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ABSOLUTE BULL

SHOOT LIKE A PRO:

FILIPINO MAGIC

WE GET UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH FIJI’S ENORMOUS BULL SHARKS

HINTS AND ADVICE FROM OUR PANEL ON HOW TO BEST PACK YOUR PHOTOGRAPHIC GEAR

DUAL-CENTRE STAY IN THE PHILIPPINES BLOWS US AWAY

THE LURE OF VANUATU’S GIGANTIC WARTIME CASUALTY

+

Gear Guide: Dive knives

‣ Getting fit to dive ‣ Scholar

ISSUE 12 | FREE MAGAZINE! WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM


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EDITOR’S NOTE

WEIGHING UP THE POSITIVES AND NEGATIVES Sometimes it can all get a bit doom and gloom in the news. I try my best to get a good range of stories in our News section, and while everyone obviously wants to read real pieces about what is happening out there, it is good to have some shining lights of positivity amid any negativity. And so it was this month. These was a real downer with the release of research carried out last year which believes that the unprecedented coral-bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 had led to the number of new corals on the Great Barrier Reef dramatically declining by 89 percent. It had been widely reported previously that these cataclysmic events had damaged two-thirds of the world’s largest reef system, and now they were being blamed for causing a serious collapse in coral regrowth through 2018. The research put the root cause of the problems as rising sea temperatures, and that localised solutions for the Great

EDITOR IN CHIEF

Mark Evans Email: mark.evans@scubadivermag.com

DESIGN

Matt Griffiths Email: matt@griffital.co.uk

CONTRIBUTORS

Martyn Guess, Richard Stevens and Hailey Elizabeth, Neil Bennett, Mario Vitalini, Paul Duxfield, Anne and Phil Medcalf, Olivia Johnson, Deborah Dickson-Smith

Barrier Reef were almost pointless, leading a scientist to state that the only thing which mattered now is global action on climate change. On the flipside, we had the President of the Seychelles presenting a live broadcast from 120m deep in a submersible calling for better protection for the world’s seas, saying ‘the beating blue heart of our planet is under threat like never before’. The Seychelles is acclaimed for its stance on ocean conservation, and aims to protect 30 percent of its ocean space by 2020. Even more positivity came flowing in from the news that dive training agency RAID had organised a second RAIDaptive course in North Sydney, getting divers with disabilities into the water and qualified at entry-level. Good effort, guys!

Mark Evans, Editor-in-Chief

ADVERTISING & SPONSORSHIP

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PUBLISHERS

Rork Media Limited Tel: +44 (0) 800 069 8140 71-75 Shelton Street, Covent Garden, London, England, WC2H 9JQ Views expressed in this magazine are not necessarily the views of the publishers. Copyright for material published remains with Rork Media Limited. Use of material from Scuba Diver is strictly prohibited unless permission is given. All advertisements of which the creative content is in whole or in part the work of Rork Media Limited remain the copyright of Rork Media Limited.

is a registered trademark of Rork Media. ISSN 2515-9593

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ABSOLUTE BULL

SHOOT LIKE A PRO:

FILIPINO MAGIC

WE GET UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH FIJI’S ENORMOUS BULL SHARKS

HINTS AND ADVICE FROM OUR PANEL ON HOW TO BEST PACK YOUR PHOTOGRAPHIC GEAR

DUAL-CENTRE STAY IN THE PHILIPPINES BLOWS US AWAY

ON THE COVER

THE LURE OF VANUATU’S GIGANTIC WARTIME CASUALTY

+

Gear Guide: Dive knives

‣ Getting fit to dive ‣ Scholar

ISSUE 12 | FREE MAGAZINE! WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM

PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF: NEIL BENNETT

REGULAR COLUMNS

FEATURES...

6 News

20 Fiji

DAN Award for Aussie doctor, bad news about coral growth on Great Barrier Reef, and an ecofriendly liveaboard in Raja Ampat.

14 Medical Q&A

Dr Oliver Firth answers reader questions about the potential issues of diving with PKD, and the dangers of an enlarged heart.

Mark Evans joined DeeperBlue supremo Stephan Whelan to make the trek to the tropical island nation of Fiji. Known as the ‘soft coral capital of the world’, it is also home to the planet’s largest bull sharks - and this duo couldn’t wait to get up close and personal with them in Beqa Lagoon.

26 Shoot Like A Pro

This issue, our panel of experts offer useful hints and advice on how to prepare yourself for getting back into diving after a lay-off.

First in a new series, as we expand our underwater photography offerings each month. Our panel of underwater photography experts Martyn Guess, Mario Vitalini, Paul Duxfield and Phil and Anne Medcalf - answer a topic each issue, beginning with advice on how best to pack your precious camera equipment when travelling to your next diving destination.

66 Scholar

30 Underwater Photography

16 Dive Like A Pro

Olivia Johnson heads to New Zealand’s acclaimed Poor Knights for a spot of sea urchin surveying and research.

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Martyn Guess is in the hotseat this month, and he focuses his attention on how to get the very best fish portraits, giving hints and advice on ways to stop your shots being just ‘fish ID’ images.

WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM


CONTENTS

...CONTINUED

GEAR GUIDE

34 The Philippines

54 What’s New

44 Thailand

56 Group Test: Dive knives

48 TECHNICAL: Vanuatu

64 Long Term Test

Richard Stevens and Hailey Elizabeth of Black Manta Photography embark on a fantastic two-centre stay, first at Magic Island in Moalboal, followed by Magic Oceans in Bohol, and are blown away by the sheer diversity of marine life, both large and small, that they encounter.

Adrian Stacey is known as a bit of Jonah when it comes to whalesharks, so when he headed to Koh Tao in Thailand, he was not expecting to see the world’s largest fish, but a surprise meeting amid the stunning reef and wreck diving left him with a smile on his face.

The enormous President Coolidge shipwreck, lying close to the shore off the Pacific island of Vanuatu, is rightly considered one of the world’s premier wreck dives, especially as far as military vessels is concerned. Neil Bennett donned his twinset to explore the gigantic ship, which offers much for all levels of diver, from those with recreational certifications to those with more-advanced qualifications.

WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM

New products recently released, including the new Beuchat range, Mares Magellan BCD, Fourth Element Ellipse dryglove system, Suunto’s D5 dive computer, and Santi’s apres-dive wear.

The Scuba Diver Test Team get back to basics and rate and review a selection of dive knives and cutting tools that can be easily mounted on a BCD or wing.

The Scuba Diver Test Team reviews a selection of products over a six-month period, including the Mares Epic Adj 82X and Apeks XL4+ regulators, Shearwater Research Teric dive computer, Zeagle Scope Mono mask, and the Bare Ultrawarmth 7mm hood.

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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) www.scubadivermag.com/news

DAVID WILKINSON NAMED 2019 DAN/ROLEX DIVER OF THE YEAR

D

ivers Alert Network and Rolex have announced that Dr David Wilkinson has been selected as the 2019 DAN/Rolex Diver of the Year. The award was presented on Saturday 13 April at the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society 45th Annual Awards Programme in New York. Dr Wilkinson is a senior staff specialist in anaesthesiology and the medical director of the hyperbaric medicine unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. A researcher and educator, he is also a clinical lecturer at the University of Adelaide and a fellow of Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine. He became captivated by hyperbaric medicine one day while working in the Royal Adelaide Hospital’s intensive care unit. When a colleague was taking a patient to the hyperbaric department, Wilkinson asked if he could accompany them, and he was completely fascinated by the chamber. “There was an element of frontier medicine about it,” he said. “It took my fancy.” He has since dedicated his career not only to diving medicine but to treating many of the ailments that can be improved with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. And rather than being content with the accepted limitations of hyperbaric medicine, Wilkinson has pushed the envelope of its utility, studying its effectiveness in treating even more conditions, including diabetes and the side effects of radiation therapy. He was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for services to hyperbaric medicine. An advanced nitrox and decompression diver, Wilkinson sits on the board of directors of the Australasian Diving Safety Foundation/ DAN Asia-Pacific Foundation, an organisation dedicated to advancing dive safety throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Physicians in the hyperbaric medicine unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (and in recent years, other Australian hospitals) operate Australia’s Diving Emergency Service (DES) hotline. The DES hotline is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide medical guidance to injured divers in need. The hotline’s toll-free number is fully funded by DAN World, and the

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doctors who take these calls are unpaid volunteers. More than 20 years ago, Wilkinson took over as co-ordinator of the DES hotline and has personally fielded the majority of the calls that have come in since then. Currently the hotline receives about 400 calls each year. For the past 30 years, DAN and Rolex have collaborated to honour an individual who has made significant contributions to dive safety – and to name that person the DAN/Rolex Diver of the Year. This award began in the late 1980s as a generous grant to DAN from Rolex to recognise the organisation’s work on behalf of divers. In 1989, the award evolved to feature a specially engraved Oyster Perpetual Rolex Submariner dive watch. As part of the award, Rolex makes a US$15,000 donation to DAN to help fund the dive safety research DAN does. The DAN/Rolex Diver of the Year award is now one of the most-prestigious honours in scuba diving. “David’s commitment to hyperbaric medicine and his volunteer work with the Diving Emergency Service hotline have helped thousands of divers get the care or practical medical guidance they needed when they needed it most,” said Bill Ziefle, DAN president and CEO. “The dedication he has shown to the dive community in the last two decades is truly inspirational, and we’re thrilled to honour him as the 2019 Diver of the Year.” www.DAN.org

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SCIENTISTS SAY NEW CORALS ON GREAT BARRIER REEF DOWN BY 89 PERCENT

Unprecedented coral-bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 have led to the number of new corals on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef dramatically declining by 89 percent, according to research carried out last year. The cataclysmic events, which were widely reported to have damaged twothirds of the world’s largest reef system, are now being blamed for causing a serious collapse in coral re-growth through 2018. The research, which has been published in the journal Nature, puts the core reason for the problems on rising sea temperatures. It measured how many adult corals along the length of the reef had survived the bleaching events – and then looked at the number of new corals that had been produced since then. It highlighted the link between coral vulnerability and sea temperatures going up as a result of global warming, and joined the rising number of groups calling for increased action to reduce carbon emissions on a global scale. Coral bleaching is caused by rising temperatures and occurs when corals under stress drive out the algae - known as zooxanthellae - that give them their vibrant colour. If normal conditions return, the corals can recover, but even then it can take decades - and if the stress continues, the corals can die. As lead author Prof Terry Hughes, from Queensland’s James Cook University, explained: “Quite simply, dead corals don’t make babies.” Co-author Prof Andrew Baird continued: “Across the length of the Great Barrier Reef there was an average 90 percent decline from levels recorded in the 1990s, and we think this is down to the 2016/2017 bleaching events affecting 900 miles of the GBR. “Baby corals can travel over vast distances, and if one reef is too far gone, there are usually enough adults on other reefs to protect the juveniles, but this monstrous mortality rate – what we think is the GBR’s first regrowth problem on such a massive scale - has meant that there’s nothing left to replenish the reef. “Coral replenishment could recover over the next five to ten years – if there were no future bleaching events. Unfortunately, given current estimates, this likelihood is almost inconceivable.” Prof Baird concluded: “We are at the point where localised solutions for the Great Barrier Reef are almost pointless – the only thing that matters now is positive global action on climate change.”

WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM

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RAIDAPTIVE PROGRAMME FOR DIVERS WITH DISABILITIES A HUGE SUCCESS IN AUSTRALIA Dive training agency RAID recently ran a hugely successful RAIDaptive programme specifically aimed at people with spinalcord injuries in North Sydney, Australia. The eight-day RAIDaptive course, for people with paraplegia or quadriplegia, was hosted by Sargood on Collaroy, which offers specialist accommodation for people with spinal-cord injuries. The participants – Ashlee Morton, Duane Gilmore, Caleb Mondom and Samir Eshani - covered the course theory first, before moving into a pool for three days, where they learned how to assemble their equipment and make their first foray into the water. After that, they moved to Shelly Beach’s famed Cabbage Tree Bay for three days exploring in open water and putting all their newly honed skills into practice with instructors Steve Bates (RAID Examiner) and Shannon Carlson and Matthew Simos. This was the second such course conducted at Sargood, after a massively popular inaugural RAIDaptive session last October. www.diveraid.com www.sargoodoncollaroy.com/au

NETFLIX TO MAKE THAI CAVE RESCUE MINI-SERIES It was bound to happen, and now it’s official – streaming giant Netflix has secured the rights to make a mini-series about the Thai cave rescue operation. The Wild Boars soccer team – 12 players and their coach - made headlines around the globe after they were trapped in the flooded Tham Luang cave for more than two weeks from June 2018, and were all successfully rescued after a ground-breaking operation involving some 90 expert divers from all over the world, including a core group of elite British cavers. Films of varying budgets are in production, with one – The Cave, by British-Thai director Tom Waller – wrapping up shooting in December, but now their amazing story will be told by California-based Netflix, in a mini-series to be directed by Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M Chu and Nattawut ‘Baz’ Poonpiriya. Assistant coach Ekkapol ‘Ake’ Chantapong said they were all looking forward to working with all involved parties to ensure their story was told accurately. Financial details haven’t been revealed, though local reports earlier mentioned each team member getting around US$94,000 for the rights.

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TIOMAN DIVE CENTRE WINS PRESTIGIOUS GREEN FINS AWARD Tioman Dive Centre has been named as the winner of this year’s Green Fins Award, which recognises the centre as the Green Fins member with the lowest environmental impact. The winner of the Green Fins Award, which is co-ordinated by the Reef-World Foundation, is decided by a rigorous assessment of business practices which determines the company’s environmental impact. The 500-strong network of Green Fins members have all undergone this assessment, as well as Green Fins sustainability training, and Tioman Dive Centre was the business with the lowest environmental impact overall. Tioman Dive Centre, a PADI dive centre which has been a Green Fins member since 2009, was pro-active in implementing processes to improve their sustainability and reduce their negative impact on coral reef. These included: • Changing to environmentally-friendly cleaning products, which are now much more widely available in Tioman, Malaysia • Educating staff about the benefits of protecting the environment (including running new staff through the Green Fins introduction presentation as part of their induction); making them proud of their role in conserving the ocean • Removing dead coral from display at the entrance of the shop, as it could have encouraged guests to take coral and display it in their own homes, far from the sea. • Encouraging staff to take Tupperware boxes to pick up their lunches and use re-usable bags for shopping trips, which helps encourage other members of the community to be more environmentally-conscious too • Correcting guests’ bad behaviour and explaining post-dive why corrections were made • Logging any data from clean-up efforts • Replacing one of their boat’s two-stroke engines with fourstroke engines. While this involved significant investment, they have found this engine to be much more cost-friendly

• Telling customers about their efforts to implement environmental practices through a statement in their paperwork, posters and talking directly to guests about what they are doing Rosie Cotton, owner and general manager of Tioman Dive Centre, said: “We’re so delighted to have won the Green Fins award! We’ve been working hard to try to instil in our staff a desire to protect the environment, both above and underwater. As soon as the staff truly believe in this, becoming a Green Fins dive centre becomes easy. We encourage our staff to come up with new ideas to help us improve our Green Fins rating and we’ve found it gives them a great deal of pride when their idea is implemented. While some changes have taken more thought than others, getting the ball rolling is one of the most important steps.” She explained: “Each and every member of staff at TDC truly wants to adhere to the Green Fins ideology. Our dive instructors here at TDC actively pass on information about the environment to their students and divers, not just put a poster on the wall and expect people to read it. This has become a part of every day life and we hope this is seen by all our divers, in our diving practises.” www.reef-world.org www.tioman-dive-centre.com

PRESIDENT OF THE SEYCHELLES MAKES UNDERWATER SPEECH FROM A SUBMERSIBLE The President of the Seychelles ventured into a submersible and headed below 120m to present a live broadcast focusing on the health of our oceans, and better protection for the world’s seas. Danny Faure, who had joined the British-led Nekton Mission expedition exploring the deep ocean depths around the island archipelago, descended to 124m and during the broadcast explained that ‘the ocean is the beating blue heart of our planet’ and stressed that it was ‘under threat like never before’. He said: “We have managed to seriously impact this environment through climate change. We have created these problems, we must solve them – and we must solve them together.” The Seychelles is already acclaimed for its stance on ocean conservation – just last year, it created protected areas of the ocean that were ‘the size of Great Britain’ in exchange for getting some of its national debt paid off. It was the first debt swap designed to protect ocean areas in the world. The Seychelles aims to protect 30 percent of its ocean space by next year.

