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Capt’n Gregg’s – Little Dive Shop of Horrors

Reputations mean something. Subtly, they can shape your entire experience. For that reason, when I entered Capt’n Gregg’s for the first time, I felt confident that I was in for some good diving. Recommended by both Lonely Planet and a host of online resources, I felt convinced that Capt’n Gregg’s would be a professional institution with a focus on safety and fun. From the start, I ignored the small signs of pending problems. Why? Because I was blinded by reputation. Reputation which caused me to put my common sense on the back-burner and place my faith in Sabang’s own little dive shop of horrors.

The first signs of trouble occurred almost immediately. After signing up for the following day’s dive trip to Verde Island, the shop assistant took us to choose our gear. Sizing Thomas and me up, she handed us both large BCDs. Clearly, this woman had a bad eye for size.

“Umm, ma’am, I think these are a bit too large,” I suggested.

“No,” she countered insistently, “they are just right.” She yanked and tugged on the straps drawing them in to the limits. It looked like we were wearing a pair of scuba dresses.

Next, she handed us weight belts that would have been perfect for Jabba the Hutt. We both had around two feet of extra belt.

Realizing this was not going to work. We pushed and pushed until she admitted the shop was out of medium BCDs and mid-sized belts. Not cool. Rather than simply telling us this up front, she was trying to fit us into oversized equipment.

As we sat there pondering the situation, I overheard a ditsy dive master dragging the shop down further.

“Is this the broken BCD, or is it OK?” asked the dive master as he took a BCD from the rack and handed it to a customer.

“I don’t think so,” responded the assistant.

Why didn’t I immediately walk out of there? Because reputation caused me to second-guess my own instincts.

Fast forward to the dive. We had been given the wrong departure time and were rushed on to the boat. Thomas’ specially requested 15 liter tanks were not on board, so they snagged one from another customer. As Thomas was turning on his air to check his BCD, the knob on the tank popped off and could not be put back on because there was no tool box on the boat. The dive master fiddled with the tank and announced that he thought the air was on.

Were we idiots for starting a dive with a tank that “might be on?” Probably. But as luck would have it, it was not the tank that would serve to ruin our dive. As we dropped down beside the stunning Verde wall, we discovered that Thomas’ regulator was leaking air like crazy, which ended up cutting our dive time to a paltry 22 minutes. The most excruciating part was that the wall was certainly the most stunning underwater site near Puerto Galera. This was the last straw.

Back on the surface, I exploded at the dive masters for sending us down with faulty equipment. And I do mean exploded.

“I’m sorry,” responded one of the dive masters, “but today is a holiday and we didn’t have time to have it repaired.”

“What?!” I screamed as my eyes rolled back into their sockets – I was nearly catatonic with incredulity, “You knew it was broken before the dive?”

Yep, they did. For those of you who are not divers, do I need to point out that sending a customer down with malfunctioning equipment is a major no-no? Obviously, someone had forgotten to share this trivial detail with Capt’n Gregg’s. To make the situation worse, they had pulled this stunt on the Verde Island dive trip which, due to its location, is a more expensive dive site.

Fed up with Capt’n Gregg’s incompetence, we opted out of the second dive and made it clear we were not going to pay for the dive trip.

When we returned to Sabang, we asked to talk to Chuck, the owner of Capt’n Gregg’s, but apparently, he was too busy to talk to us. So we made good on our promise and refused to pay.

As if all this weren’t unprofessional enough, the following day Chuck sent his oversized Welsh goon to threaten us into paying him for the trip. Stupidly, he did this in front of a room full of witnesses. The whole mess ended up with a parade down to the police station and a discussion with members of the Barangay council (the local political leaders). We stated our case, they did not make us pay, and the entire drama came quite abruptly to an end. The Welsh goon threatened us one last time under his breath. And that was that.

