, and had no glitches. Your efforts culminated in a great trip for us....
P.S. You will be our first contact for our next great adventure.
Jack and Nancy Howison
Date: Thurs, 14 Sept 2006, 19:32 (PDT)
From: Jacqueline Layer
Subject: Snorkeling trip to Curacao
What a wonderful snorkel trip to Curacao !!! We loved Lion's Dive Resort, the wonderful hospitable people, the beautiful fish and sights underwater, and the island in general. Some highlights include: made-to-order omlettes and croissants for breakfast, drinks at Hemingway's after a snorkel boat trip, Mambo Beach dinner on the beach, snorkeling at the Sea Aquarium with the stingrays and feeding the sea turtles and nurse sharks, the wonderful taxi drivers ( one even retrieved my daughter's wallet she had left in the back seat), the awesome view of the Caribbean from our room, and the lovely sunsets each evening. Thanks for making our family vacation one to remember. You are excellent with all of your details.
The Layer Family --
Jacquie, Bruce, Lindsey and Lauren
Missouri City, Texas
Sept. 9, 2006
This is Fred. You booked me on a trip to Dunbar Villa (May 2006 on Guanaja island). Thanks it was the best. I will never forget it . Can you help me with Bonaire? I would like to go March 6-13th 2007. I have a friend to take; he just got his C-card and we have been friends for a long time. I know you will set us up, not too fancy, we're just Divers and like to rough it. Even love to camp out and sleep in a hammock.
Thanks and God Bless.
Fred Lee Hupp
Friday, 11 Aug. 2006
Hi John, et al,
While my first inclination is to describe our vacation (to Curacao) as "The dream vacation of a lifetime," my true hope is that it is really just the FIRST of many family vacations that make me weep with joy when I try to tell others just how wonderful it was... and it was... and I weep as I write this.
Chris and Hank and I had so much fun (at Lions Dive & Beach Resort), learned more than we thought we could, and just drank in such incredible sights, sounds, new friendships, and family bonding. Thousands of tiny... jellyfish, some flying fish, the Mushroom Forest and Watamula, feeding fish at the sunken tug boat, Chris and me getting our weight belts down to 6 pounds -- down from 16 pounds, another story in and of itself !! -- and everything else you know, that I am trying to tell you we saw......
Thank you for all your hard work beyond the expected to get us on this trip. I'll let Chris and Hank give their own descriptions at some point; however, I just want to take a moment to say, "God bless you for getting us on this trip." We'll write more later. I have so much to do to get ready for work; and try to ride, play with dogs, and get the house cleaned up before those "miles to go."
Smiles and many blessings upon you,
Heidi River, Hank Daum and Christopher River-Paprock
July 6, 2006
Dear John (and Team),
.... I wanted to make sure that you knew how much Stacey, John, and I appreciated your help with arranging our trip. We had a great time at the Little Cayman Beach Resort ! It was one of our top scuba diving trips. I was so jazzed about our diving that after the trip, I went out and bought a bunch of scuba gear for our next trip ....
Charlotte, John & Stacey
Jan. 29, 2006
Really enjoyed the trip to Blackbird. Thanks for helping us set it up. We just posted an album on the Sony Image Station site with a lot of very cool (we think) pictures. My daughter and I both had to laugh about the wetsuit suggestions though. We took along our 3 mm full suits and shorties. The first dive, full suit, second dive, shortie. Liesel always keeps at least her shortie on -- no matter the temp because she likes the padding against the weight of the tank. I was right down to just lycra by the 3rd dive and that is all I used the rest of the trip for all 18 dives. Even in the Blue Hole at 133 feet, I was perfectly warm and so was Liesel in her shortie with French cut legs and no sleeves. You under-estimate the warmth of the really up-north Wisconsinites! .....I will get back to you soon to see about planning another dive.
Thanks again for your help,Gretchen & Liesel Wilson
Dec. 19, 2005
(E-mail addressed to U.S. Dive Travel & Aggressor Fleet staffers, after 2 clients' trip with the live-aboard, Palau Aggressor.) --
The purpose of this E-mail is thank you all for making our trip so pleasant last month. As you all are aware, (my friend) was not strong and was not able to join in all the activities, but she had a great time. Really the best time of her diving life. She and I have been diving together for nearly 25 years and have been on many dive boats (3rd time on Palau Aggressor II) as well as many land-based trips. This was her best trip even though she was weak and could not make all of the dives.
What made it so nice for her was you, the other divers and the superb crew. Captain Mike and Amanda were just marvelous and Ike and Ernan were particularly caring. Ernan took such good care of her that she praised him every day. And of course Rose and Mayette were very attentive.
Since we have returned, (my friend) has tried to get as much out of life as she could. She had a real gift for making others feel good and trying to make them comfortable. Last night I was with her along with her son and niece and a hospice nurse. She had grown very weak. She asked the nurse if this was the end. The nurse nodded yes. She smiled at us all, said she was ready and it was okay and went on to join her Maker. We knew when we left for Palau that this was to be her last diving experience. And you folks made it the best.
Thanks for that. Warmest regards,
Col. Richard M. Johnson
P.S. Dear Susan and John. Thank you two for paving the way for the special consideration and care we received. Amanda wanted me to say a special hello to you. She recalls meeting with you on the phone when she was at some other location. She too, is aware that you two are most caring.
Manager's Note: Col. Johnson is one of the most capable men we have ever been blessed to work with. He served America with distinction in three foreign wars -- WWII, Korea & Vietnam. Col. Johnson planned this trip at age 82 & pulled it off with style, alacrity & selfless energy. Dick is an American patriot, a quintessential gentleman. God bless him for sharing this story with us all. What a Christmas message. We will never forget Col. Johnson & his friend of 25 years. They touched all our lives deeply. Semper Fi, Colonel. Semper Fi. -- Susan & John Hessburg, & the planning team, U.S. DIVE TRAVEL.
Sept. 2, 2005
Dear John and Susan,
We hope you had a good summer in Hawaii and beyond. We want to thank you for your attentive service. Our vacation at Manta Resort, Glover's Reef Atoll was our best ever.There were only five people at the resort, and we were the only divers! Nadia was a superb divemaster, and Frances the boat captain knew all the best dive sites. We have never seen so many spotted drums and turtles. Honestly, there was nothing bad about the trip. I highly recommed Glover's Reef Atoll, Belize, and the Manta Resort, and U.S. Dive Travel to anyone. Next year we will be calling you to book a trip to see whale sharks.
Robin and Richard Bene
July 15, '05
Just wanted to say thank you. My diving adventure to Blackbird Caye Belize was awesome and I can't wait to book another. Attached are a few of the hundreds of underwater pictures I took.
San Jose, CA
July 6, 2005
Thought I'd drop you a line re' the Grand Turk trip (Bohio Resort & Sea Eye Diving) .... you'll probably get an email from Lynn K as well .....
Logistics: Once again you're the king....all went well, including meeting Cecil Ingham from Sea Eye -- he was on our Provo to Grand Turk flight. Smitty met us day of arrival and we dove w/ him the whole time. Return was no problema ....
Diving: Superb -- rate it up w/ Little Cayman and Fiji. Walls were awesome. Coral is fabulous. Only critters not seen were shark and seahorse. Saw lots of things not normally seen -- immense (human sized) lobster and crab on walls on night dives. Lots of octopus. The luminescent shrimp on night dives w/ lights out make you feel like you're swimming thru space (stars). Can't say enough about how terrific Smitty was -- it was only Lynn K, Smitty and I on all but one night dive (we did 2). Spoiled! He convinced us to turn lights out during night dive to experience the above shrimp "stars" and we danced in the phosphorescence close to the surface. Very accommodating. Staff support -- Joanna -- she was terrific. Would highly recommend Sea Eye Diving. Hope Cecil's operation continues to be successful, as they were really professional. Simple, small boats, but had all we needed for the 5 min. ride to the dive sites!
Bohio Resort doesn't yet have their compressor, but can book diving, borrowing tanks from Oasis. Oasis has secured cruise ship contract -- they're dredging/building for a cruise ship dock for 2-3 ships / week starting in February. Glad we went when we did.
Accommodations: Bohio has a lot of potential. Pretty simple accommodations, but clean and neat. Restaurant is very good -- named Guanahani -- chef and his wife bringing in business for the property from town and tourists. Elaine (chef's wife) has refurbished restaurant nicely. Bohio managers Nick and Kelly were very nice, responsive and accommodating. Business is very slow -- last 2 nights Lynn K and I were the only guests outside of a couple rooms they have booked w/ cruise ship workers. They acknowledge they have a lot of marketing to do. Nice set up though. Only other feedback I'd give is that if I were to go back, would either want to dive w/Bohio, as they are a ways out of town and then would get to know others on property better by spending more time w/them, or would want to stay in town, ie. Osprey Hotel and dive w/ Sea Eye which is right across the street. As it was, the only people on Bohio property were personal friends of Kelly and Nick's. Lynn K and I, while we get along well, relish the company of others too ...
Anyway, hope this feedback is useful .... Once again, a terrific dive trip, thanks to YOU!
Huntington Beach, CA
April 18, '05
Most excellent trip. Gerd was at the Dunbar Villa.... Spent time with Darrell ... Excellent diving with Carlos and Wilson... Landing JFK shortly... Many thanks guys!
New York, NY
March 1, 2005
Home safely, we miss the warmth of the Guanajan sun and of the wonderful people of Dunbar Villa. The first picture is our car the night we left and the second picture is our car today, (covered in snow) after we had another snow storm to travel home in yesterday. I will send more pictures and my story when it is written. We met Carlos' mom and family in LaCeiba -- no problemas.
Mitchell & Teda Clarke
Toronto, Ontario, CANADA
Feb. 27, '05
John & Susan:
We're back !!! We so enjoyed our trip on the Sun Dancer II in Belize that we are now looking for another live-aboard. We are thinking about the Turks & Caicos .... or maybe even something in the Micronesia / South Pacific area, keeping in mind the weather / water conditions for the dates below ....
Bill McLean & Lisa Adams
Los Angeles, CA
Fri, 25 Feb 2005
Sharon and I got back from Dunbar Villa (on Guanaja Island, Honduras) on Wednesday. It was a trip of a lifetime. Dennis and all the staff took great care of us. Thanks for all your help. This is truly an understated dream trip for anyone. If you have any clients who need to talk with someone who has been there, please have them contact us.
John and Sharon Brandon
Poplar Bluff, MO, U.S.A.
Mon, 7 Feb 2005
Just got back from (Dunbar Villa) Guanaja on Saturday night, and I wanted to tell you that we had a marvelous time. The people were wonderful, the hotel was beautiful, and the reefs were amazing. Thank you!
