Sun Dancing the Week Away
Two and a half grand may sound like a lot of money to spend on a diving holiday; but, says John Bantin, a cruise on Sun Dancer II (above) costs around the same as staying on land.
|If you simply want to dive, dive, dive, a liveaboard offering up to five dives a day is the answer. I stayed aboard Sun Dancer II, which is operated by Peter Hughes. It is a 43m vessel driven by twin Detroit diesels with 1940hp and a maximum speed of 16 knots. It has 10 twin-berth cabins, each equipped with large windows and en suite facilities.
Because it is aimed at the American diver, the boat has air-conditioning and plenty of fresh water supplies - up to 16,000 litres per day. The same can be said of the electricity supplies, provided by three generators giving a total of 200kv2. Some of the cabins have TV and video.
Sun Dancer II provides everything you would expect of a first-class hotel. The crew is international - among them I detected American, Canadian, Austrian, Dutch, South African, Palau and Japanese - and they provide the highest level of service. The passengers, too, were of very mixed nationality and income bracket.
Peter Hughes is an equal-opportunity employer and it was refreshing to see slight young women driving boats, filling tanks and doing many jobs that have traditionally been reserved for males.
A proper E6 processing lab kept the photographers happy. I enjoyed the luxury provided by the spacious conditions and it never felt crowded.
Sun Dancer II is equipped with two auxiliary diving boats, and these are the best vessels I have ever used for this purpose. They are around 10m long; they have large soft sponsons that look like inflatable tubes; they are spacious and comfortable, with room for 18 divers when a full load will only be 10; and their planing hulls are driven at speed by 400hp diesels with jet drives.
These jet drives make them eminently manoeuvrable yet very safe when picking up divers, because there is no propeller.
On board Sun Dancer II, supplies of nitrox 32, made by de-nitrogenising air, add a huge degree of safety for those who want to dive as much as they can. Nitrox courses are available.
The crew worked incredibly hard to make sure we got the most benefit from the trip. I found the regime of dive, eat, dive, eat, quite exhausting. I barely had time to attend to my cameras, so I admire the fact that the crew were always on the ball.
The price of a cruise on board Sun Dancer II may look expensive, but because it includes absolutely everything - even your drinks - it works out around the same price as staying on the land.
John Bantin travelled to Palau, stayed at the Palau Pacific Resort and on board Sun Dancer II as a guest of Scuba Safaris, 01797 270910. A 14-day trip including one night in Manila, five nights at Palau Pacific Resort and five nights aboard Sun Dancer II costs£2590.
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