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NEW ECO-FRIENDLY LIVEABOARD CORALIA TO EXPLORE RAJA AMPAT

Expeditions On the Wild Side The Best Diving at the Coral Sea & Great Barrier Reef!

Sharks Galore! Here’s a liveaboard with a different concept. Coralia is a new boat by Papua Explorers, renowned for exceptional service, quality and commitment to protecting nature, conserving the oceans and developing local communities in Raja Ampat. Built in Bira, Sulawesi, by the Konjo tribe who have been building ships for centuries, ancient techniques are blended with wisdom, modern design and safety features. This beautiful wooden sailing boat can cater for 16 guests in eight spacious cabins, two twins, two double and four Master cabins. All are tastefully decorated incorporating traditional design elements with modern comfort, air-conditioned and spacious private bathrooms, towels and hairdryer. Environmentally friendly, natural soap and shower amenities are complimentary. The four luxurious Master cabins on the main and upper deck feature a private balcony, sun chair and outside sofa where you can drink in the tropical scenery, sunrise and sunset. Coralia has a spacious dining/lounge and plenty of outside space for relaxing or enjoying a gentle massage. This year she will be plying the waters around the worldrenowned dive sites of Raja Ampat and in 2020 will be adding Komodo and transit trips through Ambon, Banda, the Forgotten Islands, Alor and Maumere. Specifically built for diving, the shaded dive deck has warm showers, changing room, hangers, equipment storage and extra towels. All diving is done from two eight-metre fibreglass dinghies with outboards to get you to the perfect dive spot every time. There will usually be four dives a day, including some night dives. Underwater photographers are well-catered for with a dedicated air-conditioned camera room. Diving is in small groups with one dive guide accompanying four guests. Nitrox is free of charge on Coralia and rental gear is available for a surcharge. This is free for Papua Explorer and returning guests. www.coralia-liveaboard.com

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DIVE PROFESSIONALS CAN NOW BECOME GREEN FINS CERTIFIED INDIVIDUALS The Reef-World Foundation – the international coordinators of the Green Fins initiative, which aims to protect reefs by ensuring environmentally friendly diving and snorkelling practices – with the support of Professional Scuba Schools International (PSS), is pleased to announce the launch of the Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course, a free online course designed to help dive professionals reduce the negative impacts of scuba diving on the underwater environment and conduct more environmentally friendly dives. The new Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course is the only course which teaches dive professionals how to prevent diving-related damage to coral reefs by following the highest environmental standards, as set out by the Green Fins initiative. Dive guides can take this course – free of charge – whether or not their dive operator is a Green Fins member. Diving-related damage to sensitive marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, is becoming an increasingly significant issue. This damage makes them less likely to survive other local and wider stressors, such as overfishing or run-off from land containing pollutants and plastic debris, as well the effects of climate change, such as rising sea temperatures. Scuba professionals have the ability to positively influence diver behaviour and this course helps guides better manage their guests to prevent them causing damage to the reef, helping to protect coral and other marine life one dive at a time. It covers techniques such as how to provide an effective pre-dive environmental briefing and how to stop customers (including underwater photographers) touching coral while diving – techniques proven to reduce the level of coral damage associated with diving. The course provides dive professionals with three modules of easy-to-follow content followed by corresponding tests on an intuitive, user-friendly platform: Module 1: An introduction to coral reef biology, the Green Fins approach, why it is imperative we protect reefs, and how guides can use Green Fins resources, such as posters and guidelines, to support their day to day work. Module 2: Management techniques above water, such as how to prepare and plan an environmentally friendly dive and maximising the opportunity of an effective environmental pre-dive briefing to encourage guests to limit their environmental impact. Module 3: How to confidently lead a dive using positive role model behaviour and making underwater corrections – such as adjusting buoyancy – followed by an explanation and positive reinforcement once the dive is over. Research has shown divers who receive environmental information in predive briefings coupled with interventions underwater cause significantly less damage to coral.

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There is a short test at the end of each module which dive professionals must pass in order to finish the course. On completion of the course, there is an option to donate £19 to support Green Fins’ work around the world and receive a personalised electronic certificate which can be displayed to inform guests the guide is aware of how to reduce the environmental impacts associated with diving. Displaying the certificate can help attract eco-minded customers and make divers more confident about the standards of the centre. The Dive Guide e-Course can also be offered as an addition to the Divemaster training programme, resulting in increased business for the dive school. Certified guides and dive centres will both benefit from additional promotion through the Green Fins community. Chloe Harvey, Director at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “The Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course enables dive professionals to become more environmentally aware, understand the main environmental threats posed by scuba diving and be able to minimise those threats. We hope that the course will help protect coral reefs all over the world, allowing them to be more resilient to wider stressors such as the effects of climate change. What’s more, many divers now expect, and demand, environmentally aware guides so being a positive role model in this way not only protects the underwater environment, but can also result in better employability and more tips!” For more information, or to sign up for the Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course, visit: https://evo.pssww.org/en/greenfins.aspx

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IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTICE – VOLUNTARY RECALL MARES XR LINE INFLATOR Mares has put out a voluntary product recall notice in reference to a quality issue with the inflator unit mounted on the XR line aircells. The inflator in question is made by a third-party supplier – Ferplast. The issue is that under certain circumstances, the deflation button could come unscrewed, which could result in loss of the seal at the mouthpiece. This would result in loss of buoyancy that could potentially lead to an accident, injury or death. If you have one of these recalled units, Mares ask that you immediately stop diving with it and return it to your Mares dealer, who will arrange for a free replacement inflator. Every affected inflator will be replaced with a complete set comprising new inflator, corrugated hose and gasket for the elbow connection. The recall only affects these products: Code Description 417511 Donut bladder single tank (XR Line) 417512 Donut bladder twin tank (XR Line) 417536 Sidemount Pure Light Bladder (XR Line) 417539 Red Devil Single Backmount set (XR Line) 417540 Red Devil Single Backmount set SSI (XR Line) 417547 Pure Light Sidemount complete set (XR Line) 417550 Silver Knight Single BM set (XR Line) 417551 Blue Battle Single Backmount set (XR Line) www.mares.com

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DIRTY DOZEN EXPEDITIONS EXPANDS INTO THE FREEDIVING MARKET High-end expedition organiser Dirty Dozen Expeditions is expanding into the freediving market after exclusively catering to a niche market of CCR wreck divers. The Dirty Dozen’s first destination will be Myanmar, where they have acquired the Phinisi from 25 February 25 – 3 March 2020 doing an exclusive freediving itinerary exploring the best of the remarkable marine biodiversity from the 800 islands that have been isolated from mankind’s influence. They also plan to meet and dive with the Moken, the indigenous people who have a rich and fascinating history through generations as freedivers. The trip will be hosted by four-time world champion Nataliia Zharkova, who will be doing workshops and coaching on the trip at no extra cost. For more information, contact The Dirty Dozen on: freediving@thedirtydozen.org

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MEDICAL Q&A True exploration in the heart of Bunaken Marine Park

Technical Diving

Virgin dive sites

Trimix and CCR

Specialised equipment

Multi-agency training

Expert advisors

State-of-the-art facilities

Luxury dive boats

www.oasisexplorers.com Based at Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort and Spa

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BUNAKEN

OASIS DIVE RESORT

About Oasis Explorers Oasis Explorers is a newly launched technical training facility located at Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort and Spa in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. The facility is the first in Bunaken Marine Park to offer multi-agency technical training, trimix and CCR compatibility, and a vastness of unexplored deep dive sites, all in the setting of an award-winning luxury dive resort. Expect a state-of-the-art filling station, specialised equipment, experienced surface support and expert advisors. Oasis Explorers will also be working on opportunities in North Sulawesi for more detailed scientific surveys, environmental awareness for deep-water marine species and the first comprehensive mapping project beyond recreational depths. Please send enquiries to

tech@oasisexplorers.com

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Dr Oliver Firth is a diving doctor with over 22 years of diving experience. He is an Approved Medical Examiner of Divers for the UK HSE and a medical referee for the UK Diving Medical Committee, performing many hundreds of diving medicals a year. As the senior doctor at London Diving Chamber for the last 13 years, he has supervised the treatment of hundreds of cases of decompression illness. He has now set up Hyperdive (www.hyperdive.co.uk) to continue his diving medical work with a global audience. With his accumulated experience, he has seen most things a diver might come across, but remains eager to hear from anyone with a medical conundrum they need a solution to! divingdoctor@scubadivermag.com Q: I’ve been a keen diver since my teenage years but now have chronic kidney problems from polycystic kidney disease (PKD), which was diagnosed about 10 years ago. I’m 27 and feel fit and well. I have an annual check up with my specialist and do take medication for high blood pressure. I would love to carry on diving, and eventually become an instructor. Would I pass an HSE medical with this condition? A: You might, or you might not, depending on how severe the ‘chronic kidney problems’ are. PKD is a very common genetically inherited disease, which affects over 7 million people worldwide. What happens in PKD is that fluid-filled cysts gradually form in the kidneys, which progressively destroy the normal kidney tissue. This will lead to high blood pressure, frequent infections, painful nonfunctioning kidneys, and ultimately to a need for dialysis or transplant. There is as yet no cure; various surgical treatments will alleviate pain, and early treatment of infections and high blood pressure will help make life bearable. One drug (called tolvaptan) is available that may slow the progression of cyst development, protecting kidney function and thus delaying the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant. Unfortunately, however, cysts can also form in other organs too, such as the liver, brain, pancreas, and, worryingly, testicles. About 50% of people will have endstage renal failure by the age of 60. All sounds rather doom and gloom, I’m afraid. The good news is that because the cysts are fluid-filled, they are not subject to the pressure/ volume changes that diving would exert on gas-filled spaces, so you can

dive safely with early PKD. However, as the illness progresses, you become more and more at risk of anaemia, fatigue and infections. And this is my concern about going pro – these latter problems are inevitable at some stage, and if you are considering a career in diving, then it may be short-lived. Q: I have recently been for a routine medical for my job. My doctor suspected that there may have been a problem so sent me for an ECG. The results for this came back and now he wants me to go for an ‘echo’ to see if I have an enlarged heart. Have you ever known anyone with an enlarged heart that would be safe to dive? I had a basic dive medical when I started about 5 years ago and my blood pressure was 120/70, which I understand is OK for a 33 year old male. My blood pressure was 136/80 on my last test three weeks ago. A: There are different forms of heart enlargement, but the principle can be explained by the old ‘hot water heating’ analogy. Imagine the water as blood, the pump as your heart, the pipes as your arteries and veins, and the water pressure as your blood pressure. If your pipes get furred up, then the pump has to work harder to keep up adequate water pressure, and to cope with this, your heart muscle enlarges. The heart sits in a stiff sac, so any heart muscle growth occurs inwards, reducing the amount of space within it for blood – so less is pumped with each beat. Exercise capacity therefore drops, and any sudden strain on the heart can push it into failure. Heart enlargement produces tell-tale signs on your ECG, and hence you need a echo test. It’s this test that will determine your fitness to dive.

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Everyone wants to be ‘dive fit’, and our panel of experts offer some useful hints and advice on how to get yourself in shape for the coming dive season PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARK EVANS AND SIMON BROWN

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ot everyone dives all year round, so it seemed a prime time to discuss getting into shape to go diving. Too many of us will have been taking it easy, and might have overdone it on the mince pies at Christmas, but never fear, our illustrious band of industry gurus have some great hints and advice on how to get fitter and healthier. GUE’s John Kendall said: “I often hear people talking about being ‘dive fit’ and how this precludes the need to simply be ‘fit’ – unfortunately, they are wrong. General fitness is a vital component of being prepared for diving. We regularly put ourselves in situations where our entire body is working harder to simply survive (for example, breathing at 30m takes four times the effort as breathing at the surface) and our physical and mental fitness will massively effect the ease and outcomes of the dive. Fitness is not something that can be done at the last minute, but requires a conscious continual effort to maintain and improve. The higher the exposure of the dive, the higher the fitness levels need to be. So for me, it’s not just a matter of getting ‘dive fit’ ready for the season, it’s more a matter of getting and maintaining a good fitness all year around. If you are not already in this camp, then start today, and try and get more active. Walk up the stairs instead of using the lift, check to see if walking or cycling to work would be feasible. If not, then short-duration, high-impact workouts can be a great way of rapidly gaining fitness and losing weight. My personal favourites are T25 and Insanity, but there are many out there. “Finally, consider having a proper diving medical done. Professionals are required to do this annually in the UK anyway, but it’s a good idea to have a proper check-up and make sure there are no hidden problems. Every year there are several fatalities and other incidents due to medical issues, increasing your fitness can only help reduce your risk.” Phil Alberts, from the British Sub-Aqua Club, said: “A simple but effective piece of advice when it comes to dive health is to treat your fitness as an important part of your overall kit maintenance routine, all year around! “While diving is not necessarily seen as an aerobic form of exercise by some, your level of fitness is essential for both your safety and participation in the sport. Your level of aerobic fitness and strength will almost certainly impact on your enjoyment – we have all noted, at times, how easier it is to dive and get on with the business of diving towards the end of the season than it is as we ease ourselves creakily out of the winter months at the start. “The key to getting off the starting blocks for the next dive season is to look at your level of fitness now, and plan to improve and regularly maintain it. It doesn’t mean you suddenly have to start training like an ‘ironman’, but activities

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that boost your aerobic ability and build your strength should be part of your regular routine. “During the winter months, when open water time is curtailed, you could also the most of your pool nights to not only practise your skills but to build in exercise – many clubs incorporate challenges and team sports, such as octopush, to keep members entertained. “Dive fitness also needs to take the environment into account - cold water in particular can put the body under extra stress - as well as the topside exertions as you get ready to dive. Be health-aware and understand your own body, this is especially important as we get a little older. Health checks – just as you conduct regular kit checks – can be a lifesaver. “And when it is finally time to dip your fin back into open water, go at a pace that is right for you and be sure that you and your body are physically up to the type of diving you want to do.” Garry Dallas, RAID UK and Malta, said: “It’s that time of

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year to start looking at your dive kit, but it’s just as important to look at your fitness too, that is commonly overlooked. You don’t need to be a Hercules or Wonder Woman, just ‘dive-fit’. “It’s a good time of year to lose a few calories after the Christmas period and in doing so, prepare yourself for the year ahead. No, don’t go bench pressing as many cylinders as you can over your head, just involve yourself in some basic fitness, maybe at your local gym or go jogging, swimming or cycling. Even simple exercises using your own body weight at home will be very rewarding. Good stamina and a bit of strength is what’s needed. “As fit as we think we are, just turning awkwardly reaching for something at home, we can just pull, stretch or even tear that unused/dormant muscle group. When you’re diving, wearing more than just a wetsuit, the same can happen without anticipating it, but now wearing bulky equipment could increase that factor. “Keeping warm during diving especially in cold climates, keeps your muscles warmer, more flexible and less prone to problems. “Even if you were an avid diver, but took a break, take it easy on your first few dives getting back into it, never overdo it.

