Tobago. The Less Known Dive Vacation Island

Tobago

Drifting Along with Macros and Pelagics

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From the smallest seahorse to an abundance of majestic sized mantas to gigantic groupers to perhaps the world’s largest brain coral, Tobago has something to offer just about every diver. It’s not always this black and white when you are talking about a dive destination. That is unless you are talking about Tobago’s black sand beaches being on the Atlantic side of the island and the white sand beaches on the Caribbean side, but Tobago has lots of macro sea life to view as well as an unusual abundance of pelagic life. The reason for the great quantities of reef and pelagic life is because of the out flow of nutrients from the nearby Orinoco River in Venezuela, South America which feeds the plankton who in turn feed the small fish and this process works its way up the food chain at an amazing exponential rate. This doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed to see a whale shark or school of 30 scalloped hammerhead sharks on your visit, but it does increase your chances of filling up your camera and video cards with lots of awesome images and memories.

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Before you get ready to jump off the dive boat, we should probably give you some background information about Tobago and mention what you might want to see and where you might like to dive first. Tobago is the small sister island in The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. It is approximately 40km (25 miles) long and 10km (6.2 miles) wide. It’s where many from Trinidad come to take a leisure vacation as it is only 35km (22 miles) away; a twenty minute flight. We should mention that Tobago is only 80km (50 miles) from South America. In fact, most of the flora and fauna is identical to what you would expect to find in South America as a land bridge connected this region during the end of the last ice age.

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The Arawak were the first to inhabit the island and they were later replaced by the Caribs. Columbus discovered Tobago on his third voyage and soon afterwards, in what seemed at the time like an endless rotating order, the Caribs were replaced by the French, English, Dutch, Spanish, and finally by Africans and East Indian descendants. You might say Tobago has changed hands more than any other island in the Caribbean, and yet somehow, it remarkably retained one of the oldest forest reserves in the western hemisphere starting in 1776. The Main Ridge Reserve is 550m (1804 ft) high at Pigeon Point Peak near the village of Speyside. If you want to visit this protected forest and view the beautiful water falls you’ll have to hire an official Tobagonian guide. Tobago also has some small islands off its coast that have become bird havens or sanctuaries. The south end of Tobago is low lying and is home to the Robinson International Airport (TAB). You can fly nonstop into Tobago, or go “directly” through Trinidad, or you can even take the ferry service which runs from Port of Spain, Trinidad and takes 2.5 hours to reach Crown Point, Tobago.

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Back to diving that will excite beginners to the most experienced, 4km (2.5 miles) south of the airport are the sites of some of the most well-known drift dives near the island, and when it comes to drift dives, the name Flying Reef pretty much says it all. Here you can drift by at 0-2 knots down to 17m (58ft) of depth over the coral and past a ship’s anchor as you keep a look out for stingrays, turtles, schools of fish, nurse sharks, and passing pelagics. This dive site goes right into Sting Ray Alley where guitarfish, electric rays and more nurse sharks are usually spotted.  Nearby Divers Dream is the site with overhangs for nurse sharks to the left, and a rock garden full of fish for those that dive to the right. Nearby Divers Thirst is where black tips, bull sharks and tiger sharks are spotted.

Mt Irvine Wall with is another dive destination where one dive site leads to another or is nearby.  The Wall is where you may find lobsters, crab, shrimps, and sea horses, but over at the Mt Irvine Extension is where the grouper, eagle rays tarpon, cobia, and hawksbill turtles like to hang out. Rainbow Reef in the middle of the bay goes down to 21m (70ft) and is named for the rainbow runners that like to hang out around a 17th century fishing anchor.

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For specific fish destinations we recommend Arnos Vale, max 14m 45ft depth, which is a rock crevice nursery for all kinds of fish and is a great place for beginner divers as well as for night dives. Kelliston Drain near Goat Island and not far from Speyside, is home of the world’s largest brain coral at over 3m (10ft) high and 5.3m (16ft) wide; while not every diver is amazed by these measurements, at least the large number mantas who pass by here are impressed. The nearby Sisters are a group of five pinnacles that rise up from the deep and this is where you have a great chance to see scalloped hammer heads, especially during October to May, and whale sharks whenever they feel like it. Also close by is Japanese Gardens near Goat Island and it gets its name from all the soft corals, sea whips, and barrel sponges. This dive site flows right into the rock corridor named Kamikaze Cut. London Bridge is another popular spot when currents permit, and where water pushes you between two hard rock surfaces and empties you out into a 15m (45ft) deep area of sand. You’ll see where it got its name from before you even get close to the exposed topside rock formation. It’s a great spot to view black surgeonfish, trumpet fish, and trunk fish. Some of the more unique fish you may find around the island include: cherub angelfish, flame angelfish, angle sharks like the sand devil, and giraffe garden eels. As for wreck dives, the M.V. Maverick, 107m (350ft) long passenger and car ferry that was cleaned and opened up and made safety ready for divers before being sunk on purpose in 1997, has plenty of coral and animal life including: crabs, clams, schools of bonito and bait fish, turtles, and eagle rays.

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Now for adventurous divers and weather permitting, there is practically untouched diving 32-64km (20-40 miles) away at the off shore reefs. Plus, there is the wreck of the S.S. Kioto, which was sunk Sept 15, 1942 by U-boat 514. After three torpedoes, it finally sunk in 12m (40ft) of water and the scattered debris are still visible.

As you can see, Tobago is a small island, but there are more than 40 dive sites to choose from. There is also bicycling, birding, exploring the old sugar mills and plantations, visiting the 1770 Fort George, or checking out the beaches in April-July to view the leatherback turtles nesting. We didn’t even have time to point out all the beaches, but Tobago is where Disney filmed Swiss Family Robinson in 1958, so you already know that the beaches are Disney approved; even the Pirate’s Beach. There is a lot to experience, so you might not be able to fit everything in on one vacation trip, but the steel drum music bands are always playing something good, the crab and dumplings “Creole style” are simmering in the pot, and to make Tobago’s sunsets complete, the island just needs you.

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Posted in Dive Destinations, Dive Travel, Dolphins, Family Travel, Manta Rays, Marine Life, Pelagics, Pinnacles, Reefs, Scuba Diving, Scuba Training & Education, Sharks, Tobago, Turtles, Underwater Photography, Underwater Video, Whale Sharks, Wreck Diving, Wrecks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Belize and Un-Belizable Diving and Adventure!

Belize and Un-Belizable Diving and Adventure!

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Who would have thought that you have to go to Central America to a small English speaking country to truly encounter the second largest Great Barrier Reef in the world? There are three atolls off shore to dive and explore, Turneffe Atoll, Lighthouse Reef, and Glover’s Reef, and the sea life ranges from Manatees up north from Dangriga to Ambergris Caye to whale sharks down south near Placencia. Belize is also the least densely populated country in Central America. The local population consists of Mennonites, Mestizos, Mayans, English, Spanish, Caribbean, African, and many others of multiethnic descent. It’s a beautiful blended cuisine and culture country with Mexico right above it, Guatemala to the west and south, and wondrous diverse waters with some 200 plus territorial islands and cayes to the east.

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Starting at the most northeastern end of the country we find ourselves captivated with Ambergris Caye. By boat from the mainland it is a short ride the main Ambergris Caye town of San Pedro. The majority of resort hotels in Belize surround San Pedro so if you are in to nightlife, this is the hot spot of the country. From San Pedro it is a short five mile boat ride to Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark-Sting Ray Alley. The aquatic creatures are abundant here and you don’t have to dive deep to discover reefs lush with life and protected by rangers for a small $10 park fee. There are many other dive sites along Ambergris Caye’s coastline and you could spend a week here, but there are some other must see dive sites to visit before you leave the country and at least one is world famous.

