Thursday, December 26, 2013

Great Place for an Island Wedding

Small Hope Bay Lodge is a beautiful destination for a beachside wedding. We have two secluded beaches, beautiful island flowers, a great kitchen staff to prepare delicious food, and a staff willing to accommodate anything you can imagine for your wedding. This month we have lucky enough to host two weddings.

Brent and Carolyn came to Small Hope with their three kids to celebrate their wedding. They stayed for a week - some tried diving, some snorkeling, bike rides and more. They had their ceremony on the north beach and it could not have been sweeter. Congratulations to them and their family!

Sam and Diana came to escape some of the craziness that go along with wedding planning. They left all the plans up to us and had an intimate ceremony on the south beach. As they came alone, they were able to combine their wedding with their honeymoon. They tried diving, snorkeling, biking and more. Congratulations Sam and Diana!

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Another Wonderful Christmas at Small Hope!

Christmas is a very special time here. Couples, friends and families escape to Small Hope Hope for the holidays for several reasons - sunny and warm days; a great meeting place for many who would be traveling; lots of activities for everyone (diving, snorkeling, kids games, fishing); great, home-style food without the fuss of making it at home. 

Our Christmas traditions here include our typical daily activities such as dive and snorkel trips, as well as special things like making your own Christmas tree decorations and our HUGE and tasty feast. This year's menu included roasted turkey with gravy and cranberry sauce, Kahlua-glazed ham, mushroom stuffing, roasted sprouts, Waldorf salad, tomato pumpkin bisque, Mahi Mahi, sauteed shrimp, mashed sweet potatoes, and sauteed peppers. This, of course, was followed by dessert . . . 25 delicious homemade desserts in fact!

Our great staff followed dinner with a dance performance by our chef, Sherry, and a short demonstration of Bahamas-style Junkanoo!

It was such a great night - full of laughter, smiles, and friends, both old and new - that I can't wait for next year!
Like one of our guests said the other night - "It's just like home, but better!" Pin It Now!

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Blast from the Past!

Small Hope Bay Lodge first opened in 1960! That means we are now in our 54th year. 54 years of exploring our reef, of conch fritters, of hanging with our guests at the bar. Here are some of our "old school" photos from back in the day!

Early scuba lessons
Tiki boat, one of our many boats thru the years

Our old zig zag dock

Moose and Elizabeth, friends for years
Past divemasters, Alec and John
Another boat with Dick Birch at the helm

Dick Birch

Yep, we used to limbo!

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Monday, December 2, 2013

Sailing the seas of the Bahamas . . .

At Small Hope there are so many things to do - scuba diving, fishing (deep-sea, reef and bonefishing), kayaking, nature tours, bike riding, snorkeling, hammocking (we take that very seriously). 

The other day, Divemaster Fede decided to take the sailboat out for a spin. Since it was such a beautiful autumn day he took the GoPro camera out with him. Then he had a little fun on iMovie . . . 

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Here is a look at our menu for Thanksgiving this year . . .

From all of us at Small Hope, have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Pin It Now!

Friday, November 22, 2013

DEMA, Harry Potter and coming home . . .

A couple weeks ago I attended DEMA in Orlando, Florida. I went as a representative from Small Hope Bay Lodge to meet some dive groups and take two courses. Overall it was a good show. The courses I took, while long, were very informative and now I am ready to be a ScubaPro service tech for our regulators at the dock, and to do visual inspections on our scuba tanks! Mission accomplished!

I also ran into some old friends, like Jonathan Bird and Camerman Todd, from JonathanBird's Blue World. The show turned out being very fun. At the Bahamas booth we had a tiki bar and happy hour complete with games, prizes, and of course . . . Rum Punch!

Since I don't get to Orlando very often and happen to be a huge Harry Potter fan, I decided to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter inside Universal Studios. It was SO MUCH FUN!!!!!!!!!! I had the best time (geeked out completely!). I went on the rides (one of them 3 times since it was so fun), had a beer at the Hog's Head Pub, lunch at the Three Broomsticks, and even bought a wand at Olivander's. 

For those non-Potter fans or readers, these things probably mean very little. But for me, it was a hoot. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys the books or movies, fun for all ages!

But by this time I had been in the big city (compared to Andros, Bahamas) for almost a whole week. That means traffic, cars everywhere, cable TV, air conditioned rooms, etc. I was really getting anxious to come home - Small Hope, Andros Island, Bahamas. 

