Page 1

FLORIDA ROADTRIP EMBARK ON A DRIVE ‘N’ DIVE TO FLORIDA’S EAST COAST HOTSPOTS

UW PHOTOGRAPHY HINTS AND ADVICE ON TRAVELING WITH CAMERA EQUIPMENT

WRECK HEAVEN

SATE YOUR LUST FOR RUST IN GRENADA AND TRUK LAGOON

Passport to PARADISE LAND-BASED AND LIVEABOARD ADVENTURES IN INDONESIA, THE MALDIVES AND THE PHILIPPINES

GEAR TEST EXTRA

FABULOUS FIJI

SHOOTING IN MONOCHROME


MEET THE TEAM

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Mark Evans Email: mark@scubadivermag.com EDITOR-AT-LARGE (North America) Walt Stearns Email: walt@scubadivermag.com DESIGN & PRODUCTION MANAGER Matt Griffiths Email: matt@griffital.co.uk ADVERTISING & SPONSORSHIP Ross Arnold Email: ross@scubadivermag.com CONTRIBUTORS Michele Westmorland, Martyn Guess, Mario Vitalini, Phil and Anne Medcalf, Byron Conroy

MAGAZINE To stock Destinations in your dive center or store, email: subscriptions@scubadivermag.com

PUBLISHERS Rork Media Limited 71-75 Shelton Street, Covent Garden, London, United Kingdom, 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 Destinations 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. ISSN: 2633-3902

A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR

Sharing t he adventure

W

hen the publishers of Scuba Diver approached me on the idea of helping launch a new magazine for distribution in North America, I was naturally very excited. Namely, because divers like myself here in the USA and Canada are hungry for something new, particularly when it comes to dive travel. I have known and had the honor to work with the team at Scuba Diver for years, and this fine publication is circulated throughout Europe, Australia and New Zealand with bespoke areaspecific editions. So I was confident they could make something great happen. And now, here we are presenting you with the first issue of Destinations. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to have quite a few opportunities to visit and photograph a wide range of exciting and rewarding dive destinations. My devotion to our ocean planet has led me down multiple paths and taken me around the globe to unforgettable locations - from the Caribbean to the various corners of the Pacific and Indo-Pacific. So for me, the opportunity to be able to share an in-depth showcase of the best local, national and international diving destinations is a real treat. Since I’ve been tapped as one of the standard bearers for Scuba Diver in North America, the publishers ask that I tell you a bit about myself. I’ll do my best to keep from boring you with all the details. My affinity - some might say addiction - for the ocean began as a child in Honolulu, Hawaii, where a mask and snorkel became my gateway to an exciting new realm. Florida has been my home and home base all my adult life, and where I fell in love with diving. It began with a basic certification at age 16, and many hours spent on the reefs of South Florida and the Florida Keys. After obtaining my degree in fine arts and zoological / oceanographic science, I focused on my other passion - underwater photography. It’s been an easy ride as my love of the marine environment supported a constant development of photography skills. I love taking and sharing imagery, and telling others about the places where the images are made. My passion for the underwater world remains as strong as ever, and my dive travels continue to enrich me with a great appreciation and concern for our ocean planet. I’m honored for the opportunity to be able to share this passion with you, and look forward to chronicling the continued discoveries, adventures and joys that dive travel brings.

Walt Stearns Editor-at-Large (North America)

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

3


A G G R E S S O R A DV E N T U R E S

®

Come as a Guest,

©Cath

y Finch

300,000 Family Members Worldwide “We welcomed our first guest to the Aggressor family in 1984, and that number has grown to a family of more than 300,000 adventure-seekers around the world today! When you scuba dive aboard our Aggressor Liveaboard yachts, cruise the Nile on an Aggressor River Cruise , or explore Sri Lanka’s parks at the Aggressor Safari Lodges , you are treated like family because you are family. Take a trip of a lifetime with us and join our amazing Aggressor family of adventurers!” ®

®

®

–Wayne B. Brown, CEO, Passionate Adventurer

800-348-2628

·

+1-706-993-2531


AGGRESSOR LIVEABOARDS · AGGRESSOR RIVER CRUISES · AGGRESSOR SAFARI LODGES ®

®

®

Leave as Family!

Aggressor Adventures has won a Travel Weekly Magellan Award for River Cruising! Thank you for this great honor!

Save 25% During Explore the World Weeks · Bahamas · · Belize · · Cayman Islands · · Cocos Island, Costa Rica · · Cuba ·

NEW · Djibouti · · Dominican Republic · · Egypt · · Galapagos · · Hawaii · · Indonesia ·

info@aggressor.com

· Maldives · · Mexico · · Oman · · Palau · · Red Sea · NEW· Philippines ·

·

· Roatán, Honduras · · Sri Lanka · NEW· Sudan · · Thailand · · Turks & Caicos ·

www.aggressor.com


FLORIDA ROADTRIP EMBARK ON A DRIVE ‘N’ DIVE TO FLORIDA’S EAST COAST HOTSPOTS

UW PHOTOGRAPHY HINTS AND ADVICE ON TRAVELING WITH CAMERA EQUIPMENT

WRECK HEAVEN

SATE YOUR LUST FOR RUST IN GRENADA AND TRUK LAGOON

Passport to PARADISE

JOIN US

LAND-BASED AND LIVEABOARD ADVENTURES IN INDONESIA, THE MALDIVES AND THE PHILIPPINES

GEAR TEST EXTRA

Cover & Spine.indd 1

FABULOUS FIJI

IN AQABA!

SHOOTING IN MONOCHROME

17/10/2019 18:06

PHOTOGRAPH: PREDRAG VUCKOVIC

We’re heading to Divefest and we are inviting you to join us for the biggest celebration of diving in 2021! Turn to page 99 for more details!

10

NEWS IN BRIEF

THEN LOG ON TO THE WEBSITE: WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

12

THE MALDIVES

You’ll find all the latest diving news from around the world, in-depth travel reports, unbiased and comprehensive equipment reviews, hints and advice on diving techniques, underwater photography and videography, insights into diving medical issues, articles on conservation initiatives, Q&As with industry icons and legends, exciting competitions, and much, much more

24

GET ONLINE! CAN’T WAIT FOR YOUR NEXT ISSUE OF SCUBA DIVER DESTINATIONS?

6

Florida Grenada

The world’s oldest diver - at age 99, CITES protection for mako sharks, how baby urchins could be a coral saver, more whalesharks in the Philippines, and a ray of hope for the Great Barrier Reef.

Michele Westmorland makes a return trip to the Maldives, but this time she’s got her husband in tow. She embarks on a liveaboard voyage aboard the Maldives Aggressor II, and then heads for Sri Lanka and the Aggressor Safari Lodges.

FLORIDA

Mark Evans heads off on a drive ‘n’ dive roadtrip around southern Florida in a convertible Mustang, with his first port of call being the diving Mecca of Fort Lauderale and Pompano Beach, which boasts a vast array of shipwrecks within just a few hundred feet of the coastline.

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


INSIDE THIS ISSUE

Philippines Truk Lagoon T he M aldives

36

UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY

Photo pro Mario Vitalini explains how to create evocative, thought-provoking and intriguing monochromatic shots, and then joins fellow professional snappers Paul Duxfield, Martyn Guess and Anne and Phil Medcalf to offer sage advice on the best ways to pack your precious camera kit when you are traveling to your next dive destination.

54

Fiji

INDONESIA

Walt Stearns waxes lyrical about the diving opportunities from both the luxurious Wakatobi Beach Resort, and its resident dive yacht, the Pelagian, and provides details of the main dive sites that should definitely be on your diving ‘hit list’.

46

Indonesia

FIJI

Fiji is often given the title of ‘soft coral capital of the world’ and the Destinations team headed out to this Pacific paradise to see if the diving could really live up to all of the hype. They were not disappointed, and as well as the aforementioned soft corals, were also treated to pelagic sightings and critters including frogfish and seahorses.

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

62

THE PHILIPPINES

Overview of the diving available off the Philippines, focusing on a few of the main diving hotspots, such as Malpascua, Anilao and Dumaguete.

72

GRENADA

Mark Evans is a dedicated ‘wreckie’ and he sated his lifelong ‘lust for rust’ in the undoubted wreck-diving capital of the Caribbean, Grenada - home of the mighty 600-foot-long Bianca C liner.

84

TRUK LAGOON

94

GEAR TEST EXTRA

When it comes to wrecks, Truk Lagoon is right up there at the top of the list, and as Byron Conroy explains, this destination should be on all divers’ ‘must-dive’ lists.

Mark Evans rates and reviews the SeaLife DC2000 compact camera and housing, and Fourth Element’s extensive wetsuits range, including the new Surface and RF1/RF2 suits.

7


“Simply put you can’t have a better experience! Everything is about service and maximizing your diving and snorkeling. The dives were amazing, and all the staff are first class. At Wakatobi they will accommodate any request, but you hardly need to make any since they have thought of essentially everything.” ~ Dr. James and Laurie Benjamin


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 and private guides ensure your inwater experiences are perfectly matched to your abilities and interests. Your underwater encounters will create lasting memories that will remain vivid and rewarding long after the visit to Wakatobi is concluded. While at the resort, or on board the dive yacht Pelagian, you need only ask and we will gladly provide any service or facility within our power. This unmatched combination of worldrenowned reefs and first-class luxuries put Wakatobi in a category all its own.

www.wakatobi.com


NEWS IN BRIEF

WORLD’S OLDEST DIVER AT AN ASTOUNDING 99 YEARS OF AGE A 99-year-old US man made history in September when he set the scuba diving world record for the world’s oldest diver, breaking the record-breaking streak set by Brit Ray Woolley. Accompanied by a crew of 30 friends and support divers, Bill Lambert celebrated his 99th birthday by taking the plunge in Illinois’ 35-acre Pearl Lake to a depth of 32ft for a dive time of just over 20 minutes. However, unlike 96-year-old Ray, who has been a keen diver for 59 years, Bill is a relative newcomer to the sport. He only started diving in November 2018. Despite having shattered the previous world record, Bill isn’t planning on slowing down his diving exploits any time soon, and is training hard to break his own record next September.

‘CHEETAHS OF THE SEA’ – MAKO SHARKS – GAIN PROTECTION FROM CITES Mako sharks – known as the ‘cheetahs of the sea’ due to their phenomenal speed – have gained protection from CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). The proposal for 18 threatened species of sharks and rays, which also included wedgefish and guitarsharks, was tabled by Mexico, and supported by some 102 countries. This proposal means that the identified species can no longer be traded unless it can be proven that their fishing will not impact the possibility of their continued survival.

10

NEW RESEARCH SHOWS BABY SEA URCHINS BOOST CORAL SURVIVAL RATE New research into co-culturing – raising juvenile sea urchins alongside lab-spawned corals – has found the technique produces an eight-times-higher survival rate in young corals, and could have major implications for the restoration of damaged reefs around the world. The research – published in open access journal Scientific Reports – took as its starting point the known benefits of algae-grazing sea urchins for coral reefs, which can become overwhelmed if the algae is not kept in check. For young corals, though, adult sea urchins cause damage and even eat the corals, so juvenile urchins are needed to control the algae without threatening the coral ‘babies’. Researchers at the Horniman Museum and Gardens in London and the University of Derby spawned tuxedo urchins (Mespilia globulus) and reared them to a suitable size in time for the planned spawning of broadcast corals at the Horniman Aquarium’s research laboratory. Compared to a coral survival rate of just five percent in a tank without any urchins, researchers found that 40 percent of the corals survived for six months in the tank with the most urchins (18 urchins reared alongside 1,250 corals). Dr Jamie Craggs, lead researcher and curator at the Horniman Aquarium, says: “This research is an important next step for Project Coral, our international research partnership which has already broken the code to allow predictable spawning of corals in laboratory settings. Low survival rates of juvenile corals are currently a barrier to effective reef restoration. This new co-culturing technique using sea urchins makes possible a major up-scaling in the number of corals that could be reared and transplanted onto damaged reefs, and we’re already getting interest from leading reef restoration organizations around the world.”

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


NEWS IN BRIEF

NEW WHALESHARKS IDENTIFIED OFF THE COAST OF DONSOL IN THE PHILIPPINES More than 100 new whalesharks have been identified off the coast of Donsol in the Philippines, in a report from the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF). A total of 104 new individuals were noted – whalesharks can be identified based on the pattern of spots behind its gills, which are as unique as a human fingerprint – which brings Donsol’s tally since monitoring began in 2007 to 676. Only 22 new individuals were spotted in the area between 2017 and 2018, so this latest number is great news for the Philippines whaleshark population. As well as the 104 new sharks, there were also 64 re-sightings of other whalesharks, and some extremely young juveniles were among those seen, which reinforces ideas that the Ticao Pass serves as a ‘pupping ground’ for whalesharks.

BEYOND THE REEF STARTS TO TAKE SHAPE IN THE BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

RAY OF HOPE FOR THE GREAT BARRIER REEF

Divers can now encounter skeletal pirates scrubbing the decks or planning their next plundering mission when they visit the BVIs. After the devastating Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, the British Virgin Islands are now turning hurricane-destroyed vessels into very unique dive sites through the non-profit organization Beyond The Reef. The legendary floating bar Willy T has been transformed into a pirate ship playground, complete with skeletal pirates going about their daily business, a crow’s nest and other pirate paraphernalia. It is a fun photo location for all levels of diver. The Willy T will be joined by three derelict airplanes from the airport that have been turned into half-airplane/half-sharks. In addition to creating new reefs for marine life and new dive sites for tourism, money generated by these wreck sites will go back to benefiting the local community through donations for children’s swim lessons. Members of Beyond the Reef were heavily involved in the sinking of the BVI’s now-famous Kodiak Queen ‘Art Reef’ a couple of years ago. www.1beyondthereef.com

While the news that the GBR’s health has been downgraded to ‘very poor’ by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) is a body blow, there is a ray of hope for this UNESCO World Heritage Site. A research team from Griffith University has been exploring the genes of four different species of crustose coralline algae (CCA), which are considered one of the major factors in the structure of coral reefs. Griffith PhD candidate Tessa Page explained that there had never been any serious research into the genetic make-up of CCAs and said: “CCA have really long, diverse evolutionary histories, and one of the species we work with which is really old, evolved and diversified during previous periods of high carbon dioxide and temperature levels. These evolutionary linkages might make them better adapted to future changes.” The Great Barrier Reef has endured back-to-back mass bleaching events in 2016 and 2017, and while there have been areas that have made some form of recovery, the entire reef as a whole is still under huge stress – and Page reckons CCAs might aid with the recovery process.

