Explorer Ventures and the Northeastern Caribbean – a love affair for the past 30 years!

It’s hard to believe it was 30 years ago when the original M/V Caribbean Explorer set sail from Bobby’s Marina in St. Maarten on her first ever scuba liveaboard charter! On that day In June 1987, there were no moorings; dive sites were located by triangulating landmarks ashore; all pertinent information was sent to boat captains via Telex…St. Maarten didn’t even have a USA direct phone on the island until 1989; and, she was the only scuba diving liveaboard to visit this grand destination!  Guess what – that’s still the case for Caribbean Explorer II! We quickly realized we had come across the Caribbean’s best-kept secret for scuba diving and wanted to share it with the world.

Flash forward to today and yes, we are still offering excursions in this underwater wonder world – we know a good thing when we see it! As we celebrate our 30th Anniversary at Explorer Ventures Liveaboard Fleet, we want to take you back to where it all started in the Northeastern Caribbean.

Before we do, however, we want to reflect on where we are today. We’re not the world’s largest fleet and we're still a friendly, family-owned company under the same management as 30 years ago, but we have grown from these humble beginnings and we are still growing. Just recently we announced the fleet’s second boat in the Galapagos! Majestic Explorer will join Humboldt Explorer cruising these enchanted islands in August, 2018. In the Caribbean Ocean, the Turks and Caicos Explorer II has offered an alternative destination to Caribbean Explorer II for over a dozen years. And, of course, the Maldives have been a fleet destination since 2011, with our two luxurious vessels – Carpe Vita Explorer and Carpe Novo Explorer. So, our fleet now has 6 vessels and we’re not done yet, so stay tuned!

Here’s how our love affair with the Northeastern Caribbean developed and why you should make it your next dive vacation. We hope you will enjoy this ride back in time. 

  • THE DESTINATION! Exploring beyond scuba diving by venturing off the vessel for a taste of three distinct Caribbean islands (and three new stamps in your passport in one week!)
  • THE FLEXIBILITY! Want to do 5 dives daily? No problem. Want to explore ashore? We can arrange that, while others are out diving.
  • THE VESSEL & CREW!  Providing memorable experiences on the beloved Caribbean Explorer II with the fun-loving and passionate crew members.
     
  • THE DIVING!  The incredible scuba diving that surrounds Saba and St.Kitts where you can see a vast variety of marine life, topography, and unique wrecks.

Scroll down to learn why, after 30 years of scuba diving the Northeastern Caribbean, we are still in love with it!

THE DESTINATION – St. Maarten, Saba, & St. Kitts – More than Scuba!

Upon boarding the Caribbean Explorer II, be prepared to hand your passport over to the Purser as you embark on a voyage that takes you to three unique Caribbean islands of breathtaking scenery.  For those divers who crave more than just dive, dive, dive, our Northeastern Caribbean itinerary satisfies the need for scuba and more.  And we should know - we've been diving, exploring, and cruising this region since 1987! 

St. Maarten

Although we do not often scuba dive off of St. Maarten, our liveaboard charters either start or end there, allowing a perfect send off or welcome back to your trip. If your charter begins in St. Maarten, a taxi will transport you to Bobby's Marina. Take a moment to peek out the window and enjoy the hilly terrain and stunning Caribbean Sea vistas…and possibly a little bit of traffic! St. Maarten is a great place to visit if things like good restaurants, vibrant night life, casinos, shopping, and beaches are your thing.  

But, don't be fooled, this isn't your ordinary cruise ship destination. St. Maarten is a true Caribbean island steeped in history dating as far back (and even further!) as 1648 when the island officially separated into two distinct nations: The French Republic of St. Martin in the north (aka the French side) and The Kingdom of the Netherlands, Sint Maarten, in the south (aka the Dutch side), across an invisible and unregulated border. There's no other political setup like it anywhere.

