DIVE TRAVEL ADVENTURES - WINTER 2020

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BE INSPIRED, GO DIVING...

WINTER 2020

MEXICO INDONESIA HAWAII GRENADA SWANAGE TONGA PHILIPPINES

Travel Guide:

GRAND CAYMAN

Ellen Cuylaerts uncovers a perfect winter dive getaway

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A T

S A N G E L I • M A L D I V E S

... Your Island Paradise!

Located in north-west Male` Atoll, just 50-minutes away by speedboat from airport, this dazzling resort is a far cry from the simplistic rustic retreats of ‘old Maldives’ ! Edgy features make it feel fabulously fresh and innovative, whilst staying true to the authenticity of a wonderful Maldives resort experience. The resort offers a Premium All-Encompassing Holiday Plan The Serenity Plan™ providing an array of all-included treats along the way, from a daily mini-bar refill, two fine dining experiences a week, unlimited drinks, selected excursions & water sports...

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Enjoying Great British Diving...

SS Shockland, UK Photo courtesy of Rick Ayrton

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Diving around the World...

Bahamas

Photo courtesy of Martyn Farr

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Mexico

Grand Cayman

Hawaii

Welcome...

to the Winter 2020 edition of Dive Travel Adventures. Here, in the Northern Hemisphere, you can be forgiven for feeling like you want to hibernate during the cold, dark days that start the year. But these early months are also full of great promise as our thoughts turn to travel plans and making dreams of sunny skies and blue waters come to reality. Maybe you have some new dive or photography gear to test out. Or maybe this year will be the one you master some new skills underwater. Whatever your diving goals, you're sure to find plenty of inspiration in this latest issue of Dive Travel Adventures. Start planning your 2020 dive travel adventure today! Wherever you dive, we hope you get to tick off some amazing experiences on your wish list...

Grenada

DIVE TRAVEL Adventures WWW.SCUBAVERSE.COM/MAGAZINES

BE INSPIRED, GO DIVING...

WINTER 2020

MEXICO INDONESIA HAWAII GRENADA SWANAGE TONGA PHILIPPINES

Travel Guide:

GRAND CAYMAN

Ellen Cuylaerts uncovers a perfect winter dive getaway

FREE!

View or download a digital copy at www.scubaverse. com/magazines

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Cover image: Hawksbill Turtle, Grand Cayman by Ellen Cuylaerts.

Jane Herbert EDITOR SCUBAVERSE

VISIT SCUBAVERSE.COM

The World’s Best Online Dive Companion Get all the latest dive, travel & marine conservation news – Equipment & gear reviews – Blogs & features – Underwater photography & videography – Competitions – Community - Events and much more! Join us at Scubaverse.com, on social media, or email us at contact@scubaverse.com – we’d love to hear from you!

CONTACT INFORMATION

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EDITORIAL

Publisher Dave Alexander dave@scubaverse.com Editor Jane Herbert jane@scubaverse.com Deputy Editor Caroline Robertson-Brown caroline@scubaverse.com Editor-at-Large Jeff Goodman jeff@scubaverse.com

Underwater Photography Editor Nick Robertson-Brown uwp@scubaverse.com

SALES & MARKETING Dave Alexander dave@scubaverse.com +44 (0)7469 252917

Marketing Manager Sarah Tillbrook sarah@scubaverse.com

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WINTER 2020 CO NTENTS

Swanage Philippines

da

Indonesia Tonga Contents

12 MEXICO

Nick and Caroline travel to the northern Sea of Cortez for an exploratory trip to the so-called ‘Living Aquarium’ to encounter Whale Sharks, Sea Lions and more.

26

INDONESIA

Sean Chinn heads to Bunaken Island in Indonesia, the country where he first caught the diving and photography bug many moons ago.

40 HAWAII

Hawaii’s volcanic topography forms a spectacular underwater backdrop for its many endemic species. Michele Westmorland explores aboard Kona Aggressor II.

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50 GRENADA

Nick and Caroline head to the Spice Islands of Grenada and Carriacou to celebrate Pure Grenada Dive Fest.

GUIDE: 64 TRAVEL GRAND CAYMAN

Ellen Cuylaerts takes us on a tour of her adopted home as she reveals why Grand Cayman is the perfect winter getaway.

78 SWANAGE

Mention Swanage to many a salty diver and their eyes light up. Dr Alex Tattersall shares the excitement for this magical and much-loved part of the UK diving scene.

86 TONGA

Jay Clue heads to this Polynesian paradise to see if the Kingdom of Tonga really is the world’s best destination to swim with Humpback Whales.

100 PHILIPPINES

On a multi-destination trip to the Philippines, Nick and Caroline spend a few days exploring the popular dive resort of Moalboal.

All photography unless otherwise stated is copyright © to the contributing writers/photographers herein. Copyright © for all material in this magazine remains with Scubaverse Media Limited. Use of material from Dive Travel Adventures is strictly prohibited unless written permission is given by the Publisher, Dave Alexander. If you wish to stock the magazine in your dive centre or club, please contact sarah@ scubaverse.com . To download your free digital copy of Dive Travel Adventures, simply visit our website www.scubaverse.com/magazines

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SHARM

WHERE IT ALL BEGINS WWW.EGYPT.TRAVEL

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RM EL SHEIKH THIS IS RUSH HOUR

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D O MI NI C A ADV ERTOR I AL

Underwater and out of this world

Dive in Dominica If you are looking for a Caribbean destination with a difference, then look no further than Dominica. Unspoiled and unforgettable, the seascape surrounding the island is a breath-taking as its towering mountains bathed in tropical mists.

OMINICA, ALSO KNOWN as ‘The Nature Island’, is a paradise for scuba diving lovers. The water is clear, the marine life varied and the weather warm enough to spend an entire day in the sea. The waters here are so good in fact that Dominica is the only country in the world where a pod of mighty sperm whale resides year-round! On dedicated whale-watching trips, sightings of these majestic creatures are common, along

with dolphin pods, humpback and killer whales. Flying to Dominica is like being transported to the set of Jurassic Park, with tall lush green mountains, roaring waterfalls, hidden gorges, and volcanic hot springs. Much of its nature appears to have been barely touched by man. Although the main airport is located on the north-east coast, most divers stay and dive on the calmer west coast. There are dive sites all along Dominica’s west

coast, many of which reflect the steep and dramatic topography topside, with steep drop-offs, walls, and volcanic pinnacles. Colourful and healthy coral reefs teem with marine creatures of all kinds, including frogfish, seahorses, passing hawksbill turtles and eagle rays. Not spoiled by industrial development or pollution, diving conditions are superb with the average water visibility of 20-30 meters and average temperature of 27oC. But there is so much

more to explore on island too. During your visit to Dominica, head inland to see many of the 365 waterfalls scattered throughout the jungle. Visit the Emerald Pool, a 40ft waterfall that feeds a secluded emeraldgreen pool that’s perfect for a quick dip or head to Trafalgar Falls, two side by side waterfalls over 100ft tall - truly a sight to see. Stop at one of the geothermal baths (sulphur springs) around the island and enjoy a soak in the hot water. And discover 300+ miles of diverse historic hiking trails, encounter historic ruins, rushing & calm rivers, unusual volcanic phenomenon and much more. MORE INFORMATION www.discoverdominica.com

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ME X I CO B A HÍ A AND THE NORTHE RN SEA OF CORTEZ

THE SEA LESS TRAVELLED…

Nick and Caroline travel to the northern Sea of Cortez for an exploratory trip to the socalled ‘Living Aquarium’ with hopes to encounter Whale Sharks, Sea Lions and more.

WORDS & IMAGES: NICK AND CAROLINE ROBERTSON-BROWN

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IMAGES Below: Our boat awaits just off the shore of Bahía de los Ángeles Opposite from top: A diver explores the wall. Sea lions love to dart and play in front of the divers. The moment we slip into the water to see that Whale Sharks have arrived. Playful sea lions like to have a nibble at your fins.

hen we were invited by Nautilus Liveaboards to partake in an expedition to the lesserdived northern part of the Sea of Cortez, we jumped at the chance. We flew into San Diego in order to cross the border into Mexico and, hoping to organise some diving, we arrived a couple of days early. Unfortunately the extra diving didn’t work out but we did get the chance to explore this city for the first time. San Diego is a vibrant place with a great mix of tourist attractions, local markets and excellent food and drink, including one of our favourite breweries – Ballast Point. It is also a city with an impressive naval history and home to the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet. In the past we have gone snorkelling and diving in La Jolla, and this is well worth adding to your itinerary if you get the chance. We always find the first morning of a liveaboard trip exciting, meeting up with the fellow guests who will be your companions over the coming week. This trip was to prove exceptional, with a fantastic bunch of divers from around the world, all as enthusiastic as we were about the upcoming adventure. Paperwork complete, we climbed aboard the bus that

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THIS TRIP WAS TO PROVE EXCEPTIONAL, WITH A FANTASTIC BUNCH OF DIVERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD...

was going to take us across the nearby border into Mexico and then through the incredible desert landscape to San Filipe, where our liveaboard - the Gallant Lady - awaited us. The transfer took about four hours with a very smooth run through customs at the border. As this was one of the very first trips, it has to be said that the boat had some teething issues but we were delighted to find that we knew both the Captain and Chef from previous travels and knew them both to be superb at their respective jobs. We put in our order for the Chef’s epic hot sauce right away! A burst water pipe somewhere on the boat delayed our departure a little, and also meant that our cabin carpet was a bit soggy, but this did nothing to dampen our excitement about getting in the water with two of our favourite marine animals: Whale Sharks and sea lions. As it was dark when we pulled out of the harbour, we decided to set up our cameras, have dinner and a couple of beers, and then head to bed. We would be spending as much time as possible in the water over the coming four days. The boat travelled overnight and, as breakfast was being served, we motored into Bahía de los Ángeles (The Bay of the Angels). The scenery was stunning with flat calm water and the desert town in the background. Each year dozens of Whale Sharks (up to 200 sometimes) come into this bay to feed. Some of the local

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M E X I CO B AHÍ A AND THE N ORTHERN SEA OF CORTEZ

fishermen have laid down their nets for good and now take tourists out to see these magnificent creatures instead. We were going to get two chances to see the Whale Sharks on this trip – this first morning, and then one afternoon on the return leg of our journey. There were only 10 guests on our liveaboard and so we had plenty of room for our camera gear on the two small “panga” boats that arrived to take us from the Gallant Lady. As we raced across the bay, pelicans flew beside us in huge flocks, skimming the surface of the water as they looked for food. Soon there was a cry of “Shark!” as we started to get into our wetsuits, fins and masks, and as the boat slowed we were ready to go. A single shark approached the boat curious to see us. The sharks are not fed here but do seem to come up close to the snorkellers and boats that share their space. Once in the water, we were delighted to find that in fact we had three adults and a juvenile swimming around us. The sharks seemed in no hurry, and so rather than having to get in and out of the boat to get ahead of the sharks, we could all just stay in the water, letting them swim up to us when they wanted to.

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It wasn’t long before there were up to seven Whale Sharks in the group that was in the immediate area around us. It was a wonderful morning with not another boat in sight. After lunch we did a check out dive and got our first glimpse of what the diving was going to be like. The water was a little murky but the sea was full of life. Sat on deck, the boat pulled anchor and started to head further south. Our destination was Isla San Pedro Mártir, a marine park area with a large sea lion

IMAGES Above: A Whale Shark feeding with the desert coastline behind. Below: Nautilus’ Gallant Lady liveaboard.

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B AHร A AND THE NORTHERN SEA OF CORT E Z M EX I CO

ON EVERY DIVE THE SEA LIONS WOULD BOMB US FROM ABOVE, DIVING AND TWISTING THROUGH THE WATER AT INCREDIBLE SPEEDS. colony. As the sun set, the sky turned orange, then pink and red as we started the next part of our journey. Once again, the journey had been timed perfectly and as we woke up, the boat was just anchoring up. Sadly, teething problems with the boat were ongoing but we have to give the crew a huge round of applause for how they handled the issues. Alas, this time it meant that the crane that would have lifted the Humboldt Squid viewing cage had broken, and even though they had pulled into harbour to try to get parts to fix it, we would not be getting the opportunity to use it on this trip. We consoled ourselves with the fact that there had only been an outside chance of seeing these jumbo squid anyway and refocused to start thinking about enjoying our day with sea lions. As the boat was anchored so close to the island that we could snorkel to the nearest point with ease, we asked if we

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could skip the RIB rides to specific dive sites and just dive to and from the Gallant Lady for this part of the week. We could see the sea lions as we were gearing up and they seemed to be in a playful mood. Over the course of the six dives that we did along the wall, we found the sea lions became more and more playful as they became accustomed to us. On every dive they would bomb us from above, diving and twisting through the water at incredible speeds. Sometimes it was all you could do just to watch them, let alone try to photograph them. Our guides pointed out two small caves where the young sea lions preferred to hang out and we spent plenty of time on our dives visiting this area. On our last dive we had the cave to ourselves and, as it was only in about 8m of water, we got the chance to spend over an hour there. As soon as we arrived the young sea lions started to play. They formed rafts at the surface, peering down at the divers

IMAGES Top: Sea lions on a sunny day at Isla San Pedro Mรกrtir. Above: The sunsets on this trip are some of the most spectacular we have seen.

