Happy 40th Birthday to Me!
March 27, 2014 10:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm a single woman who will be celebrating her 40th birthday this December. I've decided to go away, specifically on a scuba trip. (I plan to get certified in May.) Please help me plan a single friendly birthday scuba trip.

So here's what you need to know about me. Because my birthday falls on December 20th, it's generally pretty sucktacular. For my 40th, I want to do something special. I'm leaning towards Hawaii but I am open to other locations. I've been to Grand Cayman twice and love it, but also would like to go to some new places. The key is a place where I won't feel depressed about being single.

Last time I went to Grand Cayman, everyone was friendly and I ended up chatting with various people at dinner, on trips, etc. It was a smaller resort and therefore much friendlier. That's the type of thing that I'm looking for. I'm not entirely against going with a group if anyone can recommend one, but you need to read the next paragraph about my disability before you recommend a group.

You also need to know that I am mobility impaired. Now, I can and do walk around. I can't walk long distances ( over 4 miles would be trying) and I walk slowly. Even standing for periods longer than say 5-10 minutes can be trying. I have trouble getting upstairs. Aside from those issues, I walk around all the time. According to my pedometer, I generally average about 2.5 miles a day when I'm not working out and over four miles a day when I am. Obviously, swimming is not a problem and I love to spend time in the ocean.

I tend to travel alone because I don't want to put a group out with my limitations. A relaxed group that would allow for opting in and out of activities would probably be great. But I'm also cool with going by myself.

So...help me have a wonderful fun birthday with scuba diving.
posted by miss-lapin to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Look into liveaboards. Aggressor was widely regarded as giving a good dive experience back when I was diving c. 2004-ish, but unfortunately I never got a chance to try one out. But the concept is pretty awesome; small boat, 10-20 divers staying on board for a week, up to 5 dives/day, and because the boat doesn't have to return to shore at night has much greater range, i.e. potentially cooler dive sites. And that also helps with your mobility issues; you can probably get the mate to hump your gear around, so all you need to do is walk to the side of the boat, gear up, and jump in.
posted by disconnect at 11:03 AM on March 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I know some people who wrote a pretty detailed account of their trip to Long Caye, on Glovers Reef in Belize. They went on a trip arranged by Slickrock Adventures, which covers the eastern side of the 11-acre island, 30 miles offshore.

They said that the small number of people (29 on the entire caye, 19 in their tour) made it calm and peaceful. No light pollution. "When the skies were clear, we could easily see the Milky Way. We arrived on the new moon, and the sky was so dark that we could see the full disk of the moon illuminated by earthshine."

The ground is mostly coral rubble and sand. Can you do that comfortably, or would you prefer a smoother surface?

Activities include snorkeling (including a nice lagoon), day and night dives for open water scuba (they did four dives total, all drift dives) and extreme hammock surfing :P They had big swells during several days, so they stuck with snorkeling on several occasions.

Glover's Reef is not only one of the healthiest reefs in the world, it's also host to one of two remaining major spawning grounds for the endangered Nassau grouper, and has one of the world's healthiest and most diverse sponge populations.

They said that this trip was their reason to get open water certified (so, like you, this wasn't something for super-experienced divers only) and there were singletons in the group as well.
posted by Madamina at 11:13 AM on March 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Check out CocoView Resort at Roatan Honduras.

It's a relatively short flight from Atlanta.

CocoView is more of a 'dive camp' than a resort, in that it's secluded on it's own island, has a limited number of guests, and the only reason folks are there is to scuba dive.

It's pretty much an escape from the world, and absolutely lovely. The dive shop is top notch, and you can get further dive certifications while you're there!
posted by matty at 11:29 AM on March 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a friend who has basically relocated to Guam and dives 5-10 times/wk. She loves it. I think she's gone from novice to master diver while there, so clearly there are options for all expertise levels.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 11:41 AM on March 27, 2014

You can do a liveaboard, if staying on board a ship is an option for you. Haven't done one myself -- two/three dives a day for 5 days or so is too much for my ears and sinuses. (Now that I think about it, it's probably not an ideal situation for a beginner who doesn't necessarily know his/her limitations.)

