Scuba Diver Asia Pacific - Issue 8

Page 1







The art of





Marine protected areas

Top-of-the-range fins



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Tragedy as more than 200 whales DIE IN MASS STRANDINGS It is always heart-breaking to see majestic marine mammals lying dead or dying in the shallows or high-anddry on a beach or rocky shoreline, but thankfully, such strandings tend to be a relatively rare occurrence. Sadly, the final week of November saw more than 200 whales mostly pilot whales, but with pygmy, humpback and sperm whales thrown into the mix - either die in a series of mass strandings on beachs on and around Australia and New Zealand, or have to be euthanised. It is not yet known what caused these mass strandings on the first incident, some 145 pilot whales were involved in one stranding - but scientists are examining tissue samples from the dead animals to see if they can deduce what happened. Usually, it is put down to animals being ill, becoming disorientated, blindly following one another, weather conditions, and so on, but it seems far more than simply coincidence that so many marine mammals died on beaches in that particular region within a space of seven days. The final throes of November also signalled another

sad loss, this time to the global diving industry - Otter Watersports supremo John Womack. John started diving way back in the early 1970s with Bradford Sub Aqua Club in Yorkshire, England, and then opened up Otter Watersports and Divers Warehouse in 1986. His son John Junior soon joined him and together they made Otter’s durable and robust drysuits a staple part of the kit of many of the world’s leading technical and exploratory divers. John himself was no stranger to some exotic dive locations and pioneering expeditions, over time visiting wrecks such as the Britannic, Victoria, Prince of Wales and Repulse, to name but a few. Our condolences go out to John Junior and the rest of the Womack family at this sad time, but it is rather fitting that many of the drysuits crafted by the man himself are still in regular service around the world, a lasting legacy he’d be proud of.

MARK EVANS, Editor-in-Chief







Mark Evans Email: Matt Griffiths Email: Martyn Guess, Adrian Stacey, Neil Bennett, Rose and Udo Kefrig, Sally Snow


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ISSN 2515-9593









The art of




Marine protected areas

Top-of-the-range fins




p001_APScubaDiverIssue8.indd 1

19/12/2018 16:09



More than 200 whales die in Australia and New Zealand, a new liveaboard for Guadalupe and Soccorro, DAN Asia-Pacific falls under DAN Worldwide control, and new cruises for the Solomon Islands.

Our eclectic panel of industry training gurus look at the pros and cons of hardboat diving, and explain how divers can reach dive sites out of reach of smaller boats and do it in comfort and style.

8 News

28 Underwater photography

Martyn Guess offers some hints and advice on how to improve your composition.

40 Spearfishing

We link up with to bring a Beginner’s Guide to Wreck Hunting. Plus, What’s New takes a look at the Razor fin range from Mares.

66 Our-World UW Scholar

Olivia Johnson is spellbound by the reefs of Papua New Guinea on her latest expedition.


18 DIVE LIKE A PRO: Hardboat diving

22 Thailand

Adrian Stacey visits the dive sites of Hin Daeng and Hin Muang and reckons that these destinations, which promise pristine corals and big-animal interactions, are among the very best dive locations in the whole of Thailand.

32 Indonesia

Rose and Udo Kefrig find themselves in ‘fish soup’ when they board the luxurious Amira liveaboard for a packed intinerary into the depths of Alor.


The team present a series of news reports from the recent DEMA trade show, which took place in mid-November in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.



42 The Philippines

Marine megafauna researcher Ryan Murray discusses the symbiotic relationship between scuba divers and Marine Protected Areas, focusing on Tubbataha - nestled in the centre of the Sulu Sea - as a prime example of what can be achieved when everyone works together.

48 TECH: Solomon Islands

Neil Bennett continues his exploration of the deeper wreck sites in the Solomon Islands, which time visiting the remnants of the USS Kanawha, which at 58m is shallower than the USS Aaron Ward (covered in the technical section of issue six) and thus more accessible for those with the right level of training. However, despite being an easier dive - relatively speaking - it is still crammed full of interesting artefacts and makes a perfect background setting for underwater photographers.


GEAR GUIDE 54 What’s New

New products recently released or coming soon, including Costa del Mar sunglasses made from recycled fishing nets, Zeagle Dual Scope mask, Fourth Element Hydro leggings, and the Mares Prime BCD, Sealhouette mask, and XR Red Devil wing.

56 Group Test

The Scuba Diver Test Team heads to the wilds of Llanberis in North Wales’ Snowdonia National Park to trial a selection of top-of-the-range fins from a selection of manufacturers.

64 Long Term Test

The Scuba Diver Test Team gets to grips with a selection of products over a six-month period, including the Mares Quad Air dive computer, Apeks RK3 HD fins and the innovative Aqua Lung Rogue BCD.



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

TRAGEDY AS MORE THAN 200 WHALES DIE IN MASS STRANDINGS IN AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND More than 200 whales have tragically died after separate mass stranding events in the space of seven days across Australia and New Zealand. First, some 145 pilot whales died after a mass stranding on a beach on Stewart Island in New Zealand on Saturday 24 November. They were discovered by a walker, but by then, half of the whales washed up on Mason Bay were already dead, and the authorities had to euthanise the remainder as it would have been too difficult to try and get them back in the water. “Sadly, the likelihood of being able to successfully re-float the remaining whales was extremely low,” explained Ren Leppens of the regional Department of Conservation (DOC). “The remote location, lack of nearby personnel and the whales’ deteriorating condition meant the most-humane thing to do was to euthanise. However, it’s always a heart-breaking decision to make.”

On the same weekend in New Zealand, a 15-metre sperm whale and a pod of 12 pygmy whales were also beached. Four of the latter were dead, but local marine mammal charity Project Jonah made valiant efforts to save the remaining eight. Sadly, seven of these animals also died. Then on Wednesday 28 November, another 27 pilot whales – as well as a humpback whale – were found dead on a remote beach in Australia. Finally, on Friday 30 November, some 80-90 pilot whales were found stranded in Hanson Bay on the remote Chatham Islands, 500 miles east of New Zealand. According to New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, some managed to refloat themselves, but 50 were found dead and one had to be euthanised. Tests were being conducted on the dead mammals to see if scientists could shed any light on why so many stranded in such a short period of time, all in the same region.




In a major realignment of responsibilities, Divers Alert Network (DAN) announced that on 1 January 2019, DAN World Ltd began serving the needs of divers in the Asia-Pacific region. By combining the existing assets developed by DAN Asia-Pacific over the past 25 years with the resources and operational efficiencies that come with global operations, DAN aims to expand the scope and depth of various dive safety initiatives planned for the region. To broaden its service to divers, dive professionals and dive businesses throughout Asia-Pacific, DAN World will introduce new membership and insurance programmes, expand the availability of first-aid training programmes and deploy additional medical and scientific resources to ensure the safety of divers and the support of dive professionals throughout the region. DAN’s presence will increase noticeably in 2019. Mission-based initiatives, including emergency medical call-centre assistance and staffing will be enhanced, further critical research information and diver health and safety resources will be translated, and training courses will be made more widely available. In addition, new insurance programmes tailored to fit the needs of the local and travelling market will provide divers with relevant coverage at affordable prices. “The Asia-Pacific region covers such a vast area, and significant resources are required to enable DAN to fulfill its dual mission of promoting dive safety and caring for injured divers,” said DAN president and CEO Bill Ziefle. “By building on existing infrastructure, the investment DAN is making will ensure that essential emergency medical services for divers remain just a phone call away.” “DAN’s mission is — and will always be — to serve and protect divers around the world,” said John Lippmann, chairman of the new DAN AsiaPacific Foundation / The Australasian Diving Safety Foundation. “Our passion for the industry, unwavering dedication to safety and desire to do what’s right for our members is what sets us apart from any other.” Benefits guaranteed to existing members of DAN Asia-Pacific under their current membership and/or insurance plan will remain in full force and effect until the scheduled expiration. After that time, Members will be invited to join DAN World Ltd.




blue o two are extremely proud to finally launch their brandnew website. The much-loved vintage website served blue o two well, but the time has come to move on. With an easy-tonavigate mobile and tablet-friendly design and exciting new features, blue o two would like to thank customers for their extremely useful feedback in helping create the new website. They wanted to create a website that provides customers with the best possible experience.


Photographers, photojournalists and regular Scuba Diver (UK and Asia-Pacific) contributors Jeremy and Amanda Cuff have published a new 2019 calendar titled Diving Dreams. Jeremy said: “The Diving Dreams 2019 Calendar features a variety of images, mostly from our dive travels over recent times, and includes destinations such as Ustica, Bali, Egypt, Guadalupe, Montserrat, the Maldives and the UK.” The 2019 calendar can be obtained from Jeremy and Amanda at a cost of £9, including postage (within the UK). For further information, please visit Jeremy and Amanda’s website: The website features a wide selection of photography and articles with particular emphasis on scuba diving and travel, although other topics such as abstracts and black and white photography are also included.


The Marine Megafauna Foundation – a charity that aims to save threatened marine life – has unveiled dates of its 2019 scuba-diving expeditions to Mozambique, where guests can join expert marine biologists from the Marine Megafauna Foundation and get hands-on with ground-breaking research. On these adventurous expeditions for advanced divers, you’ll explore the southern coast of Mozambique, one of the world’s most-sought-after diving locations, and visit sites not open to the public. Mozambique is home to a unique ecosystem; possible sightings include a mobula cleaning station (one of two known worldwide), turtles, dolphins, humpback whales and reef sharks The exclusive seven-day expeditions, which run from 15-23 June 2019 and 17-25 August 2019, can accommodate up to five guests, so your trip is as intimate as your megafauna encounters. Guests will have the chance to get hands-on by taking ID photos during boat-based and aerial surveys. Both mantas and whalesharks have spot patterns as unique as a fingerprint, allowing the team to build a photographic catalogue. You’ll also learn to identify an animal’s maturity and gender and record environmental conditions. You’ll also have the opportunity to gain deeper knowledge, and this is a unique chance to learn the secrets of MMF’s marine biologists, who have spent 15 years studying ocean giants, and find out everything you’ve always been curious about. Fascinating private talks will reveal the biology, ecology and behaviour of manta rays and whalesharks, outline global threats to them and describe research and conservation efforts around the world. You can also take part in extra activities outside of the water, such as Tofo Life, a remarkable experience where you’ll meet locals in a nearby village, see their way of life and make a traditional dish with them. Your MEGA Expedition will fund MMF’s vital research and help to save ocean giants from extinction, and by booking this trip of a lifetime, you’ll be changing lives both in and out of the ocean in Mozambique.




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Pelagic fleet has added a new member to its line of signature vessels. The new Socorro Vortex is the fastest liveaboard to travel to the Socorro and Guadalupe Islands, with a top speed of 20 knots. The 43-metre boat – which is a former Canadian coastguard vessel – was built for adventure and hardcore worldwide expeditions. Now though, she’s been reinvented to be the ‘ultimate’ luxury liveaboard experience. The Socorro Vortex will cater to 14 guests and offer first-class, deluxe accommodation. It also features complimentary high-speed internet and Wi-Fi for those divers who need to be connected at all times. Other complimentary benefits include gourmet dining, bar, nitrox (as this is a nitrox-only vessel) and a stainless steel jacuzzi. Oh, and did we mention? It has a helipad too. And they handpick their wines… Those booking onto the Socorro Vortex are likely to see giant mantas, dolphins and various species of shark and seals. Included in the price are surface cage dive and submersible experiences. There’ll be one Divemaster to every two divers. Voyages to Guadalupe run from August to October, while trips to Socorro run from November to June.


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In one week, marine conservation charity the Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF) was shocked to find not one, but two turtles severely hurt as a result of human activity. One of the charity’s volunteers Genaye Domenico - was scuba diving with Peri-Peri Divers in Tofo Beach, Mozambique, when they came across a juvenile hawksbill turtle caught in plastic. Genaye and Peri-Peri dive instructor Helen Armstrong worked together to quickly free the turtle and release it back to the ocean. Soon after, they found a loggerhead sea turtle - still alive - with a spear (still attached to the spear gun) piercing its neck. They carefully took hold of the injured turtle, lifted it on to the boat, and were able to remove the spear using wire cutters. Luckily, the spear didn’t seem to have pierced any vital organs and, once returned to the ocean free of the painful spear, the turtle dived down and swam away. The area’s Community Fisheries Council (CCP) and coastal police were quick to respond, taking the speargun into evidence and launching an investigation. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, loggerhead turtles are currently listed as vulnerable, and hawksbill turtles are critically endangered. These horrific images highlight how not only plastic, but other human activities threaten these beautiful but endangered creatures. Mariana Coelho, MMF’s Mozambique Country Director, said: “We were all shocked and saddened to find these two injured turtles in the bay within minutes of each other. Thanks to the quick responses of the volunteers and staff on the boat, these beautiful animals were able to be rescued and released back into the ocean. We expect they will now visit a cleaning station to prevent infection in their open wounds and hope both animals will recover fully.” MMF works with the local community in Tofo, and neighbouring communities, to help them improve sustainable fishing practices and ocean conservation. The charity’s vision is a world in which marine life and humans thrive together and they aspire to attain it by saving threatened marine life.