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ME X I CO B A HÍ A AND THE NORTHE RN SEA OF CORTEZ

A SINGLE WHALE SHARK APPROACHED THE BOAT CURIOUS TO SEE US. THE SHARKS ARE NOT FED HERE BUT DO SEEM TO COME UP CLOSE TO THE SNORKELLERS AND BOATS THAT SHARE THEIR SPACE.

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B AHÍA AND THE NORTHERN SEA OF CORTE Z M EX I CO

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M E X I CO B AHÍ A AND THE N ORTHERN SEA OF CORTEZ

IMAGES Right: The reef is lined with colourful corals.

THE REEF IS MOSTLY MADE OF CORAL-COVERED BOULDERS BUT IT IS COLOURFUL AND TEEMING WITH MARINE LIFE. below before swooping down themselves. Soon we had 10-12 of them, all in high spirits, grabbing really firmly at our fins, taking pieces off our float arms, mouthing our cameras, and even trying to take my hair tie from my ponytail! Several of these mischievous youngsters came right up to our faces staring into our eyes. It was almost unreal, and certainly one of the best experiences we have ever had underwater. At one point, the alpha male made an appearance. We had been told to be very watchful of the bull sea lions as it is their job to protect their harem of females and their pups. They have a very specific way of expressing if they are unhappy with what is going on. They may bark and also blow bubbles, forming a distinct line as if to say: “Do not cross”. It is a warning you should take very seriously as the bull sea lions are huge, so we backed away to the entrance of the cave and signalled to each other that it was time to move on. We turned left to see if we could explore the next cave and as we looked up, we found all our young sea lions were following us. As we came to a stop once again, the youngsters started to play with us in the shallows, darting up and down the reef, tossing up twigs and bird feathers and chasing them. Once again, the bull arrived, letting us know he wanted us to move away. We looked at our dive computers and as we had already been underwater for over an hour, we decided this was a prudent time to end the dive and head back to the boat.

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M E X I CO B AHÍ A AND THE N ORTHERN SEA OF CORTEZ

TRAVEL LOG:

Bahía and the Northern Sea of Cortez Flights There are plenty of flight options from the UK to San Diego. Take your pick!

Top Tip!

or travelling with Nautilus Liveaboards, we only needed US$.

Favourite non-diving activity

Try to add on some extra days to go diving in California.

Exploring San Diego on foot.

Transfers Nautilus Liveaboards provide transfers from their base in San Diego to the liveaboard in Mexico.

One of our favourite breweries, Ballast Point Brewing Company, is a fabulous bar and restaurant in the heart of the city.

Water temperature

Final Word

It can vary from 26–29°C but we enjoyed the warmer of this range in August.

This trip took us to an area less explored than the southern part of the Sea of Cortez. We had the place to ourselves and it was incredible.

Currency As we were either in the USA

Favourite place to eat/ drink

Once again, as night fell, we were treated to a spectacular sunset before the boat hauled anchor to head back north. The next morning we enjoyed two dives on the reef, which saw us marvelling at the number of octopus that were out hunting over the rocks. The reef is different to tropical coral reefs in that much of it is made-up of coral-covered boulders but it is still just as colourful and teeming with marine life. The afternoon saw us return to snorkel with the Whale Sharks. This time their behaviour was different. They were less interested in the snorkellers and boats, and they were swimming much more quickly. Soon we realised that there was food in the water and clearly they were on a mission. Right at the very end of the day, a school of Devil Rays swooped through the bay, giving us a wonderful farewell to this beautiful region. This liveaboard trip gave us the opportunity to visit an area that feels completely unexplored. We didn’t see another dive boat during the time we were there, and as there were only 10 divers on our boat (the Gallant Lady holds a maximum of 12) it felt more like an expedition than a dive trip to the usual crowded tourist areas. If you want a trip that is totally different and has the potential to be extraordinary, then this itinerary might just be for you. n

IMAGES Above: Isla San Pedro Mártir as the sun goes down.

MORE INFORMATION Nick and Caroline dived with www.nautilusliveaboards.com www.visitmexico.com/en

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© Dan Orr

SOCORRO. GUADALUPE. SEA OF CORTEZ. MEXICO © Adil Schindler

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I NDO NE S I A BUNAKEN I SL AND , NORTH SUL AWESI

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B UNAKEN ISL AND, NORTH SUL AWESI IND O NESI A

BEAUTIFUL

BUNAKEN Sean Chinn heads to inspirational Indonesia where he first caught the diving and photography bug many moons ago. WORDS & IMAGES: SEAN CHINN

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I N DO NE S I A BUNAKEN I SL AND , N ORTH SUL AWESI

ack in the summer of 2013, a trip to Indonesia literally changed my life. I was a novice diver at the time with around 20 dives and no photography experience but diving there inspired me to become the diver and photographer I am today. In the six years since that trip, diving and photography have become a huge part of my life and allowed me to travel to some amazing destinations. A return to Indonesia was long overdue and I was so looking forward to diving Bunaken Island and another memorable adventure in this magnificent country. The journey from the UK was a long one but I was more than optimistic that it would be worth it. A representative from Bunaken Oasis Resort greeted me at Manado Airport and after a short transfer to the marina, a beautifully hand-crafted wooden boat was ready to transport us across to Bunaken Island. As we made our way across the ocean I had chance to take in a 360˚ view of the surrounding area. The topography was breathtaking, as volcanic cliffs dominated the skyline covered in lush green rainforest. Manado Tua in particular held my gaze: the quintessential volcano that you would draw as a child; a perfect triangle. We arrived at Bunaken Oasis jetty to a sea of smiles. The staff welcomed me with a cold towel to refresh after the long journey, their smiles contagious. On first view looking from the jetty, the unique style of the resort was clear, its accommodation built into the hill rising from the pristine mangroves. A relatively small resort of 12 cottages, all the rooms boast great views of the colourful gardens and the bluest of oceans. My cottage room took my breath away the moment I walked in the door, and the attention to

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IMAGES Right: Aerial view of Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort and their private jetty. Below: A typical sunset view from the balcony of my cottage room. Below, left: A backlit Leaf Scorpionfish on a night dive.

AS WE MADE OUR WAY ACROSS THE OCEAN I HAD CHANCE TO TAKE IN A 360˚ VIEW OF THE SURROUNDING AREA. THE TOPOGRAPHY WAS BREATHTAKING...

detail and their eco-friendly credentials was great to see. Each room has a water cooler and filtration system that saves on a serious amount of plastic water bottles. ‘Plastic’ bags are made from root vegetable cassava, meaning they are biodegradable and can be composted. I had a great first impression of the resort and, after a delicious 3-course dinner, it was time for an early night. After a tasty breakfast with a view, it was time to start diving the wonders of Bunaken National Park. Before heading out we had a whistle-stop tour of the dive centre including its pristine compressor room. My favourite room was, of course, the camera room and what a spectacularly large space it was; fully equipped for your underwater camera needs. After a quick setup I was now even more eager to get on the boat. With five boats (soon to be six) servicing the divers of the resort there was a relaxed approach to the choice of dive sites we’d like to visit and also, more importantly, plenty of space for kitting and de-kitting. Our first two dives in the morning took us back to the mainland of Manado to enjoy some muck diving at Bolung and Tiwoho dive sites. After

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B UNAKEN ISL AND, NORTH SUL AWESI IND O NESI A

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I N DO NE S I A BUNAKEN I SL AND , N ORTH SUL AWESI

a 20 minute journey, we were soon in the water with eyes wide open looking for all the tiny critters that like to call the sandy slopes and little outcrops of reef home. Leaf Scorpionfish are quite abundant here compared to other places I’ve dived. They are always an interesting subject to find, while the little bits of coral and reef were littered with shrimp of various kinds, as well as numerous species of crabs. A couple of sea moths, dragonet and squat lobster all added to what was a memorable introduction to the diving here. The general timetable of the diving during my trip was to complete two dives in the morning whilst staying out at sea, with a return to the resort for lunch and some time to relax before heading out for a third dive. My third dive on the first day gave me the chance to experience Bunaken’s renowned stunning walls for the first time. As we jumped in at Lekuan 1, within

IMAGES Above: Dive guide Cindy admiring one of the many Green Sea Turtles that can be seen along the walls. Left: A Pontohi Pygmy Seahorse named after one of the local guides at Bunaken Oasis.

seconds I saw one of the turtles that this area is famous for. In fact it was like jumping into ‘turtle city’, as I lost count of the amount we encountered along the wall at all depths ranging from 20 metres up. Green Sea Turtles were the most numerous species but a good few Hawksbills were also present. All this turtle action nearly distracted me from the stunning walls covered with

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healthy coral where huge sponge and fan specimens hung proud. Day two started very much the same as we visited Bunaken Timur and Mike’s Point. Once again, we were rewarded with numerous turtles and stunning corals. With all the bad news we see about the destruction of coral around the world, it was amazing to see a place with such healthy reefs. In particular, the shallow reef tops at the end of the dives were beautiful - every inch covered in coral and supporting a lot of beautiful tropical fish swimming throughout. Dive three was the real highlight of the day for me as a bucket list macro subject was ticked off the list: my second species of pygmy seahorse on the wall at Lekuan 2 dive site. Not one but two in fact, with both between 5mm to 1cm in size. The Hippocampus Pontohi Seahorse was actually first found in these waters by one of the guides who is now working here. The seahorse was named after

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DIVING ON ST HELENA ISLAND Clear, warm waters, wrecks and fascinating marine life make St Helena Island an enticing snorkelling and scuba diving destination. Dive site habitats vary from rocky reefs with caves and areas of boulders to cobbles and sand, all teeming with active marine life and within easy reach of the island’s Wharf. The several wrecks dotted around the coast present popular dive and snorkelling sites with agreeable sea temperatures varying from 19 to 25°C and visibility from 16 to 130 feet. Dives can vary between 40 and 130 feet allowing a range of diving opportunities to weave through the vessel wrecks of St

Helena’s past or view the present and witness an array of rich endemic sea-life. If visiting the island be certain to bring your log book and catch up with local divers who form the thriving St Helena Dive Club - who understand the movement of the Atlantic waves and the best locations to catch a striking world beneath our feet. The riches of the South Atlantic Ocean await your discovery with local certified dive tour operators Into the Blue and Sub Tropic Adventures and international specialised tour operators on hand, there is no better time to dive into St Helena.

The Canister. Jamestown. St Helena. STHL 1ZZ Telephone: +290 22158 Email: enquiries@tourism.co.sh www.sthelenatourism.com

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I NDO NE S I A BUNAKEN I SL AND , NORTH SUL AWESI

ONE OF THE BEST MEMORIES OF MY TIME IN BUNAKEN WAS SPENDING TIME IN THE LAGOON SNORKELLING WITH TINY BABY TURTLES...