Yes, good reputations have a way of going to people’s heads. Sometimes a good reputation can make you lazy. In the case of Capt’n Gregg’s, it seems to have made them negligent. We would have liked to talk to Chuck himself and gotten his side of the story. Then again, I don’t really know what he could have said to justify intentionally sending us down with faulty equipment. Reputations change. And if Capt’n Gregg’s continues to operate in this fashion, ours won’t be the only critical review on the Internet.

So, who should you dive with in Sabang?

Good question. During our stay, we walked into almost every shop in town and I can honestly say there is no obvious answer. Atlantis was clearly the most professional institution, but their prices were double those of other shops. The Lonely Planet recommended shop Octopus was disturbingly unprofessional. Big Apple Dive resort seemed equally disinterested. Tina’s was quite friendly, but we had some concerns about their equipment. Divers diving with Sabang Inn made it clear we should stay away from them. In the end, we went with Dive Dojo. Dive Dojo, which specializes in technical diving, has good equipment, reasonable prices, and a very welcoming dive shop. But the shop, which is well-intentioned, suffers from management issues while the owner Paul is in Australia. If he is in Sabang, Dive Dojo is probably your best bet.

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Topics: Philippines, Travel Tips, Underwater World | 16 Comments »

16 Responses to “Capt’n Gregg’s – Little Dive Shop of Horrors”

  • fb602622555 Laurelle Walsh
    June 14th, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Tony, you are an experienced and highly educated diver who saw the red flags and STILL went on the dive. You were swayed by the positive reviews of the dive shop, and by the fact that you were highly motivated to dive; you had researched it and traveled a long way to get there. I am so relieved that nothing terrible happened.

    Now think about the inexperienced, or god forbid, first-time divers who put their faith in these businesses. I think they are just lucky there hasn’t been an accident. Or has there been?

    I hope you submit this review to relevant publication sites so that traveling divers can be informed.

  • Puxesaco Puxesaco
    June 15th, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    I stayed there a few years back, but I had my own gear. Lotsa old dudes w/hookers. There’s a great female dentist in town though. $4 to have my teef cleaned :)

  • Anthony Eitnier
    June 16th, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    Laurelle, you are absolutely right. And I basically said the same thing when we were making our cases to the Barangay council members, which is why they didn’t force us to pay.

    We will definitely make sure that other people hear what is going on there. Interestingly, they kept arguing that they are recommended by Lonely Planet and they didn’t care what we thought.

    They insisted that they had been in business for 23 years and knew what they were doing. I responded that after 23 years, it was time to finally get some new equipment.

    Their response was, “Real divers have their own equipment.” I guess we could have dragged a bag full of diving equipment with us for three years :)

  • Thomas Thomas
    June 22nd, 2010 at 7:47 am

    We posted a warning about Capt’n Gregg’s on the Lonely Planet Forum, and it generated some heated responses. I just wanted to paste in a response by someone called Divemonster who defended Capt’n Gregg’s shop. If you feel like this is taken out of context, please read the complete thread called Dive Shops in Sabang, Mindoro.

    Divemonster:

    Dear readers, I was alerted to this thread and I could not help but respond to give a realistic account of what happened during Contemporary Gonads time in Sabang. Firstly, the account is completely incorrect for a number of reasons. I have just finished my DM with Capt’s Greggs and I found them to be extremely professional with exceptional levels of training and experience. World Records were set here and many of the Instructors were trained by the late diving legend John Bennett.

    Firstly, Tony arrived and as he mentioned he dived with Dive Dojo but complained about their lack of internal management. However, it does not stop there they complained at just about everything and refused also to pay Dive Dojo because there was a bit of a current and the world famous canyons and their lack of diving ability worried them a little. However, if you read these peoples blog they whinge, whine, bicker and generally moan about anything they can. Tony is a jumped up little Princess who thinks everyone should fall at his feet and do exactly what he asks, wake up this is Asia and not the West and if you are going to whine like a spoilt little Queen go back to the USA.

