Scuba Diver ANZ #31

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As I write this month’s editorial, the month of January is coming to a close. Although there is still a lot of uncertainty in Australia and the world, the beginning of the year has started positively. I managed to hit the road again, albeit for only one night, and visited two dive sites that have been on my to-do list for quite some time. First up was the ex-HMAS Brisbane. I first visited this wreck in 2013 and have been eager to return to see how it has changed in the intervening years, with recent reports suggesting that since lockdown the wreck is teeming with life being in no way an exaggeration. The second stop on my mini road trip was the awesome Wolf Rock. A location that is fast gaining a reputation as one of Australia’s top dive sites, with resident grey nurse sharks and the chance to encounter a variety of different rays and sharks, including mantas, at various times throughout the year. This dive site did not disappoint either. But more on these amazing destinations to come in future editions. In this issue of the magazine, we have more great articles from some of the best dive locations that Australia has to offer. Christmas Island is known as the Australian Galapagos, and Deborah Dickson-Smith gives us a rundown on diving at this unique location. Situated in the middle of the Indian Ocean, you do not even need a passport or, more importantly, a vaccination to visit. Also, from these diverse shores, we have a superb insight into a true legend of the Australian diving community, Rodney Fox, brought to you by regular contributor Don Silcock. Further afield we journey to the Solomon Islands with Neil Bennett, and the Philippines with Roni Ben-Aharon. We also have an interesting Q&A with world-renowned photographer Simon Lorenz.

Adrian Stacey, Editor-at-Large (Australia and New Zealand)


Adrian Stacey Editor-at-Large (Australia and New Zealand) Tel: +61 422 611 238 Email:

Mario Vitalini, Don Silcock, Neil Bennett, Roni Ben-Aharon, Simon Lorenz.

Paul Lees Editorial Manager (Southeast Asia) Email:



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10 News

20 Australia

Underwater Tour Awards 2021 opens for entries with prizes worth $30,000 up for grabs, a group of local boys learn to dive in Fiji with Ra Divers, Dive Rarotonga team up with KOTO to train indigenous students, as well as celebrate becoming a PADI five-star IDC, and a new dhoni for Blue Force Fleet in the Maldives.

18 Medical Q&A

The experts at Divers Alert Network Asia-Pacific discuss getting potential issues with using a hot tub immediately after diving.

66 Conservation Corner

Conservation projects in and around Australia, New Zealand and SE Asia - this issue, Meridian Adventure Dive explain why they support Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris campaign.


Don Silcock looks at the life of a true Australian icon - Rodney Fox, the legendary shark conservationist and great white shark expert, who hit the world stage after he was mauled by a great white.

28 The Philippines

The Philippines’ healthy coral reefs meet the rich fish population at Apo Reef, with an abundance of marie life, from macro critters to pelagic predators. Roni Ben-Aharon explains why it is such a diving hotspot.

34 Underwater Photography

Underwater photography guru Mario Vitalini goes back to basics, and runs through some hints and advice to get you back in the water after the COVID-19 lockdown.

38 The Solomon Islands

Well-travelled underwater photographer Neil Bennett waxes lyrical about the diving opportunities that exist around the Solomon Islands.





40 Divers Alert Network Asia-Pacific

58 What’s New

This month, the experts at DAN Asia-Pacific look at oxygen toxicity for divers, explaing what it is, who is most at risk, and what you can do to lessen the potential issues.

44 Q&A: Simon Lorenz

We chat to Simon Lorenz about underwater photography, leading specialist dive trips, and why you don’t want to do a dive in Palau with your lens cap on...

50 Christmas Island

2020 saw many diving destinations with Australia grow in popularity, and as Deborah Dickson-Smith explains, Christmas Island deserves all of the hype.

First look at new products on the market, including the Hollis F1 LT fins in new colours, hoodies from Santi and Fourth Element, Scubapro’s MK19 EVO BT / G260 Carbon BT regulator, and the Thermovalve from Santi which combines a drysuit inflator and a connector for a heated undersuit.

60 Test Extra

This issue Scuba Diver Editor-in-Chief Mark Evans rates and reviews the Garmin Descent MK2i dive computer and Descent T1 transmitter.

56 Wreck Hunter

Underwater archaeology expert Mike Haigh discusses the skills and equipment necessary to remove smaller objects from historic shipwrecks.



More than 40 Kids Sea Camps and counting

Woody Tinsley, rests after a long day of training at a Kids Sea Camp

A Kids Sea Camp Story by Woody Tinsley One of the most common questions asked of me by families is How did I connect with Kids Sea Camp (KSC)? It’s actually a fascinating story that encompasses a series of fortuitous events. I started diving in 1998 and still considered myself a rookie diver in 2004 when I first bumped into KSC. I just happened to be on my first dive vacation in Curacao, and as I tried to book some diving at Ocean Encounters, I was told that there was a big family dive event going on and they were fully booked for the next 4 weeks. I liked kids, but KSC had completely taken over the resort, restaurants and the dive shop! I dove with another operator, but watched from a distance thinking how much fun KSC divers were having, and how cool it would be to bring my future kids on a Kids Sea Camp adventure. Fast forward two years, and I was spending a great deal of time fossil shark tooth diving. I had written two articles for Shark Diver Magazine and also became a PADI


Scuba Instructor. After writing my articles, I was invited to give a presentation at the annual Boston Sea Rovers Clinic (years later I would be accepted into their ranks, which was the proudest personal accomplishment of my life.) I threw together a Power Point presentation about ethical souvenir buying; you know No dead seahorses, sharks in jars, etc., and I created it to read like a nursery rhyme. Cristina Zenato attended, famous “shark whisperer”. She was The Shark Lady and instructor at UNEXSO in The Bahamas. Christina loved my presentation and invited me down to be a staff member at UNEXSO’s first Kids Sea Camp event. I couldn't believe it! My future kids had also been born, but were

not old enough to participate just yet.

My first Kids Sea Camp: I departed the U.S. for my first KSC adventure in 2007 on my own. Christina put me in charge of the PADI Seal Team. I was on an island paradise and teaching Aqua Missions to kids in a pool. Now if you know me, you know I'm not a “pool” guy, but honestly it was the most rewarding and fun week of my life (until later when I brought my own kids). On that trip I certified five little Seals including Natasha and Nay Nay, two 9-year-old locals girls who won the Kids Sea Camp scholarship that summer. At the end of the week, before the KSC poetry and Junkanoo


celebration, I won my first Sealife camera in the talent show, pulling off an especially fantastic lip sync rendition of the Thriller dance. My first KSC week was amazing, but truth be told, it actually took Margo until Thursday to ask me to come to work for Kids Sea Camp! I’ve been to 40+ kids Sea Camp events over the last 14 years My favorite KSC adventures are the ones I've shared with my own 2 kids Rowen and Bryson Belle, and one of the most memorable ever was at Buddy Dive in Bonaire in July of 2019. Owners Paul & Michelle Coolen, along with Margo & Tom Peyton, helped me put together a special Woody family moment in the middle of KSC. I brought along my mom Barbara, girlfriend Sally, and her two kids Olivia and Mason. I planned to ask Sally to marry me underwater during the camp. Sally was just certified so I took her on our first couples dive just off the house reef. My mom had not been diving in 2 years, so Margo's son & instructor Robbie Peyton helped


803 - 419 - 2556

W W W. FA M I LY D I V E R S . C O M

(Marriage proposal) had the whole family underwater with my mom and it was so fantastic. I wrote on my slate to Sally "the question", and only hoped she would circle the YES instead of the NO, and she did.

with her and Rowen too. Both Sally's kids had just completed the Jr. Open Water course and this was their first dive. Margo jumped in to shoot photos with Tom and on July 25th, 2019, I proposed to my now wife Sally Tinsley at Kids Sea Camp, Buddy Dive underwater. I popped “the question” using a slate. and only hoped she would circle the YES instead of the NO, which she did. Sharing that moment with the family was fantastic! Why I love Kids Sea Camp I’ve watched my children grow up at Kids Sea Camp. I have also been delighted to introduce over 600 kids to our underwater world and certified them at Kids Sea Camps. According to a statistic I made up, one out of every three Kids Sea Camp divers will have been certified by me in the year 2035. I have loved watching kids from all around the globe grow as divers, and I am always inspired

at how much diving has impacted their lives in such a positive way. Some of my first Zombie Apocalypse Diver Students are now instructors, including Addie Benz, Lilly Blakey, Jen Peyton, Rob

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Peyton, Ryan Seltz, Max Lavinsky, and Grant Smith. My own family is the #1 reason I love Kids Sea Camp.You and I all know why Margo Peyton started her company.The exhilarating feeling of diving with your kids at any age is untouchable.Then when you add in parrotfish, flounder and brain coral, the things you and I take for granted become exciting again when you experience them through your children's eyes.That intentionally sunk rowboat, used to make an artificial reef, is like diving the Titanic to them. Sharing this sport with my own children and hearing them talk about diving with such zeal melts my heart every time. I love Kids Sea Camp because I am a part of something much greater than myself. It allows me to share life in a way I never imagined was possible, with my family and yours. So what’s next for my Kids Sea Camp story? To be honest I have no idea. I hope it involves years of fun with Family Dive Adventures

W W W. FA M I LY D I V E R S . C O M

at Kids Sea Camps all over the world, and I hope I will see you there! Join me in Dominica, Palau, Bonaire, and Fiji in 2021. From Margo and Tom Peyton It is unquestionable that Woody Tinsley has made our company and our lives better. Kids Sea Camp would not be the wonderful fun-loving company of today without Woody’s larger than life influence. Woody reminds us every day to laugh out loud at the bizarre world we live in, to embrace and love each other without limits, and to be gentle and kind as much as you possible with everyone you meet. Thank you, Lord, Doctor, Woody Tinsley, for the years of pouring your heart and soul into making Kids Sea Camp that much better.


Each month, we bring together the latest industry news from the Asia-Pacific region, as well as all over our water planet. To find out the most up-to-date news and views, check out the website or follow us on our various social media (@scubadivermag)


AWARDS 2021 The UTA 2021 is now open for entries – and there is a prize pool worth $30,000 up for grabs!


alling all photographers, creative artists and ecocitizens! Entries are now open for the Underwater Tour Awards 2021. The Underwater Tour Awards are a natural extension of the annual Underwater Tour speaker series. Since 2018, the Underwater Tour has presented and promoted a like-minded group of ethical, internationally acclaimed professional underwater photographers travelling together, sharing their incredible images live on theatre stages to audiences around the country in a week-long annual touring speaker series. The Underwater Tour is an annual partnership between Juliette Myers of IlluminOcean and Tim Hochgrebe of www., joined in 2020 by creative partners Darren Jew and Jasmine Carey from Finslap. The team launched the Underwater Tour Awards in 2020 as an international underwater photography competition in collaboration with valued partners, and this prestigious competition is now in its second year and guarantees to take you on a remarkable experience of our underwater world. Led by Canon Master Darren Jew, entries will be judged by an esteemed international panel of award-winning photographers and Underwater Tour speakers, including JĂźrgen Freund (Australia), Rachael Talibart (UK), Y Zin Kim (South Korea) and Alex Kydd, (Australia). The winning images will be announced during a special segment of the Underwater Tour Show 2021 on 23 May 2021.



These awards feature five categories, a publicly-voted People’s Choice prize, plus the ultimate prize for the topscoring photographer across all the categories, the Grand Guru prize! The Grand Guru prize is the winner’s choice of gleaming Seacam ‘silver’ valued at $5,000, and a Canon EOS R6 from new partner, CameroPro! The total Grand Guru prize value is $10,000. The winners of each of the five photo category prizes judged by the international judging panel receive $500 cash plus partner prizes from Scubapro, Momento Pro and Living Image. The Peoples Choice prize for the most-voted favourite image online is a prize bundle including goodies by Scubapro, Finslap, Darren Jew Photography and Living Image. From the Heart to the Ocean - The Max Benjamin Award This new award is open to all creative artists working in any medium. Inspire the panel with your work! The prize is amazing! Commemorating PNG diving pioneer Max Benjamin, the winner will receive a seven-night stay at Walindi Plantation Resort in Papua New Guinea, including diving, meals and local airport transfers. Local Eco-Hero Award Do you know someone who works tirelessly to improve their local environment? Nominate them for the new Local Eco-Hero Award, which aims to recognise environmental stewardship. The winner will receive a prize they truly deserve - a two-night stay on Lady Elliot Island, a coral cay sanctuary for over 1,200 species of marine life. This amazing prize includes return flights to and from the island from Bundaberg or Hervey Bay. Entries are open now. The competition closes on Wednesday 31 March 2021 at 23:59hrs AEST (Australian Eastern Standard Time). For more information, head over to, and check out some of last year’s winners for inspiration.