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B UNAKEN ISL AND, NORTH SUL AWESI INDONESI A

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Hentje Pontoh who first saw the species in 2003, which was later officially described in 2008. What a pleasure to find, and then later in the week, dive with Hentje! We finished the day with an amazing night dive at Alban with a whole host of critters coming out to play in the dark. It was time to try something different and on day three, we headed to the Molas Wreck. This freighter lies just off the mainland at a depth of 22 to 41 metres on a sloping bottom. Depth-wise it’s not exactly ideal for a recreational diver but still worth a visit as it is full of life and absolutely covered in coral. A huge school of batfish greeted us on our descent along the mooring

WE FINISHED THE DAY WITH AN AMAZING NIGHT DIVE AT ALBAN WITH A WHOLE HOST OF CRITTERS COMING OUT TO PLAY IN THE DARK.

line, while many more sheltered amongst the wreck. Whilst my dive was quick, others can benefit from the technical diving setup at the resort with Oasis Explorers. My usual dive buddy enjoyed a tech dive here and at the next site, Lekuan 3; I enjoyed another relaxed dive along the wall surrounded by turtles. After lunch our third dive took us to Fukui dive site, one of my favourite sites of the trip. Again, something a little different as this was more of a sloping reef rather than a wall. Here I got to see the biggest cuttlefish I’ve personally ever seen, whilst the change in site topography didn’t impact on the amount of turtles we saw at all! One of the best memories of my time in Bunaken occurred as we returned back to the centre after this dive. The dive centre team are caring for baby turtles and I got to spend time in the water with them! The turtles are brought to the centre by local villagers, before being taken into the lagoon and mangroves in front of the resort for ‘training purposes’ in order to get them

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IMAGES Above left: Dive guide Hentje exploring a swim-through on top of the reef wall. Above right: Batfish inhabit the Molas shipwreck. Right: A squid showing off its vibrant colours on my very first blackwater dive.

ready for release when they are around 2-4 months old. It was my first time in the water with these cute little babies and it was such a thrill. The light was perfect as the sun was setting and the location was perfect for a snorkel. On day four I was looking forward to some more macro muck diving. More importantly, I had a real urge to find a baby frogfish amongst the sand to photograph. We returned to Bolung dive site, close to the mainland, as it’s a popular spot to find frogfish. I now had the Pontohi Seahorse legend Hentje as my dive guide and he didn’t disappoint. We found more Leaf Scorpionfish, nudibranch, Orangutan Crabs and shrimp. Then, after 55 minutes of the dive, he spotted the baby frogfish I had hoped for. Unfortunately by this point my air was running low and I didn’t have enough time to photograph something so small. A black spec amongst the sand required more time and so, on our second dive, I decided to dive the same site and stay around 8 metres. Hentje was quick to find the baby frogfish again and

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B UNAKEN ISL AND, NORTH SUL AWESI IND O NESI A

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I N DO NE S I A BUNAKEN I SL AND , N ORTH SUL AWESI

with it being black and so small (just 5mm in length) it required some work getting the shots. A cute baby sea moth was also found on the dive, along with more nudibranch. After lunch I had a prolonged rest and a relaxing massage in the onsite Spa in preparation for my first ever blackwater dive that evening. Blackwater diving requires pitch-black conditions and we were going out into water over 100’s of metres deep. It was quite daunting. A line of lights was dropped into the black abyss with a light every 5 metres down to 25 metres. The lights were left for around 20 minutes before we entered the water in order to

IMAGES Top: A Crinoid Squat Lobster camouflaged into its home. Left: Very little light pollution means you can see the stars and Milky Way in full force on a clear night.Below: Dive guide Cindy with one of the many fan corals that stand proud on the Bunaken walls.

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attract all manner of weird and wonderful creatures. These are gelatinous animals and once underwater I soon realised how tricky it was to see them, let alone photograph them. It was an amazing experience, even though I was a little nervous, and I am eager to repeat this diving experience again. Back on the boat, the stars and Milky Way on show in the night sky topped a fantastic evening. On the morning of my final diving day I had the pleasure of joining Bunaken Oasis owners Simon and Elaine who wanted to show me some of their favourite sites. As we headed out to Barracuda Point on flat calm seas, a pod of Spinner Dolphins treated us to a fantastic show. Alas, the lack of currents meant the huge school of barracuda didn’t materialise - a reminder that in nature, nothing is guaranteed. Our second dive at Sachiko’s Point was a stunning wall full of beautiful soft corals and turtles. A particular highlight was the small swim-through on our safety stop. My final dive of the trip really delivered in terms of action. Late in the day, at Ron’s Point with a relatively strong current, proved spectacular. Around 30 schooling Dogtooth Tuna paraded up and down the channel, as Bluespotted Ribbontail Rays chased each other around the reef. Yes! There were also turtles - you didn’t think they’d miss seeing me on my last dive did you? Four huge barracuda teased me as if they knew I had missed their kind in the morning. Schooling batfish and a pristine reef in the shallows all added to what was an incredible last dive drifting along in the current. I had spent a fantastic six days on Bunaken Island and enjoyed wonderful diving, service, food and location, I’m sure I’ll return one day. With 90 plus dive sites, I had only scratched the surface of Bunaken National Park. But my adventure wasn’t complete. I decided to return back to Manado a day early in order to visit Tangkoko Nature Reserve. Based on the east coast of North Sulawesi, it was a bit of

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I N DO NE S I A BUNAKEN I SL AND , N ORTH SUL AWESI

Manado

TRAVEL LOG:

Bunaken Island, Indonesia Flights I flew with Singapore Airlines to Manado via Singapore Changi Airport. Flying from London Heathrow you can find a range of daily options with different layover times.

main currency. US$ and credit cards are widely accepted in the resort.

Favourite non-diving activity

Top Tip!

Exploring Tangkoko Nature Reserve and seeing the wonderful wildlife that call the Reserve home.

Give yourself some time on the mainland to visit Tangkoko Nature Reserve.

Favourite place to eat / drink

Transfers Transfers from Manado Airport to the boat pier take around 45 minutes. Then it's a 30-40 minute boat ride to reach Bunaken Island.

Water temperature It ranges from around 26-30˚C year round. A 3mm full suit was perfect for 3-4 dives a day for a week.

Currency Indonesian Rupiah is the

The food at the resort was amazing everyday with a great variety of local cuisine and more western style dishes. My favourite dish of the trip was an Indonesian speciality: Beef Bumbu Rw.

Final Word Bunaken National Park is a paradise for divers with a wide range of dive sites. The lush green islands mean being on the surface is just as stunning as below.

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IMAGES Top: An endemic Black Crested Macaque in Tangkoko Nature Reserve. Above left: The baby macaques are very cute! Above right: Two Spectral Tarsier wait for nightfall.

a journey from Bunaken in the west but it was certainly going to be worth it in terms of wildlife encounters. Once there, we discovered a large and mischievous group of Black Crested Macaques on the black sand beach. Endemic to this area, they were licking the salt off the rocks while others played in the trees. One cheeky monkey in particular decided to jump on my back to try and take the cap off my head. A little further along and we found a couple of Sulawesi Bear Cuscus high up in the trees with another foraging on the ground. I was particularly excited to see the Gursky’s Spectral Tarsier. They are extremely cute and I’m sure Gizmo from the Gremlins film was modelled on these unique primates. These nocturnal animals are easy to find as they stick to one tree during the day before venturing out to hunt at night. We visited the tree just before sunset as they were waking up ready to leave. Our short trek finished with a visit to a

Knobbed Hornbill nest to wait for the male to return with food. Like clockwork, we weren’t there for much more than 5 minutes before we got to watch nature in action. Visiting Tangkoko was a great end to my trip and I’d certainly recommend adding an extra day for this fun adventure. With an overnight stay at the Novotel in Manado, I was just 10 minutes from the airport, which allowed me some extra time to relax before my long journey home the next day. Combining some truly out of this world diving with a luxurious stay in Bunaken and a day in Tangkoko made for one of the best weeklong trips I have done; albeit, a jam-packed one. You certainly don’t want to miss this on your dive trip bucket list. n

MORE INFORMATION Sean Chinn stayed at Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort & Spa: www.bunakenoasis.com www.indonesia.travel

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World Travel Awards

Indonesia’s Leading Dive Resort 2018

Diving with a difference 2018 Indonesia's Leading Dive Resort

Lumbalumba Diving

Manado, North Sulawesi, Indonesia www.lumbalumbadiving.com Email:info@lumbalumbadiving.com

WHITE SANDS BEACH RESORT LEMBEH, NORTH SULAWESI, INDONESIA

Set in the world-famous Bunaken National Marine Park, Bunaken Oasis offers a truly luxurious diving experience. Exceptional air-conditioned cottages with sea-view balconies. Chill-out bar, and gourmet panoramic restaurant. Custom-built spa with qualified therapists. Panoramic freshwater infinity pool From water-makers, with UV treatment, to blackwater treatment, Oasis was designed to minimise any impact on the environment. 5* PADI-affiliated dive centre, designed for photographers, and dive boats that are second to none, with freshwater deck showers, toilets and, above all, space.

Tel:+62 (0) 8124301095 - 811435411 Email:info@eco-divers.com

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info@bunakenoasis.com

www.bunakenoasis.com

Visit us at Go Diving in Coventry on stand AP6 on 22nd & 23rd February 2020

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H A W A I I KO NA AG G R ESSOR I I LI V EAB OARD

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KONA AGGRESSOR II LIVEAB OARD H A W A I I

Hawaii’s volcanic topography forms a spectacular underwater backdrop for its many endemic species. Michele Westmorland explores aboard Kona Aggressor II.

WORDS: MICHELE WESTMORLAND IMAGES: MICHELE WESTMORLAND AND AGGRESSOR ADVENTURES

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H AW A I I KONA AG G R ESSOR I I LIV EAB OARD

n the Hawaiian Islands, one goddess reigns supreme. Pele (pronounced pay-lay) is the goddess of fire, lightning, wind and volcanoes in Hawaiian mythology, and nowhere else does she show her power more vividly and forcefully than on the Big Island of Hawaii. Pele, according to legend, lives in the Halema’uma’u crater of Kilauea, and when you fly into Kailua-Kona airport you get an extraordinary glimpse of her presence in one of the most active volcanoes in the island chain and in the world. There are many myths and stories about Pele and most Hawaiians claim to have seen her at least once in their life. She is so powerful that she can change her shape and appearance at whim. I have come to Kona to seek out my own underwater goddess - one that may appear in the form of a beautiful fish, dolphin or manta and maybe even catch a glimpse of Pele herself. I will spend the next week onboard the Kona Aggressor II while she travels the coast of the Big Island in search of creatures that inspire and amaze. Anxious to see what mysteries await me underwater, I set up my dive gear on the boat’s spacious dive deck,

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KONA AGGRESSOR II LIVEAB OARD H A W A I I

IMAGES Above: Divers wake up to spectacular Big Island views, like lava arches that plunge into azure waters. Left: A pinnacle rises from the deep at Never-Never Land dive site. Far left and right: Diving is made easy with attentive crew and huge swim platforms.

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head to my roomy cabin to store my personal items, and assemble my underwater camera system. Once set up and ready to go, I feel my excitement build as our captain and instructors tell us about the dive sites we will visit during the week. We don’t have to travel far from the marina to make our first dive of the trip. The Meadows is a nice secluded spot for our checkout dive, allowing us divers to make sure our gear is working properly and that we are correctly weighted. For me, even more important is making sure my

camera equipment is properly set up and there are no dreaded problems! As we get our bearings in the water, we are treated to a preview of the week ahead during which we will get an up-close look at fish, creatures and corals that can only be seen in these waters. It is estimated that some 20 percent of the reef fish and 25 percent of the coral species found here are endemic to Hawaii. One of the most thrilling adventures in Hawaii is the nighttime manta dive. Anchored in calm waters, we enjoy a fabulous dinner as we watch the sun go

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AROUND 25 PERCENT OF THE CORAL SPECIES FOUND HERE ARE ENDEMIC TO HAWAII.

IMAGES Above: Pristine hard coral reefs create a rich ecosystem to sustain Hawaii’s big critters. Below: Eat, Sleep, Dive! And Eat again! The Kona Aggressor II chef dishes up scrumptious meals.

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down and other day boats pull in to prepare for the dive. On their menu: packed sandwiches and snacks. On our menu: a lovely salad, grilled skewers of fish and vegetables, and dessert. With plenty of time to let our incredible meal digest, we get our lights, cameras and gear ready to go. It is a virtual light show at the site. Snorkelers on the surface light “the stage” with their torches, and divers circle around a large underwater light system used to attract small plankton creatures – the mantas’ own dinner menu. Attracted to this critter soup, the mantas appear from the darkness. Our Aggressor dive team remains on the fringe. Anxious to get closer, we are carefully instructed to be patient – and we will be rewarded. Once the other visitors start to leave, we are ready to move in. At depth, we see more than 10 large, graceful mantas dancing above our heads, giving us an incredibly memorable performance. We are privileged to have these creatures all to ourselves, and they are obviously enjoying themselves too. As we leave the site, several mantas follow us back to the boat, continuing their dance as

they feed under the lights of the Aggressor. Back on the boat, we all wonder what can possibly top our exciting manta dive for the balance of the week. The west coast provides all the dive action you need for a wide variety of experiences from colourful swim-throughs to fascinating lava tubes. The lava formations are, for the most part, blanketed in brilliant red and orange encrusting sponges. Light streams from overhead through openings and crevices, where fish hide from the elements and predators. Sites with names like Catacombs, Stoney Mesas and Tubastrea Tunnel are clear indicators of the interesting structures. The sites are visually amazing but even more striking are the different sounds you hear. What stood out to me was not the typical crunching of coral by parrotfish or even the muted calls of the Humpback Whales during the winter months, but the distinctive whooshing noises of small rocks and boulders being tumbled by the surge. Probably my favourite area on the week’s itinerary is Manuka

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Ratio iDive Color has a vibrant display and is intuitive to use.

