The Mantas of Yap

The Mantas of Yap

If you are lucky, you may have seen a manta or two while diving, but in the waters off the island of Yap, it’s not uncommon to see a dozen or so 12-18ft wide mantas slowly going past you or hovering just above the nearby coral as wrasse and other small fish dart back and forth while cleaning parasites off the mantas. There are over 100 resident mantas in the waters of Yap, and nightly they go out into the deep waters to feed on plankton, and each morning they return to designated coral cleaning stations to remove microscopic parasitic hitch hikers. From December to April the mantas display courtship rituals, breach out of the water, somersault and form underwater multiple member conga lines. The word “manta” derives from the Spanish word for blanket, and when a manta gently moves though the waters a few feet above you, the cover is large, wide, and alive. This is just one of the scenarios that plays out daily when you dive Mi’l Channel (Manta Ray Bay or Manta Ridge) or at Goofnuw Channel (Valley of the Rays).

Now, to find Yap on a map, place the tip of your index finger on Hawaii, next place the tip of your middle finger on Guam. Now lift your index finger off Hawaii and rotate it southeast of Guam by about 500 miles and you just found Yap. In reality it is just “plane” easier to take United Airlines on this island hopping adventure.

Although the Indonesians on Yap proper and the Polynesians on the outer islands have been living on Yap for some 3,000 years, it took a European explorer from Portugal in 1525 to discover the Islands. The local Islanders called themselves Wa’ab and with great cultural sensitivity possessed only by Europeans in those days the Islands were promptly called Yap and the people Yapese. Yap by the way means, “canoe paddle” in Wa’ab.

To make history short, in 1886 Pope Leo XII gave Yap to Spain and three years later Spain sold Yap to Germany who had to give guardianship to the Japanese in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. The Japanese built a lighthouse and later used Yap as a stationary aircraft carrier until the Americans in WWII bombed them heavily. Wrecks of Japanese Zero Fighters, Suisei dive-bombers, Gekko night fighters, Ginga bombers, L2D2 transport planes, American B-24’s, Hellcats, Helldivers, Corsairs, and Avengers can still be seen on shore as well as underwater.

Yap is nine degrees north of the equator and part of the Federated States of Micronesia, which also includes Truk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae. Yap is comprised of four volcanic islands, Yap Proper, Maap, Tomil-Gagil, and Rumung, which volcanically lifted up

from the Philippine Sea Plate. Yap also consists of some 130 other atolls and islets that extend some 600 miles. The State of Yap covers 118.9 sq miles total, with a landmass of 38.7 sq miles. One of the volcanic atolls Ulithi, for seven months during WWII was secretly home to the world’s fourth largest Naval base. The 553ft long USS Mississinewa was sunk here at a depth of 120ft by a Japanese Kaiten, manned suicide, torpedo. Ulithi is also the home of a hawksbill turtle sanctuary.

Yapese are proud of their old cultural ways which include using several sizes of stone money. Some of the stone circular coins are 12ft in diameter and take some 20 men to lift. When they set these stones in groups it is called a bank. They may trade the stones during ceremonies, or during transfer of land, but although the ownership of the stones may change, the location of these giant monetary units tends to be set in stone. Yapese typically went to Pulau’s Rock Island where they quarried and shaped the large stones, then they brought them 280 miles back to Yap using nothing more than canoes made out of mahogany or breadfruit trees and with sails made out of plaited leaves. For navigation they used their masterful knowledge of a group of 32 stars passed down from generation to generation.

Yapese still have a caste system and each village has a tribal hut just for men where skills such as fishing and sailing techniques are learned from elders. On the outer islands men wear loin clothes called “thus” and topless women wear skirts called “lavalavas”. During Yap day, March 1st and 2nd, even local women on Yap Proper, must go topless. On the other hand, showing legs and thighs of women is considered indecent. Yap Day is also a time to see story dances, try local foods, see races up betel nut trees, hear local music, show off coconut husking skills and arts, and to view exquisite craft skills. On non-diving days cultural trips are a great way to meet the locals and see some of these activities.

Back to scuba diving, Bill Acker first came to Yap in 1976 as a Peace Corps volunteer and within a few years began Yap Divers. He and his family now own and operate Manta Ray Bay Resort. Each of the rooms comes complete with modern conveniences and beautifully decorated marine themes from nudibranchs, sharks, fish, squids, or stingrays. Rooms with Ocean views, private plunge pools, stone showers, or a private rooftop jacuzzi are very popular. Guests can swim in the main pool with mantas painted on the bottom. You can eat, dine, drink, or even watch open-air movies on a permanently moored 110-year-old 170ft long Phinisi schooner from Indonesia called the MV Mnuw. At the Nautical Weaver Bar on the bridge deck or at the Crow’s Nest Bar you can delight in the fresh taste of Hammerhead Amber or Manta Gold microbrews made right at the resort under the name: Stone Money Brewing Company. On the main deck is the Manta Ray Bistro known as the island’s finest restaurant. Manta Ray Bay Resort is also home of YAP divers and the Taro Leaf Spa.

Yap Divers has eight boats of various sizes to take you to Rainbow Reef where 30-40 mandarin fish perform romance rituals daily. At Vertigo, steep ledges and free handouts ensure sharks of all types such black tips, silky, gray reef, white tip, black tips, will show up. Scalloped hammerheads, nurse, leopard, zebra, and whale sharks are often spotted around some 50 other known dive sites. Yap Caverns is a must do for any diver that loves caves and swim throughs.

From Hunter’s Bank Seamount, a sunken island, 17 miles North of Yap to 15 miles east at Yap Trench that descends down 28,000ft you have a chance to see coral cabbage patches, torpedoes, machineguns, and other military artifacts, schools of large humphead wrasse, bluefin trevelly, giant trevelly, yellowfin, skipjack, wahoo, mahi-mahi, barracuda, red snapper, and grouper. Dolphins, pilot whales, and even Orcas whales pass by Yap.

So if you would like to dive a 8,243sq mile manta ray preserve, view some 200 soft and hard coral species, see some military war relics, observe or take images of numerous small to pelagic fish, snorkel with small jellyfish and nudibranchs, do some game fishing, kayak around mangrove lined canals, paddle to secluded beaches, or just do some incredible scuba diving with over 100ft of visibility, then you may wish to spend some time on an island called Yap.