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INDUSTRY NEWS PROJECT AWARE WELCOMES NEW ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, POLICY AND CAMPAIGNS Project AWARE is honoured to welcome Ian Campbell as the international marine conservation non-profit organisation’s new Associate Director, Policy and Campaigns. Ian Campbell draws from 20 years’ experience in marine conservation, working in the public, private and NGO sectors. His extensive international work experience and background as marine surveyor, commercial diver, fisheries officer, and author and consultant on policy matters, including the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy, have led Ian to focus, throughout his professional career, on reducing impacts of commercial fisheries, habitat protection and sustainable shark and ray tourism. Ian comes to Project AWARE from World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), where he was leading and managing complex shark and ray conservation initiatives and projects including heading up the Pacific Shark Heritage Programme and overseeing engagements with the international fisheries bodies, global conservation agreements and development of national conservation policies. In 2014, Ian was the technical specialist for the Fiji government delegation to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), successfully adding manta and mobula rays to the Convention.

SOLOMON ISLANDS DISCOVERY CRUISES ANNOUNCES SIX ADVENTURE ITINERARIES Heralding a long-awaited return to dedicated Solomon Islands small ship cruise programmes, newly-formed Solomon Islands Discovery Cruises (SIDC) has announced its plans to operate six adventure itineraries in 2019. Operating ex-Honiara and timed to dovetail with Solomon Airlines’ Brisbane-Honiara services, SIDC has employed the 30-metre MV Taka to operate the six and seven-day cruises, each of which have been designed to highlight two of the South Pacific’s truly unspoiled and culturally-rich regions – the Florida and Russell Islands archipelagos in Solomon Islands. Passengers will have the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in both region’s distinctive cultures and environments. The cruise itineraries feature visits to remote villages along with plentiful opportunity to discover the region’s amazing coral pastures and abundant marine life with daily dive and snorkel options. Congratulating SIDC on its initiative, Tourism Solomons CEO, Josefa ‘Jo’ Tuamoto said the very nature of the Solomon Islands archipelago of 992 islands lent itself to dedicated small ship adventure itineraries. “Lindblad Expeditions left a big hole when it decided to redeploy its small ship operation to the Galapagos two years ago,” he said. “And while we regularly welcome Expedition Cruises’ vessels, these itineraries are always in conjunction with other destinations, such as Vanuatu and PNG, and passengers only get a very small taste of what we have to offer,” he said.


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MEDICAL Q&A Dr Oliver Firth has gained considerable experience in the field of diving and hyperbaric medicine since joining LDC in 2006. He is an Approved Medical Examiner of Divers for the UK HSE, and a medical referee for the UK Sport Diving Medical Committee. He is involved in the management of all types of diving-related illness, including recompression treatment, as well as providing hyperbaric oxygen therapy for non-diving conditions. He remains a passionate diver and has participated in various expeditions and conservation projects throughout the globe.

Q: I’m getting fed up with my dive club making jokes about how bad my gas consumption is. I admit I’m not the slimmest card in the pack but I’ve been trying to exercise more, going to the gym and swimming twice a week. My girlfriend does yoga and thinks I should try it as she reckons it makes your lungs bigger. I always thought it was a bit weird but I’ll give it a go if it makes me less of an air pig. Is this true, or would I be wasting my time? A: Yoga has come a long way from being a vaguely disconcerting habit of quirky hippies in the 1970s. There are now specific scuba-orientated yoga trips the world over, from the Bahamas to the Red Sea. So how can gaining inner peace benefit the humble diver? For a diver, the essential elements of yoga can significantly reduce the likelihood of injury. Specific exercises can improve core stability, working on the lower back to protect it from the trauma of twinsets and weightbelts. Targeting the legs and hips can improve finning (both technique and stamina). The breathing exercises that are fundamental to yoga are also ideal for improving lung capacity and encouraging effective breathing during hard exertion. Ultimately this will extend bottom times and reduce feelings of panic underwater, which we all want, don’t we. And what of the more, ah, spiritual aspects to the ancient Yogic arts? Visualisation techniques in yoga are often practised by freedivers, and can help prepare any diver for challenging or particularly strenuous dives. So before belittling the posh toffs of yogaland too much it’s worth giving the practice a chance to make us better divers. Q: In the summer I went diving in

Milford Sound in New Zealand. It was amazing, green water, the vis wasn’t great but stacks of critters and strange fish there. Anyway, I dived in a lot of wetsuit – I had 15mm of neoprene on and could hardly bend my knees or elbows! Despite all the rubber I still felt really cold on the dives, and the dive guide poured flasks of hot water down our backs during the surface interval. When I got back to the campsite I found a strange rash on my arms and legs, lots of little raised bumps, different sizes, which were really itchy. I went straight back to the dive shop and they sent me to a doctor. Thankfully she didn’t think it was DCI (and I couldn’t believe it was either as we only did two dives and they were really safe). She thought it was an allergic reaction to the cold, but I’ve never had that before. I didn’t get any other symptoms but the bumps are still there, four months later. Was she right, or should I come and see you? A: The rash you’re describing sounds very unlike the classic mottled appearance of a skin bend, and I’ve never heard of one lasting four months. In the absence of any other symptoms, I think DCI is unlikely; this sounds to me like something called cold urticaria. It is indeed a form of allergy, triggered by exposure to cold, where hives, wheals or bumps form on the skin. They can be incredibly itchy, and last for anywhere from minutes to months. The treatment is pure rocket science – stay warm. Antihistamines will sometimes help the itch and possibly reduce the number of hives. Although it sounds trivial, cold urticaria can sometimes result in serious anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal, so more severe sufferers should carry an adrenaline injection around with them.


YOU CAN. Explore More.






Continue your dive adventure. Take your next PADI course. © PADI 2018.

Our panel of experts offer some useful hints and advice on how best to dive from hard boats PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARK EVANS


ollowing on from last month’s focus on RIB diving, this issue we turn our attentions to hard boats. Stable, more spacious and with some creature comforts - toilet, galley for those essential teas, coffees and tasty snacks, and in some cases diver lifts hard boats can deliver you to dive sites that are out of reach of smaller vessels. Then there is the ultimate hard boat diving - on a liveaboard, where you stay and dine on board, and dive three, four or even five times a day. Depending on the dive location and depth, you don’t have to be an experienced diver to venture out on a hard boat, they offer a great way for newly qualified divers to get some decent dive time under their weight belt. However, there are some do’s and don’ts, and the following nuggets of information from our agency experts will help you get the most from your hard boat diving days. Advanced Instructor and former BSAC Chair Alex Warzynski said: “A hard boat provides a great platform for exploring dive sites that are a bit more out of the way and are not the more common, regular sites. It’s tempting just to use a hard boat as a water taxi to take you to the old favourites, but with a bit of research, a bit of planning and the right team of divers, it can be a much more interesting prospect. Even if you’re diving the regular sites, arriving with a bit of knowledge about the tides, weather and what to expect underwater will help everyone on board enjoy themselves that little bit more. “Coming on board with every bit of dive kit you own could be tricky in the limited available space on a hard boat. I set up my kit the night before the trip, make sure everything works, then there are no surprises when you get on board, such as an empty cylinder or leaking reg. So far in nearly 30 years, I’ve never missed a dive due to badly prepared kit. “On arrival, I tend to leave the bag or box in the car, and just take everything to the boat ready to use - as a guide, if you are single-cylinder diving, you should be able to do this in one trip from the car. I find those big blue Ikea bags perfect for chucking the kit for the day into, slinging over a shoulder and walking to the boat. The only extras I take on board is

normally lunch, a bottle of water and something to keep the sun off if we are lucky with the weather. “Fortunately I don’t get seasick, but as others do, that water also comes in useful if people are ill. There are the usual remedies of medication (Stugeron is okay, but there are meds that contain an ingredient that increases your chances of decompression illness, so please make sure you check). For divers who get hit hard, there are even some funky glasses you can wear that, although make you look a bit silly, give your eyes an artificial horizon to prevent motion sickness. TDI’s Business Development Manager Mark Powell said: “Make a reservation with a reputable dive boat/dive shop. Don’t know one where you’re going? Do some research. You’d be surprised how much better your day will be when you have a trained, experienced crew and a highly organised boat. Look for a boat that carries emergency oxygen and ideally has a crew person in addition to the skipper. “Take care to pack your certification card and check any gear you’re taking with you. Make sure it is all in working order before you get on the boat. If renting gear, ensure the correct gear is reserved before your arrival. When you arrive check that the rental gear is as expected and works correctly. “On the day of the dive, get up early and get to the boat early. You will be so much more relaxed and ready to enjoy the day if you and your gear are loaded and squared away before the mad rush. An early arrival may also give you a chance to chat with the crew and get to know them. It also allows you time to find a parking space, which is not always easy in some seaside towns. “Once you get onboard, unpack your gear and start getting ready. That early arrival may help you do that without being crowded. Try to keep your gear compact, and stow what you don’t need. Your dive gear should fit under your bench seat


and your BCD set-up should not be all over the place. On smaller boats, set up your gear and stow whatever you don’t need to dive. Of course, if the crew tells you that there’s room, feel free to spread out and get comfortable. “Talk to the crew and ask questions! If there is something you’re unsure of, or would like to know, just ask. The crew is there specifically to help you, to keep you safe, and to make your day enjoyable. Never leave something unsaid that may cause you to worry. The more you know, the calmer you’ll be, and you’ll enjoy the day more. The more the crew knows about you, the more fun you’ll have. If you’re a new or inexperienced diver, make sure to let the crew know! If you may have trouble on descent, or if your safety stop ascent is a little shaky, let the crew know. The more you tell them about your dive level, what you expect from the dive, etc, the more fun you’ll have and the safer you’ll be. Know your dive comfort zone. If you’re an open water certified diver and the dive is planned for a wreck at 30m, let the crew know you’re not certified to that level. The crew should always be able to make accommodations for you. You should never dive past your training and certification! “Be sure to listen to everything going on. Listen to the Captain’s welcome message and listen to the crew’s briefing. Don’t talk to your buddies or fuss with your gear. Important safety messages and dive procedures are included in these briefings. Your fun and safety may depend on knowing what was said. There should be plenty of time before and after these briefings to take care of everything. And some of your questions may get answered before you even ask! And for your own sake and those on the boat with you, always follow crew instructions. The crew’s only goal is to make sure you’re safe while having an awesome, fun time. “The trip is over. You’ll probably be briefed about the


unloading procedure. You’ve had a great time and you’re back at the dock. Wait for the crew to secure the boat before you try to get off. Once your gear is off the boat, gather it up and get yourself squared away. Be considerate to other people when loading and unloading, and don’t leave cars blocking access while you unload. “Remember to have fun! And let others know what a great time you had. A kind word and thank you to the crew, the owners, and a nice thank you or review on Facebook, TripAdvisor, etc, is also always welcome.” Garry Dallas, Director of Training RAID UK and Malta, said: “You’ve finally got yourself booked on a charter hard-boat or a luxury liveaboard. As you’re motoring out to the open ocean, there’s some etiquette to consider when it comes to hard boat diving. “In many ways, it’s not dissimilar to RHIB diving (see last month’s article), fundamentally you’re on a bigger vessel, but safety is always key to enjoying your boat diving experiences. “Your skipper/tour leader will always brief you thoroughly. Pay close attention - they want you to enjoy it too. Remember, just because you’re on a bigger boat and have more space, don’t spread your gear out more. There may be a lot more people who also need to get around you! Keeping your gear together reduces the risk of loss and damage. Simply manage your gear as you would do on a smaller vessel, others will appreciate it too and follow suit. Mark-up/personalise your gear to avoid any awkwardness. Make sure your gear is secured and that it won’t fall over should the boat pitch or roll. “Be aware of slippery decks and deck ladders when moving around the vessel, especially when barefoot. With larger groups diving, there’s usually a system for entering and exiting the water and stowing your equipment away for refills for the next dive. Listen carefully to these procedures to avoid kitting up a spent tank and the stress that ensues. “If you suffer from seasickness, here’s some tips for you the eyes normally see the world that is still, while our body’s equilibrium sensors in our inner ears send signals of a moving environment to the brain. This confusion causes unrest in the body, then tiredness and nausea kicks in. Get plenty of sleep, avoid greasy foods and alcohol, and take suitable seasickness tablets for divers. Keep busy or look at the horizon, stay in fresh air and don’t go on the top deck where there’s more roll. Stay close to the centre of the vessel or the stern, not the bow. Drink fresh water every 15 minutes and stay out of the sun. Try not to sleep as it often makes it worse. “Finally, make sure your equipment is tip-top before you get on the boat and never rush anything, enjoy!”