Dr. Eve B. Shaw
January 18, 2005
Dear John & Susan:
I would like to thank you for all your hard work to get us on the Galapagos Aggressor. We had a wonderful time, yes, and the best diving vacation of our lives. Herewith I would like to thank also all the great crew: Hector, Vicente, Francisco, Eduardo, Darwin, Winter, Alejandro and our dive instructors Richard and Chris. Also, I would like to thank Peter who came to the airport at Guayaquil to say Hello to us! Ricardo helped us with our entire luggage and the supply of the extra sweatshirts at the airport. We had excellent service, diving and lovely memories for all our lives. Chris did a big job with his video camera, and we bought two of his DVDs, one for us and one for Andrea as a very nice souvenir. Richard gave us his photos on a CD, but unfortunately, we got the copy of the best pictures and not the copy we were supposed to get, which was of the pictures of ourselves during this week. I would really appreciate it, if we still could get a copy of our photos specially made for us by Richard, on a CD and if you could send it to us.
Silvia & Eduardo Hidal; São Paulo, Brazil
Andrea Endlein; Orlando, FL, USA
Nov. 1, 2004
I'll try this again in case you received a half message. Well everything is very very nice. Thank you so much for your help in arranging this vacation (at Matangi Island in Fiji). We had an awesome dive yesterday and we are going on a picnic this afternoon. I will give you a call when we get home. Again thank you soo much. God Bless.
Harley and Billie Jean Born
The Born Family ( Key Largo, FL )
P.S. The Simpsons are ready to move here; they really love it also and they too send their thanks and appreciation.
Aug. 20, 2004
My name is Anis Abdulla. I stumbled upon your review of Oman on the internet today. I live in Buffalo, NY now and I've lived in Oman for 14 years. I absolutely love the country. The people are the friendliest I've ever met and the place is one of absolute beauty. Althought the weather can be a pain in the rear sometimes. Your review on Oman was so refreshing. I wish more people could put their stereotypes of the Arab world aside and see for themselves how friendly and non-violent most Arabs are. The media does tend to blow things out of proportion. I'm really glad you enjoyed your trip to Oman. I only hope more people can do the same.
Aug. 21, 2004
Thank you for the prompt reply. Your (reply) email was a joy to read. Your thoughts and views about people, religion and the kind of outlook everyone should have, are something I completely and wholehearted agree with. I am not Omani. I'm Indian by nationality but since the age of 4, I've lived in the Sultanate of Oman. I have seen the country develop in front of my eyes so to speak. I'm a student at the University of Buffalo. This is my first trip to the United States. I arrived a little more than a week ago. My parents work in Oman. The "Mr." and "Sir" is absolutely unnecessary. You're more than welcome to call me by my first name.
Like you, I've experienced Omani culture first hand and I still cannot get over how very genuine the people are. A complete stranger would happily go out of his or her way to help you.... Almost every person I meet here in the USA has absolutely no clue where Oman is. Some don't even believe it's an actual country. They think I'm making it up.
Like you, I hope that one day people will look beyond the colour of their skin and beyond religion and race and ethinicity. We are all the children of one God. I myself have prayed in mosques, churches and temples. It makes no difference to me where I pray.
I hope you and your family have a fabulous weekend. It's a pleasure meeting a person like you.
"Wal-Ekum-As-Salaam, Sadeeq John " (Translation: Sadeeq = Friend.)Anis.
August 17, 2004
Just a quick e-mail to say a big THANKS for all your help in organising a fantastic week at Blackbird. The island was idyllic and relaxing, the diving was great and very varied. I especially enjoyed the Blue Hole which was an awesome dive. I will be happily recommending U.S Dive Travel to my friends as a professional and reliable company. Once again, thanks for all your assistance.
Aug. 17, '04
We had no complaints whatsoever about the operation (at Lions Dive Beach Resort on Bonaire). Francie did a great job at the dive shop, and the dive operation ran smoothly. They have an air station right next to the road so you don’t have to lug tanks for shore diving. The rooms were nice, the pool clean and the restaurant had very good meals. The only hitch is that it is difficult to make the 8:30 AM boat on time ‘cuz breakfast doesn’t start until 7:30 and they were fairly slow so that by the time you were finished eating there was only a few minutes until departure time. Francie worked that out without a hitch by dropping the morning boat back to 9:00 and it worked great. All in all, a great trip.
(Editor's note: Mr. O'Daniels, co-leader of a 16-person group, remarked in an e-mail the day before: "We had a great trip in Bonaire, despite AA not getting our luggage to us until the day after our arrival. Not their fault, the SABRE system went down and plans everywhere were late leaving because they couldn’t get a flight plan.")
Master Scuba Diver Trainer
Underwater Bridge Inspector
August 6, 2004 / Voicemail
"Hope all is well with you & your family...Had a wonderful time in Honduras (at Dunbar Villa on Guanaja). Took many many wonderful pictures. Some incredible diving, great hospitality, overall the most relaxing vacation of my life."
August 6, '04
John and Susan,
We just wanted to let you how much fun Judy and I had on our trip to Guanaja and our stay at the Villa on Dunbar Rock. We ended up having almost perfect weather and water conditions, had great dives and the hosts, Denis and group were enjoyable. We appreciate your suggestion that we consider a trip there and thank you for your assistance.
John MacDonald Mills
Judy B. Mills
Panama City, FL, U.S.A.
June 7, 2004
To U.S. Dive Travel --
Thank you so much for everything. We had a fabulous time (at Blackbird Caye Resort in Belize).
<*\\\\<Natasha Klauss & Joe Alan Nay
May 11, 2004
John and Susan,
I'm home from the Turks & Caicos Islands and wanted to let you know all went very smoothly considering my last minute planning. Thanks to you it was a great trip. The diving, food, boat crew, etc. were superior. Fortunately for me the Turks & Caicos Explorer only had 10 divers on it so I had the deluxe cabin to myself !! All the passengers were great and we had a blast. Thanks again.
April 28, 2004
Dear John and Susan,
I met Deedy a little over a year ago....She's a marine biologist...she had gotten PADI certified in 1989 and dived extensively only in Florida. She ran a nature center, taught science in a private high school, and loves and has cared for every type of bird, reptile, and mammal found in Florida.
The trip was my birthday present to her, to get her mind off turning 50, to give her a chance to dive again, doing what she loves and thought she might never do again (she hadn't dived since 1995) in the greatest biologically diverse site in the world, exotically located halfway around the world. Needless to say, your exquisitely designed trip worked.
Coming into Sydney is the ideal gateway to Australia. After 25 hours of travel, worn out (as wonderful as Quantas is) we had no idea of the James Bond-like luxury suite awaiting us (at Quay West Apartments). Up the bridge and then onto a harbor boat tour, Deedy was still in shock when we left the next day to fly up to Cairns.
The Mike Ball Dive Expeditions trip with Lizard Island flight was supreme first class. The Mike Ball crew is super, they make the experience what it is. Although Australia has been experiencing highly unusual 20 - 30 knot winds for over a month, with underwater visibility about 30 - 35 feet (10-12 meters), it was, after all, the Great Barrier Reef. The diving schedule is intense, but so professional, calm, friendly, and confident are the crew that we kept up and loved it.
Then a car waiting at the dock back in Cairns to take us to Silky Oaks, immersed in diverse tropical life. It was a great break from diving. Then down to Heron Island for a more laid-back diving schedule and relaxation. The dive boat crews at Heron were just as good as Mike Ball's, so great diving continued. The weather was sunny and in the 80's, the wind was a little high but didn't detract much. We made all our domestic flights, taxi drivers were great, all the 1-night midpoint overnights were perfect.
Thank you both for all the effort you put into this once-in-a-lifetime trip. It really made a huge difference in Deedy's life. Hey, I loved it too! We both have been in a daze since we're back, it all seems like a dream.
Best Wishes from another U.S. Dive Travel Network convertee.Dean Rowland and Diane Jennings
April 14, 2004
John,We had a wonderful time at Matangi Island Resort (Fiji). We got to see a lot of wonderful things (lunar rainbow, lion fish, huge lobsters, lots of white tip reef sharks, lots of small tropical fish, etc). We took some goodies to Christine, and to the local school, where we were asked to give a brief talk to two of the classes. I'm not sure you were aware of this, but a major cyclone struck the group of islands in Jan. '03, causing extensive damage to many buildings (including the school) as well as the coral, which is just starting to grow back.
We got to experience a bit of a storm ourselves-- a tropical depression (wind gusts up to 75 mph) blew in one night at 1am, and kept us up, which was quite exciting. Our bure had an exposure which let in a great deal of rain and the wind blew off part of the roof, but everything was fixed up nicely later in the day.
The Matagi Island snorkel boats were great, taking just Rich and I out everyday, often just dropping us off at a nearby island and picking us up many hours later, giving us plenty of time to explore. So, it was a once in a lifetime experience and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at Matangi. We want to thank you for the help organizing the trip and also for bottle of wine and card you sent to celebrate Rich's birthday. We had a romantic dinner at the "al fresco bure" and it was a very special treat. Hope this note finds you and Susan well, and hope you get back to Fiji soon !
Ruth Kaplan and Rich Treadgold
San Rafael, CA
March 9, '04
Just got back to the office (and reality), and wanted to let you know that though Mother Nature tried her best to disrupt the (Kona Coast, Hawaii) trip, the folks at Dive-Tek did her one better and made sure we had a great time all 5 days of diving. Knowledgeable, personable, conscientious people; great equipment (including boat and unexpected additional last minute dive equipment); and an overall organization that made us all feel comfortable, safe, welcome and excited about what they had waiting for us around the next corner....not every week folks dive and see 7 humpback whales; swim with about 100 spinner dolphins; see sharks, sea turtles, rays, frogfish, devilfish, multiple members of the eel family; etc., etc.....plus their pre-dive lectures were most enjoyable and informative, and their overall hospitality first rate.
All in all, thank you very much for picking them for us to dive with. Not sure how many outfits you chose from when setting up the trips to Kona, but from last week's experiences (including seeing a bunch of the other outfits out on the water), don't think you could ever go wrong trying to get your folks with Dive-Tek before any other operation there.
Thank you for everything. Best wishes.
Harry T. Hall & the group
Lake Oswego, OR
March 8, 2004
Dear U.S. Dive Travel:
Now that I have had a chance to recover from and reflect on the trip to Guanaja, I wanted to follow up...on the experience we had at the Villa on Dunbar Rock....
First let me say that we feel very fortunate to have stumbled upon your website that day in September in pursuit of our well-deserved exertion to paradise. Your honesty, hard work and patience really made us comfortable about the choice of direction we decided to take and confidant that the relatively sizeable investment that was required was money well spent. As you know we learned the valuable lesson that in order to plan for these types of trips, communication should really begin at least nine months prior to departure.
Thank you very much for working so diligently and staying flexible allowing us to plan and execute the details of this trip in a matter of months before the trip. Your customer service is greatly appreciated and I personally look forward to working with U.S. Dive Travel on arranging similar trips in the future. With that said, onto the trip!
Travel from San Francisco, California to San Pedro Sula, Honduras was uneventful. I was very grateful after a long night and morning of travel that upon exiting customs, a representative from Atlantic Airlines was awaiting the "Riddle Dive Party." The anxiety of arriving abroad coupled with the loss of sleep was quickly diminished as the representative facilitated the transfer to Guanaja. Once arriving in Guanaja, we were greeted by the local airport workers who welcomed us and escorted our luggage to the Hill Billy. Where boat captain J.C. took us to our home away from home.
