John's Journal...

"Dive, Dive, Dive!” with Mary Lynn Berzett

Costs of Scuba-Diving Trips

Click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: “I’ve been diving since Moby Dick was a guppy,” says Dennis “Skinny” Hallmark of Birmingham, Alabama. At the age of 15, Hallmark made his first scuba dive with a friend in the quarry near his home, and in his words, “I was hooked.” Over the past 35 years, Hallmark has taught thousands of first-time scuba divers and diving instructors and owned dive shops in three Alabama cities in the 1980s. Certified by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI), Hallmark also teaches instructors how to teach firemen and police to perform rescue dives. The International Diving Educators’ Association (IDEA) of Jacksonville, Florida, honored Hallmark in 2002 as its Worldwide Instructor of the Year.

Night Hawk: What are your three favorite places to dive and why?

Click to enlargeHallmark: Cayman Brac, a part of the Cayman Island chain, is one of my favorite places to dive. The visibility is awesome there. The walls are a part of the Continental Shelf, and they can go straight down for 7000 to 8000 feet. The coral reefs are outstanding and still healthy. Diving in the Caymans is great. The government there has actually created some shipwrecks just for diving, including a 257-foot Russian frigate. There’s also an anchor wall with a pilot’s anchor encrusted in the reef. The anchor itself is 12- to-14 feet tall. Another good part about diving in the Caymans is the people. They are very nice and polite, and even the children say, “Yes, sir.” There is no crime, and I know I always can leave diving gear on the boat, and no one will bother it.

Honduras is also a good place. It is more rustic than the Caymans. For some reason the critters you see in Honduras, even though they’re the same you’ll see elsewhere, are bigger in Honduras. ForClick to enlarge example, a feather duster (a type of sea worm) in the Caymans will be about the size of your hand. In Honduras, it will be the size of a feather duster you have in your home. The water is very clear. And, I also like the Dutch island of Bonaire. It is a part of the ABC chain of islands and is just off the coast of Venezuela. I enjoy staying at the resorts on Bonaire. I’ve been to Belize and Mexico, but I think further down in Central America has a little better diving.

Night Hawk: What does a trip costs to each destination, and what does that cost include?

Hallmark: The package deal I furnish includes 5-star hotel rooms, three meals per day, taxes, gratuities and outdoor diving costs. A trip to the Caymans will cost about $1300 to $1500 per person plus airfare. If you want to go to Honduras, the costs will be a couple of hundred dollars less plus airfare. The Click to enlargeABC Island package will run about $1500 to $1700 plus airfare.

To contact Skinny Hallmark for further information, call him at home, (205) 980-0008, call his cell phone, (205) 907-0824 or contact him at His website is currently being redone and is unavailable. He also has a DVD that he’ll be glad to send out.


Check back each day this week for more about "Dive, Dive, Dive!” with Mary Lynn Berzett

Day 1: Memorable Dives
Day 2: Who Scuba Dives, and What Do They Learn
Day 3: Costs of Scuba-Diving Trips
Day 4: Hallmark’s Favorite Type of Diving
Day 5: Ages and Types of Folks Who Scuba Dive



Entry 314, Day 3