SS President Coolidge - Melbourne Cup Weekend 2014

SS President Coolidge – Melbourne Cup Weekend 2014

Divers: Vikki & Mark

As always diving on the Coolidge is a very exciting experience. The sheer size of the ship is daunting enough let alone its amazing history as a passenger liner, then as a troop carrier and what an important part the shipwreck has played in the development of SCUBA diving over the past 50 or so years. When we first dived the Coolidge in 1987 neither the local dive operator nor the local people understood or realized the importance of preserving the wreck site. Although local laws barred the removal of artefacts from the Island, nothing was done to prevent the removal of artefacts from the ship itself. Hundreds of rifles, bayonets, plates & bottles, in fact just about any object that could be stolen, was. Today, the value of this amazing site to tourism is being fully recognised and the removal of even the smallest of items like bullets or cups etc. is policed by the dive guides. Our guides from Aquamarine do a wonderful job, they really know their stuff and with their experience in guiding dives through the wreck, you surface feeling that you have made the most of your time under water. Their gentle, easy going manner makes you feel safe and confident right from the time you step into the clear blue 28 degree water until you are back at the newly constructed shelter snacking on fresh pineapple, bananas and paw paw.
We have stayed at many of the Island’s resorts over the years and on this trip we are staying at the Hotel Espiritu, and wow! what a place this is. Although the hotel is undergoing renovations  and there are building works still under way, it is very clear that the facilities here are going to tick all the boxes (and maybe some boxes that we haven’t even thought of yet). The rooms are very comfortable, clean and have air conditioning and nice hot showers. The pool (complete with a swim-up bar table and palm tree in the centre) and the resort’s bar are the last two items to be completed. Our hosts, brothers Simon and Raymond, set the bar very high when it comes to their customer’s comfort and relaxation, which can be difficult at times on an island in the tropics . These guys know all the good places to eat in Santo and are more than happy to recommend somewhere for you to grab a meal. Some resorts that we stay at don’t like their guest frequenting other eateries, but Simon and Raymond actually encourage it – the sign of owners who have full confidence in their operation.
We have done 6 dives on this visit to Santo and 4 hunts with the best holographic sight rifles. The best dive being today’s when we did Rehan’s Double Gauntlet dive. We started by entering the chain locker, swam inside the Coolidge to the stern, then into cargo hold number seven, and then we swam all the way back to the bow, exiting via the chain locker.