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Cold-water diving and the life underwater is very enjoyable, but over-breathing or skip-breathing can turn that into a lessenjoyable dive, resulting in headaches. Relax your breathing, pick some easy dive sites… and buddies! “If you need some time in the pool first, go to your club and sort it with them, maybe even a refresher to get your confidence up too. “Other than that, be careful and aware of your surroundings above and below water.” Vikki Batten, Training Supervisor for PADI EMEA, in a previous life trained at a ballet school, became a contemporary dancer and worked as a pilates instructor at a London gym, so she knows a thing or two about fitness. She said: “You don’t have to be an Olympian to dive, but better fitness makes diving easier and reduces the risk of healthrelated incidents. If you don’t fancy the gym, walking is a great way to exercise and enjoy the outdoors at the same time. If you fancy a bit more activity, ‘get on your bike’ and head for the hills. I also recommend toning and stretching. There are so many ways to do this now with dance classes for adults, yoga, pilates and many more. Strengthen your core and stretch your muscles and you’ll make it easier to carry and get in and out of dive kit without injuring yourself. And if you think that’s a bit girly, check out your favourite footballer or rugby player; flexibility is absolutely key to their skills set.” Rich Somerset, Territory Director for PADI EMEA and keen runner (He ran his first marathon three years ago, and is now training for an ultra-marathon (50 miles)), commented: “Not everyone can get to a gym to beef up on muscle – but that’s not really important for most of us as divers. A good cardiovascular system is crucial though – and there’s nothing like regular, light running to help achieve this. To unleash your inner-runner, just follow a few simple steps: Set achievable goals – just 20 minutes running around the block two or three times a week is enough. Look at using the

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many ‘couch to 5k’ apps to give you encouragement. Once this becomes comfortable, use your local Park Run to further motivate you. Seek inspiration from Facebook groups (check out The Running Bug as an example). Get a killer soundtrack to make you feel epic! (Amazon have playlists dedicated for running). The hardest part of every run is the first step out of the door – no one ever regrets a run once it’s finished!” Tim Clements from IANTD commented: “Getting fit for diving undoubtedly has its benefits and is crucial to safely enjoy your sport. How to do this depends on where you are starting from and where you want to go. For a directed ambitious programme, I would certainly recommend working with a physical trainer. It’s important to make sure training and conditioning reflects what you need your body to do. Indiscriminate iron-pumping might build shoulders, but it doesn’t always help flexibility for shutdowns. “The best advice to support a physical programme relates to regular brisk exercise, good diet and also mental training. Taking any opportunity to be slightly more active – stairs instead of lift, walk or bike instead of car, an extra lap of the block walking the dog – it all adds up. “The last word goes to goal setting – we might all wish to transform into an ab-hardened tech butterfly, but really, goals need to realistic.” n

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he stripes were instantly recognisable, yet it still took me a second or two to compute that a threemetre-plus tiger shark had just launched itself over my left shoulder and into the melee occurring in front of me. It caught one of the shark wranglers by surprise too, and it took him a few seconds to recover his composure as well. What followed was ten minutes of some of the mostintense pelagic interactions I have ever had, as the shark team from Aqua Trek hustled to continue the scheduled bull shark dive we were in the middle of while simultaneously dealing with the unexpected visitor, which used its immense size to muscle in on the action. It definitely took a keen interest in my strobes, and as it made circuits around the assembled throng of divers, it kept making repeated advances towards me, only to be ‘deflected’ by one of the wranglers with his trusty shark pole. When it eventually lost interest in the scenario and glided off into the blue, I looked over at Stephan and laughed at his wide eyes – I am sure the view he was getting was much the same. I have done plenty of shark dives over the years, both organised feeds and ‘natural’ encounters, and this was certainly in my top three. Phew, Beqa Lagoon was definitely living up to its reputation!

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FLYING TO FIJI

So how did I end up on the other side of the planet playing with sharks? It all started when I was asked “Do you fancy going to Fiji?” by DeeperBlue supremo Stephan Whelan several months previously. After I spluttered out a ‘yes’, he divulged more details – he had won a trip for two people to go shark diving courtesy of Fiji Tourism, as part of a competition involved with David Diley’s award-winning Of Shark and Man documentary. Stephan and I in the water with big sharks – what could possibly go wrong? Months of back and forth with the tourist authority tying down dates eventually saw us embark on our Pacific adventure, and the epic journey via Singapore was relatively painless as we were both overly excited for what was to come. Initially we were spending a few days in the north of Viti Levu diving on the coral reefs, before moving down south for the ‘main event’, and this is an awesome way to get over any jet-lag, settle into the beautiful country and get some quality dives under your belt. Pacific Harbour is the gateway to Beqa Lagoon’s iconic dives, and while obviously the bull shark dives are what everyone knows, there are also some fantastic coral reef dives as well, so when you are here, don’t miss out on

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Fiji’s Beqa Lagoon has become legendary in shark-diving circles for its intense bull shark dives. Mark Evans was in the thick of the action and found it to be just as exhilarating as he imagined – especially when a big tiger shark put in a surprise appearance! PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARK EVANS

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Stephan and Mark after the tiger encounter

their fifth dive – their first after qualifying as Open Water Divers! A hell of a dive for dive number five! The staff were all amiable and chatty enroute to the dive site, and once moored up in place they gave a briefing on where the divers were supposed to go, how they were act around the sharks, and so on, and then it was time to get wet. On descending – a rope leads from the back of the boat, to a buoy and then down to the dive site at 18m, for those inexperienced or having equalisation issues – all the divers staged themselves behind a ‘wall’ of dead coral blocks, the wranglers were positioned strategically behind them, equipped with metal poles with a rounded end to deter any over-inquisitive animals, while the The tiger shark feeders were in front of the wall. was persistent There were already plenty of bull sharks circling around the area, along with the odd grey reef and tawny nurse shark, but it became predominantly bulls – and big ones at that – once the food arrived. The fish scraps used during the dive are presented in two ways – one, periodically dumped out of a wheelie bin suspended from a buoy, which caused a scrum of sharks below for the few morsels of fish that descended, and two, hand-fed by a wrangler just in front of the coral wall. I have always preferred less hand’s-on shark feeds, where the food is presented in a chumsickle or similar fashion, rather than stick or hand feeds, and here I was far more interested in the bin feed aspect. It allowed me to focus on particular sharks as they cruised around below the feeding station and get nice portrait shots of them in a relatively natural guise, as opposed to mouthsome afternoon forays to these great sites as a relaxing gaping images as they raced in to take the hand-held food. accompaniment to the morning’s shark action. Highlights The bull sharks of Beqa Lagoon as renowned as being included Caesar’s Rocks, a collection of pinnacles smothered in soft corals and sponges that attracted a wide variety of reef among the largest in the world, and they truly are impressive beasts. It is not just the length of them – some over three dwellers; Side Streets, an orderly row of reef structures which metres – but more the girth and the size of their heads. To is bizarrely akin to strolling down a surface street between have them literally right in front of you, in numbers exceeding houses, but where the pedestrians are fish; Glory Hole, which 25-30 animals at the height of the dive, was simply awehas a swim-through draped with yellow soft corals and is inspiring. teeming with marine life; and the Seven Sisters, seven coral It was ten minutes into this dive that the monster tiger pinnacles adorned in vibrant soft corals, sponges and seafans. shark turned up, which added a whole new dimension to

A LOAD OF BULL

However, there is one main reason people come to dive out of Pacific Harbour – and that is the bull shark dives. There are two companies offering these in-your-face dives – Aqua Trek and Beqa Adventure Divers – and to say there is a serious rivalry between the centres is a bit of an understatement! I am not going to dig into all of this, but suffice to say both of them operate very differently, and it will be up to the diver which of the two methods and approaches they prefer.

Bull shark giving a ‘gummy’ smile

AQUA TREK

Our first day of shark diving was with PADI Resort Dive Centre Aqua Trek (www.aquatrek.com), which has been in existence since 1985 and is often credited with pioneering shark diving in Fiji. It has been running regular shark dives in the Beqa area since 1997, and its Ultimate Shark Encounter promises up close and personal interactions. The divers on our boat ranged from people with thousands of dives to a few who were on

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Explosion of soft corals

CORAL OVERLOAD

You can’t go all the way to Fiji and not head to the north of Viti Levu to experience a few days of diving on the expansive reefs. There are an array of dive sites all showcasing the vibrant soft coral growth that has earned Fiji its title of ‘soft coral capital of the world’, and a stay at Volivoli Beach Resort is the perfect companion to the intense shark action at Beqa Lagoon. The Volivoli Beach Resort is a true family affair. Opened in 2005, it is run by Kiwis Steve and Gail, along with their sons Steve Jnr and Nick. Initially in the country as part of a construction project on the Kings Road, it didn’t take long for the family to become immersed in the local culture, with Steve Jnr and Nick going to school in the village of Rakiraki. Over the years, what started with Ra Divers in the 1980s has developed into the boutique resort that Volivoli is today, with high-end accommodation offering amazing views, absolutely divine food, as well as plenty of diving and fishing on tap, not to mention a lovely pool and day spa for when you want to relax. www.volivoli.com

Dive one was held at 30m, and this deeper depth seemed to attract more and bigger sharks, as there must have been more than 50 at one point ‘Survivor’ heading off into the blue

things! Tigers do show up at the feeds from time to time, but it is sporadic and according to the team when I spoke to them afterwards, they hadn’t seen one for the prior three weeks. This particular animal, which they called Survivor, was especially frisky, and kept closing her eyelids, which was a little disconcerting when she was heading straight for me! It was interesting to note the hierarchy change with her arrival. Before that, the bulls had ruled the roost, dominating the smaller species, which stayed around the peripheral area of the dive site, but once Survivor showed up, the bulls totally bowed down in her presence, only regaining their confidence once she lost interest and swam off down the reef.

BEQA ADVENTURE DIVERS

After our exciting tiger and bull shark dive, our second day of shark diving was spent with Beqa Adventure Divers (www. fijisharkdive.com). Established in 2004 – though some of the staff at BAD, as the organisation are known, have been conducting shark dives since 1998 – it is a slick, professional operation which is proud of its efforts to set up marine protected areas in the lagoon, and between the two shark

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dives, resident marine biologist Peni ‘Ben’ Saqata gave a lengthy, in-depth and highly interesting talk about the bull sharks we were diving with, explaining how and why they did shark counts, and other marine-life studies BAD are involved with. It gave a truly educational aspect to the day which, as I have always maintained, is where shark feeding dives can come into their own. They also insisted that all the divers

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Stephan on a coral dive in Beqa Lagoon

wear thin black gloves to lessen any remote risk of a flash of a white palm being mistaken for a fish scrap. One particularly obstinate American guest initially refused to wear the gloves, but soon changed his mind when told if he didn’t wear them, he wouldn’t be diving! The dives carried out here were both different. Dive one was held at 30m, and this deeper depth seemed to attract more and bigger sharks, as there must have been more than 50 at one point. As with the previous day, the participants were staged behind a coral wall, while the feeders were out front, and the wranglers hovered behind. There was some hand-feeding, but the majority of the dive was conducted using food dropped from the wheelie-bin dispensers. No tiger shark to disrupt things this time around – though Stephan and I were constantly having our heads on a swivel looking! – but the huge majestic bulls were more than enough entertainment and excitement, especially in such numbers. After a set time, all the divers moved up the reef wall to around 10m, and here the feed attracted mainly grey reef sharks, which swam gracefully around and in front of the divers.

Finally, we all moved into safety stop depths, and while clearing our computers, the feeders distributed food to the smaller species, such as whitetip and blacktip reef sharks. The second dive is no deeper than 16m, with flat sections for you to ‘lie down’ behind a low coral wall. Here more feeding is done by hand, as well as by the wheelie bin, and again bull shark numbers were well into the 30s.

CONCLUSION

After watching Of Shark and Man, and reading numerous articles about the bull sharks of Beqa Lagoon, I have to say that I was stoked to be seeing them firsthand. Bull sharks are absolutely amazing animals, muscular, powerful and yet beautiful at the same time. You feel insignificant in the presence of just one, but when you are witness to 4550 of the sharks at the same time, it is awe-inspiring and humbling. As mentioned, the two operations – Aqua Trek and Beqa Adventure Divers – have different approaches to their shark dives, but whoever you choose will put you right in the hotseat for a close encounter.

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This particular animal, which they called Survivor, was especially frisky, and kept closing her eyelids, which was a little disconcerting when she was heading straight for me! The Beqa bulls are massive

Yes, it is shark feeding, albeit only a few scraps, and I know all the arguments both for and against this sort of thing, but personally, as long as there is a strong educational aspect and the sharks are not being exploited, I don’t think there is a better way to get people over their irrational fear of sharks than being face-to-face with one in the wild and being able to see them for what they are – simply amazing, well-adapted apex predators in their element. Combine a couple of days bull shark diving in Beqa Lagoon with a week on the coral reefs off the north of the island at Volivoli and you have all the ingredients for a truly memorable holiday. Fiji is a stunning island topside as well, and the natives are friendly and welcoming, so book a trip now and be ready to say ‘bula’ to Fiji yourself. n

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New series in which our panel of underwater photography professionals offer hints and advice on particular topics. This issue, the thorny subject of travelling with your camera system, and the best ways to pack your gear PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF MARIO VITALINI, MARTYN GUESS, PHIL AND ANNE MEDCALF AND PAUL DUXFIELD

“Packing is one of the moststressful bits about any MARIO holiday. I always recommend VITALINI starting early to keep your nerves in check. “The first think I do is to select what gear I may need. There is no reason to take every bit of equipment you own. Choose the kit more suited to the place you are visiting and consider a few spares. Ask yourself, is it a macro or a wide-angle destination? Will you need a fisheye lens? Do you need a remote strobe or a snoot? Avoid taking unnecessary equipment. “Once I have selected my equipment, I usually lay it all out on the floor and set it up at least once. It is a good time to test that everything is working. The last thing you want is get to your destination only to realise you left a vital bit of kit behind, normally a sync cable or a charger. I’m not good at lists, but if it helps have a spreadsheet of all the parts you need.