Bobby's Marina, where CEX2 is docked, is located on the Dutch side and within walking distance to great duty-free shopping, the beach, restaurants and bars. Visitors are free to travel back and forth over the French and Dutch borders, English is widely spoken, and the USD is accepted in addition to the local currency, the Euro on the French side and the Florin on the Dutch side.  

Late Saturday, wave good-bye to the bright lights of St. Maarten as the Caribbean Explorer II slowly departs the dock and makes its way past the many anchored sailing, fishing, and pleasure vessels of Great Bay and out towards the deep emerald hues of the open sea. Next stop - Saba, a special municipality of The Netherlands and the smallest nation you will visit on this itinerary. 

Saba

If St. Maarten is hustle and bustle, Saba is tranquil and serene. Upon arrival at Saba, you will feel like you have stepped back in time. The Caribbean Explorer II moors quite close to the towering lush green mountain emerging from the sea. Let your imagination wander to images of past sailors, pirates, even Christopher Columbus in 1493 and ponder how they too, at one time, were viewing the same scene as you. And if you think her distinctive silhouette looks familiar, you might have seen her cameo as Skull Island in the 1933 version of King Kong.

You'll dive near the 800 stone carved stairs (the Ladder) that served until after WWII as the only port of entry for any items coming on/off island. At the top, the small original Customs House still overlooks Ladder Bay.

Feel like getting a closer look? You can skip a dive and venture by dinghy to land and gain a little insight into the lives of inhabitants past and present. In a place with terrain so steep and foreboding and a population of only 1500, one truly feels the slow and old-fashioned ambiance of "The Unspoiled Queen" called Saba. How steep? Centuries ago, invaders were repelled by rolling trees down slopes – simple, and very effective.

Your driver is a long-time resident and provides a tour based on history, geography and personal experience. Taking you along "The Road that Couldn't be Built" you'll weave around the narrow roads past the modern Saba University School of Medicine with stops at local artisan shops and a stroll in the lush forest of Mt. Scenery, which also happens to be an active volcano!

St. Kitts

Moving further south from Saba, you'll enter the waters off the group of islands of St. Kitts & Nevis. With the stark contrast between bustling St. Maarten and peaceful Saba, St. Kitts satisfies your inner history buff. The pastoral rolling green hills of St. Kitts dotted with the remnants of sugar cane chimneys will entice you towards it. The land tour is offered in exchange for a dive and as you drive by colourful homes with bright tropical flowers, the history of the island begins to reveal itself. Wander through Romney Manor, which is home to the Caribelle Batik and the Wingfield Estates sugar cane processing plant established in 1648. Observe the giant 400 year old Saman tree and reflect on all of the lives that have passed beneath that same tree before you.   Finally, take in the views from the UNESCO world heritage site of Brimstone Hill Fortress, which was designed by British military and built over a span of 100 years by African slaves starting in 1690. You can feel the history and culture of the island seep into you.

If you are ending your trip in St. Kitts, the Caribbean Explorer II will be docked at Port Zante nearby downtown. On Friday nights the area is full of street BBQs with spicy jerk pork or chicken and the local beer, Carib, is flowing as music fills the streets. During the day, a walk through the streets will take you to old colonial buildings and the National Museum is walking distance from the port.

Three islands, three distinct Caribbean cultures, three stamps in your passport

VESSEL – The life and times of the Caribbean Explorer II

Guests and crew keep coming back!

Our first vessel - Caribbean Explorer: 1987-2003

The Caribbean Explorer II; 2003-Current

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


"Arrive as a guest, leave as a friend"
 has been the EV tagline since our first charter back in 1987 and isn't that the truth!  All of the crew consider the vessel their home, so though you first come as our guest, you'll leave as our friend, after one short week. The first time you step aboard the Caribbean Explorer II you feel like you are coming home.  As your days of diving start to unfold, you begin to feel like you are visiting an old friend you’ve known for years.  The Caribbean Explorer II joined Explorer Ventures back in 2003 after running charters in Turks & Caicos.  Whether you are sitting up in the main salon or out on the sun deck, the sturdy, solid, and loving nature of the Caribbean Explorer II creates an ambiance that seems to embrace divers.  