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South east from Ambergris or right across from Belize City on the edge of the Caribbean Sea is Turneffe Atoll the largest atoll off of Belize and here you can stay and play and dive around shallow reefs, caves, walls, and view large pelagics at The Elbow and Pelican Wall or visit a pod of dolphins in the middle of South Lagoon. You can go kayaking around mangrove swamps, or comb Lindsey’s Back Porch or The Terrace for a glimpse of the rare white spotted toadfish. You could easily spend a week here, but for now, we have to move on.

Once a week, weather depending, day trips from several dive shops or dive resorts will take you to Lighthouse Reef. You can dive Half Moon Caye Wall and The Aquarium, with lunch on shore next to a red-footed boobie sanctuary, or you could come out here for a full day trip to The Great Blue Hole. Blue Hole was made world famous when Cousteau came here in the 1970’s and dynamited a path through the reef so he could get his ship the Calypso inside to measure accurately the 407ft (124m) of depth near the center of the hole. While this was not a particularly friendly to any environmentalist, he did map the 984ft (300m) wide blue hole, the 20ft (6.1m) long stalactites and stalagmites down at 130ft (40m), and the caves at the western end down at 230ft (70.1m).

Glover’s Reef is the smallest atoll and can easily be reached from Dangriga, Hopkins or Placencia.  Both Dangriga and Hopkins are Garifuna settlements, so expect the food, the culture, the locals, and especially the music to be a unique African/Caribbean treat in these more southerly visited regions. For more boutique style, yet equally impressive diving you can take either half day of whole day dive trips out to Glover’s Reef. Some of the dive sites out here include: Long Caye Wall (corals and mantas seen here), The Aquarium (yes another one, but with dolphins and turtles), Manta Wall (known for swim throughs), Pinnacles (corals, sponges, and pelagics) and Off the Wall (dive at 25ft (7.6m) to 6,000ft (1.8km). You could easily spend a week diving out here, but wait, there is more!

Off of Placencia from March through June whale sharks come in to feed off the spawn of pelagic species and Gladdin Spit is the destination for many a boat/charter operator. From June to August you can view female turtles coming to shore to lay their eggs. As for the rest of the year local dive sites and cayes include: night dives at Laughing Bird Caye, Silk or Queen Cayes, North Wall, White Hole, Turtle Canyons, Pompion Caye, Long Reef, The Wreck, and Shark Hole to name a few.  We had to shorten the list and stop here because we haven’t even mentioned any of the land attractions that have made Belize so famous.

Sure, they have a spectacular national zoo with all the local suspects, but even more than this, they have the only national jaguar preserve in the world: Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary & Jaguar Preserve. They also have Pumas, Ocelots, Jaguarundi, and Margay; plus some 300 other species of wildlife. The preserve is between Hopkins and Placencia and day hikes or overnight limited stays in cabins are available. There are also nearby river rafting tours available. For something a little more out of mainstream, you can enter Actun Tunichil Muknal cave. The ATM cave has deposits of human remains such as the “Crystal Maiden” and sacrificial artifacts left by Mayans from AD 300-900.

Speaking of Mayans, they absolutely ruined Belize by placing temples and other structures all around the country. Xunantunich is a classic period ceremonial center, Altun Ha has the large jade head and lots of wildlife, Caraco is the largest known Maya center, Cahal Pech has 34 structures and two ball courts (you don’t want to know what happened if you were on the losing team), Santa Rita in northern Belize dates back 2000 years, Lamanai has over 719 mapped structures, Cerro Maya was a coastal trading center, the Barton Creek Cave has many Mayan artifacts and was used for Mayan rituals, Nim Li Punit is small, but has the largest Mayan carvings, and Lubaantun is constructed southern Mayan style without mortar.

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So there you go more biodiversity, outdoor activities, architectural wonders, and more diving than you could see or do in several trips and all this is rolled inside the borders of one of the smallest countries in Central America. Here you get the great Blue Hole, the second largest reef in the world, three atolls, hundreds of cayes and islands, local cultures, historical remains of an advanced ancient civilization, jungles, multiple wildlife species, extensive flora and cuisines that are blended from around the world or go back thousands of years. Come visit soon and find out all of this for yourself, as some things are just too naturally incredible, absolutely amazing,  and just too historically magnificent to ever make up; Belize it or not!

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Belize, Blue Hole, Dive Travel, Dolphins, Manta Rays, Marine Life, Pelagics, Reefs, Scuba Diving, Scuba Training & Education, Sharks, Turtles, Underwater Photography, Walls, Whale Sharks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thailand’s Amazing Andaman Sea

Thailand’s Amazing Andaman Sea

  

You probably already have a good idea what Thailand is like. You may not know it, but over eighty films have been shot in Thailand, so if you’ve seen The Man with the Golden Gun, a James Bond film, you’ve seen parts of Bangkok. In The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio you see Maya Beach and parts of Phuket. In Star Wars: Episode III, the Krabi Province turns into the Wookiee home world. The scenic background list goes on for Blackbeard, Cutthroat Island, Heaven and Earth, The King and I, and The Bridge over the River Kwai, to name a few. To add to what you’ve already discovered visually about Thailand, we would also like to mention a few local reference points of interest of our own before we mention where and what to see while diving the waters of this ancient and exotic country.

  

Thailand is a land of natural beauty mixed with captivating ancient ruins and artfully decorated temples. It’s a land of some of the friendliest people that you will ever meet. People have inhabited this area of the world for over forty thousand years with a considerable amount of early on influence from India. The Kingdom was named Siam until it was changed in 1939 to Thailand. The main language is Thai which is closely related to Lao, and the government also recognizes 62 other regional languages. They use an official Buddhist Era calendar that is ahead of the western Gregorian calendar by 543 years, so the year 2017 AD is 2560 BE. Thailand is also the land of five thousand types of rice and almost just as many types of sauces that seem to accompany each unique entrées or particular set of appetizers. There are also many mesmerizing sights to see in the city of Bangkok that you may be forced by curiosity to spend a few days in the city before taking another flight, bus, or train, out to one of the coastal towns where your real dive adventure awaits, but because there are so many islands, and so many dive sites to choose from, we thought that we would break it all down from north to south in order to help you figure out where you might want to go diving first.

We’ll start off with the Similan Islands which are about 65km (40 miles) off shore of Khao Lak and 100km (62 miles) north of Phuket, so they are easily assessable from both directions. These nine granite islands have over 25 dive sites and the west side has easy diving for new divers, plus you’ll find swim throughs, tunnels, boulders, and arches. You’ll encounter leopard sharks, turtles, and a plethora of fish. Donald Duck Bay is a great spot for macro diving and night dives. East of Eden has peacock groupers, Elephant Head Rock is where olive Ridley’s and Hawksbill turtles and the rare McCosker’s dwarf wrasse hang out. Green turtles are at North Point, and keep your eyes open for Orangespine unicorn fish at Hideaway. Stonehenge is great for soft corals and clownfish. White tip sharks, Napoleon wrasse, ribbon eels, and occasionally mantas, can be spotted at Christmas Point. Don’t let all these exotic Thai sounding dive site names distract you, if there is a certain fish or site you want to see, just ask your local dive master for more information.