For more information on exclusive dive travel offers, competitive airfare, and how you can visit Yap Divers and Manta Ray Bay Resort, Click Here

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DiveGlide…Exciting and Fun!

DiveGlide is the latest device to get people hooked on water sports. It basically looks like a giant egg with detachable wings and a metal bar to hold on to. Inside the partly opened shell compartment 50lbs of weight and two air cylinders are placed. By pulling on a ball shaped knob you can add up to 250lbs of positive buoyancy lift inside the shell to rise towards the surface. To descend, all you have to do is tilt the front end down and air bubbles escape out the back end opening and you are gently pulled forward and downward. It takes a little training to master how to ascend and descend and once you’ve practiced a little, you feel like you are gliding through the water like a conventional glider does in air.

Glenn Faires of Golden Rock Dive Center invented Dive Glide in St. Eustatius (Statia). He has been perfecting DiveGlide for over 7 years. The most recent version is 30% lighter than the original model and it can be shipped just about anywhere in the world as it only weighs less than 32lbs; full production models may eventually weigh as little as 25lbs without mounted weights and tanks.

Just like surfing, snowboarding, or skiing, you use your muscles to choose a course and propel yourself forward. What makes DiveGlide so great is that for some adventurers, gliding under water gives participants a chance to dive downward and get a glimpse of colorful creatures and tropical reefs. In this respect, DiveGlide used by snorkelers, can act as a gateway step towards a desire to use DiveGlide while on scuba. So a trip spent gliding underwater could lead to another certified diver. This is one of many reasons why DiveGlide could have such a powerful effect on the world of scuba. As more resorts make DiveGlide available as one of their water related rental products, it will be interesting to see how much the need for local scuba diving instruction is increased. With an increased number of vacationers becoming certified and divegliding, the number of people they tell how much fun they had will expand and therefore the number of new vacationers desiring to try DiveGlide will increase too.

Here in the Scuba dive industry we are constantly reminded about the need to bring in young new divers to our sport. The more opportunities young people have to enjoy the water and related water sports, the more these young aquatic oriented adventurers may gravitate towards scuba diving activities whether it be a discovery scuba diving course or a full open water course. With this in mind, it is just a matter of time before a diver will be able to earn an Underwater Photography DiveGlide scuba certification or a Night DiveGlide scuba patch. Perhaps these courses won’t be available right away, but that all depends on how quickly resorts and other water destinations make DiveGlide available for beach enthusiasts from all walks of life.

Now, we are not saying that DiveGlide is the only solution to bringing new people into the scuba world. We think it is just one of many activities that can go hand in hand with scuba diving sport activities. If having so many other different land locked outdoor activities to choose from helps keep some potential people from ever trying scuba diving, then it’s only natural that having as many sports as possible that funnel interest back towards the water and Scuba diving can only be a good thing for the overall scuba industry.

On the other side of the coin though, gliding underwater like a giant manta ray and playing with the buoyancy properties of bubbles might be the only activity that some divers in the future will choose to do. You don’t need to kick with your fins or paddle with your arms, all you have to do is gently adjust the position of your body and the angle of your DiveGlide and you are free to fly underwater wherever you want to go and this makes DiveGlide just too much fun not to try.

For more information and an opportunity to use the Dive Glide, email . You can also visit the DiveGlide Facebook page, or view some of the YouTube clips and interviews on Dive Glide.

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For most divers the words scuba and tank used together in the same sentence refers to an air filled aluminum or steel cylinder. For those into creating artificial reefs, “scuba tanks” refer to former military machines capable of firing multiple warheads and moving rapidly over any terrain by use of two independent tract like belts. Once the tanks have out lived their usefulness or have become obsolete by newer more powerful models, they are relegated to parking fields where they wait to be disposed of or turned into scrap. Alabama has taken the lead by sinking 100 M-60 tanks in nearby waters. Alabama was also the first to start artificial reef building when they sank 250 automobiles back in 1953. Alabama now has one of the best off shore fishing grounds for red snapper that range from 15 to 25lbs in weight and some 30 to 40% of all red snapper in the gulf are caught right off the shores of Alabama. The first six tanks were sunk here in 1987. They are expected to have a life span of 50 years and generate millions of dollars in revenue for the state from visiting fishermen and scuba divers. 6,000 M-48 and M-60 tanks used in Korea and Vietnam sit idle on military basis across the nation. At one point there were at least 3,000 tanks just at Anniston Army Depot in Alabama. Scraping the tanks would have cost millions, but fortunately, it costs a lot less to turn tanks into artificial reefs. Reserve units remove engines, transmissions, and fuel and hydraulic lines before the tanks are cleaned and ready for transportation. The main cost for States wanting the tanks for reefs is the actual cost of transportation. It’s not easy moving a 30ft long 8ft high 50 ton piece of former military might.

Florida has sunk two M-60 tanks in 48ft of depth off of Miami Beach that are now home to spiny oysters, lobster, sponges, and soft coral. Rock walls were also set up around the tanks. Florida wants to sink 100 tanks in total. Fans from seven other Florida counties want in on this hot deal. Back in 1993, Broward County applied for $60,000 in state money to help offset the costs of sinking 10 tanks in waters about 72ft deep. Besides steam cleaning, each tank has the hatches welded open and the engine grill is removed before it’s safe for fish and divers alike. The best thing about turning tanks into reefs is that tanks seem to be impervious against direct assaults by Mother Nature. When the artificial reef Spirit of Miami, a former 727 airplane, was hit by tropical storm Gordon in 1985, its aluminum tube design broke apart faster than fortune cookies at a Global Economic Summit. Military tanks on the other hand can get buried by sand, but will remain in tact for countless years of storms, hurricanes, and garden-variety falling meteorite driven tsunamis. The Japanese tanks sunk in Truk Lagoon during WWII have been sunk for over 70 years. With a known start date, these tanks/reefs besides looking surreal and reminding us of a major historical battle and the accompanying casualties, they can now be used to gauge individual coral growth as well as the growth of micro ecosystems over a fixed period of time and depth.