    His behaviour was wholly unacceptable, and whilst he complained of a faulty Apeks XTX 50 the actual real problem was that the O-ring was slightly worn in the low pressure inflator and nothing to do with the regulator. It’s worrying and testament to his lack of diving ability that he doesn’t know the difference. He blamed this slightly worn o-ring on the fact they had a 22 minute dive, not the fact that he is an “air pig” and cannot control his breathing due to total lack of confidence. Back on the boat the Instructor & technical diver pointed out that for a tank to bleed from the low pressure inflator it would take 48 hours, not 22 minutes. So, he moaned about every dive shop except Atlantis so surely this does tell you a little bit about him as a person, after all this is an individual that needs to complain about CHILDREN splashing water in his face……………….. Oh Tony, it’s not cold is it? Did the water sting your eyes? Do you want a cuddle from your Mum? Mum, mum these “Evil children” splashed water in my eyes – I ask myself who acts like the child?

    Furthermore, on the boat back he was whingeing so much “like a little school girl” that even an American customer told him the following”

    AC : You have no idea what you are talking about so why don’t you just shut your mouth. We’re all bored of listening to your poorly deduced assumptions and your incessant bitching?

    Nomad: Turns away and finally shuts up…….!

    I am sure that is the only time in his life he did not have anything to whinge about because paying Captain Greggs customers actually told this little girl to shut up.

    So Nomad, stop acting like a Baby, grow up, relax and try and enjoy the rest of your travels instead of wasting all your energy writing incorrect blogs, threads based on experiences that have been totally embelished.

    Tony:

    Actually, Divemonster is the perfect name for someone from Capt’n Gregg’s.

    Actually, Tony (that would be me) did not run out of air – that would be Thomas. But I did blow up at you for being unprofessional – extremely unprofessional. If anyone doubts that Capt’n Gregg’s is unprofessional, simply reread that posting above and that should pretty much verify what we’ve said.

    We’ve dived with other shops in the Philippines and not had any problems. In fact, we just finished up some wreck dives with Sea Dive in Coron and had no problems. The shop was perfectly organized, had great equipment, excellent dive masters, and fantastic food :)

    If anyone thinks we’ve exaggerated, then by all means dive with Capt’n Gregg’s. Some people need to make their own mistakes. We put this posting up to alert people who want to avoid such negative experiences during their trips.

    And Dutchpickle, we love your blog and have read most of the Philippines section. If you were to read our posting again, you would notice that the size issues were mentioned as warnings. The real problem was that our dive master, John, acknowledged that he knew in advance that Thomas’ equipment had problems and had knowingly sent us down anyway. No dive shop will ever get a cent from us if they intentionally send us down with broken equipment.

    If other divers have lower standards, no problem. They can dive with Capt’n Gregg’s. We, however, expect these shops to do their best to provide us with functioning equipment and experienced, professional dive masters. As I said to the Barangay council members while discussion our disagreement with Capt’n Gregg’s, dive shops need to do more than just accept money.

    Divemonster:

    Interesting reply but your assumptions are wrong. I am not employed and never have been by any dive shop. I merely undertook the Divemaster course to further my skills in diving , so like you was a paying customer, and to clarify no longer affiliated. Therefore, my opinion is candid, biased and objective.

    However, I was present at both dive shops when you were complaining, I even remember a distinct comment regarding a tight fitting wetsuit. With regards to your outburst on the boat, I believe that was to the Instructor, who offered to swap his own personal equipment with you in front of other paying customers and the other Instructor to prove that the equipment was not faulty and that he would return to the surface after the dive with at least 80 Bar. He followed it up with the comment that if I come up with 80 Bar, will you admit that it was your air consumption and not the equipment, at which point you turned away became surprisingly quiet after the comment “we’re not paying”.

    You said that you would not pay any dive shop that sent you with faulty equipment, well what was the reason for not paying at least one other dive shop in Sabang Dive Dojo? Your excuse was that the current was too strong when diving with Dive Dojo and apparently other than Atlantis this is the only dive shop that you remotely praised, yet still refused to pay………………..