  

Moving up North you will need a more than a four-day charter operator to visit many of the more northern dive destinations, especially if you are starting out of Phuket. Shorter trips can be arranged out of Khao Lak. Koh Bon is another hour north of the Similan Islands and is known for wall, pinnacle, and night diving. Octopus and small invertebrates like the small cove, meanwhile mantas like to hang out for the plankton and underwater cameras. Nearby Koh Tachai has strong currents, swim throughs through the boulders, and is known as one of the sites to see whale sharks, nurse sharks, and leopard sharks. 68km (42 miles) north of the Similan islands we come to the remote and less visited Surin Islands.  This area has the greatest hard coral diversity in Thailand. There are lots of schooling bumphead wrasse and Spanish mackerel passing by in this national marine park. Gray sharks, eagle rays, and shovel nose rays are also spotted here as well as ribbon eels, pipefish, Andaman sweetlips, rabbitfish, and cowrie shells. The forest of Surin Island is home to crab eating macaques, flying foxes, flying lemurs, deer, hornbills, seahawks, and kingfishers; so, the view can be both spectacular simultaneously above and below water. We should mention that 15km (9 miles) east of here is where Jacque Cousteau filmed the mantas and whale sharks that made Richelieu Rock world famous. Lastly, some operators go all the way up to Burma Banks and the Mergui Archipelago. Technically, up here, you are diving off of Myanmar’s reefs, which are seldom if ever visited by throngs of other divers. The Burma Banks rise 15m (49ft) near the surface then dip down some 300 meters. You can drift dive with mantas, white tips, silver tips, and whale sharks, or hang out with nurse sharks, frogfish, crab, shrimp, and lobsters.  Before we leave the north end, we should mention that if you like wrecks, the tin processor Bunsoong and the teak Sea Chart 1 wreck are near Khao Lak, and the Premchai tin dredger wreck is just a short distance south.

For central dive sites that are in easy reach of Phuket, Krabi, Khao Lok, or Ao Nang Beach, one of the most popular diving areas is the Phi Phi Islands, which are part of the Mu koh Phi Phi National Marine Park. There are over 15 dive sites around the two islands. Loh Samah Bay on the southern island of Phi Phi Lay is a popular spot to train new divers and do a night dive.   Wall Maya is right outside of the famous Maya Bay where snorkeling and hanging out on the beach are a must do activity. The 47m (154ft) long HTMS Kledkeao Thai Navy transport ship was sunk between Phi Phi Lay Bay and Viking Bay in 2014. Hin Dot “Chimney Rock” is on the south side of Phi Phi Don. There are lots of caves and caverns to explore on both islands as well. An all-day excursion that typically includes three dives in one day is a trip over to the 85m (279ft) long King Cruiser; a Japanese car ferry, followed by a dive over at nearby Shark Point (Guess what you might see here) and then on to Anenome Reef, where Nemo and at least four other species of Clown fish like to hang out. Racha Yai and Racha Noi are just south of Phuket. After the tsunami in 2004 they placed two elephant statues, a clam, and an arch underwater in Siam Bay off Racha Yai island. The south side of Racha Noi is known for large pelagics, mantas, and occasional whale sharks. South of the Phi Phi islands are the two split rocks of Koh Bida Noi and Koh Bida Nok with boulders, swim throughs, caverns and overhangs. Garang Heng is a submerged reef east of Phi Phi Lay and bursting with soft corals, fish, and leopard sharks. Over by Ao Nang Beach are seven other islands frequented by divers, the most popular being Koh Yawabon for its’ long swim through, and G.K. Island for its’ sea horses. There are other submerged reefs and pinnacles to visit over here. There are also untold beaches, shore, and pier dives to do in the central area of the Andaman Sea.

  

Moving on to the southern Andaman Sea you can choose dive operations from Phuket, Krabi, Koh Lanta, and Satun to name a few places. Koh Ha is an island group of five rocks that barely break the surface, but below are home to swim throughs, caverns, drop offs, chimneys, pinnacles, and caves off of Koh Ha Yai where you can come up inside an air pocket to gaze at stalactites. Koh Rok is comprised of two islands with white sand beaches, steep cliffs, and soft corals galore. Moving on to the Mu Koh Lanta National Marine Park we find two islands. Hin Mueng is called the “Purple Rock” because of the predominant color of soft corals and is home to the areas 60m (196ft) long vertical wall dive. Hin Daeng “red rock” is known as one of the top three spots for sighting whale sharks. South of here we come to the Tarutao Marine Park with more than 30 islands to choose from. Koh Lipe has some local dive sites, as well as being one of the starting points for excursions out to 8 Mile Rock to see pelagics, diving sites such as Stone Henge, 6 Mile Rock, and 7 Rocks, or perhaps local dive spots of the big islands of Koh Adang and Koh Rawi ; these dive sites are actually in the Adang Archipelago and the Satun Sea. There are a few more southern islands to dive, but you would be diving in Malaysia if you went any further south, as well as on your way through the Malacca Strait separating Malaysia from Indonesia.

    

As you can see, diving all the sites in Thailand’s Andaman Sea in one trip would be like visiting all 50 United States in one week long trip. Dive liveaboards are the best way to experience the best dive sites that Thailand has to offer. You can separate the excursions out by starting your dives from a northern point and then planning to visit the southern sites from a southern starting point. You can do a couple of longer multiple day charters from Phuket with at least one charter going north and a separate charter going south to give you some of the highlights of the most popular dive sites. But you will still have to return again and again, especially once you have met the Thai people and become enchanted by their culture, lifestyle, and friendliness; plus witnessed firsthand the exquisite and unique natural bounty of local ocean life, and have become captivated by the spectacular natural beauty of the temples, islands, rocks, pinnacles, reefs, and isolated beaches.

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Posted in Dive Destinations, Dive Liveaboards, Dive Travel, Manta Rays, Marine Life, Myamar, Pelagics, Pinnacles, Reefs, Scuba Diving, Scuba Training & Education, Sharks, Thailand, Turtles, Underwater Photography, Underwater Video, Walls, Whale Sharks, Wreck Diving, Wrecks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Short DEMA Show Gear Review

What’s New in Dive Gear?

 A Short Review of Unique New Equipment!

 

Every year we can’t wait to go to the Dive Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA) Show, the dive industry’s premier trade exhibition. Sure, it’s a time to visit with old friends, strengthen business relationships, and attend a plethora of interesting seminars, but for us, the icing on the cake has to be the unveiling of new scuba dive gear, free dive gear, and in general, the products that make playing in water just more fun, enjoyable, and/or exciting, and without doubt, this November’s DEMA Show exceeded our expectations.

  

First off, we were swept away by the SEABOB F5 DPV. The underwater propulsion system can go 12mph/25kh/h in water. It can last for 300 minutes on the lowest power setting and recharges in 90 minutes. The max depth and time can be preset, plus you can wear a harness that’s easy to unclip when going fast or spinning around. The DPV only weighs 64 lbs / 38kg.

  

For a revolutionary product that is right out of Star Wars, you have to see the SWES 600 underwater ionic light. This 600 lumen light (in salt water) does not use batteries and you can’t recharge it. You simply place it in the water, and the ionic exchange gives it power. You can literally dive, rinse, and dive again, for three hours a day for two years, giving you 2140 hours of dive light time. How cool is that?