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LOCAL COMMUNITY KIDS LEARN TO DIVE What a great way to start a brand new year - Volivoli Beach Resort and Ra Divers Fiji, along with the generous support of SSI, have fully sponsored a group of eight young local boys from the community aged between 12 and 19 for their Open Water Diver course. This will unlock a whole new aquatic wonderland for them before school starts back for another year. There are classrooms and there are classrooms, but the team at Volivoli are sure theirs is better than most! Volivoli Beach Resort’s Simon Doughty said: “2020 was certainly a tough year and while almost everyone on the planet was in some way or another effected by circumstances around COVID-19, our entire Fijian life and livelihood relies either directly or indirectly on tourism. “It felt so great to help share a little fun and education with the youth of today, who in turn will become our leaders of tomorrow, to provide the opportunity to see first-hand why divers from around the globe flock to the famous Bligh Waters to experience ‘Fiji’s finest diving’ and the ‘Soft Coral Capital of the World’. “Congratulations to Pagalu, Papu, Etika, Kobe, Paris, Troyden, Maikeli and Ricardo on successfully completing their Junior Open Water and Open Water Diver courses with Ra Divers and, of course, a big heartfelt pat on the back to Pola and Seci for their amazing work and guidance with helping these young men navigate the path to become safe, comfortable and confident internationally certified divers in their own right. Each participant stood tall as they learnt about a whole new industry, took on new skills, overcame fears and did themselves, their families and our community proud. “One day in years to come some of these boys may well be future Ra Divers Fiji crew diligently leading divers from around the world as they explore our amazing, healthy and diverse aquatic backyard.” He continued: “Next time you’re enjoying your diving vacation at Volivoli Dive Resort, check in on these amazing young men, who have an open invitation to come dive with us at every opportunity. They are our future and we at Volivoli Beach Resort and Ra Divers Fiji are committed to helping with their development - and are sure there are more courses ahead in their future growth.”



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DIVE RAROTONGA JOINS FORCES WITH KOTO TO TRAIN LOCAL YOUTH Dive Rarotonga is delighted to have been awarded the rating of PADI five-star Instructor Development Centre last month. This means the centre can now provide the complete range of PADI training to Instructor levels, with two notable PADI Platinum Course Directors happy to support them initially, though they are aiming to be self-sufficient in that area in the not-too-distant future! Besides working towards developing their own status at Dive Rarotonga, the team have been working very closely with a local NGO for around 12 months and continue to be able to do so in Rarotonga, as thankfully the area is still COVID-19 free. Does anyone remember that feeling when you first qualified as a diver? Easily as awesome as getting the fivestar IDC badge! Korero O Te Orau, or ‘KOTO’, have been working to promote cultural, ethical, traditional and environmental values to local indigenous students in Rarotonga and the other Cook Island communities for several years. The Chairman is a highly respected Doctor of Marine Biology, Dr Teina Rongo. KOTO initially contacted Dive Rarotonga to enquire about training opportunities in diving and skin diving and the team made the decision to support a fantastic opportunity for the local community to undertake formal training in a sport usually perceived as purely a tourist activity. And so the relationship began. Dive Rarotonga approached PADI to see what support was available from them and their Scholarship Programme, and with the fantastic levels of help and support we’re familiar with from the AP region, things started to happen! KOTO sponsored the students and both PADI and Dive Rarotonga supported their training financially. Dive Rarotonga produced videos of each of the candidates prior to diving to get a feel for their motivation and interest in the aquatic world and forwarded these to PADI. The team then went through the same process after certification to measure the impact diving had made on them, and it was predictably significant! Dive Rarotonga’s Neil Davison said: “There is a healthy ‘pot’ globally from PADI to promote such exercises across the

regions, you only have to ask and actually justify your request with your regional office. There are requirements, but you’d expect that with financial support from any organisation regardless of the activity. There’s an awful lot of agency ‘bashing’ at the moment as everyone is impacted financially by the effects of COVID, but PADI quietly continue to provide this facility globally for local indigenous students. We’re free of the virus, but we’ve also been tourist free since March, so the impacts are felt here too.” The initial group of eight divers in teams of four and ten skin divers all qualified in January last year, with a second group of seven divers in two groups qualifying last July, supported entirely by KOTO and Dive Rarotonga. From these two groups, the team have produced a progression plan and distributed it to parents and students alike, with the first group of PADI Advanced Open Water students starting their courses soon. Neil said: “While we’re not enjoying the financial gains of 2019, we’re enjoying being facilitators for our local community to enjoy scuba, earn globally recognised certifications and do so safely with us. Once we have a degree of normality back here with the associated tourism income, we’ll still provide these courses to the local students for as long as they want them, it’s investing in everyone’s future. “A second wave of Advanced Students will join us over the coming weeks, with the goal at the moment of achieving Rescue Diver rating. Once 18, the professional world will open up to them, either here with us or wherever they are at that time for their education.” He continued: “Having had such a high level of support from PADI, we’ve taken the responsibility for funding since then, as while it’s a decent pot, we’re not greedy.” All the KOTO students have an underlying interest in the marine environment having been brought up in a tropical paradise surrounded by beautiful reef and deep, deep blue beyond, further strengthened by the mentorship of Teina and the team at KOTO. Over time, Dive Rarotonga can provide training to whatever level they require, with four Distinctive Specialities unique to Dive Rarotonga in aspects of marine surveying, which is all relevant to the work they do with KOTO. Neil concluded: “Both Zoe and I got a great buzz from getting our PADI five-star IDC rating, but I think we both get a better one when each of our KOTO kids earns their certifications!”


ZUBLU LAUNCHES NEW INTERACTIVE TRAVEL DISCOVERY TOOL ZuBlu is proud to announce the launch of its new search tool - putting the power of discovery firmly in your hands. The travel sector may have slowed over the last year, but the ZuBlu team has been hard at work. Over the past 12 months, ZuBlu have expanded their ever-growing list of suppliers and meticulously redesigned their search tool to deliver the best user journey possible. Booking an eco-friendly dive trip has never been easier. ZuBlu’s redesigned search lies at the heart of the company’s postpandemic business strategy focused on providing its guests the best possible underwater experience. “As travel restrictions change and countries begin to open up their borders, we believe that dive travellers will be very much focused on getting back into the water as soon as possible. Our new search means that guests will be able to easily find their perfect trip, one that is sustainable and has a lasting, positive impact. And with ever-changing regulations, the role of the travel agent has never been so important,” said Matt Oldfield, co-founder of ZuBlu The updated search tool caters to two types of travellers - those who know what they want, and those who need a little inspiration. Know where you want to go? Dive straight into the direct search where you can enter a destination, your preferred dates, and guest numbers. Then, effortlessly scroll through the list of available eco-friendly suppliers. You can also filter based on price, rating, amenities, conservation certification etc, to make finding your dream trip just that much easier. Need some extra inspiration? ZuBlu’s unique discovery tool will help you find the perfect holiday based on what you want to see, when you want to go and where. Simply select what you’d like to see from multiple underwater experiences, including vibrant coral reefs, wrecks, sharks and more. Then choose when and where you’d like to travel, and let the ZuBlu discovery tool do the rest. For more information about ZuBlu, visit:

BLUE FORCE FLEET LAUNCH NEW MALDIVIAN DHONI The Blue Force Fleet is proud to announce the launch of their luxurious new dhoni for the Maldives, which was hand made by their extraordinary team of craftsmen on the island of Dhangethi. Measuring 23 metres in length and with a beam of seven metres, she is fast, very wide and safe - the perfect mix of traditional Maldivian experience with the best in navigation technology. It is equipped with four compressors, two membranes, and the best diving equipment.


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© Christian Loader

WWF-Malaysia are conducting research in Sabah that is building on a global endeavour by leading shark researchers. The Global FinPrint Project, which ran from 2015-2019, found that while sharks are functionally extinct in 20 percent of the world’s reefs, better management could ensure their longterm survival. The study, part of which was recently published in the science journal Nature to great international attention, used baited remote underwater video stations (BRUVS) deployed at strategic locations to collect data about shark distribution on reefs worldwide. BRUVS consist of a video camera placed in front of a standard amount of bait, the camera then recording the animals that visit the bait. Reef ecosystems were surveyed in four key geographic regions – the Indo-Pacific, Pacific, the Western Atlantic and the Western Indian Ocean. However, although countries with little or no shark conservation efforts have seen a mass decline, those with clear conservation and management policies have seen numbers stabilise, or even increase. The Sabah sampling of the Global FinPrint survey was carried out in 2015 by Dr Samantha Sherman, and consisted of study sites in the Pulau Sipadan, Tunku Abdul Rahman Park and Tun Sakaran Park Marine Parks, as well as sites in the Semporna region.



EMPEROR PRICING © Christian Loader

“The surveys in Sabah showed that in well enforced protected areas, such as Pulau Sipadan, sharks are abundant and thriving. This shows that there is promise for shark populations if effective management is put in place,” said Dr Sherman, researcher at Simon Fraser University and TRAFFIC. However, outside of © GFP Pulau Sipadan, less sharks were seen in the other areas surveyed, although high numbers of rays were observed. The research being undertaken by WWF-Malaysia, as part of the Sabah Shark and Ray Initiative, aims to strengthen management plans and enable better conservation efforts for reef-dwelling species in Sabah. “WWF-Malaysia has been conducting BRUVS research in Tun Mustapha Marine Park (TMP) since 2017, as it is important for us to have a better understanding of species distribution and this would inform us of where we can prioritize protection efforts in TMP.” said Ms Monique Sumampouw, Head of Marine Programme for WWF-Malaysia. For the TMP study, BRUVS were placed in different locations, and left for an average of 60-90 minutes for the camera to capture the visitors. After that followed the painstaking task of going through the footage of thousands of hours of videos to identify and record the species observed. Ms Sumampouw continued: “Science-based management, conservation policies, and good governance are crucial for healthy shark populations – we hope to contribute to that directly by providing results from our studies to inform park managers and policy makers to collectively identify protection measures in critical habitats of sharks and rays in TMP.” “Sipadan is an example of how good governance and management policies can lead to healthy populations of sharks. Hopefully such successful policies, and other recommendations from the Global Finprint Project can be considered for adaptation for other marine parks here.” Dr Sherman enthused: “Sipadan’s success lies in the management of the reef habitat for sharks, as well as the well-enforced no-fishing policy within the park boundaries. Other recommendations from the Global FinPrint Project that could feed back into management policies including placing restrictions on gears that have high shark bycatch, such as gillnets and longlines, in order to enhance shark populations.” Findings from the study, as well as other projects from the Sabah Shark and Ray Initiative will be presented at the annual forum, which will hopefully be held in May 2021.



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Q: Are there any issues with getting in a hot tub immediately after diving? A: Getting into a hot tub immediately after diving alters decompression stress. Hot tubs could cause a positive or negative response depending on the magnitude of the inert gas load and the heat stress.


Our bodies try to stay in a state of internal dynamic stability. While many biological processes are occurring, the net result is a relative balance of forces and reactions. This is called homeostasis, and thermoregulation is one aspect of homeostasis. Our body’s reaction to changes in external temperature is to make changes to keep a thermal equilibrium. When you feel cold, the blood vessels in your limbs shrink (vasoconstriction), you get goosebumps (piloerection) and stop sweating. These simple measures try to prevent temperature loss by minimising heat loss through radiation, convection and conduction. If you feel hot, the same blood vessels will dilate (vasodilation) to favour temperature loss through radiation and convection. You also sweat, which further enhances temperature loss through conduction, convection and evaporation.


A number of factors affect the solubility of a gas in a liquid, such as inert gas in your blood after diving. Temperature is one of those factors. As the temperature increases, gases usually become less soluble in water solutions (such as blood). Thermal stress can contribute to bubble formation, which makes it one of the contributing factors in decompression sickness risk. If you are cold after diving, you will have diminished circulation in your limbs due to blood vessel constriction. Hot


tubs (or hot showers) will warm your extremities and restore circulation faster. If your inert gas load is small, the warming will help eliminate gas more quickly because of the improved blood flow. Larger inert gas loads can cause more problematic responses. Since the solubility of gas is inversely related to temperature, tissues will hold less in solution as they warm. Warming tissues with significant gas loads can promote bubble formation. Because superficial tissues warm before the increased blood flow happens, bubbles formed then can be problematic. These develop before regular circulation can remove them harmlessly. There is no simple formula to compute what constitutes a minor, significant or substantial peripheral inert gas load. The conditions vary based on the individual as well as their thermal protection, physical activity and dive profile.