We had been staring at internet photos of Dunbar Rock since we made our deposit in October, but as you know, pictures can't possibly capture this paradise. What a slice of heaven... Upon pulling up to the dock, we were greeted by Carlos, Fernando, Freddie and a spotted ray gliding around the shallow reef. Carlos escorted up stairs to begin the tour while Fernando and Freddie took all of our luggage up the 60+ stairs to our rooms.
At this point, you can imagine the weight that had been lifted and we instantly slipped into another gear. To them just another day Guanaja. To us, the true definition of paradise. We were all pretty much speechless and you could tell that we were just trying to take it all in. Not a care in the world and a smile from ear to ear. Not that I have to remind you, but the accommodations are amazing. What a piece of real estate. We felt like we were in the middle of the Mediterranean. Definitely too good to be true from every angle... every point of view...
With a full night followed by full day of travel you could imagine that our appetites were starting to get the best of us. That's when we were saved by Tina and Dorothy. We know not to bit the hand that feeds you, and after eating the first supper, oh boy... they were top on our list to take care of in anyway possible.
We spent the entire evening getting to know the staff and with the laid back personalities that we brought from the states, we meshed into one big group instantly. This was confirmed upon the arrival of Dennis. I cannot begin to explain how it felt to hit it off with the entire staff from the moment we arrived. I've never had the vacation experience where relationships are sparked instantly. We had the feeling that they were as excited to meet us as we were to meet them! I don't think they knew what hit them when we showed up. The rapport between all of us continued to grow and evolve.
One night, we took all the staff out dancing together. An all expense paid trip for them to Bonacca. Not one meal was served without us clearing the table for Tina and Dorothy in the attempt to make their jobs easier. The company we had was really a pleasure to be around. At various times during the trip, the staff told us that they forgot who the tourist's were? WOW! They were having as much fun as we were. I could go on... an on... about the staff. What a gem! We really felt like we connected with them and look forward to sending them items from their new friends from California.
The food honestly blew us away. Three square meals a day and we didn't eat the same thing twice. The soups and entrees that they made were delicious. Not one meal was disappointing for any of us. That is pretty impressive to be able to satisfy five different taste buds without losing a step. Even breakfast was hot.... And the homemade tortillas! I'm hungry just thinking about them.
If there was one thing that did not reach our expectations, it would have to be the diving. Go figure that it had to be something totally out of their control. Like our trip to Roatan in 2001, it seems as if the reefs surrounding Guanaja have not had a chance to recover. Coupled with poor visibility (< 40 feet sometimes) and few encounters with macro life (eels, rays, etc...), the diving just couldn't keep up with the atmosphere on the surface.
Without a doubt, the highlight of our trip is the staff. We thoroughly enjoyed their company and I hope the feeling was mutual. Please extend our thanks for all of their hospitality. This by far will be the number one reason why we plan to go back. Special thanks to all of the following people: Dennis, Carlos, Fernando, Freddy, Tina, Dorothy.
Sincerely,Scott Riddle & friends
Feb. 14, 2004
dear john and sue,
some thoughts on a great vacation. we are totally rested and full of unimaginable memories. it turned out to the right choice for us, no question. one could quibble over value for the dollar but that wasn't the criteria for us. we wanted a place that was safe and do-able w our 7 month old; activities per our choosing; quiet and solitude at our choosing, good food and imbibe as we pleased... blackbird caye resort was all of that. and i think one week was just right.
the diving venue and boat captain made that aspect top notch. and talk about dive access, a couple of minutes and you're there. morays, hammer head, eagle rays, bat fish, turtles... even w two very windy days, the captain found do-able sites w/o compromising safety or visibility. (my last trip to belize was a safety nightmare.) i could go on and on but don't need to enumerate the details ....
thanks for helping us put this together. the choice (of blackbird caye) was a good one!
Steven C. Nelson
Feb. 6, 2004
John:Just wanted to drop you a line that we are all home safe and sound. What an unbelievable trip! travel to, stay, and travel home --occurred without a glitch. The best time we've ever had. Will be going back to dunbar villa (Guanaja) for sure!!! The entire staff down their is a gem... more details to follow... need to get some sleep.
Jan. 4, 2004
HELLO again from Bonaire.We had a great trip to Guanaja (Villa at Dunbar Rock). The diving and accomodation were fantastic. As you said the fish are not as abundant, but many new species for us and the topograhy was so divese, much different from the slopes of Bonaire.
Oct. 12, '03
Hi John,I don't know if you remember us; we booked a trip with you to Blackbird Caye in Belize about a year ago and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We were inspired on that vacation to get our SCUBA certifications, which we just completed. Don and I would like to plan a one to two week SCUBA vacation to Australia and are very interested in your Heron Island package. We will not be able to take this vacation for a few years but would like to start saving for it. Can you please give us a hypothetical cost analysis of the vacation, including air?
Sept. 12, 2003
How can I describe how wonderful the trip to Fiji and Lalati Island was?? I know you tried to tell me how wonderful the people are, etc., but it exceeded any high expectations you had set. I did cry upon leaving.....as they put handmade leis around our necks and the entire staff came out to the beach to sing us a goodbye song as we walked thru the water to the boat.....what wonderful people, what a wonderful place!
I wanted to make certain you had the info on the new owners--Clint and Jane Carlson--they've been full owners for less than a year -- they were the ones who built the spa (which is fabulous).....and they're originally from Minnesota! They still have Beato as the Manager of Lalati Island. If you have anyone considering going, I'd be happy to provide a reference....I already really talked you up to the other guests (no more than 10 guests at any time, to staff of 33!)....great diving-fell in love w/the lionfish and blue ribbon eel.
Anyway, thanks so much for all your help and the terrific recommendation -- best dive trip ever!
Huntington Beach, CA
August 13, '03
The trip was fabulous! We were the only guests that week so talk about personalized service! The Villa on Dunbar Rock (Guanaja) is beautiful. The water was incredibly warm. I didn't use a wetsuit all week (in fact, when we got home, our pool was 82 deg and felt cold!). We had a wonderful time. Very relaxing.
Here are a few tips that you can pass on to other guests:
Thanks for making the arrangements for this wonderful trip.
Dave and Sandy Wolf
July 29, 2003
What a great trip, the Spirit of the Solomons, her crew, and the diving all were fantastic! John, I would like info for a trip on the Nai'a in Fiji. I dove on her last October, it was great. I am thinking about going again on their Nov 12-22 cruise, + air tickets.
Dr. Jeff Cohen
East Hanover, NJ
July 18, 2003
Check these out for fun! [Julie & Regan sent 59 color photos by e-mail attachment.] We are back from our honeymoon (at Blackbird Caye Resort in Belize) and it was fabulous! The weather couldn't have been better! The Blue Hole was very cool and on the way to it, we crossed a pod of 8 killer whales!
Hope all is well!!Regan Steelman and Julie Knapp
July 17, 2003
John and Susie: I just wanted to tell you thank you for recommending Blackbird Caye Resort. We returned Wednesday, July 16, safe and sound. The diving was wonderful, the food was outstanding, our accommodations were great and the staff was kind, courteous and willing to go the extra step. When we first arrived, there were only 6 of us. Saturday another group of 5 arrived. We all expected the new group to be sharing a boat with us, but David, the manager, decided since the two groups were so far apart in experience he kept it to our small original group who all had more than 500 dives under our belts.
It is definitely one of my favorites places now. We especially enjoyed the dives at Half Moon Caye and Long Moon Caye. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to REALLY get away from it all. A little isolated, but certainly NOT primitive. Thank you again.
Mary Walter & Mike Walter
David Simmons & Eileen Simmons
June 11, '03
We love Quay West Suites- and have a primo room on the 17th floor -- brand new with glorious views of bridge and the Sydney Opera House! THANKS. Not only are the accommodations first rate, the weather has been perfect, perfect, perfect. (after two weeks of rain it has been a bright sunny 70° every day). We’ll keep you posted as we go along (in Australia).
Best to you,
Don and Betsy Morse
May 14, 2003
Dear John and Susan:
Tom and I want to thank you for our fabulous trip to Fiji, wedding festivities and the complimentary bottle of sparkling wine in our cabin aboard the Nai'a live-aboard. We had the best time! What beautiful people and what fantastic diving. Highly recommended. Everything you did for us was superb. I'm finally getting a chance to say thanks. We'll be back...
Patrice Boeke & Tom Alburn
Chevy Chase, Maryland
May 12, 2003
I just got back yesterday from Costa Rica. I had a FANTASTIC time on the Seahunter. Have a look at their website and read our trip report. Everything was great. I was really lucky because my roommate was really nice and also the rest of the group. The crew on the Seahunter was outstanding and I cannot wait to got back to go diving with them again. I loved the diving and everything we saw. It was really a great experience. I want to come back and go diving just in Cocos for a week or so. Thanks again for arranging everything so perfectly for me!
Now, I am planning my next adventures and wanted to ask you for some offers for 2 persons. My roommate from the Seahunter and I, have decided to do some trips together. She is German, too and from Cologne, too, so you can imagine that we had a great time.
1. Galapagos, 2 weeks diving and 1 week on the island(s). What is the best time to go and what packages do you have available for 2003/2004?
2. 1 week Palau, 1 week Truk, 1 week Yap. What is the best time to go and what packages do you have available for 2003/2004?
3. Do you offer any liveaboards in the Sudan part of the Red Sea?
Thanks again for everything! Hoping to hear back from you soon.
From Koeln, Germany
Working in Athens, Greece
Hi John -
Well, back safe and sound from the "Sun Dancer II" --
We had a wonderful time - only disappointment was not diving the Blue Hole.
Will speak with you soon about our trip for next May on the Cayman Aggressor.
Stay Well !Rosemary Bellini
March 20, 2003
Overall, our trip to Guanaja was perfect except for us leaving our wetsuits behind. Thank you so much for your efforts to get them to us!
Our flight out of Houston into San Pedro Sula was uneventful. However, we waited in line for almost 2 hours to get through customs in SAP. No hold up just a long line.....From SAP we got the entire tour of the Bay Islands. We landed on Utila, where we accidentally got off not knowing where we were, but got back on in time. Then we flew to La Ceiba where we changed planes then we landed on Roatan, then finally on Guanaja, where Dennis and Dennis were waiting for us! All of our bags made it as well.
They quickly took us to the Villa at Dunbar Rock! Beautiful place. Dennis #1 was a great host, giving us a tour and telling us all the details of the place. He is also a fabulous dive master. Being a beginner diver, I was a bit nervous but Dennis #1 made me feel totally comfortable and at ease. The dive sites were calm and had beautiful coral with lots of sea life. We did 2 dives in the a.m., had lunch, took a nap upstairs on the swings, and then headed out for an afternoon dive. The afternoon dive was with Dennis #2. He was a quiet guy with limited English, but he communicated effectively underwater. The weather was fabulous -- it rained the first day we dove but that was it. We could easily see the mainland and Barbaretta. My favorite dive site was by far Diana's Reef. Dennis #1 and Dennis #2 took amazing care of our gear, storing it every night and cleaning it prior to our leaving as well.
