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Recommendation for dive shop - Panama City Beach

Discussion in 'Florida' started by mholden64, Feb 22, 2020.

  1. mholden64

    mholden64 New

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Dallas, TX
    2
    0
    Hi, I'm a new diver--I was PADI open-water certified in Nov 2018 in Key Largo where I did 6 dives, and nothing since then. I'll be in Panama City Beach March 8th to 12th and was wanting to do a couple of dives. Can anybody recommend a dive shop to book with? Since I'm very new to diving, a dive shop that doesn't expect me to be an expert would be nice if that's a factor. Also, I have a 3 mm wetsuit. Would that be good for Panama City Beach area that time of year?

    Thanks!
    Mark
     
  2. The Chairman

    The Chairman Chairman of the Board Staff Member

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Cave Country!
    62,352
    30,933
    You're also near a few springs, like Vortex, some even with dive ops onsite.
     
  3. sportxlh

    sportxlh Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: formerly Palm Beach Gardens, FL: now Atlanta
    2,599
    1,374
    I've been out with Panama City Diving, Diver's Den and Panama City Dive Center.

    They all are good operators. I probably like Panama City Diving the best since they have a nice stable boat which will be nice to have in the winter... its a Newton. However, they seem to cater to spear-fishers and advanced divers if you aren't going out with a shop that has already booked the full boat.

    If you want to go diving no matter what, Panama City Dive Center seems to be one of the last to cancel if marine conditions get rough. There are a couple of sites in the bay that they'll go to if the Gulf is really ugly. The bay sites are not pretty, but at least you'll get wet.

    I've only been out with Diver's Den twice. The captain was willing to help divers switch over gear during the SI on both those trips. I don't know if that is typical of if the captain was particularly service-oriented those days. The boat I was on had a really narrow beam so was pretty bouncy in rough seas.

    If marine conditions are not good for diving, you can hire a guide and beach dive St Andres Jetties at slack high tide. I've never done that, but its been my contingency plan on each trip, that I haven't had to use.

    If you're willing to drive to Destin, I really really like Scuba Tech and have been out with that operator many times. Destin also has a number of reefs (PCB is only wrecks and bridge spans): the reefs in Destin are not overly big like the ones in the Keys or West Palm Beach, but they are full of life. The crew on Scuba Tech's boat helps switch over gear during the surface interval: they also put a dive guide in the water as part of the standard price. You don't have to use the guide, but it is a nice service.

    Water temps will probably be chilly.... check out each shop's website since some of them have temp estimators (I can't recall which shop has that function on their website). I'd be freezing in a 3MM..... I dive a 5MM in the Gulf during the summer so probably would use a 7 with a good hood in the winter
     
  4. mholden64

    mholden64 New

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Dallas, TX
    2
    0
    Thank you both for your replies. I really appreciate it. I'll call around and check them out. Thanks!
     
  5. tarponchik

    tarponchik Contributor

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: USA
    2,198
    630
    I dived with Dive Locker and PC Dive Center, and both were good.
    Looking at water temperature chart, I'd say you'll need at least 5 mm in March.
     
    Johnoly likes this.
  6. RaginCajun

    RaginCajun Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Panama City Beach FL
    267
    21
    +1 on Panama City Diving.
    For inshore trips expect a wreck & bridgespan that would fit nicely with your current skill set. You’re looking at 70’ to the sand with prob 20’ of relief. Call ahead but temps will prob be in the upper 60’s so that’s a 5 mm for me and a hood is recommended. Yes they are the only shop with a Federal Reef permit (take fish beyond state waters) but this time of year there isn’t much in season so expect a recreational crowd. Boat is nice, stable and well appointed. Prices are in line and cheapest air fills in town. Join the locals for the monthly fish fry if you’re around.
     
  7. SandyRobinson

    SandyRobinson Contributor

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Moultrie, Georgia
    912
    307
    Looks like current water temp is 63 - brrrr. Not sure what your buddy and equipment situations are but the jetties at St Andrews State Park may be an option. The local dive shops could help you. Very important to time your dive with the tide though.

    Also as mentioned, you could try Vortex Springs which has a dive shop on site or Morrison Springs which has no dive shop.

    Have a good trip!
     

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