“Not every bit of equipment needs to go in your hand luggage, I only take with me camera and lenses. Use your hold luggage to pack the less-fragile bits. I use a small soft case where I pack housing, ports and strobes. Using bubble wrap and foam, I protect each piece of kit and organise them tightly. I then place the soft case in the middle of a lightweight hard case and use my clothes and dive kit to add protection. “I regularly pack all my dive kit, camera kit and cloth for a week in under 30kg. Enough to travel to any dive destination without any problems.”

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“I always try to put as much of my camera gear in the hold luggage as ANNE possible to avoid having to carry a MEDCALF lot of weight in hand luggage around airports, this also avoids trying to fit lots of heavy things in my pockets when check in weigh the carry-on bag! Although the camera and lenses will always be in my hand luggage, pretty much everything else is robust enough to survive in my suitcase. I was always loathe to put any camera gear in the hold, but as you gain more gear and your kit expands, then you do need to be realistic when packing. “I have an aluminium housing which would always get me stopped by security if it went in hand luggage, but it is fine in the hold along with the tray, arms and clamps. My strobes and ports also go in the hold, well protected with bubble wrap and cushioned in my wetsuit and clothes. Tupperware is also useful for a bit of extra protection for kit and I take rechargeable AA batteries for the strobes in a clip-lidded box. All the chargers go in along with a four-gang extension lead with the right plug adaptor attached ready so it is easier to charge things when there is a shortage of sockets.” “Hand luggage limits can be restrictive but it is worth weighing everything before you buy, including bags, to PHIL make the most of the weight allowed. MEDCALF Anything delicate or irreplaceable needs to stay in hand luggage and I use a lightweight photographer’s backpack so my camera and

lenses are protected. The laptop and hard drives are also in hand luggage. Buying tough hard drives that can take a few bumps is also a good idea if you will be travelling a lot - they are bound to get dropped. “Have a checklist of your equipment so you don’t forget anything and you can take a picture of your bags to remind yourself how everything was packed. If you are optically challenged and need a prescription mask, then do take this in your carry-on too as you won’t be able to rent one - it can go in the hold on the way home. It’s also worth checking what extras you can carry on the plane, such as laptop bags, a small camera or handbag or a coat with space for more gear. Don’t forget to take your re-usable water bottles, but make sure you take them out of the bag and take the lids off when going through security so they don’t stop you. Whatever country you are in, be nice to check in and security staff, be ready with electricals and liquids out of bags and smile - they are doing their jobs and if you are grumpy or argue with them, you are the only one that will lose out. Remember, you are on holiday!”

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Our underwater photography professionals have, between them, literally thousands of hours of dive time and countless hours spent travelling the world shooting underwater images and teaching workshops. If you have a question you’d like them to address, email: mark@scubadivermag.com

“My Nikon D5 is a beast of a camera weighing in at 1.4kg! Compared to other photographers with their compacts or their mirrorless systems, I have to contend with a considerable amount of weight, as having a big camera everything that goes with it is also weighty. “The first thing when packing is to consider, what I am going to shoot when I get where I am going. Is it mainly macro or mainly wide angle? If macro, then there is little point me taking my huge Subtronic strobes and huge Zen dome port, for example (I take a smaller dome). I see so many people who take everything they own in their camera cupboard – it’s best to be selective. “Make a list when you get back from a trip and check what you didn’t use. The next time you go away check back on the list and pack accordingly. “I found the lightest weight cabin roller bag that I could - mine weighs 1.5kg. Into this I pack my housing and a couple of Inon strobes and MacBook. This normally takes me to the airline hand luggage limit. I then pack my faithful photographer’s vest stuffed to the gunwales, with camera body, lenses, magnifiers, batteries and loads more. This is removed when checking in and draped innocuously over a trolley or simply worn – it can weigh 12kg or more! The nice thing is that when not at the check in, the heavy load can be rolled around comfortably! “Next, I pack everything else, either in strong plastic boxes

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or wrapped in bubble wrap and then wrap my wetsuit, rash vest, clothes, etc, around the more-fragile items. This is all packed into the lightest, stiff-sided roller bag, suitable for the hold that I could find – one made by Rohan. All internal sides and any voids are stuffed with bubble wrap. “I am always looking for ways to shed luggage weight and have the obligatory travel wing, lightweight regulators and fins. Recently I changed nearly all my charging units to USB and plug these into a mains-powered USB hub – this saved me 1.5kg!”

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Holiday highlights... 10 nights in resort, full board divers plan & 24 boat dives – FREE Nitrox Join pro photographer Martyn Guess in the critter mecca Dumaguete. With 24 boat dives plus free nitrox (3 dives/day plus 1 day Apo reef) and Martyn’s workshop throughout, this workshop packs a real punch. Additional travel options available, ask for details.

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My pro tip is pretty obvious - and it’s to pack light. I carry the absolute bare PAUL minimum to do the job along with me DUXFIELD in my hand luggage. And along with my laptop and backup drive, I pack camera, housing, fisheye lens, dome port, basic arms and at least one Inon S2000 strobe. Along with chargers, cables and a set of AA Eneloop batteries. I prep everything, clean O-rings, charge batteries then put it all together as if I’m about to use it, take some test shots on a cleared memory card, then repack all this in my carry-on case. This means I can hit the ground running when I get onsite with the minimum of fuss and prep. I also keep a spare pair of shorts, pants and a T-shirt in this bag, so that if the SHTF and my main luggage doesn’t make it, I have some clean clothes to use while what I was wearing gets washed. This also acts as padding for the camera gear. Macro ports, lenses and other kit goes in my main luggage, packed in bubblewrap inside Tupperware-style boxes. This means I can take lighter, soft-sided main luggage, but still maintain adequate protection for the kit inside. I also now use a super-light-weight Rogue wing from Aqua Lung, which comes apart and packs very small in a packing cube. I also use very cheap and light but rigid pool fins for long-haul trips, further keeping the weight down from my usual Mares Avanti Quattros. That’s it really, no need to overcomplicate things. n

ESCORTED BY MARTYN GUESS

11th July 2020 £1495 inc flights from Gatwick

Relaxed Red Sea

Holiday highlights... 7 nights onboard Whirlwind, tanks, weights and open dive deck at least once a day! Photographers can go at their own pace on a photography itinerary that is as relaxing as it is productive. Welcome to the world of the Red Sea Relaxed Photo Finish. Dive a host of incredible Red Sea dive sites with an open deck policy, chosen by our photo pro based on their reliability as top notch photo-worthy dive sites.

..award winning dive experts +44 1483 411590 www.scubatravel.com/photography


UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY

FISH PORTRAITS

Following his last article on getting the exposure right, Martyn Guess provides some tips on how we can all get great fish portraits PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARTYN GUESS

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ish are a subject where I see a lot of what I call ‘ID shots’, with the fish sideways on, lifeless and on the whole not very interesting. Fish are not easy subjects, as they can move around quickly and are certainly unpredictable and therefore it can be difficult to take a good image. They are also not necessarily the man in the street’s favorite. “It’s just a fish”, I hear my friends and family say! Show them a shark shot or maybe dolphins or whales and they will be a lot more interested! However, the sea is full of fish and there will always be something to photograph so taken carefully and imaginatively it is possible to show the subject’s character, or personality, and sometimes behavior, which immediately introduces far more interest for the viewer. Given that some fish have fantastic colours and markings, then the combination of character and bright colours will help to create an image with impact. In this article I want to look at how to take interesting fish images and the different techniques I use.

the strobes forward and in extreme situations, really well forward of the port, if I want to push the lighting closer to a skittish subject some way from me. Only one strobe can also create a very nicely lit image with the strobe set to one side of the port. A natural shadow will be created on one side of the fish’s face, which can work very well. For users of two strobes consider turning one down a few clicks to help create more natural lighting. When photographing a fish with a textured skin such as a frogfish with its sandpaper-type skin, I often take off the strobe’s condenser. This will mean that the light emitted by the strobe is harsher and if the strobe is then angled to the side rather than straight on to the subject, each little bump or bristle will have a shadow which boosts the textural look. With small frogfish photography, I quite often use a snoot attached to my strobe which is uncondensed light and very directional, which helps to amplify the texture. Hairy frogfish showing harsh light effect on skin texture

LENS CHOICES

My lens of choice depending on the size of the subject is a 105mm Nikon Macro lens on my full-frame DSLR camera. Cropped-sensor DSLR users should start with their 50mm or 60mm lens, and for mirrorless systems, 50mm or thereabouts as this will be easier to focus than slightly longer macro lenses. The final choice will depend on the size of the likely subject and also rough subject-to-camera distances. For compact users, the zoom facility on their lens will pay dividends as long as you remember that just because the fish appears closer on the screen because you have zoomed right in, don’t forget how far the strobe light has to travel and compensate accordingly by maybe a wider aperture or higher ISO.

LIGHTING

Generally, I use two strobes placed either side of the lens port and slightly wider than I would do for macro photography. Most times the camera-to-subject distance is further than when shooting tiny subjects and having the strobes slightly wider will help the light travel further. I quite often also push

Corals and Caves on

Hurricane 21st May 2020 £1425 inc flights from UK ESCORTED BY MARIO VITALINI

Holiday highlights... Mario Vitalini will teach you to work with natural light and wide angle photography, as well as the secrets of amazing fish portraits and using strobes. He will help you build a stunning selection of classic Red Sea images, from the decks of the stable steel hulled Hurricane. There are 18-21 dives over the workshop, as well as all park fees included, 12lt tank/weights and FREE Nitrox.

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Depending on the type of shot you are trying to create, inward lighting or cross lighting (which I covered in an earlier article on macro lighting) where the strobes are set at right angles to the port (cross) or even pointing back to your head (inward) helping you to get a darker or black background.

Inward lighting helps give a black background

SUBJECT APPROACH

When you find a suitable subject spend some time watching its behaviour. Fish are creatures of habit and will often move in a set pattern and return to where they started. Cardinal fish, Cardinal fish with mouth mouth brooding eggs, will brooding eggs move slowly but sometimes erratically but they always tend to come back to roughly where they started. If you can anticipate this, you can wait patiently for them to return and then get that ‘peak of the action’ shot just as they open their mouths and aerate their eggs. If a fish does something interesting, it will likely do it again once they are comfortable with your presence, so keep still and don’t make erratic movements!

MY ESCORTED TRIPS

Want to learn how to take or improve your underwater images? Why not come on a photo specific trip? These trips are meticulously planned to the best destinations at the best time of year where the conditions should be perfect for building a portfolio of great images. The workshops, which are for all levels of experience but mainly aimed at people with a few trips under their belts, include classroom sessions and presentations as well as in water help and guidance, all done in a relaxed and non-competitive friendly environment. This year there are trips back to Bali in August for wide angle and macro photography opportunities and as I write this article I am about to embark on a joint trip with Mario Vitalini to the Southern Red Sea in May. There is a Northern Red Sea trip in November and again in July 2020 There are also trips to Lembeh/Manado and Dumaguete Philippines in 2020. Please contact the Scubatravel team or check out their website for details. www.scubatravel.com

THE EYES!

It is critical that the eye or eyes of the subject are in focus and sharp. They are what hold the viewer’s attention. In any portrait situation, it is the eyes that the viewer will see first. The rest of the subject can be blurred but the eyes are what will grab you. Taken correctly and with the right angle of view, the viewer will get an impression that the fish is actually looking at him or her. Depending on the type and shape of the fish’s jaw, the area from eyes to mouth should also be in focus, but it is not absolutely critical. A long-nosed hawkfish is a nightmare if not impossible to get both eyes and mouth sharp and depends on lens choice and indeed type of Eyes should be pin-sharp camera too. A blenny looking at you out of a hole has a flatter face and it is easier to get the eyes and the face and mouth sharp. The angle you photograph the subject at is also important and generally I advise students to get slightly lower than the subject and shoot up.

It creates a more-naturallooking image and if shooting close to the reef will help you get the water column behind the subject. Some fish have really bulbus eyes that seem to move totally independently of each other. Getting both eyes open and pointing at you can be difficult and, in this situation, a slightly side on position at 45 degrees with just one eye in the image will work better.

ESCORTED BY MARIO VITALINI

11th Sept 2020 £1795 inc flights from UK

Photo Finish

Shoot slightly upwards for more natural look

Malapascua

Holiday highlights... Join photo pro Mario Vitalini on this Philippines workshop to hone your images of the biggest sharks to the smallest critters. The workshop includes 20 nitrox boat dives plus daily presentations covering all aspects of underwater photography. Your holiday package includes 7 nights in a deluxe room on an full board basis – optional room grades available. Airport transfers are included.

..award winning dive experts +44 1483 411590 www.scubatravel.com/photography


UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY SETTINGS

Face on portraits work very well

COMPOSITION

As with any other portrait photography, you can compose really tight shots of maybe just part of the fish face, or create an image where you have backed off against a simple background. Try also to shoot the subject face on. This will give you a more-recognisable face, with mouth and eyes and other facial features. Longer-headed fish should be photographed at say 45 degrees coming towards you as the diagonal composition will work much better than sideways on.

BACKGROUND

When I find an interesting subject among other things, I consider what sort of background I want to set it. I won’t want to set it against a complicated or messy background as this will detract from the portrait. If there Showing open aperture effect is no choice, because of where the subject is sitting, then using an open aperture will create a nicely blurred background and soften the look of the reef etc. If you can get low and shoot upwards into the water column, then you can take control of the background colour. Inward lighting and a fast shutter speed will help create a black background and a slower speed and straighter angle with the strobes will turn the background to a lighter and even blue background. I quite often look out for a nice simple and brightly coloured background, such as a pink or orange sponge, and then wait for a subject to set against it.

