I was very disheartened to hear of your bad experience in Tobago...
Dive op owner - Instructor / Self-employed
August 9, 2008 at 12:48:30
I was very disheartened to read of your bad experience in Tobago. I can assure you, and other readers that there are several very professional dive operators on the island, both north and South and having spent over seven years diving around Tobago i can honestly say that the reef system around Speyside offers some of the best diving in the entire caribbean region.
It is common policy for all dive operators who are based in the south of the island to insist divers, regardless of certification level, make a check dive in the south before joining any excursion to Speyside in the north as the diving in and around Speyside can be more than advanced and conditions have the potetntial to change hourly from slight to extreme. Those operating in the north (Speyside) will ALSO CONDUCT CHECK DIVES however we do this on our 'house' reefs, which are not the focus of those coming up from the south on day trips. Certainly no dive centre operating in Tobago worth it's salt would bring ANY diver to speyside and dive them off the main reefs without checking their skills somewhere easy first, and i would go further to suggest a dive operator who would agree to that should be avoided (as you found out the hard way when you lost your $400).
It is quite common for divers who say they like 'drift' diving or have drift specialty, even instructors! to come to tobago and encounter currents they are completely overwhelmed by, there is a great difference between a slow gentle half knot drift along a pretty reef in swimming pool like conditions, and a three knot current with a pull down where your bubbles disappear down to 40 meters and dont come back up again for five minutes. Currents here can be extreme and dive operators need to be sure that should they encounter such changes the divers have the basic ability to be safe. Ultimately whoever you dive with, when you hit the water you are responsible for yourself, far too many divers put it all on the divemasters forgetting they have ten other divers to look after. it is simply professional for them to make sure you do check dives first.
I think you were very unfortunate in your experience but it certainly is not endemic of the dive industry here, I am suprised to here such negative comments about WoW as they are generally are good professional outfit. In addition, WoW and TDE are no longer sister companies so they are infact now seperate operators. Had you not been called away due to a family emergency and managed to dive in Speyside you very probably would have a totally different opinion as the diving is fantastic. Speyside has great reef, generally good viz from 50 to 120 ft depending on the season and pelagics. I suggest that divers do their research thoroughly as the internet can be helpful or misleading depending on how you use it, and a dive operator local to the Speyside reef system is more logical as they know the conditions and reefs far better and all operators in the North load and depart from a jetty.
Ultimately it depends on what people want, you can access other islands far more easily that have five star hotels and all the trimmings but for my taste they tend to be over developed and commercial, there's too many divers in the water and they dont have the topside scenery that Tobago offers in the North. Tobago is more peaceful and picturesque, the diving in and around Speyside is fanatastic and if you want something a step off the beaten track then it's worthwhile.
Once again i am sorry for you that your trip went sour