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

11


Michele Westmorland and her husband George explore the myriad underwater attractions of this island archipelago aboard the luxurious Maldives Aggressor II, before heading to Sri Lanka to soak up the sublime topside ambience of this romantic, adventurous and ancient country Photography Michele Westmorland and Andres Berrocal

12

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

13


ABOVE Ana with a relaxed turtle TOP MIDDLE Yellow-striped snapper swarm above a cushion star

14

“Y

es!” I exclaimed, looking out the window of the plane and seeing these beautiful tiny stretches of sand, palms and many shades of turquoise indicating the depth of the surrounding reefs. Sound clichéd? It’s difficult to find new words that just shout out the beauty of the Maldives. I’ve been fortunate to fly into this string of jeweled islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean several times before. Now my husband, George, would experience this part of the world for the first time. Twenty-six atolls are comprised of 1,192 islands and sandy cays. The Maldives archipelago stretches 760km from north to south and 120km from sunrise to sunset. What you can see from the surface of the ocean hides innumerable submerged reefs, called thilas in the local language of Dhivehi. Throughout history, this was a trade route from the nearest neighbors of Sri Lanka and India. Both have had cultural and economic ties with the Maldives over the centuries and possibly as far back as 500 B.C. The islands and thilas made this territory one of the most dangerous for the shipping vessels carrying trade items to distant lands. Today, the Maldives is a mecca for vacationers – and divers. Many of the visitors hail from Europe, but with more flights into the capital of Male, North

Americans and Australians are experiencing the magic of the Maldives. When we boarded the beautiful Maldives Aggressor II, there was an immediate feeling of a floating home. Unpacking dive gear, preparing the stateroom for the next ten days of pure comfort and meeting the crew and guests at the evening’s welcome briefing, it was easy to see this would be a memorable journey. Nearly always, there are people in a group you bond with immediately. For George and me, it was a lovely couple from Costa Rica – Andres and Ana. Our conversation the first night sparked even more interest in their choice of coming to the Maldives. They just came from Sri Lanka at Aggressor’s new Safari Lodge – and that’s where George and I were going to be following our diving excursion! Asking what was special about coming from Sri Lanka to the Maldives in a double-hitter trip added another component - Andres proposed marriage to Ana. There could not possibly be a more-romantic way to confirm your love than spending the engagement celebration getting to see, hear and feel the incredible wildlife in the forests and then move to the yacht for scuba diving the warm, comforting waters in the Indian Ocean. We had ten days to learn more about Andres and Ana, but it was time to focus on jumping in the water.

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


FUN FACT!

Did you know that the Maldivian language contributed to the English word ‘atoll’, which was derived from the Maldivian word ‘atholhu’.

Starting out We could not be happier for everyone on board Maldives Aggressor II being able to make three dives on the first day. It’s generally the time to get scuba gear all properly weighted and operating and, for those of us wanting to capture photos, making sure the batteries are charged and a card ready to go in the camera body. What generally can be a little messy with all this equipment was easily arranged because, diving in the Maldives, you have a dhoni. This is a unique approach to the style of diving here. A separate vessel, which travels with the main yacht, the dhoni carries the compressors, tanks, gear and provides an efficient way to enter the water and for pick-up at the end of the dive. The dhoni for the MAII is one of the biggest, and has its own camera table! Don’t think the check-out dives are without exceptional encounters with marine life. We were happy that our new dive computers were working properly and the camera systems did not leak. The dives at Kurumba Reef, Fish Factory and Kudagiri Wreck not only presented black-tip sharks and a hawksbill turtle but plenty of eels out on the hunt. One of the most-favorite species of eels in the Maldives is the spotted leopard moray. Big and bold, they are not at all shy around divers – but they are no real threat either! They are

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

TOP Honeycomb moray eel ABOVE Batfish in front of a diver through a coraldraped swimthrough LEFT Manta ray swoops in over the reef

15


FREE NITROX

ON ALL LIVEABOARDS

WORLDWIDE LIVEABOARDS & RESORTS Red Sea – Maldives – Indonesia EMPEROR PRICING MEANS NO HIDDEN EXTRAS EMPEROR ELITE RED SEA

RED SEA AND MALDIVES DIVE CENTRES Red Sea – El Gouna – Marsa Alam – Sharm El Sheikh Maldives – Reveries, Laamu Atoll – You & Me, Raa Atoll EMPEROR MALDIVES YOU & ME RESORT

See them all at www.emperordivers.com

Leading the way for over 26 years Quality | Excellence | Service | Flexibility | Value


RASDHOO ATOLL

NORTH MALÉ ATOLL

NORTH ARI ATOLL

MALÉ ATOLL

Malé Airport (MLE)

SOUTH ARI ATOLL

VAAVU ATOLL

MEEMU ATOLL

THAA ATOLL

LAAMU ATOLL Kadhdhoo, Laamu Airport (KDO)

of Maldives | Best Malé to Malé Itinerary, 7 Nights of Maldives + Meemu | Best Malé to Malé Itinerary, 10 Nights of Maldives + Thaa & Meemu | Best Malé to Malé Itinerary, 10 Nights South | Far Malé to Laamu Itinerary, 7 Nights South | Deep Laamu to Addu Itinerary, 7 Nights Hemisphere | Southern Malé to Addu Itinerary, 10 Nights Hemisphere | Southern Addu to Malé Itinerary, 10 Nights

Kooddoo Airport (GKK)

HUVADHOO ATOLL

FOAMMULAH ATOLL ADDU ATOLL Addu, Gan Airport (GAN) Itineraries may vary due to weather conditions and yacht location


RIGHT The Maldives Aggressor II and its attendant dhoni BELOW The spacious salon on the Maldives Aggressor II BOTTOM LEFT The camera table has plenty of room for big rigs BOTTOM MIDDLE The dhoni keeps the compressor and dive kit separate from the main yacht BELOW RIGHT The cabins are well appointed and offer plenty of space BOTTOM RIGHT Just some of the delicious food on offer on the yacht

18

beautiful, curious and once you find a single eel, look around. There may be another in the vicinity. Vaavu Atoll, our destination the following day, would provide plenty of opportunities to see the diverse reef structures and an abundant number of pelagics and hunters off the walls. Bring a reef hook! One of the reasons for the amazing experiences is that the flow of the current, both incoming and outgoing, provides food for the schools of reef fish, Napoleon wrasse, octopus and batfish, and it can be somewhat strong. The backdrop is made up of unbelievable overhangs dripping with soft corals in colors only a painter can imagine. Lilac lavender, blush yellow and saffron orange delicately hang like chandeliers at one of the favorite dive sites. Fotheyo Kandu (Kandu meaning channel) has just the right amount of ocean current to encourage the corals to appear like a bouquet of flowers. Remaining in Vaavu Atoll for another day was well worth the stay. Far too many opportunities present themselves with more kandus (or ‘can do’s’, if you prefer). Andres and Ana could not have made a better choice than to share more special moments together. On Fushi Kandu, a hawksbill turtle was too busy munching on sponge to pay attention to Ana directly behind. This made for the perfect portrait of Andres’ lovely bride-to-be. As George and I explored the area, there was plenty of time to photograph in both wide-

Yacht specs

Length: 135 feet | Beam: 28 feet Passengers: 22 | Crew: 16 6 x Twin Staterooms 4 x Deluxe Staterooms 1 x VERY special Suite Hot tub, lounge deck and cocktail deck Large salon and dining area Secondary vessel (60-foot dhoni) for all scuba gear, tank fills, camera table

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


When we boarded the beautiful Maldives Aggressor II, there was an immediate feeling of a floating home

Maldives Aggressor II The Maldives Aggressor II is a very roomy yacht. The staterooms all had plenty of storage, room to move around, and a generous head and shower. We would have been absolutely thrilled to have experienced the big suite, but another couple beat us to the punch. They were rewarded with a beautiful seating area to read or watch the islands go by on our crossings, and enjoy the hospitality of service to the suite of coffee or yummy fresh fruit drinks. Maybe a glass or two of champagne after a day of diving? The dive dhoni comes with a bit of mixed blessings. For one, it’s the lack of noise created from the air fill stations that are on the back deck of most dive vessels. The dhonis have everything to keep dive gear checked and ready, and it’s all done away from the beautiful yacht. The only thing that could be considered a dislike is that when you are enjoying your snack on the yacht, it suddenly comes to mind that you left a dive computer or other electronic equipment in need of charging on the dhoni. Have no fear – the crew generously radioed over and delivered our electronics to us for prepping for the next adventurous dive. Aggressor Adventures Phone: +1 706-993-2531 | Fax: +1 706-737-7690 Email: info@aggressor.com | www.aggressor.com

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

19


RIGHT Colorful temples can be found in Sri Lanka

Sharing Sri Lanka

BELOW Guide explaining about Lion’s Rock

It’s no wonder that Andres decided to propose to Ana in Sri Lanka. This teardrop-shaped island, which appears to have drifted south of the southern tip of India, has all the romance of sandy beaches, wildlife unimaginable to most, and cultural diversity that is displayed in every color and with respect. Our driver, Jayanthl, was excited to share his country. Primarily a Buddhist country with some Hinduism, there is no lack of the colorful splash of women’s saris, painted statues and stunning architecture. On arrival at the Safari Lodge, we were ready to grab the cameras and head to Wilpattu National Park for a quick afternoon of game watching before returning to the luxury tented camp. Our naturalist and guide, Marlon, was nothing short of amazing - kind and knowledgeable about the wildlife, and what the parks had to offer. While some areas are known for sloth bears and leopards, Minneriya National Park is one of the biggest gatherings of Asian elephants in the world. Our experience has been with their larger cousins, the African elephant, but Asian elephants can be just as impressive with their tuskers, their nurturing of the calves and, at times, letting you know you are too close by exhibiting a mock charge. Nothing is ever guaranteed when it comes to wildlife. While Andres and Ana saw a sloth bear and no leopards, we found just the opposite. The ground was dry, which makes the termite mounds at-tractive to sloth bears, but it also makes them like a cement housing development, impenetrable for the bears to access the tasty insect morsels. Our experience

BELOW RIGHT Asian elephant

20

Ancient traditions and wonderful wildlife

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


with a young male leopard and his little sister was exhilarating. They were difficult to see, except for the sharp eyes of Marlon. Then the moment happened when the protective brother decided it was okay to make an appearance. When he did, the black-faced langurs let everyone know a predator was lurking. Experiencing the ascent of Sigiriya, also known as Lion’s Rock, is a must. And it takes a bit of a lion attitude to meet the physical challenge of climbing 1,200 steps to the top. Our couple, who made this climb two weeks prior, said it was the view that was most impressive. For us, it was the greater achievement of seeing the forests below knowing that they are filled with lakes, birds, and big animals. Marlon shared some of the history of the place - the fortress complex includes remnants of a ruined palace surrounded by an extensive network of fortifications, ponds, canals, fountains, and gardens. On the cliff sides were various cave-like cuts where guards would watch for any encroachment by enemies. They ate and slept there, always keeping a watchful eye, but with no barriers - one bad step meant a fall to death. Despite recent events, we would like to go back to explore this ancient island more. Don’t let the actions of a minority stop you from seeing the true nature of the people and the wildlife. Make sure to add Sri Lanka and Aggressor Adventures’ new lodge to your bucket list. n

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

21


TOP LEFT Fun in the shallows on one of the islands ABOVE The crew prepared a special meal on one of the beaches

22

angle and macro. There were times we overlooked the smallest, but when we did take a closer look we were not disappointed. Rakeedho Kandu, Vanhuravalhi Kandu East and West are home to some of the mostcolorful and adorable creatures. It was time to pull anchor and head to the mostfamous of the atolls in the Maldives - Ari Atoll -where some of the best diving can be found. Ari, which is also called Alifu, is comprised of three geographical atolls Ari, Rasdhoo, and Thoddoo – and spans a territory of 89km north to south and 1.9 from east to west. It is also the biggest of the atolls in the Maldives. Kudara Thila, a deep pinnacle in the middle of the channel, had just enough current that we could circumnavigate the thila and swim through cuts and crevices. The current also made for a perfect environment where the soft corals and sea fans were stretched out in feeding mode. In South Ari Atoll, there are moments when the big charismatic species come in. Nature doesn’t always suit our desires, but it must be said that high or low visibility, whether current is strong or mild, and whether the sun is shining or it’s cloudy, it is a gift and delight to even spend a few moments there. If you are a patient

diver at one of the manta cleaning stations, allow them to move as they wish with grace. It’s a general practice that if you remain stationary and breathe calmly, you may have one or more come in your direction. That even means a face-to-face encounter within a few feet! The Whaleshark Protection Area in the very south portion of Ari Atoll is a migratory path for these gentle filter feeders. Established in 2008, researchers study their behaviors and watch those of the tourist industry. There are times the world’s biggest sharks just don’t want or need to cruise the area. When asked about a favorite dive experience, Andres and Ana said they could not have been more thrilled than to spend an evening not in a hot tub, but on a night manta feed. Andres remarked: “We got to dive with six mantas while they remained in the area feeding from the plankton that was attracted by the lights the crew had previously put on the site. It was amazing!” A special delivery took place one evening. The divers were busy with their afternoon dives and did not notice the chefs, stewards and part of the crew were mysteriously missing. They were all slipping tables, chairs, grill, and food to a tiny nearby island. As

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


There are five recompression chambers in the Maldives – Bandos Island, Cinnamon Alidhoo Resort, Villingili Resort, Kuramathi Resort and Kandholhudhoo Islands.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

The Maldives

the sun began to set, everyone was delivered to the sandy shores. Andres and Ana had the perfect setting for everyone to toast their upcoming nuptials. While a little pre-BBQ on the beach was spectacular, the sunset and table setting, looking at fantastic sand sculptures of manta rays and whalesharks, just added the finishing touch. The imagination and creativity of the crew was admirable. Moving to North Ari Atoll for our last day of diving, the boat was full of chatter from the guests, a mix of cheers that we would see new terrain. Maaya Thila, Bathalaangga Kanthila and Rashdoo Madivaru are a challenge for us to spell or pronounce, but did not disappoint. For us, it was the added underwater laughter of watching an octopus let us know he, or she, was not pleased with our presence. Never seeing this behavior before - an eight-armed cephalopod throwing sand at us from its burrow was hysterical. We used up more air during this little show than normal. We slowed down just enough to observe a stunning leaf scorpionfish, which can include a various color renditions, allowing this beautiful species to blend into its environment. Not a bad ending to a romance story. n

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

ABOVE Yellow snapper swam in a dense shoal over the reef

GETTING THERE International flights arrive at Male’s Hulhule Airport, which is on an island of its own. Transfers from the airport to your resort or liveaboard are either by boat, seaplane or a domestic flight. WHEN TO GO The Maldives has two distinct seasons – dry season (northeast monsoon) and wet season (south-west monsoon). The northeast monsoon usually extends from December to March/April. The southwest monsoon usually runs from May to November. CURRENCY The Maldives currency is the Rufiyaa, but many resorts and liveaboards will accept payment in most major currencies and by credit card. ENTRY REQUIREMENTS A 30-day travel visa is granted on arrival, you just need to have a valid passport with at least six months remaining, and a return air ticket. ELECTRICITY 230-240 volts, 50 cycles AC. The Maldives Aggressor II has 110 volt and 220 volt at the camera charging and computer stations, but for the use of 110 in other areas, bring USA 110-to-220 twin-pin socket adaptors.

23


Fort Lauderdale is known as the ‘Venice of America’ due to the immense number of canals and waterways that thread through it, covering more than 300 miles!