  • Bob Tomlinson Bob Tomlinson
    June 23rd, 2010 at 3:13 am

    I dive at Sabang frequently. I am adv trimix plus have 2 ccr cards I have done all my Tech training there and in Coron.

    Try Frontier Scuba, smaller outfit run by Rick ( an Englishman pom to Aussies) for a good place to learn or dive. Both tech and rec dives covered.
    Also Divers Cafe with the Kiwi Andy is worth checking out.

    Frontier Scuba is along from Atlantis next to Angelyns and Divers Cafe is near Big Apple.

    I just love Sabang and visit there yearly.

  • Aaron Lenihan Aaron Lenihan
    June 30th, 2010 at 12:33 am

    I recently read this review on lonely planet and feel it is only fair that I offer another perspective. I dived with captain greggs for a couple of weeks about a month ago now. I had only planned on staying in sabang a couple of days and wound up staying two weeks because it was such a wonderful experience. This is in large part due to the facilities and management at captain gregg’s dive shop. Not only was the equipment and diving superb, but the shop had a really laid back, friendly, almost family like atmosphere and they were exceptionally welcoming to me and the other customers. They were a small operation, but make no mistake, their gear was top of the line as were their guides and instructors. It is very uncommon, certainly a first in my experience, for a dive shop to use exclusively apeks regulators, arguably the best, most reliable regulator on the market. As for fins? What exactly was the problem? Did the fin straps break? Were they slipping off your feet? or did they just look a little bit big. Its rental gear dude. Your problem is that you are obviously a very insecure diver and you are far too vocal. You really have no idea what is a safety concern in diving and what is merely cosmetic and superficial. My suggestion, stop diving. I don’t say this out of spite but I think you are the safety concern. I fear that you will dive with some smooth talking, Padi worshipping outfit with brand new, low quality equipment and get yourself in real trouble.

    I merely write this to give some perspective to the nasty accusations and half-truths you have written above for the benefit of others and yourself. I don’t know you, the author, and don’t care to. i do, however, have the pleasure of knowing the staff at captain gregg’s and can honestly say, they are an exceptional and highly professional outfit and I encourage others to verify this claim.

    I have been in Asia for over a year now, diving and travelling. I have been diving for eleven years, in countries all over the world, worked professionally as a research diver for a university and a federal agency of the United States government, I am a technical diver and a Padi instructor who has worked in two foreign countries. I am in no way the most qualified or experienced diver out there, I merely give this background to bring some measure of credibility to my statements.

    I am writing to defend captain gregg’s, because, of all the dive shops I have visited in Asia, latin america and the carribean, I have found Captain gregg’s to be the most professional and enjoyable I have ever dived with. I believe they are very safe and professional in the most important ways, ways that may, frankly, be unapparent to an inexperienced, uncomfortable and slightly neurotic novice diver.

    Firstly, a small leak in a low pressure hose, whether the inflator hose or the regulator is simply not going to cause your air to run out prematurely. If it lasted you 22 minutes at depth (incidentally, what depth were you at?) I gaurantee you it was your breathing, not the leak that depleted your air supplies. I know, from years of dive instruction that such small leaks typically cause anxiety in inexperienced divers, which is understandable. Ignorance is not a problem, as long as you acknowledge and are not insecure about your own ignorance. What is not excusable is to run your mouth about something which you obviously don’t understand, and attack the characters and threaten the business and livelihoods of strangers.

    Everything you have said in your post is very questionable, even if I didn’t happen to personally have had a very positive experience with the same dive shop. Furthermore, throughout my travels, I have experienced truly dangerous diving operations, and a leak on a regulator hose simply doesn’t factor into it. I think you need to evaluate your own character dude before you point your finger at anyone else. If you got some kind of o.c.d. issue with dive equipment, I recommend you either buy your own equipment, or stop diving.

    good luck and be safe.