• Delay the hot tub/hot shower by 5-30 minutes instead of jumping in immediately. • If you are unwilling to wait, dive more conservatively. • Use a lower hot tub or shower temperature if you don’t wait.





But survive he did, albeit with 462 stitches in his chest, together with 92 in his right arm and to this day, the attack is considered as the most severe ever to be survived 20


Don Silcock looks at the life of Rodney Fox, the legendary shark conservationist and great white shark expert PHOTOGRAPHS BY DON SILCOCK WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM.AU


Great white shark


love reading and spend many ‘quiet time’ hours studying my seemingly ever-expanding book collection. I am particularly fond of autobiographies written by people who have found a way to do something incredible, whether that be in politics, exploration, adventure or sport. The insight I get into the author’s persona, ethics and integrity is always interesting and often truly inspiring! But, for all the biographies I have read, only once did the author look over my shoulder and asked me what I reckoned about their book! So it was last November when Rodney Fox took the time to seek my opinion on his book Sharks, the Sea and Me.


The chances are that if you have anything more than a passing interest in sharks you will have heard of Rodney, as he is the owner of the most-famous shark bite injuries in the world after he was horrendously mauled by a great white shark back in 1963. More on that attack shortly, but if ever a man had luck on his side, it was Rodney on that December day while competing in a spearfishing competition. Rodney’s survival was miraculous in so many ways, but the truly incredible part was that he emerged from that immense trauma determined to get back in the water and continue where he left off! Something he achieved initially by freediving in the clear, fresh-water sink holes of Mount Gambier before entering the ocean again and then exactly 12 months after his attack, he scored top points in three of the four events at the Australian Spear Fishing Championships!


At the time of his attack Rodney was selling insurance, an occupation that paid the bills but did not particularly inspire him. But the job got much easier after the attack as he became very well-known in the greater Adelaide area, and getting his foot through the door for appointments proved to be quite easy! That hiatus only lasted a few years though and in 1966 the pull of the ocean drew Rodney back and he gave up the sheltered environment of insurance sales for the potentially lucrative, but inherently dangerous, occupation of professional abalone diving. Diving for abalone was a relatively new profession in the late-1960s, but was already known for the numerous risks it involved – ranging from decompression sickness and bone necrosis to severe and quite irrational temper tantrums. Rodney is very honest about the lure of the money but the fact that, after all he had been through, he made his living from abalone diving for the next six years says a lot about his love of the ocean!

He also developed what was to be a life-long friendship with two other Australian icons – husband and wife underwater film-makers Ron and Valerie Taylor The Rodney Fox

The business end of a great white


During his ‘abalone period’, Rodney developed a much deeper understanding of the ocean and its creatures – particularly the great white shark and its reputation as a ruthless, maneating killing machine. Despite the horrific injuries he had suffered, Rodney came to the conclusion that it was all a tragic case of mistaken identity, precipitated by spearfishing in poor visibility waters that were known to be ‘sharky’. He also developed what was to be a life-long friendship with two other Australian icons – husband and wife underwater film-makers Ron and Valerie Taylor. Ron Taylor was an Australian spearfishing champion who had been among the many in the 1960s who had hunted and killed harmless sharks like the grey nurse, believing them to be man-eaters. Ron and Valerie had also reached the same conclusion that sharks are greatly misunderstood and, in fact, play an incredibly important role in the health of the oceans.


Rodney and the Taylors went on to great things, working together on the first underwater Australian films - a collaboration that ultimately led to their participation in Peter Gimbel’s ground-breaking shark documentary Blue Water, White Death and Steven Spielberg’s famous film of Peter Benchley’s novel Jaws. But before that could happen, they needed a way to be in the water safely with large sharks, the solution for which came to Rodney during a visit to Adelaide Zoo with his wife Kay and their niece Merridy As he watched the lions patrol their enclosure, with the watchers looking in, he realized that safety could be achieved by putting the watchers inside a cage with the sharks on the outside looking in. That first cage enabled the Taylors and Rodney to observe and film great white sharks in South Australia and confirmed their theory that they were not man-eaters.



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Great white shark

Rodney celebrating his 80th birthday


Subsequent iterations of that cage led to Rodney embarking on establishing the world’s first shark tourism business, with divers and underwater photographers coming from far and wide to experience the thrill of the great white shark face to face! In so many ways, Adelaide-based Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions laid the foundations for what is often called ‘big animal’ diving; in-water encounters with sharks, whales, crocodiles and other large creatures of the oceans.


I had never met Rodney Fox, but had read so much about him over the year that I felt like I had… Then in November last year I heard there would be a special trip to the Neptune Islands to celebrate Rodney’s 80th birthday and the man himself would be on board to meet the guests and give some special presentations. It was a ‘no-brainer’ – I just had to go… But it was quite strange actually meeting somebody you think you know so much about for the first time… For somebody who has survived and achieved so much, I found Rodney to be quite humble and reserved, but full of wonderful stories and anecdotes once you got him talking about his life. Copies of his book were available, which he signed and I read as much of it as I could while on the trip, so that I could ask questions as they arose. It truly was a wonderful opportunity being able to sit and chat with Rodney and listen to him explain many of the wonderful, as well as the not-so-great things, that had happened to him!



To put that eventful life into perspective, a close look at what actually happened to Rodney on 8 December 1963 is needed. Rodney was competing in the South Australian spearfishing championships at Aldinga, some 50km south of Adelaide and was just about to spear an 8kg dusky morwong in some 20m of water when what felt like a train hit him. In the initial impact he lost his mask and speargun as he was suddenly swept along at what he describes as an ‘alarming pace’ - the reason for that swift acceleration being that he was in the jaws of a great white shark, like ‘a bone in a dog’s mouth’. Instinctively he reached out for the eye with his right arm, hoping to inflict enough pain to make the shark let him go, but was unable to reach the vulnerable area. Then suddenly the shark let go and Rodney struggled to the surface, desperate for air and surrounded by blood red water. It was in those moments at the surface that the scariest part of the attack happened, because as he forced himself to look down in the water, Rodney saw the shark returning with its mouth wide open and upper jaw distended – full attack mode!

Almost unbelievably, the great white turned at the last second and took Rodney’s buoy and catch, the rope from which lodged in its teeth and suddenly he was being propelled downwards as the shark dived. Luckily, the rope must have been partially severed in the initial attack and parted company with Rodney, who managed to make it back to the surface, where his mates quickly got him out of the water into their boat.


Up close and personal Great white from the boat

If there truly is a Lady Luck, she was at Adlinga that day because a string of good fortune rolled out for Rodney Fox! This started with the head of the spearfishing association parking his car on the beach for the first time ever, saving precious time getting Rodney to Adelaide. Then there was the random policeman on the beach who knew where the nearest public phone was and how to get a high-priority ambulance dispatched. The car met the ambulance on route, Rodney was transferred at high speed complete with motorcycle escort to the Royal Adelaide Hospital, where the waiting emergency doctor was able to successfully attend to the horrific injuries from the attack. The doctor, Justin Miller, later told Rodney that he reckoned another five minutes would have been too late as his veins were on the verge of collapse because of the amount of blood lost! But survive he did, albeit with 462 stitches in his chest, together with 92 in his right arm and to this day, the attack is considered as the most severe ever to be survived. Rodney Fox, a true Aussie icon! n


In more normal times, Don is based from Bali in Indonesia, but is currently hunkered down in Sydney… His website has extensive location guides, articles and images on some of the best diving locations in the Indo-Pacific region and ‘big animal’ experiences globally. WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM.AU


ustralia is surrounded by islands, but surprisingly few island resorts where you can literally walk from your cabin to the beach and jump in for a dive. Here’s our pick of the best islands in Australia for a dive holiday.


Lord Howe Island is a World Heritage-listed island paradise, and from its tall mountain peaks to its turquoise lagoons and fringing coral reef, it’s seriously beautiful. An hour’s flight from Sydney or Brisbane and you can swim with turtles at Settlement Beach, feed the fish and snorkel with baby reef sharks at Ned’s Beach, or hike up into the cloud forests of Mount Gower for spectacular views. The island has several self-guided hiking trails that range in difficulty from moderate to hard and is a haven for bird-watchers, with thousands of nesting sea birds nesting here each year, including white and crested terns, shearwaters and noddies. The wide fringing reef is extremely pretty, underwater terrain as interesting as that above water, with swim-throughs, caverns and undulating reefs populated by reef sharks and endemic species including the double headed wrasse and Ballina angel fish. If conditions allow – a trip to Balls Pyramid is a must, where you are likely to see schools of up to 50 Galapagos whaler sharks. The island is accessible by plane from Sydney and Newcastle, with rumoured flights commencing from the Gold Coast soon.


On Heron Island, everything: snorkelling, bird-watching and scuba diving is literally on your doorstep. Between November and February watch turtles come ashore to lay their eggs, sometimes as many as 50 each night, and later in the season if you’re lucky, you can watch the hatchlings head off back to the ocean. In the water, expect to see very pretty reefs, reef sharks and rays and (if you’re lucky) epaulette sharks in the shallows. The island can be reached by ferry, float plane and helicopter from Gladstone.


Lady Elliot calls itself the Home of the Manta Ray, but you’re just as likely to see turtles, dolphins, leopard sharks, guitar sharks, all sorts of rays and (in winter) hear humpback whales singing around this island sanctuary in the Great Barrier Reef’s Green Zone. The island’s unique location near the edge of the continental shelf at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef, attracts large numbers of manta rays who come to feed on the plankton-rich upwellings, over 700 individuals have been recorded by Project Manta. And you can’t miss the birdlife: nesting shearwaters around your feet, noddies in the trees and crested terns in the air. The island is accessible by plane from Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Redcliffe (Brisbane) and the Gold Coast.


Magnetic Island is a short ferry ride from Townsville in Queensland’s north and a little like stepping back in time to a sleepy seaside retreat. If you’re into water sports, the island pretty much has them all, here you can dive, snorkel, kayak, fish, swim, SUP and sail, but it’s also a great place to spot koalas in the wild. It’s a great place to base yourself to dive the SS Yongala, one of Australia’s most-exciting dives – not just because it’s a 100-year-old wreck, it’s teeming with marine life. You’ll be surrounded by schools of batfish, barracuda, giant trevally and occasionally (frequently) buzzed by rays. The site is also famous for its population of olive sea snakes. Also accessible from here, the Museum of Underwater Art, Jason deCaires Taylor’s latest underwater installation and some very pretty shore dives. There are ferries from Townsville almost hourly, from early morning to late afternoon.

This little island in the Indian Ocean will surprise even the most adventurous wildlife fan. Dive Flying Fish Cove (arguably the world’s best shore dive) and count 200 fish species, follow one of the many self-guided hiking trails through the rain forest and be outnumbered by land crabs – by 50 million to one. Divers can expect to see pristine coral reefs and large pelagic creatures such as manta rays, silky sharks, spinner dolphins and in season, whale sharks. The diving ranges from sloping reef walls to dramatic drop-offs covered in enormous sea fans and whip corals, with hundreds of batfish, butterfly fish and surgeons munching on algae. There are sea caverns where you can surface to marvel at the stalactites and submerged stalagmites, before spending your surface interval swimming with spinner dolphins.

COCOS KEELING ISLANDS Also in the Indian Ocean and on the same flight as Christmas Island, Cocos Keeling Islands are a small group of coral cays that circle a shallow turquoise lagoon, dotted with pristine coral gardens and a few wrecks. There is a shallow cleaning station that is frequently visited by mantas and a resident dugong called Kat. Both islands are accessible on a 3.5-hour Virgin Australia flight from Perth. n Find out more about Australia’s islands at Email us on or call us on 1800 607 913 or (07) 4039 0200 to talk to our team of travel experts.


