Dec. 16, 2002 – St. Croix, highly regarded for its first-rate scuba diving, also is home to one of the best dive shops in the world, according to the findings of a dive magazine survey.
St. Croix Ultimate Bluewater Adventures, which goes by the acronym SCUBA, was ranked the second-best dive operation in the world in the survey of Rodale's Scuba Diving Magazine readers. The business also tied with two others as having the top dive staffs in the world and came in fourth for best value in the magazine's 2003 Readers' Choice Awards.
The Virgin Islands as a whole was ranked 8th as a dive destination in the Caribbean/Atlantic region and did even better in several sub-categories of diving.
More than 6,000 Rodale's readers responded to the survey, and the results will be published in the magazine's January/February issue, according to Martin Public Relations, the government's mainland publicity agency.
"We're obviously thrilled," Ed Buckley, who owns the shop with his wife, Molly, said. "St. Croix truly has world-class scuba diving and is still under the U.S. flag, which has been an important travel consideration in the last year."
The annual survey is conducted through the magazine and via the Internet. Last year, SCUBA, which opened in July 1998, was ranked the fourth-best dive operator in the world. "To be recognized by our customers as a world-class dive shop is a huge honor for us," Buckley said.
Horizon Divers in the Florida Keys was voted best dive operator. It tied with SCUBA and Paradise Divers of Little Cayman for the best staff.
Buckley said the Tourism Department has been actively advertising scuba diving nationally as a V.I. visitor attraction.
On Monday, Martin Public Relations distributed a release about the survey results. Within the Caribbean region, it said, the territory as a destination was ranked No. 2 for beginner diving, No. 3 for snorkeling and for shore diving and No. 4 for underwater photography and for wreck diving, in addition to being No. 8 overall.
The release quotes Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards as saying that the Virgin Islands has "provided many divers with unforgettable underwater experiences … The numerous accolades that Rodale's Scuba Diving readers provide us are a testament to what our destination offers water enthusiasts."
Richards added, "It is such an honor to be selected for so many awards by such a reputable magazine."
The release — distributed to the travel trade and travel media — cites as some of the territory's top dive attractions Cane Bay Reef, Davis Bay and Salt River Bay on St. Croix, "known for the 13,000-foot deep sub-sea canyon and steep diving walls"; shipwreck sites in the waters of Pillsbury Sound between St. Thomas and St. John; and Carvel Rock, Congo Cay and other "large boulder and rock formations" off the northwest tip of St. John that "offer interesting dive opportunities through unusual coves at varying depths."
The release says a copy of the Tourism Department's 2002-03 USVI Dive Guide may be obtained by calling (800) 372-USVI (8784) or by visiting the Tourism Web site.
For more information about St. Croix's award-winning dive enterprise, visit the SCUBA Web site, or, as they call it, "wetsite."

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