 

As for trends, people have been making new fins for years, but this year TUSA is making the Hyflex Switch fin, which you can detach the blade from the foot pocket and fit it all in a travel bag, then put it all back together again in minutes, so you no longer have to purchase a smaller less powerful set of fins for your travel vacation while leaving your favorite pair of fins back home. Speaking of new fins, Indigo Industries makes the Shift XT modular fins and you can also detach the fin bade, but in this case, you can exchange a split fin blade for a zip split fin blade, plus you can change the bare foot pocket for a strap when wearing booties, which seems to be the ultimate transformer type fin to date.

 

Also excellent for traveling divers is the new Scubapro Hydros Pro BCD. The thermoplastic material and gel pockets dry fast and fold down to almost nothing making this BC easy to place in onboard luggage. You can add weights to the pockets, or use as a harness system with a weight belt for further reduction of travel space.

 

Now when it comes to details, we have to mention the new WaterProof EX2 drysuit that has built in thigh pockets on both front legs, a side arm pocket for sunglasses when on shore, a built in strap for VH1 radios, a pee zipper already installed, a zip pocket for pens, a built in blind plug that can be replaced for a air release valve, or heater battery cord intake valve. It also has velcro locations for applying your name, badge, and identity patches, plus a new type of velcro straps for dry gloves. It’s like they thought of everything that you might want, and then added some extras features just to blow your mind.

Ok, so you don’t always have to have a ton of improvements to set a product apart from the rest, take Aqualung’s EVO4 boots for example. Sure, they have a sturdy drysuit boot with a vibram sole and are made with the military in mind for slippery decks and rocks, but when you pull on the laces of the EVO4 boot, they cinch from the bottom on up, not just the top tightens like most other boots with the laces loose near the toes. EVO4’s produce a fast good tight fit all the way up, and something as simple as a good fitting boot can make or break an easy entrance into or out of the water.

Having a defogged mask can also make or break an enjoyable dive. Fog Kicker is a new biodegradable anti-fog coating that you can apply like marking with a felt pen on your mask lens and one coat is good for 10-15 dives.

  

As for cameras, SeaLife has the new DC2000; a 20 meg pixel camera that shoots jpg and even in raw format. This 1 inch fast sensor camera comes in a new rugged easy to use housing rated down to 200ft / 60m, but even without the outer housing, the inner camera is rated down to 60ft / 18m, making ideal to use below or above the water. Of course it wouldn’t be a SeaLife product if the DC2000 system wasn’t compatible with a fish eye lens to give an 80º wide field of view, and you can also use it with all the Sea Dragon Flash and light systems, including the new Fluoro-Dual Beam to give animals a blue background to show off their natural colors when desired. How awesome is that?

 

Sometimes all you need to impress us are great prices on dive gear and in this case we have to mention SEAC, pronounced “Sea-ak”. From an Italian free dive and spear gun foundation they have expanded to a worldwide made full line of scuba dive products that are comparatively low priced, which is a major priority for getting new divers such as millennials into aquatic sports. As we have seen in the past, as dive gear prices go up, the percentage of potential new divers attracted to the sport goes down. So we have to commend Seac for not only producing quality gear, but for helping price point conscious new scuba, skin, and free divers focus on the immediate fun of these aquatic sports; long term retention in these sports will then just be a matter of good times!

 

On the other end of the spectrum our list would not be complete if we didn’t mention The Darkwater Vision Hammerhead mask that allows technical divers to see in low light arenas. Whether you are doing night dives, deep dark dives, or murky river dives where you are trying to find Megalodon teeth on top of the sediment with the touch of your hands, now you can wear this high tech mask and see with a game-like ethereal quality what was previously too dark and occluded to see naturally. The Hammerhead mask system essentially does for divers, what night vision does for the armed forces, but it’s also excellent for underwater welders too; Dearth Vader would be jealous if he wasn’t already seeing red.

There were lots of other products that we would like to mention that were unveiled at the DEMA Show, but hopefully you’ll get a chance to see them at your local dive store early this year when many of these items should be shipping. For us, it’s time to stop writing, go get wet, and try out the aforementioned products extensively until the next DEMA Show.

 

 

 

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Cage Diving with Great White Sharks

Cage Diving with Great White Sharks

Africa and Australia

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Being in a cage in saltwater next to free swimming great white sharks is probably the best way to get an adrenaline rush on this planet. It is also one of the safest ways to see these magnificent creatures close up and personal in the wild. Cage diving was first invented by Rodney Fox of Australia after he survived being mistaken for a possible meal. It could be equally argued that keeping certain tourists behind metal bars is a potentially good measure for keeping great white sharks safe too. Currently there are three locations around the world where local governments permit cage diving: Australia, South Africa, and Guadalupe Island off of Baja California, Mexico. In this article we will concentrate on single day trips out of South Africa and Australia, as Guadalupe Island because of its distance to the mainland entails exclusive liveaboard diving.

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Starting in Cape Town South Africa, you have to drive 2.5 to 3 hours to the seaside village of Gansbaai and a short distance to Kleinbaai Harbour where up to 8 different government authorized charter boats go out to visit great white sharks. Some of the tours will pick you up in Cape Town early in the morning around 4:30 am to make the trip to Gansbaai, while others ask you to come or bring you to Gansbaai the night before the trip to stay in a guest house or lodge; so you don’t have to get up quite so early the day of your great white shark encounter. The reason these trips leave dockside so early is because great whites prefer to hunt at first light and this is the time when you are most likely to see them breach; jump out of the water . Some great whites may breach year round so you always want to have a camera ready around False Bay and Mossel Bay.

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From April to September charter operators may witness over 600 breaches where a great white, whose attack pattern is from depth below to the surface, may shoot out of the water at speeds of up to 25mph (40km/hr.) and soar some 10 feet (3m) up into the air before arching back down towards the water. If the Great white was lucky, and fifty percent of the time they are not, they will have managed to stun or bite a seal just as they cleared the surface. During this first bite, the great white will determine many factors such as how wounded or stunned was the prey, it’s fat content, taste, smell, and if it is worth pursuing further by immediately biting again, or cautiously following at a safe distance while gathering more sensory data before committing to further feeding or determining the bite test is over and any further pursuit is a waste of energy. This fundamental mental process is what has saved many of the humans that have survived the actual overall and surprisingly low number of recorded great white shark bite test encounters as human fat content is disappointedly poor compared to fat enriched cape fur seals; provided one can survive the initial bite and potential great loss of blood. Besides seals, great whites also prefer Jackass Penguins, Dolphins, and seabirds. The millions of humans swimming in the ocean each year are really not on their calorie count list, but the outlines of humans on surfboards, which resemble from below shadows of seals, can from time to time be too tempting to resist an inquisitive bite test.

So going back to first light, you may have a light breakfast and briefing before they take you out on a fifteen minute ride to Shark Alley which is a channel that separates Dyer Island from Geyser Rock. Geyser Rock is the main breeding ground for 40-60,000 cape fur seals. For those times of the year when breaches are few and far between, boat operators go right into chumming the water to attract great whites. This is soon followed by divers rotating in and out of cages to view from below the water line or divers seeking higher ground to film the inquisitive great white sharks from up above. Some of the boat operators require you to have a basic diver certification while others do not. Some cages are bigger than others, but most cages are attached to the boat and are made to float; not sink. They may chum the water and set bait out for great whites to follow, but they try not to directly feed the sharks as they don’t want to alter the shark’s natural behavior any more than necessary. They are greatly aware how important these apex predators are to the ecosystem and some trips have onboard dedicated marine biologists to help answer any questions that you may have. Financially, a set of jaws may fetch $20,000, but one week of great white tourist trips can bring in up to $30,000 in revenue, and that amount is possible every week the boats go out. Now on the emotional side, some locals have watched a great white named “Slashfin” grow from just over 3 feet (1m) shark with a severely cut up fin to a 15 foot (4.5m) long shark with a healed fin with a mere two scares in just under 6 years. It’s amazing how you can get so attached to some of these majestic creatures in the space of a few hours. We should mention that from July to November you might also see Southern Right Whales while out on the water.