On our last day, J.C. took us out for a cruize around on his boat the "Hill Billy." He took us to Bonacca Town and introduced us to some people, then we headed over to Poseda for a quick tour, then to Graham's Island for lunch, then he dropped us off in Savannah bite for our hike. Dennis 2 picked us up in Mangrove bite later that afternoon. Everyone we met was so friendly to the two crazy American tourists!
The only problem (on the trip) was when we got to the Sosa Airlines ticket counter, they had no idea who we were! Basically, we were two crazy Americans showing some piece of paper saying we were to have tickets waiting for us, but no one there knew what we were talking about. We could barely communicate in Spanish with them. Luckily, I had the Dunbar Rock Villa number. The Sosa Airlines ticket counter person called and chatted with someone there who said they were expecting us, so they put us on the plane without making us pay for the tickets up front. I'm sure that would never happen in America! I believe the confusion was the tickets were waiting for us in La Ceiba, which is where they thought we were flying into not SAP.
Thanks for setting everything up! Yes, it is prob'ly easier to fly into La Ceiba. Our next trip will be to Belize, so I'll let you know when. Have a very fruitful day!
ShanDr. Shannon Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D.
March 6, '03
We're back!! We had a wonderful time. Grand Turk, the Arawak Inn, SeaEye Diving (the folks who took us to Gibb's Cay to swim with the sting rays and reef snorkeling), and the food-- everything was GREAT and exceeded our hopes and expectations, and I cannot thank you enough for your help, recommendations and support through the entire process.
(In the next few days I will email pics.)
Again, many thanks!!
Beth Frankovic & Lisa Sullivan (sisters)
Feb. 1, 2003
Just a quick note, several weeks after our return from Guanaja. We had an absolutely delightful time. Everything was wonderful, and our high expectations were exceeded. One great surprise was that we were the only guests staying there that week (except for 1 day), so we had romantic privacy that we had not imagined. :) As we boated out to the Dunbar Villa after a long flight down there, the weather was perfect, and our moods were soaring, and Denis asked us if we liked lobster. At that time, I was 110% sure we had made a good choice. (We had lobster twice!) The diving was great, the "domestic dream team" lived up to that billing, Denis Midence was a great host, and we came back very refreshed. It was the best vacation of our lives.
One amazing thing was that even when we hiked up to the waterfall, we didn't need a single squirt of the insect repellent mix that you coached us on creating. We never even saw a mosquito. Also, except for a few people on sailboats, we didn't see a single other tourist!!!! We'd go out to the great, close dive sites with our own private guide team, and we never saw any other boats moored up to the dive bouys. We saw 3 nurse sharks--all quite close. We saw a dolphin (not while diving, but while returning from a visit to Bonacca Cay). We had 4 days of perfect weather and a few days that were cloudy/rainy, but no complaints from us.
There were a couple nights when the rain and wind made for less than perfect nights for sleeping, but we made up for it with siestas. Thanks for your help and advice. I'm working to snag a business client in Trinidad, so I can sneak in a trip to Tobago. Ever been there? Dominica also is moving up on my priority list. Ever been to the Corn Islands of Nicaragua? They sound like your kind of place. :)
Best wishes for a wonderful 2003 !
Bill and Angela Barberg
Oct. 14, 2002john,
hi. heather and i got back from the trip to curacao
this weekend. i wanted to let you know we had an
amazing time. the lions dive resort was fantastic (housekeeping
was so conscientious, when they saw i had glasses
filled with water in the fridge, they put a full
pitcher of water in there). the dive shop and our
instructor were great as well. i felt safe and well
looked after the whole time. we had so much fun on
the open water dives, and wanted to see so much, we
ended up doing a night dive, deep water dive and some
others to qualify for our advanced certification!
i am so completely hooked on diving now and can't wait
for my next trip. so, thanks again for the great recommendation and all
of your help.
& Heather Ruch
New York City, NY
13 May 2002
Finally caught up with work and home after the trip and wanted to thank you for arranging a great trip for us. Like so many vacations it was too short. The hotel was just right for the kind of vacation we wanted - on the beach, casual, dive shop & boat right there, great staff, seaquarium next door, quick free shuttle to Willemstad etc.... Met some nice folks from Montreal, Germany & Netherlands on the dive boat. Diving was the best - great visibility, abundant plant & animal life, short boat trips. Nancy got in some great snorkeling at each dive site and enjoyed the other folks so much and saw what a good time we were all having she will probably get certified later in the year.
We'll recommend U.S. Dive Travel, Curacao, Lions Dive Resort, and Ocean Encounters to anyone willing to let us describe our great trip :-)
Michael and Nancy Woomer
March 19, 2002
John, thank you very much for your help....I found you to be helpful, cheerful and easy to deal with. We'll get the forms back. We hope to enjoy the trip very much, and I look forward to booking again with you.
Upstate New York
Dec. 28, 2001
John and Susan --
Just a quick note to say thank you for all of your assistance in organizing my Guanaja trip!!! Nautilus Dive Resort was fantastic and the staff EXTREMELY friendly and professional (especially Denis). Despite hurricane michelle which hampered the dive visibility and weather, I shall definitely recommend the resort and area for future divers. I hope all is well and i look forward to many other dive trips with you in the future.
Happy New Year! I wanted to wish you and your family a great 2002! Thanks so much for your help arranging my Honduran trip. Again, I had a great time at Guanaja and would recommend Dunbar Villa to any diver!
Michelle M. Jeong
San Francisco, CA
Sept. 18, 2001
John & Susan,
Wanted to let you know that we got back from the honeymoon safe & sound. We heard about the WTC disaster our first morning on Hawaii. It was surreal watching something so close from so far.
Overall, we enjoyed our honeymoon tremendously. Nothing -- and we mean NOTHING -- can top Lizard Island! Wanted to give you a quick heads-up -- more pictures will follow. Hope you and your family and co-workers are doing okay given the (World Trade Center) disaster.
Shane & Anna Shih
East Hanover, New Jersey
Sept. 10, 2001
John & Susan,
This is Shane & Anna writing from Lizard Island. We just finished our first dinner since our arrival. Just wanted to say: YOU GUYS ARE AWESOME!!!! So far on this trip, we've had great accomodations at Ayers Rock, Sydney (Yes, we did have a view of the Sydney Opera House from our room! Too bad we only booked one night there) and now we are here on Lizard Island. You were right, ever since we arrived, we've been treated like royalty -- and we are still overwhelmed by the weather, the scenery, the land, the water, the room (yes, very private as you alluded to), the service -- and to top it all off, the special touches you two have made for us: the lovely card in the room, the spa treatments (we're doing that on Thursday), the sparkling wine in the hotel room, and the surprise congratulations cake at dinner tonight!!! Everything seems so perfect, we are having a hard time believing we are actually here, and that there's such a paradise on earth! Thank you two so much for all your help so far, we've been having a blast (and looking forward to more)!
One question: I know it's not customary to tip in Australia, but you did mention that the service on Lizard Island & Silky Oaks will probably warrant tipping. What is the appropriate time and amount to tip people? Dinner? Divemasters? Porters? How much is appropriate? Mind you, we're not holding you to a particular amount -- but any suggestion you have will be helpful for us to determine a range -- otherwise, we are grasping in the dark here!
Anyways, off to bed now. We are diving the inner reef tomorrow morning and snorkeling in the afternoon. So much to do here, but it feels so relaxed. Great feeling! Thanks again for making our honeymoon so special!
Shane & Anna Shih
E-mail from Lizard Island, Australia
Sept. 6. 2001
We had a great time in Australia. Were able to do 6 scuba dives on Heron Island and on a live-aboard from Cairns; & our son, who is 12, was also able to dive. The reef was amazing, and Heron Island was beautiful and very well-managed. We hope to dive again soon, and will contact you if we need to arrange another trip.
Thanks, Kai Zinn
August 22, 2001
Just wanted to let you know the trip was really great. The diving was excellent. Not the concentrations of fish I had expected, but such variety! My dive guide was terrific, as were all the people at Nusantara Diving Center (Manado, Indonesia). I was very very satisfied. A few things you might want to mention to people about the place is that (a) it's on a mangrove swamp, not a beach; and (b) they don't have mosquito nets. I didn't mind the swamp, but had pictured a beach so it might disappoint people if they're picturing a beach and it's not there. Also, being a mosquito magnet, I would have brought my own net, had I known. But it was still great! Also, FYI, they will take you diving in Lembeh Strait. I went over for a day, which was $20 extra. You can go for more too. Don't know how much that is.
Another question. I was wondering where you would recommend for Christmas. My baby sister turns 8 on Dec. 24th and loves fish. I suggested to my father that perhaps we should go away for her birthday this year to somewhere I could take her snorkeling and also go diving. Thanks again for arranging a great trip for me.
August 9, 2001
Just returned from Curacao and wanted to let you know Lions Dive Resort is a pretty nice place. Very clean and well organized. The dive shop was also very efficient.
Tom Willyoung, agent
July 20, 2001
I have one very major complaint for you about the Nusantara Diving Center & Kungkungan Bay Resort trip I just completed.......... I ALMOST DIDN'T BRING ENOUGH FILM!!!!! I had no idea what was in store & was completly blown away. I ran out of film often before running out of air which is the ultimate endorsement for a serious u/w photgrapher given my bottom time is usually about 40 minutes. For me one(among the many) fabulous things about the set-up at both resorts was the fact that for most of the dives I had my own personal Indonesian dive guide. I could even say to him "find me an orange frog fish" & most of the time he would do it or come up with strange critters that would be even better alternatives! That's just the start.... after finding the critter he would help maneuver it into a better photo position & hang there until I was done!!! I never had to carry my 20 lbs of housing. The tragedy here is that I will never be able to dive anywhere else in the world... I have been utterly spoiled as a u/w photographer. PLEASE KEEP THIS PLACE A SECRET!!!
Kungkungan Bay Resort is fabulous & when I return I would primarily stay there. Nusantara as advertised is very friendly & terrific though the rooms are iffy. I was a bit shocked first nite at NDC but then got used to it. Kati took good care of me & assigned me the best macro-dive guide he had. I think the accomodations are more 1 star than 2 star but the service, attention, friendliness more than compensate.
So I am one happy camper though tainted for life... what's next after diving in the most concentrated area of venomous & strange marine creatures on earth????? I never had time to do any land exploration except on the day before departure...
Good job John! You're my main travel-man amigo!!!! Muchas gracias!!!!
July 20, 2001
Hi John --
Well, long time no talk and I apologize for not getting back with you any sooner. What a wonderful trip to Manta Resort and the Tikal Ruins!!!! We fell in love with the place and Gordon was so surprised. He only found out we were heading to Belize in the Houston airport. I had him walking throughout the corridor until they made the last call for Belize City, than I grabbed him and went to the gate. The diving was fabulous, the food wonderful and the people outstanding. Gordon has worked through all the underwater video and created a 30-minute tape. Would you like a copy?? Everyone on the trip and the Manta Resort is getting a copy. The weather was perfect too.