I was ready for the only sounds outside my window to be swaying palms and lapping waves of the ocean; a place where I can see tons and tons of stars; and where everyone I talk to is a friend, even if I just met them. 
Landing in Andros

 Flying into Andros Town airport I thought how happy I am to be home! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Some of our favorite photos from this summer . . .

We have a had a beautiful and hurricane-free summer at Small Hope. We are getting ready for our annual re-opening next week and the staff can't wait for the guests to come back. Here are just a few of our favorite photos from this summer . . . 

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Glamping and Blue Hole Dives, Andros, Bahamas

Just back from one of the most fun weekends I can remember! This past weekend Small Hope Bay Lodge owner, Jeff Birch, took some staff to South Andros for the weekend to do some blue hole dives. It was a great opportunity for some of us to get a chance to see some of the amazing natural beauty of the area as well as dive some of the most amazing caves and caverns in the world.

We called our friends down at Tiamo, a resort on South Andros, who are closed for the season. They happily invited us to use their resort as our camp site while we were down there. Not your typical campsite - we had use of the pool, showers and more, not to mention our amazing welcome night with great wine and champagne.

Our first morning we took the boat to the small dock and headed south by car to Stargate, an incredibly beautiful and ornately decorated cave dive. This is, hands down, one of the coolest dive any of us have ever done - amazing stalactites and wall formations. We even saw a blind cave fish!

Next up was El Dorado, an awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, cave dive. El Dorado starts as you head into the mouth of the cave, visible from above water as well, through a tunnel filled with great wall formations and stalactites (quite a few blind cave fish too!). But then, you start to see light at the far end of this tunnel and you end up beneath a different lake, looking up through the green light.

We turned around and returned to our entry point. As this dive was only at a depth of 90' we had plenty of time to play around outside the mouth of the cave, checking out the debris, wall formations, and sediment. There was a vere eerie mist too!

After a very full (and cool) day of diving we all headed back to our campsite (and the infinity pool) at Tiamo. We rounded out a great day with some tasty tacos and, all exhausted and looking forward to our final dive the next day, went to bed very early.

On Sunday, after camp fire coffee and breakfast, we hopped in the boat once more and headed to the road and the last dive of the trip, Mohrdohr. This place is a bit further into the bush and we had to trek all the gear in. It is a beautiful walk though - views of 3 blue holes, tons of different butterflies, and at least 2 Great Lizard Cuckoos that stopped to check us out. The surface of this blue hole is almost as impressive as beneath the water . There is a land bridge that connects this blue hole with another so you can swim between the two. This dive, Mohrdohr, is technically a cavern dive as outside light is visible at all times. We had a depth of 110' here, but the most impressive part of this dive is coming out. It is a giant room, like a big cathedral, and when you turn around there is a huge column of light coming from the entrance, illuminating the sides and floor of the entire entrance. Breathtaking! 

After this, we hiked back out to the cars, then took the boat back to the camp site to pack all our stuff. We said goodbye to our friends at Tiamo and some of the boys headed back to Small Hope with most of the dive and camping gear on the boat, and the rest of us flew with Jeff, doing a couple fly-bys of the boat on the way.

All in all, an amazing weekend! Can't wait till the next time. Thanks boss!
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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It's a Small (Hope) World After All . . .

Last month we took our vacation. Living in a tropical paradise like Andros, Bahamas many people wondered where we could go that would be more beautiful. But vacation is always good and meeting new people and visiting new places are some of my very favorite things to do in the world. 


Boquete, Panama
We decided to visit a little of Central America. Flights directly to Panama from Nassau made it even easier. So we visited Panama and Costa Rica, each for one week. In Panama, since we are not really city people, we went to a beautiful little town called Boquete, near the volcano Baru, and in the lush green mountains. It was incredilble! Living on the beach, it was a refreshing change to get up in to the mountains.

Then we went to Costa Rica. Having used the site before, I looked for property rentals on Picking a region completely at random then scanning photos and rates we found a lovely little Indonesian-style casita in the Puntarenas area on the Pacific side. Looking
My reading spot
more closely at the property information I was very surprised when I read the owner information. It said the owners, Mac and Sharon, "met on the island of Andros, in the Bahamas and feel in love "underwater" in the blue seas". Living on Andros for two years now, I know there are very few dive centers on the island and the most probable place they could have met was right here at Small Hope Bay Lodge!!! I emailed them about renting their property and tolde them we were both divemasters at Small Hope. It turns out Mac was actually a former divemaster too! He worked here in 1979 for one season. Sharon came to Small Hope as a guest and that's how they met. 