Things you need to bring include: swimsuit, a water resistant out of water cover, dry change of clothes, camera, sunscreen, sunglasses, chap stick, seasick medication (if needed), and a hat. Perhaps even a towel if not rented or supplied. The best operations supply you with cold water gear including thicker wetsuit, booties, hood, and perhaps even a weight belt and mask. They may also provide you with snacks, soup, and beverages, or will ask you to bring extra cash for particular snacks, refreshments and for a DVD copy of your “Day with Great Whites”. You might also desire to combine diving in other areas or include safari reserve trips or wine tasting trips as part of your South African holiday adventure.

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In Australia cage diving with great whites is only allowed around the Neptune Islands and to get here, you have to fly two hours from Sydney to Adelaide, then fly 45 minutes over to Port Lincoln and the Eyre Peninsula. The waters are teaming with life here and the tuna in the pens near Port Lincoln are harvested and shipped to the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. On a two to three hour cruise out you may see whales, dolphins, bronze whaler sharks, mako sharks, and there is a New Zealand fur seal colony that produces up to 4,000 new pups born November to December each year. There is even a small colony of Australian sea lions out here too.

May thru October are the best viewing times of the year as seal pups first venture off shore from where they born. Large female great whites are seen May, June and July, with the greatest number of great whites recorded in July and August. It’s recommended that you come to Port Lincoln the night before you dive, and spend the night after you dive as most boats are back by 6 pm, but every once in awhile weather or shark activity can push the return to port past 9 pm and that would mean missing your flight out that night. Some outfits are bait and berely (chum) free so you have the opportunity to see the great whites in their most natural state of seal predation. Most outfits have metal cages of various sizes attached to boat, but there is one new cage here called the “aqua sub” which is really a metal framed box with viewing windows in which you and others can enter or leave at any time while staying completely dry. You may also watch live television feeds from under the boat while sitting in the Galley. For those that really like to get wet, some trips come with optional excursions on boat tenders to go swim with the sea lions. Besides an average 12 hour long tour out to the islands and back, there are also other trips out here that may include up to 21 days on a liveaboard. Anchorage sites around the four islands that make up the Neptune Islands are selected depending on the time of year, the existing weather conditions, and local currents. Supplies to bring are similar to those needed during the aforementioned South Africa trips and supplies provided are similar to those supplied by South African great white charters.

If you really want to determine whether you like cage diving with great whites in South Africa better than cage diving in Southern Australia, or the other way around, then you will just have to dive both continents, and when it comes to seeing, filming, and viewing great whites face to face, getting to compare two absolutely astounding destinations like these could be a once in a life time adrenaline filled opportunity and an unforgettable experience with one of nature’s most feared, respected, and jaw drop impressive apex predators.

 

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Posted in Australia, Dive Destinations, Dive Liveaboards, Dive Travel, Dolphins, Great White Shark cage diving, Marine Life, Mexico, Pelagics, Scuba Diving, Scuba Training & Education, Sharks, South Africa, Specialties, The Bucket List, Underwater Photography, Underwater Video, Whales | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cayman Brac – The Adventure and Tranquility Island

Cayman Brac

Divers, Hikers, Bikers, and Cliff Hangers

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Cayman Brac is an island barely 19km (12 miles) long and 2km (2 miles) wide and is situated 8km (5 miles) east of Little Cayman and 145km (90 miles) northeast of Grand Cayman. This small island that is sea level on the southwest end has a limestone outcrop “the Bluff” that rises some 43m (141 ft) on the northeast end. There are some sandy beaches in front of some hotels and resorts, but for the most part, the less frequented beaches require good walking shoes to traverse. Good shoes are recommended to hike on the trails that take you past the 180 acre parrot sanctuary; mornings and evenings are the best time to see the parrots in flight. The shoes will help climb the stairs and walk inside various caves where pirates once hid their booty, and along the lighthouse path to view the birds such as frigates and brown boobies nesting on the cliff sides. Brown boobies are easy to identify, just look at their chest. A horizontal straight line separates their chest region from their absolutely white underbelly. Their lightly yellow colored beak and feet tend to get over looked. Good shoes may also come in handy if you plan on cycling around the island, renting mopeds, rock climbing, or hanging over the sides of cliffs too.

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Diving is a must for this small island as here you will find walls, sand chutes, tunnels, and caverns to explore much like one would expect to find on Grand Cayman, plus Cayman Brac is home to at least four wrecks including the 330ft long 42ft wide M/V Capt. Keith Tibbetts which was formerly a Russian Brigadier Class frigate #356. It was sunk in 1996, sitting straight up in about 27m (89ft) of water, but mover nature tried to rip off the from end and eventually tilted the front of the ship over at a 45º angle, and the middle section was torn up and scattered. The aft section still sits straight up. It rests 200m (660ft) from shore, and you may see people snorkel out to the wreck, but it is easier to save time and energy by diving the wreck from a boat. Some 24 of the 46 dive sites around the island can be reached as shore dives, and many of the diving areas are great for snorklers too.  Over the last 20 years, The M/V Tibbetts has turned into an artificial reef and is home to hundreds of different forms of fish and invertebrates.

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If colorful corals, tube sponges, soft corals, nurse sharks, reef sharks, sea turtles, tarpon, goliath groupers, stingrays, lobsters, octopus, and green moray eels are what you want to see, photograph or video, then Cayman Brac has got you covered. One of their most popular dive sites is East Chute. This is really a two for one dive site as you can descend past the eel gardens down the wall through semi-closed tunnels down to 90ft and look for life on the wall as well as pelagics off the wall and then come up the east chute to the 65ft long Mariner wreck in 45ft of depth for a little macro photography. The Gilembo dive site is reported by an honest fisherman friend to have a “super male” 5ft long rainbow parrotfish. Treehouse Reef is noted for its two pinnacles and sandy bowl, Treasure Trove is known for its staghorn, elkhorn, and sponges, Bert Brothers Boulders also has large elkhorn coral heads on top of grooves and ridges with soft corals and sponges in the gullies. Wilderness Wall  is known for rope vase and tube sponges, snapper, and angelfish,.

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Now, Radar Reef used to be the place to go to do a night dive to find shrimp, arrow crabs, lobster, and tarpon next to the Jetty at Stake Bay, but the local artist named “Foot” built the Archway to Atlantis, the Elder Way (statues with local faces), and the Circle of Light and the area became renamed as Atlantis. of course a hurricane came through and had to mess things up a little, but it is still a very surreal or dream like site.

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Oh, the other wrecks are the 60ft long Kissimmee tug boat that lays upside down in the sand and Prince Federick’s Wreck, a schooner, that sunk in the 1800’s. Most of the wood has been eaten away, but parts of a mast, anchor chains,  four anchors, and boilers are still 20-40ft underneath two hundred years of coral growth.

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We should mention, that because Little Cayman Island is a mere 5 miles away, dive trips over to Bloody Bay Wall can also be arranged (weather permitting), but book in advance!