We have a 75% rate of return guests who have truly become a part of the Explorer Ventures family and who the crew look forward to seeing time and time again. Susie McPhail, a long-time friend of Explorer Ventures, like many scuba divers has always loved the water and feels diving is her "zen," her "church," her "spiritual fill" and her favorite place to be fascinated! She has seen the company evolve from her first trip back in 1999 aboard the original Caribbean Explorer making roundtrip itineraries from St. Maarten, to the current Caribbean Explorer II now running one-way trips alternating between St. Maarten and St. Kitts. And she has been a self-proclaimed "true liveaboard freak ever since!"

When asked if Susie could offer us some insights into why she keeps returning to the Northeastern Caribbean itinerary, she replied: “Explorer Ventures has consistently offered quality from booking to boarding to diving to room and board. I have gone diving with other companies but not so much anymore. CEXII has a great dive deck.  Even when full, there is plenty of room (ok, when full of buttheads, there isn't enough room anywhere)!  Taking a giant stride into bliss and coming up one of two ladders appeals to me.  My second favorite place is on the bow where there is a carpeted section for relaxing and off gassing.

Saba used to be my favorite dive location, but St. Kitts has moved into 1st place.  Both islands have healthy reefs and fish life, and since it is a mere 3 1/2 nonstop flight from CLT, I'm hooked!!  I love Diamond Rock and Man O' War Shoals in Saba, and Paradise Reef and River Taw in St. Kitts are always awesome.  Truth is that I enjoy every dive on both islands!

I have too many memorable experiences to narrow down as I usually travel alone and create craziness each trip!

I keep coming back for the consistent quality that EV offers.  I'm staying with EV for my trip to the Maldives tomorrow (February 2017) because I trust the company.  

With all of the turmoil in our world, it's a relief to know that EV is a part of my vacations. Thank you, Susie McPhail”

It’s not just our guests who choose Explorer Ventures, it’s the crew!

Owner, Clay McCardell, onboard Caribbean Explorer just off of Old Fort Bay, Saba 1987

Ian Marriott, Captain

Current Vessel: Caribbean Explorer II

Year joined/vessel/position: 2003, Caribbean Explorer/Caribbean Explorer II/Captain

Scuba Dive Level: PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, SDI/TDI Instructor

Favorite Dive Site: Tent Reef at Saba

Favorite Underwater Creature: The Thing

Favorite thing about CEX2: Repeat Guests

Best Memory: Diving the “Ghost Ship” wreck on the Saba Banks

Brett Lookhoff, Dive Instructor/Engineer

Current Vessel: Caribbean Explorer II

Year joined/vessel/position: 2009, Caribbean Explorer II/Dive Instructor

Scuba Dive Level: PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor

Favorite Dive Site: Man O War Shoals because of the terrain contrast and abundance of life

Favorite Underwater Creature: Octopus because they are always changing colors

Favorite thing about CEX2:   Simply being on the sea

Cathy Glowacki, Dive Instructor

Current Vessel: Caribbean Explorer II

Checking E-6 processing results. C. 1991

Year joined/vessel/position: 2014, Caribbean Explorer II, Dive Instructor

Scuba Dive Level: PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor

Favorite Dive Site: Tent Reef, Shallows, Deep, swim throughs. There’s a little of everything

Favorite Underwater Creature: Frogfish. They are so hard to find!

Favorite thing about CEX2:   Star gazing at night

Jennie Arnold, Purser

Current Vessel: Caribbean Explorer II

Year joined/vessel/position: 2016, Caribbean Explorer II/Purser

Scuba Dive Level: PADI/SSI Open Water Scuba Instructor

Favorite Dive Site: Tent Reef. Shallow, easy. Full of life. Perfect for a chilled out late afternoon or night dive

Favorite Underwater Creature: Soapfish. Only because it's often over-looked. It looks dead or dying, which is how it protects itself from predators

Favorite thing about CEX2:   My bed after a day of diving!