24

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


Wreck dives in abundance, the Sunshine State in all its glory and a convertible Mustang - what more could you want? Join Mark Evans on a drive ‘n’ dive roadtrip, starting on Florida’s East Coast Photography Mark Evans and Walt Stearns

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

25


26

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


1

RSB-1 – a 160-feet-long oil company tender which sits in 104ft, is swarming with marine life and offers various routes inside the main superstructure and holds.

2

Rodeo 25 – a 210-feet-long Dutch freighter which sits at a slight list in 124ft and is dominated by a photo-friendly twin mast above the bridge.

3

Rebel – a 127-feet Dutch freighter, which became an artificial reef in 1985 after being caught smuggling drugs into the USA under its prior name St Andrea.

4

The Wreck Treks – There are four in total - Wreck Trek Deerfield, Wreck Trek Fort Lauderdale, Wreck Trek Boca and Wreck Trek Pompano - and each gives you the opportunity to dive three or more wrecks in one dive.

5

Tenneco Towers – artificial reefs created from old oil platforms, which are now completely covered in sponge and coral growth, and attract all kinds of marine life, including some bigger pelagic species.

There are a multitude of wrecks to dive off of Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach, with a veritable fleet of artificial reefs lying in depths ranging from 60ft-70ft to way beyond recreational depths

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

27


However, Fort Lauderdale really comes alive when darkness falls, and if you head out to Las Olas Boulevard, or the promenade area around Beach Place, you can be sure to find the bars full of like-minded people out for tasty food, cool drinks and a good laugh

28

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


Clean beaches with pristine sands are a hallmark of this coastal destination. In fact, six of Fort Lauderdale’s sublime beaches have been 'Blue Wave Certified' by the Clean Beach Council

“G

o, go, go!” said skipper Darrin, and like a bunch of demented lemmings myself and my fellow dive buddies flung ourselves off the back of the Safari Diver in a negative entry, arched down into a headfirst orientation and then started finning like crazy into the seemingly endless blue depths before us. For what appeared to be minutes, but in reality was a matter of seconds, we could see nothing, we were just finning blindly down into the deep, but then an indistinct shape appeared below us. Suddenly it snapped into view as the water clarity cleared and a huge cargo ship was revealed, perfectly upright on the seabed and apparently steaming merrily past us! The current was running fast, and Darrin had dropped us with pinpoint accuracy north of the wreck, so we were coming down swiftly with the flow and had already passed the bow section. Doubling our efforts, we all managed to ‘land’ in front of the main bridge superstructure and tucked in out of the current, ready to explore. This was the RSB-1 wreck, and the ‘hot-drop’ entry was one hell of a way to make an introduction!

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

Roadtrip to Fort Lauderdale I was 'in-country' to check out both sides of the Florida panhandle, but you can’t embark on a roadtrip across the mighty US of A without the appropriate transport. A scan of the Dollar website revealed that the price difference between a ‘standard’ saloon and a Ford Mustang convertible worked out at less than $12 a day, so that was it, total no-brainer - the only way to properly get into the true vibe of an American roadtrip was in a ragtop, and a muscle car to boot! My first stop was Fort Lauderdale, with its beachfront promenade lined with bars and restaurants adorned with eye-catching signs, neon lights and numerous intriguing drinks offers, but I was actually heading to Pompano Beach, just a few miles up the coast, and while it is in close proximity to all the nighttime fun of Lauderdale for après-dive entertainment, the area itself is quieter and the perfect location to base yourself for an east-coast dive adventure. The Fort Lauderdale Marriott Pompano Beach Resort and Spa was my home-away-from-home, and this hotel is extremely well appointed throughout, with spacious, comfortable rooms, fantastic beach views, a

TOP LEFT Asa Johnson and Lynn Bean inside the RSB-1 ABOVE The Lauderdale wrecks are heavily encrusted with coral growth and marine life FAR LEFT It can sometimes be hard to make out the wrecks underneath all of the sponges and corals LEFT Lynn Bean in an old pipe that forms part of one of the Wreck Treks

29


great pool bar and a swish main restaurant. It also has a full-on spa, which I have heard is outstanding, but I was on a hardcore diving mission, so didn’t take the time to find out for myself! I was diving with South Florida Diving Headquarters, one of the charter companies used by Force-E, and handily they were literally a couple of minutes drive from the Marriott. The compact little dive centre is draped with diving flags, signs and slogans, so no chance of missing it, and SFDH’s three boats - two large catamarans (Black Pearl and Aqua View) and a smaller six-pack vessel (Safari Diver) - are moored just steps away. There is plenty of parking on-site, so no long-distance humping of dive kit is required. Unfortunately, the best laid plans never seem to come to fruition. The mixed weather I had been experiencing on my drive north from the airport was also in evidence in Fort Lauderdale, and so when it became obvious I might lose full or half days to these unexpected storms, we devised a more-flexible itinerary where I could jump on whatever boats were going out, and failing that head off on the six-pack

RIGHT Even the interior of the superstructures on the wrecks gets adorned in coral growth

Force-E was founded in 1976 by Skip Commagere, and now has three locations in South Florida. Pompano Beach is one of the largest locations, with great proximity to all the best charter boats and boat ramp. Pompano Beach boasts easy access to the Shipwreck Park and other artificial reefs. Pompano has over 30 wrecks less than one mile off the coast. A different wreck can be seen each day of the week! The conditions in Pompano Beach are fairly consistent throughout the year - visibility is 60-80 feet, currents are typically north and drift diving is best in the summer, water temps range from 74-84F, seas range from 0-3 feet most days, and topside, the air temperatures are 78-88F and roughly 80 percent humidity. Force-E has a friendly team of knowledgeable locals behind you to ensure you experience some of the best scuba diving in South Florida. Force-E regularly hosts local events including the famous Blue Heron Bridge night dives, beach and underwater clean-ups, kids events, educational seminars, fundraisers for non-profit ocean advocates, parties and more. Force-E offers multiple recreational-level courses, professional-level courses, technical-diving courses, and freediving courses with multiple certification agencies. Whether you are a diver, a snorkeler, a spearfisher, or just a beach goer, Force-E has the high-quality, name-brand gear and accessories you need to make the most of your visit. www.force-e.com

Scuba Centers

30

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


Scuba Centers The Locals Underwater Outfitter since 1976. Snorkel & Dive trips Top Line Rental Gear Local Guides & Instruction Service & Fills

Dive Like a Local. 17 CHARTER BOATS 3 CONVENIENT LOCATIONS 5 OCEAN INLETS “WORLD FAMOUS” BLUE HERON BRIDGE

Force-E Pompano 1312 North Federal HWY Pompano Beach, FL 33062 (954) 943-3483

Force-E Boca Raton 2621 North Federal HWY Boca Raton, FL 33431 (561) 368-0555

Force-E Riviera 155 East Blue Heron Blvd Riviera Beach, FL 33404 (561) 845-2333

WWW.FORCE-E.COM


Safari Diver for special Scuba Diver-only forays if the normal schedule was completely canned. One of the main benefits to diving out of Pompano Beach and Fort Lauderdale is the fact that the threetiered reef system slopes off right from the beach, so you can be moored up close offshore and be in 130ft of water. No long boat rides here, and even the 45-minute runs are along the coast as opposed to heading out into the Atlantic. I lucked out on most days and was able to get out on to the scheduled dives with other customers, at least in the mornings, only losing one full day to the weather, but on a couple of occasions I went out with a few handpicked buddies and a captain to hit some of the better wrecks, hence the ‘hot-drop’ style of diving described at the beginning! There are a multitude of wrecks to dive off of Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach, with a veritable fleet of artificial reefs lying in depths ranging from 60ft-70ft to way beyond recreational depths. There are also a host of shallow and mid-range reefs for those who get tired of rusting metal, but I have to say, due to the often-strong currents that flow over these wrecks thanks to the Gulfstream, the sheer amount of marine growth and life on them means even nonwreckies will be in their element. On virtually every dive I was greeted by large barracuda and shoals of jacks, with occasional spadefish and pompano putting in an appearance, and on the wrecks themselves you can find all the usual reef suspects, including snapper, parrotfish, grunts, damsels and angelfish. If you are lucky you may even see the odd reef shark, or even a passing eagle ray, so always keep an eye out in the blue around the wreck you are on. Among the more-outstanding wrecks we dived were the Rodeo 25, a 210-feet-long Dutch freighter sunk in May 1990 in front of over 100,000 spectators to commemorate the Pompano Beach Fishing Rodeo’s 25th anniversary. It sits at a slight list in 124ft and is dominated by a photo-friendly twin mast above the bridge. The Rebel was also a Dutch freighter, which became an artificial reef after being caught smuggling drugs into the USA under its prior name St Andrea. It was donated to the cause by a local TOP Gray angelfish and yellow-striped snapper shelter out of the current on one of the wrecks RIGHT Lighthouse marking the entrance to the inlet

32

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


Barefoot luxury in the heart of Indonesia

Apres-dive in Lauderdale For any non-divers in your group, for non-diving days, or if you get blown out, there is plenty to do in Fort Lauderdale. If you want to stay on the water, you can cruise the intercoastal waterway (in a self-hire boat, in a wartime ‘Duck’ or even a restored paddlesteamer!), which extends all the way south to the start of the Florida Keys and creates a network of canals parallel to the main coastline, or you can head out on a sunset catamaran cruise, offering spectacular views and good entertainment. If fishing is your bag, then there are plentiful opportunities for big-game fishing, or if you want a bit more ‘zoom’ thrown in, then why not board an airboat for an Everglades tour? Then there’s always all the usual beach-related watersports. Topside during the day you can venture into the largest butterfly aviary in North America, explore 60 acres of native plants and trees in Flamingo Gardens, or just whip out the credit card and enjoy the vast array of shopping available to you. However, Fort Lauderdale really comes alive when darkness falls, and if you head out to Las Olas Boulevard, or the promenade area around Beach Place, you can be sure to find the bars full of likeminded people out for tasty food, cool drinks and a good laugh.

Bunaken National Marine Park

Siladen-US half--90x250.indd 1

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

09/10/2019 09:03

33


Untitled-1 1

04/10/2019 18:59

PHOTO BY @EUANART

GUADALUPE ISLAND

C A G E D I V I N G W I T H G R E AT W H I T E S JUST GOT EVEN BETTER. BOOK YOUR TRIP

R E S E R VAT I O N S @ P E L A G I C F L E E T. C O M


TOP Anchor chain and winch virtually unrecognisable under the marine growth ABOVE My trusty transport for my roadtrip - a convertible Ford Mustang

Continue the adventure! After Fort Lauderale, Mark headed over to the other side of the panhandle to dive the wrecks out of Fort Myers. He found a more chilled-out environment than Fort Lauderdale, and a totally different diving experience, involving long boat rides and fabulous wrecks. Check the story out online. www.scubadiverdestinations.com/ florida-part-2

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

attorney, who renamed it after his dog, and was sunk in July 1985. The 127-feet ship sits upright with the bow pointing to the north, and the two forward holds are open, dissected by a bar between them, so plenty of opportunities for penetration. The RSB-1 - which was renamed the Jim Togerson after the lead explosive expert with the Broward County Sheriffs when it was sunk in April 1994, but is still referred to predominantly by its original name - is a 160-feet-long oil company tender which sits in 104ft, is swarming with marine life and offers various routes inside the main superstructure and holds. There are also a series of unique dives available off the Fort Lauderdale coastline, namely the ‘Wreck Treks’. There are four in total - Wreck Trek Deerfield, Wreck Trek Fort Lauderdale, Wreck Trek Boca and Wreck Trek Pompano - and each gives you the opportunity to dive three or more wrecks in one dive, if your navigation skills are top-notch, the currents are being kind and you have decent air consumption. I completed two-and-a-half of the four individual Wreck Treks, and they were simply spectacular.

Conclusion There can be few things to compare with a drive 'n' dive roadtrip. I mean, really, what can be better than a whole lot of cruising the highways in a ragtop combined with some superlative wreck diving in clear, warm waters? Even the odd spell of lousy weather couldn’t dampen my enthusiasm for proceedings, and mixing the underwater delights of Florida's east coast with the modern, vibrant topside attractions of Fort Lauderdale was a winning combination. n

35


36

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


The ‘dream luxury dive vacation’ often comes down to two primary preferences – land-based resort or dedicated dive yacht – and when it comes to Wakatobi, the answer is both, as Walt Stearns explains Photography Walt Stearns, Didi Lotze, Matthis Weatherall, and Warren Baverstock

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

37


W

akatobi’s Resort in southeast Sulawesi provides divers and snorkelers with a unique opportunity to discover Indonesia’s best coral reefs and marine life while also enjoying all the perks of a luxury resort, including beach time, fine dining, spa treatments and impeccable guest services. And, by combining a stay at the resort with a oneweek voyage on the luxury dive yacht Pelagian, they can broaden their horizons and add an additional dimension to the Wakatobi vacation experience. Wakatobi can officially be described as way off the beaten track, far away from traffic noise and pollution and at least 100 miles away from any other divers, but thanks to its private 70-seat turbo-prop charter flight (flying Mondays and Fridays), you can be whisked from Bali to the resort’s purpose-built airstrip in two and a half hours, followed by a short boat ride to the resort itself.