What a small world!Well, as it seemed too big a coincidence to ignore and we booked our week in Costa Rica at their place. And I am so glad we did. 

My porch

 The grounds at Bali Rica, are the definition of tropical, lush beauty. We spent a most relaxing week simply enjoying our spot, Casa Rica, the grounds and the surprisingly stellar restaurants in the little town. And it was great talking to mac and Sharon about Small Hope, what's changed, what will never change, Margo and Alex, Moose, Brendal, Irene and all our mutual acquaintances.

All In all, an absolutely wonderful vacation! 

Mac and Sharon, Bali Rica, Costa Rica
 I highly recommend contacting them if you are interested in visiting Costa Rica! That is, when you are not visiting us at Small Hope Bay Lodge!!!

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Summertime . . . and the living is easy at Small Hope, Andros, Bahamas

This is my FAVORITE time of year here at Small Hope Bay Lodge, Andros Island, Bahamas. The sun shines in the morning. The seas are like glass for the morning dives - so clear that from the boat, I can look down in to 30 feet of water and tell which corals and types of fish are down below. The afternoon brings incredible tropical showers then the day is beautiful and bright once more. And the glorious starry nights are made even more amazing by the lightning shows off on the horizon. The water is between 82 and 84 degrees, perfect for a swim, snorkel or dive, day or night. All in all - Perfect!
Photo by Petter Kaalstad

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My favorite dive ( . . . so far) at Small Hope, Bahamas

With the third largest barrier reef in the world just minutes away from the Small Hope Bay Lodge dock, and being virtually the only dive operation on that reef, there are literally dozens of really, really great dives at my fingertips. I have been enjoying my time underwater at Small Hope for a little over two years now and have gotten to experience some truly amazing dives. I've done mind-blowing wall dives - the drop from the reef into the "Tongue of the Ocean", basically a 6,000 foot drop straight down, with little to no current, making some really awesome wall cruises. I've done coral garden and shark dives - one of my favorite sites, Brad's Mountain combines the two, beautiful coral growth with cracks and crevices, all flourishing with tons of different fish, and pretty much guaranteed sharks every time. I've been diving in the Blue Hole of Andros - both ocean and inland blue holes, I have gotten to experience the full cave dive of the Guardian, as well as the Ocean Blue Hole, an incredibly beautiful cavern dive.

Well, the coolest, most jaw-dropping, kick butt dive so far? 2nd Level of the Blue Hole (into Backside of the Blue Hole). This is one of the custom specialty dives Small Hope offers. We went to the Ocean Blue Hole and timed the dive perfectly with the tides (very important). This is a "live" blue hole, meaning fresh water is sucked through underground caves as the tide goes out. 

2nd Level - This is a deeper circuit around the blue hole dive than the typical blue hole dive we take most of our guests on (usually done at 100'). 2nd Level goes down to about 140' and also passes through a smaller "room", creating a cave-like atmosphere for the first part of the dive. At the beginning of the dive you pass over the rim of the hole and start descending in to the surrounding crevice. Down below, you see a triangular entry. This is the first "restriction" and even though it looks really little divers have no problem getting through. This takes you to the "room" which is quite dark and about 5' high, 8' wide and maybe 6' deep in size. At the back of the room there is a passage down and to the left which takes you through a tunnel that continues to widen until you can see the upper levels of the blue hole. Now it starts to become so incredibly gorgeous. Big skylights letting the turquoise blue stream down through massive boulders strategically placed. Great rock formations, including one we call E.T.'s head (because from the right angle, its shape is just like E.T.'s). And great dark chasms below, where the light will never reach. It is the most awe inspiring dive I've been on.

Backside of the Blue Hole - The Backside dive usually goes to about 70 feet deep and goes over the top of the sinkhole and out the back where all the ancient streams and riverbeds lie. We time the dive so the tides have pushed tons of fresh water through and formed a halocline where the fresh water below is green and significantly cooler, and the salt water above is blue and warm. If you catch the tides just right, the line between fresh and salt water will be so distinct, you could cut it with a knife. In addition to all this, sediment that gets pushed with the fresh water forms what we call "whale snot" and drapes over the coral and looks like Halloween cobweb decor. It also floats around making this dive completely other-worldly as well as a one-of-a-kind experience.