The Coral Triangle is an imaginary triangle including six aquatic nations, whose waters are home to 76 percent of the world’s shallow-water reef-building coral species and 37 percent of the world’s reef fish

The Philippines’ healthy coral reefs meet the rich fish population at Apo Reef, with an abundance of marine life, from macro to pelagics, says Roni Ben-Aharon PHOTOGRAPHS BY GREG PIPER, BEN PHILLIPPS AND DYAN DEPASUPIL





Gigantic fan corals


here are very few such precious moments - shortly after your morning coffee, mentally waking up being surrounded by gliding grey reef sharks, sleepy whitetip sharks and curious blacktip sharks. Sharks before breakfast are the best! We enjoyed a warm (27 degrees C) welcome to our first early morning dive on Apo Reef. With incredible visibility (we estimated to be roughly around 40 metres of crystal blue water), we pass a school of blue tangs beautifully intertwined with the cloud of white, yellow and black vagabond butterflyfish, orange anthias and turtles are everywhere, while we drift along the colourful, healthy, corals wall, spotting grey reef sharks gliding over the edge in the blue. The biodiversity of marine life on the wall is astonishing - moray eels, giant hawksbill turtle and a school of barracuda closer to the surface mix with the vivid colours of the soft corals on the wall. Giant sea fans, home to the exquisite pygmy seahorse, pulsing xenia - which look like a cross between a delicate flower and a mushroom - and bright purple and orange sponges dot the sight with various colours. Apo Reef is in the heart of the Coral Triangle, and it shows! The Coral Triangle is an imaginary triangle including six aquatic nations, whose waters are home to 76 percent of the world’s shallow-water reef-building coral species and 37 percent of the world’s reef fish. This means that every time we dive within the Coral Triangle, we will witness greater biodiversity than anywhere else on the planet. The Philippines is located in the heart of the Coral Triangle, and Apo Reef is a perfect example of that! Located approximately 33km off the coast of Occidental Mindoro Island, in the northwest side of the Philippines, it cannot be reached as a day trip from the main island, creating a pristine remote location where the wandering traveller can snorkel or dive, bird watch, dolphin watch, kayak, raft in the lagoon and see a turtle nesting and hatching in the turtle sanctuary.


We depart from Puerto Galera, Mindoro, after dinner and cruise overnight to Apo Reef. Eager, we exit the cabins straight to the sundeck, the bright light blurs our eyes for the first moment, slowly clearing to the incredible view of the endless sea, dotted with three islands, separated by lagoons, white sandy beaches, with incredible mangrove forests, surrounded by reefs. During low tide we can see the shallow reefs exposed. With no humans in sight, this place is truly an untouched paradise. A Philippines Natural Park, Apo Reef spreads over an area of 34sq km, approximately 26km from North to South and 20km from East to West, making it the second largest contiguous coral reef system in the world, right after the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, and the largest in the Philippines. It is an atoll-like reef that is comprised of two isolated coral reefs separated by a 30m deep channel, with clear water and white sandy bottom, that runs East to West, and opens to the West. Sunset on a deserted beach



Just like the Philippines as a whole, you can dive at Apo Reef the whole year round! It is recommended to go during the dry season from January to April, when the vis is averaging 40 metres (it can be half that during rainy season). Water temperatures range from 25-30 degrees C, coldest months are January and February, and warmest are May through July. Apo Reef National Park is located 15 nautical miles from Mindoro Island, making it way too long of a boat ride for day trips; local wooden outrigger boats offer an overnight trip (sleeping on communal wooden benches), and diving a couple of dives the next day, after which they head back. The regulations, along with very limited facilities on shore, make it nearly impossible to spend the night in a tent on the islands. You can, of course, opt for a liveaboard trip, where you can be comfortable, not to mention well pampered, while diving Apo Reef on board Atlantis Azores. With a spacious dive deck, dedicated camera set-up area, freshwater jacuzzi and a full-time accredited chef, Azores crew offers five-star service, keeping the smallest details in mind.

Dense coral growth Coral-encrusted Ship Wreck

Apo Reef has over 20 declared dive sites, the majority of which are off the main island. The East side of the island is facing the channel, with a white sandy bottom, and shallow wall of about 20m, while the Western side’s strong currents offer excellent drift dives along the dramatic walls of about 70m deep, comprised of mostly hard corals on the top, spotted with soft corals throughout. The shallow areas of the submerged plateau offer excellent macro diving, we spotted juvenile fish of all kinds, with the adorable juvenile yellow boxfish on its kiss-calling lips topping them all. Apo Island East would remind one of Palau’s Blue Corner plateau, diving in a cloud of butterfly fish with whitetip sharks all around, and a school of teira batfish in the blue. Apo Island North is a dramatic wall with massive tube corals, shy lobster hiding at the rocks, and a curious hawksbill turtle who swims alongside us, as we pass a school of yellow sweetlips cruising all around. Boxfish

The reef itself is actually a submerged platform, with three islands poking their tiny nose above water - Apo Island, Apo Menor (Binangaan) and Cayos del Bajo (Tinangkapan). All of these are uninhabited by humans, but are flourishing with birds and aquatic life. The three islands are distinct in their formation, Apo Island being the largest (22 hectares), with a stunning white beach lagoon covered with beach vegetation, where hawksbill turtles often nest, and a shallow mangrove area, an excellent nursery for sharks. Apo Menor is a rocky limestone island with relatively little vegetation, and Cayos del Bajo, the smallest island, is a coralline rock formation with no vegetation.




In Menor Island’s (Binangaan) shallow white sandy bottom, we spot sleeping whitetip sharks and a huge Napoleon wrasse! On Binangaan Drop Off, we spot schools of snapper and tuna, and a couple of spotted eagle rays in the blue, gliding and smiling under their beak-like nose. In the shallow sandy bottom of Corde Point, we dive in a magical light - there are hard corals everywhere, as the afternoon sun penetrating through the clear water paints everything in glowing orange; hundreds of orange anthias and yellow pyramid butterflyfish swim around us, this dive redefines the experience of a coral garden! There is even one proper wreck in Apo Reef. Originally named Ship Wreck, a skeleton of unidentified ship which has been in the water for what is estimated to be over 70 years, it is a well-preserved skeleton, overgrown by hard corals where heaps of reef fish, such as trumpetfish, snapper and big red eye fish reside. Incredible visibility, dramatic walls, and remoteness - that’s the consensus among all divers on the trip as the top three outstanding memories of Apo Reef, as we marvel at the curtain of stars above us at night - with no light pollution, the star formations are an adequate experience to the underworld.

Whitetip reef shark


Do not miss an opportunity to walk Apo Island’s white sandy beach and visit the turtle sanctuary! The islands that comprise the land mass of Apo Island Marine National Park are uninhabited by humans (except for rangers), and are home to 46 species of terrestrial flora (aka trees), including tamarindo, agave and coconuts, and 47 species of birds, of which 17 are migratory birds finding rest on their journey across the sea. It is not only birds who migrate across the seas, but also marinieres, who may encounter the dangers of hitting the shallow reefs on their journey. For that purpose, in 1903, the historic lighthouse was erected on Apo Island (the largest island), as part of the Spanish Maritime Lighting Plan, after its foundations were laid in 1986. The construction was delayed by the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution and the SpanishAmerican war, but it was finally lit in 1906. The lighthouse is 36 metres tall, and is currently equipped with solar panels to support the lights in this remote area. A visit to the lighthouse, along with its view deck, offer a breath-taking 360-degree view of crystal clear waters and mangrove forest. Since the declaration of the Philippines government ‘no take zone’ policy at Apo Reef Natural Park in 2007, the marine park environmental fees are nearly the sole source of its funding. The marine park environmental fee helps generate the funds for the park’s protection, as well as provide an alternative livelihood for hundreds of fishermen in the area. n

Incredible visibility, dramatic walls, and remoteness - that’s the consensus among all divers on the trip as the top three outstanding memories of Apo Reef WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM.AU


BACK TO BASICS Underwater photography guru Mario Vitalini offers a few tips to ease back into the underwater photography world PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARIO VITALINI


e all know that when you do not use a skill, you get rusty, muscle memory fades, and things you used to know by heart get a bit foggy. Unfortunately, underwater photography is no different. Many of us have been stuck indoors for what seems like a very long time without the chance to get in the water. No surprise you may feel a bit apprehensive about your first diving trip in a while. Today, I would like to go through some basic skills and techniques we all can review to help us get back into underwater photography.

Lionfish are a photographer’s favourite


Start a few days before your trip. Especially if you have not used your camera in a while. Fully charge the battery and refamiliarize yourself with all the controls. Take a few pictures around your house or garden to remind yourself of the position of all the buttons and controls. If your housing is not too heavy, repeat the process with the camera Control of the ambient light inside it to get that muscle memory back. is essential when using wide Many housings have vacuum systems built-in. angles. These Caribbean reef sharks are perfectly framed These handy devices work with batteries so make against the blue background sure you put a new one in and test it to make sure is working properly. Once the pressure is set, push the buttons and work the levers to check all the small O-rings are in good working order. During lockdown we all found small projects around the house and, if you are like me, you have raided your camera toolbox for Allen keys or any other bit. Check all your tools and spares are back where they belong. The last thing you want is to be away on a boat and realize you are missing the exact tool you need. The last thing I tend to do before any trip is to check my camera and strobes are working fine, set up your kit as if you were diving, and take some test shots ensuring the flashguns

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Fast moving fish such as this school of blue parrotfish will not give you time to change settings. Having the camera pre-set will increase the chances of getting a good shot Silky sharks swim close to the boat. An accurate control of the ambient light helps to bring out the beautiful textures of the surface A cuttlefish stands out against a black background

are synchronizing properly. Taking pictures of a mirror or a reflective surface usually works great as you can clearly see the light of the flashguns. Change the strobe settings if needed and test the flash at different power settings to check everything is working ok.


You have finally arrived at your destination, unpack your kit and find yourself full of excitement. Be careful, this is the moment when many photographers make some catastrophic mistakes by rushing the set-up of their rig. Take your time to set your kit up, ensure all the O-rings are clean and properly greased, your batteries are fully charged, and you have plenty of space in your memory card. Do not forget to secure your lanyards. If you have a vacuum system in your housing, pressurize it and leave it overnight. Task loading can be a serious problem while diving and can lead to accidents. If you haven’t dive in a long time is not a bad idea to take it easy and if needed, leave your housing on dry land for the first dive. Get back your buoyancy skills before you start taking pictures. Okay, camera and housing are in perfect working order and you are happy with your trim and buoyancy and you are starting your descent. Give yourself some time to remember some basic skills before you unleash your creative mind on that unsuspecting clownfish. If you are using a wide-angle, this is a good time to practice how to control the background exposure and colour. Keep in mind the sun position, after all, it is your main source of light and try, whenever possible to keep it behind you to avoid washed-out blues and to get beautiful surface textures. Remember that increasing your shutter speed will reduce the amount of ambient light the camera sees and therefore make the background darker. Slowing the shutter speed will do the opposite and make them brighter. I always take a few test shots pointing my camera into the blue, first choose a midrange aperture that will yield a good depth of field, then vary

Opening the aperture wide reduces the depth of field leaving only a small portion of the image in focus

the shutter speed until you are happy with the background colour. Be prepared to change it if you change your depth or point the camera in a different direction. At this point do not worry about the foreground, it will be lit by your flashes and the shutter speed will not have any visible effect. Work on carefully positioning your strobes, pull them as far back as possible to avoid hotspots and reduce backscatter. If your subject is far away, position your strobes wide apart and the closer you move to the creature you are photographing, the closer to the housing you will have to bring the flashguns. Be prepared to increase the ISO a bit if you find that to


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UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY Lionfish on the deck of the Rosalie Muller. The decks of this wreck lie at around 35m. Be prepare to increase the ISO to have enough shutter speed to freeze the movement while achieving a pleasant background colour

Check all your tools and spares are back where they belong. The last thing you want is to be away on a boat and realize you are missing the exact tool you need


achieve the background colour you are looking for your shutter speed has to be too low to prevent camera shake. If your strobes creep forward too much, you will start to see backscatter and hotspots on the sides of the images. Always remember to zoom in when you check your pictures and adjust the position of your flashguns if needed. If on the other hand, you decide to keep your rig a bit smaller and try a bit of macro, there are a couple of things you want to practice. Black backgrounds and shallow depth of field. A black background in macro will always help to make the subject pop and focus the attention of the viewer directly where you want. It will also be very useful when trying to hide the distracting environment. The easier way to achieve a black background is by framing the subject against the blue so the strobes will not light the surrounding area. Using a very fast shutter speed, a small aperture and low ISO will ensure only the light of the flashguns can be seen by the camera making everything else black. Another technique you can practise getting up and running is shallow depth of field or SDF. SDF produces very soft images with only a key element of the subject in focus (usually the eyes) giving a very light and ethereal feeling to your images. To obtain this effect you will need to completely open the aperture and to get as close as possible. These two things will