Some types of fish portraits and their success will depend on the speed that you can shoot at and the speed of the focus system on your camera. Little anthias darting around as they feed on plankton are very erratic and need your camera to focus very quickly. If you want sharp images of fast-moving fish, then use a higher speed and if your camera has the facility, set the focus to 3D tracking, where once focused the main focal point will stay in focus and move with the subject as it flits around. If your camera struggles with focus-lag, then try introducing more light by way of a spotting light attached to the housing, which will help with a quicker focus, or maybe shoot subjects that don’t move so quickly like frogfish or scorpionfish, etc. When shooting fast-moving subjects, I often set my shutter to fast shooting and shoot as many frames per second as my strobes will allow, although this necessitates higher ISOs and lower strobe power, so that they can quickly recycle. This also works better when the subject is relatively close to the camera. Open aperture images (small F-stop) of fish faces are probably the most-popular type of portrait currently and you see many of them Soft bokeh effect winning competitions. With softer faces and features blending in with lovely bokeh backgrounds, it gives a surreal feeling to the image and a much more ‘arty’ feel than a detailed image. When you next dive with a camera, try using some of these tips as they will help you get better fish portraits. As ever, practice makes for better images! n

BIOGRAPHY: MARTYN GUESS

Martyn has been diving for over 30 years and taking underwater images for over 25 years. He has been very successful in National and International competitions and regularly makes presentations to Camera and Photography clubs and Diving shows as well as The British Society of Underwater Photographers (BSOUP) and other underwater photography groups. Today he shares his passion and knowledge - As well as teaching underwater photography courses he leads overseas workshop trips for Scubatravel.

Book your holiday with the award winning dive experts at Scuba Travel!

+44 1483 411590

www.scubatravel.com/photography


Magic Richard Stevens and Hailey Elizabeth from Black Manta Photography are smitten by the Philippines, in particular the Magic Islands and Magic Oceans resorts and their surrounding dive sites, and here they explain why the location is a diving paradise PHOTOGRAPHS BY BLACK MANTA PHOTOGRAPHY / WWW.BLACKMANTAPHOTOGRAPHY.COM 34

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Aerial shot of the pool

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f you were to view the Philippines from the air, you would be blinded by the most neon of blues and fluorescents of green, with specs of brown and white the only giveaway to the collection of islands below. Our first trip the Philippines was in 2017, when we ventured far and wide across the archipelago, covering Tubbataha, Bohol and Malapascua. It’s long been the dive destination of the moment, alongside its neighbour Indonesia, offering some of the best diversity in the coral triangle. We desperately wanted to return to Bohol, to the friendly and homely dive resort at Magic Oceans, and we were lucky to be able to make it a twin-centre trip starting at their original, smaller resort in Moalboal, Magic Islands.

MAGIC ISLAND, MOALBOAL

Fourteen years have passed since Desiree and Arie took that tentative step in transitioning from the corporate world in Holland to owners of a dive resort on the southernmost tip of Moalboal, on the island of Cebu, Philippines. Talking to them about the changes they’ve implemented since day one, and how they learnt as they went along, is pretty awe-inspiring - it almost made us feel like we should be selling up in the UK and doing the same! What they have created is a ten-room, self-contained resort that offers not only a high quality of accommodation, but also a tightly knitted team across all areas from hospitality to dive guides. Along with Concheng (resort manager) and Jamie (dive centre manager), they have built a real family atmosphere that we just weren’t expecting, and for us is one of the standout attributes of the resort. This probably explains why their repeat customer rate is just so high, and why so many new customers are flocking to experience some of their magic. Talking of magic - let’s move over to the diving. The dive centre sits underneath the resort, and resembles something that wouldn’t be out of place in a Batman movie. It has that ‘secret cave’ feel about it, and being situated right on the water’s edge you couldn’t be closer to the three ‘Magic Islands’ branded boats moored out by the house reef if you tried!

Blenny on an anemone

Picture-postcard topside scenery

…there must be only a handful of dive sites in the world where you can be looking at a nudibranch the size of your little fingernail one moment, and spot a whaleshark cruising by in the shallows the next WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM

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The fleet of dive boats await

Some dive centres in the area are spoilt with stunning house reefs, or close proximity to amazing dive sites - Magic Islands, however, has both in abundance! The house reef is teeming with life from an array of nudibranchs in all shapes and sizes through to the many types of fish calling it home, and it’s impossible to venture across the house reef without coming face to face with a turtle. However, it will come as no surprise to the eagle-eyed diver that the resort logo is a mandarinfish. This is no ironic joke - oh no! As the sun starts to set and dusk draws close, these incredibly vibrant-coloured fish climb higher in their stag coral metropolis and become far more active. Then as the light is just starting to fade your patience is rewarded with pairs of mating mandarinfish, riding high from the coral - interlocked and spiralling to a climax before parting and heading back to the safety of the reef. We’d seen mandarinfish before, but never seen the mating process, nor had we seen them in these numbers - they were everywhere, then just like someone hitting a switch it stopped. The incredible thing is this happens every night like clockwork. In fact, we were so sure, we headed out in the shallow water ourselves one night unguided, and had the entire show to ourselves - a moment we won’t forget in a hurry.

Because of the location of Magic Islands, you are in easy reach of some of the best dive sites that Moalboal can offer. A short ride along the coast and you’ll find yourself at Panagsama - world famous for the sardine shoal that appears like clockwork every day on the same stretch of reef. Millions of fish swarming back and forth along the reef with a rhythmic and hypnotic sway is one of the mostmesmerising sights we’ve experienced, and the feeling of

Pygmy seahorse

Huge shoal of sardines at Panagsama

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The reef wall has an abundance of hard and soft corals in some stunning colours, and appears to be the home of every frogfish in the Philippines - I think we saw more of them on the two dives at Pescador than we have in the rest of the Philippines combined! The inviting dive centre

Mandarinfish

being encompassed by the sardine ball to the extent that the surface light and any reference point around you disappears really does make you realise how insignificant we as a human race can be at times. Other highlights include the dive sites on the island of Pescador, which is just a short boat journey away. The reef wall has an abundance of hard and soft corals in some stunning colours, and appears to be the home of every frogfish in the Philippines - I think we saw more of them on the two dives at Pescador than we have in the rest of the Philippines combined! It will always stand out in memory as the dive site where we witnessed a male frogfish flirting and chasing his prospective female lover around the reef - unfortunately for him, she wasn’t entirely impressed! Another reason to visit the island of Pescador is to see the ‘skull’ on the west side of the island. Before you all get in a panic, this is nothing to do with anything sinister, oh no, it’s merely the shape a huge cathedral-sized cave takes when peering from the inside out. Top tip - venture here with a camera, but make sure you have a buddy or two with torches. Ask them to kindly position themselves in the ‘eyes’ of the skull - gives a great effect!

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There are so many adulations we could add to describe Magic Islands, and our first visit to dive the waters of Moalboal was an absolute dream. The reefs are stunning, all adorned with some of the cutest critters around, from candy crabs to hairy squat lobster, and there must be only a handful of dive sites in the world where you can be looking at a nudibranch the size of your little fingernail one moment, and spot a whaleshark cruising by in the shallows the next. We were so lucky to have seemingly always be in the right place at the right time - either that, or this truly is one of the greatest places for underwater adventures!

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Moalboal, Cebu

Anda, Bohol

www.magicresorts.online info@magicresorts.online


MAGIC OCEANS, ANDA, BOHOL

Fish shoal under the jetty

After an amazing week at Magic Islands, it was bittersweet to head to Magic Oceans for the second part of our trip. However, on arrival, we were met with so many familiar faces who all greeted us like long-lost friends. From the resort manager, Eef, to the kitchen and office staff and dive guides, who all seemed to remember who we were and genuinely pleased to see us return. We headed straight to the bar for a refreshing drink and snack (one of our best memories from the last time was the tasty spring rolls we had on arrival). After a quick briefing and catch up, we were led to our room, one of the bungalows at the rear of the resort surrounding the pool. All the rooms at Magic Oceans are slightly larger than Magic Islands and have been decorated in a morecontemporary style, each with their own terrace and ensuite bathroom. Magic Oceans boasts 16 rooms, but the high standards and perfect layout of the resort tell you that Desiree and Arie took everything they learnt from growing Magic Islands over the years, putting only the best of their experiences into Magic Oceans. Created in 2014, Eef was integral in using his construction background to build the resort from an area full of trees and grass to the what you see today. After unpacking our bags for the next eight days, we took our dive gear down to the dive centre to get ready for the diving delights we had longed to return for. The dive centre

Dive boat on the edge of the reef

The so-called ‘sexy shrimp’

Whaleshark

is of a very high standard – large, with plenty of open space, huge rinse tanks for dive gear and camera kit, walls covered in dive site maps and high-quality images of the residents on the reefs, but importantly for us, Magic Oceans has camera stations with high-pressure hoses for removing any water residue from your camera housing. Magic Oceans is equipped with three dive boats, but the difference compared to the vessels at Magic Islands is the size. The boats here are much larger and provide toilet facilities, areas for seating under cover from the sun as well as lots of space for soaking up some sun rays. There’s a large storage area for cameras and bags keeping everything safe and out of the way of divers kitting up for dives, too. All of the dive sites at Magic Oceans are magical, but there are a few real standouts for us that we loved so much we went twice! A recent addition to their itinerary, Secret Place offers the perfect site for muck diving, a relatively shallow sandy bottom is home to critters of all shapes, colours and sizes, from flamboyant cuttlefish to Ambon scorpionfish leaving us truly in awe.

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Anemonefish

Flamboyant cuttlefish

But the star of the show was a beautiful and shy seahorse. It’s well known that seahorses don’t much like light or cameras in their faces, so on this dive we decided to backlight one with a softer light so as to not disturb or scare away. As it happened, a small current was sprinkling soft delicate grains of sand in the water column, catching the light and making it look like it was snowing. Sometimes you plan how a photo will turn out and if you get lucky, it meets your expectations, other times the experience itself is what makes you lucky, a small seahorse showing off its natural beauty just for us. Then there’s Wonderwall, situated in the most-beautiful cove and a short boat ride along the shoreline from the resort. This dive site was most likely the house reef of the longdeserted resort White Coco Beach, which now lies in ruins and acts as the perfect fishing spot for the locals. This wall dive offers stunning coral as well as a seafan filled with plenty of pygmy seahorse (we spotted five on one seafan), hairy squat lobster hide among large barrel sponges, pipefish swim in and out of the coral and tiny crabs have made anemones their home. There is so much to see on this dive, I don’t think we covered even half of it, even after two dives! If you’re looking for something really special, then there is Lamanok - the furthest away from Magic Oceans, and the most temperamental due to its location. Lamanok is situated on the corner of a reef wall where currents converge and depending on the wind, has some surface waves. You can have a great dive here or the visibility can ruin it - nevertheless, the scenery and small island outcrops sitting among the brightest turquoise ocean make for a stunning surface internal. The special thing about this dive site are the nudibranchs that gather there. Nowhere in the world have we witnessed the range in variety, colour and sizes of these Gastropod molluscs.

CONCLUSION The sun sets over a dive boat

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We had the most-amazing two weeks at the Magic resorts, so much so, we have booked to go back in 2021 for a third time with a larger group. If you are looking for outstanding food and a stunning setting with lots of variety (muck, macro, wide angle), then both resorts offer plenty on their own, but it’s the combination of the two that makes for a seriously special trip! Our list of species is endless, from whaleshark, to the sardine ball at Panagsama, through to the amazing flamboyant cuttlefish - our eyes were hurting from seeing so much. Word of advice - bring plenty of memory cards for your camera, you’re going to need them! n

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KOMODO CLOSURE FAKE NEWS OR THE REAL DEAL?

Recently there have been several news reports that Komodo National Park will be closed to tourists. Is this true? And if so, how will it affect divers? As it’s one of our favourite places on Earth to dive, the Diveplanit team has been keeping a close watch on this unfolding story. up to the top of the hill, where the view of the archipelago is simply stunning. “For those itineraries with time spent in Nusa Kode (weather and sea conditions permitting), there is an additional chance to see the Komodo dragon population living near the beach.” Kay Golding at Mermaid Liveaboards tells us; “Dragons can also be seen on the beach at Horseshoe Bay in the south of Rinca Island, home to the world-famous dive sites Cannibal Rock and the Yellow Wall of Texas. So, guests will not miss out, nor do they need to consider delaying any trips to 2021.” Meanwhile rest assured, your next trip to Komodo will be as memorable as you would expect it to be. n

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or divers, the short answer is no – but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned and supportive of local efforts to protect this UNESCO World Heritage site. There are plans (yet to be approved) for a temporary closure. East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) Tourism Agency head Marius Ardu Jelamu told journalists at a recent press conference that Komodo Island will be closed temporarily in January 2020. Marius said that both regional and central governments had been working on restoration plans together, and a team of relevant stakeholders had been formed in order to make a joint assessment of the closure, with the results expected to be submitted to the Ministry by July 2019. So, to summarise: • Komodo Island may be closed to land visits for one year from January 2020 • Diving and snorkelling will not be affected. • No land visits will be affected apart from a shift from Komodo Island to Rinca Island for a dragon trek 5 REASONS TO DIVE KOMODO Komodo liveaboard operators, including 1. Pristine reefs – From every type of hard coral imaginable, to nearly Mermaid Liveaboards, Moana and transparent yet neon-coloured soft corals, all teeming with numerous reef fish Adelaar Cruises, have all confirmed the of every kind. current status – and their plans in 2020 2. Mantas guaranteed, seriously – There are a few popular manta dive sites, should Komodo Island close. but they are always revolving, so ask your dive guide where they are that week. According to Mathilde at Adelaar 3. Huge schools of fish – Imagine six to seven schools, all of different species, Cruises; “In the event of the closure of each so big they could fill a warehouse, dancing around the site in clouds big Komodo island, we will shift our Komodo enough to blot out the sun. dragon trekking tour to the ranger 4. Macro wonders – The muck dive and macro critters here are incredible – station located on Rinca Island. Located expect to find Pokemon nudis, ribbon eels, porcelain crabs and a whole lot more. inside the Komodo National Park, Rinca 5. Above water wonders – Hike to the top of Rinca or Padar Island for is a smaller island, an even better place magnificent views, and of course, look out for dragons. to spot animals in the wild – along with For the best Komodo dive resort and liveaboard deals, and a whole lot more dragons, you may also see water buffalo, dive travel news and inspiration, visit diveplanit.com monkeys, wild deer and pigs on your way WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM

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“The reef systems here are some of the most pristine I have seen anywhere in my dive travels around the globe, and Wakatobi resort and liveaboard are second to none. The diversity of species here is brilliant if you love photography.” ~ Simon Bowen


An experience without equal At Wakatobi, you don’t compromise on comfort to get away from it all. Our private air charter brings you directly to this luxuriously remote island, where all the indulgences of a five-star resort and luxury liveaboard await. Our dive team ensures your in-water experiences are perfectly matched to your abilities and interests. Memories of your underwater encounters will remain vivid long after your visit is concluded. While at the resort, or on board the dive yacht Pelagian, you need only ask and we will provide any service or facility within our power. This unmatched combination of world-renowned reefs and first-class luxuries puts Wakatobi in a category

www.wakatobi.com

all of its own.