  • Bob Kieran Bob Kieran
    July 11th, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    Hi Tony,
    My name is Bob. I am the manager of Mermaid Diver in Sabang Beach. I am sorry that your visit to our little dive paradise was a disappointment. Myself and our staff pride ourselves on our safety, professionalism and service. You had to walk right by our shop as we are next door to Capt’n Gregg’s. It is unfortunate that all the shops in Sabang were painted by your rather wide brush.

    We have a state of the art shop with extremely well maintained equipment, a hospital clean compressor room and fill station, two comfortable and well maintained dive boats. We have hot showers and lockers. Our service includes a fresh towel and a cup of coffee or tea following a dive. We have a spotless safety record and we have safety policies in place that make sense and are practiced at all times. Our prices are competitive and fair. Happy traveling and diving.

    Bob

  • Tony Tony
    July 12th, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for leaving your comment. We in no way wanted to suggest that diving in Sabang or Puerto Galera was not fantastic. Our diving was not a disappointment and we agree that Sabang is a diving paradise. We did, however, notice that there are some serious problems with Sabang dive shops when it comes to professionality and customer service.

    The fact that you left a comment suggests that you care about your divers and care whether your customers are satisfied with their experience. That shows more concern than we saw in most shops during our visit.

  • kris kris
    December 12th, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    Dont know about their diving gear at Big Apple Philippines, I’m not a diver…..but BE WARNED. Someone there: ‘P’ thinks its funny to spike drinks and causes huge health problems for the unexpecting diver ‘in training’. The diver had to be flown out of the country. BE CAREFUL MAKE SURE IF YOU DRINK WITH ‘P’ OR ANYONE ELSE THERE THAT YOU DRINK OUT OF CLEAR GLASSES. DONT BE PURSUADED TO DRINK OUT OF BOTTLES OR GLASSES THAT ARE NOT CLEAR GLASS.

  • Jimbo Jimbo
    January 28th, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    the above comment about drinks being spiked by big apple staff is highly inaccurate. here are the facts behind the accusation.

    “P” has been working in sabang for about 20 years and is a highly respected instructor.

    the “diver in training” is a known drug user and would routinely not show up for his training due to his all night drinking and drug binges.

    the graduation celebration, which consists of pouring beer into a snorkel, was recorded on both video and still pictures and was witnessed by about a dozen people. nobody witnessed anything out of order or anything to do with any spiking.

    the people pouring the beer included “P”, who poured in a bottle of red horse delivered by the bar staff. red horse comes in a brown glass bottle. also pouring in alcohol was diver in training “O”‘s local prostitute, who incidentally threatened to have “O” arrested for having a 17 year old girl in his room the day before. One other person, “O”‘s friend, left the bar to purchase a bottle of vodka and returned with that bottle which was then poured into the snorkel.

    the same ceremony was performed hundreds of times before, including the day before, by the same staff of Big Apple. never was anyone’s drink unknowingly spiked. of course “O”s local prostitute and his friend were not present at any of these other ceremonies.

    “O” waited three days to seek medical treatment. he was in the hospital in batangas for several days. he did not “require” being flown out of the country. it was a choice he made.

    hopefully “O” is doing well and i wish him good health in the future. what happened to him was tragic whether he did it to himself or someone did it to him. making completely unfounded accusations on the internet isnt doing anyone any good. if you have any evidence of any wrongdoing please contact the Philippine National Police. the number for their illegal drug task force is (632) 722-1918.

  • einna_edicrev einna_edicrev
    April 7th, 2011 at 3:59 am

    Hey Tony!

