The End of an Era
Bob Soto's Diving on Grand Cayman
By John Allen
The year ended with the passing of an institution in the world of diving. Anyone familiar with diving in the Caribbean, surely knows about Bob Soto's Diving on Grand Cayman. Well it seems it is no more. Along with the other dive operators and pretty much everyone on the island, they suffered significant damage from Hurricane Ivan in late 2004. There are many businesses still trying to recover, and some are up and running, but Bob Soto’s closed their doors early in 2005.
I, for one, am nostalgic thinking of its demise. After getting my first dive certification at 16 years old, I read everything I could about the sport, and of course that included Skin Diver magazine – which ironically ceased publication a couple years ago as well. I can remember reading innumerable articles about Bob Soto’s and diving in Grand Cayman – sort of grew up with it. In fact it was in large part due to their history and reputation that I ended up doing my divemaster training, followed up with taking an IDC there to get my instructor certification sometime back.
For those not familiar with history, here’s a brief illumination. Bob Soto started his dive business in 1957 in Georgetown, Grand Cayman. He was a pioneer in the industry, and his backdoor was what many have called the “Jewel of the Caribbean”. Though there are nearly 50 operators there now, he was the first. He ran the business for 20 years before selling it to Ron Kipp who called it Ron Kipp’s Bob Soto’s Diving and spent the next 22 years building it into quite an operation.
Achievements during this time are many including opening the first PADI 5 Star Training Development Center in the Cayman Islands. In fact, there is an interesting account about Ron in Mark Henricks book, ‘Not Just a Living: The Complete Guide to Creating a Business That Gives You a Life’, which includes the story about the building of this world-class diving phenomenon.
Ron retired in 2003 and sold the business to Dan Tibbetts of Reef Divers who called the new company Bob Soto’s Reef Divers. Dan also had operations on Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. These latter two are still up and running, but the original Bob Soto’s is gone.
Even though it’s hard to accept that Soto’s Diving will no longer operate after nearly 50 years, Grand Cayman remains one of my all-time favorite dive destinations. In fact, its been awhile now – maybe time to plan another trip back.
John Allen writes on a wide range of topics. Visit his blog to read more or obtain feeds. He can also be reached through several websites. One focuses on finding unique gifts, and another sells dive watches & provides current news related to the diving community.
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Views expressed in the article are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of CaribbeanChoice, its staff or members.