The only problem was that we dove in "peka peka" season and Gordon and I were eaten alive. Tony was so wonderful and upon our return to Belize City had us whisked off to the hospital for an appointment with the dermatologist. We were prescribed steroids and cream and back on our way to Windy Hill in a matter of an hour. The doctor was very impressed with my bites, I had them all over my back and down my arms. Gordon had them on his legs. We have great pictures.
The Windy Hill trip was fabulous, the ruins are so humbling and we were continually awestruck. Our guides couldn't have been more thorough and patient with our questions. The guides suggested some books for us to read to get a better understanding of the Mayans. We have been bit. A side note, we arrived on that Friday and Carolyn (?) picked us up at the airport. We asked her what to do the next day since we didn't; have to be at the Manta boat until 2. She suggested Jaguar Paw. So, she helped us rent a car and the next morning was were up and out at 7 am, drove to Jaguar Paw and hiked than cave tubed down the river and back down in Belize city by 1. That too was such a cool experience. Just a suggestion for a side trip.
So that was the adventure in a nut shell. We have fallen in love with the country and are ready to pack up here and move. I have referred a couple of people to you and I hope they have followed up. Along that line, we need some information and help in diving Bequia and the surrounding area...day trips. My sister in law and here family have vacationed and lived on the island for over 30 years and she and my brother are having a post-wedding party there some time in March or April. They aren't familiar with the diving at all. Any help or thoughts would be great.
Thank you again for everything and hope all is well on your end.
Lynn & Gordon Taylor
P.S. The kids did great and we did great, only called 2 times and I think that was the best thing.
June 18, 2001
We just returned from our trip to Honduras and wanted to let you know just you much we appreciated all of your help and consideration, especially the extra effort you took when our original flight was cancelled at the last minute. How you arranged with Mayan Caribbean Tours to meet us in San Pedro Sula and the hotel accomodations until we could get a flight to Guanaja was a real life saver. We couldn't imagine how we would have managed this on our own. Eli Gonzalez from Mayan Caribbean was so kind and friendly, our own family couldn't have taken better care of us.
The Dunbar Rock Villa on Guanaja was everything we hoped for and more. The room was perfect, the food was wonderful and Denis, our divemaster, was great. The diving off Guanaja was spectacular with beautiful unspoiled reefs and an incredible variety of sea-life--we saw turtles on three different dives! Back at the Villa, Dorothy and Tina took wonderful care of us, in spite of our minimal Spanish. We will recommend Nautilus and the Dunbar Rock to anyone who is looking for a relaxed and inexpensive diving vacation.
The additional side trip to Copan Ruinas was the perfect ending to a perfect trip. The village of Copan Ruinas is beautiful, the accomodations at the Marina Copan Hotel were great. We had a wonderful tour of the ruins with Eli, his knowledge of the Mayan culture was encyclopedic, like having our own personal anthropologist/archeologist. Our last memory of Copan is a morning horseback ride up to the Hacienda San Lucas, with a delicious traditional Honduran lunch on the porch. The view of the Copan valley is spectacular.
We had such a great time that we cannot wait until we are able to come back to Guanaja and Honduras. Thank you again for making this such a memorable experience for us.
Jim and Susan Medley
East Windsor, New Jersey
June 15, 2001
John & Susie:
Thank you very much for everything - our group's dive trip this past May was absolutely, positively, the BEST EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! From start to finish - everything was just WONDERFUL! The crew, the food, the diving, the boat, the weather, just one fabulous week. Can't wait til next year - undecided where our destination will be - but when we do decide, we will be contacting you to book it for us. Your professionalism along with your sincere caring about your clients makes it a pleasure dealing with you. Thanks again and best of health to your family and everyone at U.S. Dive Travel.
Rosemary Bellini and The New York Dive Group
Queens, New York
May 2, 2001
Wow, you're German is awesome! I wanted to really thank you again for being soo helpful and nice to us (for the Cocos Island trip). We really highly appreciate it !!
Prof. Michaela Hau
Princeton, New Jersey
March 6, 2001
Dear John and Susan:
Thank you so much for all your hard work in helping us arrange our holiday to Belize. We had a lovely time, and came back feeling relaxed and mellow - just what the doctor ordered! I attach a photo of us at the end of our trip, on the boat en route to the airport to take a little 12-seater plane up to Belize City.
Roz & Richard Allibone
London, New York City
March 5, 2001
Thanks very much for the suggestions. I'll follow your advice. I worry about leaving my camera stuff behind for fear of theft.......I would also like to say thank you for all the personal service you have given us. I have used a lot of dive travel agencies in the past and you have been by far the most helpful, friendly and informative.
Prof. Denny Chasteen
Feb. 1, 2001
Hope the Minnesota snow is tolerable. Ironically, I moved from Wisconsin to Oregon about ten years ago to escape the winters and be closer to the mountains/oceans/trout. Still, I've come to realize that home is where the heart is, though I don't think I'm the first to think of it (or coin the phrase). My answer- move the family to Oregon. About half of them have made it so far.
I really enjoy your site, both for the "fantasy" aspects (I don't tend to take exotic vacations these days as I'm starting a new career), and for the practical approach to the subject matter. Your list of ways to avoid dive trip "bummers" had me smiling and wishing the internet were prevalent when I lived in an old fishing hut while diving in Bali in '90. It was very non-touristy, and the people were wonderful, but the rats and ever-present smell of drying squid around my shack made the trip a little rough on my travel companion.
I'm looking to take a real dive vacation this year but have a fairly tight budget, i.e. I'd like to stay in the $1,000-$1,200 (including air) range. Micronesia is my first choice (Kosrae looks like heaven on earth), but I'm pretty sure just the airfare will leave me broke. Any ideas? Do you have a current brochure? Let me know, and again, thanks for maintaining a truly great site.
Peter Lirain, OR
Oct. 24, 2000
Just got back from our family vacation in Costa Rica (Playa Hermosa). Trip was wonderful. Diving was great. Only been one place that I may have seen more wildlife in 16+ yrs of diving. Some of the exceptional sightings were whale shark got to swim with him -- manta rays -- in fact more species of rays than I knew existed -- frog fish -- turtles --- dolphins -- octopus -- more species of angel fish than I've ever seen etc. etc. etc. Visibility was poor so lost dive group a lot but had no problems finding the fish. You need to change your website on Costa Rica and Bill Beard and extol the virtues of Earl and Bobby Joe the new owners. They couldn't do enough for us even invited my son and his fiance to their house for dinner. Helped out some equipment failures and were indeed excellent hosts. Sorry I went against your wishes but the Adrenal volcano was spectacular as was the harness trip across the rainforest treetops. We had good weather rained only a couple of nights. Just wanted to fill you in and thank you we had a great time!
Sept. 29, 2000
We are back home and had a fantastic time! Got your messages on our answering machine when we got home, thank you very much for the concern. We are one of the few people in the world who do not have a cellular phone. I guess it is just being lazy on our part. When we called you last Wed. AM, we were calling from Houston airport. Actually you gave lots of correct encouragement to me on the phone, and we made the AA personnel call Island Air (I had the phone # in my purse), and they told the AA person about the Island Air flight being delayed until 3 PM, the AA person told them if we were late it was not our fault. We actually got there with 10 minutes to spare, and American promised to cover the hotel in Grand Cayman if we were forced to do an overnight. It all worked OK, although we did lots of running and rushing. Those AA personnel continued to insist that they could not bring Island Air up on their computer screens??? so I guess it is good to have Island Air's telephone # on you.
Little Cayman Beach Resort was fantastic!!!!! They said we had been slated for "room 308", but then they had a honeymoon couple come in so we lost it. They put us in 215, which was oceanfront, although had the view mostly obscured by palm tree leaves. However, it was right by our friend's rooms. The room is very beautiful inside, the decor was stunning. Very large, with TV, frig, microwave, coffee maker, couch, king-sized bed.
The food was the best we had ever had on dive vacation, they provided wonderful veggie entrees at every lunch and dinner. And the desserts!!!! They were absolutely wonderful!! All of us much have gained 5 lbs or more!!!
And Paul Watters did let me use his office computer to send an e-mail to my folks, he was very gracious and kind. The dive boats were great, very comfortable. The dives were very beautiful, the coral the best we had ever seen. The visibility was only about 50 ft, though. We did see some of the algae that is affecting all the Caribbean waters, I guess from the temps being too high? Still it is beautiful diving. We saw eagle rays, southern stingrays, turtles, huge friendly groupers, lots of varied tropical fish. The dive staff was friendly and accommodating.
However, they only offer night dives on Tues and Thurs, so we only got one. They would not do any others, even when a bunch of us asked for one on the weekend. The island was like going back in time, very quiet. We took some bikes and toured it, saw the museum. The little plane rides on Island Air were fun and smooth. The day we left, the little plane took off 2 hours late, which might have messed up our friends' connecting flights, but ours were OK. The Island Air people just kinda do what they want when they want to do it, it seems they do not have to answer to anyone.....
All-in-all, it was the best trip we ever had, thank you so much for all your help!! Next year we will call you again. We had a little windfall this year, but will probably have to go for cheaper next year. I am thinking maybe Manta Resort in Belize, if we can afford it.
Thanks very much, you guys are great!!!!!!!!
Stephanie and Fred Richards
Aug. 17, 2000
i just wanted to tell you that mindy and i had a wonderful trip to belize and it went very smoothly. thanks for all your help. everything was great. one suggestion: we took a day trip to barton creek cave from windy hill on the recommendation of several people and it was fantastic. it is a huge cave that you canoe into with wonderful formations. so i recommend telling people to go there.
thanks a lot -- best,
New York, NY
July 14, 2000
John and Susan:
Back from Belize and Manta Resort..... Manta Resort is a terrific place--dynamite staff--kudos to Egbert/Angie in restaurant, and Wyatt as divemaster--wonderful people and highly professional (as an aside, Wyatt, once he figured out that the rest of the boat was experienced divers, worked 2 days one on one with a new diver to help her get and stay down...on third day she was one of the rest of us--wouldn't have made it without Wyatt's attention and terrific patience).
What a tropical paradise that is so completely (and I do mean completely) away from daily routine, you can't help but relax! Great group of people to dive with all week--must attract a certain type of person, as we all got along famously.
Diving was terrific, beautiful coral/sponge, great animals--tons of reef/nurse/black tip shark, sea turtle, spotted eagle ray--different from other places I've been. Only downside is 6 days of diving the same reef became a bit boring--wouldn't go back for that reason, along with the fierce no-see-ums, which ate us alive day 1 before we religious enough on spraying down.....scratch scratch.....
Now onto next dive trip planning (I need to have one out there in the future to keep me going).....
2 potential destinations--Red Sea (with Egypt side trip??) or Bonaire just diving)....I know, completely different ideas, but bear with us... Also, with your new eco-tour/adventure travel initiatives, what do you have re' safari in Africa??
Once again you came through for us like a charm.....I arrived in Belize City about 2 hrs after the boat was to depart for Manta....I'm walking out of airport with complete confidence that it will all work out, when I hear a man saying "anyone for Manta?"--I of course being the only one there....he walks me over to a nice woman who takes me to the van with all the luggage--10 min drive to the dock where everyone is waiting, and then we're off on our 3 hr boat ride to Manta........and the return worked even better when I was able to get on earlier flights from both Belize City and Houston on standby and was home 2 hours earlier than expected :)
Thanks for all your help......