Now we should mention that the Tampa/ St. Petersburg area has 8-10 tanks around 50ft of depth, but they have upped the ante on the military side by sinking three barges in a rectangular grid of 300ft by 600ft at 42ft of depth and by placing a Lockheed Neptune P2V-3 plane directly in the center and calling it Veteran’s Reef. This area is also known for the world’s largest spear fishing tournament where we believe war relic reefs have only helped increase habitat space for smaller fish that the record size grouper, cobia, wahoo, hogfish, kingfish, mackerel, snapper, bonito, and wahoo feed on.

Off the coast of New York and New Jersey M-60’s, M-48’s, M-551’s and other armored personnel carriers were deployed straight over the sides of barges. Some of the M-551’s are right off of Jones Beach, Fire Island, and Atlantic Beach. The trouble with diving on the tanks in New York and New Jersey, is that you have to make a choice between some 58 or more tanks, or dive some more than 4000 known or potential shipwreck sites; some of which still harbor great glass and ceramic goodies as well as early American antique artifacts.

“Reef Exercise” (REEFEX) a joint Department of Defense and civilian groups operation is responsible for the tank to artificial reef program. Off the coast of Virginia they now have sunk armored personnel carriers and some 18 Sheridan tanks. Georgia has M-60 tanks out at Site F. South Carolina has tanks and other decommissioned vehicles such as M-113 track vehicles out at 39 different sites. The Jim Caudle Artificial Reef in Horry County, which is the most visited and most popular fishing reef in the state is said to generate between 15-20 million in annual economic revenue.

It’s not just in some of the seaside States where fish tanks are becoming popular. In Thailand, The Royal Thai Army donated 25 medium-sized Chinese made tanks to Her Majesty Queen Sirikit to be used in the Gulf of Thailand as part of her wish to “rejuvenate the oceans”.

In Jordan, an American made M-42 Duster with a self propelled anti-tank canon was reefed in 1999 by the Jordanian Royal Ecological Diving Society and is a highlight while diving a circuitous route at the Seven Sisters dive site.

We guess in the end that it only makes sense that one of the most powerful mobile military machines would also make one of the most rugged artificial reefs in the world. The return on investment especially for the fishing industry is a basic economic no brainer. The recent increase in local fish size and number of fish has exceeded most expectations. With a little more cleaning, a little more State or Federal funding, and a little more final submersible deployments, tanks and other military vehicles will become some of the most powerful protectors of our reefs and fish populations for generations to come. 

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Papua New Guinea: Diving At The Edge Of The World. Part Two

Papua New Guinea: Diving At The World’s Edge: Part Two

To see the entire country of PNG one would have to choose from 578 landing airstrips and untold trails, but as scuba divers we would like to define our trip to the three different locations we mentioned in Part One of this article.

Starting on the southeastern edge of the main island we arrive at Tawali Resort. This is a beautiful hand crafted resort created over two years without the aid of power tools. One image online is worth a thousand words so we will let you look at your leisure while we concentrate on the 60 dive sites found nearby. First of all, PNG is home to the word “Muck Diving”. When you are looking at or taking images of small creatures on the substrate or coral rubble, this is muck diving. On the House Reef divers go muck diving to see mandarin fish and to watch them court one another. At Dinah’s Reef one of the five local species of frogfish is the main attraction. Frogfish are capable of increasing the size of their mouth by 12 fold and their stomach can hold fish up to twice their own size. They can change their colors over a few days or weeks as well as change the texture of their skin to resemble coral, stones, or sponges. If a divemaster points at a rock and you have a camera, snap the image and see a rockfish become ever so slightly visible. Wahoo Point offers views of hammerheads, minke whales, whale sharks as well as elephant ear sponges and many small invertebrates. Wall dives, pinnacles, and bommies “reefs” make up some of the other dives sites. At night, all the reefs become stages for new creatures with different behaviors such as the mimic octopus, lobsters, crabs, and inquisitive sharks.

Tufi Resort is a boutique resort with polished wooden floors and traditional woven mat covered walls with 180° panoramic views of the sea, fjord, and surrounding mountains. The fjords create sheltered havens for larger than average size sea sponges and fragile shelf corals. The House Reef (Tufi Warf) is a muck diver’s paradise complete with WWII debris including early Coca Cola bottles ornate ghost pipefish, which are related to seahorses. The males are 37% smaller than the females and the females have the central brood pouch that also helps makes them look bigger. Because of their camouflage abilities, it’s easier to spot them in mating pairs than individually. One fish that is easy to see are the swarms of Anthias fish that come in pink, yellow and orange. What makes them interesting is that they are all born female, but the largest female will change to a male and they live in harems of less than a dozen, but join together in groups that can swarm in the thousands. Another favorite dive site is Blue Ribbon Reef, which is named after a certain yellow and indigo colored eel. Clancy’s Reef is known for reef sharks and white hammerheads. With over 30 different bommies close by and some with multiple dive sites, it’s tough to dive the same dive site twice even if you dove here year round.

Lissenung Island Resort has four two room rustic bungalows for a total of 7 rooms: each with an ocean view. Even when they reach their max of 14 guests, you may still get that feeling of being on Castaway Island, only with clean and comfortable accommodations and great island food cooked by the staff that commutes each day from a nearby island. Here, you are only steps from the beach no matter which way you go and when it comes to sea life, this is where many marine science graduate students from around the world would like to study. Right off the shore scientist have found new species of allied cowries and a tiny olive shell along with 300 other confirmed species of fish and invertebrates. Nudibranchs and leaf scorpion fish are also big with photographers at Lissenung Island Resort. There are more than 40 dive sites around New Ireland and New Hanover and more dive sites at every other bommie you wish to stop at and visit. The House Reef goes 2/3rds around Lissenung Island and is home to 6 species of clownfish. Currently, black and white Panda Clownfish are very popular with underwater paparazzi. Albatross Passage is home to large pelagics such as eagle rays, tunas, jacks, barracudas and lot of different healthy species of sharks. At the same time, there are corals, sponges, and pygmy seahorses: one of the smallest of 54 species of seahorses. Unique to seahorses is independent eye movement like a chameleon, the male broods the eggs and supplies the eggs with prolactin the same hormone that promotes milk production in mammals and the male even provides oxygen in his controlled brood incubator. Bermuda Drop has colorful coral that slopes to 25m/80ft then drops off. A giant clam sits at 14m/45ft as well as nudibranchs, leaf scorpion fish, crocodile fish, moray eels, and flame shells. Add to all this the wreck of Der Yang at 31m/103ft, hawksbill turtles, green turtles, and occasionally inquisitive pods of dolphins and you have great diving all around you.