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Back to land activities, bring your dive light along if you want to explore the caves. Skull Cave or Half Ground Cave has Jamaican fruit bats that you can see if you shine your light overhead. Peter’s Cave has a nice view of the town and was once the gathering point of the islanders during the 1932 hurricane. You can learn more about this catastrophe by visiting the oldest museum of the Cayman Islands, the Cayman Brac museum in Stakes Bay. There are some 2100 residents on the island and there is also a hospital and chamber. There are small grocery stores, 16 restaurants on the island offering a variety of local Caribbean and international cuisine as well as mandatory after dive or activities libations. So if you plan to explore by cycle, moped, car or on foot, the roads are pretty much yours. The beaches and hiking trails are pretty much yours too. You may have the urge to go deep sea fishing or rock climbing or you may want to hang from ropes over a cliff or during lobster season go catch a lobster as no license is required but one thing is certain, you will quickly adapt to waving back to the locals. For such a small friendly island there is lots to do at your pace, but here, among all the activities, diving is a must; formality not so much.

 

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Posted in Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, Dive Travel, Dolphins, Pelagics, Pinnacles, Reefs, Scuba Diving, Sharks, Turtles, Underwater Photography, Underwater Video, Walls, Wrecks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Little Cayman’s Big Time Diving

Little Cayman’s Big Time Diving

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If you are looking for a dive destination that even Phillipe Cousteau considered one of the top three dive destinations in the world, yet it is still not inundated with tourist galore, then you can’t find a bigger island with more magnificent and mesmerizing dive sites than the island simply known as Little Cayman.

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The island population has exploded since the early nineteen eighties and now there are close to 170 some people living on the island, and although you might think this number is a lot, it is nothing compared to the two thousand rock iguanas living on the island which have the right of way around the island. Now take the total number of locals and all the tourists and this total will still be so small that the vast majority of red footed boobies are unaware that humans are even on Little Cayman. We’re not exactly sure how an ornithologist arrived at 5,000 pairs of red footed boobies.  This round number makes us wonder, did they just stop counting when they reached this number and then head for the reef where the hawksbill turtles like to hang out? We may never know the answer, but if you are like most “Birders” we had you at “red footed” and most photographers will agree that there is nothing more picturesque than a pair of boobies posing for a camera. Of course, we almost sincerely apologize for this blatant misuse of fowl humor.

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On the more serious side, the Cayman Islands are actually a collection of three separate instances where the peaks of the Cayman ridge broke through the Caribbean Sea’s surface. Little Cayman tops the surface by a mere 40ft (12m). On the north side of this ridge lays the Yucatan Basin and on the south side is the Cayman Trench. Little Cayman is approximately 80 miles (129km) east of Grand Cayman and 5 miles (8km) from Cayman Brac. Little Cayman is directly south of Miami with a little plane hop over or around Cuba, but typically, flights to Little Cayman arrive several times a day direct or non-stop via Grand Cayman.

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Southeast of Little Cayman is Jamaica which tends to shield the Caymans from most hurricanes. Around these three exposed island peaks are fringing reefs, coral heads, sand plains that over time deposit vast amounts of sand down chutes that form between finger shaped coral canyons and ridges. Around, between, and hidden by the coral outcroppings you may encounter pinnacles, arches, tunnels, chimneys, mini-walls, caves, and eventually walls that descend downward into the deep blue.

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Back to the area which makes Little Cayman such a famous place to dive we have to go to Bloody Bay on the slightly northwest side of the island. The wall starts at a mere 18ft (6m) of depth, but it is such a long shallow swim from shore before you reach the edge of the wall that may descend eventually down to 3,000ft+ (1,000m) and this is why some 99% of all local diving is facilitated by boat. To visit some 76 different local dive sites is quite an undertaking and since most visits are from Saturday to Saturday on Little Cayman you might as well plan a second trip or extend your first excursion.

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There are some 24 dive sites on Bloody Bay and the adjacent Jackson Bay, but the favorite dive site of all for divers, underwater photographers, videographers  and instructors alike has to be Mixing Bowl; aka (Three Fathoms). If you are facing Three Fathom Wall on the left side of the wall is a sand chute that descends down to 110ft (34m). A short distance more is a coral arch and to the left of a flat coral head is a cave that leads to a second canyon. To the right of Three fathom wall  is Marylyn’s Cut which is where a large mushroom topped pinnacle is cut from the surrounding wall and goes down to 80ft (24m). Just to the right of the pinnacle is a cave where light filters in the open roof area and air bubbles filter out. Randy’s Gazebo is similar to Mixing Bowl with structural features on both sides of the wall, but on a smaller scale so you can explore this site on a single dive.

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Besides the rock formations, there are myriads of yellow and red tube sponges, elephant ears, gorgonians, invertebrates of all sizes and types, schools of reef fish such as grunts and snappers, barracuda, sharks, rays and Nassau groupers. Grouper are found off Little Cayman in great abundance because of the long standing designated grouper spawning areas off both the west and east end of the island. Although, how they get the grouper to adhere to these specific courtship coordinates is beyond the scope of this article.

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Now if you are into wreck dives several dive charters cross the short distance over to Cayman Brac, weather permitting, to spend a few dives visiting the 300ft + (91m) long former Russian Destroyer Keith Tibbetts. This dive descends down to 97ft (30m) and recently the Tibbetts broke into two pieces making it easy to investigate the engine and control rooms.

In addition to scuba diving, you can jog, bicycle around the island, go birding, or go kayaking, but the biggest non-diving sport on the island has to be blue water fishing. Little Cayman is well known for its mahi mahi, tuna, marlin, wahoo, and sailfish, and has been a sportsman’s dream out here since the 1980’s.

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So now you know that Little Cayman is a secluded uncrowded island with world class diving, lots of iguanas, and tons of birds including thousands of pairs of red footed boobies. The island may be only 10 miles (16km) long, a little over a mile (2km) wide, and just above sea level, but if you think you can see it all in one week, then think again . . . or better yet, plan on staying longer or coming back again, but whatever you decide, we know you are going to enjoy your small island dive adventure experience in a very big and memorable way.

 

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Posted in Cayman Islands, Dive Destinations, Dive Travel, Dive Travel Deals, Little Cayman, Marine Life, Pinnacles, Reefs, Scuba Diving, Scuba Training & Education, Sharks, Turtles, Underwater Photography, Underwater Video, Walls, Wreck Diving | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TRUK LAGOON

Truk Lagoon

Why Dive A Wreck When You Can Dive An Entire Fleet?

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Truk Lagoon, also called Chuuk Lagoon, is not your average dive site. It was known as the “Gilbralter of the Pacific” and by the end of February 18th, 1944 became the biggest graveyard of ships in the world. Jacques Cousteau explored Truk in 1969 and in 1971 aired his documentary “The Ghost Fleet of Truk Lagoon”. Over the years many of these vessels have become coral reefs on their exposed surfaces, but in their holds where little natural light penetrates, the products and spare parts used in warfare may be found stacked the sameway they were the day the ships went down. On some ships that have been explored, items have been moved by divers such as a gas mask placed on the barrel of a coral encrusted gun or a group of plates and bowls set out as if ready to be used for a picnic. Depth charges have been removed for obvious reasons. Other items to view include a porcelain baby bath, trucks, anti-aircraft guns on decks, tanks on decks, tanks resting on tanks, sake bottles, medicine bottles, torpedoes, mines, bullets, bombs, Betty bomber parts, zero fighter parts and engines, and the skeletal remains of those that made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

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Since the only way to truely get in touch with what transpired in this now tranquil lagoon with water visibility over 50ft /17m year round is to go back in time and embrace a little history of the islands.