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Available in Easy, Deep and Tech+ models with 6 different colour options. Compatible with multi transmitters and O2 analyser (optional extras).

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H AW A I I KONA AG G R ESSOR I I LIV EAB OARD

IMAGES Left: Friendly Spinner Dolphins dance above and below the Kona surf.

THE DOLPHINS LOVE TO PLAY WITH “HUMAN TOYS”— AT ONE POINT, THERE ARE MORE THAN 40 ANIMALS FROLICKING AROUND US. Bay, located midway between the town of Kailua-Kona and the southern tip of the island. This quiet refuge is chosen by Spinner Dolphins to bring their young calves and rest after a night of hunting in the open ocean. They are not always in the bay, but when they are it is a treat that creates a lasting memory. Because these dolphins do not like the bubbles created from regulators, we leave our scuba tanks on the boat and grab our snorkeling gear. The dolphins love to play with “human toys”— at one point, there are more than 40 animals frolicking around us. Babies come close to investigate us, while their moms stay nearby to herd them off if they spend too much time around us. I watch my friend, who is an excellent swimmer, dive down, twist and turn alongside several beautiful dolphins. But once they become bored with him, they quickly let him know his time is up with a nod and a vocal sound. Seconds later, all that could be seen are tails moving off into the blue. After so much physical activity, it’s wonderful to get back onboard and be treated to some of the best meals served on any liveaboard. It’s always a mystery how food of such a high quality can be prepared in a little galley on a boat, but Grace is an accomplished chef and her fabulous dishes have seen her awarded best in fleet. As a dive location, Manuka Bay is as memorable as it gets. Just below the boat are rock and hard coral outcroppings in a

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KONA AGGRESSOR II LI VEAB OARD H A W A I I

variety of delightful formations. Several arches make for interesting swim-throughs but what I find most delightful is a soccer ball-sized frogfish. He (or she) is a brilliant red, and its chosen site for hunting is right on the wall of one of the arches. Here, I am able to photograph the grumpy-looking fish with every imaginable lens. I start with an 8–15mm fisheye lens, which is generally used for very large subjects and landscapes, allowing me to focus within a few centimetres and still include some of the scene in the image. Then I move to macro lenses to get a lovely close portrait to capture facial details. I am also treated to eels I’ve never seen before. I encounter Dragon and Viper Morays, and a sizable conger out on the hunt, as well as brilliant Blue Boxfish, the male peacocks of the reef. Our captain navigates north to our next site, Never-Never Land. Here, a large pinnacle protrudes out of the water, but below the surface is a beautiful coral-filled

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IMAGES Above and left: Lava tubes create underwater playgrounds filled with eels, turtles and colorful boxfish to photograph.

ledge along the crater’s drop-off. Never-Never Land features plenty of Raccoon Butterflyfish but what fascinates me are the juvenile and adult Peacock Razor Wrasses. These small sand-dwellers are not the easiest to photograph but they are fun to watch as they skip across the bottom searching for morsels of food. I spot a

lovely Strawberry Nudibranch slowly making its way over some rubble. Off the wall are two larger species of marine life – a lone Hammerhead cruising and a slow-moving Green Sea Turtle, oblivious of the apex predator. Down deep, the divemaster points out two of Hawaii’s most stunning residents that are found nowhere else in the world: the Bandit Angel and Tinker’s Butterflyfish. We move on to a new location, a staff favourite called Au Au Crater. This underwater crater of an extinct volcano is a testament to the power of the earth’s (and, no doubt, goddess Pele’s) activities. The walls of this subaquatic basin are decorated with hard corals, fish and nudibranchs. I also come across a little octopus love - perfect timing! And the gorgeous red colours of the reef, thanks to the endemic lionfish and Strawberry Nudibranchs, only add to the romantic effect. Romance is also in the air (or water, to be precise) for

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H AW A I I KONA AG G R ESSOR I I LIV EAB OARD

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IMAGES Top and right: Hawaii boasts amazing geological wonders, including Au Au Crater (top). Above: This floating resort’s private staterooms have the pampered traveler in mind.

TRAVEL LOG:

Hawaii Flights

Water temperature

Most major airlines offer international flights into Honolulu. The scenic flight from Honolulu to KailuaKona on the Big Island is 45 minutes.

22-26˚C - most divers use a 3mm or 5mm wetsuit.

Transfers

Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Adventure: Drive through lava fields and rainforests to the summit of Mauna Kea, 13,796 feet above sea level. Enjoy star gazing and spectacular views.

Guests are required to organise their own taxi transfers due to strict DOT and TSA regulations. Taxis are readily available and the journey to the downtown pier in Kailua-Kona takes 20 minutes.

Top Tip! Use reef safe sunscreen. Sunscreen ingredients not recommended include oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, 4MBC and butylparaben.

Currency US $.

Topside Add-on Tours

Kilauea Volcano and Sunset Lava Walk: Explore the Volcanoes National Park - lush rainforests with native birds, incredible foliage and a walk-through lava tube. Then travel down to the Puna Coast to view the active side of Kilauea Volcano.

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the Humpback Whales who call the Hawaiian Islands home this time of year. It’s their calving and breeding season and the whale songs are so loud that it feels like the creatures must be right on top of us. However, the fact is that these calls can travel great distances, and many times during the early morning and late afternoon we are treated to spouting, tail lobbing and occasionally breaching whales. Continuing north, our captain spots something I’ve never experienced before. It is a group of seven logging Hammerhead Sharks, resting on the surface of the glass-smooth water. Who knows how many are below? According to long-time friend and marine biologist, Doug Perrine, this is something that only happens this time of year. The reason is still unknown. We stay right next to them for an unforgettable half hour. After a night at the mooring, we venture north to wrap up the trip at Turtle Pinnacle. This is a cleaning station for turtles to be manicured by the local tang

population but they elude us today. I only see one very sleepy giant under the ledge of the pinnacle. However, I do find a little frogfish on the reef, and off the wall I observe a Spotted Eagle Ray casually gliding over the top. I end the week with precious memories of brand-new sensations and experiences and a deep appreciation of the goddess Pele in all her many manifestations. If, as legend has it, she can transform herself at will, then I am sure she was diving with us all week, making her presence known among the gliding Manta Rays, playful Spinner Dolphins, and spectacular Humpback Whales. n

MORE INFORMATION Michele Westmoreland travelled aboard the Kona Aggressor II liveaboard with Aggressor Adventures: www.aggressor.com www.gohawaii.com

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36 Years of Worldwide Luxury Travel

by guest Caroline H. in Sri Lanka

by guest John M. in Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Capture the Moments You’ll Remember Forever! All photos were taken by our guests during Aggressor Adventures®.

by guest Aldebaran in Guadalupe, Mexico

by guest Scott J. in Giza, Egypt

Big cats, great white sharks and the largest Asian elephant gathering in the world. A Sri Lankan rock palace, ancient ruins and 2,000-year-old trees. The wildlife, nature and settings you’ll encounter on Aggressor® vacations will leave you breathless, but guests with a steady hand and adventurous spirit come away with memories of a lifetime and the photos to prove it. Intimate, luxurious accommodations and impeccable service are what our guests love and the amazing photos are just the icing on the cake. Choose your adventure with Aggressor! Join an Aggressor Adventure® and create your own masterpieces!

See more amazing guests’ photos @AggressorAdventures on Instagram

Aggressor Liveaboards® by guest Michele W. in Sri Lanka

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C AR I BBE A N G R ENADA

Spice up your life! Nick and Caroline head to the Spice Islands of Grenada and Carriacou to celebrate Pure Grenada Dive Fest. WORDS & IMAGES NICK AND CAROLINE ROBERTSON-BROWN

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he Caribbean island of Grenada had long been calling us with tales of superb diving on wrecks and reefs. So we were absolutely delighted to be invited to join the festivities of Pure Grenada Dive Fest, which took place on both Grenada and its smaller cousin, Carriacou. The islands are famous for spices, chocolate and rum, as well as their beauty both above and below the waves. We planned to immerse ourselves in it all. Our first morning saw us catch the ferry from Grenada to Carriacou – a journey that takes about two hours and is a pleasant way to take in the spectacular scenery along the coastline. A Brown Booby (that is a sea bird – honestly) hovered just above our heads, using the ferry’s slipstream to glide and then dart into the waves to catch flying fish disturbed by our wake. We saw this as a very good omen to the start of our trip. Soon we had pulled into the harbour and were keen to dump all our bags and get exploring. We found a local café for a spot of lunch with tables looking out over the tranquil bay; golden sand being lapped by turquoise waters, in the shade of the fringing palms. Combine this perfect view with a spicy curried chickpea roti and fresh local fruit juice and our first impression of Carriacou had already exceeded expectations. As part of our Dive Fest experience, we were to be diving with most of the dive centres at each destination. This meant that we changed dive centre each day, and on some days dived with two different operators. Most days had a theme to allow dive centres to co-ordinate the festival dives. It was a packed itinerary!

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IMAGES Left: In one of the freshwater pools under a waterfall, as a friend takes the plunge. Above: A diver explores the reef.

Our first day saw us partake in Dive Fest “Isle of Reefs” and it started with the suggestion of doing a quick shallow dive under the nearby pier whilst we were waiting for the boat to be readied. Piers often offer a safe place for fish to congregate, providing a sheltered structure for coral and sponges to grow, and this was no exception. As soon as we arrived, we could see thousands of fish schooling underneath the wooden walkway. Their silvery skin flashed this way and that, catching the sunrays and creating quite a show. In only a couple of metres of water, the diving in Carriacou had already put big grins on our faces. Spending a little more

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time looking closely at the pier legs and on the sandy seabed saw us find eels, crustaceans, scorpionfish and a host of other interesting critters. All too soon our guide was signalling that it was time to head back and jump on the boat to go out for our first dive on the reef. Whirlpool dive site lies in the heart of the marine park of

IMAGES Top: Small wreck of a tugboat on Carriacou. Below: Incredible colours on the reefs.

Carriacou and we got the feeling this was going to be a special dive as soon as we started to descend. A huge lobster was roaming out on the reef, happy for divers to approach and see just how big it was. Both hard and soft corals were full of vibrant colour and life. Soon we had found the wreck of a small tugboat covered in growth and adorned with numerous small schools of colourful fish. On the return journey back to the boat we stopped at an area in the reef that has a volcanic vent allowing small warm bubbles to rise up from the sand, which made us feel like we were diving in champagne. Perfect. The boat ride back to the dive

BOTH HARD AND SOFT CORALS WERE FULL OF VIBRANT COLOUR AND LIFE.