Now on your non-diving day, all three mentioned resorts can provide tours to island villages and schools where you can meet the locals, participate in local cultural events, or connect with people happily living life surrounded by fjords, bays, and oceans for generations on end.

We should mention that PNG has over 840 different languages and studying one single indigenous tribe can take an entire semester of college level cultural anthropology. The book “Pigs for the Ancestors” by Roy Rappaport has been a cultural anthropology staple since 1968. The book “Lost in Shangri-La” by Mitchell Zuckoff covers the story of a US military plane called “ The Gremlin Special” that crashed in low visibility weather in May of 1945 and has become another popular book about PNG. For scuba divers though, one of the best books about PNG has to be by Bob Halstead and is entitled “The Dive Sites of Papua New Guinea”.

Perhaps PNG’s proximity to the edge of the world has kept many explorers and tourists at bay. You have to take multiple flights just to get to PNG and you most likely will overnight in PNG or another country on one leg of your trip. This trip isn’t for those that are squeamish or for those that need every amenity offered by 5 star accommodations to survive, but it is one of those rare magical destinations that will affect and influence you for the rest of your life. PNG may have the most diverse human communities in the world, but for true adventurous divers, Papua New Guinea is teaming with thousands of rare and interesting species of nature’s Life on Earth.

For more information on exclusive dive travel offers, competitive airfare and how you can visit Papua New Guinea, Tawali Resort, Tufi Resort, and Lissenung Island Resort, Click Here

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Papua New Guinea: Diving At The Edge Of The World. Part One

Papua New Guinea: Diving At The World’s Edge. Part One

Papua New Guinea Diving  

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is the eastern half of the second largest island in the world yet it is one of the least explored areas of land on this water filled planet. If it wasn’t for David Attenborough and his team’s devotion in 1979 in the series Life on Earth for documenting the sexual dance and singing behavioral displays of the Bird’s of Paradise and the, “how to get a chick”, with decorating techniques of the Bower birds, millions of bird lovers around the world would not have a single clue as to how unique and beautiful this edge of the world truly is. To be fair, there are 730 species of birds in New Guinea with 320 being endemic. There are 41 species of the Bird of Paradise, and 20 species of Bowerbirds. The top predator of New Guinea is the Harpy Eagle. The island is also home to all 3 species of the Cassowary, which is the 3rd largest flightless bird on our planet. They can reach 1.8m/6ft tall and have a dagger-like inner toe that can inflict fatal injuries, so it’s best to avoid them. The crest on their head is similar to that of their ancestor the Gwong Long Lukai, “Crested Dragon”, that lived 165 million years ago in China and whose Jurassic fossils also include fine imprints of downy like feathers. There are also 41 species of pigeon in PNG, but who really cares unless you’re using them for sending messages?


PNG is part of the ring of fire and still boasts a number of active volcanoes. Some volcanoes have erupted and become basins for bays and reefs, while others have formed mountain ranges. Mount Wilhelm is 4,509m / 14,793ft tall and is the highest peak. Because Australia and PNG were part of the super continent of Gondwanaland from the Cretaceous era 135 to 65 million years ago and didn’t separate from Antarctica until 45 million years ago, PNG shares many of the same flora and fauna with Australia. Since that time many of the species diversified and branched out in PNG and differentiated into endemic species found only in specific regions of PNG.


Because PNG is the largest tropical island in the world, it is no surprise that there are thousands of species of placental mammals, monotremes, marsupials, birds, reptiles, freshwater fish and crustaceans, and amphibians on the island. Because PNG is in the Coral Triangle there are over 600 species of coral as well as over 2200 species of reef fish. Between the years 1998 to 2008 scientists found two new species each week in this remote region of the world. Some, like a new species of frog, are so small that at least two of them can sit with room to spare on the surface of a penny. The world’s tiniest wallaby was found in nearby mountains. Other new species like the Turquoise Lizard are over 3ft long, but despite the large size and bright color, somehow they escaped previous discovery. As for the oceans, we won’t try to mention all the new species of fish and recently discovered invertebrate species; such as rice grain sized shelled creatures found in PNG, but it is interesting that scientists also found something as large as a new species of Snub-Fin Dolphin in 2005 just south of the main island.


As for humans, they first migrated to PNG some 50,000 to 70,000 years ago. Southeast Asians have been trading for PNG bird feathers for some 5,000 years. After the Portuguese dropped by, a Spanish explorer in 1545 named the main island New Guinea because he felt the people reminded him of the people on the Guinea coast of Africa. Because New Guinea was at the edge of the world in those days, the main import was religion. The Dutch settled the west side of the island and then in 1884 the Germans settled the east side of the island including some outer islands. Not to be out done, the British settled the southern part of New Guinea. The Germans had highly profitable coconut oil producing plantations and they used forced labor by locals, which for some reason sounds like a recurring theme. After WWI German colonial holdings came under the protection of the Australians until the Japanese made Papua New Guinea the southern edge of their expanding empire. During WWII Europeans fleeing parts of New Guinea, were killed, or were massacred. The battles fought over Papua New Guinea lead to the victory at Midway, which eventually lead to the end of the Imperial Japanese Empire.


The reason we mention any of this is because it has affected the type of dive sites you may encounter in PNG, but also the location of the dive resorts. For instance, Tawali Resort is built right on the edge of a limestone cliff overlooking Milne Bay. The battle of Milne Bay was one of the first Pacific battles in WWII where Allied troops defeated the Japanese land forces. With the Allied airfields successfully defended there was no way the Japanese military could launch an attack from sea on Port Moresby. Divers from Tawali Resort can visit a P38 Lightning single seat fighter wreck at 90ft/27m of depth and the B17 “Blackjack” Bomber at 150ft/46m.