For nearly 30 years, Mario has sailed the globe and dived the seas, working as a PADI instructor and dive guide. Today, he shares his passion for underwater photography. His students love his real-world expertise and patient approach. He has an extensive working knowledge of most underwater camera systems, having spent several years at the UK’s largest photo retailer. Mario’s images have won several awards and he has featured not once, but twice, among the top categories at the prestigious Underwater Photographer of the Year, including Most Promising British Underwater Photographer in 2015.

dramatically reduce the area of the picture in focus (depth of field) and create the ‘Bokeh’ effect. By opening the aperture, you will let a lot of light through, for this reason, you may have to reduce the power of your strobes and move them away from the subject to avoid overexposing the image. Hopefully, you will be soon preparing for the first diving trip since lockdown started and after a long time is not a bad idea to treat your first photo dive like a scuba review. Give yourself the time to refamiliarize with these basic techniques and use them to rebuild the skills needed to get those fantastic shots you want. Just remember, take your time and do not rush. A bit of patience and practice will get you ready to start working on those amazing pictures you have been planning in no time. n

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he Solomon Islands is a Melanesian nation to the northeast of Australia. It stretches between Papua New Guinea to the west and Vanuatu to the southeast. Made up of 922 islands, 350 of which are inhabited, the Solomon Islands were formed by volcanic and earthquake activity over the years. The islands have been largely untouched by tourism in the last 100 years. As such, there hasn’t been pressure placed on the various underwater environments and many of the gorgeous dive sites remain uncrowded. In ancient times, the Solomon Islands were inhabited by the Melanesian people, Austronesian speakers and the Polynesians. The first European to arrive was Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira. He was followed in the 19th century by a series of missionaries who largely failed

in their mission due to the custom of recruiting locals into forced labour in Queensland and Fiji. As a result of this labour trade, violence erupted and Great Britain declared the islands as a protectorate in 1893. Throughout World War Two, the Solomon Islands were the scene of intense fighting between the United States and Japan, particularly during the Battle of Guadalcanal. Finally, independence was gained in 1978. Today, the country enjoys a constitutional monarchy under the head of state, Queen Elizabeth II. In recent history, ethnic violence threatened the stability of the country between 1998 and the early 2000s. However, in 2003, an Australianled peace force disarmed the ethnic militants and improved the situation on the ground. In recent years, the country has enjoyed peace and stability, making it a safe and beautiful destination. You now get a true feeling of island life in some of the most-stunning unspoilt scenery. The islands have a rich history and there is no escaping the impact that World War Two has had on her, providing a major form of tourism, which is now deeply imbedded into the fabric and economy of the country. If you are into diving, then you will certainly not be disappointed, this is diving heaven! For incredible reefs, lots of fish, and very few divers - the Solomon Islands is the place to be. You have some of the best wrecks in the world (including aircraft), caverns, pristine reefs, large sea fans, soft corals, lots of macro and pelagic species.

Neil Bennett waxes lyrical about the diving opportunities that exist around the Solomon Islands PHOTOGRAPHS BY BRANDON COLE AND DAVID KIRKLAND WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM.AU


Vibrant Solomon Islands reef

There is an incredible diversity of hard corals. In fact, the diversity of the Solomons is hard to beat, rivalling any other Indo-Pacific destination for coral reefs, marine life and diversity and a bonus, topside you get great cultural experiences and fascinating historical tours. The major dive areas can be defined as Guadalcanal, Tulagi, Munda, and South Marovo Lagoon. Guadalcanal and Tulagi host a wide variety of World War Two wrecks as well as many other shipwrecks. Munda and South Marovo Lagoon feature beautiful reefs, sheer walls, muck diving and some sites that attract a number of pelagic species. While most of the reefs begin just offshore, the wrecks might require a bit of a swim or a boat ride. Some of the wrecks can be quite deep, reaching over 70m or more. Don’t be put off by this as many wrecks sit at more accessible depths under 40m. While there are a huge number of wrecks around the islands, the majority of the famous and documented ones are situated on the coastline of Honiara or at the island of Tulagi. Our tours are based between these two destinations. Tulagi is home to several deep wrecks featured in previous articles, including the USS Aaron Ward and the Kanawha. Also in this area are the Catalina and Mavis flying boats, which rest in a comfortable depth for sport divers. Basing yourself at the Raiders Hotel will provide you with the opportunity to dive these wrecks, easily filling a two-week tour of prime diving. On the other side of the channel is Honiara and along her coastline are several great wreck dives, including the John Peen and Azumasan Maru, both deeper dives. The B17 bomber, Hirokawa Maru and Kinugawa Maru all are accessible as beach dives with stunning underwater scenery. If you do decide to take the shore dives be prepared for a bone-jarring truck ride to get you to the destinations as these are not all close at hand and the roads resemble a motocross track rather than a highway. Time too is a factor as they will take a full day to complete.


If you would like to know more about Neil Bennett’s tours, contact New Zealand Diving +64 94223599 or email: Alternatively, visit the website: 40

The wrecks are encrusted with marine growth

The Hirokawa Maru and Kinugawa Maru are both very simple dives allowing you to walk in off the shore and descend to shallow depths where the wrecks are very open and accessible. On the Hirokawa Maru the coral life is beautiful with stunning gorgonian fans that fill the passageways as you swim though the wreck. Both wrecks provide great photographic opportunities with natural light penetrating the wrecks, with beams in a background of cathedral structures. They are now both broken due to time and weather but there is plenty of structure left to remind you of their sizes. In the same area lie the Azumansan Maru and Sasako Maru, both much deeper wrecks and both need boat support to dive. The Azumansan has to be one of my favourite wrecks with her huge cargo holds and surprise cargo of Japanese motorcycles with sidecars. This is a wreck you could spend hours exploring, but time is against you with the relatively deep depth. There is another challenge too with the very silty bottom that almost covers her hidden treasure. It is not until


Healthy hard corals

you get very close can you make out what is now hidden away. Moving in the opposite direction along the coast lies the John Penn. Again this is a deeper wreck and can present herself as a challenging dive due to the currents that can often frequent her. In contrast to the Azumansan Maru, due to her location at a mouth of a river estuary, visibility can often be restricted too. Moving back across the Guadalcanal to Tulagi are a number of sites which are often not covered in articles, such as the RNZA Moa, the only divable New Zealand warship lost in an act of war. The RNZN Moa lies in 36m-42m of water. Vis can be poor (for the tropics that is), but well worth the visit. Be sure to check out the depth charge racks at the stern and the fourinch gun at the bow. The depth of this wreck allows plenty of time for exploration. Also in this area lie several sea planes from both US and Japanese forces. Several Kawanishi (code name Mavis) four-engine reconnaissance / VIP transport seaplanes, were sunk. The two main sites lie in 30m of water and wrecks are big enough to keep you occupied for an entire non-decompression dive and more. Sitting upright in approximately 26m of water sits a Catalina flying boat which Some dive sites are shallow enough for snorkellers

You can surface at the end of the ‘cut’, and feel bizarre being in scuba gear in the interior of the island, while looking up at huge trees with vines hanging down and birds calling is often used as a shallow non-decompression second dive for the tech divers. Largely intact, she is an interesting dive and provides a contrast to the shipwreck dives. For those of you requiring a little more variation to wreck dives, there are a number of stunning reefs to explore. One particular dive are the Twin Tunnels, the top of the reef is in 12m-16m of water and features two tunnels eroded in the edge of the reef descending down to a common cavern exiting to the wall at 35m-40m. The walls are lined with gorgonian fans and the caverns crammed with fish life. The top of the reef is spectacular in its own right should you wish to stay outside. Away from this area is the Leru Cut at Russell Island. Probably the most-famous dive site in the Solomon Islands, Leru Cut is an indent into the side of a small island which runs for about a hundred metres, around 12m deep. You can surface at the end of the ‘cut’, and feel bizarre being in scuba gear in the interior of the island, while looking up at huge trees with vines hanging down and birds calling. Mbulo Caves at Mbulo Island has a series of caves cut into the reef around the island. This dive is a photographers’ dream swimming in and out of caves, finding beams of light to shoot with a green jungle canopy above you providing a stark contrast to the view below. The Solomon Islands still produces some amazing discoveries. With so many aircrafts and shipwrecks still missing in action, more and more are being discovered as new dive sites. During our time at the Raiders we were lucky to help identify a recently discovered Wildcat fighter plane located very close to the hotel itself. Events like this bring a new meaning to the dives you are undertaking and it takes a destination like this to give you these opportunities. To be able to summarise the Solomon Islands is very difficult as you are in danger of understating how good the diving is here. This is a destination that has everything with respect to diving in a true, raw, adventure style which is mirrored by the country itself. If you love diving then you won’t be disappointed with the Solomon Islands.


Diving is available year-round in the Solomon Islands. However, the monsoon season does occur from January until April and brings a greater chance of rain and windy days. June through August is slightly cooler than the rest of the year, although temperatures remain fairly warm and humid. Water temperatures make for comfortable diving, ranging from 2731°C. Underwater visibility averages between 20-30 metres.


To see the wrecks around Tulagi, the best hotel for accommodation, diving and convenience is the Raiders Hotel. In Honiara, there are a variety of hotels to suit your budget and style. n



DIVERS ALERT NETWORK: ASIA-PACIFIC Divers Alert Network, widely known as DAN, is an international non-profit medical and research organisation dedicated to the safety and health of divers. WWW.DANAP.ORG



xygen toxicity is a serious condition, and many divers struggle to understand it. We know that monitoring oxygen exposure is important to our safety, but we may not know what happens if we exceed safe exposure limits, or why those limits even exist. Following training guidelines and planning dives can reduce risk somewhat, but learning how oxygen toxicity affects us and how we can prevent it can mean the difference between a fun dive and one that ends in injury.


Exposure to high levels of oxygen can have many harmful effects on the body, but there are two primary types of oxygen toxicity that affect divers. The first is pulmonary oxygen toxicity, which typically occurs with prolonged exposure to elevated levels of oxygen. It often begins with inflammation of the upper airways that then spreads to the lungs. Manifestations of pulmonary oxygen toxicity include alveolar collapse and damage, decline in lung function and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Pulmonary oxygen toxicity is mainly of concern to divers doing very long technical dives (in the range of six to 12 hours) and divers doing repetitive technical dives over a period of days or weeks. Central nervous system (CNS) oxygen toxicity affects the complex of tissues that makes up the brain and spinal cord and can be even more detrimental to divers because it can arise suddenly, causing vital tissue damage and possibly seizures. CNS oxygen toxicity can occur with very short exposures to significantly elevated partial pressures of oxygen and can potentially affect any diver breathing a compressed gas mixture containing oxygen. Divers should be able to calculate and willing to respect both the depth and time limits for their chosen breathing gas. Extreme exposures to oxygen can have various other effects, including hyperoxiainduced myopia (nearsightedness), but these are less common and rarely life-threatening. Understanding how molecular oxygen disrupts the CNS requires an understanding of how the human nervous system works. The nervous system comprises two opposing sides: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Every organ in the body is controlled by one or often both of these sides. Simply put, the sympathetic nervous system activates the body and prepares it for action, while the parasympathetic nervous system calms it down to promote recovery. Within the central nervous system, nitric oxide (NO) is excreted by various cells and used to suppress the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and widen blood vessels.


Normally, a fraction of these NO molecules bind with reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are byproducts of cell metabolism. The unbound NO molecules are left available to control the sympathetic nervous system. When the body is exposed to too high a partial pressure of oxygen, all NO molecules can be bound to ROS, leaving none to suppress the sympathetic nervous system. When sympathetic activity becomes extreme, the body releases enormous quantities of adrenaline and noradrenaline in a reaction called an adrenergic storm. This storm can cause seizures, narrowing of the arteries and a spiking of blood pressure and heart rate. Seizures that occur underwater are often fatal.