Welcome to Wakatobi At Wakatobi, a collection of beachfront bungalows and oceanfront villas overlook the waters of a private marine reserve that encompass some of Indonesia’s most-protected and pristine coral reefs. Both divers and snorkelers can enjoy these sites, as a bulk of the surrounding underwater formations rise to within a few feet of the surface, creating ideal conditions for viewing with mask and snorkel, along with chances for divers to perform long multi-level profiles that often reach beyond the one-hour mark. Daily diving activities begin with two-tank morning boat excursions that return guests to the resort in time for lunch. Guests have the option of making an additional single-tank afternoon boat dive, and night dives by boat are scheduled according to demand. Once you’re settled in, you are assigned a dive storage and staging area (for shore diving) with a number and a large plastic crate for your gear. When the day’s plan includes, for example, the two-tank morning and night dive, your gear will be there and ready to dive when you step on board. This goes for just about everything else, including camera equipment – why carry it when they will eagerly do it for you. Another nice feature is that it is common for the boats to return to the jetty in between the first and second dive, giving divers a chance to stretch their legs, or for late risers to catch the second dive. This flexibility, combined with the House Reef, allows

38

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


MIDDLE Column of convict blennies swarm along the reef LEFT Vibrantly coloued sponges adorn the reefs BOTTOM Villa deck and pool facing a gorgeous sunset

Because dives take place at either shallow water sites or on structures with vertical reliefs that allow multi-level profiles, it is common to enjoy bottom times of 70 minutes or more, and four or five dives a day, including night dives WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

39


ABOVE The Pelagian, one of the world’s most-luxurious liveaboards RIGHT The master suite on Pelagian would be right at home in a five-star hotel BOTTOM RIGHT The dive tenders are relatively spacious

40

guests to create an almost-custom boat and shore dive schedule. In my book, the thing that can break or make a great dive experience is the boat. When it comes to this, Wakatobi’s core fleet of seven (two are reserved for private charters only) dive boats are enormous vessels measuring between 60 feet to 75 feet in length. Locally crafted, each boat is designed specifically for diving with a copious amount with deck space with ample seating, space for camera equipment, no matter the size. While they may not be fast, they are impressively stable on the water (almost like standing on a dock) providing an enhanced comfort level that is further elevated by overhead protection from sun and rain nearly full-length of the vessel. The most-trademark feature of all is that Wakatobi likes to see that their guests have plenty of elbow room by keeping the number of divers and/or snorkelers on board (outside of the boat’s standard three-man deck crew, plus the typical two to four dive guides) down around ten to 12, 14 max. While sites like Blade, Coral Hill and Fish Wall are the farthest from the resort, the majority of the dives sites are less than a half-hour boat ride away. Conditions at the sites themselves are mostly benign, and even more timid and less-athletic divers will enjoy themselves, as there are rarely big seas to contend with. Instead, a collection of surrounding reefs and sheltering islands create consistently calm to mild sea states at dive sites, and deliver brilliant visibility in the 100-foot-plus range. The number of cataloged and mapped sites

Yacht specs

Length: 118 feet | Beam: 24 feet | Passengers: 10 Crew: 12 | 1 x Master Stateroom | 2 x Superlux Staterooms | 1 x Deluxe Stateroom 1 x Standard Stateroom Large salon and dining area with huge flat-panel HD TV and Blueray DVD player Indoor camera room Two 18-foot RIBs each twin 60HP outboard engines, tank racks and deck-mounted stainlesssteel boarding ladder

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


accessible to their day boats number well into the high 40s. And each are extremely engaging in their own way with profiles that start a few feet from the surface with abrupt contours toppling down into the depths. With reef contours of this nature, it’s easy to perform multi-level dives well over an hour each, one after another, without going into decompression. This brings up another trademark of Wakatobi expect every boat dive to run 70 minutes in length. While you have the option to end the dive sooner for reasons of getting low on air, or getting cold, if you don’t need or want to, your guide is going to keep on going. Besides, spending that latter portion of dives off-gassing in the shallows can often be the mostinteresting part of the dive, as the tops of the reefs are just as vibrant as they are deeper down. During the surface interval, in addition to snacks, water and beverages like coffee, tea or hot chocolate, guests are given refreshing hand towel infused with water and lemon grass. Having one those offered at the end of a 70-plus minute dive on a beautiful, pristine reef, affirms life is good.

LEFT Expect to be blown away by the sheer spectacle of the reefs BOTTOM The blend of hard and soft corals, combined with a variety of sponges and diverse marine life, mean this is a paradise for photographers

Much more than just diving In addition to diving and snorkelling, guests can try watersports such as kayaking, paddleboarding and wakeboarding, relax with indulgent spa treatments, and broaden their interests with cultural presentations such as Indonesian cooking classes. The Wakatobi staff takes pride in delivering the highest levels of personal service by not just

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

41


RIGHT Crinoids feed while perched atop a barrel sponge BOTTOM At times you have to look through fish to see fish

meeting requests, but by always making the extra effort to learn and anticipate each guest’s needs. Meals are served at the waterfront restaurant, and can also be enjoyed in the privacy of a bungalow or villa, or for special occasions in a romantic setting on the beach. Many visitors comment on the exceptional quality and variety of the food created by the resort’s culinary team. In addition to serving ever-changing offerings of international and Indonesian dishes, the chefs are able to accommodate special requests and dietary requirements, so whatever your preference/ needs in respect of food, they have got you covered.

A different class of liveaboard In addition to the resort, Wakatobi also operates the Pelagian, a 115-feet luxury dive yacht that cruises through a broader swathe of the bio-diverse Wakatobi archipelago and the southern portion of Buton Island. The yacht’s seven-day itineraries and seasonal ten-day trips cover an exciting and diverse range of underwater environments, from steep walls perforated by overhangs at Karang Kaledupa and Karang Kapota atolls to unique muck diving in Buton’s Pasar Wajo Bay, and the magnificent reefs, dramatic vertical drop-offs and mind-blowing pinnacles near Wangi Wangi and Kaledupa Islands. Pelagian is configured to hold a maximum of ten divers between five extra-comfy accommodations resembling those on private luxury yachts than the typical cabins found on liveaboard dive boats. Each of

Wakatobi was built from scratch – the resort generates its own power, and produces its own freshwater. It even built its own airstrip to make it more-accessible.

42

WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM


Bahasa Indonesia is the national and official language of the country. While English is widely spoken in resorts, it is good to know a few phrases: → → → → → → →

the cabins features ensuite bathrooms and showers, along with the extra floor space needed for relaxing, reading and dressing. To ensure five-star service, the Pelagian is staffed by a crew of 12, which includes dedicated stewards and an executive chef who creates fine dining experiences on a daily basis which would not look out of place in a high-end restaurant. The dive team provides detailed briefings and handles all logistics of gear transfer back and forth between the yacht and its two custom-fabricated dive tenders, which comfortably whisk divers to each site. The tenders are 18-foot RIBs equipped with double 60HP outboard engines for redundancy, handy tank racks to keep all your gear secure and safely out from under your feet, and one of the sturdiest deckmounted stainless steel boarding ladder systems for divers to climb back on board I have ever seen in a RIB. With a maximum passenger count at ten, the number of divers per RIB (not counting the dive guide and driver) is divided accordingly, either split evenly or with six in one, and four in the other (especially if the four are photographers), so you will never be overcrowded.

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

Good morning – Selamat pagi Good afternoon – Selamat sore Goodbye – Selamat tinggal Please – Silahkan Thank you – Terima kasih You’re welcome – Terima kasih kembali Excuse me - Permisi

Off to the atolls The Pelagian embarks on its cruises from the resort and day one includes one or more afternoon warm up dives on favorite sites within the marine preserve. Overnight, the boat then heads to the massive reef atolls of Karang Kaledupa and Karang Kapota, which are home to some of the region’s most-colorful and dramatically contoured reefs. The tops of these formations are thick with dense and diverse coatings of both hard and soft corals, while the adjacent slopes and walls that plunge into the depths showcase an equally broad assortment of vibrant soft coral trees and gorgonians resplendent in red, orange, pink and yellow hues. With visibility that typically exceeds 100 feet, these sites serve up dramatic big-picture views, and are often visited by blackfin barracuda, sea turtles and schools of eagle rays. Along with panoramic seascapes, the reefs here also contain a wealth of small and cryptic creatures. Some of the best critter hunting takes place among the sea whips that cover the slopes and walls. These long, sometimes spiraling strands are a haven for whip coral gobies and small shrimp. And a highlight of any Pelagian cruise is the chance to find pygmy seahorses.

ABOVE LEFT Mandarinfish perform elaborate courtship rituals at Magic Pier, a Pelagian signature dive ABOVE Dayboat at anchor along a Wakatobi reef

43


There are 43-plus named dive sites around Wakatobi Resort, each exceptional in its own way. This makes narrowing a list of favorites a somewhat subjective task, but there are some sites that rise to the top of most every visitor’s must-do list.

Guests also have day-andnight access to the House Reef, which has been called the world’s best shore dive

1

Aptly-named Zoo is known for its abundance and diversity of marine life. The site itself begins with a shallow coral garden very suitable for snorkeling that rolls down a steep slope to depths well past 100ft. The reef’s staghorn, scroll corals and seafans are havens for a range of macro subjects from frogfish and leaf scorpionfish to pygmy seahorses, ghost pipefish and the unique mushroom pipefish, often found among the wavy tentacles of mushroom corals.

2

Another favorite with critter watchers and macro photo buffs is Teluk Maya, which features a sloping reef profile similar to Zoo, but with more of a bowl shape that creates a large sand-bottomed amphitheater. Adding to the site’s topographic diversity is a vertical drop-off adjacent to the sandy basin that plummets straight down from a depth of 78ft, and is riddled with overhangs.

3

There’s no shortage of walls in Wakatobi waters, and many of these vertical ramparts start as shallow as a mere foot or two from the surface and plunge well below depths of 300ft. Some of the most dramatic are found at the Sawa Reef system. Two perennial favorites in this area are Cornucopia and Lorenzo’s Delight, which was named after Wakatobi’s founder Lorenz Mäder. Like most sites on the Sawa reef, both begin with a shallow coral flat 4ft-6ft deep, then drop with vertical abruptness into the void.

4

The site known as Roma always takes top billing. This large seamount rises to within 6ft of the surface and is topped by a beautiful grove of potato coral. To one side there is a huge area of pavona coral following a downward grade. To the other, the profile takes a more-sudden drop-off. In between are large barrel sponges and turbinaria corals, one of which is a massive formation 50 feet across that resembles a rose when viewed from above.

5

Farther afield, roughly an hour by boat is Blade. The underwater topography of this site is unlike any other, as it is made up of a series of small open-water seamounts fused together to form a narrow, elongated ridge that rises up to within a few feet from the surface, all connected by a lower ridge. Viewed from the side, the formation’s coral and sponge-covered profile resembles the edge of a giant serrated knife blade. 44

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


This area is home to bargibanti, Denise’s and pontoh’s pygmy seahorses. The Pelagian’s dive guides are especially good at locating the white pontoh’s, which shelter among the halimeda algae. Once found, these small creatures make great subjects, whether you view them through the lens of a camera, or an underwater magnifying glass.

ABOVE Blade is one of the mostamazing coral structures on the planet

Reefs, walls and pinnacles

BOTTOM LEFT Dive boat anchored above the appropriately named dive site Zoo

On the way back south to home base at Wakatobi resort, the Pelagian completes the loop with a few more stops at the coral-rich shallows, slopes and steep drop-offs near Wangi Wangi Island, Hoga, and Kaledupa Island. In these waters, many reef profiles rise to within 4ft-6ft of the surface, creating opportunities for very long multi-level dive plans. A stand-out site near Wangi Wangi is Komang Reef. This elongated sea mound is alive with vibrant growths of soft corals and large sponges nurtured by the currents. This stand-alone structure is swarmed by fish life, and on tide changes it may be visited by rays, tuna, trevally and blacktip sharks. Aptly named Fishmarket is a wall with an adjacent pinnacle known for the high numbers of schooling fish it attracts, including a rather huge school of blackfin barracuda. The site’s unique terrain combines a steep wall with three deep ravines and the detached pinnacle that rises to within 30ft of the surface. On the way to and from the resort, Pelagian may stop at other sites on the outer edge of day-boat range, such as the seamounts of Blade. This unique formation is made up of a row of parallel knife-edged pinnacles that are connected by a lower ridge, giving the entire structure the appearance of a serrated knife blade set on edge. It is just one of the many memorable sites that divers will experience aboard Pelagian. And by combining a cruise with a stay at Wakatobi Dive Resort, guests can experience the best that Indonesia has to offer. n

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

LEFT Could a topside view be any more idyllic?

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Wakatobi, Indonesia GETTING THERE Many airlines around the world offer flights into Denpasar, Bali, often from a hub like Singapore or Jakarta, and from here it is just a short hop to the resort. Wakatobi Dive Resort’s Bali-based concierge staff can arrange all details of overnight or extended stays in Bali, and are onhand from the moment you land in Bali and pass through immigration, ready to assist you through baggage claim and customs, and organise ground transportation. For details, email: office@wakatobi.com WHEN TO GO While there are some regional differences, Indonesia broadly has two distinct seasons – dry season (April to October) and wet season (November to March). CURRENCY Indonesia’s currency is the Rupiah, but resorts and liveaboards accept payment in most major currencies and by credit card. ENTRY REQUIREMENTS Visitors from North America can get a 30-day travel visa on arrival, you just need to have a valid passport with at least six months remaining, and a return air ticket. Visas cost US$35. ELECTRICITY When traveling in Indonesia, its wise bring a few USA 110-to-220 twin-pin European adaptors. Photographers will find a multitude of 110v US and 220v European type two pin receptacles for recharging batteries in resort and on the Pelagian.

45


GOING GRAY IN STYLE THE ART OF MONOCHROMES Underwater photography guru Mario Vitalini turns his attentions to creating evocative, thought-provoking and intriguing monochromatic shots Photography Mario Vitalini

ABOVE One photograph can look startlingly different when converted into different monochromes

A

s underwater photographers, our goal is to capture the vibrant colors beneath the sea. But on some dives or with certain subjects, you cannot escape the feeling that you are not quite doing it justice. Over the past few years, I’ve found myself turning increasingly to monochromes. On your next dive, take some time to think of the scene in front of you in terms of shapes, textures, light and shadows. There’s an undeniable beauty to be found in shades of black, white and gray. And in mastering monochromes, you can open up a whole new world of photographic opportunity.

More than just black and white Monochromatic photography simply means that there is only one color in the shot. Traditionally, this means black on a white background. But with modern digital editing tools, it’s very easy to replace black with any tone! Sepia and yellow tones give a photo an oldworld vibe, while cyan and blue tones create a colder atmosphere. Monochrome edits can allow you much more artistic freedom in terms of exposure, as you can push the shadows and/or highlights to levels that would be unacceptable in a color shot.

46

In camera or post-production? In the old days of film photography, you had to decide before you jumped if this was going to be a black and white dive. But thanks to digital, you can make the choice at any point – underwater or in the edit. Many cameras on the market today have a black and white mode. When selected, it will display and record a monochromatic JPG without any color information. If your camera also records RAW files, this will retain all the color information… in case you want to use it later. Personally, I shoot RAW and edit later, but this mode can be useful underwater for visualizing the scene in monotones. In practice, most monochromatic images you see are actually color shots that have been converted in post-production. Just as you normally process your color images to get the most from them, black and white pictures benefit from some digital work. Editing software such as Photoshop and Lightroom come with built-in B&W conversion modules. Go a step further with pre-set add-ons and filters that will convert your files into a whole host of different monotones. At the moment, I like Silver Efex Pro2 (currently free). In my opinion, it is one of the best black and white converters, as well as a great tool for creating more

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


Subjects matter

interesting monochromes, giving you complete control over all color tones. I’d really encourage you to experiment with the treatments. A classic black and white conversion can sometimes look quite uninspiring, while more dramatic tonal changes can totally transform the mood or feeling of a photo. Try different levels of contrast. Think where you want the best detail to be, on the dark areas or on the highlights. Don’t be afraid to blow areas out! And why not introduce some digital noise. In monochrome, it can build the mood of your picture. You can even change the background color completely from white to black or vice versa. This is an artistic process so go for it, with multiple versions of the same shot.