    Probably you have just chosen the wrong dive shop . There are 40+ dive shops in Sabang itself. Sure it ranges from fancy 5 stars dive resorts to Backpackers choice. But still there is a small dive shop i know in Small Lalaguna (SEA RIDER DIVE CENTER) own and managed by a Filipino named MARK (also the instructor)
    I dived with them for the last couple of years and these guys for sure has an excellent professionalism. Very friendly and hospitable.
    They operate in small groups unlike those other dive shops whose like doing a mass productions.
    They also give you your own guide if you are a photographer they dont mixed you up with fun divers. These guys are excellent macro spotters. (Thanks to these guys for such an excellent underwater photos)
    They are also recommended by scubaboard. Cheapest rates in sabang!

    I can DEFINITELY bet my reputations with these guys.

    Hope this would help

    Safe diving…

  • Tony Tony
    April 8th, 2011 at 2:40 am

    We’ll check them out on the next visit, thanks. We welcome any other shop recommendations as well.

  • Tom Tom
    July 29th, 2011 at 8:29 am

    Hello from Texas,

    Any dive master around San Juan, Mindoro ever dive on the WWII Jap Destroyer KIYOSHIMO, or know where its located off San Juan?
    I am looking for a B25 that crashed into it 12/26/44. And feel there is a chance they are sunk in the same spot.

    Any information will be appreciated.

  • Tomas Tomas
    August 16th, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    I dove with Big Apple in Sabang and the were very friendly, competent and proffesional.

    I currently work as a DM and we get ALL kinds of customers. Some are confident and know diving and don’t worry and whine too much.
    Other customers are impossible to satisfy and finds 100 ressons to complain. Many customers don’t realise that they are in a developing country and are paying $20/dive. They can’t expect everyone to speak perfect english, they can’t expect the equipment to new and top of the line and so on. What they SHOULD expect is saftey and not being lied to.

  • Jim Jim
    March 13th, 2013 at 9:43 am

    I did my diving at Captn Greggs around 17 years ago with John Bennett. On both courses i was a solo student. I had a blast. I recently returned and the place is still as sound as it was all those years back. These guys dive regularly and are fantastic as far as safety is concerned. I dived commercially for many years and understand safety of the highest degree.
    Chuck’s jungle juice still tastes the same :-)

  • Tony Tony
    March 14th, 2013 at 5:08 am

    Jim, I’m glad to hear your experience with Captn Gregg’s was a positive one. Hopefully, this reflects improvements in the quality of the service they provide. Of course, if you read our full post, you would notice that they proved themselves to be exceptionally unprofessional while we were there.

    Since we dove with Captn Gregg’s, we have become much more experienced divers. We have dived in a variety of conditions in the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, the Indian Ocean, and Oceania with dive shops that range from extremely professional five-star facilities to simple, local operations run out of thatched huts. Several of those operations have had problems with their equipment or made mistakes during the dive trips. I say with full confidence and no reservations at all that, in our opinion, Captn Gregg’s continues to be the worst, most unprofessional dive shop we have ever experienced.

    Why do I say that? Most of the other problems we encountered around the world were legitimate mistakes: equipment broke underwater cutting a dive short, an inexperienced guide suddenly became disoriented in a complex reef system or lead us into an extreme current, flashlights went out on night dives, etc. All these were mistakes. And any time something like that happened and a dive was cancelled or cut short, the shops apologized and attempted to offer us a refund or an additional dive. They were at least attempting to provide reasonable service.

    Captn Gregg’s intentionally sent us down with a broken tank and a malfunctioning BCD, even after we pointed out the problems and asked for replacement equipment. They had no tools onboard to repair the equipment despite the fact that we were on a day trip to Verde Island. The owner refused to discuss the problem with us at all. When we refused to pay them, they sent someone to “make us pay” with threats of violence. Every single step on their side was unprofessional. The situation was discussed with the Barangay council and they sided with us.

    Beyond that, when our post was first published, Captn Gregg’s responded with shockingly unprofessional responses which did far more damage to their reputation than our post ever did.

    We very much hope the situation has changed and that Captn Gregg’s has learned to respect its customers and their safety. Because in the end, that’s what most divers care about, not whether their “jungle juice” tastes the same.

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