Rebreather divers, nitrox divers and divers breathing gases with high percentages of oxygen are at risk for oxygen toxicity. Exceeding depth limits, failing to respond to a rebreather failure or making an inappropriate gas switch can quickly put a diver at risk of CNS oxygen toxicity. Mitigating these risks is not difficult, but it takes some preparation. Understanding — and complying with — training guidelines for switching gases at depth, calculating breathing-gas maximum operating depths (MODs) and responding to rebreather failures can effectively minimise your risk of an incident. Accurately planning for your oxygen exposure with both your primary dive plan and a back-up is critical. It is also important to practice responding to rebreather or technical equipment failures and develop a safe bail-out procedure. In the event of an injury requiring recompression, additional exposure to oxygen is guaranteed with treatment - it’s not a bad idea to account for the additional oxygen exposure of recompression treatment. Fortunately, CNS oxygen toxicity in a hyperbaric chamber is not particularly dangerous since there is no risk of drowning. Operating within limits and employing appropriate risk mitigation are two of the best ways to protect yourself from oxygen toxicity. Understanding the causes of oxygen toxicity can help keep you safe.


In the event of a diving incident, we encourage all divers to call the DAN Hotline promptly for advice: • Within Australia: 1800 088 200 • Outside Australia: +1 919 684 9111 • Within Indonesia: 21 5085 8719




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We chat to Simon Lorenz about underwater photography, leading specialist dive trips, and why you don’t want to do a dive in Palau with your lens cap on… PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF SIMON LORENZ

Q: What inspired you to first get into underwater photography? A: Even on my very first dive, I had an immediate impulse to take photos. Having always been a photographer above water, it seemed logical to immediately start taking pictures. I love showing people photos to explain different animals and their behaviour. So against the advice of my dive mentors, I got my first camera with only 15 dives under my belt and proceeded to gobble up even more air than before. A continuous cycle of camera upgrades followed and I never dived without a camera, only taking a break while I did my Divemaster and instructor certifications. Q: Do you have a preference for either macro or wide angle? A: Being in the water is the most-important thing, so depending on where I am I like to vary the photography to what makes most sense for the environment at the time. Often I switch lenses between two dives. In Hong Kong, where I live, the visibility is often poor, so my wide-angle lenses stay home most of the time. But, given the choice, I am definitely a wide-angle guy and particularly wildlife. I like wreck diving and photography, but caves for example bore me after a bit. There is the thrill of being close to wildlife, and underwater we can get very close. It is a game of not disturbing the animal and getting as close as possible – the more you play it, the better you get. In wide-angle photography, I feel there is more behaviour observation and interaction with the subject. Sometimes there are palpable signs of acceptance and even trust from the animals. With macro I find that I peer at my subject through the viewfinder like through a microscope, but I really enjoy the wider creative possibilities, which is why most of my photo workshops are primarily dedicated to macro. Macro is much more of a creative outlet for me. Jellyfish Lake selfie


Selfie with a whale

Q: What lead you to set up Insider Divers? A: For me and my friends, I was always the trip organizer. I would work hard to get the best possible season, operator and trip. It would irk me to have to compromise on the route or the activities just to make it right for a few people. And few of my friends wanted to do the crazy trips I had in mind, so many trips remained in draft stage – or I had to go by myself. But, diving is so much better in a group of like-minded people. When I couldn’t get a big enough group together it would frustrate me when certain dives were not possible because we were sharing the boat with divers with different interests. Operators are not ready to change their plans for a small group, but as a full charter, I can do what I think is best. Since running my own trips I can tailor-make the activities to fit our intentions – which is to learn something about the marine environment and get great photos. I find many dive operations too focused on providing a show of wildlife, rather than a learning experience. So, on our trips we always focus on learning a bit during the trip – by meeting experts, participating in citizen science or having talks about relevant topics. I want us all to be Ocean Insiders – which is how I came to choose the name of the company.



Simon dives in cold and warm waters

Q: What is has been your greatest achievement? A: In 2018, I received the award for German Underwater Photographer of the year. This was a major breakthrough, as Germany has some of the best underwater photographers in the world. I think I got lucky that year, but I am still immensely proud. Q: How have you been keeping busy through the pandemic? A: At first I started Insider Academy, a platform for webinars about the underwater world and diving. We hosted around 30 talks before the overall webinar-fatigue cooled that off after a while. Since the first lockdown, travel for us has been completely restricted, which led to an explosion of local diving in Hong Kong. A friend asked me to help set up a new dive shop in Hong Kong, Sai Kung Scuba. Now Sai Kung Scuba has fun diving, a dive school and a shop, so that kept me busy for the majority of 2020. Currently I am working on a book and a project to teach school kids more about the ocean.

Q: How has using prescription lenses changed your dive? A: Total game changer. I always hated contact lenses, especially under water. When my eye doctor told me about the risks of iris infection due to salt water, I got clip-in lenses in a Mares mask, but I never felt like I could see properly. When I got my first prescription lens set up for my Hollis M1 mask at OzTek 2015, I could hardly believe that I had dived for ten years without such clear vision. Both in my work as a photographer and dive leader, perfect vision is paramount to spot creatures and line up shots. I would never dive with a normal mask again. Q: Which destination would you most like to visit? A: The number one on my destination-wish-list is Dominica. I have started freediving a lot more in recent years and have been running whale snorkelling trips with blue whales, pilot whales and humpbacks. But my big dream is being in the water with sperm whales, and Dominica is the place to be.




Up close and personal with a toothy friend

Juvenile batfish

I also have some a list of places that I want to explore – Tahiti and Malpelo are high on the list. St Helena has recently opened flight connections, and the first boats are going to Helen Reef now. And I have a dream to dive with a GPO – giant Pacific octopus – on the north-west coast of North America. Q: A question we always ask in our Q&As is, what is your most memorable moment in diving? A: One key dive was diving in South West Rocks with all the sharks around with just one buddy. Australia has given me some of my very top experiences. In fact, my first published article was about the diving in New South Wales. Another top moment was the last dive of a week in Palau. We had arrived just after a typhoon had left, so the amazing sites were not as clear water as usual. On the last day we had still not seen the mantas and it was just at the beginning of the special Jan/Feb season, where the mantas can be seen feeding in the mouth of German Channel. We had tried the site in the morning just to encounter green and empty water. My group didn’t want to waste the last dive of the trip, and in fact of 2017, as it was New Year. But the guide and me had a good feeling and pushed it through. After about five minutes, we had ten manta rays barrel feeding within touching distance in clear water. For the entire dive. The combination of seeing this unique manta behaviour and the success of a gamble made this one of my very best dives. Q: On the flipside of that, what is your worst diving memory? A: Probably my worst dive was my first working day after receiving my Divemaster qualification in Komodo. My instructor thought it was funny to let me guide the Cauldron a.k.a. Shotgun, one of my favourite dives, but a tricky dive at strong current. I lost two divers who got sucked over the canyon and the other divers ran


out of air. That not enough, the two lost divers took their jolly time surfacing and I almost had a seizure when they joyfully appeared after 20 minutes. But embarrassing moments in front of my guests have been memorable for my guests too. For photographers preach to do three test shots on the camera – in the camera room, on the boat and just under the water line. To lead with a bad example, I showed a big group at Blue Corner in Palau how it is not done. When we reached the site I lined up the first shot and realized I had left my lens cap on. It was going to be an epic dive with many great photo ops and an unusable camera rig in my hands. It’s become a running joke among some of my regulars.

Simon loves encounters with whales



Join one of Divers Den’s 4-day 4-night Minke Whale liveaboard trips for a close encounter with these inquisitive creatures on their annual migration to the Great Barrier Reef. These trips sell out so book early to secure your place. Limited dates available.

DIVE THE GREAT BARRIER REEF For over 40 years, Divers Den has been at the forefront of scuba diving in Australia. We’ve certified over 150,000 divers and taken many more to experience the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef. All our diving training facilities are housed at our purpose-built diving training centre in Cairns. We are proud to hold PADI 5-Star Instructor Development and PADI 5-Star Career Development status. These are the highest ratings awarded to any dive centre in recognition of our continued excellence in diver training. Whether you’re looking for your next certification, a liveaboard expedition or to take the family for a day trip to the outer reef, our team has the experience and local knowledge to deliver the ultimate Tropical North Queensland dive adventure. Book your next Great Barrier Reef trip with us.


When just one day at the reef isn’t enough, Divers Den’s three-deck, 35m catamaran provides the perfect base to explore the reef and make every dive count. Trips depart regularly from Cairns and include Fluoro dives and the famous Sharks in the Dark!

Call in or visit us online: 319 Draper Street, Cairns, QLD 07 4046 73333

Who said marine photography couldn’t include birds?


In 2018, I received the award for German Underwater Photographer of the year. This was a major breakthrough, as Germany has some of the best underwater photographers in the world Q: Who are your dive related heroes? A: My biggest inspiration are photographers who create new photographic directions like Christian Vizl, Tobias Friedrich and Eduard Acevedo. These days every photo competition brings out new talents, some of which quickly become inspiring influencers like Shane Gross, Grant Thomas or Alex Kidd. I am fascinated by Florian Fischer’s Behind the Mask, who are able to create videos that make your heart beat uncontrollably with longing for the next dive. As a dive leader I am inspired by people like Amos Nachoum and Andy Murch, who created the most outstanding and daring experiences for dive groups.

Simon on the hunt for subjects


Q: What does the future hold for Simon Lorenz? A: For now everyone in the dive industry is hoping that the virus will be contained and we can travel again. Currently I am hoping that by August 2021 we can start our trips again which would mean Kalimantan, Maldives, Truk Lagoon, Timor Leste and Socorro Islands. For Insider Divers, we are working to expand our offering particularly for whale trips and more expert group leaders, we call them Insiders. We have a couple of special trips in the making – for example, a shark citizen science trip and exploring far-off reefs like Helen Reef between Palau and Raja Ampat. But until travel is possible again, I will be working on a dive book about Hong Kong dive sits. n


WRECK HUNTERS SEASON ONE 2021 Barefoot luxury in the heart of Indonesia

Calling would-be undersea detectives! A unique opportunity to take part in the beginning of a diving archaeology programme is opening up in the summer of 2021* on the Caribbean island of Utila. The Wreck Hunters project is offering a onemonth, limited availability window for divers to be a part of the Season One team. The focus this year is about getting to the heart of the story of a wreck called ‘The Oliver’, its rich history and the life of 18th Century mariners. Learn the skills of undersea archaeology, from traditional to cutting edge techniques. If you’re a relatively experienced diver with skills or experience in drawing (artistic or technical), surveying, photography or in construction work this could be just what you’re looking for (See website for full details). Project Director Mike Haigh’s ideal candidates have a ‘good sense of humour’ and enjoy teamwork. Check out Or Telephone: +44 0117 9596454

So if you think this project would help put a smile on your face, why not get in touch to find out more at

Bunaken National Marine Park *COVID restrictions may result in a change of operation dates.

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The annual red crab migration sees over 50 million crabs make their way from rainforest to sea to spawn, an event described by Sir David Attenborough as ‘one of the 10 greatest natural wonders on Earth’


f there’s one silver lining in this locked-down cloud of a year, it’s been the discovery (or rediscovery) and appreciation of the diving right here in Australia. Places like Christmas Island, Cocos Keeling Islands, Lord Howe Island and Rowley Shoals have never been so popular. Christmas Island, described by many as Australia’s own Galapagos, is one such diving destination that has suddenly been thrust into the spotlight (for all the right reasons). Accessible from Perth via a 3.5-hour flight that also drops in on Cocos Keeling Islands, the island is the tip of an extinct volcano – its near-vertical sides slope down to the seabed 3,000m below. The island is a magnet for pelagics, including whalesharks and mantas, and home to a plethora of colourful reef fish on its fringing reefs. The island is just as interesting topside, with several endemic bird species, including the Christmas Island frigate, Abbott’s boobie and, of course, its world-famous population of land crabs. The annual red crab migration sees over 50 million crabs make their way from rainforest to sea to spawn, an event described by Sir David Attenborough as ‘one of the 10 greatest natural wonders on Earth’. As for the underwater world? I can say in all honesty, it’s is on my Top 5 diving destinations – in the world. Diving Christmas Island, you’ll see pristine coral, picturesque sea caverns, schooling sharks, mantas, eagle rays, dolphins and the world’s largest fish - the whaleshark. The water temperature hovers between 27–29 degrees C, visibility is normally at least 30 metres and most dive sites are a short five to 15-minute boat ride away. To give you an idea of the diversity of diving on Christmas Island, here are my top ten favourite dives on the island.



