October 6-8, 2016
Highly rated on Trip Advisor Scuba Nosy Be is French run and does good business with a mostly French speaking clientele. As such, most of the guides are also French speaking but they do have English speaking guides as well.
They are located just a 3 minute walk down Ambondrona Beach (10K north of Hell-ville) from Nosy Lodge.
I had made arrangements online for 3 days of diving. Erwin, the owner, stopped by the lodge at 6PM the night before our first dive to meet us and briefly tell us the next day’s schedule. He also asked about our diving experience and wanted to see our PADI cards.
They have 3 boats, all of which went out each of the 3 days we were with them. There is a maximum of 8 persons per boat with generally 1 instructor for every 4 divers. Boats are small but in good shape and comfortable. Basic conditions on board with no shade and no toilet, shared dry space for your clothes and such, and just enough room for the tanks and a bench in front of them to gear up. Equipment was also in good condition with the BCDs looking brand new.
Boarding and disembarking is in the surf along the beach in water as high as mid-thigh.
The boat is set up with the gear when you arrive and they bring the gear back after you disembark. The boat captain and a French speaking assistant were friendly and helped with basic gear donning and removal but didn’t fuss with all the buckles and releases.
We were impressed by their certifications and that they went over their safety equipment on board. In addition, there is a decompression chamber on the island.
They only provide a bottle of water and 1 banana for each person. They try to get you back by lunch but 2 days we ran over until nearly 2:30PM – once because we spent time with a whale shark between dives.
Our guide Etienne spoke good English and was very professional and safety conscious. They take excellent care of you, especially if you have less experience and still need a little extra guidance. However, it’s still important to check your own gear. One young woman found out after she had already started the descent that her tank was not fully open. When she ran out of air, she had to use Etienne’s octopus.
We haven’t been diving long enough for me to judge the conditions of the dive sites.
We did 2 dives at Nosy Tanikely Marine Park (entrance 20,000 ariary/person), a protected area popular with snorkeling groups.
The island has beautiful crystal blue water and white sand beaches but plenty of sharp shells and coral making walking difficult.
The first dive was much clearer than the second. The reef was in good condition with lots of live coral and a wide range of fish. It was just us, Etienne and 1 other experienced diver.
We were about an hour at 12.5ft with pretty good visibility and an abundance of colorful fish, some sizable, sea turtles and a great view of a leopard shard just lying in the sand while 10 divers tried to photograph him. My camera battery unfortunately had died.
We spent 45 minutes on shore where more and more boats of snorkelers were arriving for the day.
For the second dive we went out farther from the beach and did a free descent. This time there were 2 more clients and another instructor. There was a surge as we descended and the water was not as clear.
Here we saw several turtles, rays and the same types of colorful fish we saw on the first dive. However in the lower light and visibility my little Olympus Tough TG-4 didn’t work so well.
The next 2 days we did 4 open water dives. All had some reefs and similar species of fish with frequent larger schools and bigger fish. Visibility was OK but not great. Highlights included a moray eel, octopus, and tons of large fan coral. As we were diving deeper I didn’t take my camera on these dives.
Of course the biggest get was swimming with a whale shark. We tried to find one on the second day of diving but came up empty. On the third day they made a special effort to find one as there were a number of clients eager to see one.
We spent a good 15-20 minutes swimming with him, though it was a rugby match jockeying for a good photo position and my wimpy camera was not very good in the rough surf conditions.
Although it’s the biggest fish in the world, this one was just a juvenile about 5 to 6 meters in length.