The Water in the Lake
Lake Travis Scuba operates, as the name would suggest, out of Lake Travis. It’s port of call is in an ever-changing flux as of late. Why? Well, as any Austinite could tell you, the water level in Lake Travis is not the steadiest of things.
Stuck in one of the worst drought in Texas history, Lake Travis’s water level plunged to 618(MSL) in September of 2013. Then El Niño came and with it, the rain. Since then the lake has made a dramatic recovery to 676.22(MSL), a mere 5 feet below “full”.
The side effect of the waters ebbs and flows is that the docks could find themselves on dry land, an odd predicament for a dock to be in for sure. This means that the boat has to switch docks from time to time.
A Man and His Boat
Robert, the owner and operator of LTS, would use local boat renting business to complete the dive training for his students. After doing this for a while he came to realize the missed opportunity for Lake Travis divers/instructors to enjoy the beautiful local diving resource beyond the limited shore sites.
So in November of 2007, Robert bought a pontoon boat, which he aptly named The Giant Stride, and converted it to be diver ready. This meant installing two metal benches in the front along the sides. And of course an awesome paint job.
Behind the benches are cut-outs for tanks, complete with bungee. Room for fins and other gear under the bench is another nice touch. It has everything you’d need. With the boat ready to go, Lake Travis Scuba was ready for muck divers
What Can I Do?
There are a couple of different dive charter options, but I suspect that most people will be doing the 2 tank dive in the morning or afternoon on the weekend. That will run you 45$. Occasionally he will offer other dives through his Facebook page like a Friday sunset charter. If you want to set up a special dive, a night for example, you can shoot him an email or call. For you Tech Divers out there, he is fully accommodating. While I don’t personally Tech Dive, I know many who does so regularly off his boat. Oh Robert is also certificated Padi Tech 50, so he knows his stuff.
If you’re an instructor, LTS also caters to training dives.
How’s the Website?
To schedule a ride, or as people in the biz call it, Dive Charter, you simple go to the web site found here. It’s a nice little site that suits it’s purpose. I wont get into the sites contents, but sufficient to say, it has most of the information a prospective customer would want. It’d be nice to see the water temperature on the main page, but the web site that provides that data explicitly says that it’s not for commercial use. So while I would think that would make it a no no, it could be something to check into. In any case, the site provides a link to the data, so it’s not a big deal.
Now, one feature that I think is awesome is that when you go and pick a date/time for your dive, the page will do a look up and check how many seats are available. Yea it’s something done by thousands of other websites, but it’s not something I’d except from tiny business such as this.
*Web Developer Nerd Stuff- Took me 3 seconds to recognize BootStrap and Font Awesome. 😛
How Do I Schedule a Charter?
Go to the LTS site, pick a date and time. Plug in your diver information, pay the monies and show up. Yep, pretty simple.
How Do I Get on the Boat?
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the how is determined by the lake’s water level, but generally you will park at some spot around the lake. A marina, private dock, or whomever Robert has worked out a deal with. From there a tractor or truck will, if desired, transport you and your gear down to the shore line where the charters Dive Master will help you load your gear onto the boat. Super simple.
*As a side note from a fellow Dive Master. These guys work for free because they love doing it, so tips are always greatly appreciated, even a fiver.
What can I Expect?
Once aboard, Robert will get a group consensus on which dive site to go to. If you and your group are new or don’t know, Robert will go over all the various choices. After the decision is made, he or the Dive Master will go over all the safety information as you travel to the dive site. If you’re curious, Robert can tell you tons about the site, how it got there, what to see and well pretty much everything you’d want to know.
Once at the site, he’ll drop you off where you’d like and off you’ll go. If you desire an underwater guide, one can be arranged ahead of time.
The dives usually have a bottom time of 1 hour, during which Robert will do his best to follow everyone’s bubbles so that when you surface, he’s nearby. Given how some people like to zoom along and other will dilly daddle in one area, nearby can be subjective. But every dive site is by either a wall or an island and Robert provides instructions on what to do when surfacing. Do forget your surface marker!
Once he’s spotted you, he’ll bring the boat next to you where you will grab onto a rope that’s strap along the side. He or the Dive Master will then put a ladder in the water and you’ll climb out. During the colder months, the rear of the pontoon boat is cover and a heater keeps in interior nice and toasty. He also keeps buckets of warm water available to pour down ones wet suit.
After the first dive, you’ll be asked where to next… Delicious little Cuties are usually served while traveling to the next site.
By far, the biggest draw is going to be Starnes Island. What makes this island so special are party boats that often anchor up to it.
Party Boats = Alcohol = Drunk people = People dropping stuff.
What stuff you ask? Mostly sun glasses, I think last years count was somewhere north of 1000. They range from cheap-o’s to Oakleys and Ray Bands. Also up for the finding are watches, phones, drones, Go-Pros, squirt guns, Frisbees, hula-hoops, trash can lids?, and a lot of other interesting items. I’ve lost count of the number of bikini tops I’ve found… Oh and a 20$ That’s right, straight up cash. As it goes, the lake a taketh and the lake a giveth.
While I won’t go into the other dive sites, some common things you’ll see is interesting rock formations, cat-fish and lots of grottos. Is it the Caribbean? No, but you’ll see some cool things.
It’s easy to say that Lake Travis Scuba is the best dive charter on Lake Travis because it’s the only one! Thankfully it’s also an amazing experience. The service that Robert and all the Dive Masters offer is top-notch. So if you’re a diver in the Austin Texas area, schedule a dive and see a side of Austin that most never will. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a 6000$ Omega watch!
Below is a some of the questions from the LTS site. The full FAQ can be found here
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Do I need to bring my own equipment?
Q. Are reservations required or can I just show up to dive?
Q. Is there a bathroom on the boat?
Q. Do you allow a diver to solo dive?
Q. Can you accommodate double tank divers?