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centre took only a few minutes and we were soon rinsed off and tucking into lunch. Suddenly a flash of bright green caught my eye. A hummingbird was flitting, somewhat unusually, around the dive shop walls. I pointed this out and was shown a tiny nest in the compressor room (just above the kill switch) where this hummingbird had, amongst the noise and human activity, made its home. Our final dive of the day saw us back on the lovely local reef, relaxing on a shallow dive known as Sharky due to the number of Nurse Sharks that hide out in the crevices in the reef. Our second day on Carriacou, was “Environment Dive Day” and this saw us dive the most famous of the island’s dive sites – The Sisters. This site comprises twin rocks that rise up from the sea, providing nesting sites for several species of sea bird including pelicans and boobies. Underwater there can be strong currents around these isolated rocks but that is also what makes this site so special. Black gorgonian corals thrive with the nutrients that are swept past and the marine life here is prolific. Our second site of the day

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was Lime Kiln, which saw us drift at pace over another healthy reef system. Whilst we were supposed to be looking out for plastic pollution on this particular day, I have to say the reefs showed little sign of any debris to collect. Instead, we enjoyed the schooling fish that accompanied us as we drifted to a wreck protruding from the water that marked the end of our dive. It also marked the end of a short but wonderful visit to the island of Carriacou as

it was time for us to head back to the main island of Grenada. Our third day was going to be hectic; we planned three dives in the daytime as well as a night dive and we were to be diving with two different dive operators. We started the day on a wreck that had been sunk a year ago as an artificial reef - the Tyrrell Bay. It is always amazing to see how marine life colonizes a new home; the Tyrell Bay already has glassfish living inside and a good covering of new growth on the structure, including on the impressive and still intact ship’s compass. From here, we moved on to a reef site called Purple Rain. This site was named after the colourful Creole Wrasse that seem to rain down on you as you move along the reef system. Our final daylight dive was dedicated to finding frogfish at Flamingo Bay. Our dive guide, with super keen eyesight, found us a small orange frogfish on an orange sponge out in the sandy part of the bay. Our night dive was planned for the wreck of the Veronica L. We had heard about prolific orange cup corals that come out at night and cover the wreck, creating a riot of colour against the inky black water. Octopus hunted amongst the cup corals, looking for small crustaceans that would make

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IMAGES Top: Fish schooling under the pier on Carriacou. Above: Caroline marvels at a huge lobster walking on the reef.Left: Marine life of all kinds can be found in the vibrant corals, day and night.

a nice bedtime snack. Huge basket stars unfurled as the light faded, extending their curled-up feeding arms to snare tiny prey. We could have spent hours on this wonderful night dive but a date to try some of Grenada’s finest craft beers beckoned! Grenada has plenty of great places to eat and drink, with a wide variety of establishments to try out, but our favourite was the West Indies Beer Company. They have a huge array of craft ales, as well as good pub food and live entertainment. We went on open mic night and the talent on show was impressive. It was the perfect way to finish what had been an excellent day of diving. The island of Grenada is famous for its wrecks. It offers a wide range of both old and recent wrecks for recreational and

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Come and see us at the GO Diving Show, RICOH Arena, Coventry 22nd – 23rd February

SHARKS! SO MUCH MORE THAN

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WALLS • REEFS • WRECKS • SHARKS Intriguing wrecks. Beautiful reefs. Dramatic walls. Big marine animals. Remarkable sharks. Just minutes from all the dive adventures you can imagine. A stone’s throw from the excitement of Nassau. Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas is the perfect destination to dive… because it’s all here.

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GRENADA HAS SO MUCH TO OFFER. THE ISLAND IS FAMOUS FOR ITS SUPERB WRECK DIVING, BUT THE REEFS AND MARINE LIFE ARE ALSO RIGHT UP THERE AMONGST THE BEST WE HAVE DIVED IN THIS REGION.

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technical divers alike. And whilst Grenada has plenty more to offer those who do not just lust for rust, it was well worth including “Wreck Diving Day” in the Dive Fest itinerary. We were keen to visit the Veronica L in daylight to compare it to the incredible night dive we had enjoyed the previous night, but first up was another new wreck, the Anina. This huge wreck lies in around 30 metres of water and could be the focus of multiple dives but we preferred to do a quick tour of the whole wreck. Immediately I wished I had brought my macro lens, as our dive guides pointed out five small frogfish on the side of the wreck. It was as if these characterful fish had decided this new wreck is their ideal home. Our tour saw us venture inside to a huge open area, with light glinting through the wide access points. All too soon though, due to the depth, it was time for us to head back to the surface. Then we did get our wish to return to the Veronica L. She is just as good in daylight as at night. This time she was swarming with fish!

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IMAGES Top: A Basket Star unfurls at night. Above: Inside the Veronica L wreck. Left: Our dive guide stops to look in the coral that grows on the wreck of the Veronica L. Opposite page: Sponges and corals grow together on the reef in Grenada.

Thousands of damselfish and Creole Wrasse schooled around the bow creating a mesmerising display. It was hard to tear ourselves away! Our final dive of the day saw us visit the famous underwater sculpture park, which also included a small wreck of a yacht. The visibility had dropped somewhat and the stormy skies brought a moody eeriness to this iconic dive and snorkelling site. The sculpture “Vicissitudes” by Jason deCaires Taylor is a circle of life-size figures cast from local children linked by holding hands. Even in gloomy conditions it was an impressive sight. The final day of Pure Grenada Dive Fest saw all the dive centres come together for “Lionfish Awareness Day”. Dive guides competed to catch the most lionfish on the day, which would be cooked and eaten at the closing ceremony later that evening. We dived the delightfully named “Whibbles Reef” as well as Southend. While our guides hunted for the famous invasive species that was on

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IMAGES Top: Grenada is blessed with stunning sunsets. Above: The famous sculpture park is a great place to snorkel or shallow dive. Right: Grenada is famous for its chocolate and the Chocolate Museum is well worth a visit.

TRAVEL LOG:

Grenada, Caribbean Flights

between 26°C and 29°C.

We flew British Airways from London to Grenada.

Currency

Top Tip! Make sure you have enough time above water to explore these beautiful islands. Try to make a dual destination trip to take in both Grenada and Carriacou.

Transfers We had a driver for our whole trip but local taxis and transfers are available. There is a ferry between Grenada and Carriacou.

Water temperature On our visit in October, the water temperature was a warm 28°C, but can be

Eastern Caribbean $. US$ and credit cards are widely accepted too.

Favourite non-diving activity Swimming at Annandale Falls and the House of Chocolate – we can’t choose between them!

Favourite place to eat/drink West Indies Beer Company.

Final Word These islands have so much to offer the travelling diver. Try to fit in as much as possible while you are there.

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the evening’s menu, we enjoyed both dives that revealed some huge lobster, playful octopus, and shy Nurse Sharks a plenty. As we had a dive-free afternoon due to no-fly time, we wanted to experience a little more of what Grenada has to offer, so we headed up to one of the many waterfalls to try to get an over-under shot we had been planning since we first arranged our trip. Alas, the visibility in the water was not great, but we had plenty of fun with our friends trying to catch one of them leaping off the rocks into the water below, and the other freediving up to the camera. We also made time to visit the famous spice market for gifts for friends and family back home. And we paid a visit to the House of Chocolate for gifts for us! The chocolate rum is really something everyone must try and made a wonderful souvenir of our trip. Grenada is a lush Caribbean island with so much to offer. Those who think it is just for

wreck lovers should think again. Yes, the island has some superb wreck diving, but the reefs and marine life are also right up there amongst the best we have dived in this region. The islands have it all when it comes to beautiful beaches, great nightlife, and delicious food and local produce. But the real reason it will stay in our hearts is the people. They are warm and friendly and welcomed us into their homes and their hearts. They truly made us feel like we belong here. n

MORE INFORMATION Nick and Caroline travelled courtesy of Grenada Tourism Authority: www.puregrenada.com Carriacou www.deeferdiving.com www.lumbadive.com Grenada www.scubatech-grenada.com www.ecodiveandtrek.com www.divegrenada.com www.aquanautsgrenada.com

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C AR I BBE A N G R AND CAYMAN

: e d i u G Travel

GRAND CAYMAN A PERFECT WINTER DIVE GETAWAY WORDS & IMAGES: ELLEN CUYLAERTS

IMAGES Southern Stingrays entering the shallow waters of the North Sound at dawn.

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ots of visits to Caribbean islands need a little adjustment time when you arrive as a tourist: which food do you like or digest best, what dive center is punctual, what are the safest areas, and will you understand the locals to order a sunset drink? Grand Cayman is one of those destinations where you can arrive in the evening on a direct flight, make a quick stop in the supermarket and find your home choices easily to stock up for the week, and dive the next morning in clear blue, warm water. Easy is the keyword!

N W

E S

n a m y a C Grand Georgetown

CUBA

Grand Cayman

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GRAND C AY M AN CA R I B B EA N

What is the correct name?

Grand Cayman is part of the three Cayman Islands: the small island of Little Cayman, bigger and more elevated Cayman Brac, and the most easily accessible and more touristic Grand Cayman.

SANDBAR OR STINGRAY CITY?

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The best-known species of marine life in Grand Cayman must be the Southern Stingrays. Solitary, wide-winged dark gray females and the smaller light gray males can be found all around the Cayman Islands and are often seen while diving or snorkeling. But to witness them in bigger numbers and receive a gentle wing rub, or even a hickie, you’ll have to secure a spot on a boat to the Sandbar or to Stingray City. Getting out at dawn or on a sunset cruise to the Sandbar, in the North Sound, guarantees you one of the best snorkeling experiences in your life. The moment

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IMAGES When the tour boats leave at sunset, peace and quiet returns to the Sandbar. Right: Visibility in Cayman waters is perfect to practice freediving skills.

your Captain switches off the engine, dark patches and their shadows on the sand ripples show up: dozens of stingrays. Despite their venomous barb, the rays are not aggressive and are even used to thousands of people visiting every day. Fishermen cleaning their catch on the water - far from flies and mosquitoes - is what originally lured these animals into a Pavlovian reaction to boats decades ago, and they are still going strong! You’re only allowed a swimming outfit or wetsuit and goggles, or mask and snorkel, no fins, nor boots. And when walking around in knee-deep water, you’ll quickly adapt to the stingray shuffle, a Caribbean way of in-water walking to prevent stepping on a stingray buried under a layer of white sand. Once you pop your head underneath the surface, you’ll feel one amongst the rays and should you wear a weight belt to be able to observe from the bottom, the rays will fly over

Did you know?

The inhabitants of the Cayman Islands, called Caymanians, do not like the use of ‘the Caymans’, ‘the Grand Cayman Island’ or ‘the Grand Caymans.’ They would like you, as a visitor, to use the correct name: Grand Cayman.

you and actually try to nibble your head, checking if you’re a strange looking mollusk. There is absolutely no need to feed them squid yourself (even if a guide would offer that); best to keep the smell away from you if you don’t want the stingrays to bomb you. And please don’t pick them up out of the water. Keep the encounter enjoyable for the animal and for you! Stingray City is very close to the Sandbar but offers a dive experience with stingrays and the occasional moray eel, in water between 4 and 6 meters deep. The dive is guided and some very strict rules apply. If you ask me, as a local I would book the Sandbar!

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GROTTOES AND SWIM-THROUGHS Unlike other Caribbean islands nearby like Cuba and Jamaica, Grand Cayman is rather flat. Driving around though you can see many different interesting features: from the mangroves in the North Sound teeming with upside down jellyfish, to the little town of Hell, looking very uninviting in between sharp iron shore boulders; spectacular caves in Northside, recently opened up to the public, and not to forget 7 Mile Beach, which is actually 6.3 miles of the most beautiful and pristine white sand, where even on a busy day it feels like out of season in Spain. The diversity on land is nothing compared to the topographic differences underwater. The Dive 365 initiative not only offers a different dive for every day of the year, the orientation of the Cayman Islands also provides easy underwater navigation, and when weather conditions on one side of the island are rough, chances are the other side is flat and easy! Two areas really stand out if you like some advanced dives or want to sign up for extra courses: the East End and Northside (which literally means East and North) provide exciting swim-throughs from a 2325 meters plateau, sometimes 10-15 meters long, ending at the wall, offering a view from 30 meters deep into the deepest blue. This is a true spectacle when the sunrays refract at depth. It might be disorientating at first but staying close to the wall and coming up concentrating on your depth, whilst admiring huge sponges and coral fans you don’t find in the shallows, is really worth a deep certification. Remember your buoyancy and gas mix; the wall in that area slopes to 7001000 meters deep. If you book a two-tank dive you’ll normally dive the wall first and the second

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. . . w o n k u o y Did

ites in 65 dive s 3 e r a e r The ds an Islan the Caym ! ach day one for e

from itiative e 365’ in iv f the ‘D o e rd h T rts Boa o p s r te the Wa Tourism Islands 2008 Cayman born in s tion wa ia g c o in s s id A prov e aim of urists to r fo with th s ssibilitie o p three le e p th am around ly fe a s ping to dive hile kee lands w Is m n o a fr m Cay tected sites pro site e e iv iv d d e h th ge. Eac a m a d and r g ancho moorin manent a r e n p o a m s ha se the rators u asis. b d e v r dive ope t-se me, firs first-co W I N T E R 2 0 2 0 | D I V E T R AV E L A D V E N T U R E S | 0 6 9

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Hell in Paradise Have you ever been to Hell and sent a postcard? If not, you can do just that in Grand Cayman. In the area of West Bay you can visit an inaccessible black limestone formation - a viewing platform is provided. The story goes that someone exclaimed this was how Hell must look and, on a highly religious island, a post office, service station and gift shop (coloured red and with the painting of the devil on it) are now a visitor’s hotspot, literally!