Resorts (incl. all-inclusives) can offer decent diving, and you can pick one that matches your temperament. About 20 y.a. I did one as a single (in what was clearly a couples resort -- I didn't fit in, socially) but the diving was so great that I didn't mind. I was there for the diving anyhow. (Moorea, FWIW.)

If you can enjoy kitsch (or have a DFW-like morbid curiosity), you can take a Caribbean cruise; typically, you'll get two or three opportunities to dive. Quality is mixed -- depends heavily on the subcontractors as well as the location -- but it might suit you. (You probably shouldn't consider a cruise as a dive vacation, but dives as part of a cruise vacation.) An advantage is that you can do all-inclusive pretty cheaply. (And in NYC, you can take a taxi to the port. This, alone, was the main reason I've been on more than one cruise.)

When you get certified, ask your instructors (assuming you like and trust them, of course!) Many regularly get local groups together for a trip.

As for locations, here's some in the Caribbean and Atlantic where I've had good experiences: Grand Cayman, Belize, spots in the US and BVIs (the wreck of the Rhone was the high point), Roatan, St. Marten (though less so when I went back years later.) Both Pacific trips I've been on (Moorea and Maui) had spectacular diving. Plenty of resort options for all of these places.
posted by cgs06 at 11:47 AM on March 27, 2014

Just chiming in to say that the amount of people honeymooning in Hawaii (Maui and Big Island) was overwhelming to me when I went there four years ago; I was on a family trip but remember being really aware of all the couples and all the stuff geared towards romance. I don't recall that being the case in the Caribbean. YMMV on the other Hawaiian islands, but if you've got other recommendations like the ones above, you might prefer those for being more inclusive.
posted by stellaluna at 12:29 PM on March 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

A fond memory of mine is a diving trip to Bimini. It's as laid-back as can be. But since I'm not sure it will meet your idea of "special," I'll just suggest it for further research.
posted by JimN2TAW at 5:02 PM on March 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had a super awesome time as a single woman at Roatan Honduras, but unlike the commenter above, I didn't go to a resort -- just a little town with bunches of dive shops. I got my scuba certificate from Coconut Tree Divers, and stayed in a sweet little cabana next door, but there are lots of dive shops and accommodation options, and plenty of restaurants and caf├ęs with a lively tourist and local mix all over.
posted by spindrifter at 5:38 PM on March 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've been on a Slickrock trip and it's probably just right for you in terms of the diving, BUT, the island is isolated - once you are there you are there until the next boat comes three or four days later -- and I think all the cabins have staircases to their entries. So if you get there and you're not happy, you're kind of screwed. The accommodations are very rustic (think chemical toilets, not attached to the cabins) and are also up a flight of stairs. Feel free to memail me if you want more detail on how it was.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:32 PM on March 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

My best friend is a now-ex-SCUBA diver. Your mobility issues COULD be a factor on a live aboard, but I think you should probably investigate and make that call. He seems to think that it might.

He was quite fond of diving in Belize, and spoke quite highly of all aspects of the place, including the diving.
posted by Thistledown at 5:00 AM on March 28, 2014

Response by poster: I wanted to thank you all for your answers, but particularly the people who suggested Slickrock as that is what I went with. I did a week long trip to Glover's Reef, Belize, and it was AMAZING and wonderful. I met fantastic people, and the guides were excellent. The disability wasn't much of an issue as the guides were happy to talk to me about the activities so I could easily gauge what I could do and honestly what was offered didn't really limit me.

The activities were great-I stuck to kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba, but if I go back I want to try kayak surfing. While I wanted to focus on scuba, I ended up really getting into snorkeling on this trip.

Even though I was the only single person there, I didn't feel left out at all and the other guests were fantastic. In fact, I have to say, it's the most acceptance I've ever felt about my disability from a group of people, my family included. So thank you for helping me pick out the best birthday present I could have given myself.
posted by miss-lapin at 1:16 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh and the stairs weren't a huge issue. I live up one flight of stairs so I handled that.
posted by miss-lapin at 1:18 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, wow, what a wonderful followup! I hope that someday I'm as lucky as you have been in finding such an affirming and satisfying experience.

Happy birthday!
posted by Madamina at 2:08 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

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