Captain JF prepping the Caribbean Explorer II. C. 2003

 Jean-Francois Chabot, Captain

Current Vessel: Turks & Caicos Explorer II

Year joined/vessel/position: 2000, Caribbean Explorer/Caribbean Explorer II/Turks & Caicos Explorer II/Captain

Scuba Dive Level: PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer

Favorite Dive Site: All dive sites off of Saba

Favorite Underwater Creature: Nudibranch

Favorite thing about CEX2: The way the vessel drives

Best Memory:

  1. While installing a mooring off Old Road Bay in St. Kitts, we discovered an old piece of wood with a rivet in the silt. With a belief that they had found buried treasure, they began displacing the sand to gain a better view. As the sand was removed, they learned it was an old pickup truck with a wooden tail gate…not much of a treasure afterall!
  2. While working on a mooring at Anchors Aweigh in poor visibility, a friendly male dolphin came by to see what JF was doing. For months the dolphin could be seen around the dive sites in St. Kitts and even hovered around mooring balls pushing them with their noses!

Skin Diver Magazine. C. 1988

Jennifer Cumming, General Manager (land-based)

Current Vessel:  Humboldt Explorer/Majestic Explorer

Year joined/vessel/position: 2000, Caribbean Explorer/Caribbean Explorer II/Turks & Caicos Explorer II/Purser, Operations Manager

Scuba Dive Level:  PADI Course Director

Favorite Dive Site (on CEX2 itinerary): It’s a tough one, but how about a three-way-tie … Ladder Labyrinth as a night dive, Man O War Shoals and River Taw

Favorite Underwater Creature (anywhere): Anything macro

Lunch on the sundeck of Caribbean Explorer. C. 1988

Favorite thing about CEX2:   The itinerary and night dives

Best Memory:  Mr. Daniels in Statia

Stan Simmons, Chef

Current Vessel: Turks & Caicos Explorer II

Year joined/vessel/position: 2003, Caribbean Explorer II/ Chef

Scuba Dive Level: Non-diver

Favorite Dive Site: West Caicos

Favorite Underwater Creature: Parrotfish

 

THE DIVING – Diversity in marine life, topography, and wrecks

Scuba diving the dive sites of St. Kitts and Saba just might surprise you. Underneath the deep blue hues on the surface, you will have the chance to see marine life you may not have seen anywhere else. Some critters, like nudibranchs, are stunning colorful creations the size of your finger nail. Others will pique your interest in their strangely evolved form, such as a Flying Gurnard or a Frogfish. Your heart will melt the moment you discover a precious Seahorse wrapped delicately around a single piece of coral. Looking for larger creatures? Feel humbled as you realize you've just swum over a giant Southern Stingray resting in a sandy patch or catch a glimpse of a shy Caribbean Reef Shark darting past some sponge-hungry Hawksbill or Green Turtles!

It's not just the wide variety of marine life that will impress you. The volcanic nature of the region has created a small ocean shelf covered with dark sandy sea-grass beds, coral reef ranges full of life and colours, and steep drop offs. This submerged underwater volcanic mountain range has also resulted in unusual and dramatic pinnacles. Spend your time "muck diving" in eel grass with your macro lens or cruise along the landscape just taking in the views.

Just in case marine life and topography are not enough to satisfy your scuba diving hearts, why not throw some history in there? Historically, the location was a hub of activity for sailors and explorers of a time past. The sugar cane industry, slave trade, and inevitable pirates left behind beautiful old coral encrusted anchors and cannons and who knows what else! In addition, there are a number of wrecks old and new that teem with fish and wildlife - don't forget your flashlight to peek into all the cracks and crevices and never miss a night dive where there's a wreck involved!

Green Turtle - Photographer (Purser): Jennie Arnold

The Corinthian - Photographer (Guest): Bryce Ford

Frog Fish - Photographer (Guest): Brian Vaccaro

Yellow-Streaked Sea Goddess - Photographer (Guest): Hart Kerbel

 Check out Photo Gallery