Milne Bay is 22 miles /35km long and 10 miles /16km wide. During the WWII it was home for an advance sub base, a destroyer base, station hospital, and PT boat base. On the edge of a cliff overlooking what was once the site of the PT boat base is the Tufi Resort. Resting at 135ft /45m underwater are the burned remains of PT-67 and PT-119 along with anti-aircraft guns and ammo. Tech divers can plan trips out to the S Jacob Dutch Merchant Navy ship resting at 180ft/60m. Divers can also arrange trips from Tufi Resort out to the P-38F and the Blackjack B-17F.


On the edge of the Bismarck Archipelago is Lissenung Island Resort.  It is 1 of 149 islands in New Ireland Providence and you can see places like Nusalomon and visit a Japanese bunker and gun emplacements overlooking Kavieng Harbor. Trips can be arranged to visit the almost 400ft/130m long Sanko Maru and the mini submarine Bob Halstead and Kevin Baldwin found 50m from the Sanko Maru in 1987. Low vis and currents kept this mini submarine undiscovered for 43 years. Three Japanese reconnaissance “Pete” float bi-planes are located nearby. Deep Pete near Nusa Island has tons of sea life perpetually circling this fairly recognizable structure at 132ft/40m. Four B-25’s went down nearby as well as a PBY Catalina, Japanese “Kate” torpedo bombers, a “Jake” Bomber, a sub chaser #39, the ship Tenryu Maru, and a freighter possibly named the Kashi Mari.

It’s amazing how healthy these reefs are considering what some endured during WWII. Fifty plus years later, the wrecks and other war relics have become artificial reefs supporting tons of precious life. For wreck divers who enjoy historical treasures, PNG has much to offer. In our next segment we will concentrate on the sea life and dive sites that wait to amaze you in this mystical land called Papua New Guinea.

For more information on visiting, dive packages and airfare to Papua New Guinea, Tawali Resort, Tufi Resort, and Lissenung Island Resort Click here.

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Sea Turtles; The Godfathers of Scuba Dive Magazines?


Sea Turtle’s; The Godfathers of All Dive Magazines?

Ever see a dive magazine without a single image of a sea turtle lurking somewhere between the pages? Not going to happen. They are there; just check again. At least one of the current 7 species of sea turtles will show up more often than any of the 400 plus species of sharks. They will show up three times more often than a seahorse, and at least 10 times more often than a model posing next to a brightly colored sponge; we do hope they increase the number of poses with models as we do love images of tube sponges.

So what makes these reptilian fin flippers so popular with humans?

First of all they are undeniably cute, especially the babies who pop up out of the sand and instinctively head for lighted areas that mimic bioluminescent plankton and/or the color of foam covered waves reflecting moonlight. We feel tugged at a primeval level for their success to make it to the waters edge before being picked off by crabs, birds, poachers, or stuck in tire tread tracks left by unknowing beach goers. This has led to turtle eco groups and enthusiasts posting aware signs around turtle nests, keeping vehicles off the beaches, and using red or amber LED lighting that is invisible to turtles used on nearby houses or when watching the new born hatchlings emerge from the sand.

Secondly, it’s about admiration and respect. The oldest ancestor of sea turtles found to date is the Eunotosaurus from the Permian age 260-255 million years his stretched sorta flat elongated ribs creature was little more than a 1ft long lizard. Sea turtles radiated out from other turtles about 110 million years ago. Currently, when most people think of the first true sea turtles they think of the 10ft long 2 ton shelled Protostega that swam near the shorelines in the seas of North America 70-65 million years ago. There are now six species left of the Family Cheloniidae: which include: the green sea turtle, hawksbill, flatback, loggerhead, kemp’s ridley, olive ridley. Some scientists believe that the pacific black sea turtle is the 8th species: notes its small head compared to the Atlantic green sea turtle and its weird behavior of hanging out on Hawaiian beaches to catch some rays and driving eco tourists wild with viewing delight year round.

Even bigger was the Archelon, a 12’ long leather shelled sea turtle that lived 75-65 million years ago in a vast ocean that would later dry and cartilaginous shell outlines and hexagonal imbedded bones would be found in the remnant substrates that we now call South Dakota and Wyoming. The leatherback turtle is the only remaining member of the Dermachelyidae family branch. For us, the surviving 8ft long leatherback sounds huge, and the fact that their cousins came ashore, laid eggs, and went back to sea while dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus Rex kicked sand on the beach is absolutely mind blowing. Giant leatherbacks with 7 prominent keels on their back are in a class of their own for also deep diving to 4,265ft, and their immunity to the venom of the “fatal to humans” box jellyfish. Leatherbacks and their past relatives have kept jellyfish populations under control for millions and millions of years.

Our recent awareness of how plastic objects and plastic grocery bags in particular can lodge in sea turtle stomach and intestines and essentially create starvation issues has led to bans on plastic bags in some locations. It was brought to light that thousands of turtles each year were accidentally caught and killed as “bycatch” by shrimp trawls and long-line fishing practices. The U.S. law and some other countries now require the use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDS) on nets and the use of turtle friendly “C” hooks instead of the traditional deadly “J” hooks on fishing lines. As more countries sign on to these practices, thousands of more turtles will survive this “bycatch” issue.

Our fondness for viewing sea turtles has led to conservation efforts such as turtle park sanctuaries and marine preserves around the world. The fact that humans want to help sea turtles injured by boat propellers, tangled in nets, save hypothermic turtles washed on shore, or help disoriented and dehydrated juveniles has led to impromptu clinics springing up around the world. Individuals such as Orton King of Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has set up The Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary where they protect Hawksbill turtle nesting mothers and eggs from poachers and then release the hatched juveniles once they reach 3 years in age. Hawksbills eat mostly sponges, but their shells are made into ‘BEKKO” jewelry such as earrings, bracelets, combs, small boxes, and tabletops. St. Lucia has nesting tours, hatchling tours, and swim with Sea turtles experiences. Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica and Xcaret Eco-Park on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, and Mazatlan’s olive ridley site called The Estrella Del Mar Turtle Sanctuary are three major sites to see local nesting turtles and take part in eco tourism.

These operations have not only saved turtles, but they have shown locals how much more money can be made by tourists visiting these sites than by poaching and by selling turtle based products. Finding poacher used vans filled with 10,000 turtle eggs are not as frequent as years ago, but poaching still exists around the world as evidenced by occasional humans discovered with severe illness or death by chelanotoxin: a toxin absorbed in humans after eating turtle flesh or eggs.