Lynn Dines and Lynn Kippenhan
Huntington Beach, CA & Fishers, IN
July 6, 2000
I just got back from PNG (Papua New Guinea). And I can't wait to go back. The diving was everything it was touted to be, and more. Thank you for facilitating this fabulous experience. On some days we had 200+' of visibility, the variety and abundance of sea life was awe inspiring.
The trip there was a bit suspenseful, the Philippines Airline flight was delayed 16 hours, effectively giving me 2 hours to clear immigration and customs in Manila, and catching the Air Niugini connection. Needless to say, it was a stressful day. A fog delay in Port Moresby caused me to miss the Rabaul connection, but I got on a later flight, and got to the boat at 4:00 PM, sailing time.
A piece of advice for any future trips you plan to PNG: Always connect thru Australia. There are daily flights form Cairns to Port Moresby, and multiple flights a week from Sydney and Brisbane. If I had missed the once a week connection in the Manila, it would have been over right there. I think the same is true for the Singapore connection. Tell your clients that if may cost a little more, but with 4 connections, they need all the belts and suspenders they can get!
I'll send some photos when I get them scanned in...
June 21, 2000
I wanted to send my deepest thanks for an absolutely unbelievable week
onboard the star dancer. I was a member of the Ezell /John Butler group the week of June 10-16. Ben's dry sense of humor was great. Sigy's smile put me in a good mood. Eric was so goofy I laughed my "---" off numerous occasions. Andrew's food hit the spot every meal. The Star Dancer has an awesome crew and I will definietly pass on the word to friends of mine looking for the perfect dive vacation.
May 12, 2000
from ct. - just a note to say thank-you for having the fastest and most thorough pages on the net!! i have done a lot of research for dive travel and travel in general, and have found your pages everywhere! they are the most informative and fastest out there! i really do appreciate the volumes of info. you have put out. right now, i'm looking at diving grand cayman. it will be for 12 days in early july (w/ a non-diver). i am interested in the most abundant and colorful reef life that a snorkeler could enjoy also - stingray city would be fun.... considering coconut harbor resort w/ 6 day dive pkg. i must keep cost down and found this to be reasonable. ( i'd rather dive fiji, but...) any further suggestions? you guys are great! God bless, and take care.
from shelley keeney
May 4, 2000
Dear John and Susan,
This was our repeat trip of last year and what a difference a year makes. The boat, Antares Dancer, was in fine shape. New compressor and new dive tender. Tender had all the little features we had hoped for like an awning and a railing along the waterline. The crew were new except for Ron the Dive Master and David the cook. All of them were attentive, helpful and capable. I can't say enough about how well we were treated. Warm towels after each dive and if they had been able to get into our wet suits for us, they would have. The food was delicious, plentiful and varied. The crew took wonderful care of everything. Peter Hughes runs a first class operation, boats and crew, and I really do appreciate his extending me the opportunity to see what he'd done with the "work in progress" .
The weather was another matter. The wind blew very hard. The beautiful blue-green water turned a light shade of olive. On one dive the viz was not much more than ten feet. But on other dives it went to about 50 feet. Didn't see the big fish we saw last year but did see a large (I guess they're all large under water) hammer head shark and a sea turtle. I still think that Los Roques is a prime place to dive and we just happened to hit it on the wrong week because, the last day, as we anchored off Grand Roque, the wind dropped, the sea calmed down and you could see bottom. Oh well. I think I'm all Roque-d out for now and next look toward the Pacific, points unknown at this time. I definitely would like to go on another Peter Hughes live-aboard and still want to make the Yap-Palau trip.....
Once again thanks for putting this package together for me. It was a wonderful time and I look forward to your helping me with my next dive trip.
Tom Stephen-Hassard, CAThousand Oaks, CA
We had a great adventure in Honduras. The usual challenges & "opportunities"
but a great experience for our family. The diving was good but not spectacular. We met
some great people & made new friends in Roatan. No one should miss the Copan Ruins &
the opportunity to spend time in the less-developed areas. Great people, & interesting history
May God bless you in the coming year.
The Grubbs Family
Mike & Becky, David & Kelsey.
North Sioux City, SD.
Just a quick note to thank you for arranging our dive trip to Matangi Island, Fiji. Everything was wonderful. The people in Fiji were amazing. Incredibly friendly and relaxed. The reefs and fish life were beautiful. I can't wait to go back. I look forward to booking another trip through you in the future. Enjoy that fabulous, warm Minnesota winter.
Bruce A. Power
San Francisco, CA.
Sept. 13, 1999
I just wanted to send a belated THANK YOU for the wonderful trips to both Kosrae and Kona. Everything went just as you said it would; the people were great and the diving was world class. I can't wait to book my next trip though your company. I'll be moving to Kona in November to start the instructor certification course....how did the move to Minnesota turn out? Thanks again for your help, kindness, and support. :)
(Now a resident of)
Kona, Big Island, HI
Sept. 13, 1999
Thanks for all the terrific arrangements for our dive trip to Cozumel. We'd highly recommend El Presidente Hotel -- real luxury for the price, and Aqua Safari did a fine job taking care of the diving needs -- good divemasters with flexibility along with attention to safety. Drift diving there was a first for me -- prefer no drift -- I want to explore longer -- but the conditions the entire time we were there were perfect--sunshine, flat seas, etc. Thanks so much for the help. Thanks so much, that we want to book the next one (always have to have a dive trip on the calendar to stay sane). What would you recommend for Lynn x 2 for the week of July 1-8, 2000, in either Belize, Bonaire, or Lynn K wants us to consider South Seas...we don't want a live-aboard. We're looking for great diving, not too ugly travel....your thoughts?
Lynn Dines & Lynn Kippenhan
Huntington Beach, CA &
Sept. 5, 1999
John and Susan,
Wow, what a great time on Taveuni island (Fiji)! I think Melony would have liked a little more white sand beaches at her disposal, but our trip was absolutely grand! Our 5 days of diving were great, we had a day on Korolevu; we visited many areas: a local village, the natural waterslide, the new waterfalls tour near the resort(awesome!), Bouma Park with the Tavaro falls trek with three falls(I adventure-raced it to the top falls and back in about 45 minutes), and of course we had to visit and experience the Lavena coastal walk and swim into the falls area. Also, we went horseback riding, played golf at Taveuni estates, and oh yeah, we just became vegetables at the pool watching the sun set over VANUA LEVU.
We had a really great time, and DID NOT want to come back to Japan. The wedding was super and with the trip, it was the best two weeks in a loooooooooooonnnnnggggg time. Thank you for your suggestion, it was perfect.
Now, for the next trip. Melony and I are deciding what to do over the holidays. Melony really, really wants to go home for Christmas, but we both don't want to be home for two or three weeks, so we are looking to go south into the Caribbean. We are thinking maybe Dominica, St. Lucia, Roatan, Turks and Caicos, for diving and island adventure fun, kind of like Taveuni. What do you suggest for us money-minded travelers? Please advise, we hear that things are really booking up quick, thanks again for all of your help, again, it was great and we owe you guys much,
Aaron & Melony Ward
June 23, 1999
I finally got a few free minutes to let you know how my vacation to Nautilus Dive Resort went. I had the best time. The storm cleared the silt off the reefs & the corals & sponges are healthy, abundant & colorful. The reef fish are still plentiful & there is a lot of little fry visible, so the circle of life is continuing. The water was a balmy 84 degrees at 80 feet. Visibility on Bayman's side was 80-100 feet with the other side being 40-50 feet. Divemaster Denis & I visited some sites that have not been visited since the storm. I am happy to report that the caves & swim throughs are intact & open for business. The resort is pretty much running as per usual & all the rooms are repaired. It was so sad to see the trees stripped & overturned. The food was excellent as was the service of the staff.
The airline connections were great & pretty much on time. I did have a small problem with Continental in Houston on my trip down. I checked in at 0600 hours on the Sunday. I had my gear packed in a Rubbermaid Rough Tote container. My clothing & regs were all in my carry-on which is smaller that the standard. The attendant asked me what was in the container. I told him dive gear. The attendant proceeded to inform me that dive gear is treated as excess baggage, that they would weigh it, calculate the fee based on overweight rates & then charge me half. This was an extra $50 U.S.D. I told the attendant that I had nothing else to check & he cheerfully informed me that I was still entitled to my two free checked bags. But, I pointed out, this was my only checked luggage. I was informed that Continental has been charging for scuba gear since about December.
Guanaja is back up & running. The diving is spectacular. Nautilus was everything I remember it to be. There are remnants of the storm left behind, however, they are not interfering with the day-to-day operations. Divers should be encouraged to visit the island & experience all that it has to offer. With little more hassle than a trip to Roatan or Utila, they can experience what I can only term as Paradise.
June 12, 1999
Hi John (and Susie):
We had a wonderful time on the Big Island -- Hawaii rocks! (pardon the
volcanic pun). The diversity of terrain and climate and scenery is
truly amazing, as you indicated. We stopped at many state parks and
drove about 500 miles. The hotel was nice, especially the view from
our room. The luau was great and the buffet breakfast was good (though
we ate too much!). All in all, a very memorable and relaxing vacation.
Mahalo! I assume you've already made the move to Minnesota or will
soon be making it. I hope the weather isn't too hot for you! We will
be staying with Sue's sister's family near Minneapolis from June 21-23.
If your phone is hooked up, let us know your new number before we hit the
road (June 16) and we'll give you a call when we arrive.
Wes & Sue Cross
West Seattle, WA
April 30, 1999
Dear John Hessburg,
My 7 friends have arrived from Belize (Manta Resort). They were very satisfied with the whole trip and everything went smoothly. I would like to thank you very much on their behalf for your patience and professionalism. I wish everyone worked the way you do.
P.S. Hoping to work with you also in the future.
April 26, 1999
Thanks for setting Katie and I up with a great dive package to Roatan. I would like to know if you could suggest a vacation destination for my family and I in January. We would like to go somewhere that is not ultra touristy, yet not overly rustic. Four of us our scuba divers and three like to snorkel. I have looked into Bonaire, Belize, Tobago, Little Cayman, Cayman Brac, St. Vincent and a few others. I would appreciate it if you could recommend a resort destination that provides excellent scuba diving, snorkeling, and great weather in January.
Thank you for your help.
April 26, 1999
John and Susie:
Just wanted to let you know that Erika and I loved our trip to Blackbird Caye Resort (Belize) earlier this month. The diving was excellent. We did a lot of shelf diving (flat, wide shelf at about 40' or so) and a few walls. Plus, of course, we dove the famous Blue Hole. Blue Hole, actually, was something of a disappointment. It's deep. It's (potentially) dangerous, and it's more spectacular to be above than to be in. But, on the bright side, we saw two reef sharks and a lot of nurse sharks on that dive. Plus, there are some interesting rock formations at about 130'. The food was excellent, the staff friendly and the accommodations comfortable. It's nice to go on a vacation and visit some place that completely takes care of me. Thanks for setting this one up. Blackbird Caye and Nautilus Resort were both "10" trips.