GUE’s John Kendall commented: “As with any boat dive, it’s best to have your equipment all set up and checked before you leave harbour. Try to arrive with plenty of time before the advertised ‘ropes off ‘time, and introduce yourself to the skipper. Ask them how they want the boat loaded, and remember that most UK hard boats take ten to 12 divers, so even if it looks like there’s plenty of space, this doesn’t mean that you should bring every last piece of diving equipment that you own. Just bring what you need. Big advantages of hard boat diving generally include the ability to make hot drinks, and also to travel to the dive site out of the weather, but follow the skipper’s instructions about where you can and can’t go in a wet dive suit. Finally, try not to block the toilet most marine toilets won’t deal with anything that hasn’t first passed through you.” Vikki Batten, PADI Course Director, TecRec Instructor Trainer and Director of Rebreather Technologies, Technical Diving Division, said: “UK skippers are some of the best in the world and usually very knowledgeable about sea conditions and the dive sites they drop you on. But you should also educate yourself - the PADI RNLI Distinctive Specialty Diver course was developed with the RNLI to educate divers about safety at sea. “Listen to the briefing about entering and existing the water carefully, techniques may be very different to what you have experienced diving in other locations. If you don’t know why someone is telling you to do something just ask, there will always be a good reason and it is usually safety related.” Jonas Samuelsson, PADI Course Director, TecRec Instructor Trainer and Territory Director for Egypt (among other areas), commented: “My favourite hardboats are liveaboards, and its hard to explain the feeling when you departing from the harbour on the way to an amazing reef or wreck. Your day on a liveaboard consists of three favourites of mine – sleep, eat, dive - repeat. I love all kinds of diving, but the advantage of being on a liveaboard is that you are able to reach some of the most-spectacular dive sites. Just be aware when diving on liveaboards to ensure that you discuss your certification and experience level with the dive operator so they can give advice which trip is most suitable for you.” Emily Petley Jones, PADI Course Director and Regional Training Consultant, said: “One of the most-challenging aspects to diving from a hardboat can be the exit. You should listen very carefully to this section in the brief, as there are many variations as to what you should do when you exit. If using a ladder when you exit, you should make a note of what sort of ladder it is. If it is an open ladder (where there are no sides), you can leave your fins on to climb back on-board


and slide your feet in from the sides. If it is a closed ladder, then you should remove your fins before you climb on. Make sure that you always have one hand on the boat, or a line connected to the boat before you take off your fins! One of the most-common concerns for skippers is divers crowding around the ladder. Always give each other space, and ensure that only one diver is on the ladder at a time, and more importantly, that the base of the ladder is clear in case they fall back into the water. Some ladders have a tendency to pivot as the boat rocks in the water, try to get your weight on the ladder as soon as you can as this will help stop it from swinging quite so much.” IANTD’s Kieran Hatton said: “Divers are like gas, they expand into the space they have available! This is fine when you’re the only diver on the boat, but something of a problem when you are with nine other like-minded individuals. “Diving offshore requires a degree of organisation and team planning. When boarding a boat, people will find their seat, this may be on a ‘George always sits there’, or a firstcome, first-served basis (mine is the one by the gate). Either way, once you have your seat, best to stick with it for the week, ‘an Englishman’s home is his castle’ and all that. “Different trips are going to require different equipment, but much like diving, only take what you need, space will always be limited. If diving on a liveaboard for multiple days, then it will be a good idea to take spares and tools. If a long run out for a single dive at slack water is the order of the day then there is little point, if you are not ready to go when the skipper says go, the dive window will be closed anyway. Be ready before you leave the quay, trying to fix a rebreather while traveling at 20 knots is not a lot of fun. “Bring food! Food to share (don’t forget about the veggies), a long run back to shore is better on a full stomach. “Last but not least, buy the skipper and crew a pint - it is long day out and too often a thankless task looking after divers.” n




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oh Lanta on the east coast of Thailand is becoming an increasingly popular place for divers to visit because it provides a relaxing alternative to the bustling streets of Phuket, but perhaps the main advantage of diving from Koh Lanta is the spectacular dive sites of Hin Daeng and Hin Muang. Other than liveaboards and the occasional boat from Koh Phi Phi, the Koh Lanta dive centres have these dive sites to themselves. They are located in the Andaman Sea around 60km south of Koh Lanta. As with all diving from the island, there is a choice of either a speed boat or a big boat. The big boats can take up to four hours to reach the site but offer a more-comfortable journey, breakfast on the way there, lunch on the way back and even the opportunity for a snooze after an early 7am start. The speed boats, however, have the advantage of being able to reach these sites in about one hour 30 minutes. They set off later, get there earlier and are back home before the big boats. The direct translation of Hin Daeng from Thai to English is Red Rock, while Hin Muang means Purple Rock. The names are derived from the red and purple broccoli corals that adorn their respective walls and peaks. Arguably providing the best diving Thailand has to offer, and certainly the deepest, these two sites offer a stunning array of soft corals and marine life. They are one of the few places in the area where manta rays can be found and even the


occasional whaleshark. Once one of these majestic creatures has been spotted the word soon spreads around the diving community on Koh Lanta. The next day a small flotilla of dive boats consisting of all shapes and sizes will make the long journey out to these rocks. In something akin to Wacky Races on water, the goal is to get there and in the water first to have some quality time alone with these huge animals before the hordes arrive. Obviously the speed boats have the advantage, but in rough conditions they can be forced to turn back. It is also worth bearing in mind that these sites are more suited to experienced divers and most dive centres will not take novice divers. Even if you are not lucky enough to encounter a manta ray or whaleshark, there is plenty to see. Hin Muang is usually dived first. The top of this long, slender ridge-like reef lies about 10m under the surface and is covered with anemones. Numerous peaks descend like giant stepping stones down to 22m. Its coral-covered walls then plunge over 60m to the ocean floor.


Red Rock,


Adrian Stacey reckons that Hin Daeng and Hin Muang deserve the title of ‘best dive sites in Thailand’ for experienced divers, thanks to a superlative blend of stunning topography, colourful corals, myriad varieties of reef life and the chance of big pelagic visitors PHOTOGRAPHS BY ADRIAN STACEY



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Amazing swathes of soft corals smother the reef

This impressive monolith is prone to strong currents, so it is advisable to use the attached mooring line for assents and descents. Once safely on the reef, it is time to enjoy the show. In what seems like a well-choreographed routine, huge schools of bait fish move in unison to avoid the attentions of marauding blue fin trevally, jacks and rainbow runners. The action can be relentless and divers can sometimes find themselves engulfed by a teeming ball of fish. Cleaning stations pepper the top of the ridge and offer the best place to see mantas. Hin Daeng offers very different topography to Hin Muang. Like the tip of an iceberg the top of this site pokes a metre or so above the surface. The southern side of the reef drops steeply to around 70m. It is simply covered in red broccoli corals. Large swathes of the reef shimmer with massive schools of glassfish, while lionfish glide around the perimeter looking for a chance to strike. The northern side drops in a gentler slope; it is more barren but seems to be a favourite place for yellow snapper to congregate. In between are a number of channels, ridges and pinnacles to navigate around. A school of batfish hang around the shallows near the main pinnacle. These curious creatures will often come very close and check out the divers who have invaded their patch. A variety of nudibranchs, crabs and shrimp inhabit the reef for those with a preference for the smaller stuff, but for me, the highlight of this site is the schooling fish and bright red corals.


Vibrant soft corals

In something akin to Wacky Races on water, the goal is to get there and in the water first to have some quality time alone with these huge animals before the hordes arrive 25

The quantity of marine life is staggering and throw into the mix the chance of seeing manta rays and whalesharks and you have two world-class dive sites to explore Coral hind exploring the reef

Divers on a colourful wall

Pristine, healthy reefs greet divers

Huge clouds of fish on the reef

The diving season on Koh Lanta runs from November to April. It is possible to dive outside these months but, since it is monsoon season, dive boats will not always venture out. Hin Daeng and Hin Muang are way out in open seas and are therefore more sensitive to weather conditions than some of the closer sites. If swells are too large, trips can be cancelled and boats have been known to turn around halfway there, although this is rare. Visibility can range for ten to 30 metres and vary from day to day. Both reefs are stunning, with an abundance of healthy soft corals. The quantity of marine life is staggering and throw into the mix the chance of seeing manta rays and whalesharks and you have two world-class dive sites to explore. n



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BETTER UNDERWATER IMAGES Following his last articles on underwater macro photography and looking at different lighting techniques, Martyn Guess provides some more tips on how we can all get better underwater images PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARTYN GUESS


f you break down a good underwater image, what are the ingredients that help it to be memorable? What makes an image dynamic and leap off the page? The first thing is probably an interesting subject, maybe doing something interesting, or a subject or scene which is striking or colourful, However, the viewer would not dwell on the image if it was poorly lit or exposed, and was not well composed. In this article, I want to look at composition in more detail, and will cover exposure the next time.


Image two - Hammerhead eye - positioned at intersection of horizontal and vertical ‘thirds’ lines and body in a diagonal position

Image one

- Rule of The rule of thirds and strong Thirds and diagonals are a prerequisite Diagonals for dynamic images. Probably the most basic of all photography rules is about dividing up the image frame into nine equal sections by a set of imaginary horizontal and vertical lines. Using this imaginary frame, you need to place the key part of your image on one of the lines or where the lines meet. The rule suggests that the best place to put the subject or the part of the subject you want to highlight isn’t necessarily in the middle of the frame but slightly off to one side. The result will often be a lot more natural-looking and will help create a well-balanced image. In image one, the eye of the subject is placed close to one of the ‘thirds’ intersections of the frame and the subject angled to give a good diagonal line, which helps to create a

well-composed image. The eye position of the hammerhead shark in image two and the rhinophores of the nudibranch in image three are close to the ‘thirds’ intersection. Both images also have strong diagonal lines – the angle of the pair of rhinophores and the shark body position help to make a strong image. Composition also works well with a symmetrical image, so straight on portrait opportunities are something to look for - putting the subject to one side of the frame also works well compositionally (image four), and if the subject is looking into the frame it will help lead the viewer’s eye into the picture (image five). It is important to get low and angle the camera up slightly, as this will give a more-natural image than one looking down (will also help to give subject separation from its background). Eye contact when taking images of animals or critters is also key to a good overall composition. If your image is likely to lose impact due to a busy background (quite a common reality with underwater photography), then cropping in tight around the main point

Image three - Composition showing rhinophores with strong diagonal line

Image four Symmetrical - straight on composition

of focus or subject, eliminating the background works well, as all attention falls on the subject. If the background in your image does not dominate the picture, then a composition can work well with the subject seen in its environment. Such as a pygmy seahorse in a wider view of its fan, rather than the typical shot taken really tight. On the subject, such a wider view composition quite often helps with giving an impression of scale – helping the viewer to understand how big the subject is, for example. Try to remember to keep an eye on the edge of your frame when composing the shot to make sure that you haven’t inadvertently cut off part of the subject you are shooting. I see this problem quite a bit with students on my workshops. And it is quite common to miss part of the subject within the

frame when looking through a viewfinder with a mask! We all have one stronger eye and it is easy to miss a vital part of the subject, such as clipping a tail or a fin or the edge of scenic shot. What could have been a great shot can be easily ruined by not paying attention to the edge of the frame. There are, of course, times when this rule can be ignored but pay attention to the frame and make sure you are including or excluding exactly what you want. Natural or man-made frames are very useful underwater and can have various uses when used compositionally. They can help to isolate the subject, drawing in the eye directly to it. They can also be used to hide things behind, such as the sun when you are at a shallow depth where the beams and sun ball are so strong you risk burning the image out. Putting the sun behind the leg of a pier, for example, can create an image with a lot of impact with sun beams, but not the burnt-out sun ball. I will often put the subject in the sun-ball itself as a way to create an impactful

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

UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY Image five Composition with subject to one side looking into frame


Want to learn how to take or improve your underwater images? Why not come on a photo specific trip? These trips are meticulously planned to the best destinations at the best time of year where the conditions should be perfect for building a portfolio of great images. The workshops, which are for all levels of experience but mainly aimed at people with a few trips under their belts, include classroom sessions and presentations as well as in water help and guidance, all done in a relaxed and non-competitive friendly environment. As I sit here writing this article, I have just got back from a successful workshop trip to Bali with a group of photographers. – they all got some amazing images! We are returning there in August 2019. Next year there are trips also back to the Azores in September and a joint trip with Mario Vitalini to the Southern Red Sea in May. Trips to Lembeh/Manado and Dumaguete Philippines in 2020 have just been announced by Scubatravel.