States such as Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and gulf communities have started helping turtles as part of aquarium and university programs. South Padre Island at Sea Turtle Inc. has a visitor center and Sea Turtle hospital that may house all 7 or 8 species of sea turtles including, kemp’s ridley: the smallest species, loggerhead, atlantic green and pacific black sea turtles all at the same time. They actively patrol some 70 miles of beaches to rescue turtles in need of help.

As for flatback sea turtles, who like to eat sea cucumbers and crustaceans, nest only on the beaches of northern Australia. The major obstacle for them besides poaching is predation by other animals. Foxes, herons, pelicans, sand monitor lizards, and salt water crocodiles will take their toll, but a feral pig can dig up and eat every egg laid on a small isolated stretch of beach. In these hard to reach outback territories, the Australian’s probably have the most difficult task of any rescue or protection group so far.

Past human actions whether on purpose or by accident have been detrimental to sea turtle populations, but thanks to the hard work of many by design and through the indirect help of others through tourism and knowledge based positive actions, we can now view these photogenic aquatic creatures in their natural settings, swim with them, dive with them, and take photographic images for friends and dive magazines like never before. Perhaps someday all species of sea turtles will no longer be in danger of becoming extinct and then, it will be simply nothing but cover shots for these truly remarkable ancient prehistoric survivors.

Posted in Dive Travel, Marine Life, Scuba Diving, Scuba Training & Education, Turtles, Underwater Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Do You Top The World’s Greatest Blue Hole Dive?

How Do You Top The World’s Greatest Blue Hole Dive?

It’s difficult, but you can do it when you are fin kicks away from the second largest barrier reef in the world. It’s hard, but it can be done when 160 miles of walls, sloping reefs, and lagoons surround you. It’s tough, but the task is made easier when 500 species of fish, invertebrates, turtles, dolphins, manatees, and 60 species of birds surround you.

So where is this site that is next to what Jacques Cousteau called one of the top dive destinations in the world?

The simple answer is Turneffe Flats on Turneffe Atoll some 30 miles or 90 minutes from Belize City, Belize on the Caribbean side of Central America, but before we go there, lets just mention a little about diving the Great Blue Hole. It seems like everyone before Cousteau in the 1970’s came here to view the blue hole. Al Giddings the great cinematographer came here in the early 1960’s. Blackbeard the pirate came here a few years before Al, and the Mayans came here some 2000 plus years earlier than Blackbeard.

The Great Blue Hole is a former Karst-eroded sinkhole. Jurassic reefs originally created the limestone formation 195-190 million years ago. Water seeped through the limestone and formed a large chambered cave where stalactites and stalagmites formed many times over thousands of years before the roof fell in and eventually created a 984ft wide hole 407ft deep. The hole flooded as sea levels rose, which put a halt to all further stalactite and stalagmite formation. Some stalactites are over 20ft long and they are not exactly as straight as stalactites grown where past earthquake movements and substrate shifts have not so obviously occurred periodically. It can take a stalactite 100 years just to grow an inch, but it takes a diver just a brief second to be impressed by these slightly skewed cone shaped geological structures.

During the last 18,000 years when the area surrounding Chicago was 2 miles under glacial ice, the sea level of Belize was down some 394ft. There were at least four distinct times when seas rose and left ledges where waves slapped against walls and shorelines, before reaching the current sea level. Some 10,000 years ago the ocean was still 148ft lower than it is today, but as the ocean water and fresh water both rose close to their current levels, many Mayan temple sites seemed to be ruined.

What was a misfortune of Mayan civilization structures is nirvana for divers. Now that the rim of the exposed cave is within snorkel depth, both divers and snorkelers flock to this location to view passing fish, and the permanent resident sponges and corals. For scuba divers on the south end of the Great Blue Hole at 130ft feet you can see the stalactites and stalagmites in a cave that goes back some 20ft. For technical divers, at 230ft deep on the western side is a cave that leads through a narrow tunnel and enters a second cave that ascends 100ft. On the silt filled floor of this adjacent cave rest the skeletal remains of turtles that wandered inside this dark recess without cave diver training or experience. The Great Blue Hole is in the middle of Lighthouse Reef, which is 25 miles long and 10-12 miles wide. Divers from Turneffe Flats Resort typically dive here once a week, depending on weather. This is a whole day trip with dives planned at Half Moon Caye Wall, which has a swim through at 35ft, and The Aquarium, named after all the small fish, at Long Caye. Lunch is served at Half Moon Caye. How often do you get a chance to see both gobies and boobies on the same trip? Red-footed boobies are the smallest of all booby birds and there is a sanctuary for boobies of all sizes and foot color on Lighthouse Reef. So now that you know what draws so many divers here, let’s talk about what really puts this dive trip over the top.

Turneffe Atoll in the largest of 3 atolls sitting off the coast of Belize. The island is 30 miles long and 10 miles wide and is made up from 200 cayes/mangrove islands. It has lagoons, streams, creeks, and reefs, and is one of the most biological diverse marine environments in the world. It is home to an endemic species of snail named Leptophis mexicana hoeversi, a gecko species named Phyllodactylus insularis and best of all, the rare Whites Spotted Toadfish that you can hear croak on any given dive. On the down side there are biting flies and mosquitoes for those that don’t use repellent on calm days, and you will see an occasional crocodile in certain locations, but they are pretty much left alone except to look at or snap a photo.

You might think that because of all this marine life, Turneffe Flats would be filled with divers year round, but there are times when only a few divers actually stay here, and that is because Turneffe Atoll is one of the greatest saltwater fly fishing spots in the world, and the resort can be booked early and annually with mostly fly fishermen. They wade in the waters for 5lb Bonefish, 20-30lb Permit, and 150-200lb Tarpon. If they catch all three species in any single day, they call this a “Flats Grand Slam”. It’s “catch and release” with all the thrill and endorphin rush you could ever get naturally. Fishermen come from all over the reel world to test their skill, rods, and flies.