Christopher Fluetsch & Erika Kegel
April 22, 1999
We had a great trip. Fantasy Island Beach Resort (Roatan) was excellent and so was the diving. Great dive staff at FBIR. Even though we had strong winds from the east that caused 4-6 waves some days and stirred up the waters we could see 80-100+ feet. In calm weather one might see China. The attached is short piece my partner wrote for a friend who asked about our trip.
Honduras was great. The island of Roatan has got to be one of my favorites in the Caribbean. Undeveloped enough that it was charming and unassuming but with sufficient infrastructure and facilities that there were few inconveniences. (one good road runs the length of the island with, good gasoline stations, several well-stocked grocery stores, very little traffic on the roads, clean with little litter). Most of the 25,000 population live in about five towns scattered on the coast so that large areas of the island are undeveloped. Gets enough rain that it is fairly green but not enough to be a rain forest. Hilly (some rather steep) but not mountainous). Great beaches (white sand) with coral reef about 100 yards out. Good snorkeling, extraordinary diving, great sailing. More marine life than I've seen anywhere in the Caribbean. Very safe, can leave you rooms unlocked. People are friendly without being obsequious. The per capita income is high by Honduran standards so although there is poverty if was not oppressive and there was little to no begging. There is a big push to get gringos to purchase land and build houses so we will see how long its current conditions last. Relatively few resorts (mostly oriented towards diving) but several large ones are on the drawing boards. It is poised to become more than a dive location.
Unfortunately, the wind was blowing rather forcefully for most of the week. As a result, the visibility was down from it usual 200 ft to 50-100 feet due to bottom being stirred up where we were diving. The wind calmed for about a day and the visibility improved 100 percent. Great wall diving. We dove on the lee side of the island one day and it was fantastic. Lots of big grouper, rays, turtles, large nurse shark, lots and lots of lobsters and crab, very nice coral (both hard and soft). Reef starts at sea level and rapidly falls off to 300 ft. Lots of overhangs. As good a diving as I've seen in the Caribbean despite the visibility problems. I would go back in a heartbeat.
I can make myself available for any of your suggestions. The Roatan trip didn't cost any more than going to Cozumel. The airfare was more expensive ($700) but the food, lodging, and diving was less (a little over $100 a day total).
James & Sheila Hoben &
Donald S. Bradley
Feb. 4, 1999
Hey John -
Well, it looks as though the Aussie Experience was a winner for everyone involved. You and your team did a great job for Dennis. Now it's my turn. Not that I am interested in something as extravagant as his trip, my husband and I, along with a few other couples are interested in a trip sometime May-June. One couple suggested that we go on a cruise and I'm game for that, but she said to get to all of the good islands, we would have to depart out of San Juan. I checked into flights to San Juan and they cost as much as our flight to Hawaii (which I thought was outrageous!) The cost is around $650.00 to $700.00 per person. Dennis thought that you would have some great suggestions for me... I know you're busy, and I'm really in no rush. Oh....just FYI... I'm not married to a cruise!
Take care - Hope you had a wonderful New Years!
Feb. 4, 1999
John and Susan:
I love getting messages from you guys, always so upbeat, positive and a great attitude. Just add a good smile and that's the definition of a perfect Public Relations and combo-sales person. That's what Nadine and I always try to be. Thanks for our day's inspiration.
Best regards always
Bill & Nadine Beard
Bill Beard's Diving Safaris
Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica
Feb. 1, 1999
Dear John and Susan,
Hello. This is Debbie Adams. You arranged a family trip for us to the
Bay Islands in '98 aboard the Bay Island Aggressor for Family week.
Unfortunately the San Pedro-Roatan airlines, Caribbean Air, went under
less than 2 weeks before our trip. Thanks to your expertise and connections,
our vacation was saved! The arrangements you made through Mayan Caribbean
Tours were a lifesaver, and more than expected.
I apologize if I forgot to send a thank you earlier. Our vacation went off without a hitch! No luggage was lost for more than 1 hr., and the kids fell in love with the Aggressor crew. Bradley (age 12) even experienced puppy-love for the first time. Needless to say, we want to do it again! This time our oldest son, Matthew wants to go, even though he does not dive (and, I promise to purchase trip insurance immediately).
I would like to arrange a trip for the summer of 2000. I am sure it is too early, as I have seen nothing posted on the Aggressor web page regarding family weeks. What we are looking for this time is a total of about 2 weeks for a family 5 (2 adult divers, 17 yr non-diver, 15 yr diver, 12 yr new diver looking for open water certification). A week on an Aggressor (or other dive charter, preferably something other than the Bay Islands, just to give us different experiences) with Chelsea, age 12, receiving open water certification on the boat, and a week ashore at a resort, condominum, or house for a family of 5. Budget-wise we would like to keep things reasonable, so I do not mind cooking a few nights if we locate a condo, or house.
Please keep us in mind as things become available. Hopefully, planning in advance will allow us to take advantage of opportunities as they come up. Thanks again.
Morris & Debbie Adams
Hi John & Susan...
Thank you very much for all the great information on yourselves and on the booking process. I look forward to working with you in the very near future...I like your style! I am planning a group get-together on Friday the 22nd, to get a good idea of everyone's expectations, price range, favored locations to visit, etc. I will present the information you have provided me with and we will go from there. After I have everyone's input I will be in a better position to provide you with all the required information you need to get us quotes, etc. Thank you for spending time with me on the phone. I have found most travel agents don't have "time" for their clients and you were a refreshing change.
Once again, I look forward to working with you!
Jan. 5, 1999
Attn: John Hessburg
Happy New Year!
Once again you came through for us like a charm. Lynn D and Lynn K thoroughly enjoyed LaPaz, the LaConcha Hotel and diving with the Cortez Club. Great location, great people, great low key town, great food, great price (all except the airfare--you don't want to hear about Lynn K's disastrous return travel through the midwest storms of last weekend and additional expense to get home only one day late!)
Diving was terrific--wetsuits and all. We told James that you had recommended them to us--runs a good shop. Gabby is the best of the dive masters. Conditions improved each day we were there--made it out to Los Islotes to dive with the "sea dogs", to the pinnacles to see the barracuda--and they made a number of appearances, and to Las Reinas looking for seahorses.
Thanks again for the recommendation and help getting it put together. Next trip--thinking about Cozumel for a long weekend, ie; 4 days, around Labor Day--can you help us out?
Lynn Dines & Lynn Kippenhan
Huntington Beach, CA & Indianapolis, IN
Jan. 1, 1999
I was just perusing your website and dreaming as I am so fond of doing.
I see that my Garden of Eden -- Nautilus Dive Resort (Guanaja, Honduras)
-- will be back up and in business again as of March 1999. Would
you please start the machine in motion for me to return June 12-19, 1999.
As of now, I will be going solo, but if I can convince anyone to go with
me, that could change (but not a concern at this moment). I will
need air as well from Toronto Pearson Airport, etc. I can't wait
to return and I hope that Marla and Darrell are still there. If so
please say hello to Marla if you happen to be speaking with her and that
I'm looking forward to seeing she and the boys again. I look forward
to hearing from you about deposits etc. ( I would have had them in the
mail yesterday if I could have).
John, thanks for all your help.
From the FREEZING Great White North!!!!
Happy New Year! Enclosed are our Peter Hughes (Wave Dancer) waivers. Thanks for all your help. You've made this such a pleasurable experience. Four weeks & counting!
Had a very nice time (at La Concha Beach Resort in La Paz, Baja), distinguished by numerous contacts with the big critters -- sea lions, dolphins, mantas. I hope you had a nice holiday.
Been back from Kona a little over a week now and I'm still unpacking. We had a wonderful trip and our hotel (Royal Kona Resort) was awesome. I'll give you the play by play soon. For now, I'm just trying to get back up to speed at work.Take care.
Just a quick note of thanks for all your help (with the Bay Islands Aggressor, for Kid's Week). We had no idea it would be so easy to organize everything. John and Susan, you had asked how I found your web site. I just remembered, and do not know the value of it, but I used Infoseek and did a search first on "live-aboard" then "dive". Hope this helps. Again, my family thanks you both for your excellent service.Morris and Debbie Adams
Just a quick postcard to thank you for arranging what was our very best vacation ever. Everything you said, John, about the Fijians was right on. Elizabeth and I had a wonderful time at both Garden Island Resort (Taveuni) and Matangi Island Resort. We wouldn't have changed one thing, except to stay longer next time -- or stay indefinitely some day in the future. In the meantime we're trying to introduce a little more "Senga Na Lenga" (Hang Loose and Relax!) into our daily lives, and the music of the islands seems to help. (Mr. Lewis sent USDT a tape of local Fijian folk music from Taveuni.)
Until our next trip...Soon we hope.John Jo Lewis and Elizabeth Morrison
Becky and I have been to Guanaja and returned. We had a fabulous time there. The Nautilus Dive Resort was a great place to stay. The staff there was great. While Manuel Perez (manager) was only there a couple of days, he was very efficient and a great host. Denis did an admirable job filling in for Manuel as well as being a great divemaster. Dean was wonderful. His personality and helpfulness were like a breath of fresh air. It was very obvious that he was genuine. Betty Ann's cooking and friendliness were superb. Jasmine (house staff) was also very nice. All in all, the staff there at Nautilus Dive Resort was outstanding!
The resort itself was very nice, and very comfortable. Anyone wanting a really laid-back vacation with a lot of diving, should go to Nautilus Dive Resort. The diving was fantastic! My wife and I were the only guests there for the first 3 days. The diving was even better because of the small groups. We really saw a lot.
I'm hoping that you can give me a phone number, e-mail, or something to be able to get in touch with the group at Nautilus Dive Resort. Dean has called and missed us and we would really like to talk to them. We do plan on going back again.
If anyone needs to talk to someone who has been there, and needs tempting, have them send e-mail. I would be glad to tell them all about our time there at Nautilus Resort.
To U.S. DIVE TRAVEL:
I had a great time on the Spoilsport (Mike Ball Dive Expeditions' Coral Sea Diving Adventure). The food was great, the crew fantastic and the diving was good. Thanks for all your help. I'm starting to think of my Christmas vacation. Unfortunately all the sellout dates for the Peter Hughes Moon Dancer are exactly my vacation dates! In Japan, there are three set vacation times: the end of December and first week of January; the first week of May, and mid-August.Thanks again.
Our Grand Cayman vacation was awesome. The water temp was a wonderful 90 F. Viz was at @ 100-150 feet. Dove the East End.... Dove Babylon off Anchor Point and Chub Hole....Saw the most beautiful spotted eagle rays, nurse shark, eels, and fabulous corals and sponges....Parrot's Landing did well for us....Some trips were very crowded. Others were great -- only four divers!!! Took videos and lots of photos....A great time was had by all. Coconut Harbour is all that you said it would be, friendly and quaint. Since we are now broke, we shall be saving for our next dive vacation.... You WILL hear back from us for our next dive adventure. May God bless you. And thank you from the both of us.Rosemarie and Tom O' Grady
Rebecca and I just came back from an amazing scuba adventure at the Fiesta Americana Hotel in Cozumel. First of all, the Fiesta Americana was just what we needed -- relaxing in a pool that felt like bath water (it wasn't uncommon for us to spend 2 to 3 hours in the pool after a 2-tank dive in the morning, exiting like prunes). The service at the Cozumel Reef Hotel was 5-star and the people were warm and friendly.