A good monochrome image requires a different mindset. You don’t have bright colors to make the photo stand out or to show an obvious focal point. Instead, the stand out elements are delivered by the play in the light and shadows, contrast, strong shapes and textures. This means that not every shot you take will work as a monochromatic image. As a general rule, available light wide-angle shots tend to be more suitable than macro. Wrecks are an ideal choice. The strong lines and shadows created by these man-made structures and the lack of colors serve to heighten the drama of the shipwreck. A monochromatic treatment can also be helpful to deal with a very-common problem in wreck photography - that is a lack of sharpness and contrast due to excessive distance between subject and camera. Even with a fish-eye lens, you sometimes find yourself simply too far away to get a good color photo. Add a 70ft-100ft depth and your images are dominated by a blue cast. If you love the composition, but hate the color cast, try a monochrome. Increase the contrast to a level that would never be possible in

TOP LEFT This cavern shot is incredibly atmospheric in monochrome ABOVE The plates on this turtle’s head really ‘pop’ in black and white

Escorted trips. Want to take your own shark shots? Join Mario on an escorted photo workshop, with award-winning tour operator Scuba Travel. There’s something for everyone. Mario’s workshops are open to all experience levels, but in particular anyone using a compact camera or mirrorless set-up. His prizewinning images prove it’s not the kit that makes the shot, but the photographer! If you need some help getting to grips with your camera underwater, Mario’s your man. His calm, patient approach is just what you need to improve your photos. Mario tailors the tips and techniques to your needs, both on the surface and underwater. Improve your skills in a relaxed, non-competitive environment. Dive, eat, sleep and shoot! Workshops in 2020 are running in classic destinations such as the Philippines, Cayman Islands and Indonesia. www.scubatravel.com

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

47


a full-color image, regain some of that lost sharpness and accentuate the shadows and highlights. At the end of the edit, you are more likely to have a photo you want to hang on your wall. Caverns are another environment that I love to work into monochrome, especially if the light comes from overhead openings. Black and white is a beautiful vehicle for sun beams penetrating the gloom. For strong sunbeams, remember to dive when the sun is high above and tuck yourself away in a dark place. Expose for the sunbeam and make sure that your composition includes the start and the finish of the beam. Monochrome marine life shots work on a ‘bigger is better’ basis. I find turtles especially photogenic in black and white. The texture of their carapace and faces just looks amazing. As with all marine life, look for behaviors. Turtles eating are a great image. Mantas and sharks can be tricky subjects in color. Sharks such as hammerheads are often that bit too deep to escape heavy blue casts. Pale bellies are easily overexposed. Monochrome can help deal with some of these exposure issues in the finished result. If you are shooting dolphins or manta, remember to include the surface in your photo for added level of depth and texture. Macro subjects are colorful in nature and that is a huge part of what makes them popular with underwater photographers. Let’s face it… would you be so obsessed with nudibranch photos if they only came in land-slug

48

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

brown colours? Monochrome macro is all about the shape and texture. Think long and hard about your strobe position. Use the lighting to emphasise textures and craft areas of light and dark. Without these, the end result will look flat and underwhelming. Technically, the sharpness needs to be absolutely perfect. Make sure your critter is sitting on clean background. Feeling inspired to get creative with monochrome? I find it an evocative medium. It is less about recording what you saw, and more about creating drama or atmosphere. There’s more than one way to edit a shot. There’s no right or wrong. Ultimately, like all photography, whether you like the end result is going to be a personal matter, but when you get it works, monochrome is anything but drab. n

TOP LEFT Red Sea wreck Giannis D looks stunning in black and white TOP Dolphins in monochrome ABOVE Even macro subjects can benefit from being turned into black and white

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


RECYCLED FROM THE SEA Our next generation Thermocline wetsuits are made from ECONYL® recycled nylon, helping to reduce the number of ghost nets left in our seas.

Image by Alfred Minnaar

fourthelement.com


Our panel of underwater photography professionals offer hints and advice on particular topics. This issue, the thorny subject of traveling with your camera system, and the best ways to pack your gear Photography Mario Vitalini, Martyn Guess, and Phil and Anne Medcalf

“Packing is one of the moststressful bits about any vacation. I MARIO always recommend starting early to VITALINI keep your nerves in check. “The first thing 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 65lb. Enough to travel to any dive destination without any problems.”

50

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


“I always try to put as much of my camera gear in the hold luggage as ANNE possible to avoid having to carry a lot MEDCALF 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 PHIL before you buy, including bags, to MEDCALF make the most of the weight allowed. 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

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

and hard drives are also in hand luggage - we have two hard drives and as we travel as a couple, we take one each for extra security. Buying tough hard drives that can take a few bumps is also a good idea if you will be travelling a lot, as they are bound to get dropped at some point. “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 vacation!”

51


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

MARTYN GUESS

“My Nikon D5 is a beast, weighing in over 3lb! Compared to other photographers with their compacts or mirrorless systems, I have 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 and pack accordingly. “I found the lightest weight cabin roller bag that I could - mine weighs just over 3lb. 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 26lb 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 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, I could find. All internal sides and any voids are stuffed with bubble wrap.

52

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


My pro tip is pretty obvious - and it’s to pack light. I carry the absolute bare minimum to do PAUL the job along with me in my hand luggage. DUXFIELD 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 over-complicate things.

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

53


54

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


Fiji is known as the ‘soft coral capital of the world’, but does it deserve this title, and is it worth travelling thousands of miles to dive this South Pacific archipelago? Mark Evans says ‘yes’ - and here he explains why Photography Mark Evans

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

55


In less than 25 minutes of swimming around in the murk, we found four six-inch-long seahorses and then a chunky frogfish perched on a piece of sponge protruding up from a coral head

ABOVE The soft corals of Fiji provide a riot of color RIGHT Even topside, Fiji is the very essence of a Pacific paradise

56

F

iji is a fair old haul from North America, which means it takes a good 13-14 hour flight to get there. With dive locations such as the Caribbean being far closer, is it really worth travelling such a long distance for a diving vacation? The answer, quite simply, is a resounding ‘yes’! Fiji had always been on my bucket list as a dive destination, and earlier this year I finally got to tick that box, flying to Fiji’s main island Viti Levu, before finally ending up at the Volivoli Beach Resort nestled on the northern tip of the island. Sat on a headland looking out towards Vanua Levu – the second-biggest island (there are more than 330 Fijian islands in total, in case you were wondering) – it enjoys enviable views across Bligh Waters, which are home to more than 50 dive sites, most of which are no more than 20 minutes from the resort.

Soft coral is what Fiji is renowned for, and soft coral is what we got when we jumped in at sites with names such as Mellow Yellow, Garden of Eden, Wheatfields, Heartbreak Ridge and Black Magic Mountain. On each and every one of them, I was blown away by the sheer proliferation of soft corals and sponges, which adorned every square inch of available reef space. As if this riot of color was not enough of a visual feast, you then had swarms of reef fish roaming through the coral, while in the blue waters above shoals of barracuda and jacks cruised effortlessly on the look out for prey. The dive guides are justifiably proud of their local reefs, and take great pleasure in showing you its delights, including on one site a tiny pygmy seahorse nestled in the midst of a small gorgonian tucked into a swim-through. God knows how he found it in the first place!

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


ABOVE Anemonefish nestle down in their host anemone LEFT Bright orange anthias jostle with iridescent soft corals as to who provides the most color

The Volivoli family 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

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

57


Many people think Fiji is an island, but actually, it is an island nation, comprising an archipelago of more than 330 islands and some 500 islets. Fiji is roughly 1,800 miles east of Australia

58

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


Some of the sites can have relatively strong currents, but that is why the soft corals are so healthy – this constant flow of water brings plenty of nutrients. On the flipside there are also dive sites that are in fairly benign waters and the reefs come quite shallow, meaning whatever your level of experience, the dive crew can put you on a site that is suitable for your qualification. Photographers will be in their element, particularly those who enjoy capturing dramatic, eye-catching wide-angle reef shots, but don’t forget your macro lens, because as well as the aforementioned pygmy seahorse, the Fiji reefs were swarming with nudibranchs, flatworms, and various species of tiny crustacean. Not all the sites require a boat journey – right off the small beach in front of the Volivoli Beach Resort you can explore scattered coral bommies on a sandy bottom. Depending on the state of the tide, you can either get several feet of visibility or, as we encountered tagging it on to the end of a ‘normal’ boat-diving day, less than a couple. However, it was worth jumping into the decidedly-less-than-tropical conditions with our trusty guide as he promised seahorses and frogfish, and duly delivered. In less than 25 minutes of swimming around in the murk, we found four six-inch-long seahorses and then a chunky frogfish perched on a piece of sponge protruding up from a coral head.

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

FAR LEFT Sea fan, hard corals, soft corals and sponges - what more could you want? LEFT Diver confronted by a veritable sea of pink soft corals

59


FUN FACT!

You must try a cup of Kava when you are in Fiji. This iconic beverage – which looks a bit like muddy rainwater - is not only traditional, it is the country’s national drink, and a major ingredient is the ground root of a plant that belongs to the pepper family. Drinking it is normally combined with an elaborate ceremony.

60

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


Photographers will be in their element, particularly those who enjoy capturing dramatic, eye-catching wide-angle reef shots, but don’t forget your macro lens

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Fiji GETTING THERE You can fly direct into Nadi International Airport on Viti Levu from several major US airports, uncluding Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Conclusion So does Fiji deserve its title? Being brutally honest, I have dived on several reefs – notably Small Brother and Ras Mohammed – in the Egyptian Red Sea that can give Fiji a serious run for its money in the soft-coral stakes, but as we all know, in this day and age it is not just about the actual diving. Fiji has a real charm to it - the people are immensely friendly and welcoming, the topside scenery is jaw-droppingly beautiful, and the reef diving is right up there with the best, which as a combo package is pretty hard to beat. In my case, throw in the comfortable accommodations, attentive staff and exquisite food at Volivoli Beach Resort and Ra Divers, and you have all the ingredients needed for a truly memorable diving vacation. But Fiji had one more ace up its sleeve – bull sharks, and lots of them, and that is where I was headed next... n

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

ABOVE Anemonefish ‘pop’ from their purple host anemone FAR LEFT Shoaling fish often swarm over the reefs LEFT Stephan Whelan with the frogfish found in the murk on the Volivoli house reef

WHEN TO GO You can dive Fijian waters all year round, but the best conditions in terms of visibility run from May through to October. CURRENCY The currency in Fiji is the Fijian dollar, but many resorts will accept payment by credit card. ENTRY REQUIREMENTS A four-month visa is granted automatically on arrival for visitors – you just need to have a valid passport with at least six months remaining, and a return air ticket. ELECTRICITY 240 volt with a three-pin socket – bring an adaptor to be able to use US-type-plug equipped devices.

61


If you fancy ‘being local’, then try the 21-day balut egg, a street food where you are eating said dish just before the duckling inside is almost ready to hatch. Strong stomachs are required!

The Philippines is now firmly on the map as a top diving destination, with a diverse range of locations, and here we showcase just a few of the hotspots Photography Beth Watson, Rob Wilson, Sylvia Jenkins, Buceo Anilao, Magic Oceans, Thresher Shark Divers

62

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


Philippines Overview

The Philippines, officially known as the Republic of the Philippines, is located in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam. The Sulu Sea to the southwest lies between the country and the island of Borneo, and to the south the Celebes Sea separates it from the other islands of Indonesia. It is bounded on the east by the Philippine Sea. An archipelago comprising 7,107 islands, the Philippines is categorized broadly into three main geographical divisions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. There are diving opportunities throughout the Philippines, from quiet spots like Cabilao and Anilao to tourist hotspots like Boracay, Puerto Galera and Alona Beach, not to mention the world-class sites off Dumaguete, Moalboal, Malapascua, Donsol, Coron Bay and Subic Bay, and we take a look at a few over the coming pages.

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

63


RIGHT Whalesharks feeding BELOW Crinoids decorate a seafan as they seek to feed in the nutrient-rich waters BOTTOM RIGHT flamboyant cuttlefish

64

Anda, Bohol

Anda is a quaint little town located in the southeast of the lush tropical island Bohol, away from the mass tourism. It has a local population of 17,000 people and has ten miles of diving pleasure to offer. This picturesque town represents all the best things you will see in the Philippines and is aptly called the ‘Gem of Bohol’. You will find pristine tropical beaches, a serene countryside, pool caves, prehistorical sites and much more. On top of that, Anda offers a great biodiversity both on land and underwater. For the most part, Anda is still largely undiscovered by tourists, making it the ultimate place to experience the best of the Coral Triangle. This is the perfect getaway for divers to find untouched, colorful and extremely healthy reefs and coral gardens. Diving around this peaceful location is incredibly extensive and versatile, with more then 25 dive sites to explore, offering a great combination between sandy slopes, mangroves, small caves, reefs and walls.

The marine life here varies from XXS to XXL. The black hairy frogfish, blue-ringed octopus, tiny tiger shrimp and a lot of different nudibranchs can easily be found, making it a true critter paradise. On top of that, huge turtles and big schools of jack fish can be seen, as well as a frequently passing whalesharks. Besides being a perfect dive destination, Anda is the perfect starting point to explore the beauty of Bohol Island. Visit the world-renowned Chocolate Hills, the vast expanses of rice fields and the lively local markets. Discover the adorable Tarsier monkeys, watch the twinkling fireflies, visit the local farms, hike to the top of one of the many hills, and so much more!

How to get there Fly into the International Bohol-Panglao airport. It takes about two hours by car to get to Anda. If you arrive by ferry in Tagbilaran from Cebu or Dumaguete, it takes about two hours to get to Anda. You can go by bus or van, or take a taxi, or a (private) transfer via your resort.

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


Dumaguete

Situated just 20 minutes south of the provincial capital of Dumaguete City, Dauin is a mecca for macro diving. There are so many reasons to dive this part of the Philippines, so let’s just look at a few… The majority of dive sites span nine miles from Bacong to Zamboanguita, and it’s no surprize that Dauin is right in the center of these two villages. The area sits at the base of Mount Talinis, which is responsible for the dark black volcanic sand along the coast. Like Lembeh, the black sand attracts a wide variety of small, colorful and unusual critters. The coastline is best known as paradise for frogfish (warty, hairy, painted, giant, etc), ghost pipefish (ornate, robust, roughsnout, delicate, etc – there is even a Distinctive Specialty Course!) and smaller octopus (wonderpus, mimic, blue ring, even mototi).

Apo Island For those who like to shoot a variety of subjects and sizes, just a short boat trip will get you to Apo Island, where you can dive gorgeous rolling coral gardens. Apo has an abundance of green and hawksbill turtles, banded sea snakes, as well as schools of jack fish, all backed by a healthy coral landscape. Most resorts in the area treat Apo Island as a day trip, so as well as your dives and snorkeling, you get to enjoy lunch while taking in the spectacular views of white sandy beaches and limestone cliffs of the island.

Oslob If snorkelling or diving with the gentle giants of the oceans, whalesharks, is on your list, a day drip to Oslob will have you getting as close as possible, with lots of wide-angle photo opportunities.

How to get there Getting to Dauin is simple – just fly to Manila and from there it’s a one-hour flight through to Dumaguete. Dauin is just 20 minutes south from the capital.

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

65


Laoag International Airport (LAO)

LUZON

Cauayan Airport (CYZ)

Philippine Sea

Baguio-Loakan Airport (BAG)

Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL)

Francisco B Airport (USU)

Tugdan Airport (TBH)

Catarman National Airport (CRM)

VISAYAS Daniel Z. Romualdez International Airport (TAC) Mactan-Cebu International Airport (CEB)

MINDANAO South China Sea

Francisco Bangoy International Airport (DVO)


Experience the undersea world of Indonesia with us!