What this means is that you as a diver might be going out on the Pro48ft custom dive boat Ms. Ellie, for dive groups of up to 12 divers, or out on the 29ft Ms. K with 5 or fewer divers. At some of the dive sites you will see large pelagics such as grouper, goliath groupers, tuna, mackerel, and spotted eagle rays, such as at The Elbow. A pod of sometimes interactive dolphins live in the South Lagoon. White-spotted toadfish are found at Lindsey’s Back Porch and The Terrace. Black grouper, hammerheads, and great barracuda can be seen at Pelican Wall. Corals such as staghorn, elkhorn, and brain corals are found at Cabbage Patch. Nurse sharks and groupers are found in caverns down at 70ft at Gailes Point. This is also the site for Nassau, black, tiger, and marble grouper mating in December so plan your calendars appropriately. Wall dives include Jill’s Thrill and West Point Wall, and wreck sites include The Sayonara sunk at 50ft in 1985 and the 56ft long HMS Advice, by Pirates creek that sank June 1st, 1793; just to name a few.

Speaking of exploration, Turneffe Flats Resort guests can visit multiple Mayan ruins on the Belize mainland as well as go on locally guided tours and activities such as Manatee & Dolphin tours, sea kayaking, snorkeling tours, seashell & starfish tours, crocodile tours, birding tours, cooking classes and learn about the Maya and Turneffe, to name a few options.

Flat out, when it comes to staying at Turneffe Flats, seeing the Great Blue Hole, and diving Turneffe Atoll, there’s nothing else quite like it in the world at all.

Ask for more information and how you can visit Belize and Turneffe Flats Resort

Posted in Belize, Dive Travel, Dive Travel Deals, Marine Life, Scuba Diving, Sharks | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Problem With A Leaky Mask?


Problem With A Leaky Mask?

We have all had it happen at one time or another. A dive mask that leaks.

It could be one that was burrowed, rented or recently purchased but that constant distraction of continually having to clear your mask makes your dive uncomfortable. Water inside your mask also creates a distortion in viewing objects underwater which makes taking pictures a future exercise in editing or deleting. Salt water in your eyes stings and water in your nose can lead to coughing which is not fun at 60 feet.

So here are a few suggestions on how you can avoid this problem.


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Where’s The World’s Greatest Shark Dive?

Fiji: home of the world’s greatest shark dive?

When you see the phrase “world’s greatest shark dive”, you have to ask yourself what does it really mean?

Does Fiji have great whites like the frothy waters around the seal colony off South Africa or the clear waters off Guadalupe Island, Mexico? No, because 15ft/5m long great white sharks are rarely seen in tropical waters. They need a steady large biomass of food to keep their endothermic metabolism running at full blast. It’s why you don’t see lions in the dessert either. You may see a female great white off of Hawaii for a couple of months while pregnant, but that’s about it for their tropical endeavors.

In Fiji, do divers get to watch as trained professionals feed tiger sharks on a regular basis?

Sometimes, but 14ft/4.5m long tiger sharks aren’t guaranteed to show up at every feeding in Fiji or anywhere else. In Fiji, if tiger sharks show up for the feeding at all, it is usually during the second dive as tiger sharks prefer to stay further off shore until currents have had a chance to drift the scent of fish heads out their way. Perhaps they hear or feel the vibrations of the shark feed first, but no matter the reason, a tiger shark only shows up when it feels like it, and with a slow Fiji time sauntering entrance that exudes an air of confidence while allowing all lesser sized sharks enough time to swim to the fringes and out of the way.

Does Fiji have the best shark diving because of the bull sharks?

It is true that you will probably see more bull sharks on this special shark feeding dive than just about anywhere else in the world, but even here, bull sharks share the stage with other large sharks, and they tend to leave between November and early January when they are off site for mating season.

What really sets this shark feeding dive apart from all other shark dives, is that this well choreographed show has a cast of unforgettable characters such as tawny nurse sharks, lemon sharks, silver tips, grays, black tips, and white tips. You add the bull sharks and a tiger shark to the mix and you have 8 different shark species around you on one dive. You also have a background cast of trevallies, remoras, small fish, and occasionally a guest appearance of a humphead wrasse or queensland grouper. It’s this open water menagerie of top predators that cumulatively makes the Beqa Lagoon shark dive of Fiji the world’s greatest shark dive.

Now we know that you might be thinking that we are out of our minds for diving with bull sharks, especially after seeing the professor on one of those shark programs let bull sharks rub against his leg while he talked about how harmless they were . . . until one bit his leg. It’s for this and other reasons that the Fijian’s have structured this dive to be safe as humanly possible.

If shark feeding was compared to a show, then the Beqa Lagoon shark feeding attraction is on par with shows of Las Vegas, but to watch this show, you have to go through a very thorough briefing about what you can and cannot do. You have to wear black gloves, black wetsuits, wear nothing shiny and when you get to the bottom at around 84ft/25m you deflate you BC and wait behind a small coral wall for the show to begin 15ft/5m in front of you. At no time can you touch, hug, kiss, or interact with the sharks or stage crew during the short 15 minutes of feeding at depth. Divemasters, keep the sharks away from you as much as possible and you from the sharks. Feeders wearing stainless steel mesh gloves feed the sharks fish heads; even the feeders themselves, are flanked by guard divers to keep the sharks at bay. Divemasters use long metal sheepherder hooked poles to move the sharks in the correct direction. Lids on garbage size plastic containers keep the feeding process controlled and not turning into a feeding frenzy. They have been doing this dive each week for the past 14 years with a very good safety record.

After 15 minutes of watching the show, taking pictures, filming, looking right into the eye of a bull shark, or having a lemon shark gently guided away from your general area, the dive group moves up the reef to 60ft/20m, and while you and the group hold on to a thick rope line, smaller 6ft/2m reef sharks are fed by experienced Fijian divers. After some 15-20 minutes, it’s time for a deco stop at 15ft/5m. After about an hour on the surface, it’s time to go back down to and see if a tiger shark is ready to head the show below…if you will.

Now there are many that have speculated on whether shark feeding is a good thing for both fish and dive buddy, but while many reefs have become shark less, Beqa Lagoon sharks are thriving. That’s because this fringing reef area off Viti Levu has been deemed a Shark Reef Marine Reserve. Locals are given a percentage of the local dive fee proceeds as well as jobs either as guides, farmers who grow local fruits and vegetables for the tourists, or family members working for local resorts such as Beqa Lagoon Resort, which has its own dive center. By protecting sharks and preserving the reef, local Fijians prosper too.