Image six - Using framing of the subject - within Snell’s window

silhouette image and frame the subject within Snell’s window (image six). A strong sun-ball can ruin a wide-angle image and sometimes it is unavoidable. In these instances, I will frame the top of the image to show the sun beams but not the actual ball. In the same way when in caves shooting sun rays, the images work better if the brightest part of the sun is framed out. A frame will give an image depth and help create context. It is important to watch backgrounds carefully as blocks of strong colour or overexposed or bright areas or unsightly objects will distract the viewer and pull the eye away from what it is meant to be focusing on. I will often squint my eyes to see what parts of the frame are too bright and then either recompose or adjust exposure settings accordingly. If the background problem can’t be avoided, then opening the aperture to a lower F-stop and blurring the background will help to alleviate the issue. Creating depth in wide-angle pictures is very desirable and thus having a foreground, a middle and background will add

Image seven Framing of diver in the background and foreground subject giving the image depth

depth compositionally to our images as well as help to draw the eye through the picture. I often look for a background to set something against that I have found in the foreground when swimming along a reef. If you are lucky you can find a part of the reef and use it as a background and maybe something in the middle ground to set off against the reef with the subject in the foreground. The background reef as a silhouette is an excellent backdrop to set your subject against and one which will give a good contrast to your strobe lit subject (image seven). Using the shape of the reef against something with a similar shape in the middle or foreground is also something that will work very well from a composition perspective. Symmetry with shapes and patterns along the reef is well worth looking for. The next time you dive with a camera, practice the Rule of Thirds and set your subject at an angle to give a strong diagonal lead into the frame. You will not be unhappy with the improvement in your images! n NB: Next time – getting the exposure right.


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Alor FISH SOUP Pure pleasure! This original recipe originates from Indonesia. It is particularly diverse in exceptional ingredients. We just can’t get enough of it and serve it with octopus, moray eel, frogfish, coral, sponges and lots of fish. And there is no destination too far for a good soup TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROSE AND UDO KEFRIG / TEAM OCEANPICS.DE


urprise! This dish is not cooked. The kitchen stays cold. To enjoy this rich soup, we simply squeeze into a wetsuit, grab our dive equipment and jump into a rich primaeval pot of fish stew! We long for great visibility at drop-offs, for sharks and big fish in abundance. We glide through diverse reefs, are carried by breath-taking currents and gasp at fantastic underwater landscapes full of biodiversity. Nudibranchs, in all colour variations, pipefish and other critters are waiting to be explored. A pot brimming. Our dive safari started from Maumere and led us to Flores, Lembata, Pantar and Alor. Diving in the surrounding islands means variety - many dive sites, and incredible marine life. From little pygmy seahorses, fascinating mimic octopus, shoals of fish, right up to big predators and an abundance of corals and sponges, everything is on the menu. This fish chowder happily bubbles underwater, or offers you mimicry in perfection. But our advice - dive with a guide, this way you get to see more then you ever envisaged.


The currents in this primeval soup can be strong and unpredictable, and there is never a dive in the Pantar Strait where the pot doesn’t simmer with fish

Before we are shown to our cabin, we are giving a safety briefing about lifejackets, liferafts and a housekeeping brief. Literally translated, our safari ship Amira ( is called Princess. She is innovative, equipped with a stateof-the-art navigation system, technology, security and rescue equipment, and was built by indigenous craftsmen using the ancient Phinisi boat-building traditions. With a length of 52 metres, the Amira offers nine comfortable double cabins and one single cabin, all equipped with personal showers and toilets and natural lighting. Meals are taken outside on the main deck or inside the restaurant with comfortable air-conditioned lounge area with comfortable sitting areas, TV and DVD player. Soak up the romantic atmosphere with a sundowner on the upper


sun-deck, or simply chill on one of the other decks with a good book. Coffee, tea and water are free and three times a day a tasty fusion of Indonesian or Western food is offered. In between meals, snacks and fresh fruit is available. A larger variety of drinks and fruit juices, as well as beer, are available for purchase. When we were shown the dive deck it was a nice surprise. Created by divers for divers, it is a generously designed space to gear up with a fixed site for each diver, several rinse tanks, plenty of surface space and a spacious camera room. All in all, a perfect base for the most beautiful dive excursions in Raja Ampat, Alor, Komodo and Banda. Ronan Debelius, the cruise director of the Amira, explained to us that the dive map of Alor is divided into two areas. The Strait of Pantar for wide-angle photography and the Bay of Kalabahi as a great spot for muck diving. He warned about strong currents – flow in the Pantar Strait often reaches up to 20 knots, develops strong whirlpools and even ships fight against them. However, these currents supply the corals, and the tiny and bizarre creatures and fish with plenty of food. The islands are of volcanic origin and characterised by mountainous landscapes. At the same time, you will find lonely beaches as well as dense rainforest with a rich variety of animal and plant species.

TIME TO DIVE After arriving in Kalabahi Bay, we watched as the first group of divers were getting ready. A few of them had not been to Indonesia before, but with these incredible dive sites situated in the heart of the coral triangle, they would not be disappointed. The Kalabahi Bay is a paradise for every muck diver looking for rare, alien-like creatures that camouflage and conceal themselves so cleverly that they are hardly visible to the untrained eye. There are currents and there can certainly be poor visibility, but the experienced


guides know their way around. One of the best sites was the Mucky Mosque, located just behind the entrance to Kalabahi Bay. Fish traps, ropes, clothing and other artificial debris is found along the sloping reef, which are trapped around sponges and algae to provide a home for all kinds of strange weirdos, like the spiny seahorse, zebra crabs, colemani shrimps, squid and boxer crabs.

Crinoids adorn a barrel sponge

PANTAR STRAIT Sailing out of Kalabahi Bay into Pantar Strait, the underwater landscape changed dramatically. An explosive marine life welcomes divers in this remote corner of Indonesia. Dive sites are often like an underwater aquarium. And the dive sites around Pantar Strait revolve around a central theme - coral growth, fish life and high coral cover. Fed by incoming currents from the Indonesian Sea and the Pacific Ocean, the visibility during our voyage did not fall below 25 metres and reached up to 40 metres. In the northeast of Ternate Island, we got a little taste of diving in the Pantar Strait. At The Edge, you first come across a slope full of whip and soft corals that drop gently to a depth of 10m, followed by a drop-off that plunges over 100m into the abyss. Never have I seen such giant barrel sponge. Unfortunately, my dive computer reminded me that it was time to surface. I thought I’d seen many coral landscapes, but that was before my visit to Alor. You must be here to witness it yourself. Returning from a tender dive


Muck dive sites with black lava sand are generally referred to as ‘deserts’ and are relatively free of coral, but this dive promised to expose that cliché. Here we found a lot of soft corals, and crustaceans occupied almost every crevice, rare slugs seemed to bask in the penetrating sunrays, while yellow sea cucumbers, blue and green sea squirts and harlequin shrimps were unmistakable with very striking patterns.

BEANGABANG You what? Beans-go-bang? No, just another dive site and the word seems to roll beautifully over the tongue, just like our backward roll into the small bay in the southwest of the Pantar Strait. At the Teluk Beang Reef you can glide over a dark sandy bottom with hard and soft corals and beautiful sponges and admire schools of fusiliers and sweetlips swaying effortlessly in the current. Our daily dives produced frogfish in all colours and sizes, scorpionfish, flabellina, nudibranchs, crabs, numerous shrimps, lobster and the most searched for and well camouflaged rhinopias. The rhinopias, who are classified in the family of scorpionfish, come in various colours and different species. They feed on crustaceans, cephalopods and fishes and employ a lie-in-wait strategy, remaining stationary and ready for prey that comes near. With their mouth, they create a vacuum and suck the unsuspecting passer-by in during a nearly imperceptible split-second movement.


Macro subjects like this crab are everywhere


The Kalabahi Bay is a paradise for every muck diver looking for rare, alien-like creatures that camouflage and conceal themselves so cleverly that they are hardly visible to the untrained eye Pristine coral reef

Emperor shrimp on a sea cucumber

KEL’S DREAM One dive was very rewarding. This dive site is renowned and promised large pelagic fish. But you could end up on an express train. Diving conditions are not always ideal, and timing must be right. It is teeming with schools of small fish, including anthias and fusiliers. You need to kick your fins as the current is usually quite strong, but once there keep a lookout for barracuda and blacktips. Coral growth and diversity are impressive, but strong and unpredictable currents often mean that the average size of individual corals remain relatively small, but in incredible densities and all variations. Even in the wonderful world of macro you can find nudibranchs and blennies. The small blennies are grounddwellers who can be found mainly in rocky biotopes, staring curiously from their hiding places.

LAMALERA WHALING VILLAGE But this trip was not all about diving and we had plenty of land excursions. Above water, colourful wooden fishing boats chugged back and forth from tiny islands. Laughing children, in self-carved wooden canoes, paddled like crazy towards the liveaboards in the hope of a few sweets or even ABC equipment from the expectant divers on board who approach the remote islands. In the old whaling village of Lamalera, sperm whales have traditionally been hunted with harpoons for over 500 years. This has stopped and nowadays, schoolchildren demonstrate whaling dance elements, while the local women supplement the family income with ikat weaving sales. Another great highlight is an excursion to the village of the Aboi hill tribe. The Abui are an indigenous ethnic group (also known as Barawahing, Barue or Namatalaki) residing on Alor Island. Up until the 19th century, they were headhunters. The now-retired headhunters perform their dance rituals in the Lamalera fishing village


Porcelain crab in an anemone

Takbala village and welcome guests. At least we didn’t have to worry about ending up in the pot! They are proud to share their culture and engage in songs and traditional dances known as lego-lego, in which the dancers move in a circular pattern and stamp their feet. Moko drums and gongs are rhythmically beaten.

DIVING ALOR/INDONESIA Diving in Alor is not easy. The currents in this primeval soup can be strong and unpredictable, and there is never a dive in the Pantar Strait where the pot doesn’t simmer with fish. Even in the Kalabahi Bay, we experienced a slight drift during muck diving depending on the tides. The water temperatures can drop at any time due to the thermocline rising from the depth, so do not forget a beanie hat. To enjoy the beauty of Alor to the full, divers must have a high level of water confidence, and safety equipment, such as a surface marker buoy (and knowing how to deploy it), is essential. n

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Garmin showcased its Descent Mk1 dive computer, which is now available with a grey titanium bezel as well as a sapphire lens and black silicone band at DEMA. Chris Budenz is one of Garmin’s original beta testers and he said they created the unit around what the recreational and technical markets demand from a dive computer. The smart watch technology suits the active and varied diver lifestyle, not just functioning for diving. There are built-in sensors that serve a three-axis compass, gyroscope and barometric altimeter as well as GPS and GLONASS capability that lets you log your dive entry and exit points for efficient and easy surface navigation. With apnea, single gas, multi-gas and CCR, and heart rate monitoring technology capabilities, this watch really does do it all. The double tap action on the computer avoids the issue of operating the unit underwater while wearing thick gloves.

HAMMERHEAD NAKOA OPEN TRACK SPEARGUNS Hammerhead Spearguns has scored again with their newest addition to their successful line-up of blue-water guns for spearos. Hammerhead founder Kevin Sakuda shared the new products with at the 2018 DEMA show. The NaKOA Open Track has two distinctive models: an American Open Track design and a European Open Track design sized for metric spear shafts. Both models are made from handcrafted teak and are light, powerful three-band guns. They feature reverse drop-in mechanisms, laminated hand-routed barrels, interchangeable AR-15 handle/grips and are custom made in Hawaii, USA. Offered in 114cm, 127cm, 140cm and 152cm lengths, these powerful and accurate guns can ring in the biggest blue-water species.


Evolve USA showcased some really cool kill bags at DEMA this year. The company is well-known for the high quality of their line of pole spears and tips. Spearfishers also need to get their kill home safety. There are many kill bags available on the market but few use food-grade materials. What good is fresh fish if it picks up odours or chemicals from the bag you are transporting it in? Problem solved with Evolve’s EVO+ Kill Bags. The new Evolve EVO+ 1.2-metre and 1.8-metre Kill Bags have heat sealed seams to prevent leaks, and it has double reinforced heavy-duty handles, closed cell insulating foam, a 12-inch wide self-standing base, and two-stage drain valve.


OMER ADDS NEW CARBON FINS, MORE COLOURS, AND EXTRA FEATURES Omer has several new items that will be joining their product line, and showcased them at this year’s DEMA. The new Stingray Dual Carbon fin has a gloss finish on both sides and is available in medium stiffness. A rigid plate protects the 22° downturn on the blade, with predrilled holes for added compression so as to secure the foot pocket during transfer of power. The rails are slightly taller to stop side-to-side motion during the kick-cycle. This will be available all the way down to men’s size 4-5. The Alien mask, Omer’s most-popular and best-selling mask, has been fitted with an action-camera mount providing a convenient way to document your adventures.

WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM is the World’s Largest Community dedicated to Freediving, Scuba Diving and Spearfishing. We’ve been dedicated to bringing you the freshest news, features and discussions from around the underwater world since 1996.


The Paralenz+ boasts an even-deeper depth rating of 250m thanks to an indestructible end cap which is CNC-milled from a single block of extremely strong aerospace-grade aluminium - the same as the rest of the housing. Jacob Dalhoff Steensen, the CMO of Paralenz, said: “The idea behind the Paralenz camera is to make it as easy as possible to collect and share your content. But then the next problem is that you have to store it, and managing this content is a challenge. So we decided to try to tackle this problem by creating Paralenz World. A diver can simply drag and drop the entire contents of an SD card into a web browser. It will folder up all of your dives in screenshots and it will provide the information of where and when you took the photo or video, how deep you were, providing the user with an easy visual reference guide complete with data.”

PFI INTRODUCES NEW OCEAN HUNTER PROGRAMME Performance Freediving International announced their new Ocean Hunter programme at DEMA, bringing industry leading safety to underwater hunting and gathering. This specialised course is designed for certified freedivers (PFI Freediver level or higher equivalent via other agency certifications) who want to leverage proper breath-hold to improve their underwater hunting methods, safety, and enjoyment. Features of the programme include safety and problem management while spearfishing, gear selection and rigging, and how to implement the best safety techniques - modified for the purpose of effective and efficient hunting underwater.


iBubble TO BEGIN SHIPPING ORDERS SOON Drones have really changed over the last few years, and the advancement in drone technology is showing in the scuba-diving industry as well. The iBubble, by the French company Notilo Plus, made its initial debut at last year’s DEMA show in Orlando, and now the company will be shipping orders in a matter of weeks. The iBubble is available as both a smart underwater drone and an ROV. The dive starts with the diver programming the remote. The process does a full self-test of the unit and pairs with the remote. The ibubble has six modes. The ‘film what I see’ mode has the drone alongside the diver showing what the diver sees. Other options allow the diver to be seen at different angles, such as from the side, behind or from the front. The drone can also circle the diver. The diver controls the distance between him or herself and the drone up to 20 metres. They can change any of the settings from the remote. When the dive starts, the drone reads the surroundings. This will enable it to avoid crashing into a reef or other item. The drone will also read the diver. This allows the drone to focus on the correct diver if other divers are nearby. If the drone loses contact with the remote, it will stop and hover for a minute. While hovering it will search for the remote. If found, it will return to the proper distance. However, if it does not locate the remote it will do what all proper dive buddies will do, it will slowly return to the surface. On the way to the surface and at the surface, the iBubble will attempt to find the remote and when it does, it will return to the dive. If the battery level becomes low during the dive, the drone will flash its lights and return to the diver. The battery for the drone can be changed between dives with a spare. Average dive time for a full charge is 90 minutes. An upgraded unit comes with a 60-metre cable to allow the drone to be operated as a ROV with surface control. Using the cable, the operator will get real-time video from the drone.


SPEARFISHING HINTS & GEAR BEGINNERS GUIDE TO... WRECK HUNTING Chad Carney has written a series of articles for aimed at novices to the world of spearfishing. Below is a truncated version of his overview on wreck hunting


iving wrecks and hunting fish with spears are two of my biggest joys in the outdoor world, and when combined they are unbeatable! Reefs are beautiful, and other piled or scattered concrete and metal debris are usually effective habitat to support numerous fish life, but there are aspects to shipwrecks that can be very special. First are the wrecks themselves, various man-made vessels that arrived on the bottom either by accident or by purpose. Natural wrecks may be well known and commonly dived like wrecks intentionally sunk as artificial reefs, but there are many unknown wrecks that are still well-kept secrets by a select few divers. Often non-diving fishermen find wrecks by seeing lots of fish on the surface or on their fish finders, and some by bringing up pieces of wreckage with anchors. Divers are sometimes recruited to inspect newly found structures.

WHAT SPEARGUN? One of the hardest things to decide before a wreck dive, is which speargun do you take down? This is due to the tremendous variety of fish species present and the diverse structure of wrecks. I’ve seen powerful bluewater/pelagic species like wahoo, African pompano, permit, cobia, and amberjack that would be best speared with bluewater guns and floats. Or big benthic/bottom species like cubera, mutton and red snapper or black, gag, and yellowfin grouper, or even hogfish that are well suited to long shooting spearguns with reels or multiple freeshafts. It is extremely cumbersome and difficult

to take two spearguns underwater, but I have done it, with and without success. Usually planting one gun on the wreck for later use, and only hunting with one gun at a time is best. Wrecks with very high relief from the bottom attract masses of bait and their predators, and I’ve seen the surface and mid-waters so crowded I could not see through them to view the large wreck below, even when the water is crystal clear. As wrecks crumble down, the diving and sportfishing majority get bored with them, which is a good thing for spearos. I’m so glad to see them go dive and fish the new, intact and spotlessly clean wrecks. Less traffic means less pressure, which means better quantities of less-spooky fish for hunters. Also as wrecks lose their relief and surface fish, many fishing and diving captains can’t easily find them. Another thing that often happens to wrecks is separation, especially when there are big storms like Hurricanes or Nor’easters. Many wrecks have a superstructure or bow break free and move far enough away that divers don’t see them anymore, and captains rarely find them. Sometimes it’s just small pieces like smokestacks or fuel tanks that depart and last a long time. An astute spearo will watch fish that are checking out, and follow as they move to the nearby wreckage. While diving, I often circle a wreck, as far as the visibility allows, and find pieces that smart fish use as a safe room when divers show up. n To read Chad Carney’s full, in-depth articles, head to:

MARES RAZOR FINS (ILLUSION, C740, F740) The new range of Mares Razor fins are ideal for divers who are after a soft but responsive fin for mid-depth fishing and extended finning on the surface. Consisting of three different styles, the fins provide maximum thrust while maintaining optimal comfort. The Razor Illusion is a fiberglass fin with special ‘Illusion’ image-scrambling camouflage print, providing great concealment in a range of underwater environments. The blade has been produced with pre-impregnated fibreglass layers for maximum strength and flexibility, and the new variable side ribs support and optimise channel thrust and flex. Razor C740 is shorter than Mares’ traditional freediving and spearfishing fins, but with all the great features expected from Pure Instinct range: high-quality, optimised channel thrust and optimum flexibility. The fin uses new 3k carbon with fibres 40

woven at a 90-degree angle. Because the fibres used in the blade cross over each other fewer times, the responsiveness of the fin is increased, offering a highperforming parabolic flexion. Our latest fibreglass layer fin, the F740, also offers great elasticity and agility. It uses a constant blade thickness to facilitate efficient and powerful kicking motion. This great range of multi-purpose fins are designed to be worn with a 3mm sock, and can be used both for spearfishing and apnea diving. WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM




ith the ever-increasing human population heaving enormous strain on marine resources, many nations have called for the creation of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) to preserve remaining fish populations. It is no surprise that underwater enthusiasts make global migrations to MPAs in the Galapagos, Palau, the Great Barrier Reef or Raja Ampat - names which are now synonymous with worldclass scuba-diving experiences due to thriving marine life. Floating somewhat below the international scuba diver radar is a marine park nestled in the centre of the Sulu Sea, Philippines. The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is the largest no-take MPA in the country, and has become a national emblem for marine conservation efforts in the Philippines. The mere mention of ‘Tubbataha’ will spark a conversation with locals in any part of the country, but bring up the word among the Philippine dive community and you will find yourself locked in a conversation for hours. Like most of the world’s best diving hotspots, Tubbataha is difficult to reach - a ten-hour journey separates the park from Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. The park is only accessible to tourists by liveaboard or private boat between March and June which, if anything, only adds to the park’s mysticism. Sticking your head under the water in Tubbataha today is like taking a peek back in time to see how coral reef ecosystems looked before we Homo sapiens departed Africa to colonise the planet. At first glance, the multi-coloured reef crest and slope shimmer and vibrate with marine life, and words quickly spring to mind like ‘pristine’ and ‘untouched’. But dig a little deeper into Tubbataha’s history and you will unveil a true conservation success story, one that reaches all the way back to the 1980s, when the reef was under threat from anchoring, cyanide and even dynamite fishing. Fortunately, due to diligent observations and campaigning by the local scuba diving community, reports detailing these threats began making it to the desks and reading lists of influential policy makers, and in 1988 a presidential decree listed Tubbataha as a national park. The park received further prominence in 1993 when it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, owing to the uniquely high abundance and diversity of corals, fish and seabirds found throughout its islets. Since then, the reef’s progress and success has been carefully steered by the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO), under the guidance of the residing Protected Area Superintendent, Angelique Songco, who has seen the park grow from its delicate beginnings in 1988 to an internationally recognised beacon for marine conservation.

Marine megafauna researcher Ryan Murray discusses the symbiotic relationship between scuba divers and Marine Protected Areas, focusing on Tubbataha as a prime example of what can be achieved when everyone works together PHOTOGRAPHS BY RYAN MURRAY, SALLY SNOW, NOEL GUEVARA, SIMON PIERCE, ALESSANDRO PONZO AND STEVE DE NEEF

The effective management and protection of the park has made scuba diving in Tubbataha a truly surreal experience - the corals are tightly packed and the steep walls seem to be congested highways of barracuda, jacks, snapper and dogtooth tuna. Seemingly, despite Tubbataha’s immense size, some of the park’s most-impressive inhabitants can be predictably easy to find. Prehistoric herds of bumphead wrasse can be found around Malayan Wreck or Kook, clouds of big-eye trevally at Triggerfish City, packs of barracuda at Delsan Wreck and for the reef Rangers and researchers manta, get to Black Rock. But even head out on to the reefs more predictable are the sharks, which are pretty much… everywhere! Grey and whitetip reef sharks can be found on each and every dive, and it is not surprising to come across aggregations of grey reef sharks in their 20s, 30s or even 40s. Lucky divers will chance upon whalesharks, marble rays and porcupine rays, while those luckier still might happen upon tiger, scalloped hammerhead, silvertip and even silky sharks. Yet despite Tubbataha’s seemingly endless supply of shark and ray encounters, very little is known about their ecology in the park, perhaps one of the reasons why the park is still a well-kept secret. In 2015, Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines (LAMAVE), in collaboration with the Tubbataha Management Office, began the first comprehensive assessment of sharks and rays in the park. The goal was to study the diversity, abundance and spatial ecology of sharks and rays in Tubbataha, and provide park managers with baseline information for these poorly understood and highly threatened species. But before the team even arrived in Tubbataha, a preliminary assessment of shark and ray diversity was needed. For the biodiversity assessment, a rather simple but highly effective survey technique was used, known as citizen science. Put simply, citizen science is a way for enthusiastic members of the public to enhance and contribute to scientific knowledge. Essentially, Grey reef sharks

Preparing different -sized sensors

the scuba divers’ digital content revealed the presence of over 20 species of shark Tubbataha’s scuba diving community was recruited by LAMAVE as a biodiversity assessment team where photos or videos of shark and ray encounters taken by divers were used to build a species catalogue for the park. Within a few weeks, the scuba divers’ digital content had revealed the presence of over 20 species of shark and ray. Kudos to the citizen scientists! The next step meant getting wet, and the research team headed to Tubbataha to continue the assessment using two techniques popular with shark scientists around world. The first, Underwater Visual Surveys, or UVS, allowed the team to finally don their scuba gear and see the reef for themselves. On each survey an average of 15 sharks were documented, most of which were whitetip reef shark and grey reef shark, but the observant team also managed to sight blacktip reef shark, nurse shark, cowtail stingray and even a reef manta. Second to the UVS, Baited Remote Underwater Video, or BRUV, were conducted throughout the reef. Basically, a BRUV is a camera placed inside a special underwater housing that allows sampling in deeper sections of the reef up to 100m! Down at these depths the cameras picked up a completely different variety of shark species to what the surveys were showing in the shallows. Tiger sharks, scalloped hammerhead,



Ryan Murray is a researcher for Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines (LAMAVE), the largest independent non- profit nongovernmental organisation dedicated to the conservation of marine megafauna and their habitats in the Philippines. In 2015, he spent three months at the Tubbataha station studying sharks and rays, and in this time he became an honorary Tubbataha marine park ranger.