2020 saw many diving destinations within Australia grow in popularity, and as Deborah Dickson-Smith explains, Christmas Island deserves all of the hype PHOTOGRAPHS BY SCOTT PORTELLI AND ROSIE LEANEY



Healthy corals on the walls


This dive starts off in a shallow cave with red fans foresting the sea floor. Swim out to a wall where hundreds of black triggerfish and pyramid butterflyfish swarm together, picking algae off the wall. The wall then plunges into the blue, but there is usually a massive school of friendly batfish that sit around 32m. After playing with the batfish as long as your no-deco limit will allow, it’s a gradual ascent along the wall, looking at corals, reef fish, and also out into the blue, as there is a strong possibility of manta rays, whalesharks and other large pelagics.

Vibrant sea fan


The entrance to Thundercliff Cave is submerged, so to get in, you descend 6m to a rippled sandy bottom and swim into the gloom, and once inside you can surface, as there is a large air pocket. The cavern is large with spectacular stalactites dripping down from the ceiling. A smaller tunnel then opens out into a second large chamber where you can also surface. At all times, the faint blue of the exit is reassuringly visible.


Arguably the world’s best shore dive, diving Flying Fish Cove is a great way to add to your double boat dive days. Grab a tank from the dive shop and enter by the boat ramp. Follow the line of the ramp straight out until you hit the drop off. Turn towards your left and work your way down the drop off to about 18m just following the slope along. A very easy dive – you really can’t go wrong, and you’ll see more fish and coral types in that one dive than you’ll see in a week at other places.

Dive boat at anchor




A very easy dive – you really can’t go wrong, and you’ll see more fish and coral types in that one dive than you’ll see in a week at other places Coral covers the Eidsvold wreck

Inside Thunderdome

Butterflyfish shoal on the wall


The Eidsvold was a Norwegian phosphate ship that was struck by a Japanese submarine during World War Two. It was scuttled in Flying Fish Cove and later transported to its ultimate resting place on the other side of Smith Point. Today, the Eidsvold sits between 5m-18m. Because of the ship’s age, she is now home to coral colonies and squadrons of the colourful tropical fish that Christmas Island is known for. The wreck is not intact, and mainly looks like a series of metal pipes on the sea floor. There is some structure that still stands up off the sea floor, but nothing for divers to penetrate. The anchor and chain can still be found. Schools of yellow goatfish, surgeonfish and black triggerfish surround the wreckage and all around, large healthy hard corals can be seen.


It’s a curious name, and actually named for the abundance of feral chickens on the adjacent land. This is a wall that plunges down into the blue. It’s covered in beautiful hard corals, and there are some spectacularly large gorgonian fans below 33m (it was worth going to that depth to see them).


Thunderdome’s entrance is hidden by a large rock. You swim through a split to enter this smaller dome-shaped cave, with sandy bottom and walls encrusted with colourful growth.



Aerial shot of Christmas Island

The team at Diveplanit Travel has been visiting Christmas Island for many years, working with the Christmas Island Tourism Association to help promote the island’s unique features (a labour of love). Each year there are several special events on the island – both natural and planned – including whaleshark season, Bird ‘n’ Nature Week and, of course, the annual red crab migration and spawning event. Contact the Diveplanit Travel team to find out the best time to go, what you can expect each month of the year, and the best places to stay.

Thunderdome Cave is spectacular

Swathes of soft coral


Adjacent to the actual ‘White Beach’ dive is a large sea cavern. Enter through a large opening which leads to a massive cavern chamber. The sides of the cave walls are home to whips, fans, and electric clams. Time can be spent exploring around the inside of the cave, as its not too deep (12m). Outside the cave a wall drops down into the blue, with nice hard corals, a good place to hang in the blue and look for ‘big stuff’ on the safety stop.


Rhoda Wall has a very interesting terrain - gentle slope leads to a more-vertical wall falling off at 20m. On the slope there are some beautiful coral stacks, and large plate corals. We were keeping the reef on the right until we came to another part of the wall in front of us that pushes further out into the sea. In the corner between the two, there is a slope that falls away at about 45° – a bit like a ramp down into a quarry. On the wall itself, there are some beautiful royal blue hydrocorals and ever present yellow and pink fusiliers schooling up and down the wall.

Arguably the world’s best shore dive, diving Flying Fish Cove is a great way to add to your double boat dive days


A wall dive with a drop-off to 50m. Big healthy boulder corals, fans along the wall, with crevices and overhands to explore. Looking out in the blue, look for manta rays, eagle rays and grey reef sharks cruising by.


A beautiful dive. The cave extends above water-level and is large enough for a small boat to shelter in (hence the name). The floor of the cave is 8m-10m, and totally covered in plate corals which angle themselves towards the sunlit cave entrance. Red, pink and yellow whip corals grow from the cave wall. n


Singapore Kuala Lumpur


Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands

Perth ChristmasIslandTourism


THE RECOVERY OF OBJECTS FROM HISTORIC SITES – PART TWO, SMALLER OBJECTS In this month’s instalment, Project Director Mike Haigh focuses his attention on recovering smaller historical items from the seabed


n my last article, we looked at methods that are used to raise large objects from the seabed. In this article, we will be addressing the issues raised when transporting smaller items - items which may be made of glass, wood, ceramic material, metal or a combination of these. Before we look at the techniques that can be used, we first need to address some key principles around the recovery of finds. The first, the raising of artefacts, must be included in any project’s research design, so that the process can be planned well in advance. Secondly, you need to be aware that the removal of such objects will be governed by the regulations in the country in which you are operating. Finally, before any items are raised, conservation premises and equipment need to be arranged, along with an eventual home for the objects. Do not assume that some museum will happily take your items. The actual removal of artefacts from their adopted seabed home is normally quite straightforward, but can present challenges. On an early fourth century BC wreck off the Italian island of Panarea, the cargo of black-gloss ware was partly enclosed in a volcanic crust. Some objects had to be removed with the crust, often by careful chiselling, and then re-excavated in the laboratory. On the Giglio Etruscan wreck, many artefacts were encased in pitch. Part of the cargo, it had oozed over many items on board as the ship foundered and sank. Hardened by time, the divers became adept at chipping around the objects it had encased. They were then raised to the surface and removed from the pitch by the conservation team. An object which has spent a lot of time waterlogged will have lost integrity and will fall to pieces unless supported. Larger objects need to be splinted and bandaged, small objects can be placed in boxes with sand all around and the lid tightly fitted over the sand. One material that presents problems is cast iron, which is of course what cannon balls were made of. Even after extensive washing in fresh water (in some cases for over 12 months) most will break up when exposed to air. This is because corrosive salts penetrate the interior of the object causing it to break up on drying. The Mary Rose project has successfully preserved


many cannon balls from the site, but only by using very expensive processes. Most small finds can be relatively easily transported to the surface. But before that they must be recorded. Everything needs to be numbered and given a brief description on a label inside the box and another attached to the outside. Everything needs to be itemised, registered and related to context, both the box and its contents. You need to plan for re-excavation in a workshop or lab. Everything needs to be kept wet, cool and in the shade. Most objects will need desalination. The find’s register entry should look like a passport with all actions entered as things go along. Do not clean up any finds as you may destroy some valuable information. More of a challenge are ‘footprints’, a stain left by a now-vanished metal object. This cannot be lifted and will require extra-thorough recording on site. In the context of small finds, I will also bring up the topic of wood sampling, with the potential to tell us what type of wood the ship was built from and where this wood came from, which could provide us with a geographical location for the origin of the vessel. This takes us into the world of wood anatomy. From a practical point of view, the samples need only need be 2–3 cm cubed. As long as the wood is in a reasonable condition, most laboratories will be able to work with this. Waterlogged wood should be kept wet, out of direct sunlight and cool. Sealed bags with some fresh or salt water and as little air as possible will do the trick. Then wrap the bag in bubble wrap to prevent movement in the box in which it will be stored, appropriately labelled, of course. If keeping the samples cool is a challenge, alcohol can be used instead of water. A bottle with a cork in it? Don’t be tempted – if the contents are not poisonous, they are usually completely changed in appearance, colour or taste and disgusting to drink. In addition, old bottle glass is extremely fragile and can be impossible to stabilise. Next time, we will look at methods that are used when initially surveying a site.



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Santi has added to its apresdivewear line with the Harbour hoodie. This is made from soft-tothe-touch knitted fabric in vividly contrasting red and black. It has a drawstring hood with silicone trim for a better fit, has zippered pockets on the front, and is finished with ribbing at the lower edge of the torso and sleeves. The Harbour hoodie is made from 100 percent cotton and comes in five sizes.


With a casual style, backed up by outstanding thermal protection and tested in some of the most-extreme conditions on the planet, the Arctic hoodie is technology disguised as everyday clothing. The two-layer construction with the Arctic’s wind-resistant outer and high-density fleece inner, create the perfect garment for colder temperatures. Layer it with a waterproof jacket and the Arctic hoodie can take you from the street to the dive site without missing a beat, even if that dive site is at the edge of an ice-floe. Machine washable and warm even when wet, this hoodie is ready for anything.

SANTI 303 THERMOVALVE (SRP: $670) The Santi 303 Thermovalve has a fully rotating head, as opposed to the swivel original. This innovative solution in thermovalve design technology replaces the standard inlet valve, as unlike a connector, it has two functions at the same time - an inlet valve and an integrated connector. Its great advantage is placing the cable with the E / O connector in the down position, with the possibility of turning the head by 270 degrees, which allows for trouble-free connection of the battery cable both in the position of the connector to the right and left. It includes two electrical connectors on opposite sides of the cable - a connector to connect with a battery adapted to work in water (E/O cord), and a waterproof connector to connect heating system products from Santi. The total length of the cable, including plugs, is approximately 55cm.



HOLLIS F1 LT (SRP: $299) Combining lightweight construction with purpose-driven design, the Hollis F1 LT fin is a superlative option for tackling tight, confined dives where every kick counts. The lightweight SEBS compound is moulded into a vented design for hydrodynamic kicking that offers tons of efficiency per square inch. A rigid, yet lightweight flex ups the efficiency and extends the amount of power and thrust per kick, meaning you save energy and can dive longer without becoming fatigued. In addition, the short-bladed design is engineered specifically for tight, technical dives where you could otherwise be bumping into obstructions, wreck walls or narrow cavern walls. And because they’re crafted for the deepest, darkest spaces, the F1 LT comes in a variety of colours – including the new white and yellow variants - that’ll stand out to your diving partner in low-light and silty conditions. Plus, easy-to-use spring heel straps with an easy-grip heel tab make the F1 LTs exceptionally easy to don and doff, especially in turbulent waters boatside or in roiling, chaotic surf. Available in a variety of sizes, the F1 LT’s tight, light construction makes them perfect for travel or carrying in a satchel to your favourite shore dive, cenote or forgotten reef.

SCUBAPRO MK19 EVO BT / G260 CARBON BT (SRP: $1,730) Scubapro has introduced its new MK19 EVO BT/G260 Carbon BT regulator system, exemplifying the ultimate in modern lightweight regulator design and durable engineering excellence. The new regulator system features Scubapro’s new balanced diaphragm first stage, the MK19 EVO BT, finished in a special ultra-durable Black Tech coating, along with an upgraded version of Scubapro’s most-popular tech-diving second stage, the G260, featuring a lightweight, ultra-durable carbon fibre front cover. The new MK19 EVO BT is Scubapro’s premium environmentally sealed first stage. An engineering marvel, it improves the proven cold-water performance of the MK17 EVO and pairs it with the swivel turret of the MK25 EVO that features four High-Flow LP ports, plus one axial Super High-Flow LP port for convenient LP hose routing. The MK19 EVO BT is completely sealed off from the elements, helping ensure trouble-free operation no matter how frigid, silty or murky the water gets, creating the best-in-class first stage regulator for cold water and harsh diving conditions. While retaining its large diaphragm, internal metal components and high-flow exhaust valve for excellent breathing sensitivity, enhanced performance and resistance to freezing, the new G260 Carbon BT second stage ratchets up its ruggedness and durability with the addition of a carbon fibre front cover. Lightweight and extremely durable, if dropped or struck against a hard object, carbon fibre can resist substantial shocks without damage. Both the MK19 EVO BT and the G260 Carbon BT feature a premium Black Tech DLC (DiamondLike Carbon) coating on their metal parts. This upscale coating not only lends a technical look to the system, it also protects against scratches and the ravages of salt water and corrosion.