WHERE Whalesharks ROAM

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any destinations around the world boast that whalesharks can be found in their waters. Koh Tao is one such place. I was heading there for a few days of diving with the expectation of, once again, failing to dive with these majestic and elusive creatures. The reason for my scepticism is that after having made several thousand dives, I have only ever seen one whaleshark. Subsequent conversations with a number of diving friends have revealed that they too have, rarely, if ever, seen the biggest fish in the ocean. I have heard the annoying words ‘you should have been here last week, there were loads of them’ all too often. We had three days of diving booked with Sairee Cottage Diving, who are located on Sairee Beach, just a short fiveminute drive from the small port where the ferries dock. The sprawling grounds of Sairee Cottages offer a wide choice of accommodation to suit every budget, from the newly constructed and immaculate poolside rooms to the moretraditional beachside huts. The restaurant sits on the beach, giving patrons front row seats to the stunning sunsets that grace this part of the world. Just behind is the dive centre, where friendly and professional staff are eager to talk about what we might find on the 20-plus dive sites in the area. They were also honest enough to say that there had been no whaleshark sighting recently. Weekly trips to the famous Sail Rock are available, as are night dives. A new purpose-built training pool is currently under construction, and the dive centre has a relaxed but well-organised air about it. The first dive of day one was at a site called Chumpon. We were told that this location offered the best chance of whaleshark encounters. After a 30-minute boat journey

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we arrived at our destination and, while there were no whalesharks to be found, the dive site was teeming with life. From the seabed a huge stone monolith rises from a depth of over 30m, ending around 14m from the surface; at each end, a collection of pinnacles of varying sizes add to the rugged topography of the dive site. At the northern end, in the deeper waters, we came across an immense school of yellow-striped scad that continually morphed into a variety of different shapes, like a lava lamp on steroids. Anthias in dizzying number shroud the majority of the dive site, and the reef itself is a patch-work of sponges, soft corals and whip corals. It is easy to see why this is considered one of the best dive sites in the area. The second dive was at The Twins, close to the picturesque island of Koh Nang Yuan and only a ten-minute boat ride from Sairee Beach. This is a shallower dive site and because of its close proximity to land and the choppy surface conditions, the visibility was not as good as it had been at Chumpon. As the name suggests, the dive site is dominated by two large rocks. Porites corals inhabit vast swathes of the reef; they, in turn, offer a home to a never-ending forest of Christmas tree worms, encompassing every colour in the spectrum. The speed at which they disappear as we approached was in stark contrast to the cautious way they slowly emerge from their holes when they feel it is safe again. Stingrays, turtles and grouper also inhabit the reef, and anemones offer sanctuary to shrimp and anemonefish. With the diving finished for the morning, we returned to the dive centre. It is possible to do four dives a day. The boat ventures out for two dives in the morning, then again for a further two in the afternoon.

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The huge creature, with its posse of remoras in tow, cruised around the site for the entire dive, sometimes disappearing from view for several minutes, only to reappear as if lonely and looking for some company

Whaleshark Jonah Adrian Stacey wasn’t expecting Koh Tao to live up to its reputation as a haunt of the world’s biggest fish, but amid the stunning reef and wreck diving, he had a surprise encounter that put a huge smile on his face PHOTOGRAPHS BY ADRIAN STACEY

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On this occasion, though, we decided to opt for an afternoon of relaxation instead. After a long and tedious 12-hour journey from Koh Lanta the day before, we felt a massage on the beach followed by a sunset beer seemed more appropriate. Koh Tao is only accessible by boat - ferries leave from the mainland port of Surat Thani daily, stopping at Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and then Koh Tao. The fast catamaran service from Surat Thani takes three to four hours and the closest airport is situated on Koh Samui. The dive schedule for the next day first took us to South West Rocks, also known as a place where whalesharks sometimes hang out. A collection of massive rocks creep to within 5m of the surface. The majority of them look like they are sporting badly fitted toupees, as anemones completely cover every available inch of their summit. Numerous valleys and canyons criss-cross the site. Huge bushes of soft whip corals cling to the walls and schools of fusiliers and anthias never venture too far from the safety of the reef, mindful of the trevallies that are always on the lookout for their favourite prey. A great dive, but still no whalesharks. Our second dive was at White Rock; this large site offers a varied and interesting topography. The deeper section which drops down to around 20m has a landscape dominated by large boulders, stone pillars and swim-throughs, while the shallower, flatter sections boast large patches of black coral. Staghorn and table corals brimming with life are overflowing with damsels, squirrelfish and anthias. Again opting out of the afternoon dives, we hired a scooter for the day and explored the island. Koh Tao is absolutely stunning; verdant rainforests cover this 21 square km island, and the only interruption to the endless sea of green is the occasional rock formation protruding from the canopy. Sairee Beach runs along a large section of the western coast of the island. This is where most of the resorts, restaurants and bars have established themselves. We ventured to the east, where the shoreline comprises of numerous pretty bays and

coves. Getting to some of them can be very interesting - steep concrete roads all of a sudden turn into sandy potholed death traps. Well, maybe not death traps, but the M1 they are certainly not. The reward for getting to these beauty spots is breath-taking views and usually a bar or restaurant. The vibrant nightlife scene on the island is not too in-your-face and this busy little diving mecca retains much of its rustic charm. For our final day of diving we were returning to Chumpon. I was eager to explore more of this magnificent site and to again be engulfed in the resident school of scad that we had encountered on the first day. What I was not expecting was to be almost run over by an inquisitive whaleshark as I reached the top of the reef. The huge creature, with its posse of remoras in tow, cruised around the site for the entire dive, sometimes disappearing from view for several minutes, only to reappear as if lonely and looking for some company. Once back on the boat we were given the option of exploring a different dive site or diving at Chumpon again; the decision was unanimous. With that decided, all that was left to do was lament the fact that we had not asked for nitrox and to wait for the surface interval, which seemed to take an eternity, to expire. Fortunately our friendly whaleshark had decided to stick around. The second dive also had the added bonus of us being the only boat on the dive site, as the other dive centres had for some reason gone elsewhere. Once back on the boat an ecstatic group of divers began to dissect the day’s events.

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What I was not expecting was to be almost run over by an inquisitive whaleshark as I reached the top of the reef

For many of the group it was their first whaleshark experience. While I was pleased for the gentleman who was completing his Open Water Diver course, to have seen a whaleshark so early on in his diving career, I could not help but think it a little unfair; a sentiment that was echoed by a number of other people on the boat, including his instructor, who was a whaleshark virgin himself. But the grin that was plastered on the student’s face for the rest of the day quickly dispelled any feeling of tongue-incheek ill will towards him, and a very happy and excited boat full of divers returned to shore. For that afternoon’s activity, a special trip had been organised for us to the wreck of the HTMS Sattakut. This 48-metre-long, seven-metre-wide, former US Navy infantry landing craft was first used in World War Two. The vessel was later commissioned by the Royal Thai Navy; finally, it was decommissioned in 2007 and, in 2011, sunk to create an artificial reef. The wreck lies in about 30m of water; the shallowest point is the top of the wheelhouse which is at depth of around 19m. Equipped with nitrox we were taken out in the dive centre’s RIB, directly from the beach in front of the restaurant. Less than five minutes later we were at the wreck, not another dive boat in site.

The interior of the wreck provides plenty of rooms to explore and an eerie green glow adds to the atmosphere, but its mostimpressive features are the two anti-aircraft guns situated at the bow and stern of the craft. Small reef fish are beginning to congregate around these impressive fortifications, and the wreck adds some variety to the excellent reef diving in the area. Diving in Koa Tao is year round, with their high season running from December to March, then from June to September. Water temperatures are usually around a very pleasant 28-29 degrees C, and while visibility can range from five to 30 metres, it is usually around 20 metres plus. There are plenty of dive sites to choose from and an impressive and diverse marine ecosystem exists in the waters that surround this idyllic little island. And not only do they advertise whalesharks, they also deliver! n

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BEYOND TECHNICAL

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MEETING THE PRESIDENT

The President Coolidge is often touted as one of the top wreck dives in the world, and as Neil Bennett explains, the massive World War Two casualty more than lives up to the hype PHOTOGRAPHS BY NEIL BENNETT / WWW.NZDIVING.CO.NZ A rusting Jeep inside the hold

WANT TO DIVE THE COOLIDGE? Check out www.nzdiving.co.nz for details of trips to Vanuatu

Diver on a wreck penetration of the Coolidge

A

t long last, my epic journey around the world was coming to an end and finally I arrived in a small country known as Vanuatu, located in the South Pacific not too far away from Fiji. Vanuatu consists of a number of small islands, and the largest, Santo, was to be my final destination. As I left the aeroplane at Santo airport, the hot, humid afternoon air hit me like a boxer’s punch. I walked swiftly across the hot tarmac and into a small departure and arrival’s lounge consisting of one room. A mass of people were gathered together, some waiting to board the plane that I had arrived on, some waiting to collect passengers, all mixed together and impossible to separate. Collecting the baggage took no time at all as it was simply dumped onto a wooden counter and left for you to retrieve. It was with great relief when at last I saw the smiling, friendly face of our tour operator who I had met some 12 months earlier when I was trying to plan this venture. I couldn’t believe that I was finally going to dive here - after several failed attempts and almost two years of planning all was now coming together. I was dropped off at the Deco Stop Lodge and informed

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Artefacts including boots and jugs

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We design, manufacture and retail scuba and rebreather equipment. We have fully equipped test and certification labs, and can pressure test large items in our vacuum chambers, as well as run fully automated leak test and dive simulations down to 400m. Our EMC and EMF lab is filled with state-ofthe-art equipment for testing electromagnetic compatibility and electromagnetic fields. We also have a large in-house laser for cutting and engraving on plastics and metals. www.narkedat90.com

The bow of the Coolidge

that everything had been arranged for the briefing before the initial meeting the following day. The excitement grew with the anticipation of this encounter, and of her enormous reputation. The Deco Stop was a breath of fresh air in the hot day. Situated at the top of a hill above a small town called Luganville, the Deco Stop commanded panoramic views over the bay and across to a neighbouring island called Aore, which itself was covered in beautiful, lush rainforests and completed the setting for a relaxing stay in Vanuatu. The buildings were made of wood that were styled to reflect the traditional architecture of the local area, providing the hotel with a tranquil setting to plan the coming week’s activities and to reflect upon each day’s encounters. We were up bright and early the following morning and set off to the meeting area. This was well hidden along a beach and within a small palm tree wood with dense vegetation. Unless you knew the area, you would have little hope in trying to find this location along the dirt tracks that make up the local roads. There are several dive centres that work close together, complementing each other in their respective specialist fields on promoting the finer aspects of diving on the President Coolidge. The wreck has massive potential for everybody, yet it needs the operators who manage it to be co-operative in how the diving is to be conducted and the reef protected if the Coolidge is to become a true diving mecca. On the evidence that I have seen, the

future looks very good. The briefing covered the agenda for the week ahead and was to include safety procedures and decompression techniques, all standard procedure for divers about to embark on a visit to the Coolidge for the first time. All decompression stops would take place on the reef at the various staged levels of 12m, 9m, 6m and 3m. Additional gas cylinders were all set up at each point in the event of an air problem. Hip-slung stage cylinders would be carried for the decompression routines containing a 60 percent nitrox mix - we would be running on air tables and the nitrox was to be used to provide an extra margin of safety. The reef itself provided some additional advantages by protecting the divers from unwanted surge or current, making the stops painless and easy. One other major benefit with decompressing here is that it also provided entertainment, allowing you to study the reef life while otherwise wishing away endless time doing nothing. The wreck itself couldn’t be easier to find. Fully kitted up on the beach you can simply stroll into the sea for about 40 metres and then descend past the deco stop and follow a line that runs directly to the tip of the bow approximately 20 metres below. Divers wishing to access areas of the wreck at various points towards the bow are required to undertake a surface swim to one of several buoys marking various sections of the ship, at approximately 50 metres and 150 metres (midships) distances, thereby maximising both air and bottom times. This is a sensible thing to do when you consider that

To fully appreciate the size of the vessel, you need to compare the President Coolidge to other ships that everybody uses as a benchmark for scale, such as the Titanic, or her sister ship the Britannic

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view all products online

www.narkedat90.com the overall length of the vessel is 196 metres and 24 metres wide. While the Coolidge is still fully intact and lying on her port side, she is also resting on a slope, and this accounts for the bow lying in a depth of 30m and the stern at 72m. To fully appreciate the size of the vessel, you need to compare the President Coolidge to other ships that everybody uses as a benchmark for scale, such as the Titanic, or her sister ship the Britannic. It is also worth noting that while the Titanic is in depths only reachable by submersible vehicles and not free-swimming divers, and the Britannic resides in such a depth that she can also only be reached by the most highly trained divers involved in detailed expeditions, the President Coolidge is accessible, to a certain degree, to all competent sports divers and the deeper lower decks to trained technical trimix divers. President Coolidge has been thoroughly documented in the past, ranging from best-selling books to many magazine articles describing the onset of her construction with the majestic fittings and a style fit for any true president past or present, to her fateful end in Espiritu Santo in World War Two. On 26 October 1942, when trying to access the Segond Channel for safe passage into Luganville, the President Coolidge struck two US mines that brought an early end to this great vessel. Incredibly, the Coolidge had over 5,500 US troops on board and the quick action from Captain Henry Nelson in beaching the Coolidge certainly prevented a major disaster in the loss of life, albeit two men died in the sinking. Firemen The holds contain Robert Reid lost his life in all kinds of military hardware the initial explosion, and Captain Elwood Euart died

Anemonefish

The ship dwarves divers

Objects lay on the floor as found covered in silt, capsules of valium, stethoscopes, first aid boxes and even a container that contains an appendix in preservative are all visible 50

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COMPUTERS • O2 CELLS • GAS ANALYSERS CABLES & CONNECTORS • REBREATHER PARTS PATHFINDER STROBES • SENSORS TOOLS • SOLENOIDS Inside the Coolidge

after refusing to leave any of his men onboard - he stayed until every last man reached safety, unfortunately leaving no time for his own evacuation. Captain Elwood Euart went down with the ship and was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery. After the incident, the US Navy tried to charge Captain Nelson with various accounts of negligence, but in the subsequent trial the military tribunal acquitted the Captain on the grounds that the US Navy had failed to equip the Captain with the correct details about the mines in the Segond Channel. As you descend to the bow, you are left in no uncertain terms that this is indeed a huge vessel. The bow is still fully intact and points forcefully towards you as you move over her. The hull is an entire coral reef in its own right and is covered in life to the extent that it is difficult to distinguish between the artillery shells and the coral that has grown around and over them. Beautiful staghorn and gorgonian corals hang from the keel like curtains draping on the centre stage of a theatre, and all across the side of the hull are anemones and hard corals that shelter an abundance of reef fish. Juvenile species of fish could be found everywhere, velvet black batfish with a bar of shining orange across their backs, tiny rock wrasse who resemble a piece of dead leaf washing around in the surge,