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Truk Lagoon is an atol in the South Pacific about 1,000 miles NE of New Guinea and 3,300 miles SW of Hawaii. The tallest of the main seven islands is 1,500ft above sea level. Some hundred smaller islands are also found around inside and outside the atol of 140 semi-rectangular miles round. The atoll has a deep water lagoon of 800 square miles, so it is not small by any means and this attracted sailors, traders, and whalers from around the world.  Alvaro de Saavedra was the first European to land here in 1528 and like any European did at the time, he ignored the natives living in Truk for some 2,000 years and claimed Truk and the surrounding Caroline Islands for Spain. That being said, nothing much happened for 300 years until Spain lost the Spanish-American War in 1898 and the U.S. gained the rights of many tropical resort like islands. Any monopoly player would have said this is a bad idea, but the U.S. sold the islands (except for Guam) to the German Empire in 1899 for 4.2 million dollars.

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In 1914 Japan in a secret pact with Britain seized control of all Micronesia and in 1919 Imperial Japan’s control was formerly recognized by the League of Nation’s mandate. By 1920 there was an exclusion of foreign ships into Truk Lagoon and Imperial Japan somehow accidentally over looked the restrictions which prohibited fortification and colonization in Micronesia. By the 1930’s there were more Japanese colonists than natives in Truk. In 1939 the Japanese passed the Military Manpower Mobilization Law to concript labor for the empire and soon Koreans, local islanders, and 2,000 convicts from Yokohama Central Prison were conscripted to perform manual air field construction. In all, the Imperial Japanese Civil Engineering Department and Naval Construction Department had built roads, trenches bunkers, caves, five air strips, a sea plane station, torpedo boat station, a radar station, a communication center, submarine repair shops, and coastal defense gun implacements. Some eighty times bigger than Pearl Harbor, Truck Lagoon was home to battleships, aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, tankers, tugboats, gun boats, cargo ships, minsweepers, submarines, and landing craft. Some 250 aircraft were also based there. By 1941 there were an estimated 100, 000 Japanese in the islands as compared to a mere 50,000 Micronesians. By August 1942 Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto located his headquarters on board the battleship Yamato in Truk and in 1943 transferred his headquarters to the sister ship Susashi. On a side note, well before the raid on Truk, Admiral Yamamoto was killed on April 18, 1943 while flying in a G4M “Betty” Bomber over the Solomon Islands. A similar “Betty” bomber is one of the wrecks resting in Truk Lagoon.

After the fall of Kwajelien Atol, Japanese intelligence determined that U.S. forces now had air superiority and so Imperial Japan withdrew the larger ships to Palau a week before the U.S. was slated to attack Truk.

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Operation Hailstone commenced on February 17th, 1944 in the early morning hours with the first wave of 72 Gruman F6F Hellcats targeting any flying Japanese planes and then those still on the ground. They were followed by TBF Avengers Torpedo Bombers and 3BD Dauntless Dive Bombers all coming from five fleet carriers, and four light carriers, and reinforced with 7 battleships, destroyers, cruisers submarines, and supply ships for a total of 60 ships and 500 planes.

By the first day 124 Japanese planes were shot down in flight and another 150 destroyed on the ground before they could even join the fight. That night radar equiped avengers pounded the islands and U.S. warships and submarines surrounded the atoll. The Japanese cruiser Agano tried to escape and was torpedoed just outside the lagoon by the submarine U.S.S Skate. The crew of the Agano, was picked up by the Destroyer Oite, and when she came back inside the lagoon to assist with anti-aircraft fire power, she was hit and sunk, and only 20 crew members from the Oite survived the attack. The former home of the Imperial Japanese combined fleet headquarters became a sunken ship graveyard in less than two days. The U.S. lost 25 planes and 40 men, 11 of which were killed on the Intrepid when it was damaged by an attack from a solo Japanese torpedo bomber thought to be enroute from Saipan or Rabaul. By the next day, February 18, twenty years of military buildup was destroyed and Truk could not assist with any reinforcement or support when the U.S. invaded Eniwetok. For the United States of America, pay back for Pearl Harbor had just been delivered.

By late April, Imperial Japan had moved almost 100 planes from Rabaul to Truk and on April 29th a second attack on Truk left 59 planes shot out of the sky and 34 destroyed on the ground. This day and a half assault also destroyed gas and oil tank farms. From this point forward 90% of the Imperial Japanese military supplies did not make it to the islands. The U.S. also began using Truk for bomber practice for Japan. The cut off Japanese soldiers on Truk were left isolated and starving until they surrendered on September 2nd, 1945.

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The Imperial Japanese navy ships sunk on February 17th and 18, 1944 include:

Three Japanese light cruisers: Agano, Katori, & Naka.

Four Destroyers: Oite, Fumizuki, Maikaze, & Tachikaze.

Auxiliary cruisers: Akagi Maru, Aitoku Maru, Kiyosumi Maru.

Two submarine tenders: Heian Maru, Rio de Janiero Maru.

Smaller warships and sub chasers: CH-24, Shonan Maru 15.

Aircraft transport Fujikawa Maru.

32 merchant ships were also sunk in the attack. The submarine I-169 which actually sunk by accident, but played a role in the attack on Pearl Harbor was destroyed by the Imperial Japanese navy fearing the U.S. would get inside her and capture vital military information. There are still 14 unidentified wrecks and eight sunken aircraft around Truk Lagoon. The largest wreck is the Heian Maru, the San Francisco Maru is popular for its tanks on deck, the Fujikawa is known for its engine room and machine shop, and the Hanakawa has spectacular coral growth.

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Prior to 1944 several other ships sank in and around truk lagoon, most notable, the Sapporo Maru auxillary storeship, the freighter Katsuragisan, the tugboat Ojima, and the transport ship Kikukawa Maru. We think reading Dive Truk Lagoon by Rod MacDonald is a good way to wreck your day.

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So as you can see, there are many ships to view, but many wrecks are too deep to visit unless you are tech diver certified. The liveaboard vessel SS Thorfin caters to divers using rebreathers or technical dive equipment as well as recreational divers. Meanwhile at least nine large wrecks are located at depths of 60-120ft (20-40m). The liveaboard Odyssey Adventures goes to some 15 of the large and small wrecks dotted around Truk’s waters. Many artifacts can be seen slightly above or just below the surface. The deeper you go, the more items you will see in their original, non-coral colonized, post-war preserved state. It takes several trips to tour Truk Lagoon and see the entire underwater historical museum, this one of a kind uniquely structured coral garden, and the world’s largest fleet graveyard.

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Giant Sharks Through Time

Giant Sharks Through Time

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Great Whites are currently the largest predator shark on this water planet, but it hasn’t always been this way. The first large predator shark dates back to 100 million years ago back to the Cretaceous period of time. The shark I am referring to is Cretoxyrhina manteli, which is commonly known as the Ginsu shark because of its sharp ginsu knife slice and dice teeth. The teeth were large, sharp, and had smooth edges similar to the modern short fin mako shark. This large lamniform shark grew 20-24ft long and preyed on fish such as the 20ft long fanged tooth Xiphactinus, Plesiosaurs such as elasmosaurus, mosasaurs, and archelon turtles. Remains of sea going reptiles such as Mosasaurs have been found inside the stomachs of fossilized Ginsu sharks, Ginsu teeth marks have been found on fossils of Mosasaurs, and half digested fossilized remains of smaller Mosasaurs bones have been found near Ginsu shark deposits. Ginsu sharks died out some 82 million years ago and this could be partly due to the fact that certain species of mosasaurs grew close to 50ft long and in turn became the top predator of the time. Whether Mosasaurs ate all the Ginsu sharks, dominated the former Ginsu shark food supply, food sources like Xiphactinus fish diminished, or the rising number of other predators proved overwhelming, Ginzu sharks managed to survive for 18million years and just like the warm waters of the Thethys Ocean, Ginsu Sharks ultimately became extinct.