Researchers use all manner of equipment

thresher, silvertip and even a silky shark all passed by the cameras to get their claim to fame. All in all, the UVS and BRUV identified 15 species of shark and ray, as well as revealing some of the highest-known abundances of whitetip reef shark or grey reef shark found in the Indo-Pacific. With all of this new information, LAMAVE began to raise further questions that would help in improving shark and ray management in Tubbataha and the rest of the country. Questions such as: How are grey reef sharks using Tubbataha? Do reef manta leave the park? Where do tiger sharks migrate? However, answering these types of questions can be difficult and much of the understanding of shark and ray movements stem from two types of spatial monitoring, acoustic telemetry and satellite tracking. Acoustic telemetry is like an underwater messaging system whereby acoustic tags, attached to sharks or rays, send uniquely coded identification codes to static acoustic receivers positioned around the park. If a tagged animal comes within 500 metres of an acoustic receiver, the receiver will recognise it and store the unique code in its inbuilt memory card. When the data from the acoustic receivers are downloaded, it is easy to see which animal has passed by and when. It is also possible to see if tagged sharks or rays from Tubbataha pass by acoustic receivers deployed elsewhere in the Philippines, or any other county where receivers may be installed. However, one limitation of the acoustic telemetry is that if a tagged shark or ray passes through areas with no receivers in place, we will never know. This is where the satellite technology comes in handy. Satellite tags interact with passing satellite systems to decipher long-range movements for many species of marine megafauna. These sophisticated tags can be attached to the dorsal fin of a tiger shark and if the shark’s fin comes out of the water, the tag is activated and sends messages to the satellite systems above, which then calculates the shark’s location anywhere in the world.

LAMAVE is currently using acoustic and satellite technologies to monitor the movements of grey reef shark, tiger shark and reef manta rays in Tubbataha with a goal to identify their migratory routes and assess how these movements may overlap with fishing activities. Such information will allow the development of effective management strategies that will enhance shark and ray conservation efforts across the Philippines and Southeast Asia as a whole. Today, many shark and ray populations are experiencing declines from fishing activities, and MPAs provide important refuge for many species. Historically, scuba divers have played an important role in shark and ray conservation as many of their activities can directly and indirectly have positive impacts in the MPAs they visit. Not only can scuba divers assist in shark and ray monitoring programmes in Tubbataha but their contributions, through marine park fees, generate revenue for Tubbataha’s managers to maintain the reef and conduct regular patrolling for illegal fishing vessels. Today, scuba diving and MPAs seem to be symbiotic relationships, and as long as there are enthusiastic and responsible divers willing to make the long journey to Tubbataha, the park’s success story is yet to be fully written. n Researchers surveying the reefs

Aerial view of the Marine Protected Area


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Looking for somewhere cheap, quiet, sunny and warm? Idyllic beaches, bays, watersports, ocean dips, great food, beach bars and heaps of bargains? Jim Donaldson reckons you need to head for Koh Tao in Thailand right now! Here are 5 reasons you should consider visiting Koh Tao over the next few months:



What with all the ‘Fake News’ coverage Koh Tao has been splattered with, and the awesome weather this summer in Europe, plus the World Cup, people just decided to stay home this year. Many were effected by Brexit and the effect that had on the Pound compared to the Thai Baht. So there are a few reasons which could account for why Koh Tao is so quiet right now. You can almost find your own bay or stretch of beach here, it’s that quiet. Accommodation prices are at their lowest in years, diving prices are still the cheapest in the world, and your nights can be spent at restaurants and bars where nightly specials are practically on offer everywhere. The lack of tourism has really opened up island visitors to some awesome experiences at real bargain prices.



Big Blue Diving has had an incredible year for marine encounters, so if you are a scuba diver or want to learn, now is the time to do it! Whaleshark sightings are increasing year on year - four at Sail Rock on the same dive once - and with the decrease in global shark finning, we’ve also seen an increase in blacktip and whitetip reef sharks too, and we’re sure it’s just a matter of time before the schools of bull sharks return to Chumphon Pinnacle. Other visitors to and from Chumphon include a large school of dolphins, a school of false killer whales and a pod of Bryde’s whales, all at the surface, while underneath we’ve encountered Koh Tao’s first manta ray visit, and we’ve also had heaps more turtle sightings this year (some are becoming resident at certain sites). The massive schools of barracuda, jacks and batfish, the awesome bait balls that zip around, and the clarity of the water has made this year in Koh Tao the best yet - and we’re just about to hit pre-monsoon season, which is also a great time for encounters with big travelling pelagics.




What really makes Koh Tao one of the most-unique places on Earth is that throughout the year, there is always somewhere calm, flat and sheltered from the strong winds and rough seas. From January through to about June, the seas are generally calm all around the island, with the heat really kicking in during April, but the rains follow shortly after and by mid-June, you can expect most of the west side to be pretty rough and choppy and not great for diving, however on the east coast, it’s sheltered, flat, calm and with good vis everywhere. Come September it’s sunshine, blue skies and flat seas pretty much through to late-November, when the monsoon kicks in and it gets pretty wet and windy all over the Gulf of Thailand, but on Koh Tao, the west side stays flat calm and sheltered, though the vis gets pretty low.



It’s the biggest pub crawl in Asia and it’s in the top 5 pub crawls in the world! It’s a great way to meet people and enjoy a fun night out with like-minded travellers. Who would have thought an island pub crawl could generate such an awesome buzz about it? Price includes a visit to four of Koh Tao’s best venues, a T-shirt, a live band, a cabaret show and a few prizes along the way. Prepare for a hangover, and there may well be a few embarrassing photos of you plastered over the Koh Tao Pub Crawl’s Facebook page…



Regardless of whether Koh Tao is busy or quiet, the beaches and bays of the island are some of the most beautiful anywhere in the world (in 2014, Koh Tao was nominated Trip Advisor’s Top 10 Best Islands in the World), and right now they are all pretty much deserted, because there’s no one here! So discover your own bay by kayak or longtail taxi, and have a snorkel around. You will be amazed by the variety of marine life you will encounter so close to shore. So drop everything. If it’s a deserted, sun-soaked, tropical island bargain holiday you looking for over the next few weeks, then look no further - it’s time to head to Koh Tao! n





Big Blue Diving is possibly one of Thailand’s most-recognised and respected diving centres and the head operator of Big Blue Tech, Big Blue Freediving, Big Blue Pro, Big Blue Movies (photography and videography training), Big Blue Conservation (eco-internships and reef monitoring) and Drift by Big Blue (the retail centre). Established almost 30 years, this diving resort has an experienced team of SSI and PADI instructors and Divemasters and is the world’s leading SSI Diamond Instructor Training Centre, led by the world’s mostexperienced SSI Instructor Trainer, Simon Garrity. Big Blue Diving Resort comprises of a 50-room beachfront location on the west of Koh Tao, to the northern, more-tranquil end of Sairee Beach. The rooms consist of a selection of 16 poolside and beachfront bungalows, a 16-room private guesthouse and one five-bedroom family villa with private swimming pool set in a quiet location just a five-minute walk from the beach and the beachfront dive resort. Big Blue Diving Resort has a beachside bar and restaurant with a large purpose-built swimming pool for confined water skills, and can offer all diving courses from beginner to instructor with Asia’s leading certifying PADI and SSI diving instructors.

Beachfront Accommodation, Bar & Restaurant WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM



Neil Bennett continues his exploration of the deeper wrecks off the Solomon Islands, this time visiting the US Navy ‘oiler’ USS Kanawha, which is still crammed full of interesting artefacts PHOTOGRAPHS BY NEIL BENNETT AND ELMA DETTE


he conflicts in the Solomon Islands have been documented as one of the most-severe periods of battle between two opposing forces, resulting in massive loses for both sides. In particular, one offensive launched by the Japanese, called Operation I-Go, has significance importance to the modern-day diving world, providing us with a large assortment of shipwrecks to explore. 7 April 1943 proved to be a fateful day in Tulagi, with a number of Allied ships sunk by the Japanese from air attacks during Operation I-Go in the Guadalcanal. This massive aerial counter-offensive against the Allied forces saw a raid by 67 Aichi D3A2 ‘Val’ dive bombers, escorted by 110 Zeros, launched against the Allied fleet at rest off the island of Tulagi. In reply, 76 Allied fighters were launched in defence of their Naval fleet. During this encounter, 21 Japanese aircraft were lost and a further seven Allied aircraft. The raid also resulted in the sinking of the destroyer USS Aaron Ward, the corvette HMNZS Moa, and the tanker USS Kanawha. The goal of the operation was to halt the Allied offensives in New Guinea and the Solomons in an attempt to give Japan time to prepare a new set of defences in response to recent defeats to the Allies in the Battle of Guadalcanal and in New Guinea at Buna–Gona, Wau, and the Bismarck Sea. Although the Japanese sank several Allied transports and warships, the attack failed to inflict serious damage on

Allied forces. Based on inaccurate and unintentionally exaggerated reports from the involved aircrews, Admiral Yamamoto halted the attacks on 16 April, believing the operation to be a success. The operation, however, did not significantly delay Allied preparations for further offensives in the South Pacific area. Yamamoto was killed shortly thereafter while travelling to congratulate units that had participated in the operation. The USS Kanawha was anchored in Tulagi Harbour along with 15 torpedo boats and their tender Niagara, three tugs, the Navy transport Stratford, six transport ships and eight landing craft. HMNZS Moa was refuelling from the tanker USS Eskine M Phelps, the minesweeper Conflict, the net tenders Buttercup and Aloe, the US coaster Awahou and some auxiliary ships. AA gun seemingly ready to fire

Diver admires the AA gun

On either side of the deck her two AA guns (depth about 46m) remain pointing in defiance up at the skies Penetrating into the wreck

supporting divers

This impressive number of vessels must have presented easy and irresistible target to the attacking forces. The Kanawha had already been in Tulagi for seven days and was waiting for an escort so she could leave the harbour. At 12.30pm, the skipper of the Kanawha, Lieutenant Commander Brainerd Bock, had been informed that enemy planes had been sighted leaving Bougainville heading for the Guadalcanal area. When the escort finally arrived, Kanawha was given the task to refuel this ship, adding to the delay of escaping what was to come. At 2.45pm, she left.

supporting manufacturers

The Kanawha joined escorts PC-85 and USS Taylor. The time was now 3.02pm and the enemy had already been sighted over Savo Island just a short distance away. Of these, 18 went in the direction of Tulagi and 15 of these subsequently went for the biggest target, the USS Kanawha. An oil tanker will always present itself as the better target. Sinking an oil tanker can cripple or severely hurt dozens of warships, while sinking one warship has a smaller impact. The enemy began their attack, dropping their cargo of 500lb bombs onto the Kanawha. The first plane to attack was hit by the AA guns and the bomb missed, exploding about three metres from the hull near the forecastle/main deck line. Even though it missed, the resultant force blew a large hole in the hull. The ammunition magazine was located just aft of this line in the middle of the ship, this began to flood from the explosion as the water-tight doors gave way under the water pressure. The next two attacks saw their bombs hit home - the first through the bridge and the other via the funnel into the engine room. The Kanawha was now mortally wounded with a total loss of engine power. Fuel oil was all over the main and cargo decks and all the hatches were blown off. Kanawha inevitably caught fire soon after. The situation began to get worse as all of the C02 cylinders that were connected to the fire extinguisher system began to fail. The fires were raging out of control and the ship was now dead in the water. She began to sink and Lt Com Bock ordered the Kanawha to be abandoned. Attempts were made by the USS Rail to fight the fires, managing to control those near the bridge, however, ammunition started to explode and the Rail urgently

Parts of the Kanawha are well broken A torch is essential at depth

Rope coils in a silty storeroom

The stern itself presents an impressive sight with a huge platform that sticks out from the rear of the ship

abandoned the task. Efforts were also made by the USS Chestnut, USS Rail, USS Monenomee and a LCT to salvage the ship, but this also proved unsuccessful. The USS Kanawha sank at 4am on 8 April 1943 with the loss of 19 men from a crew of 317. USS Kanawha (AO-1) (originally Fuel Ship No. 13) was the first purpose-built oiler of the US Navy. She was laid down 8 December 1913 by the Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, California; launched 11 July 1914. In the United States Navy, an oiler is a Combat Logistics ship that replenishes other ships with fuel and in some cases food, mail, ammunition and other necessities while at sea, in a process called Underway Replenishment, or UNREP. Up through World War Two, Navy oilers used commercial tanker hulls, with the addition of UNREP gear, defensive guns, and military electronic and damage-control equipment. She was a large ship with a length of 144.96 metres, a beam of 17.15 metres, and a displacement of 14,800 tonnes full loaded. She was still capable of 14 knots. Today, the wreck of the USS Kanawha lies north east of Soghonangola Island at the entrance to Tulagi Harbour. She faces the island (south) and lays upright on a sandy bottom at a maximum depth of about 58m. Salvaging attempts were made over the years by blowing a hole into her side to remove the ship’s safes, along with the bells. Due to the depths, a large amount of items still remain untouched for divers to see and explore. The bow itself is damaged into a sort of S-shape and the hull on the port side has a huge ripple in it. The view from the side or front of the bow is impressive. As you move across the deck you can see the large forward gun platform, a raised platform at a depth of about 44m. This has now started to collapse and the gun has been missing for some time. Under the platform, you will find a huge winch. The guns are a favourite subject for divers