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dive will be not far off but on the rich plateaus with ridges of coral boulders and sandy patches in between. Keep your eyes alert for the men in grey suits: the biggest chance of reef shark encounters is in this area. Another stunning feature are the many shallower grottoes in the area of Georgetown Harbour. You don’t need to book boat dives, the dive sites are among the best shore dives in the Caribbean. A maze of caverns and swim-throughs with sunlight penetrating through the collapsed ceilings is the favorite playground of seasonal big schools of silversides. Predators like tarpons and jacks lurk in the darker corners to approach and be beaten by the smaller fish when they move in unison avoiding another attack. Devil’s Grotto and Eden Rock

can be easily reached from the shore via Eden Rock Dive Centre. Other dive sites like Soto Reef are better accessible leaving from Lobster Pot. If you have the chance to visit, do it now. Lots of the dive sites in the harbour are threatened by the prospect of the government giving the green light to build a cruise ship dock, despite the opposition by the majority of the voters and the call for a referendum. The presence of the silversides is hard to predict. They used to appear early summer in big numbers. Diving the grottoes, normally filled with intruding subtle sunlight, to be totally surrounded by these small fish, united in sudden movements to avoid the predators blocking the sunlight, feels surreal and is one of the dives of a lifetime!

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GRAND C AY M AN CA R I B B EA N

IMAGE Following its retirement, the Ex-USS Kittiwake was sunk in 2011 and now serves as an artificial reef.

TOP TIP!

WRECKS AND MUDSLIDES In January 2011, the ex-USS Kittiwake, a decommissioned 76.61 meters US Navy Chanticleer-class submarine rescue vessel, was sunk as an artificial reef. A new dive site was born and it has proved to be one of the most successful in the Cayman Islands, located on the leeward side of the island 61 meters north of the wall site Sand Chute. The wreck serves as shelter for many marine species, big and small. From the grouper living in a dark area at the bottom of the hull, to resident Barracudas, cleaner shrimp on emerging corals, a school of Horseeyed jacks, turtles and eagle rays on the sandy bottom, the vessel more than serves its purpose! The Ex-USS Kittiwake was standing firm in the sand, at a maximum depth of 18 meters, straight up, until she started shifting towards Sand Chute (due to some swell caused by Hurricane Rina not hitting the islands but the northwest of the Caribbean later in 2011). In September 2017, the swell from Tropical Storm Nate broke loose one of the anchor chains and the

Big cuts were made in the wreck so newly certified divers can also enjoy this dive site as a guided dive, but still caution is recommended. Dive your limits!

Kittiwake finally tipped over on her portside, again a bit closer to the wall and with only a huge coral boulder in between. Big cuts were made in the wreck so newly certified divers can also enjoy this dive site as a guided dive, but still caution is recommended. Dive your limits! On a sunny day, diving the bow and stern is a beautiful sight, making a long safety stop in the middle of the resident school of jacks! Watching the sunset could be called the national sport of the Cayman community, locals and expats. To come out after a long day of work, with a cooler in hand, barefoot in the sand and stare at the horizon watching the sun set, can be set as an example to stop the time, for a few minutes every day. And enjoy nature and the beauty around you. In the Cayman Islands they would advise you to sip on a mudslide while just doing that, and many local bars compete to serve the best. Our favorite is the one at Rum Point, but Kaibo and Sunset Bar have great ones too!

IMAGES National sport of the local community in the Cayman Islands: watching the sunset! Carpe Diem!

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IN JANUARY 2011, THE EX-USS KITTIWAKE, A DECOMMISSIONED 76.61 METERS US NAVY CHANTICLEER-CLASS SUBMARINE RESCUE VESSEL, WAS SUNK AS AN ARTIFICIAL REEF.

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INTERNATIONAL SCUBA DIVING HALL OF FAME

Founded in 2000 by the Cayman Islands Ministry of Tourism, the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame recognizes those who have contributed to the success and growth of recreational scuba diving in dive travel, entertainment, art, equipment design and development, education, exploration and adventure. Every year, international legends are awarded during a formal ceremony in which the Ministry of Tourism also recognizes local honorees.

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The 2019 recipients were: JONATHAN BIRD

American photographer, cinematographer, director and television host. He created ‘Jonathan Bird’s Blue World’ - an educational and familyfriendly underwater science/adventure series to promote preservation and conservation of the underwater world.

HUSSAIN ‘SENDI’ RASHEED A key figure in developing dive tourism in the Maldives, he was the first

PADI instructor there. ‘Sendi’ certified over 1600 divers and inspired them to protect the oceans.

LEE SELISKY Lee’s widow Lorie accepted the honor for Lee’s continuous contribution to the dive industry. He produced lead diving weights in his garage (Selisky weights) and founded the Sea Pearls Company. He was a former Director and President of DEMA, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society,

and established the Lee Selisky Future Leaders in the Diving Industry Mentorship Program before he passed away in 2018.

DR ADEL MOHAMED TAHER Medical Director of the Hyperbaric Medical Center at Sharm el Sheikh since 1993 and at Dahab since 2006. He’s considered the world expert in Hyperbaric Medicine and has saved many lives and promoted dive safety for people to continue their passion.

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GRAND C AY M AN CA R I B B EA N

SUZY SOTO REPRESENTED THE LATE BOB SOTO AND AWARDED HIS SCHOLARSHIPS TO HELP LOCALS BECOME LEADERS IN THE FUTURE DIVE INDUSTRY. Local recipients of the Awards were Nakai Conni (emerging honoree), Carrie Manfrino (founder CCMI), Croy McCoy and Steve Tippets. The Bob Soto Scholarship, launched by his widow Suzy Soto in 2018, was received by local Shaun Jackson, great-grandson of an iconic seaman and writer of history Will Jackson from East End. The other recipient was scholar Kameron D’Hue, the great grandson of the famous turtler Andrew Powery, who walked and swam miles on a reef to save his crew. The late Bob Soto was keen to help locals learn to become leaders in the dive world. The scholars will be trained to instructor level, carrying the legacy of Bob. The honorees were announced

by former inductee and master of ceremonies Leslie Leaney and they received their awards from Minister of Tourism Moses Kirkconnell. The keynote speech was delivered by Weather Channel meteorologist Jim Cantore. The ceremony took place early October in the refurbished Treasure Island, now Margaritaville Resort, in the company of island officials, the local and international honorees, and a delegation of overseas visitors working in the hospitality sector for a familiarization tour. Despite some weather hiccups, it was a busy week with visits to the sister islands, lots of diving on the four sides of the islands, a beautiful induction ceremony, and some rum tasting to finish the week and to get ready for the flights home!

ISDHoF photos: Cayman Islands Department of Tourism.

IMAGES Above: De Soto Scholarship awardee Kameron D’Hue. Left: Hon. Moses Kirkconnell, Steve Broadbelt, Ocean Frontiers and Director of the Board of ISDHoF, and Miss Cayman Islands Universe Kadejah Bodden.

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C A R I BBE A N G R AND CAYMAN

7 Fathoms Rum

A Caribbean island and Rum are a perfect fit, just like the owners of Cayman Spirits Co. who age their rum on the ocean floor exactly 7 fathoms deep. On a weather day, or on your surface day, you can enjoy a tour and tasting for only USD15! Aye Aye, Captain!

AND FINALLY... HOW TO GET THERE From London Heathrow there are four weekly direct flights with British Airways, making a stop in Nassau. Many US airports offer direct flights into Owen Roberts International Airport.

IMAGES Above: Sunset paddleboard yoga. Right: Triplefin Blenny at East End. A local endangered Blue Iguana at the Botanical Gardens. Coral Nursery at CCMI (Central Caribbean Marine Institute) in Little Cayman.

WHERE TO STAY Dive Resorts like Ocean Frontiers, Sunset House and Divetech offer very interesting packages to stay in a condo, dive and even rent a car. If you would rather rent your own condo or stay in a hotel, there is plenty of choice but at an above average rate. Cost of food and drinks is high in the Cayman Islands too, but the all year round warm water and great visibility makes up for that!

MORE INFORMATION The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism offers all the information you need to plan a holiday there: www.visitcaymanislands.com Visit the online guide to diving the Cayman Islands at: www.dive365cayman.com

WATER TEMPERATURE Winters can be Caribbean chilly with an average water temperature of 25˚C, while in September the temperatures can rise above 29˚C. Year-round the topside temperature varies between 28˚C and 32˚C with a few winter depressions around 20˚C.

Ellen Cuylaerts was inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame in 2019 and is an award-winning photographer and a Fellow Explorer International of the Explorers Club. She is passionate about conservation and has lived in Grand Cayman for many years. www.ellencuylaerts.com

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09/02/2020 13:24


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09/02/2020 13:59


U K D I V I NG SWANAG E

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SWANAGE UK D I VI NG

Spectacular

Swanage Mention Swanage to many a salty diver and their eyes will light up. Dr Alex Tattersall shares the excitement for this magical and muchloved part of the UK diving scene. WORDS & IMAGES: DR ALEX TATTERSALL

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ESTLED IN THE heart of West Dorset’s Isle of Purbeck, at the gateway to the World Heritage site of the Jurassic Coast, Swanage boasts many of the quintessential features of an old-fashioned British seaside town whilst being situated in a most picturesque sandy bay. There are numerous shore diving sites along the coastline between Poole Harbour and Weymouth, among the most celebrated being Studland Bay, Kimmeridge Bay, Chesil Cove and probably the most frequented of all, Swanage Pier. For those wishing to venture a little further out of Swanage, Divers Down dive centre on Swanage Pier offer boat trips out to an array of fascinating wrecks and beautiful reefs

located in the surrounding area. Let’s come back to some of these shortly after spending a little time focusing on one of the best shore dives the UK has to offer. Swanage Pier is a wooden, Victorian pier that extends some 200m out from the shoreline. Since Swanage Bay is open to the east, conditions under the pier and in the bay generally can deteriorate rapidly when there is an easterly wind. This stirs up the silty bottom reducing visibility and introducing surge water movement into the diving equation. Aside from this however, the pier can be dived throughout the tidal cycle and is considered an easily accessible, shallow (up to 5 metres at high tide) site, particularly if you are able to park your vehicle on the

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pier itself. Be aware that summer weekends see the parking on the pier filling quickly as enthusiastic divers descend from dawn to claim the prime spots. Midweek poses much less of a problem, as does winter weekend diving. Do watch out all year round for fishing lines however; the pier is a popular site for the line fishing community. Equally, if you intend to wander outside of the protective area of the pier, be aware of boat traffic, the recommendation being to deploy an SMB in this case. Besides the accessibility and ease of diving of Swanage Pier, the fascination with this site is that no two dives will be the same, especially with an underwater camera to hand.

IMAGES Top: Swanage Pier in all its glory. Thanks to Saeed Rashid for the photo. Right: Cheeky little Tompot Blennies (Parablennius gattorugine) characterise Swanage Pier dives in the summer months. Far right: Gem Anemones (Aulactinia verrucosa) can be found attached to the rocky benthos in Kimmeridge Bay.