On this particular dive, we timed it just right and at the end of our circuit around the 2nd Level of the Blue Hole we came up in to the Backside of the Blue Hole and finished the dive cruising in and out of green and turquoise waters, playing with the "snot", spotted a reef shark, a giant Nassau grouper, an Atlantic spadefish. All in all, the best of both worlds - unbelievable deep cavern dive, followed by eeire and awesome backside dive. SO GREAT! I love my life! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

More from the Green Team on our Solar Project

My time on Andros have flown by. As I write my last blog entry for Small Hope from the packed Starbucks in Dupont Circle in the heart of Washington, DC it occurred to me that there is no greater juxtaposition to the environment I left behind on Andros. Smart Phones, watches and laptops line every table. Leaving is always bittersweet. Although I am glad to be within walking distance to a hundred restaurants, bars, and stores, I’m already missing the carefree atmosphere.

My last few weeks at Small Hope have been spent overseeing and laying the pipes for the solar hot water system, creating a solar hot water manual and designing a low cost solar hot water system for residential use. The solar hot water manual is meant to document the process that we went through to design and build the system so that other resorts or businesses can follow suit later. The manual includes tediously detailed sourcing information so replacement parts can be easily ordered. The manual also includes detailed schematics, diagrams, and maintenance information.

The rest of the Duke Green team have been busy wrapping up several other projects we have been working on, including an interactive user friendly energy monitoring program that allows users to graphically display information regarding Small Hope’s energy use and cost (total, per capita, etc) and sort according to different factors such as year, season, and end energy use. We also designed a separate solar hot water system for the hot tub. Outside of the project, we have all been proactive with our Andros Bucket List. I finally got to dive Over the Wall at 185 feet, Backside of the Blue Hole, checked out Morgan's Bluff and Mastic Pointe up north, and received my Advanced Diving Certification. 
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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Legends of the seas, Mote and Small Hope Bay Lodge

                                                       We recently were honored here at Small Hope Bay Lodge with the arrival of Dr. Eugenie
Genie and Small Hope Asst. Mgr Mike Hornby
Clark, of the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida. Genie Clark is an amazing person with a history of marine research that rivals just about anyone you can think of. She is often referred to as the "Shark Lady" because of her extensive research on many shark species. 

Genie Clark and the Mote group came to Small Hope to study the local species of garden eels here in the Bahamas. Surprisingly, not much information has been gathered on these garden eels and the MOTE group came over a period of 21 days to discover what they could about behavior, territories and mating. 

While the first group was here, Small Hope Divemasters and MOTE researchers developed a "blind", a circular structure made from canvas and PVC with window holes cut at various heights. Research divers would go into the blind to make observations so the eels would not be distracted or disturbed by the presence of the divers. They also set grids made of
Photo by Jann Rosen-Queralt
chopsticks and cotton string at three different dive sites with big sandy areas, known to be garden eel hot spots. Each member of the research team was assigned their own sector within the grid and would observe the eel activity in that area for the duration of the dive, noting any and all activity.

The second group arrived the day after the first group departed and the research and observations continued. Both groups also enjoyed their share of survey dives too, sans research. There were a couple shark dives, cavern dives, wrecks and walls. I got to accompany four divers from the first group on possibly the best dive I have been on since I arrived at Small Hope 2 years ago - 2nd Level of the Blue Hole!

Photo by Jann Rosen-Queralt
 As a member of the Small Hope staff, one of my favorite parts of the experience was listening to the various guests tell me how they first met and got involved with Genie's research. There was Tom and Patrice, two divers who Genie thought would suit each other very well and consequently set them up on a blind date. They stayed at Small Hope three extra days because they were celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary! Anne Doubilet, who has traveled with Genie to so many countries over so many years that she has lost count. Jann Rosen-Queralt, who, several years ago, was just learning to dive and wanted to see whale sharks, when she heard from a friend that Genie just so happened to be doing a trip to Mexico to check out the whale sharks. Mallori, a 15 year-old girl who, having done a couple of book reports on Genie's books, had developed a friendship with her and was subsequently invited on this trip. Everyone that I talked to was so enthralled with Eugenie Clark, enjoyed her presence and her research trips so much, and had learned so much from her, as much in diving as in life experiences. It was truly an honor to host this amazing woman. And to be a part of this important research trip.

Thank you Mote, and thanks Genie!!!!
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