The AA guns railed to save her from attack

On either side of the deck her two AA guns (depth about 46m) remain pointing in defiance up at the skies. Two anchors lay on the main deck just behind the forecastle, one on either side (depth about 48m). The layout of the guns with their respective platforms provides for unmistakable images. The forecastle is easy to penetrate. It is possible to enter the forecastle in a number of ways. Hatches in the forecastle deck invite you to drop in. A tight squeeze in some cases, but possible. Inside the forecastle, there are lots of gas cylinders, probably used for welding. You can exit back out onto the main deck via doorways on either the port or starboard side. On the main deck you will see that there are a number of hatchways that drop into storage rooms on several decks. All of which contain items to see and explore. There are also huge reels of rope that are full of silt; touching these will quickly destroy any visibility in these tight rooms. The stern is normally taken as a separate dive, the props can be found sticking out of the sand at 58m. The stern itself presents an impressive sight with a huge platform that sticks out from the rear of the ship. On the main deck you will see that there are a number of guns in the stern area. In the middle there is a large gun on a raised platform pointing into the air. The Kanawha presents an exciting dive with plenty of areas to penetrate, providing easy access and escape routes. She is laden with artefacts and makes for excellent photo opportunities. Her bow and stern are unmistakable with the array of guns that appear to be on show. While she sits at a respectable depth, she is not too deep for those suitably trained, as to present a major problem with decompression obligations. In comparison to the Aaron Ward, she is a much easier dive and just as rewarding. The Kanawha has proved to be one of the most-popular wrecks to dive in Tulagi, and you will not be disappointed. n


• REEF & WRECK DIVING • ACCOMMODATION • BAR & DINING • SNORKLING • HIKING & MORE Located one hour from Honiara, on the waterfront of the historic Tulagi Harbour, Solomon Islands

Office: +677 32070 Mobile: +677 7494185 / 7938017

What’s New



The Red Devil from the Mares XR range was designed to meet the needs of a range of different divers, from the traveller looking for a lightweight solution, to the diver who wants to extend their range of diving to just beyond recreational limits, even to the most-advanced tech diver. The one-size-fits-all harness and compact 16-litre donut rear bladder come readyassembled, and it is equipped with a red aluminium buckle, 6mm red aluminium rings, and 3mm red aluminium backplate, so it is particularly eye-catching as well as being effective in use.


Costa Del Mar have joined the fight against abandoned fishing nets in our oceans with the new Untangled Collection range. The firm works with Bureo, which collects discarded fishing nets from commercial fishing ports in Chile and recycles them into pellets – these pellets are then moulded into stylish, eye-catching sunglass frames. There are four versions – the Baffin, the Caldera, the Pescador, and the Victoria – which are all available with a selection of lens types, colours and materials. 54

The Sealhouette definitely wins the award for most-novel product name for 2019! It is one of just several new mask styles from Mares this year, and it is made from 100 percent silicone and features tempered glass lenses. The small size is ideal for anyone with a narrow face, and means that the mask is lightweight while still delivering a wide field of vision. The quick and easy-to-adjust integrated buckles are superdurable, and designed to last a lifetime with the correct care, as well as guaranteeing a great water-tight seal. There are a wide range of colour schemes to choose from, both with a clear or a black skirt.



The Zeagle Scope Dual is the only dual-lens mask with a patented 100 percent submerged subframe with exposed silicone for increased protection. Like its Mono sibling, it is a low-volume mask which benefits from a large nose pocket and a wide field of vision. It has a soft-touch silicone face seal for optimal comfort, and a one-button thumb-operated buckle for simple and easy adjustment. It also folds flat, so perfect as a travel or back-up mask. It can be fitted with interchangeable optical lenses. What makes the mask stand out from the crowd is the elastic ‘ski-mask-style’ strap, with a built-in snorkel keeper. It comes standard with a grey elastic strap, but there are multiple colour options available with the strap/ lens retainer for those who want to brighten up their kit.

FOURTH ELEMENT HYDRO LEGGINGS OceanPositive Hydro Leggings, made using recycled nylon from abandoned fishing nets, are designed for use in and out of the water, ideal to wear as a UV shield for watersport activities (they offer an SPF of 30+ when wet) and to protect against stingers. Images of fishing nets and water reflections have been merged to create a visually stunning pattern which gives a nod back to the garments’ origins. Great for snorkelling, surfing, SUP, yoga and more, or pair with an OceanPositive Hydroskin top for the perfect dive skin for tropical waters. Available in turquoise/petrol, blue/navy, or solid black.


Snorklean is the world’s first protective sleeve for diving and snorkelling. Co-founder Ixone Elosegui explained: “Snorklean was born with the purpose to bring a solution to a lack of hygiene when sharing diving regulators and snorkelling mouthpieces. The idea originated when we started practicing snorkelling in the South East Asia after been expatriated to China for our jobs. Enjoying the underwater wonders was so beautiful, but the moment we had to put the rented mouthpieces in our mouths was hard. We wondered why nobody had created anything to solve it, so we decided to do it ourselves. “As a result of deep research on mouthpieces and the regulator market, we reached a multi-purpose design for both diving and snorkelling, creating different models for different shape of mouthpieces - short bite, long bite and more coming soon – in five bright, vibrant colours.” The Snorklean is made from liquid silicone, and is quick and easy to slot over a mouthpiece. It will primarily be of interest to dive centres and shops with a rental fleet of equipment (the 250 Snorkleans come in a selection of colours in a display box), but as the liquid silicone is softer and more-comfortable than rubber, it will also appeal to some personal snorkellers and divers. Each Snorklean comes in resealable bag for storage, and when it reaches the end of its lifespan, it is 100 percent recyclable.

MARES PRIME The Prime is Mares’ entry-level BCD, and follows the traditional jacket-style format. It is made from Cordura 420 for strength and durability, yet still only weighs in at 2.8kg. It is equipped with five heavy-duty technopolymer D-rings, two large cargo pockets, and it also has stowage for the octopus regulator and the pressure gauge. It can be upgraded to feature integrated weights as an option.

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



Gear Guide


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


This issue, we round out our group tests of fins, this time looking at the top end of the range. Fins are one of the most-important parts of a diver’s kit, as without them you will not be going anywhere! A set of fins is very personal, and once people find a fin they like, they can end up being very loyal. A good pair of fins needs to fit well, be comfortable, easy to get on and off, and work with a variety of fin strokes. With each pair of fins, we looked at ease of donning and doffing, comfort of the foot pocket, and what power/control they provided in a selection of fin strokes, including a ‘normal’ finning action, frogkick, back kick, helicopter turns, etc. In this price bracket, most of the fins follow the paddle fin approach, albeit some with a few little tweaks (vents, etc).


• ZEAGLE RECON Location: Tested at Vivian Dive Centre, Llanberis

Date tested: 20/9/2018 Water temp: 9 degrees C WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM

APEKS RK3 HD The Apeks RK3 fins are made from a durable thermoplastic rubber, and were developed in collaboration with the US military. The short, wide blade is designed to provide maximum forward thrust while maintaining great manoeuvrability, and the vented design is intended to reduce resistance on the upstroke and enhance thrust on the downstroke. It is available in three sizes - medium, large and super and has an oversized foot pocket to accommodate drysuit boots and rock boots. This was the HD version - which is a stiffer compound - and it comes in black, orange or grey. They are also equipped with a chunky spring strap and rubber thumb tab to make them easy to get on and off. The Test Team raved about these fins in the last group test, and those were the standard version. These HD fins are even better, the stiffer compound providing an evengreater level of thrust, but not at the expense of your leg muscles feeling the strain. Robustly built, simple but good looking, they work well with all fin kicks, and are so easy to get on and off. Belting fin for the money.



TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 2.82kg per pair | STRAP: Metal spring with thumb loop VERDICT: Excellent fins, which look good (especially in this funky orange), perform exceptionally well in this HD compound, and come in at a reasonable price.



ATOMIC AQUATIC SPLITFINS Atomic Aquatics are known for their premier products, and they approached fins the same way they went about their regs and BCD - to make the best. The SplitFins - they also do two paddle fins as well were designed to be ‘easy kicking fins that deliver high thrust, speed, and efficiency with a comfortable, lowfrequency kick cycle’. Thanks to having stiff ‘power rails’ down either side of the blade, and strong yet flexible sections in the blade itself, it is one of the few split fins that can actually cope with other kicking styles than a flutter kick. They are fitted with a rubber heel strap, with quickrelease EZ-Lok clips, though a spring heel strap option is available. The Atomics were the only split fins in this price bracket, and one of only two in the entire group test. They are a long fin, and do produce plenty of power with a flutter kick for relatively little effort. You can frog kick and back kick in them, but it is harder than in a short, stumpy paddle fin.

TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 2.82kg per pair | STRAP: Rubber bungee & thumb loop VERDICT: Robust, durably constructed split fins with a large, comfy foot pocket. Plenty of power with a flutter kick, though we would have liked to have seen a spring strap as standard.



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



MARES EXCITE As we’ve said before, Mares are past masters when it comes to fin design - just look at how many instructors out there wear Avanti Quattros - and thankfully the Excite continue this tradition. Made from thermoplastic rubber and technopolymers, the Excite are quite big fins, but they certainly throw out some power. Mares’ renowned channel system directs water flow down the fin and off the back of the blade tip, and gives thrust without completely destroying your leg muscles. They are equipped with an efficient rubber bungie heel strap with thumb loops, for easy donning and doffing of the fins. After the disappointment of last month’s mid-price Wave fins, the Excites thankfully get back to the high standards set by the budget Avanti Superchannels. They are a big fin and do give your legs a workout, but not as much as some of the other paddle fins here. And despite being long, you can still frog kick and back kick with them, though they are not as easy to move around in as some of the shorter, stumpier fins.

TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 2.04kg per pair | STRAP: Rubber bungie / thumb loops VERDICT: Well-made, good-looking fins with a comfortable foot pocket, easy-to-use bungie heel straps and an efficient blade that generates decent amounts of thrust.



OCEANIC MANTA RAY Oceanic have been languishing behind its rivals in the fin arena for a while, but the Manta Ray solves all of that. This eye-catching fin has a technopolymer blade that according to Oceanic uses ‘advanced materials as strong as bone to maximise power, speed and efficiency, while remaining extremely lightweight and durable. ‘Winglets’ on the length of the fin blade are supposed to improve manoeurvability. It has a spring strap with a large thumb loop to make getting the fins on and off a doddle. It has a no-tool adjustment system that lets you shorten - or lengthen - the strap, which means you can change as you go from wetsuit boot to drysuit boot. The Manta Ray fins certainly stand out thanks to their unique shape, but it is more than just looks. That broad blade, with the soft scalloped ‘power channel’ section in the middle surrounded by the rigid frame, really scoops up the water and generates power. The foot pocket is comfortable, and we really liked the adjustable strap - it is simple, but works very well. Good in all fin strokes, and well priced too.

TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 1.94kg per pair | STRAP: Spring strap with thumb loops VERDICT: Uniquely designed fins with an unusual blade that generates lots of thrust. Comfortable, good-looking and with a nifty adjustable spring strap system.



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



Made using ®

a revolutionary measurement and pattern design system.


OMS SLIPSTREAM OMS have been making technical diving equipment for many years, and the Slipstream fins tap into this rich heritage - they look genuinely ‘old school’ and hark back to the good old days of diving. Made from durable monoprene, they have a broad paddle fin with three vents just in front of the foot pocket, and are equipped with a stainless steel spring strap covered in a webbing material. It is available in a wide range of sizes, from M up to XXL, and there are currently two limited-edition colours available alongside standard black - hot pink and white. The Slipstreams brought back memories of my uncle’s old Scubapro Jetfins when I first saw them. The old-school design has a huge paddle blade, and these certainly punches through the water, creating serious amounts of propulsion. They work well with frog kicks and back kicks, and being quite stumpy, are manouervable as well. The large foot pocket is comfortable and swallows a drysuited boot. The material-covered spring strap works but was a faff to get hold of with neoprened hands - it could do with a tab or thumb loop.

TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 2.36kg per pair | STRAP: Spring straps / material cover VERDICT: Old-school monoprene vented paddle fins with a broad blade, plenty of power, and a gigantic foot pocket. That spring strap needs a thumb loop or tab, though.



SCUBAPRO SEAWING NOVA GORILLA Scubapro’s Seawing Novas were designed to combine the power, acceleration and manoeuvrability of a blade fin with the kicking comfort and efficiency of a split fin, however, some found they lacked the stiffness for anything other than a standard kick. That is where the Gorilla version steps in. A special additive in the monprene compound makes them stiffer than the standard version, which in turn makes them more effective for frog kick and back kick. Like the standard fins, they are fitted with bungee heel straps that have a large thumb loop. The Seawing Nova Gorillas are certainly unusual and take a novel approach to fin design. By and large, it works - and works well. They provide a phenomenal amount of thrust, allowing you to accelerate from a standing start to a fast speed in no time, and seemingly with little effort. The nonslip grip pads work too, and the bungee heel straps make donning and doffing very easy. They are quite a long fin, though, and while you can frog kick and back kick in them, it is not as easy as with some of its rivals tested here, but better than standard Novas.

TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 2.08kg per pair | STRAP: Bungie with rubber thumb loop VERDICT: Uniquely designed fins with some wicked acceleration, reasonable frog and back kick, and a nifty bungie heel strap. Large, comfortable foot pocket.



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






• Excellent lift capacity • Light, strong and durable denier 420 • Improved fit: swiveling buckles, shoulders, low-cut aircell • SLS integrated weight system • 3-Dimensional zippered self-draining pockets • 2 Rear trim weight pockets • Reduced weight: travel friendly Be balanced. Take the edge of performance.

XDEEP EX1 Polish brand xDeep have now got in on the propulsion act with these big, chunky technopolymer fins. The xDeep EX1 are available in a range of finishes, from ‘soft’ through ‘medium hard’ to ‘hard’ so you can tailor which flexibility best suits your style of kicking/diving. Being made from a technopolymer, they don’t change parameters whatever the water temperatures, unlike rubber. Regardless of which ‘hardness’ you select, the foot pocket has a two-phase moulding, in that the front part is made of a softer material for added comfort. They are fitted with a stainless-steel spring strap and large thumb loop for simple donning and doffing. The EX1 fins look like a straightforward rubber tech fin, but the nifty technopolymer used in their construction means they are not as heavy as a rubber equivalent, and as stated above, are not affected by temperature. The Medium Hard version we tested provided some serious propulsion, though as par for the course with a fat-blade fin like this, you need decent leg muscles to really get the most out of them. Excellent back kick and frog kick, and a great spring strap.

TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 2.88kg per pair | STRAP: Spring strap with thumb loop VERDICT: Chunky fin made from an advanced technopolymer, which generate lots of power. Great stainless-steel spring straps. But please can we can a larger size - even XL is not that big.



ZEAGLE RECON Zeagle have now joined the fin race, and the Recons put in a strong performance while still coming in at a cracking price. According to Zeagle, ‘aerodynamic surfaces, four strategic strakes on the top and underside, and thick side ribs combine to generate optimal thrust and performance across the entire fin’. Made from compression-moulded rubber, they are strong and durable - and negatively buoyant - and are equipped with a quick-fastening, adjustable stainless steel spring strap with large thumb loop for easy donning and doffing. For those wanting to brighten up their ensemble, colour-accent kits for the buckle and thumb loop are available. The Recon fins really put Zeagle on the map in the world of fins, and they give all of their rivals a wake up call that there is a new kid on the block. They are solid, heavy, well-made fins, with a good heft to them, and they are comfortable to wear, and easy to get on and off. That blade works well, pumping out some serious thrust and being spot-on with all fin kicks. Excellent value for money.



TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 3.42kg per pair | STRAP: Spring strap with thumb loops VERDICT: Neat-looking design, nifty adjustable spring heel strap with monster thumb loops, a decent foot pocket and a blade that delivers in all finning styles. And at an amazing price point.






With just one split fin in the mix, this was a real ‘battle of the paddles’, but there were some unusual variants in there too, such as the Manta Ray and Seawing Nova. The Best Value was a fight between the Oceanic Manta Rays, Apeks RK3 HDs and the Zeagle Recons. All three performed exceptionally well in all fin kicks, generating plenty of power and control, and each were easy to get on and off. In the end, the Recons just tipped the balance - under £115 for a fin of this quality is an absolute steal. Well deserving of the title, though the Oceanic Manta Rays are also a great fin for the price, as are the Apeks RK3 HDs. The Choice Award saw the Mares Excite go up against the Apeks RK3 HDs and the xDeep EX1s. It was a close run thing as all three had their own merits, but in the end, the Apeks RK3 HDs just scraped ahead of the EX1s (lovely fins, but please, xDeep, can we have one bigger size, as the foot pocket on the XL is just not that big) and the Excites. The original RK3s are nice fins, but the stiffer compound HDs just lift them to another level. Worthy winners of the Choice award.

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



Long Term Test HALCYON INFINITY Mark Evans: Halcyon are past masters when it comes to backplateand-wing systems, and the Infinity follows this trend. Made from 1000-denier DWR urethane-coated nylon, with a tough 400-denier nylon inner bladder, the Infinity comes in a nine, 14 or 18kg lift capacity, with either a stainless steel or aluminium backplate (standard or small). The system also includes a single-tank adapter, and it uses the innovative Cinch QuickAdjust Harness set-up for ease of use. It also comes fitted with ACB integrated weight pockets.


INFORMATION Arrival date: October 2018 Suggested retail price: * Number of dives: 0 Time in water: 0 hrs 0 mins

MARES QUAD AIR Mark Evans: The Mares Quad Air benefits from having a big, clear display, with decentsized digits for those with iffy vision. Yes, colour screens are currently taking the market by storm and are undoubtedly very bright and clear, but it has to be said that the old-school dotmatrix display on the Quad Air is exceptionally easy to read, even in lousy conditions where the vis is less than perfect. 64

Mark Evans: Any self-respecting dive watch needs to have a proper uni-directional rotating bezel on the front, and with the Deep 6 it is nice and chunky, and easy to get hold of even with a gloved hand. In the orange and black colour scheme as on test, it really stands out, but the blue version is also eye-catching INFORMATION Arrival date: June 2018 - and there is a black one for Suggested retail price: * those who don’t want to be Number of dives: 7 so colourful! Time in water: 6 hrs 25 mins


INFORMATION Arrival date: May 2018 Suggested retail price: * Number of dives: 17 Time in water: 16 hrs 25 mins

Mark Evans: The Scope Mono has a lovely soft skirt, but the first thing which captures your attention when you take it out of the box is that innovative elasticated strap, which closely resembles that seen on ski or jet ski goggles. It is so comfortable and easy to use, even with thick gloves or drygloves on, it is hard to understand why it INFORMATION Arrival date: September 2018 has not been adopted Suggested retail price: * by more manufacturers Number of dives: 3 before now. Time in water: 2 hrs 25 mins WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM

AQUA LUNG ROGUE Mark Evans: The Rogue is all about being stripped back to basics, but unlike the Outlaw, it is equipped with built-in, dropdown pockets, which are not massive but plenty big enough for a small DSMb and spool, a back-up torch, or similar-sized accessories. It also has grommet connections for attaching a dive knife, and an octo-holder loop. All of this just adds to its usability, and helps keep it all neat and tidy up front, with minimal clutter, but at the same time providing the user with the INFORMATION Arrival date: August 2018 bare necessities they would Suggested retail price: * like out of a lightweight Number of dives: 18 back-inflate BCD. Time in water: 17 hrs 55 mins

APEKS RK3 HD Mark Evans: The RK3 HDs have accompanied me on a few more dives UK testing dives this month, and I continue to enjoy the experience. They are comfortable on my foot, yet generate plenty of thrust when I need it. The HD’s extra stiffness definitely gives it an edge over the standard version, but they still don’t weight a ton, so when I take them on a foreign assignment, they don’t eat up too much of my weight allowance. Also, their compact size means they don’t take up too much INFORMATION Arrival date: April 2018 room in the bag either. And Suggested retail price: * I love the orange colour as Number of dives: 14 well! Time in water: 13 hrs 25 mins

FINNSUB 20D AND COMFORT HARNESS Mark Evans: Exciting times ahead! We shoehorned the Finnsub 20D and Comfort Harness into Long Term Test but just as it was about to be shipped to us, the UK distributors found out that the company is redesigning the current model with a new shaped bladder and other additional features, so rather than start reviewing the ‘old’ one, we are going to hang fire for a month so we INFORMATION Arrival date: September 2018 can get our mitts on one Suggested retail price: * of the brand-spanking-new Number of dives: 0 ones. Time in water: 0 hrs 0 mins


Mark Evans: I have never been a big user of slates, to be honest. I could see the value in having one, but found it a faff to try and store one in a BCD pocket (especially when using a system with no pockets!). However, the Aquasketch is a great bit of kit - with it mounting on your forearm, whether in a drysuit or wetsuit, it is there when you need it, but not getting in the way when you aren’t using it. The pencil mounts snuggly inside the body, and you INFORMATION Arrival date: February 2018 can easily swap out the Suggested retail price: * ‘rolling’ paper scroll when Number of dives: 18 you fill it up. Time in water: 17 hrs 45 mins * = check pricing with local suppliers/centres in your area




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



he greatest marine diversification of coral on Earth occurs in the region boarded by the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, East Indonesia and the southern Philippines, which is termed the ‘Coral Triangle’.

It is home to 75 percent of the world’s coral species in an area covered by less than two percent of the world’s oceans, making it the most-diverse place on Earth for both coral and fish diversity. I was extremely fortunate to be hosted by the wonderful Max, Cecile and Cheyne Benjamin at Walindi Plantation Resort in Papua New Guinea for nearly two weeks. Renowned for its spectacular diving, Papua New Guinea boasts an incredible number of glorious reefs, particularly those in the Kimbe Bay, where Walindi can be found. Furthermore, Kimbe Bay is located in the Bismarck Sea, which is most central of the Coral Triangle, therefore I was truly diving in the middle of the heart. Walindi Plantation Resort was founded in 1983, by Max and Cecile, and this incredible couple have over the years created a secluded haven for all nature-lovers, but particularly for divers and snorkellers, with three vessels onsite, including Ema, Cheyne, and Charmaine, as well as liveaboard operations off MV FeBrina. During my two weeks at Walindi, I was privileged enough to dive in, hands down, some of the most-incredible coral reefs in the world! This included sites such as Vanessa’s Reef, Susan’s Reef, Bradford’s Shoal, Otto’s Reef, Zero, Joelle’s, Restorf Island, Joy’s Reef, JJ’s Reef, Cape Heussner and Anne Sophie’s, and that’s just naming a few. These reefs were seriously out of this world for both the visual awe of the underwater world, as well as the diversity and health of the reefs (particularly for photography)! As well as getting the opportunity to dive, I was also in PNG to help with some marine conservation work. Just a short walk from Walindi Resort, I got the privilege to work alongside the local not-for-profit NGO, Mahonia Na Dari (MND), which in the local language translates to ‘Guardians

of the Sea’. Founded in 1997, MND is dedicated to conservation of the marine environment of Papua New Guinea, but in particular Kimbe Bay, with a strong focus on education. Their mission is to understand and conserve the local natural environment of Kimbe Bay and Papua New Guinea for the benefits of present and future generations. MND have connected with over 250,000 students and teachers, local communities and other organisations with an interest in the marine environment and education. At MND I would be working alongside local marine biologists Somei and Elizabeth, and in particular Director Peter Miller, with a focus on helping to edit and finalise the new marine biology and ecology curriculum for implementation into the primary and secondary system. MND operates from the Walindi Nature Centre, this centre also provides host as a research centre to a range of international scientist who come to undertake fieldwork, as well as facilitating student education programmes, conservation and community awareness projects in the heart of Kimbe Bay. I was also extremely lucky to undertake some mapping surveys and assessments with Somei on some of the Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs). MND work with local villages and communities to ensure these reefs remain protected, in particular to sustain other surrounding reefs, through educational talks and sessions. PNG is certainly one of the most-spectacular tropical reef diving destinations in the world, and I cannot thank Max, Cecile, Cheyne, Ema, Peter, Jane, Martha, Somi, Elizabeth and the rest of the incredible staff at Walindi Plantation Resort for inviting me and allowing me to work with Mahonia Na Dari, but particularly for sharing this absolutely incredible part of the world with me. Next I will be off to Ticao Island in the Philippines, to work on the Manta Bowl Project with the Large Marine Vertebrate Research Institute Philippines (LAMAVE). n

Olivia Johnson


Farther. Deeper. Beyond RED DEVIL SINGLE BACKMOUNT SET • A complete set - light and perfect for travelling • Easier for beginners and non-technical divers • 16 Litre red single tank donut • 3 mm red aluminium backplate • 6 mm red aluminium rings • Red aluminium buckle • Standard webbing harness • 2 tank straps with red aluminium buckles • Black flat head bolt screws

An experience without equal

“The reef systems here are some of the most pristine I have seen anywhere in my dive travels around the globe, and Wakatobi resort and liveaboard are second to none. The

At Wakatobi Resort, we take great pride in providing the ultimate in exclusive and personalised service. Our dive staff and private guides ensure your in-water experiences are perfectly matched to your abilities and interests. At the resort, or on board our luxury dive yacht Pelagian, you need only ask and we will gladly provide any service or facility within our power. For all these reasons and more, Wakatobi takes top honors among discerning divers and snorkellers.

diversity of species here is brilliant if you love photography.� ~ Simon Bowen