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09/02/2020 13:27


SWANAGE UK D I VI NG

SWANAGE PIER RENOVATIONS Swanage Pier has recently undergone a programme of renovations to repair a number of its timber piles. More information can be found at the Swanage Pier Trust website along with up to date parking and diving prices, tide times and other useful information about the pier and local area. You can also donate to help towards the vital upkeep of the pier. www.swanagepiertrust.com

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SWANAGE UK D I VI NG

The benthos is generally sandy silt with fine seaweed and kelp coverings on the encrusted wooden pier legs. Eel grass patches can be explored around the sun exposed sides of the pier and are home to much of the well-known marine life known to frequent this area. Scattered along the seabed is evidence of construction materials from various pier restoration efforts, large timber piles and rows of rusting metal pipework, all playing host to a dizzying concentration of marine flora and fauna species. Arguably the most charismatic of marine life encounters and an underwater photographer’s favourite encountered year round but most interactive during the warmer summer months - is the googlyeyed, ‘Homer Simpsonesque’ Tompot Blenny. These adorable fish hide among the many nooks

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IMAGES Above: Many of the numerous species of Stalked Jellyfish can be found in the Swanage area. Left: Sightings of the beautiful Thorny Seahorse (Hippocampus histrix) are rare but one of life's wonderful moments.

and crannies, courting, mating, laying eggs inside the pipework, feeding off the many crustaceans to be found, battling for territory and mating rights, and generally doing what Tompot Blennies do. Exploring the pier further, an observant diver will see resident Black-faced Blennies (often in couples throughout the summer), weird and wonderful Stalked Jellyfish (in the eel grass), spider crabs, Edible Crabs and lobsters,

colourful Corkwing and Ballan Wrasse, Common Prawns and the exotic blue Periclimenes sagittifer - Snakelocks Anemone Shrimp - (from August until October) alongside more transient of species such as lumpsucker (April/May), John Dory (September/October), Compass and Barrel Jellyfish, Seabass, Pollack, nudibranchs and even the occasional dolphin! There are several shore diving highlights besides Swanage Pier on the Isle of Purbeck. I’d put Kimmeridge Bay at the top of my list. This is another easy entry into a very shallow dive site (SMB a must at all times here) and the observant diver may encounter many of the species in Swanage with a larger concentration of anemones (Gem, Beadlet, Strawberry and Snakelocks) attached to a contrasting rocky substrate. Shore explorers can also

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U K D I V I NG SWANAG E

TRAVEL LOG:

Swanage Travel Getting to Swanage for the weekend can be a convoluted affair, especially in the summer months with the extra holiday traffic. Staying for longer than a weekend is more than worth it.

Top Tip #1 Join the Facebook group ‘South Coast Divers’ to get regular updates.

Water Temperature Lows of 5-6˚C in the winter months, warming up to a peak 17-19˚C in summer. The warmer water seems to bring in more animals.

Top Tip #2 Divers Down close their doors from the end of October until April. In

the winter, nearest air fills would be with Leon at Coast to Coast in Bournemouth (01202 911411) or Poole Diving (01202 666118).

Favourite non-diving activity The Swanage area has some very quaint pubs with some excellent home cooking. There are all the amusements of a British seaside tourist town to keep you and the family entertained.

Final Word Take some time to visit the ruins of nearby Corfe Castle, Durleston Country Park, and to talk to Divers Down Pete about his incredible collection of ocean treasure displayed in the dive shop.

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IMAGES Top: Polycera quadrilineata nudibranchs are among the many beautiful mollusc species in the region. Above left: Jellyfish species are ubiquitous in UK waters and are the ultimate subject for underwater photographers. Above right: Tiny Horseshoe Worms (phoronida) form fluffy white colonies that resemble clumps of cotton wool.

find their pleasure in Studland Bay, and by heading towards Portland at Burton Bradstock (the site of large spider crab aggregations in July) and Newton’s Cove (an excellent site for night dives). If an easterly wind blows in, shore divers will tend to head west to Chesil Cove in Portland, which will usually be flat calm when the conditions at Swanage Pier are less than favourable. Chesil Cove poses a more challenging entry and exit and can be quite unforgiving if a westerly swell picks up during a dive, so please do your homework around this site. The Swanage escapades only start though with the top quality shore diving. The legendary Pat and Pete at Divers Down dive centre (make sure to partake in the pies!) can whisk you off to deeper, rustier, ‘currentier’ offshore adventures with little

more than a swipe of a credit card (and a signature on an obligatory waiver). Their rugged catamaran, Spike, can ferry you and your buddies out to one of the multitude of varied historical wreck sites (the Kyarra being the most well-known), to one of the scenic drift sites (Peveril Ledges) or even out to the scallop beds in Lulworth. The dive centre is found on the pier, where you can book your trips out, buy or rent quality scuba gear (and eat pies), or have your tanks filled before, between or after dives. Make sure to look at their website for a schedule of planned dive trips, or feel free to suggest your own preferred itinerary and see what they can do for you. n

MORE INFORMATION www.diversdownswanage.co.uk www.coast2coastscuba.uk

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09/02/2020 13:28


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09/02/2020 14:00


K I N GDO M OF TO N GA VAVA’ U

IMAGES Ten male Humpbacks compete for a female during a heat run.

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VAVA’ U KINGDOM O F TO NGA

The Kingdom of Jay Clue heads to this Polynesian paradise to see if the Kingdom of Tonga really is the world’s best destination to swim with Humpback Whales. WORDS & IMAGES: JAY CLUE

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K I NGDO M OF TO N GA VAVA’ U

IMAGES Right: Aerial view of one of the many pristine lagoons and islands in Vava’u. Below left: Watching an energetic whale breaching from the top deck. Below right: A curious Humpback calf swims up to us for a closer look.

JAY CLUE IS THE FOUNDER OF DIVE NINJA EXPEDITIONS - an ecotourism business that aims to further marine conservation and research through tourism. Jay and the Dive Ninjas run specialized expeditions in Baja to see Mobulas, Marlin, Whales, Mako Sharks and more, as well as dive trips and expeditions around the world to experience the ocean’s most coveted encounters. Jay is a Nakawe Project Closed Hook Ambassador, Sea Shepherd Coordinator, Mares Mexicanos Associate Photographer and was recently chosen to be an Ocean Culture Life Ocean Guardian & Storyteller.

s I power through the water I can see our guide (also called Jay) just ahead motioning to stop. At this point in the week, I have become quite accustomed to the quick successions of jump in, swim your heart out, then back to the boat to get ready to jump again. But this time is different. What started as a high velocity swim through deep blue water has abruptly come to a halt. My first thought is, ‘ah, we missed them’. But as I approach, the reason for our quick stop begins to slowly come into view. About 10 meters below us lie two massive black shadows that each could easily dwarf a city bus. They lie there peaceful, motionless and nose to nose, creating a mammoth V-shaped shadow that reaches towards the surface. All I can think is, ‘Wo…’ but before I can finish, something catches my attention moving beneath the shadows. A small light grey flash appears, then quickly vanishes below… then slowly reappears on the other side. It is like we are playing a game of underwater peek-a-boo. The next few seconds unroll in such a cinematically beautiful slow-motion sequence it is as if the great Attenborough himself has narrated this moment into existence. Here we are, floating some 20 miles offshore of a group of tiny tropical islands dotting the Pacific Ocean, and just below me is a Humpback Whale calf that can’t be more than a couple of weeks old, slowly ascending directly towards me. The tip of her head is pointed straight at my camera dome. I do the unthinkable for any photographer and slowly lower my camera in the hope of not scaring her off. She reaches the surface just next to me, exhales a thunderous breath, then rolls to one side as if cautiously trying to get a better look to understand what I am. I’m

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dumbfounded and simply in awe. For a brief moment she stops. I can see her eye scanning me before hinting a smile that I will never forget. Then, she begins to playfully barrel roll in the waves around us before diving back down to cuddle under mom’s chin. For the next 20 minutes, our curious new friend would alternate between nuzzling her sleeping mom and playfully investigating her strange new friends at the surface. It was an encounter unlike anything else I have ever experienced. The type of dream meeting that us divers spend our entire life hoping for; one that would keep me reeling for weeks. But what if I were to tell you that this wasn’t as rare as it might sound? That you too could experience it...

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VAVA’U KINGDOM O F TO NGA

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K I NGDO M OF TO N GA VAVA’ U

IMAGES A guest blows bubble rings in the endless blue waters offshore after an incredible encounter with a mother and calf.

Welcome to the Kingdom of Giants—Vava’u, Tonga. Encounters like this are the reason why, every autumn, so many adventurous souls will travel halfway around the globe to this little piece of Polynesian heaven. Over the course of the next few days I would find myself pondering the thoughts of my curious new friend as she begins to explore the vast ocean around her. I wondered what could have been going through her mind as she interacted with us. Everything is curious and brand new. At only a couple of weeks old she is already larger than most other animals she will ever encounter and soon she will grow into one of the largest animals on the planet. She has yet to experience the treasure trove of extraordinary lifeforms that call the mighty Pacific home or the reality of

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the dangers humans pose to her world. She has so much to learn. In just a few short months she will begin her first long migration, more than 3700 miles (6000 km) south to the Humpback Whale’s Antarctic feeding grounds. The same journey her mom began only a few short months prior in order to make sure she would be born in safer waters, and now to pass on the route to her daughter. It’s an immense journey and one of the longest in the animal kingdom. To think that a pregnant mother makes this journey without feeding is testament to the lengths a species will go to ensure the survival of their kind. One cannot help to envision some beautiful anthropomorphic connection between mother and child. I could not stop myself from trying to wrap my head

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09/02/2020 13:36


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09/02/2020 14:00


K I N GDO M OF TO N GA VAVA’ U

THESE ARE JAW-DROPPING, FLEETING MOMENTS SPENT WITH 15 METER LONG, 30,000KG TITANS OF THE SEA.

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VAVA’ U KINGDOM O F TO NGA

IMAGES A young calf nestles under mom as their escort keeps watch.

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K I NGDO M OF TO N GA VAVA’ U

SWALLOWS CAVE IS A GORGEOUS SPOT TO FREEDIVE AND SHOOT PHOTOS. THE WARM LIGHT BREAKING THROUGH THE GIANT ENTRANCEWAY AND ILLUMINATING THE WATER IS INCREDIBLE.

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VAVA’U KINGDOM O F TO NGA

SEEING A MASSIVE HUMPBACK WHALE GLIDE BY UNDERWATER IS LIFE CHANGING EVEN WHEN IT ONLY LASTS FOR A MOMENT. around their remarkable voyage as, paradoxically, I made my way back home to Mexico across the Pacific Ocean in the comfort of an Airbus A330. I had arrived in Vava’u only a few days earlier to meet up with my good friend Nadia Aly, founder of Humpback Swims and SDL Expeditions. Nadia is an incredible photographer who spends most of the year traveling across the globe leading all manner of awesome trips and expeditions to see some of the most sought after wildlife encounters on earth. But for a few months every year, she calls Tonga home. Nadia has been working with the whales here for quite a few years now and runs a solid operation that makes visiting Vava’u effortless. Her team picked me up at the airport when I arrived and took us to our base camp for the week Flying Annie Moa, a comfortable

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bed & breakfast located a short walk from the boat. On the way into town, the driver offered to make a quick pit stop so that we could grab cash and local SIM cards because it was a Saturday afternoon and the shops would be closing soon. He reminded us that in Tonga nothing opens on Sunday. It’s basically illegal to work, so the next day would be spent relaxing with not much else to do (aka anxiously waiting to get in the water). Finally, Monday arrived and we were soon heading out on the water just after dawn. The days in Vava’u are pretty full on. Expect to spend 7+ hours on the boat searching for whales every day (except Sundays). You can anticipate a lot of searching and rapid jumping into the water for a quick fly-by. But these aren’t your normal fly-bys. These are jaw-dropping, fleeting moments spent with 15 meter long, 30,000kg Titans of the sea. Yet somehow it becomes almost ‘normal’. We found ourselves laughing at how we almost needed to remind each other just how insane it was that we were diving with whales. Seeing a massive Humpback Whale glide by underwater is life changing - even when it only lasts for a fleeting moment in time. It’s always a numbers game when you’re chasing big pelagics in the open ocean. Every jump

IMAGES Top left: After a long day with the whales, we hit the beach for a little R&R in Vava’u’s crystal blue waters. Middle: Freediving at Mariners Cave. Above: A young Humpback cruises by. Left: The warm light rays dance into Swallows Cave creating a beautiful ambiance.

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K I NGDO M OF TO N GA VAVA’ U

puts you a little closer to that mind-blowing encounter you are searching for. In Tonga they consider a high quality jump one where you spend more than 10 minutes in close proximity to a set of whales. When I first heard this it sounded like searching for the holy grail, but I would soon be pleasantly surprised. Our first two days started off with a lot of quick successions of jumps. But then about halfway into day two, our Captain –

Maarta – received a call over the radio that a ‘heat run’ was taking place nearby. A heat run is whale slang for something very special. It is when a group of males begin to follow a female while competing for her approval to mate. Picture for a second looking under the surface and seeing not one, not two, or even five… but ten male Humpbacks swimming alongside you. Now take that mental picture and imagine doing it over and over for

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IMAGES Above: A young whale calf comes up for a breath while her mother and escort sleep. Below: Snorkeling off an untouched beach on one of Vava’u’s many uninhabited islands.