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and young sweetlips that resemble a Mambo dancer twirling her skirt as she swims between the corals. Moving along the bow decking towards the gun turret, you are presented with a mass of coral life that have transformed the image of war to an artist’s palette of colour. Shells still in their rack mounts play host to the life that now begins to cover them. An even more stunning area is the hole that runs across the hull on cargo holds one and two. Coral growths have become so strong it is difficult to move safely inside the wreck without the fear of brushing against the growths. The corals hang in massive clumps of all colours on both walls, grabbing every inch of space that points towards the light. It won’t be long before this entry point is closed due to coral growth. Everywhere you move there is stunning evidence of how the Coolidge is transforming into a beautiful reef. Every gaping hole is occupied by schools of fish taking refuge in the Coolidge’s protective shell, every change in contour provides an anchorage to some form of coral life. It is not until you move into the interior of the ship do you truly get the impression of a lonely, dark, forbidding place. As you move deeper into the depths, her silence and stillness have an overwhelming fascination that beckons you to search deeper and deeper. Time is beginning to take its toll on the Coolidge and certain areas that have been more exposed begin to suffer with corrosion that inevitably takes place. But this doesn’t spell the end of the Coolidge, because as one door closes with the collapse of its surrounds, another door opens revealing new passages, rooms and pathways to unexplored parts of the ship. The ship is far from being completely explored, and all of the rooms contain artefacts that were in place when the ship sunk. Testimony to this is the trip to the doctor’s surgery, which involves a long surface swim to the midship mooring and a subsequent deep dive entering the hull at approximately 45m. After moving along a few corridors and then making

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BEYOND TECHNICAL

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A fine layer of sediment covers the interior

a sharp turn, as you roll over onto your back you are faced with an eerie sight in the room. Objects lay on the floor as found covered in silt, capsules of valium, stethoscopes, first aid boxes and even a container that contains an appendix in preservative are all visible. There are many routes and many subjects of interest, ranging from jeeps stacked together, rifles and helmets scattered around the decks to the fittings of the original ballroom, chandeliers and the Lady, who keeps watch over the Coolidge. While there are plenty of areas to explore that are in reach for most divers, deeper areas such as the doctor’s surgery are only open to advanced divers, and even a lot of these areas are only suitable to trimix divers. One such dive is to investigate the engine room, deep in the dark depths of the wreck. The dive is again a deep dive to approximately 48m and to gain access involves moving along a corridor and into the confinement of the engine room. There is an extra hazard to contend with - silt, and lots of it! A careless fin stroke will certainly result in zero visibility. If care is taken, you will be rewarded with a spectacular dive. Seafan on the wreck

The brass instruments and gauges are still reading the final actions of the Captain as he stopped all engines. Pressure gauges show the final moments of the great ship’s life. Next to these instruments is one of the huge propulsion motors, which tower above you. You can still see the details of the electrical coils inside whose size defies any description. Next to these are the massive condensers equal in scale to the engine itself. It is very rare to be able to see an intact engine room in a shipwreck, however, the Coolidge provides you with that opportunity. Heading back up from the engine room you can explore some more areas of the wreck. Passing through a few more passages you come across the galley, containing plates stacked in a holder that resembles a magazine rack, loaded in preparation to eject the next shell. Next to this are two cookers and the counter in readiness to serve the next customer. Due to gas and time limitations, these additional areas would be covered on a subsequent dive. As you move up the ship, more of the interior is revealed to you. This is one reason why trimix is a must - to really justify the dive you need to spend some time here and explore these areas, rather than rushing the dive to reduce decompression times.

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We design, manufacture and retail scuba and rebreather equipment. We have fully equipped test and certification labs, and can pressure test large items in our vacuum chambers, as well as run fully automated leak test and dive simulations down to 400m. Our EMC and EMF lab is filled with state-ofthe-art equipment for testing electromagnetic compatibility and electromagnetic fields. We also have a large in-house laser for cutting and engraving on plastics and metals. www.narkedat90.com

Another view of a Jeep

CONCLUSION

While the President Coolidge lies in her final resting place, this is by no means the end of the story. In the death of this great ship new life has been given to an incredible reef system. As the ship decays, rich minerals feed the coral systems that are flourishing in vast sizes and colours, even at a depth of 35m. And as you expect with a rich coral reef, there are prolific numbers of fish. Even better still is the fact that a large part of the wreck lies in deeper water, attracting fish such as pelagics and other ocean species. For those of you who are into marine life and reefs, well you have it all - contrasting settings of the wreck and the surrounding reefs, together with just about every species of life the South Pacific has to offer. Anybody who is serious about wreck diving, this has to be in the top five wreck dives in the world. It has everything you could want in this category of adventure diving, and the opportunity to advance your diving with specialist courses run by two outfits that really know what they are doing. And all of this in warm, crystal-clear water! n Venturing into a hold on the Coolidge

You may be surprised to hear that nitrox is provided by both dive operators and trimix is available to qualified divers from Aquamarine. Those of you who want to become certified to dive mixed gases or extended range qualifications, Aquamarine present the perfect opportunity to train and qualify under TDI. The Coolidge has got to be the perfect place to learn to dive at depth in clear, warm waters in the most interesting environment. In stark contrast to the technical world, training and courses are available in underwater photography, with the ability to edit and view your images in a relaxed, comfortable setting at the dive centres in town. The Coolidge again provides an ideal setting for macro reef images and wideangle wreck shots. The contrast between reef life and historic wreck provides irrespirable subject matter.

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BEUCHAT

What’s New

Beuchat is a long-established French firm which built up a solid following since it first came on to the scene, and it has a host of new products for 2019. The company has been around for a long time – it was founded way back in 1934 by Georges Beuchat in Marseilles in 1934. A keen spearfisherman, items he created for himself paved the way for products in the Beuchat line-up. This included products like the Compensator mask, which was the first mask with an angled lens and finger wells for equalisation, and he followed this up with the tried-andtested JetFin. Incredibly, all products are still conceived and developed at 54

Beuchat’s headquarters on the French Riviera. The full range will be rolled out through 2019, but for starters, products include the Focea Comfort 6 wetsuit, available in 5mm and 7mm thicknesses and male and female cuts, which features Elaskin neoprene, Fireskin lining and Supratex kneepads; the Maxlux S mask, which has a very low profile, hypoallergenic silicon skirt, and comes in a vast array of – in some instances – extremely vibrant colours; Powerjet fins, which are constructed from three materials and have a large, flexible blade; and a large range of luggage, from cabin bags and mesh bags to full-on dive bags and rollers. www.beuchat-diving.com WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM


FOURTH ELEMENT ELLIPSE DRYGLOVE SYSTEM

Fourth Element have launched the Ellipse, a simple, reliable, ergonomic system, designed to provide an easy solution for drygloves. The ergonomic elliptical shape offers a slimmer profile while still allowing a larger hand to pass through. Aligning the glove and suit rings is made easier by an intuitive key system; the gloves are attached by pressing the rings together. A robust nitrile O-ring provides a reliable seal for the gloves, which will stay secured throughout the dive. Removing the gloves is a simple process - using the heel of your hand, pop off one side of the glove ring to break the seal. When not using drygloves, the O-ring can be removed and replaced with a silicone band to protect the O-ring groove. Designed by Fourth Element and manufactured by Si-Tech, the Ellipse system is designed to work with existing systems and can be used to replace the QCS Oval system on any drysuit. The Ellipse set includes two suit rings, two glove rings, a pair of silicone bands, four O-rings, silicone grease, O-ring tool and a case which can be used to keep your drygloves after the rings have been fitted. NB: Please note that drygloves are not included. www.fourthelement.com

MARES MAGELLAN Mares have released an extremely lightweight travel back-inflate BCD, the Magellan, which weighs just 2.1kg (size S/M). It has concave, ergonomic shoulders providing increased comfort in the chest and shoulder areas, for both men and women, and is equipped with an integrated weight system. It is completely foldable as it has no rigid backpack, features four aluminium D-rings, and it has a roll-up self-draining pocket for smaller accessories. Optional non-dumpable trim weights that fit on the tank band are available. www.mares.com

SANTI DIVING HOODIES AND T-SHIRTS

SUUNTO D5 The Suunto D5 is a new, easy-to-use dive computer for entry-level divers with a full-colour display and an interchangeable strap. The D5 promises a clear, high-contrast screen and simple-to-use menu system so divers can focus on their underwater adventures. Users can take wireless tank pressure readings by pairing this with the Suunto Tank POD, and can also connect wirelessly to the Suunto app to upload dive information and share experiences with friends. It features three buttons to easily switch between views and settings, a rechargeable battery, a stainless-steel bezel and reinforced composite case. Weighing in at 90g, the D5 has a playful side, as it also allows divers to alter the look of their dive computer with a range of silicone and leather straps that can be changed with a quick-release system. The D5 is available in four colours (black/lime, all black, white and black). The premium models (all black and lime/ black) will be priced at £595, while the white and black models will be priced at £545. www.suunto.com

Speed is the men’s hoodie, made of light knitted fabric in two colours: dark grey melange and black. With a simple silhouette and minimalistic finishing, it has huge pockets in the front and a big, comfortable hood. Back to Black is the ladie’s hoodie, made of soft, thick fabric. It has a feminine silhouette and minimalistic trimmings, and a small pocket on the left sleeve, as well as a huge, comfortable hood. The T-shirts come in three styles – Pictogram in blue, Girls2Dive in navy, and Serial Diver in red. The T-shirts are made of high-quality cotton with rubber print on the front and decorative tape on the neck. www.santidiving.com * = check pricing with local suppliers/centres in your area

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Gear Guide

THIS ISSUE: KNIVES AND CUTTING TOOLS

Each month, the SCUBA DIVER test team assembles to rate and review a selection of dive equipment from a range of manufacturers. Products are split into price categories and are then evaluated for performance, comfort, ease of use, build quality, looks and value for money. The Test Team comprises Editor in Chief Mark Evans and a squad of volunteers, whose dive experience ranges from a couple of hundred dives to well over 6,000.

DIVE KNIVES AND CUTTING TOOLS

This issue, we look at the humble dive knife, or in particular, a knife that can be mounted on your BCD or wing. As there are also now several cutting tools hitting the market that are also compact and designed to fit on your BCD/wing, we have also included them into this Group Test. It is important to carry at least one means of cutting monofilament line, webbing, rope, etc, with you at all times, and many people take two for redundancy. Knives and cutting tools have many uses. Yes, there is the obvious - to free yourself, or your buddy, if snagged by errant

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fishing line, netting, etc - but there are a host of other uses as well, such as a prying tool, for signalling, a surface tool when you are fettling your kit. Some of the knives here include bottle openers for those apres-dive beers! To see how the knives/cutting tools faired, we set them to task cutting various lines - monofilament, paracord, thicker ropes, and webbing of various widths/thicknesses. We also tried them with a bare hand, wearing 3mm gloves, 5mm gloves and even drygloves, so we could judge the comfort and grip of the hilt/handle, and also how easy it was to deploy and re-stow the knife/cutting tool.

ON TEST THIS MONTH: • AQUA LUNG SQUEEZE • AQUA LUNG MICRO SQUEEZE • BEUCHAT MINI LEGEND • MARES XR BETA TITANIUM • MARES FORCE PLUS • EEZYCUT TRILOBITE

Location: Tested at Vivian Dive Centre, Llanberis www.viviandivecentre.com Water temp: 5 degrees C Surface temp: 14 degrees C

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AQUA LUNG SMALL SQUEEZE KNIFE Aqua Lung have become experts at producing well-made and useable dive knives, and the Small Squeeze Knife range continue this tradition. That name is used to signify the use of Aqua Lung’s patented ‘Squeeze Lock’ design, which securely holds the knife in its sheath, but when the diver needs it, a simple squeeze of the hand and the knife is deployed with a minimum of fuss. The handle and sheath are nylon with fibreglass fill. There is a lanyard hole in the hilt, and the sheath has drainholes. It comes with mounts to attach it to grommets in your BCD or wing. The 304 stainless steel versions come in either blunt tip or sheep tip. The blunt tip has a screwdriver tip, sharp section, serrated section, line cutter and a bottle opener. The sheep tip has sharp section, serrated section, line cutter and bottle opener. There is also a spear tip version in titanium which is supremely lightweight. This has all the features of the others just with an extremely sharp spear tip. All three easily sliced through every test, and the handle was comfy and easy to use even with thick gloves on. All-round winner. www.aqualung.com

CHOICE 2019 GROUP TEST

KNIVES

TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: titanium 72g / sheep 111g / blunt 103g VERDICT: The perfect BCD knife, whichever version you choose. Lots of features, and efficient locking/release system, and a very competitive price.

SCORE

••••••••••

AQUA LUNG MICRO SQUEEZE KNIFE Aqua Lung totally nailed it with the Squeeze Knife range, making a compact knife that attached to your BCD and was useable whether you were in this country or in warmer waters. However, they also noted the rise of cutting tools like the Trilobite, which could be mounted pretty much anyway on your BCD or wing, and were even small enough to go on your dive computer strap. Hence, the launch of the Micro Squeeze Knife range. Unlike the big brother, there is no titanium version here, just two 304 stainless versions - blunt tip and sheep tip. The sheep tip has a serrated section and a line cutter, while the blunt tip manages to cram a screwdriver tip, sharp section, serrated section, line cutter and a bottle opener into a 5.1cm blade. It is undeniably cute. The knives use the same squeeze technology as the bigger knives, but as you only have a dinky hilt that fits between thumb and forefinger, they have added a length of webbing - a la Trilobite style - which sits in your hand and provides a rudimentary ‘hilt’ Not as easy to handle with gloved hands as the bigger versions, as you’d expect, but just as efficient at cutting. I’d be tempted to have one of these as a back-up to a full-size Squeeze. www.aqualung.com

BEST VALUE 2019 GROUP TEST

KNIVES

TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: blunt 64g / sheep 68g VERDICT: Not as easy to use with thick gloves on, but equipped with efficient blades, a quality locking mechanism and a keen price. A great little back-up unit.

SCORE

••••••••

* = check pricing with local suppliers/centres in your area

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BEUCHAT MINI LEGEND It is good to see Beuchat back on the diving map. With its long heritage, the company has continually developed and expanded its range, and the Mini Legend draws on that knowledge. The stainless steel blade features a sharp point, a sharp cutting edge, a serrated section, a line cutter and a handy shackle key. The hilt has rubberised sections to aid your grip, and guards for your thumb and forefinger to stop them sliding on to the blade. There is a lanyard hole in the hilt. The sheath, which comes with attachments to fasten it to your BCD/ wing or on to your regulator hose, also has rubber straps for those who want to attach it to their wrist, or on their ankle for true retro-style. It has a neat slide-and-press doublelocking system, which is simple to use even with 5mm neoprene gloves on. In use, the line cutter and sharp cutting edge proved more than adequate, but the serrated section, while it worked, was not as efficient as some of the rivals here at slicing through thicker rope or cord. Very comfortable in your hand, whether bare or gloved, and nicely balanced. Good little knife. www.beuchat-diving.com

TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 76g VERDICT: Nifty little BCD knife, with some nice features, plenty of accessories, and a decent price. Just let down a little by the serrated section.