Of course Fijian warriors are also known for walking on fire with a 300year old safety record and you can see this weekly at the Beqa Lagoon Resort a mere 10 minutes from the shark dive site. You will not be asked at the resort to walk on hot coals, but you will have to endure luxury accommodations, delicious food, spa treatments, memorable diving and Fijian hospitality.

You can pass by villages of friendly Fijians and a waterfall on your way up to the top of the mountain at 1,516ft/462m to look over all 14sq mi/35km sq of Beqa Island and 190 miles of coral in Beqa Lagoon. Over a dozen movies have been filmed in Fiji, but even before the movies and way before diving became popular at Beqa Lagoon, local Fijians were some of the friendliest people on the planet and you can witness this for yourself when you visit Beqa Lagoon Resort.

We do have to inform you that right off Beqa Lagoon Resort you can shore dive a coral reef. Night dives are also available at the resort. From the dive boats you have access to 100 other dive sites including: Carpet Cove and an 80ft trawler. John’s Tunnel is a 30ft long swim though filled with soft corals. Blue Wall goes down 150ft and is a great hang out for eagle rays and manta rays. Many other dive sites contain giant coral heads, coral heads in rows, and soft coral havens with some 460 species of fish. Even on the way out to these dive sites you may see a whale or pod of dolphins, and if all this doesn’t make Beqa Lagoon the home of the “World’s Greatest Shark Dive”, then at least it’s one of the top places in the world you just have to dive.

Come experience Fijian hospitality by visiting our link…

For more information on how you can experience this destination click on Fiji or Beqa Lagoon Resort.



Posted in Dive Travel, Fiji, Marine Life, Scuba Diving, Sharks | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lightweight Travel Gear

Lightweight Travel Gear


If you believe that baggage fees belong on the “No Fly List” then it might be time to invest in some new dive gear or try a few new packing strategies.

Starting off with the newest piece of dive gear to deny boarding to baggage fees, we have the Aeris Jetpack. This revolutionary designed system is not a backpack, but is part Buoyancy Compensator (BC) and part semi-dry day bag (SDB). While traveling to the airport, you can hold around 30lbs or a weeks worth of gear and essentials in this combined (SDB-BC) or Jetpack . . .for short.  Once you arrive at your destination, just unzip the two compartments and within minutes you can assemble the one-size fits all BC section while the other section now functions as your boat and beach dive bag for fins, mask, snorkel, towel, and other items that may be placed in two small side pockets. The 6.25lb BC has 30lbs of lift and can carry 14lbs of dumpable weight and 10lbs of non-dumpable weight. We guess they assumed that if a BC shoulder strap system could be used to carry a scuba tank to the beach, then why not dive gear to the plane? The best part of this system is that it fits in the overhead compartment of most commercial airplanes so you know where your dive gear is at all times, and with most major airlines, this means the Aeris Jetpack is baggage fee free and dive wallet friendly. See the video under:


Another approach to overhead space is the Aqua Lung Travel system. Inside the Aqualung roller bag, you can place the 4.4lb Zuma BC, a micron regulator, a low volume micromask, snorkel, aqualung hot shot fins, and a mesh bag for right around 20lbs. The hot shot fins are shorter than most other fins, but if you are in to 15 to 50 dives a year, this light weight system may be just perfect for you. The strategy is simple, small lightweight dive gear items means easy storage in overhead bins, and long term savings on baggage fees. See an Aqua Lung 20lb video on Youtube under:


Another revolutionary approach that works just as well with big and heavy revolutionary dive gear bought before 1776 as it does with newer lighter dive gear is the DiveCaddy Gen2. This system uses your gear to form the padding, rigidity, and essentially the structure of your complete dive bag. You simply have to release 3 compression straps and you can quickly fold out the travel bag to insert gear, take out gear,  or more importantly impress the staff at TSA. The Gen2 comes with a Spider bag for cold water gear storage, and a FinCaddy for quick storage or access to fins and a mesh bag for mask, snorkel, gloves, etc. The Gen2 also comes with a destination bag that you can use as a boat bag, or to cover/conceal your DiveCaddy Gen2 when on little planes that don’t have overhead space and instead load onboard luggage tagged bags right next to the plane in a special gateway deliverable compartment as apposed to the baggage claim destination compartments. On a side note, we think the DiveCaddy Gen2 was built to last 365 dives a year, or 365 years; we’ll have to get further clarification, but we definitely know that it’s built to last. See the Quick Start or Airport video at:

As a reminder, fins that are wide, long, or the length of a thresher shark’s tail may just have to travel as checked in luggage. They could also put you over the 50lb limit set by many airlines for the maximum weight of a bag, so you may find it cost effective to purchase a smaller travel size fin. Tusa, Mares, Scubapro, and other manufacturers make travel fins that are on average less than 24inches, but offer impressive performance without leg strain.


You might also consider placing all your light dive gear in a 747model Travelpro roller bag or a Rick Steves Europe soft travel backpack to place your gear on board in the overhead bin. Photography savvy divers sometimes use large vests with lots of pockets to store lights and camera gear and remove the vest once onboard the plane. If it’s worn aboard, it’s not considered a carry on item by major airlines.

As for dive knives, there will always be a need for checked luggage no matter how lightweight they make these sharp edge devices. Some airlines though let you check your first bag for free.  Some airlines let you check a bag in for free if you are part of their mileage plus program.  It’s something else to consider when you book your flight. We don’t recommend putting anything you can’t live without in your checked luggage though as strange things occasionally happen to checked bags, and HNL and HKG look really similar on a baggage tag to a tired eye. Not everybody knows that (HKG) Hong Kong is where factories make certain wetsuit items, and (HNL) Honolulu is where tourists wear certain items. Dive gear in the overhead, under the seat or in a vest will give you peace of mind every time you fly.

With so many ways to carry dive gear, and so many lightweight dive gear products developed over the last few years in response to airline baggage fees, finding the right lightweight dive gear system for you should not only be fun to try on or pack for your next flight, but even more fun to use on your next dive.

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