30 minutes. It’s an experience I will never forget. There’s also incredible topside action while you’re out searching for the next jump. We were treated daily to an orchestra of thunderous breaches, tail lobs, pec slapping, and even a few males pushing each other around competing for what we can only imagine was a female. Humpbacks will use the hard bony ridge and barnacles on their head to inflict damage against their opponents. It’s something I’ve explained to guests back home in Cabo every winter for the last few years, but I had never witnessed it firsthand until one afternoon in Vava’u. After being offshore all day, we made our way back each day into the islands for some delicious and well deserved lunch. Depending on timing, as whales of course take priority, we also made time to visit one or two of Vava’u’s incredible natural wonders. Throughout the week Maarta and Jay took us to see untouched beaches, sea caves and tiny, lush uninhabited islands. It was always the perfect ending to the day. Taking in the views on the boat alone is worth the flight halfway around the world.

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09/02/2020 13:38


VAVA’ U KINGDOM O F TO NGA

IMAGES Above: One of the tiny, lush islands we stopped at to have lunch. Left: In search of whales...

One of my favorites of the week was our stop at Swallows Cave, a cathedral-size sea cave with big schools of jacks circling in the crystal blue water below. This is a gorgeous spot to freedive and shoot photos. The warm light breaking through the giant entranceway and illuminating the water is incredible. Once back in town you’ll quickly understand why Captain Cook nicknamed Tonga ‘the Friendly Islands’ over 200 years ago. The warm hospitality and outgoing friendliness of Tongans is a trait that still lives on today and it is a defining characteristic of the charm of this island nation. There may be many places to see Humpback Whales around the world, even in my own

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backyard in Mexico. But what makes Vava’u and the Kingdom of Tonga special is that it is one of only a couple of places in the world where you can actually swim with these majestic giants. Yet this is only the beginning. Tonga’s crystal clear, warm blue waters, tied with local preservation efforts, beautiful landscapes and friendly locals, form a unique experience not found anywhere else on earth. It is an exceptional combination which creates a destination that will keep you yearning to return to the Kingdom of Giants year after year. ■ MORE INFORMATION www.humpbackswims.com www.tongaholiday.com Dive Ninja Expeditions has just released a new series of special Humpback Whale expeditions in Vava’u, Tonga for 2020. Their new project gets guests involved in whale identification research while learning about the unique Tongan whale population and whale conservation. For more info visit:

TRAVEL LOG:

Vava’u, Kingdom of Tonga Flights

Water temperature

The easiest route is to fly via Nadi, Fiji in to Vava’u. There are direct flights from LAX and SFO in the US. From Europe, most flights go via New Zealand.

26°C in September.

Top Tip! Go for an ‘8 water days’ package instead of 5. Trust me, you won’t regret it! Almost everyone I spoke to wished they had more time - myself included.

Transfers Humpback Swims / SDL Expeditions include transfers in their packages but taxis are cheap and friendly!

Currency Tongan Pa’anga (Tongan Dollars) T$.

Favourite non-whale activity Visiting Swallows Cave.

Favourite place to eat Belle Vista in the harbor of Neiafu for dinner; Tropicana for delicious cookies and snacks.

Final word Swimming with Humpback Whales… do I really need to say more?!

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P H I L I P P I N E S MOALBOAL

PLENTY MORE FISH IN THE SEA On a multi-destination trip to the Philippines, Nick and Caroline spend a few days exploring the popular dive resort of Moalboal.

WORDS & IMAGES: NICK AND CAROLINE ROBERTSON-BROWN

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M OALB OAL PH I L I PPI NES

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P H I L I P P I N E S MOALBOAL

oalboal, on the island of Cebu in the Philippines, is famed for its shoal of sardines that can be found right off the beach all year round. There are an estimated one million fish in this shoal that can attract top predators as well as plenty of diving and snorkelling visitors. But this unique region has plenty more diving to

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offer including the island of Pescador, mating Mandarin Fish, healthy corals and macro aplenty, as well as the chance to visit nearby Oslob to dive and snorkel with the biggest fish in the sea - the Whale Shark. With only four days of diving in our itinerary we planned to pack it all in and dive as much as possible. With that in mind, after our two-hour transfer from Cebu airport through lush forest

and on breathtaking coastal roads, we ditched our gear in our poolside room and headed straight to the dive centre. We were lucky to have an amazing house reef to explore at Magic Island Dive Resort, so we walked right in and were soon watching turtles rest on the reef top, while our eagle-eyed guide found all manner of macro critters to show us. It was a great shake-down dive and a wonderful reef to have on our

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M OALB OAL PH I L I PPI NES

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P H I L I P P I N E S MOALBOAL

doorstep. We had another dive planned on this reef as the sun was about to set and we were so excited. It was a full moon and the dive staff had told us we had timed our visit perfectly to get the very best show of mating Mandarin Fish. So, although a little tired from our journey, we were back in the water as dusk fell, hovering by, somewhat unusually, a healthy portion of reef, widening our eyes to adjust them to the low light levels. Soon we started to get glimpses of the fish we were looking for. The Mandarin Fish is possibly the most beautiful fish in the sea. It is diminutive, only a few centimetres in length, but nonetheless is renowned for

WE HAD TIMED OUR VISIT PERFECTLY TO GET THE VERY BEST SHOW OF MATING MANDARIN FISH.

IMAGES Above: The female Mandarin Fish releases her eggs in the peak of the mating ritual.

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putting on an impressive show. This was not the first time we had tried to photograph the mating ritual of these fish but this event was by far the best we had seen, with several pairs rising up above the coral to mate. It was an incredible start to our trip and we were buzzing when we returned to dry land for dinner and told the other divers about our experience. Our second day saw us head to the famous sardine shoal. We had done our homework and knew what to expect;

nevertheless, our first glimpse of this spectacle was still one of awe. The fish swirl and swoosh in unison in an endless movement that creates a glinting curtain just off the reef wall. As divers and marine life swim amongst them, the fish change their movements accordingly, creating little windows where you can see out to the sea beyond. One thing they do not tell you about this experience is that, if you are down current from the shoal, you will also

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P H I L I P P I N E S MOALBOAL IMAGE: A huge Whale Shark swims below us.

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M OALB OAL PH I L I PPI NES

WITH CLEARER WATER THAN ANYWHERE ELSE WE HAVE SEEN WHALE SHARKS, OSLOB IS AN INCREDIBLE PLACE TO ENCOUNTER THEM IN ALL THEIR GLORY.

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M OALB OAL PH I L I PPI NES

IMAGES Left top: The huge mouth of a Whale Shark as it swims towards us on a dive at Oslob. Bottom left: A diver marvels at the colours of the corals on a Pescador Island wall. Bottom right: The walls of Pescador Island have an abundance of corals and sponges, and if you look closely, a frogfish. Below: Vibrant colours on the reef top.

see how much poo a million fish can make! It’s a good idea to keep an eye out into the blue beyond the shoal, as those with luck on their side might catch a glimpse of one of the hungry Thresher Sharks that are known to hunt here. Alas, we did not see any sharks, but the shoal on its own is an incredible dive and worth spending time exploring from all angles. One of the finest diving areas this region has to offer is Pescador Island. The walls here are stunning, covered in bright soft corals, and we hoped to spot the famed giant nudibranchs that, although large, are well camouflaged and difficult to find. Unfortunately, currents meant that we did not

ONE OF THE FINEST DIVING AREAS THIS REGION HAS TO OFFER IS PESCADOR ISLAND.

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make it to the part of the island that has a cave entrance that looks like a skull but the marine life more than made up for this. We were delighted to find a large purple frogfish balanced on an identically coloured sponge as we cruised past, drifting along the wall. One of the most contentious attractions in the Philippines is quite close to Moalboal - the Whale Shark tours in Oslob. It takes about two hours to get there and we were diving with an accredited dive centre, which meant that we would be able to try both diving and snorkelling with the sharks. We set up at a dedicated picnic area and were the only divers there. We could see the boats out on the water that take the snorkellers out to see the sharks and our guide told us that the number of boats is a good indicator for the number of sharks in the bay. On that morning there were about 12 boats, which should equate to

about 12 sharks for us to see. A short walk down the beach followed by a short dive and we were in the Whale Shark zone. We slowed down and simply waited and soon we were rewarded with a couple of curious Whale Sharks swimming past us. They would return regularly to the surface to the boats, but diving is a great way to see them from below and gives you a different perspective to the one that was coming next. A picnic lunch was waiting for us back on the beach before our allocated slot on the snorkelling boats. In the past Oslob has had mixed reviews and we were not sure what to expect. Recent research has indicated that the majority of the sharks that visit the bay use this as a stop off on their journeys and are not unduly affected by visitors. The local people benefit hugely from the tourists that flock here, with a new school, hospital and more robust homes, and many of

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P H I L I P P I N E S MOALBOAL

the fishermen, who in the past may have killed sharks for food, now earn a much better living showing them to tourists from all over the world. A marine charity monitors all the shark encounters, so valuable data is also gathered here. Our experience was not what we were expecting. No engines are allowed here and our group got into a tiny boat, paddled out to our spot. The first thing we noticed is that many of the tourists here to see the Whale Sharks did not get out of the boats and those that did were given strict instructions not to approach the sharks. We saw one person break this rule, trying to touch a shark, and they were quickly ejected from

IMAGES Right: A jellyfish drifts by on the blackwater dive. Below: A Whale Shark gulps in water to filter out the tiny food particles.

the water and stopped from going in again. Other strictly enforced rules are no flash photography, no sun cream, no touching, no obstructing, no chasing‌ and we were also told to stay close to our boat and listen to any instructions from our guide. We just floated on the surface and let these gentle giants come to us. They are fed small handfuls of fish to attract them to the area. This used to be a practice the fishermen undertook to keep them away from their precious fishing nets and consequently the sharks have learned to come here to be fed. At midday, all the boats are returned to shore so that the sharks must fend for themselves. With clearer water than anywhere else we have seen Whale Sharks, Oslob is an incredible place to encounter them in all their glory. Our day was not yet finished. We had agreed to test out the first blackwater night dive offered by the resort. We loaded our gear onto a traditional Filipino boat and as the sun set, casting reds and purples over the flat calm sea, we headed out to deep water. The crew attached a bright light on a line that hung down from a float. We hoped to attract all sorts of unusual critters to photograph. Usually you have a reef or

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P H I L I P P I N E S MOALBOAL

TRAVEL LOG:

Moalboal, Philippines Flights

Currency

We flew Philippine Airlines from London to Manila and then on to Cebu.

Philippines Peso.

Top Tip!

Snorkelling with the sardine shoal.

There is so much great diving in the Philippines that we recommend you do a multi-destination dive trip and visit two or more dive spots.

Transfers Magic Island Dive Centre provided car transfers from airport to resort.

Water temperature This can vary from 26–30°C. When we visited in May, we had the warmer of this range.

Favourite non-diving activity

Favourite place to eat We stayed in resort the whole time and ate familystyle with all the other divers. The food was great and it was fun to swap stories at the end of a great diving day.

Final Word Moalboal has lots more to offer than just the sardines, so make sure to allow enough time to explore all the other dive sites.

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IMAGES Top: Sunset before the night dive. Left: A squid hovers above us as we dive the Moalboal coastline. Above: Setting up the equipment at the dive shop.

wreck to navigate when you drop into the water for a night dive but this experience was quite different. Deep, ink black water below and all around you. We hovered near the lights and waited. A few odd critters and fish came past, but I think we had not tuned in our eyes to the truly tiny stuff we needed to look out for. We were also able to squeeze in a couple of dives on the local reefs, which offer divers a huge array of macro critters to marvel at. But all too soon it was time to move on to our next destination. The Philippines is a perfect place to consider a multi-

location dive trip, with so many different and iconic diving destinations all within an easy transfer by road, sea or plane. Moalboal is unique in that it can offer so many different types of diving, with the coral reef wall and caverns of Pescador Island, the incredible sardine shoal, gorgeous macro critters, and the magnificent Whale Sharks all in one place. We can’t wait to return. ■ MORE INFORMATION Nick and Caroline stayed at Magic Island Dive Resort : www.magicisland.online www.itsmorefuninthephilippines.co.uk

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Located in Moalboal in Cebu, Magic Island has 10 detached cottages and an incredible house reef... This is the perfect spot for your dive vacation!

“This was probably my best dive vacation! The resort is wonderful, and the staff friendly. The dive guides and boat crew are professional and find marine life that is hard to see. I would definitely return!” SCOTT SCUBA DIVE CENTER

Telephone: +63 939 558 1905 Alt telephone: +63 928 740 4369 Email: info@magicresorts.online www.magicisland.online

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