TRADITIONAL LIVEABOARDS

REMOTE EXOTIC RESORTS

Getting divers like you to exotic destinations for more than 10 years US/Canada: 866.690.3483 res@liquiddivingadventures.com skype: liquiddiving

STUNNING CREATURES

Liquid Diving Adv 1/2.indd 1

16/10/2019 10:17

Thresher Shark Divers The pioneers of diving in Malapascua

STAY WITH THE EXPERTS ! EXPERIENCED GUIDES ! SPACIOUS CAMERA ROOM ONLY 17 ROOMS – 3 CATEGORIES

Daily thresher shark dives u Macro and muck diving Reefs and wrecks u Local DMs with 10+ years experience The only PADI CDC on Malapascua u British owned and run Complete packages available

PH/WA: +63 917-795-9433 dive@thresherdivers.com

www.thresherdivers.com

Thresher Shark 1/4.indd 1

04/10/2019 19:14

© Kurt Ochsner

www.BuceoAnilao.com contact@buceoanilao.com


M alapascua

The sleepy island of Malapascua in the Philippines is fast making a name for itself in diving circles and is already on many an avid diver’s bucket list. Initially made famous by its daily sightings of thresher sharks, Malapascua’s diving offers a lot more than sharks. But let’s start with the main event. Malapascua is the only place in the world that the beautiful and rarely seen thresher shark can be seen on a daily basis. In a wonderful twist on the usual story, shark sightings have actually become much more prolific in recent years and you can see ten or more on a single dive, often with very close encounters. The thresher dive leaves early morning, around 5am, as this is when the sharks come up from the blue to Monad Shoal, an underwater mound about 20 minutes from Malapascua. They are attracted to its ‘cleaning stations’, which are like a carwash for fish. The best way to dive Monad Shoal is with one of the operators that has their own mooring line and dives a separate place from other shops. That way you will have a swimming dive rather than a ‘sitting’ dive, with greater chances of multiple shark encounters, and you will see other plentiful marine life along the way. Once you’re back from your early dive, it’s time for breakfast and there is still a whole day ahead of you! And being situated in the middle of the Coral Triangle, the global center of marine biodiversity, there is plenty more to see! There is something for everyone – big fish and macro life, wrecks and walls, coral gardens and muck diving, novice diving and advanced dive sites. Even seasoned dive pros who have been diving there for years still find new marine life after thousands of dives around the island. Gato Island has an amazing variety of life but is known especially for its whitetip sharks and the elusive pygmy seahorse. It has interesting rock formations and an underwater tunnel that goes right under the island. The saying goes ‘You come with thresher sharks in your

68

eyes and leave with Gato in your heart’. Dona Marilyn is possibly the best wreck in the Central Philippines. It was a passenger ferry that sunk over 20 years ago, still in one piece. There are several species of large rays in residence, and the fish can grow huge. Malapascua’s reputation is starting to spread and its picture-postcard reputation is well deserved. The idyllic island is a perfect getaway for anyone, but for divers, it is heaven!

How to get there The nearest airport is Cebu-Mactan. You can also fly to Manila and get one of the many domestic flights to Cebu. There are several routes from the US, with more coming with the opening of a new terminal at Cebu.

WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM


Anda, Bohol

Moalboal, Cebu

TOP Malapascua’s specialty - thresher sharks MIDDLE Divers encounter a friendly turtle FAR LEFT Many centers use outrigger dive boats, like ‘Amy’ from Thresher Shark Divers LEFT Amorous mandarinfish put on a display at dusk

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

www.magicresorts.online info@magicresorts.online

69


RIGHT Macro critters abound, like tiny crabs, lobster... BELOW ...and miniature shrimp BOTTOM Resorts like Buceo Anilao can have enviable positions right on the beach

Anilao

Anilao is the Philippines’ answer to the Lembeh Strait, where multitudes of fascinating muck diving critters await the sharpest of eyes. It has been dubbed by many as the ‘nudibranch capital of the world’, with close to 600 nudibranch species already identified, and more being discovered all the time. There are more than 50 dive sites, and these range from macro and muck dives to coral reefs and even wrecks, and depending on site are suitable for everyone from beginners up to veteran experienced divers. There is an enormous biodiversity of marine life around Anilao. As well as the aforementioned nudibranchs, you can also find seahorse, frogfish, octopus, cuttlefish, squid, mandarinfish, harlequin shrimp, Lembeh sea dragon, blue-ringed octopus, rhinopias, and much more. However, while muck and macro diving might be the main highlight of this area of the Philippines, you can also sample the increasingly popular blackwater diving, which can turn up all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures in the dark.

Topside attractions When you need to dry your gills, or have non-diving members in your group, there is plenty around Anilao to keep busy. You can head off on a tour taking in one of the many waterfalls, set off on a hike if you are feeling more adventurous, or you can even venture on a tour of the volcano. If you want to see the sights, you can go island-hopping.             

How to get there

Anilao is the closest diving destination to Manila, being just a two-and-a-half hour drive away, so getting here is very straightforward. There are 24/7 airport transfers, or you can even use public transportation. n


THE ONLY CDC Facility you need in Costa Rica! DIVEMASTER INTERNSHIPS u PADI TEC COURSES GO PRO PADI IDC u DISCOVER SCUBA COURSE FREEDIVING u SNORKELING TRIPS

Where will your next adventure take you? Since 1997, our clients have enjoyed unforgettable dive adventures around the world. Call today, and we’ll carefully craft your individual dive vacation or group trip, ensuring you experience the very best adventures both above and below the waves. We have sent hundreds of satisfied travelers to the Philippines…

There are 7,000+ reasons to visit the Philippines… 7,000 islands, over 3,000 fish species, 80% of the world’s known coral species, WW2 shipwrecks, and a paradise for macro photographers all await you in the Philippines.

Atlantis with 2 resort locations (Puerto Galera and Dumaguete) and a liveaboard, a combo package offers a fabulous dive vacation.

Magic Resorts with a beautiful house reef at both locations (Bohol and Moalboal), either resort is a great choice for divers and snorkelers alike.

+506 87024574 u +506 26700176 dive@richcoastdiving.com u www.richcoastdiving.com

Rich Coast DIving.indd 1

Crystal Blue offers great photography workshops based out of Anilao, go out and find an incredible variety of stunning macro subjects.

Contact us today! toll-free 1.888.995.3483 diving@flyandsea.com • flyandsea.com

Fly & Sea DIve Adv 1/2.indd 1

16/10/2019 21:15

14/10/2019 19:16

ThE bEST bOUTIqUE DIvE RESORT In DUMAGUETE

EMAIL: InFO@SALAyAbEAChhOUSES.COM

DEMA SPECIAL, GROUPS GET 7 + 1 FOC


Grenada can quite rightly claim to be the ‘shipwreck capital of the Caribbean’, boasting a vast array of shipwrecks in depths to suit all levels of diver, and it is a firm favorite with dedicated ‘wreckie’ Mark Evans Photography Mark Evans and Jeremy Cuff

72

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


Mount Saint Catherine, at 2,756 feet, is the highest mountain in Grenada. The mountain summit is accessible by 3 steep rugged routes crossing the forest reserve. Tours are available, as well as guided trips to Tufton Hall Waterfall, the highest on the island.

Over 57 years on the seabed has taken its toll on the old girl, and she is deteriorating year on year, but there is no taking away from the epic scale of this enormous vessel, and she still makes a fine flagship for the rest of Grenada and Carriacou’s sunken fleet

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

73


T

here are few countries globally that can compete with Grenada and Carriacou when it comes to shipwrecks, never mind just in the Caribbean, and even more incredibly, many of the sunken vessels were genuine maritime accidents, not purpose-sunk artificial reefs. And because the islands sit near a busy trade route, the number of wrecks is going up all the time! This is fantastic news for divers, and whether you are a newly qualified open water diver, or a hardcore diving veteran, you will find a multitude of shipwrecks awaiting your visit. And if you aren’t into your sunken metal, never fear – the sheer amount of marine growth and fish life that lives on and around the wrecks means every dive is a swirling riot of vibrant color.

Titanic of the Caribbean You cannot talk about wreck diving in Grenada without first mentioning the mighty Bianca C, a gigantic 600-feet-long, 18,000-ton Italian liner which went down off the coast of Grenada in 1961. The Bianca C was built in 1939 on the south coast of France, and then after being launched as an incomplete ship named Marechal Petain, was sunk by German forces in August 1944. The hull was raised in 1946 and taken back to its original shipyard, where it was refitted and launched as a cruise ship in 1949, bearing the name La Marseillaise. She then became known as the Arosa Sky in 1957 after being sold, before finally, in 1959, she was bought by the G Costa du Genoa company, and was renamed Bianca C after a daughter in the family firm. She was tasked with the run from Naples, Italy, to Guaira in Venezuela, and Grenada was her last stop on the return leg.

Grenada boasts the oldest functioning water-propelled distillery in the Caribbean – River Antoine Rum Distillery. This privately owned distillery, whose processes have changed little since the 1800s, is the oldest functioning waterpropelled distillery in the Caribbean.

GOOD TO KNOW!

Wearing camouflage – considered the army’s uniform – is considered a crime, so leave those camo shorts at home.

74

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


ABOVE The bow of the Veronica L FAR LEFT One of the prop shaft holes on the Bianca C MIDDLE LEFT The wrecks off Grenada and Carriacou are adorned with marine growth LEFT Inside the Tyrrel Bay, the newest wreck in Grenada’s sunken fleet

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

75


BONAIRE OFFERS SCUBA DIVING 24/7, 365 DAYS A YEAR and in a pristine underwater environment with access to many locations for shore and boat diving, it is an award winning diving destination that accommodates every skill level, from beginner to advanced diver. There are 63 official dive sites on Bonaire and 26 more on Klein Bonaire, of which 54 are shore dive sites. Bonaire is an underwater paradise that awaits you, with more than 350 fish species and 57 species of soft and stony coral. For more information on the Bonaire Marine Park visit www.tourismbonaire.com

Direct flights to Bonaire from Houston, Newark, Atlanta and Miami.


ABOVE The coral-covered rudder and stern of the Veronica L TOP RIGHT The crane on the cargo vessel Shakem is so encrusted with marine growth you can barely make out its man-made heritage RIGHT A traditional-style ship’s wheel on a Carriacou wreck

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

On 22 October 1961, while anchored off St Georges, an explosion in the boiler room saw the vessel catch fire. Hordes of local boats - ranging from sailing boats, power boats and tiny dinghies to ocean-going yachts and inter-island trading schooners, even rowing boats - responded to the crisis, rescuing all but one person who perished on board. Sadly, of 12 badly burned crew, two other men died later. Showing the friendliness and generosity that Grenada is renowned for, all of the rescued passengers were given food and shelter in hotels, guest houses and even private homes. British frigate HMS Londonderry was in Puerto Rico and sailed down to Grenada to assist. When the naval vessel arrived on 24 October, the Bianca C was still ablaze. The frigate managed to take the huge liner in tow, with an aim to move it away from the shipping lanes, but it proved problematic due to the Bianca C’s rudders being jammed and eventually the towing line snapped and the ship sank, which is how it came to rest upright in 165ft of water off Pink Gin Beach. Over 57 years on the seabed has taken its toll on the old girl, and she is deteriorating year on year, but there is no taking away from the epic scale of this enormous vessel, and she still makes a fine flagship for the rest of Grenada and Carriacou’s sunken fleet. It is still possible to make out key aspects of the ship, including the swimming pool, bollards, winches, parts of the superstructure and the bow chain and rope locker. In terms of marine life, you often get large shoals of Atlantic spadefish cruising above the wreck, along with large barracuda, eagle rays and even the odd reef shark.

77


BELOW A searchlight on the Amina BOTTOM RIGHT The Veronica L is well smothered with hard and soft corals

78

Accidental shipwrecks As said before, due to its location on various shipping routes, Grenada is also blessed with a plethora of shipwrecks that were the result of maritime accidents, and now provide underwater playgrounds for divers and protective habitats for marine life. The 165-feet freighter Shakem was carrying muchneeded bags of cement for the building industry on Grenada when she was caught in a storm in May 2001. The heavy cargo shifted and she went down, settling upright in 100ft. The remnants of the bags of cement can clearly be seen in the holds – the cement has set, and the bags have long since fallen apart, leaving giant ‘pillows’ stacked neatly in piles – but her real draw is the rich smothering of coral and sponge growth that seems to cover every square inch of her hull, superstructure and especially the large crane lying amidships. This is liberally covered in gorgonian sea fans, while the rear of the ship almost looks like a fluffy white wall dive due to the thick coating of coral.

Smaller than the Shakem at a length of 130 feet, the Veronica L is a freighter which sank after springing a leak, but was then raised and moved to a location near Grande Anse after work began on the cruise ship dock. Now lying in 50ft, she is a perfect wreck dive for all levels, and is adorned in marine growth and fish life. The Atlantic side of Grenada – which is often rougher, with large swells, but also benefits from having tremendous visibility - is home to several world-class shipwrecks. The King Mitch makes for an unusual wreck dive, given that she resembles a box with a pointed front! Originally a US Navy minesweeper from World War Two, she was retro-fitted into a freighter by having two cargo holds inserted in her middle, with a crane attached to the deck between them. She lies several miles offshore on her side in just over 100ft, and sank in 1981 when her bilge pump failed. There is some coral growth on her, but as the wrecks on this side of the island are often swept by sometimes fierce currents,

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


Grenada is the home of the world’s first underwater sculpture park. The sculptures were developed with concrete and rebar, and are placed naturally without affecting the natural reef and the lives of its inhabitants adversely. A must see attraction whilst visiting Grenada.

ABOVE A diver hovers in the middle of one of the key elements of the Sculpture Park RIGHT Carriacou’s reefs are famed for their bright, vibrant sponges and corals

80

it is nowhere near as prolific and dense as on the Caribbean side. What it does have is nurse sharks, lots of them, and southern stingrays, not to mention patrolling barracuda and amberjack. A little closer to land is the cargo vessel Hema 1, which had delivered a consignment of cement to the island and was enroute back to Trinidad on 1 March 2005 when she was also the victim of a failed bilge pump and ended up in 100ft of water. Shortly after being sunk, she was broken apart by hurricane surge, and now the hull and bow lie on their port side, with the midships well flattened. This wreck is another haunt for nurse sharks, which swarm in large numbers under hull plates and near the bow, and reef sharks sometimes pay a fleeting visit from out of the blue. The latest vessel to join Grenada’s underwater fleet on the Atlantic side was the Persia II, which went down

in 115ft in March 2017. Coral growth on this cargo ship is fairly sparse at the moment, but algae has taken a hold, and marine life has already started to move in, with various reef fish and the invasive lionfish in residence.

Artificial reefs Not that they necessarily need it with such a selection of genuine shipwrecks, but Grenada and Carriacou also boast several artificial reefs, and more are in the pipeline. Grenada has the Buccaneer, a sloop sunk way back in 1978 that lies on its starboard side in just 78ft and is well-festooned with marine growth, as is the cargo ship MV Hildur, which has been down since 2007 and lies in Grand Mal Bay in 115ft. The 196-foot container ship Anina languished in Grand Anse Bay for several years before finally being

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


More t han just wrecks...