SCORE

••••••

* = check pricing with local suppliers/centres in your area

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MARES GENIUS

THE MOST EVOLVED DIVE COMPUTER ON THE MARKET • New zh-l16c algorithm with gradient factors and predictive multigas • Nitrox and trimix capable, up to 5 gases • Full color high-resolution display • Hoseless tank data integration for up to five transmitters • Color coded tank pressure for at-a-glance readability • Brilliant logbook with multiple graphs • Smart battery management system with 40 hours divetime per full charge • Bluetooth connection for direct connection to smartphone


MARES FORCE PLUS Mares have been around a long time too, and they have mastered a solid dive knife. The Force Plus is a great dive knife with some nice features. The blade is made from PVD-coated stainless steel for durability and strength. It has a very sharp tip, a sharp cutting edge, a serrated section, and a line-cutter. The sheath can be attached to your BCD or wing, but comes with attachments for putting it on your hose, and also two straps for putting it around your calf retro-style. The locking mechanism is secure, and can be easily released with a quick press. The hilt is ergonomically molded and gives a really nice grip, and we especially liked the soft-grip insert in front of your thumb. There is also a lanyard hole in the hilt. There is a ‘Nano’ version with a shorter, rounded-tip blade. In use, the wicked-looking blade made short work of all of the test lines, ropes and webbing, and that hilt was great with a bare hand and in a gloved hand. It makes for a fairly large BCD knife compared with some of the others on test, but it is a great bit of kit. www.mares.com

TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 108g VERDICT: Fairly large for a BCD knife, but fantastic hilt, superb blade and useful accessories. Great all-round knife for all conditions.

SCORE

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MARES HAND LINE-CUTTER B TITANIUM The styling of the Trilobite is also evident in this line-cutter from Mares. However, Mares being Mares, they have elevated it to another level with this ‘B’ version. The ‘B’ version features a ceramic cutting blade on one side, which is ultrasharp and needs no apres-dive care as it won’t rust, and a military-grade titanium serrated blade on the other, which is safely behind a hinged protective shield. When you need to use it, you just flip up this shield and away you go. There is also an ‘A’ version, which moreclosely resembles the Trilobite, and has a line-cutter on either side, but each of these blades is ceramic, so it will never rust and needs no after-dive care. Both versions have a finger hole to aid deployment from its webbing sheath which can attach anywhere on your BCD or wing - and a webbing ‘hilt’, but they also have generous thumb and forefinger grips so you can firmly hold it in use. Well designed and with two very useful sections, it proved a formidable tool, slicing through every test product with ease and being easy to handle even with thick gloves on. Great as a primary or back-up cutting tool. www.mares.com

CHOICE 2019 GROUP TEST

KNIVES

TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 36g VERDICT: The Trilobite influence is easy to see, but Mares have lifted it to another level. We like the blend of cutting blade and serrated edge, and the use of ceramic/titanium.

SCORE

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* = check pricing with local suppliers/centres in your area

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BUILT FOR UNMATCHED COMFORT AND PERFORMANCE* *EPIC LOOK IS JUST A SIDE EFFECT

A complete, exceptionally comfortable BC system weighing in at only 2.3Kg. Perfect for the traveling scuba diver. A revolutionary design and cutting edge materials, coupled with no compromises on quality has created a tough and durable BCD unrivaled in recreational diving.

XDEEP.EU


EEZYCUT TRILOBITE The Eezycut Trilobite turned the diving world on its head when it showed up, being an efficient cutting tool for line, thinner ropes (up to 8mm diameter) and webbing, but also being compact and durable. Since then there have been various pretenders to the throne, and while some have built on its basic design (like the Mares unit), there is no getting away from the simplicity and ease of use of the Trilobite. The business end of the Trilobite incorporates two razor blades, one on either side, and in use you slot a forefinger through the hole and use the webbing as a ‘hilt’. Trilobites are available in a wide range of colours, including glow-in-the-dark, high-vis and phosphoresence. The Trilobite comes with two spare blades and a sheath, of which there are various versions - a flexi pouch, a harness mount and a wrist mount. In the test, it easily sliced through all of the test lines, ropes and webbing. The compact size of the Trilobite means it is the perfect back-up cutting tool, and so small you could mount a couple on your BCD/dive computer to be ultra-safe. Easy to use with bare hands and wearing gloves. www.eezycut.com

BEST VALUE 2019 GROUP TEST

KNIVES

TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 26g VERDICT: The Eezycut Trilobite turned the diving world on its head when it was released, and it is still a great bit of kit. Very efficient, keenly priced - a must-have product.

SCORE

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VERDICT Dive knives and cutting tools should be carried by all divers, and I’d always suggest people should have two methods of cutting and slicing with them at all times underwater, as knives can get broken/lost/dulled. The selection we had here can all be attached to your BCD and essentially forgotten about, just being there as and when you need them. I’d always say to give them a good rinse at the end of a dive trip and let them dry off naturally, and nothing beats a light coating of oil or grease on the blade to help prevent rusting or oxidisation. I tend to do this even on blades which shouldn’t rust anyway! The stand-outs were the Aqua Lung Squeeze Knives, which are compact, easy to use and very efficient. We were also impressed with the Eezycut Trilobite and the Mares Hand Line-Cutter B. We gave the Choice award to the Aqua Lung Squeeze Knives and the Mares Hand Line-Cutter B, and the Best Value award to the Eezycut Trilobite and the Aqua Lung Micro Squeeze Knives.

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Test Extra

BEUCHAT MAXLUX S

Mark Evans: Beuchat are certainly ensuring that everyone notices their return to the UK market when it comes to the masks – I don’t think I have ever seen such a bright, vibrant range of colours in masks! Ever since we saw them in the flesh at the GO Diving Show, we have been after one for test. Beuchat UK duly sent us a bright orange version, and this accompanied us to Jordan for our ‘Experience Aqaba’ trip with the competition-winning Cooper family. The Maxlux S mask has a very low profile, which makes it a doddle to clear, and the hypoallergenic silicon skirt is super-soft and exceptionally comfortable. Thanks to the design, it will fit a wide range of faces, including those with narrow facial structure. The skirt is bonded directly on to the single lens, so you get a superb panoramic field of vision. The straps are mounted directly on to the skirt, and so this means you can fold the mask flat for stowage in a pocket (as a backup, for instance), but it also helps with the location and fitting of the head strap. There are three new colours for 2019 – salmon, electric blue and yellow sun – which join the array of blues, yellows, pinks, reds, oranges, white and black already available. Stand out from the crowd and get a Maxlux S! www.beuchat-diving.com

* = check pricing with local suppliers/centres in your area

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Long Term Test APEKS XL4+ Mark Evans: The Apeks XL4+ is the next generation development of the original XL4 regulator, which was a stunning cold-water-rated regulator that was also very lightweight for travelling with. This ‘+’ version, which comes in a natty white colour scheme, also benefits from an additional high-pressure port on the first stage. It scored highly in last month’s Test Extra, INFORMATION Arrival date: February 2019 and it will be interesting to Suggested retail price: * see how it fares over the Number of dives: 0 next six months. Time in water: 0 hrs 0 mins www.apeksdiving.com

FINNSUB 20D AND COMFORT HARNESS

Mark Evans: So after the long wait, I finally got my hands on the brand-new Finnsub 20D and Comfort Harness. I have managed a couple of dives and first impressions are favourable - particularly like the large, pinch-cliprelease integrated weight pockets. I find this style INFORMATION Arrival date: January 2019 incredibly secure and Suggested retail price: * user-friendly, but they are Number of dives: 2 not bulky. Time in water: 1 hrs 50 mins www.finnsub.com 64

MARES EPIC ADJ 82X

Mark Evans: The Epic ADJ 82X combines the traditional advantages of the company’s regulators with the latestgeneration technological innovations. The balanced diaphragm first stage has a unique design for the high-pressure ports allowing you to orientate them to your preference regardless of the first-stage position. The pneumatically balanced second stage features the ‘motorcycle-throttle’ venturi control and INFORMATION Arrival date: February 2019 pivoting purge first seen Suggested retail price: * on the highly regarded Number of dives: 0 Fusion regulator. Time in water: 0 hrs 0 mins www.mares.com

SHEARWATER RESEARCH TERIC Mark Evans: The Teric has accompanied me on a few dives now, and I am very impressed by how bright that display is - I can see why Gabriel from Shearwater described the Teric as being ‘like the sun’ compared to the Perdix being ‘like the moon’... However, this month I want to talk about how the Teric charges up in its little cradle. You just pop it in, and if it is seated correctly, the light on the front goes green, if it is wrong, it flashes red. Once it is charged, it INFORMATION Arrival date: December 2018 flashes green. Simple! And Suggested retail price: * the display even changes Number of dives: 4 orientation in the cradle! Time in water: 3 hrs 55 mins www.shearwater.com WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM


HALCYON INFINITY

Mark Evans: The Infinity has been racking up the dives, and I am getting a long-hose aficionado in it for next month’s report. I like the attention to detail - this singlecylinder metal mount works well, holding a tank with no movement, and the dual tank bands feature large INFORMATION Arrival date: October 2018 slaps of embossed rubber Suggested retail price: * to firmly grip the sides of Number of dives: 11 the cylinder. Time in water: 10 hrs 20 mins www.halcyon.net

ZEAGLE SCOPE MONO

Mark Evans: For all those colour-co-ordinated types out there, who like their dive kit to match - heh, asthetics is getting all the more important! - please make note of the fact that you can get colour-coded elastic and INFORMATION Arrival date: September 2018 silicone straps for the Suggested retail price: * Scope Mono in a range of Number of dives: 18 funky, vibrant colours. Time in water: 17 hrs 20 mins www.zeagle.com

BARE ULTRAWARMTH 7MM HOOD Mark Evans: I have to say, when I first heard the spiel for the Celliant technology several years ago at the DEMA trade show in the United States, I was extremely sceptical. However, that all vanished in about five minutes after donning a wide neoprene belt infused with Celliant and feeling the heat around my kidney area. It really does work, and it is fantastic that BARE have combined it into their gloves and hoods, as it genuinely does make a difference. Don’t get me wrong, a 7mm, well-fitting neoprene hood should be pretty warm anyway, but this item is noticeably warmer than a standard hood. If you do a lot of cold-water INFORMATION Arrival date: November 2018 diving, then I suggest you Suggested retail price: * try one out - your head will Number of dives: 8 thank you, believe me. Time in water: 8 hrs 20 mins www.baresports.com

AQUA LUNG ROGUE Mark Evans: The Aqua Lung Rogue has finally reached the end of its six-month run in Long Term Test, and I have been thoroughly impressed by this lightweight, back-to-basics back-inflate BCD. I prefer it over its morestripped-back sibling the Outlaw, because it has dropdown pockets, more D-rings, and can handle integrated weights and trim pockets. It is extremely comfortable, works equally well in the UK and abroad, and thanks to the neat modular design, you can really tweak the fit INFORMATION Arrival date: August 2018 by mixing-and-matching Suggested retail price: * shoulder and waist straps Number of dives: 47 of different sizes. Time in water: 45 hrs 50 mins www.aqualung.com * = check pricing with local suppliers/centres in your area

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SCHOLARSHIP DIARY

The Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society is a non-profit, educational organisation whose mission is to promote educational activities associated with the underwater world. It has offered scholarships for over 35 years. owuscholarship.org

URCHIN ACTION IN THE POOR KNIGHTS PHOTOGRAPHS BY OLIVIA JOHNSON

I

n November last year, I was fortunate enough to meet Jeroen Jongejans, Kate Malcolm and Darren Spratt from Dive! Tutukaka in New Zealand at DEMA 2018 in Las Vegas. I was giving my half-way presentation at the Scholarship breakfast, and not long after I’d finished Darren came up and had a chat to me about the urchins he’d noticed I was working on in Tasmania for my honours research. I was extremely fortunate to be invited by the wonderful team at Dive! Tutukaka to come and have a look at the urchin species I had studied in a different part of the world - the spectacular Poor Knights Island Marine Reserve, just south of the Bay of Islands, on the North Island of New Zealand. It took approximately three hours on a bus from Auckland City to get up to this incredible part of the world, and I was so glad I had decided to take Kate, Jeroen and Darren up on their offer! A total Marine Reserve and Nature Reserve, and named in Jacques Cousteau’s top 10 dive sites in the world (pending World Heritage Site), the Poor Knights is an 11-million-year-old group of volcanic islands, which provides spectacular drop-offs, walls, caves, arches and tunnels both above and below the surface. Once a Maori settlement, the islands are now home to a range of endemic species, from insects, birds to reptiles. The islands are not accessible to the public due to the vulnerability of so many of the species found here, but underwater allows a taste of just how incredible this part of the world is. Receiving a large amount of influence from the East Australian Current (most likely how the long-spined urchin larvae would have been carried around to the Poor Knights), the water temperature was a wonderful 22 degrees Celsius, making this a sub-tropical region. The islands themselves lie close to the continental shelf and are therefore influenced by an upwelling of nutrient-rich

waters. This provides a large food source to so many species, resulting in a huge amount of diversity of species and because of the area being a Marine Protected Area, a huge abundance of these animals. Due to these influences, there is such a variety of species to observe, and it is amazing to see tropical species darting through a kelp forest! I was even lucky enough during my time diving the Poor Knights to see hammerhead sharks cruising on the surface, to enormous pods of bottlenose dolphins playing around the boat. These reefs support over 125 species of fish along with soft corals, encrusting sponges, vibrant anemones, Ecklonia kelp forests, enormous stingrays, gorgonians and so much more. I was lucky enough to even have huge snapper and other pelagic fish species just swim right up to me - this is all thanks to this area being designated a Marine Protected Area, and shows the true power of MPAs in allowing regeneration of species, as well as thriving abundances. It was such a special opportunity and experience to dive and work with the local dive guides and instructors to learn more about this area, and in particular, observe the long-spined sea urchin in a sub-tropical environment in another country, as well as some of the patterns in this local ecosystem. It was also wonderful to be able to pass on my knowledge about trends we have observed in Tasmania in regards to overgrazing of the kelp forests by the urchins, and some of the key signs the Dive! Tutukaka team members can continue to monitor over time in relation to the non-native urchins in this part of the world. I cannot thank Jeroen, Kate, Darren, Julez and the rest of the team enough for inviting me to dive in this incredible part of the world - I will certainly return to this beautiful part of the world one day, and cannot recommend this incredible place more highly! n

Olivia Johnson


MAGELLAN

THE TRUE TRAVEL BCD • • • • • • •

Extremely lightweight Integrated quick release weight system Optional trim weight on tank band Foldable with no rigid backpack Strap loop backpack for easy adjustment 1 Roll up pocket Ergonomic shoulder straps. Increased comfort in chest/shoulder area

The perfect travelling companion


it’s not about crossing the finish line first it’s not about who‘s world number one it’s not about half-time pep talks or appeals to the referee diving is not about winning or losing it’s about the challenge it’s about exploration it’s about teamwork and sharing the thrill of discovery it’s about the adventure

photo: Jason Brown

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Scuba Diver Asia-Pacific Issue 12