Mostly, we ate in town for dinners at the Mission, Prima, Santiago's Grill and Las Tortugas. The lobster dinner at the Mission was out of this world (we had it twice). Now for the diving. The Dive House was very accommodating and ready to meet our requests. We especially loved the fact that the dive team would grab our BCs, tanks, weight belts, fins and masks while we were still in the water (after our first dive) and then proceed to suit-up our next tank. Along with the obvious convenience and relaxation element, the divemasters were professional and ready to answer all questions about up-coming dives. They were also very good about pointing out coral and fish life.
All-in-all, Rebecca and I had a wonderful time and will definitely return soon. We are looking to go away again and we are hoping you can advise us accordingly.Thanks again, U.S. Dive Travel !
I just wanted to thank you for arranging such a fabulous trip for us in Grand Cayman. We were truly impressed with all aspects of our stay: the people, the service and especially the diving with Coconut Harbour and Parrot's Landing! The marine life was really spectacular and memorable. Dan and I would gladly return to the Caymans again.
Thank you for all of your assistance in helping us organize our dive trip. I hope we'll speak to you again in the near future.Sincerely,
I just wanted to drop you a line to thank you for the best diving experience that I have had. The Nautilus Dive Resort facility was the greatest for the diver, whether expert or novice. My son, Rob and I flew to Guanaja on Saturday, May 17. We were met by (resort manager) Manuel Perez at the airport and transported by boat to the resort. We immediately hit it off with Manuel, perhaps because he and Rob are the same age.
The next morning we began the dive experience with a checkout dive, and from there on to deeper and better things. We loved the coral formations, and, frankly they looked like they had never seen a diver -- they were just so pristine. Naturally the fish were good, too, but the coral was the best. And we can't forget the happy face of our divemaster, Denis. Although Denis is young in age, he is a pro in leading a dive. One of the things we liked best about Nautilus Dive Resort was the fact that both Denis and Manuel were as excited about the dives as we were!
Not to be forgotten is the Nautilus Resort kitchen staff, who did their best three times a day to fill the vacant spot in our middles. The food was outstanding, and we never left the table hungry. They got so used to our capacity for food that when we returned from a dive the question was, "Tiene hambre?" The answer was, "Como siempre, si !"
Again John, your recommendation of the Nautilus Dive Resort was great, as was the whole week. Thanks very much.Gil and Rob Grady
May 5, 1997
Just a note to tell you that we are back and that everything was GREAT!
After a scary start (Colette missed her flight, but caught up to us at the Houston Ramada Inn at about 1 AM); then weather in Houston landed us in Lubbock for an indeterminate amount of time.....Islena Air was on-time and we got to the resort in great shape. Manuel (Nautilus Dive Resort manager) and the staff were a lot of fun and were extremely interested in helping any way they could (I got the package to Denis, per your request). The meals were right on -- everyone had exactly what they wanted.....To tell you the truth, there wasn't anything to COMPLAIN ABOUT at Nautilus Resort!
The group of us are all friends and like joking with and about each other - we take "potshots" in jest. Manuel got into the swing of things and was joking with us in no time. It was great fun. The flights on the trip back were clockwork. No hassles, no delays.
Somewhat unexpectedly -- we were met at San Pedro Sula by a representative of Nautilus Dive Resort (Guanaja, Honduras). Sondra helped us through customs. The resort had already arranged boarding passes and had paid the fare -- it was put on our "check-out bill". She also arranged so that all of our bags were checked through to the island inside of 5 minutes after we were through customs. She also had cold pop and beer for our wait at the airport.... I was expecting to have to do this hassle myself and Sondra really was a blessing. Dale and Robin came in not knowing this and Sondra was late meeting them. They went and bought their own tickets. It was worked out with no problem.
You might want to tell people that there is a $10/day charge for air conditioner use. Everyone who used the air conditioners understood the costs involved and there were no complaints: but said that it would be easier to plan how much cash to bring if people know these costs ahead of time. Only two couples used air conditioning. Everyone else enjoyed the natural weather!
If people plan to pay their (extra beverage) bill at the resort with credit card, they also pay an additional 6% to cover the (bank's surcharge) rate.
Again, everyone had a fantastic time, the diving was excellent and there were no complaints from anyone on anything. Everyone raved about Nautilus Dive Resort. We have a photo exchange / bar-b-que already planned for the group. I look forward to working with U.S. Dive Travel again.
John W. Meyer
( Group Leader / 12 divers )
Regarding NAUTILUS DIVE RESORT:
The meals were wonderful, more than I could eat. It was an incredible staff. They made you feel right at home -- always smiling & patient. You would have to be to put up with our group. The staff at Nautilus Dive Resort went out of their way to make our vacation enjoyable & memorable.
Divemaster Denis has a great personality, always smiling....He explained in detail what we would expect on each & every dive. (The dive guides) seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as we were. We didn't have to lift a finger. Everything was done for us. We got to dive all we wanted to.
Everything was wonderful at Nautilus Dive Resort. So keep up the good work!
Just wanted to drop you a quick e-mail to let you know my husband and I really enjoyed our vacation to Honduras. Manuel, Denis et al at the Nautilus Dive Resort were exceptional in their level of friendliness and personal service. They made our stay fun, safe, and memorable.
The Copan Ruins trip we added on the end was INCREDIBLE. Our tour guide, Julio, was a perfect host and guide through the area. It was well worth the extra time and expense. Thanks again for all your (and your family's) help and advice.
Caroline and David Morton
(About Nautilus Dive Resort, Guanaja Island, Honduras...)
The upstairs rooms are great. The staff is always pleasant & helpful! They are hard workers. The divemaster is very helpful & pleasant. I appreciate all the effort Manuel (Perez) put forth to accommodate everyone's wishes. Thanks for making me at home & welcoming me to your resort.
To: Nautilus Dive Resort staff & USDT:
(Nautilus Dive Resort ) has an excellent cook & food. The staff is very friendly & helpful. There were good dive site briefings & Manuel Perez (instructor / dive guide) showed us the best things underwater.
This is the best service & attention to divers needs that we've seen anywhere we've been. It was obvious that a good maintenance program was taking place. All of our needs or concerns were taken care of promptly.
Steve & Sue Dyer
Dear John & Susan:
Aloha! We are having a great time here on Kona! We're so glad we decided to come here (Royal Kona Resort). We've been having tropical storms, but that has made it all the better! (Honeymoon couple :) We received champagne our first night here -- if that was your doing, thanks!!!
Mahalo for the great time!
Courtney & Steve Emanuels
To U. S. Dive Travel:
Thank you for the kind words and prayers. I appreciate so much all your work in making this possible for me (dive trip to Fantasy Island Beach Resort, Roatan, Honduras).
Though I'm a little nervous about my passport. . . I feel in my heart it will all work out. I am so excited about going to the Copan Ruins!
I am at the airport right now---waiting to meet the others coming in from Pasco. It is the first minute I've had to get a note off to you. From here on out it just doesn't matter what comes----I feel so fortunate to be taking this trip! I wanted to enclose this picture as this is where my love of diving started. I know my husband would be thrilled I was going on this trip and he is with me in spirit.
I just wanted to thank you again for making the extra effort to make this all possible for me. If nothing else happens---it will already have been a better year!
Thanks for all your help and kindness. I'm overwhelmed with excitement! No doubt it will be Paradise (NE Fiji Islands). We'll keep you posted!
Kim Dixon & Dr. Glenn Morrison
Gig Harbor, WA
It was nice working with you again! Maybe we'll run into you on the island of Hawaii while we're there (at Royal Kona Resort) !
Thanks for everything,
Aug. 25, '95
Thanks for the great info on your company and travel locations. I have only had an opportunity to scan it, but my travel fever is already rising. Your enthusiasm is contagious and I appreciate the time you spent with me on the phone. My wife and I are currently planning our spring '96 tropical trip and your flyers and brochures will certainly help in our planning. Thanks again and I would like to meet you in person some day. I hope you had a good trek up Mt. Rainier and made it to the summit. I will talk to you soon.
Sept. 18, 1995
Dear John and Susan:
Just wanted to drop you a line thanking you for arranging for our delightful diving trip to the Nautilus Dive Resort on Guanaja, Honduras. We appreciate your excellent advice and suggestions, the excellent and reasonable rates, and steering us to this wonderful, wild place. We videoed and enjoyed every moment. The trip could not have been more wonderful!
We especially enjoyed its untouched qualities, the quietness and smallness of the resort -- only two others were with us, besides the people employed at Nautilus Dive Resort -- plus the very capable divemasters and manager, and the high quality of the resort care.
We'll want to arrange another trip to another diving area for next summer and will be contacting you next spring.
Carole Lee & Phil Stella
Bonner's Ferry, Idaho
June 7, l995
To the Staff at U.S. Dive Travel:
We just returned from the trip you arranged to Grand Cayman, diving with Parrots Landing and staying at the Seaview Hotel. We had never been there before and relied on your judgment. It was even better than we anticipated. The Seaview Hotel was closer to town than we thought it was (short walk of about two city blocks), and was really clean and quaint. We did not remember reading anything about the Cayman Dive College located right at the Seaview Hotel, but it is a small dive shop with all facilities except dive boats. When staying at the Seaview, air tanks are provided free by the Cayman Dive College for shore dives right in front of the hotel.
The restaurant and bars (both indoors and outdoors) at the Seaview Hotel were probably the best in Grand Cayman, although we ate at many places on the island and never had anything but wonderful food. And we ate local style dishes almost exclusively.
Parrots Landing was a very professional operation with the nicest employees. All our dive boats were perfect. We upgraded to their Advanced Computer boat on four days, which allowed us to utilize our computers instead of PADI tables to determine bottom time. Parrots Landing also provided free shore dive tanks on days you dive with them.
Stingray City was expected to be a so-so dive, but we really enjoyed diving with the stingrays and even saw "Bruce" the green moray. This is a MUST dive at least once.
We spent most of our trip between the Seaview Hotel and Parrots Landing just diving and eating and meeting lots and lots of new friends (mostly divers but some non-divers also). Pam really enjoyed the diving since over half the divers were female and she was used to diving mostly with guys. We made shore dives every day, even on our one day off from boat diving in the middle of the trip. Also four night dives from shore with friends.
Even the last two days of our visit (no diving days) were interesting since Tropical Storm Allison changed the weather dramatically. Lots of hard rain and wind and big surf. We rented a car and toured the island, which was great.
We highly recommend the Parrots Landing / Seaview Hotel package and we WILL do it again. Thanks for a fantastic dive vacation.
Rick and Pamela Gordon
U.S. Dive Travel
PMB 307 / Suite # 116
15050 Cedar Ave. S.
St. Paul, MN 55124-7047
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