Grenada and Carriacou are also blessed with a vast array of reef dives, boasting some of the most-healthy and pristine corals anywhere in the Caribbean, so if you are not a metal-head, never fear, these islands have still got you covered They range in depth from just a few feet to some in the technical arena – in fact, between the two islands, you have such a selection you could probably spend a month or more here and not have to hit the same site twice. Most of the dive sites are located on the west and south side of both Grenada and Carriacou; some sites are very sheltered, with little or no current, while others are more exposed and can be subject to extreme currents at times. Key Grenada reefs include Wibbles Reef, Purple Rain, Shark Reef and, within the Marine Protected Zone that the islanders are very proud of, Flamingo Bay, Happy Valley and Dragon Bay. Molinere Reef is another pretty dive site in the MPA, but as well as the topographically interesting reef, the main attraction here is the Underwater Sculpture Park, the first of its kind on the planet, which opened in May 2006. Ranked in the Top 25 ‘Wonders of the World’ by National Geographic, this underwater work of art sees several large-scale installations in just a few feet of water, including Vicissitudes, a circle of life-size figures cast from local children linked by holding hands; The Lost Correspondent, which is a man working at his desk on a typewriter; The Un-Still Life, a classical still-life composition of a vase and bowl of fruit on a table; and the Nutmeg Princess, which sees a life-size figure ‘growing’ out of a nutmeg pod. Created by Jason deCaires Taylor, Troy Lewis, Rene Froehlich and Lene Kilde, the amazingly lifelike statues have started to assume bizarre alien-like appearances as encrusting corals and sponges have taken hold. Shallow enough to be experienced by snorkelers, this is one site that needs to be appreciated by all divers. Over on Carriacou, you have the Sisters, which is one of the most-famous dive sites on the islands. These two rock pinnacles are often swept by strong currents, and this means they have phenomenal coral growth, as well as a diverse mix of marine life. Other sites include Tropical Hill, a seamount rising up from 60ft to just below the surface, and absolutely teeming with life, White Sand Beach, a relaxing shallow dive, no deeper than 40ft, which basically entails cruising around several large rock formations covered in coral growth and large sponges, while Layer Cake comprises a rapid drift along a gently sloping reef which then becomes ‘stepped’ like a wedding cake, but with deep undercuts and overhangs.

WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM

81


ABOVE A young diver is entranced by a banded cleaner shrimp on the Sisters in Carriacou

82

green-lighted as an artificial reef, but she ended up going down slightly earlier than planned at the end of March 2018 after starting to take on water and can be found lying on her side in some 100ft of water. It is a stunning dive, with the flat bottom of the vessel liberally coated in orange cup corals – so much so it resembles a wall dive – and the cavernous holds being open for exploration. The latest wreck was the Tyrrel Bay, a former US Coastguard patrol boat which went down at the end of September 2018 close to Boss Reef off Grand Anse Beach. The result of a two-year public/private sector project, the wreck still has many interesting features, including a safe, telephone, compasses, control panels and levers, and even a few toilets, and its shallow depth means it can be enjoyed by all levels of diver. On Carriacou near Mabouya Island, you have the Twin Tugs, two vessels sitting within a short distance of one another in 90ft-100ft, though for a thorough exploration of both, they are best visited individually due to the depth. Both are around 100 feet in length the Westsider was sent to the bottom on 4 September 2004, and the Boris followed on 10 September 2007. The two wrecks are covered in vibrant red and orange encrusting corals and algae and penetration into the interior is possible on both. Currents can sometimes sweep across them, and they are home to angelfish, wrasse, soldierfish, lobster and moray eels. This duo were joined in January 2018 by the 125foot tugboat Mammoth Troll. The Troll, as it is known, is now on the bottom in 115ft in an upright position. Penetration is possible into various sections of the vessel, and there is a great swim-through running the length of the superstructure on the starboard side. n

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Grenada GETTING THERE There are regular non-stop flights from New York and Miami into Grenada. To get to Carriacou, you can either take a short inter-island charter flight, or venture there by ferry. WHEN TO GO You can dive Grenada all year round, though the dry season falls between January and May, and the rainy season from June to December. CURRENCY The currency in Grenada is the Eastern Caribbean dollar, but the US dollar is accepted, and many resorts and liveaboards will take payment by credit card. ENTRY REQUIREMENTS Visitors need to have a valid passport with at least six months remaining, and a return air ticket. ELECTRICITY 220 volt with UK-style three-pin sockets – you will need an adaptor to use standard US-type sockets.

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


DOLPHIN DREAM TEAM TIGER SHARKS, WILD DOPHINS, HAMMERHEADS, AND MUCH MORE! TIGER BEACH, BAHAMAS

The best shark diving and dolphin snorkeling in the World. Friendliest, safest and most comfortable Liveaboard!

EDEN ROCK DIVING CENTER

CAYMAN’S BEST SHORE DIVING! → The entry for Eden Rock and Devil’s Grotto → Perfect for beginner to expert → Guided dives, Discover Scuba and referrals

→ Scuba and snorkeling equipment for sale or rent

T: 561 351 9354 – WA: 001 561 635 5065 inform@dolphindreamteam.com sharkexpedition.com – dolphindreamteam.com

DDT 1/4.indd 1

16/10/2019 ERDC 11:30 1-4.indd 1

Tel: 1-(345) 949-7243 E-mail: info@edenrockdive.com www.edenrockdive.com 01/10/2019 18:17


Byron Conroy was able to sate his lust for rust during a ten-day liveaboard voyage diving the famous wartime wrecks of Truk Lagoon Photography Byron Conroy

The remaining crew were unable to open the air valves to push the water out of the ballast tanks, leaving the submarine marooned on the bottom of the lagoon with its crew trapped inside 84

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

85


Chuuk is world renowned for its shipwrecks and other wartime casualties, but it also has a thriving ecosystem, and as well as the marine life smothering the dive sites themselves, you can also encounter pelagics such as various shark species, barracuda, trevally and tuna.

ABOVE Bow gun on the Umkai TOP RIGHT Lena inside the Betty Bomber RIGHT The bow of the Nippo

86

S

ome 90 minutes before sunrise, on 17 February 1944, the people of the Truk islands (that is the westernized version, it is known as Chuuk) woke up to the sound of bombs falling from the sky. A total of 500 aircraft along with five fleet carriers and support ships descended on these small Pacific islands in an early morning surprise attack. The Japanese radar station on Truk was not capable of detecting the American’s low-flying planes, and therefore had no chance of responding to the attack until it was too late. Due to the lack of warning, many of the Japanese ships were caught at anchor within the lagoon. The vessels trying to escape by steaming towards Japan were attacked and bombed by US submarines. Over the next two days, 250 Japanese aircraft were destroyed, over 50 ships sunk and more than 4,500 people killed. This military strike on the Imperial Japanese Navy become known as Operation Hailstorm, sometimes referred to as the United States’ answer to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour a few years earlier. The consequences of the attack have made Truk Lagoon the largest graveyard of ships and aircrafts in the world.

For decades following the attack, the ghost fleet of Truk Lagoon remained untouched and unexplored deep down below the surface. It was not until 1969 that diving pioneer Jacques Cousteau and his team put together a two-month expedition with the goal to discover, explore and map the wrecks resting at the bottom of the lagoon. In his documentary Lagoon of Lost Ships, you can see how Cousteau and his team dived on dozens of the wrecks, discovering not only the position of the sunken ships and aircraft, but also an astonishing amount of artefacts, along with the human remains of hundreds of Japanese sailors.

Truk today Situated in the heart of the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by nothing but ocean for 1,200 miles, is the state of Chuuk. Together with Yap, Pohnpei and Kosrae, it creates the Federated States of Micronesia, an independent republic although associated with the United States. During World War One and World War Two, Chuuk served as Japan’s largest and mostimportant forward naval base, including five airstrips, seaplane bases, a torpedo boat station, submarine repair shops, a communications center and a radar

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


FUN FACT!

An Earthwatch team identified 266 species of reef fish in Chuuk Lagoon in 2007.

station. In the aftermath of Operation Hailstorm, the United States claimed the Micronesian islands and they remained under their administration until 1979. Chuuk is the chuukese word for ‘mountain’. It’s comprises an archipelago of mountainous islands with the area known as Truk Lagoon in the middle. Here rest warships, auxillary ships, merchant ships, aircraft, submarines, trucks, guns, torpedoes and artefacts at the sandy bottom of a turquoise lagoon. Today, Truk Lagoon is a wreck diver’s Mecca. A place you, as a dedicated wreck diver, simply have to visit at least once in your lifetime. Any serious wreck diver needs to explore and experience the history and mystery of Truk Lagoon. Some items, like the ship’s bells, have been salvaged from the wrecks, and the remains of the lost sailors have been recovered and brought back to Japan. Yet, over 70 years after the attack, there are incredible amounts of artefacts, vehicles, guns, ammunition and personal belongings to observe on the wrecks today. Getting to Chuuk is a little bit of an adventure in itself, although nothing compared to the excitement of diving 50 of the best wrecks in the world once you get there. First you want to get yourself to the island of

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

87


Although it´s a relatively easy and shallow dive, we found it was a challenge to plan as there are just so many points of interest!

ABOVE The Betty Bomber is an impressive wreck TOP MIDDLE Lena illuminates a gas mask in the Nippo RIGHT Lena inspects the cockpit of a Fuji plane

88

Guam, a US territory located in the Pacific ocean 1,200 miles north of Papua New Guinea. From there you catch the island-hopper towards Honolulu, with Chuuk (luckily) as the first out of six stops.

Diving onboard the Truk Master Although Truk Lagoon is a relatively small area, a liveaboard is still the best option for your stay. While the resorts here typically offer two dives a day, you can from a liveaboard easily complete four dives each day, still with plenty of time to relax and eat in between. And trust me, in Truk you will have the urge to do as many dives as possible. Many of the wrecks here are huge, and it takes several dives on each one to explore the deck, holds, engine room, bridge and propellers. The Truk Master, run by British captain Martin Cridge, has many years of experience from cruising this lagoon. The vessel is fully equipped for recreational diving as well as technical OC/CCR divers, including redundant oxygen generators, supply of helium and Sofnolime, doubles and allocated tanks for sidemount or rebreathers. Captain Martin is a dedicated wreck diver and skilled underwater photographer who knows all there is to know about this place. Throughout the

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


The Kimiuo Aisek Memorial Museum was the first museum of Chuuk State, and it is dedicated to Kimiuo Aisek, who witnessed Operation Hailstone at the age of 17, and then went on to open Blue Lagoon Dive Shop, the first dive operation in Chuuk Lagoon.

trip, Martin briefed us in detail about how to get the most out of each dive, along with the history and technical specifications of each wreck we visited.

The many Marus Most of the wrecks in the lagoon and on our dive itinerary were named ´Something´ Maru. In most cases, this means that the wreck was once a merchant ship. The Japanese suffix Maru is often applied to words representing something beloved, and so Japanese sailors often apply this to their ships. Warships on the other hand are never called Maru, but instead named after objects such as places, weather phenomena, months or animals.

Fumizuki On the second day of our ten-day trip onboard the Truk Master, we got the unique opportunity to dive one of Truk’s few warships. The IJN Fumizuki or ‘July’, is a 334-feet-long destroyer sitting intact and upright on the bottom in 90ft-100ft of water. It was spotted and sunk by a torpedo bomber on the second day of the attack. Apart from being a beautiful wreck, she is also home to quite a few turtles and many schooling fish.

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

I-169 In the morning of the third day, we dived on the I-169 Submarine. She took part in the Pearl Harbour attack, survived and made it back home. The I-169 also survived Operation Hailstorm but met her tragic destiny shortly after. One evening while the Captain and senior officers were ashore, the junior crew still onboard the submarine received a warning about an impending air raid. Since there were no submarine pens at Truk, standard procedure in the event of an air raid was to submerge and sit on the bottom of the lagoon. In their haste, the junior crew failed to close the main induction valve, and so the control room flooded. The remaining crew were unable to open the air valves to push the water out of the ballast tanks, leaving the submarine marooned on the bottom of the lagoon with its crew trapped inside.

TOP A drone shot clearly showing the wreckage of the Gosei. A perfect shallow dive full of history. ABOVE The famous ‘twin tanks’ on the San Francisco Maru

Betty Bomber Although many of the aircraft in Truk got badly destroyed during the attack, some are still more or less intact and dive-able. Just a short distance from the former airstrip of Eten island rests a Mitsubishi G4M3 Attack Bomber, a model known as the Betty Bomber

89


PHOTOGRAPHY © GERALD RAMBERT

Fly direct from Brisbane to Munda weekly!

Dive Munda is a multi-award winning SSI Instructor Training and Extended Range Resort in the Solomon Islands committed to sustainable dive eco-tourism. Scuba dive, freedive and snorkel unexplored reefs, WWII history, Kastom culture, hard and soft coral, cuts and caverns along with pelagic life and shark action, all in one of the last wild frontiers left on planet ocean. DIVE MUNDA, AGNES GATEWAY HOTEL, MUNDA, SOLOMON ISLANDS LANDLINE: +677 62156 CELLPHONE: +677 789 6869

divemunda@dive-solomon.com www.divemunda.com

Dive_Munda.indd 1

06/07/2019 09:23

Palau’s premier scuba diving and eco-adventure company

Tel: +(680) 488-1062


or The Flying Cigar due to the shape, and its tendency to catch fire. This specific aircraft is thought to have missed the airstrip, and instead landed in the water. It is unknown if this happened during the Operation Hailstorm attack or at another time. It´s a nice and easy dive providing some great photo opportunities while penetrating the aircraft. The engines were torn off during the crash and can now be found 190 feet from the body of the plane. Some great artefacts such as the pilot´s chair and other items and equipment from inside the aircraft can still be seen at the site.

Fujikawa Maru By far the most popular and beloved wreck in Truk is the Fujikawa Maru, and after three dives here we totally get what the Fuji-hype is all about. Once an impressive merchant ship used for transporting armed aircraft, she now sits upright and intact at the bottom 100ft below the surface. Although it´s a relatively easy and shallow dive, we found it was a challenge to plan as there are just so many points of interest! A six-inch gun and a telegraph in good condition are found on the bow. Gas mask, bottles and porcelain on the deck. A memorial stone on the mid-ship deck. In hold two, there are several zero fighter airplanes plus lots of spare airplane parts. Directly above the engine room is the infamous workshop, home to a celebrity – the R2D2. If you only seen a couple of underwater photos from Truk, chances are that you´ve seen this robotlooking compressor in at least one of them.

The Million Dollar Wreck The deep wreck highlight of our trip is the San Francisco Maru. Also known as the Million Dollar Wreck, thanks to the worth of her cargo, she sits upright in 160ft-200ft of water. My partner and I planned this dive thoroughly and decided to make three stops on the wreck in order to fulfil our ‘most-wanted’ sightings. The Truk Master was moored up just in front of the wreck and as we descended, we soon saw the iconic bow gun on the deck. We were saving this shot for later and continued towards hold two, which was the deepest part of our dive at around 200ft. In the hold are two huge tanker trucks, a staff car, fuel drums, ammunition and aircraft bombs. Back up on deck, we made our next stop at the three tanks, still intact with their guns. The tanks sit just in front of the superstructure, one on the port side and two on top of each other on the starboard side, providing another amazing photo opportunity. Our last photo stop before it was time to start our ascent and deco stops was the bow gun. The gun is in such good condition, it´s hard to imagine it has spent the last 70 years on the seabed.

