By Selene Muldowney and John Tapley
Beyond its bright, sandy beaches and Floridian hospitality, Panama City is a place perhaps most recognized for partying: its scenic daytime activities and spicy nightlife have a certain appeal the world over. But within the waters – a stone’s throw off the Gulf Coast – there’s a very different scene going on. It’s an underwater fiesta where sea critters of all dispositions – a motley of clowns, socialites, and wallflowers go to congregate. Combining Panama City’s reputation for festivities on land, and its diverse array of dive destinations, a new business venture, Port of Pirates for Divers has set out to showcase the city’s delights topside and down below, while offering guests a convenient, well-organized experience.
A project fueled by a partnership between local avid divers David “Shipwreck Dave” Saia and Gary Smith, and dive center Dive Locker in Panama City Beach, the Port of Pirates for Divers provides guests with memorable experiences without the headaches and hindrances typically associated with dive travel. From the start, Port of Pirates will pick up their guests at the airport, and cruise them through the city in a souped-up caddy: stopping at tourist attractions at the request of their clientele. As the day winds down, the group will retire to the Port of Pirates lodge: a house, which sports pirate-themed rooms fit for up to six guests. Overlooking the calming Massalina Bayou, guests will then enjoy barbeque and refreshments; as the sun sets – while dolphins meander through the waters – visitors will have time to reflect on the day before the big adventure gets going.
Dive Locker and Port of Pirates will share some of the most stunning submerged locales Panama City has to offer, particularly majestic menageries teeming with life – shipwrecks and artificial reefs – waiting right off the Gulf Coast: just an hour away from the lodge. Inland, the entourage will appreciate majestic Vortex Springs: a nearby destination, also an hour away, which is well-recognized for its crystal-clear waters and temperate conditions, which hover around 68 degrees throughout the year; cave diving will also be available on request for those daring divers who like a bit of spelunking with their scuba. These experiences are designed to be inclusive, allowing divers of varying skill levels to get in on the fun; and as this new venture begins to take root, Shipwreck Dave and Smith hope to expand their reach to deeper waters, opening their accommodations for a wider range of skill and certification levels.
Non-divers also have cause to join the pirates as they peruse Panama City’s latest party pursuit. Although they are prohibited from taking part in adventures beneath the waves, they are more than welcome to stay. Those who are interested in giving scuba a shot can also take advantage of a special partnership between the port and Dive Locker: PADI certification.
“The Dive Locker outfits the divers. People need to be certified and show cards, but we welcome anyone to stay: certified or non-certified,” explains Tony Smith, Dive Locker owner. “The three-day course allows the new divers to spend three days getting certified. We encourage folks to stay a week!”
The Port of Pirates Diving Excursion is calling scuba explorers for a remarkable time: adventuring within the blue, enjoying fine meals and dining, sightseeing, and meeting new buddies for future expeditions. It’s party time in Panama City!
The cost of a Port of Pirates three-day package is $750 per individual; $1500 per couple, and includes three days of diving and four nights sleeping along the tranquil, picturesque Massalina Bayou. Also included in this all-inclusive package are meals at the lodge, a complete set of dive equipment (including two tanks each day), and local transportation around Panama City.
For more information on this exciting new dive travel opportunity, visit Port of Pirates’ newly launched website at www.portofpiratesdiver.com.