Mark Evans: First off, this is a good-looking piece of kit. It is a fairly chunky size, but thanks to the titanium build, it is quite lightweight. I never actually dived the MK1 Descent, but after seeing them on the wrists of other divers, and at various dive shows, I wasn’t particularly taken with it, I have to say. The screen seemed quite small within the body, and I just didn’t like the look of it. That all changes with the MK2i. Garmin have really nailed the aesthetics this time around, and the display is much bigger and clearer – it seems to ‘fit’ the size of the watch. Since having the MK2i on my wrist, it has garnered lots of positive comments from divers and non-divers alike, so that is a big thumbs up for Garmin. Talking of the screen, I have left it on the default watch-face setting as I find it nice and clean, but there are a whole host of different versions already in the MK2i for those who want to personalise their computer, and more can be downloaded. A neat feature for those who want to stand out from the crowd. Right, let’s talk diving. To get started into the diving menu is simplicity itself – you just press the top right-hand button and it brings you on to the screen where you can select the type of diving you are going to be doing – so either single gas, multi-gas, closed-circuit rebreather, gauge mode, apnea, or apnea hunt for the spearos out there. There is also a dive planning option. So far, I have only used it in the single-gas mode, so let’s focus on that. Another press of the top right-hand button gets you on to a screen where you can see what your nitrox mix is, what your maximum operating depth is,


and what level of conservatism you have it set on. You can also see your surface interval. If you need to edit your gas mix or conservatism level, you just press the bottom left button and it takes you to a screen where you can go in and change these. At any time, once you are done, pressing the bottom right-hand button takes you back a screen. From that first dive screen, another press of the right-hand button takes you to a screen where it shows whether it is set for salt or fresh water, and what the safety stop timer is. Again, to edit you just press the bottom left-hand button. A third press of the right-hand button takes you to the ‘dive screen’ itself. I found this nice and clear, and easy to understand during the dive. You can clearly see the nitrox mix, the water temperature, your NDL, your current depth, and your dive time. The display up the left-hand side of the screen goes from green, to orange, to red, and the hand rises as your NDL gets nearer to zero, so as well as the actual digit display, you get this handy visual graphic as well. The display on the right-hand side is rather neat. If you are hovering motionless in the water, the hand remains at the 3 o’clock position, and if you start to ascend, it goes up, and if you start to go too quickly, it warns you with orange, and then if it goes into red, the entire screen alerts you to the fact you are ascending too quickly. So, a rapid ascent warning, nothing new there. But what I liked was the fact that the hand can go the other way, to show when you are descending. This may seem pointless to some people, but I can imagine this being very useful if you were out in the blue looking for sharks, for instance, with no point of reference.


If you are at this stage and need to change your gas mix, you can just press the top right-hand button and it takes you to the gas select screen. As changing your gas mix is probably the most regular thing you will ever do, this makes it quick and easy to do. When you enter the water, the MK2i vibrates to let you know it has logged your position on GPS, and a big green arrow pops up on screen just to confirm you are starting diving. When you surface, it vibrates again to let you know it is finishing the dive and logging your position once again. One feature I liked here was that when you initially surface, it states on the screen that the dive will end in 20 seconds – this is useful if you had got lost, or become separated from your buddy, and were just popping your head up to confirm your location/find your buddy and then descending to continue the dive. As long as you do it within that 20-second window, you remain on the one dive. After diving, when you want to look at your logbook, you just press the bottom left-hand button and the first thing on the screen is the dive log. Top right-hand button press and you are into the log. On this first screen it gives you the time, depth and water temp of your last dive (and a scroll down goes back dive by dive). A further right-hand press, and after a quick loading screen, you get more details, including a graph of your profile alongside the time, depth and water temp info. This screen also appears on the MK2i when you first get out of the water and back on your boat/dry land. I have mainly been diving on 32 percent nitrox, and have the Garmin set to low conservatism. I have been using it alongside my Shearwater Perdix and Teric, and the NDL was very close throughout the entire week on all of the dives. All three use the tried-and-tested Buhlmann ZHL-16c algorithm, so you would expect that to be the case. Ah, the Teric. The Descent MK2i goes up against various other wristwatch-style dive computers, including the Suunto DX and the Scubapro A2, but it seems to be most often compared with the Teric, so how do we think it stacks up against the competition? Well, let’s talk diving first. Both the Teric and the Descent MK2i are supremely capable dive computers, capable of multiple gas mixes, CCR, freedive and more, so when it comes down to the diving side of things, there is not a massive amount in it functionality-wise. Yes, the Garmin has the GPS ability, but actual diving, it is a pretty even match, in my opinion. Both have audible and vibration notification, and in both cases, the latter works very well – I could feel it


through a 3mm wetsuit with no problem, and even though I was encased in a base layer, thick Fourth Element Halo 3D undersuit and my Otter Kevlar drysuit, I could still feel the vibration through my arm. While we are talking drysuits, the Garmin has a neat feature where you can swap out the straps quickly and easily with a clip system (similar to the Suunto D5). This lets you change to different colours if you so wish, but it also means you can change out the standard strap for a longer version designed to go over a drysuited arm (this comes with the computer). Much neater than adding an extension strap to the existing strap. I was in my Otter Atlantic Kevlar drysuit, which is fitted with the KUBI DryGlove System, but I also took it for a spin wearing Fourth Element’s 4mm neoprene lobster mitts. In both instances, I had no trouble pressing the buttons on the Descent MK2i to navigate through the menu on the surface before the dives, or scroll through the dive screens during the dives. However, I found that Garmin’s neat technology, which lets you cycle through the dive display simply by tapping on the screen, worked a treat in both pairs of gloves and was actually easier than using the buttons. Both the Teric and the MK2i are air-integrated, and this is where the Garmin steals a march over the Teric. Underwater, the Descent T1 transmitter uses SubWave sonar technology rather than the tried-and-tested radio frequency already on the market. This provides a solid connection between the computer and the transmitter once they are paired, but more importantly, it offers a much more impressive range - we measured exactly ten metres before we lost the signal. It is phenomenal. The Descent MK2i can be paired up with up to five Descent T1 transmitters. This obviously gives you plenty of flexibility – if you were diving sidemount, you could have


GARMIN DESCENT MK2i (SRP: $2,499) AND DESCENT T1 (SRP: $649) a T1 on each cylinder. If you were diving in a twinset with two stages, you could have a T1 on each first stage so you could monitor all of your tanks. If you were teaching, you could mount a T1 on the first stage of your student, or students, and then you would be able to see how much gas they have got left before you even ask them to give you a reading. You can even put people’s names in so you know which transmitter refers to who. Great functionality, but again, as with the clip system on the straps, Garmin are not the first to offer this feature. The venerable Scubapro Galileo Sol let you pair up to four transmitters, and while three of the tank designations were intended for use when you were diving with multiple cylinders, the fourth was assigned to a buddy, and you were able to see their tank pressure on your main screen throughout the dive. You were not able to customise the name – they were just ‘buddy’ on the screen – but still, the concept was there. The Sol’s successor, the G2, can also pair with multiple transmitters in much the same way, but it can link with up to nine transmitters. Similarly, the Suunto EON Steel is able to communicate with up to ten Tank Pods, as Suunto call their transmitters. And the EON Core can connect with up to 20 Tank Pods! So this is more than enough to cover most eventualities, be that multiple buddies, or a whole horde of students. Where Garmin does stride out front is down to that SubWave technology. That ability to still be able to connect to a transmitter that is ten metres away from you is incredible, especially given that most normal transmitters lose signal once you are two to three metres apart. One thing I have seen commented on online is the screen of the Descent MK2i, and some people saying it is hard to read. Frankly, that is a load of rubbish. Topside, I found I could read the display even when the backlight was not on, but once it was on, it is very easy to see. While diving, I had the backlight set for on all the time, and it made the screen nice and clear, even in bright sunlight in the shallows during a safety stop. I didn’t really notice a massive difference in brightness once I took it over 60-70 percent, I have to say, but suffice to say you can easily see the display either in watch mode or while on a dive. We did a fluo night dive while in the Maldives, and the Descent MK2i was clearly legible even in the pitch black with the backlight on full. However, there is no escaping the fact that the OLED display of the Teric is vastly brighter both in watch and dive mode. The downside to this technology is that it eats battery power, so while the Garmin did a full week without needing to see its charging cable, I was putting the Teric on charge every other night. So, there are pros and cons – the Teric is undoubtedly brighter, but requires more-regular charging; the Garmin is nowhere


near as bright, but still easy to read, and it can go a good week or so before needing a charge. Where the Descent MK2i wins hand’s down is with all of the other features it contains within its svelte body. I am not going to go into all the ins and outs of each, but suffice to say, if you are an active person, the Garmin has you covered! Being based on the tried-and-tested Fenix 6, it has functions for running, biking, hiking, golf, swimming (both pool and open water), kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, boating, triathlon, yoga, cross-county skiing, even jumpmaster for those who liking leaping out of planes! It monitors your heart rate and your blood oxygen level (when it is directly on your wrist), calories burnt, the list goes on. And as a smart watch, you also get your phone messages on the screen, and it can even handle your music choices, either from your phone or even stored in the unit itself. I have been playing with it since it arrived, and I still haven’t explored all the functionality yet! Wherever you are in the world, the price point of the Descent MK2i is high, there is no getting away from that. But when you consider that it is only a few hundred pounds or dollars more than the Teric, but adds all of the functions of a smart/fitness watch into the mix, that price tag suddenly doesn’t look so bad. If you bought a topof-the-line wristwatch dive computer and a smartwatch, you’d spend more combined than you would on the MK2i. And I think this is going to be the clincher for many people. If you are an active person who does other sports, and you want a watch that can handle a plethora of your activities including diving, then the Descent MK2i is the logical choice. I think that Garmin have delivered a top-flight all-rounder that satisfies many requirements all in one unit. And if it comes up in the bar on an evening whose computer has the most features, you will win hand’s down!






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Dive into

PNG Don Silcock waxes lyrical about Papua New Guinea’s underwater


PAIHIA DIVE t: +64 9402 7551 e: a: 7 Williams Rd, Paihia 0247, New Zealand We run daily trips to the Canterbury wreck, The Rainbow Warrior wreck and reef sites in the Bay of Islands.



Over the

RAINBOW New Zealand’s Exploring Rainbow Warrior wreck




New Zealand


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‣ Pete Mesley Q&A, pt II ‣ Sabah, Borneo


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Dive Against Debris in Raja Ampat Meridian Adventure Dive believe in diving to make a difference, and that is why they support Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris campaign


aja Ampat is the epicentre of marine biodiversity and attracts dive enthusiasts, snorkellers and adventurists all over the world. However, the island’s location and currents make Raja Ampat a trap for man-made waste caused by the increasing population internally and in neighbouring countries, as well as poor waste management/treatment practices. In the spirit of doing things differently, we committed to submitting monthly data to Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris campaign database, to enhance the underwater insights to a problem that remains out of sight for most of the public. This data will help identify target areas where waste prevention efforts are needed most. Our monthly Project Aware Dive Against Debris and Beach Clean-up excursion, we visited Saonek Island (an island nearby that sees a lot of debris washing onto its shores). Hopping onto the speedboats ensured we were there in no time and the teams got busy on the beach as well as the surrounding waters.

Over 182 debris items were collected, with 135 plastic objects being the largest category, four glass objects, 13 metal objects and more. The biggest number of debris types were plastic water bottles, straws (the silent killer), broken pieces of polystyrene, plastic bags, plastic lids, flip-flops, and broken shoes. Plastic breaks up. It breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces until it becomes small enough, not only for small fish to mistake it for food, but research has found that even plankton is now mistaking this ‘forever material’ for food and consuming it, introducing it into the food chain at the lowest level. Keep an eye out for upcoming conservation efforts on our website and join if you are in the Raja Ampat area.


Situated in Raja Ampat, Indonesia, Meridian Adventure Dive is a PADI five-star Resort and winner of the PADI Green Star award. Scuba divers enjoy our professional services that have become synonymous with both the PADI and Meridian Adventure names. The sweeping spine of Indonesia’s archipelago is an underwater treasure trove, and the Raja Ampat Islands are often-overlooked. Raja Ampat is one of Indonesia’s mostcaptivating diving grounds and is truly a paradise on Earth. n




There are many moments like this in the future.