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

TOP The stern of the Gosei is an impressive sight, covered in vibrant marine growth ABOVE Inside the wheelhouse of the Nippo LEFT The socalled ‘R2D2’ on the Fuji

91


TOP RIGHT Traditional dance celebration RIGHT MIDDLE Majestic manta ray BOTTOM RIGHT Blacktip sharks

92

Yap – t he ultimate Truk stop

Many divers have a trip to Micronesia on their bucket list, but only a few of them are aware that with a little bit of planning, you can get so much more out of this dive vacation of a lifetime. The Federated States of Micronesia is made up of four states. Two of them, Truk (officially Chuuk) and Yap are top dive destinations that offer both unique, but distinctive, dive experiences. When flying thousands of miles to this part of the world, it does make sense to combine these gems of the Pacific. Where Truk Lagoon is world renowned for wreck diving, Yap offers a diversity of marine life rarely found anywhere in the world. The tiny island is blessed with a resident population of manta rays and several shallow cleaning stations where divers can see mantas yearround. In addition, divers will encounter everything from sharks to nudibranchs. You can explore brilliant coral reefs or discover the majestic caverns down south, and don’t forget the Yap Trench, the second deepest ocean trench in the world, falls to depths of over five miles. We are just discovering the immense possibilities for blackwater diving that the depths provide. Although divers have been diving in Yap since 1986, the island is still unspoiled, and chances are very good that you will be the only boat at the dive site. With over 50 buoyed sites around the island and two major manta channels, you have enough diversity to keep you occupied for days on end. A week of wreck diving in Truk Lagoon combined with a week of clear-water diving in Yap makes for a very attractive vacation. Yap consists of four islands surrounded by a barrier reef with seven natural channels and an extensive mangrove system which provides the nursery for hundreds of species of tropical fish. There is a manmade channel which makes getting from one side of the island to the other very easy. This means that boat rides are fast, and a multitude of dive site are within minutes of the Manta Ray Bay Resort (www.mantaray.com). Hall of Fame dive pioneer Bill Acker created Yap Divers and the Manta Ray Bay Resort especially for divers. Bill and his family are still very active in managing the resort, and this family operation is the perfect way to explore Yap’s natural beauty. If all that is not enough to convince you to add Yap to your itinerary, perhaps the traditional culture will. Yap is famous for its stone money, men’s houses, stone paths and traditional dances. The Yapese people are very proud of their island and their culture, and are happy to share their history with guests. United Airlines serves Truk five times per week from Guam and Yap two times per week. Departing Truk on a Saturday or Tuesday afternoon will get you to Yap a few hours later, while leaving Yap on Sunday or Wednesday morning will get you to Truk that same morning.

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


• •

Untitled-3 1

Untitled-4 1

01/10/2019 15:18

19/12/2018 13:33


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Chuuk, Micronesia Truk Lagoon

GETTING THERE Chuuk is not the easiest place to get to. From North America, you need to get a flight into the US territory of Guam, and from there a hopper flight to Chuuk itself takes about one hour 45 minutes. WHEN TO GO You can dive Chuuk all year round, but the best conditions run from December through to April.

ABOVE Lena lights up some huge shells inside one of the wrecks

94

Tec or Rec? During our ten-day trip, the fellow guests onboard were a mix of recreational single tank divers, technical OC divers and CCR divers. My partner and I did most dives on doubles with a 12-litre stage of 50 percent. For the deeper wrecks such as the San Francisco Maru, we used 20/20 Trimix, which with a conservative plan gave us 25 minutes of bottom time and 30 minutes of deco. While we were definitely jealous of CCR divers’ profiles, we still appreciated having the technical training and experience to be able to enjoy the deeper wrecks, although somehow limited in time. Many of the wrecks in Truk are within recreational limits and there is still a lot to see and explore even on a single-tank set up. It is, however, worth keeping in mind that when doing up to four dives a day, it is tempting to rack up some deco time. Although not required or mandatory, I would recommend recreational divers planning a trip to Truk invest in a technical certification prior to the trip. It will give you the opportunity to dive a little bit deeper into the notorious history of Truk Lagoon. n

CURRENCY The currency in Chuuk is the US dollar, but many resorts and liveaboards will accept payment by credit card. ENTRY REQUIREMENTS Visitors need to have a valid passport with at least six months remaining, and a return air ticket. There is a US$20 departure fee, payable as you leave the island – ensure you have cash, as credit cards are not accepted, and there are no ATM machines at the airport. ELECTRICITY 110 volt with standard US-type sockets.

Sponsor: Narked at 90™

• Design and Manufacture • CnC Mills, Lathes and Lasers • Test and certification • Distribution and Retail • Service and Repair • We have it all covered, In house.

www.narkedat90.com

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


| Mark Evans takes a look at the new Sealife DC2000 flagship camera system SEALIFE DC2000 | SRP: $699

www.sealife-cameras.com Mark Evans: There was a time when, rightly or wrongly, SeaLife Cameras were regarded as being one-stepup from a basic point-and-shoot, and didn’t really factor on the radar of anyone who was seriously looking at getting into their underwater photography. However, times change, and over the past few years, the offerings from this progressive company have started to incorporate some impressive features and statistics. The DC2000 is their current rangetopper, and while it comes in at a relatively budget price, you get quite a bit of bang for your buck. For starters, the actual camera itself, which has a large Sony 1-inch back-illuminated 20MP CMOS image sensor and 3-inch 920K LCD monitor, is waterproof down to 60ft, which means if you are snorkelling or pootling around in the shallows, you don’t even need to put it into the housing. It also means it is the perfect ‘boat camera’ - no concerns about it getting splashed, wet, etc, as you capture the action topside. The SeaLife has no less than eight shooting modes - manual, aperture, underwater, shutter, programme, intelligent auto, land, and panorama - and on top of that, with both Jpeg and RAW imaging formats available, it gives the user near-endless photo-editing options. There are four underwater shooting modes, and three built-in digital colour-correction filters shallow water/snorkelling, deep water (normal diving) and even green water, which SeaLife says is for ‘algae bloom’ but actually works well in more-temperate waters to compensate for the standard green! There are a staggering 25 land scene modes to adjust the camera settings for specific shooting environments - portrait, landscape, sunset, dawn, backlight, kids, night scene, fireworks, beach, snow, sports, party, candlelight, night portrait, soft skin, food, background defocus, self-portrait, smile shutter, HDR, time lapse, GIF capture, art effect, continuous shooting, and even love portrait - while the intelligent auto mode selects the optimal land scene mode. If you like take control, with the manual, shutter and aperture settings, you can adjust to your heart’s content - shutter speed can be from 15 to 1/2000 seconds, and F-stop ranges from F1.8 to F11. Manual white balance means you can tweak and customise the underwater colour correction ‘on the fly’ to suit

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

95


| Mark Evans takes a look at the new Sealife DC2000 flagship camera system SEALIFE DC2000 | SRP: $699

www.sealife-cameras.com

your specific depth and water conditions. Auto focus goes from just 9cm to infinity, and the macro focus can cope with 3.8cm-10cm (with the optional Super Macro lens). It has an ultra-fast shutter response of 0.1 seconds, meaning you will never miss the crucial action shots, and it will accept Micro SD, SDHC, SDXC and UHS-1 memory cards up to 64GB, so you will never run out of room. The lithium rechargeable battery will let you shoot more than 200 photographs, or two hours of video, and can be back to full charge in just two-anda-half hours. In this day and age, it is all about sharing your images, and the DC2000 uses wifi and bluetooth to preview, download and share photographs and videos to smart phones and tablets via the free Link123 Plus app. The robust housing, which is rubber-armoured and shock-resistant - well, you know what divers are like with their kit! - is depth-rated to 196ft, which is more than enough for most people. I found the DC2000 quite simple to get on with in use. As with any camera, constant use means everything becomes more intuitive, but you can be in the water and snapping away in a relatively short time. The underwater modes actually work very well, and while I am used to shooting fully manual on a mirrorless system or a DSLR, I would suggest these are a good starting point for those just getting into UW photography, as it lets you concentrate on your composition. The large ‘piano-style keys’ - a regular feature on SeaLife cameras - and the rotary dial on the back of the housing are a good size and you can operate them even with thick neoprene gloves on. Some compacts I have used in the past can be a bit fiddly when it comes to cold water. It might not have all the bells and whistles - and capabilities - of a DSLR or a mirrorless system, but for the money, it offers a great way to start capturing your underwater adventures and then showing your resulting photos and videos to your friends. The DC2000 camera and housing can be paired up with Sea Dragon video lights, strobes and SeaLife wet lenses, and the former will be reviewed in conjunction with the camera in a future issue. n

96

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


| Mark Evans checks out the Fourth Element Xenos, Proteus II, Surface, and RF1/2 FOURTH ELEMENT | SRP: $298-$479

www.fourthelement.com Mark Evans: British-brand Fourth Element have, in a relatively short space of time, cemented their reputation in the diving world when it comes to exposure protection, be that wetsuits, drysuits, thermal undergarments or neoprene accessories. With the launch of the RF1/2 freediving suits and the Surface suit at the DEMA trade show in Orlando in November, let’s concentrate on wetsuits. The wetsuit that first got Fourth Element noticed was the Proteus (SRP: $385-$425). Often referred to as ‘the warmest 3mm dive wetsuit on the market’, the Proteus comes in 3mm and 5mm variants, and the secret to its superb performance is down to the Glideskin wrist seals, double-glued, blind-stitched and taped seams, internal ankle seals, and innovative Hydrolock inner neck seal, which minimise flushing and help retain body heat. Hexcore linings on the body core and Thermoflex everywhere else also provide enhanced thermal performance. I have dived both the 3mm and 5mm versions of the Proteus and can confirm it is a very warm suit. It is comfortable, non-restrictive and looks eye-catching in a subtle way. One criticism sometimes leveled at the Proteus is that it is difficult to get on, but to be brutally honest, I have never had an issue. Yes, it takes a bit of time to get used to the long wrist and ankle seals, and the Hydrolock neck seal, but these are the main factors which make it so warm, so a small price to pay. Which brings me nicely on to the Xenos wetsuit (SRP: $298-$325), which sought to offer an alternative to the Proteus and those who had problems donning/doffing it. Available in 3mm and 5mm versons (as well as a neat shorty variant as well), the Xenos is described by Fourth Element as a ‘fast-transition’ wetsuit, which essentially means it is easy to get on and off. The Xenos suits have a Thermocore chest panel and Thermoflex lining, and double-glued and blindstitched seams, so they are still very warm, but thanks to the use of stretch neoprene, it is far more flexible than the Proteus. I have dived both the 3mm and 5mm versions of the Xenos and can confirm that they are definitely easier to get on and off than the Proteus, yet don’t sacrifice too much of the thermal protection that made the Proteus such a hit with divers all over the planet.

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM

97


| Mark Evans checks out the Fourth Element Xenos, Proteus II, Surface, and RF1/2 FOURTH ELEMENT | SRP: $298-$479 NEW PRODUCT LAUNCH! The Surface (SRP: $479) is diving’s first certified sustainable wetsuit. Designed for freediving, snorkelling and surface watersports, it is the first to be made with certified sustainable Yulex®Pure natural rubber, which is very flexible, and recycled inner and outer linings. The minimal design features a mini chest zipper, eliminating the need for a back zip, which radically improves mobility and minimizes the opportunity for water to enter the suit though the teeth of the zip.

98

www.fourthelement.com Both my Proteus and Xenos suits have been well-used over the years on all of my magazine assignments, and they have stood up to the abuse extremely well. Which means I am very excited to announce the latest wetsuits in the Fourth Element line-up - the Surface, and the freediving RF1 and RF2 suits. The RF range is Fourth Element’s first foray into freediving. The one-piece RF1 (SRP: $419) has the optimum combination of Smoothskin and lined neoprene, to maximise your freedom in the water, allowing you to focus on your breath, visualise and reach your limit. Easy to don, yet effectively sealed by Smoothskin seals at the wrists, ankles and neck, a ‘black-out’ zipper and robust inner linings ensure that this suit is more versatile than open cell suits, but water ingress is minimised keeping you warmer for longer. Smoothskin panels over the shoulders and along the legs give excellent stretch, improving fit and hydrodynamics, while subtle knee protection and more durable linings elsewhere ensure that this suit is practical for freediving in many environments. The two-piece RF2 (SRP: $479) has been developed for freedivers who want to enjoy maximum freedom and ultimate warmth. Combining double-lined panels for durability and ease of donning with Smoothskin panels to minimise water ingress and maximise hydrodynamics, this hybrid freediving suit offers cool and cold water freedivers the freedom to explore their limits in comfort. With hydrodynamic panels of Smoothskin neoprene and lined neoprene, the suit is both comfortable and practical, being more durable than Smoothskin suits while retaining excellent stretch and form-fitting design. The inner Smoothskin panels of the leggings provide an excellent seal around the midriff, while the leg lining ensures that this suit can be used without the need for lubrication. Smoothskin seals in the ankles, wrists and around the face ensure that water ingress is minimised. The Smoothskin outer of the hood gives excellent hydrodynamics while ear holes in the hood enable rapid, comfortable equalization. Designed with the consultation of professional freedivers, this suit brings together Fourth Element’s knowledge of thermal protection with freediving expertise to create a recreational suit that is easy to get on - and you won’t want to take off. n

WWW.SCUBADIVERDESTINATIONS.COM


TRAVEL PARTNER

BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE

TEAM!

WE’RE HEADING TO AQABA IN JORDAN AND WE’RE INVITING YOU TO JOIN US FOR THE BIGGEST CELEBRATION OF DIVING IN 2021!

What’s on offer... → Nightly presentations from big-name speakers → Photography & videography workshops from the pros → Freediving & yoga workshops → Tech Diving Academy → Conservation & citizen science projects → Beach BBQs PLUS a chance to meet your favorite brands, enter exclusive competitions and make new dive buddies as you take in the best Aqaba has to offer above and below the waterline.

VISIT WWW.GODIVINGSHOW.COM/DIVEFEST TO REGISTER YOUR INTEREST IN ATTENDING TBC in January 2021. The event will last for a seven-day period, with an extension possible for travelers looking to visit Petra, Wadi Rum and the Dead Sea. WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM

99


Relax & dive Sorido Bay Resort Raja Ampat A real home far away from home. One of Indonesias most remote & comfortable dive resorts. Sorido Bay resort is for the discerning traveler. It is not just another dive resort. The resort offers a selected and personalized service and is nestled in the lush green jungle overlooking a kidney-shaped lagoon, meters away from the world’s most famous dive site ‘Cape Kri’. Here you will meet people with a passion for Raja Ampat and a passion for sharing it with the most important person of all: you, our guest.

Book your holiday today

www.papua-diving.com

Profile for scubadivermag

Scuba Diver Destinations #1  

Scuba Diver Destinations is a luxury travel magazine for the US and Canada market. What's in this issue; Florida Road Trip - Mark Evans emb...

Scuba Diver Destinations #1  

Scuba Diver Destinations is a luxury travel magazine for the US and Canada market. What's in this issue; Florida Road Trip - Mark Evans emb...