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For the next 54 million years a few early species of mako sharks radiated in to sharks 20 to 30ft long sharks such as Paratodus benedeni, Isurus hastalis, and Isurus estheri, but 28 million years ago during the Oligocene a new large species of shark came to light and pushed these mako sharks out of sight and out of mind. It was a time when whales dominated the seas and radiated into many species. The new shark Carcharocles megalodon or simply Megalodon, which grew to some 43 to 52 plus feet in length, roamed the warm waters in search of big fish and whale buffets. Remnant fossilized teeth over seven inches long are still found on the muddy bottoms of rivers in South Carolina and Florida as well as off shore along the south eastern states.

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An intermediary 16ft long form of broad tooth mako shark with coarse serrations on its teeth and similar to great white teeth was found in 6.5 million year old fossil deposits of Peru. Scientist are now confident that the great white took it’s current form from ancestors of serrated tooth mako during the early Pliocene 4-4.5 million years ago along the Pacific Coast where whales and seals are still quite prevalent. In the late Pliocene around 2-2.5 million years ago great whites radiated out to other parts of the world. Megalodon sharks finally died out 1.8million years ago, giving them a total life long run of almost 26 million years on this water planet. It’s not known if great whites lead to the extinction of Megalodon sharks, but juvenile megalodons with butter knife smooth teeth would have had to compete directly against easy chomping great whites with steak knife teeth. The sharp teeth would come in handy against seals, and may have given great whites an edge on hunting young whales too. It’s also known that species of giant mako sharks became extinct as great whites filled the niches of the precursor instead of the mako .

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Some fifteen million years ago the cold Antarctic circumpolar current came into existence and by 10 million years ago several species of sharks began to grow in size. By the end of the Pliocene, somewhere around 3 million years ago, the waters became cooler as the Greenland ice cap accumulated. Megalodon fossils are usually associated in areas that were once warmer or tropical. Perhaps the great white by just being able to hunt in colder waters than megalodons and ability to expand out around the world could have eventually reduced the megalodon’s immediate, as well as their migrating food supply, and led to the megalodon’s final extinction.

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Millions of sharks are killed yearly and efforts to curtail or eliminate this routine practice must be enhanced. Knowing the evolution of giant sharks, now more than ever, it is important to safe guard the existence of great whites. Because if they went instinct even accidentally, it could take another 25 million years before the world could see such a large top predator, and that is only if the food supply was abundant, over fishing was no longer a threat, and the climate or water temperature was agreeable to a currently unknown future radiated shark species.

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Posted in Dive Destinations, Dive Travel, Learning to Dive, Marine Life, Scuba Diving, Scuba Training & Education, Sea Legends, Sharks | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anxiously Awaiting Your Next Dive?

Anxiously Awaiting Your Next Dive?

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If you dive less than 7 to 14 times a year you might want to take a refresher course before you go on your next big vacation or scuba dive adventure. You have either read something like this in your introductory scuba course, a dive magazine, or heard it down at a local dive shop. The reason is simple, if you practice diving on a regular basis, you become more familiar with more facets of your dive gear and scuba diving conditions in general. Being comfortable with your dive gear and the local dive conditions is the goal of every diver as it reduces anxiety and enhances your over all dive experience, but besides the basics, what else can you do to ensure the a perfect dive the next time out? Perhaps we should talk about dive gear first.

Even if you are diving warm waters, we recommend wearing a full rash guard or preferably a 3ml wetsuit that covers your torso, arms, and legs. Sure on the first dive you are warm in just a swimsuit, but after several dives and several days, you may start to feel cold before the end of the dive, and the urge to find a bathroom will eventually override your desire to maximize your bottom time. Acting on this urge before surfacing only exacerbates the situation by briefly heating your outer extremities then cooling them down while your blood vessels have become dilated by the sudden warmth which makes your heat loss increase exponentially. A wetsuit or rash guard is also a good way to protect your body from fire corals, jelly fish, and even prevents you from getting sunburned shoulders and legs when you are diving less than 20ft below the surface or doing decompression stops. A hood, bandana, cap or scap also works as the ultimate sun blocker for your head, especially if your hair is short or you’re like some of us and folically challenged.

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Having your own gear with you on a trip always reduces anxiety because your familiar with how it operates and comfortable with how it fits , but sometimes renting gear is the best option, especially when it comes to the airlines baggage policies and added cost. We always recommend taking your own mask, booties, dive computer as there is nothing worse than a leaky mask and a limited or unfamiliar computer. Fins could be added to the essentials list if based on previous rentals that with every kick it reminded you of the movie Foot Loose. As for the rest of your rental gear, be sure and do an easy shallow shore dive to make sure you are absolutely comfortable with how the unfamiliar gear operates, sits, and fits. Now if you dive with steel tanks and you find yourself using rental aluminum tanks while on vacation, you’ll need to add some additional weight too. You’ll notice the difference aluminum tanks make at the end of the dive when aluminum tanks down around 500psi try to make you float to the surface if you didn’t plan a head and weight yourself properly for this contingency.

Everyone talks about how important buoyancy is and we recommend on working on perfect buoyancy so you can glide down underwater and surface later on as soft and slow as a snowflake or leaf swept along in a gentle breeze, but what if your next dive adventure calls for diving down quickly to get below the swift currents near the surface? You might need a little more weight, and little more practice to control a little quicker descent. Also, the added weight will affect how much air and at what rate you need to expel air from your BC on your ascent back to the surface too. Practicing with a few extra pounds of weight will lessen your overall anxiety when it comes to diving in areas where currents are typically stronger.

Scuba-Diving scuba-diving-certification scuba-diving-with-your-instructor1Task overloading is a common phenomena that can lead to symptoms of high anxiety. If you have been out of the water for awhile, chances are diving a deep night drift wreck dive from a boat while navigating using dive lights and taking video/pictures while lobster hunting is going to feel like a multitasking nightmare. Perhaps a better option is to strap a Gopro or Intova video camera in place so you are hands free, and for all the types of diving you plan on doing, perhaps training in each of these fields separately and in advance would not only prepare you for your next dives, but would also put you in the water more frequently. Skills in boat diving, deep diving, drift diving, night diving, and navigation to name a few, could be used at almost any resort or dive site worldwide. When your trained properly, it is easier to anticipate your needs, plan your dive, and actually dive your plan from Belize, Cozumel, Bonaire, Palau, Truk, or Papua New Guinea. Also, good dive operators are there to help you. Don’t hesitate to communicate any concerns you may have. Even the most experienced divers have encountered feelings of unease and apprehension. Voicing any worries along with all of this training with your gear and dive conditions increases your safety, knowledge, and your confidence and ability to make the best decisions when it counts most, and thus makes every dive more pleasurable and relatively anxiety free.

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Posted in Dive Destinations, Dive Equipment, Dive Travel, Diver Wellness, Learning to Dive, Scuba Diving, Scuba Training & Education, Specialties | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment