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Diver Canada - April 2018

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The longest-established scuba diving magazine in North America
Volume 43 Number 4
AlligAtor encounter
eAr sAfety
Dslr PAPerweight
telling stories
big picture
tech Diving
Dive meDicine
CoCos island
PaPua neW Guinea
RentinG GeaR
RomantiC ResoRts
tRavellinG With kids
beatinG seasiCkness
Aggressor Fleet
38 Exotic Itineraries
Pristine Reefs
23 Yachts Worldwide
What’s so Special About
Aggressor Fleet Adventures?
Magical Macro
First-class Accommodations
Schooling Fish
Personal Service
Since 1984, making every dive, every meal and
every moment special is the mission of
Aggressor Fleet staff. Come aboard one of our
worldwide yachts. We have a liveaboard vacation
suited to your travel budget and lust for adventure!
· Bahamas · Banda Sea · Belize · Caño Island · Cayman Islands · Cocos Island ·
· Cuba
· Derawan Islands · Dominican Republic · Egypt · Fiji · Forgotten Islands · Galapagos ·
· Guanacaste & The Bat Islands · Hawaii · Komodo · Maldives · Oman · Palau · Raja Ampat ·
· Red Sea · Roatan · Sri Lanka · Thailand · Tiger Beach · Turks & Caicos ·
Group Travel
Diving a nd Tr avel A dventures
AquaLung® Gear
Demo Weeks
Historical Wrecks
Professional Staff
Clubs with Incentives
Jim Church School of
UW Photography Workshops
Big Animals
Scrumptious Cuisine
New Dive With the Owners Weeks
New Celebrity Cruises and Photo Workshops
Money-saving Specials online at
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Welcome to
tHe FUtURe oF
• The worlds most popular smartphone
cameras just got better!
• The iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and the
iPhone X are the first smartphones to
shoot ultra-high resolution 4K video at
60 frames per second
• These remarkable smartphone cameras
have outstanding noise reduction,
color fidelity and new levels of
sharpness and detail
• Exceptional exposure control
coupled with extended dynamic
range provide outstanding
image above and below water
• Designed by photographers
for photographers ValsTech
V-Series aluminum housings
put the camera controls where
they matter most
• Fully operational to 100 meters,
ValsTech V-Series aluminum
housings are the safest and most
reliable for iPhones in the industry
Purpose-built in partnership with a team of cave divers, the X-Mission is designed
using our most advanced technical materials and construction methods, in order
to meet their demanding requirements and needs. The result is the perfect drysuit
for the technical diver, or for the recreational diver who wants the best.
Volume 43 Number 4
Cover: Walt Stearns /
32 pages of global
travel start on page
DIVER Brief: starts p9
Soundings .................................... p9
If what’s not on the chart doesn’t kill you,
it’ll make for a good story later
Big Picture .................................. p10
It’s a kaleidoscope of life and colour on the
reefs at South Africa’s Port Elizabeth
DIVER Brief ................................ p12
A new backer for RAID, a NYC humpback
database grant, and a message in a bottle
Interview ..................................... p14
We turn the lens around on underwater
housing maven Val Ranetkins
Contributors this issue:
Tobias Friedrich
Passionate photographer
Brandon Cole
California dreamer
Features: start p16
Loving the Life in PNG p16
As good as the Coral Triangle gets?
Mission Colourful p22
Seeing action at San Clemente
Top Travel Tips p26
For jetsetters, lovers, and the queezy
Wakatobi Resort p28
Simply out of this world
Cocos Island p34
Untouched beauty offshore Costa Rica
Taking the Kids With p42
Planning a family dive holiday
Diving with Alligators p44
Where do we go to do that?!
Scott & Lauren Johnson
Adreneline junkies
Margo Pyeton
Wizard with kids
Photos: Tobias Friedrich, Scott Johnson, Wakatobi
DIVER Down: starts p49
Being Digital ......................................p52
The tale of a beautiful paperweight
Final Cut ............................................p54
“Let me tell you a story...”
Safety .................................................p56
Give your ears a break
Tech Diving ........................................p58
When lack of definition is a good thing
Dive Medicine ...................................p60
Times you’d best let your gear dry out
Directory ............................................p62
Diving-related travel & goodies
Eau Canada ......................................p66
Forest of bryozoan awesomeness
Jill Heinerth
Storyteller extaordinaire
Steve Lewis
Demystifying tech
Pelagian, Wakatobi’s
luxury dive yacht
Discover the best of Wakatobi with a
combination resort stay and liveaboard
cruise. Carrying just ten guests, the luxury
dive yacht Pelagian ventures farther
afield in the Wakatobi archipelago and
Buton Island, visiting sites from openwater seamounts and dramatic coral reef
formations to muck environments where
cryptic creatures lurk.
“An exceptional package on Pelagian
with fantastic and varied diving and
snorkelling. Our guide, Yono, and
every crew member on this yacht
were outstanding. The quality of
the boat, the surroundings, the
diving and the service is second to
none. We’ll be back!”
~ Angus, Tania, Jesse & Holly McNaughton
Spacious en-suite staterooms create
ample private space; a dedicated chef
provides fine dining; and a one-to-one
staff-to-guest ratio ensures the utmost in
attentive personal service.
A subsidiary of
Nuytco Research Ltd
Publisher / Senior Editor PHIL NUYTTEN
Publication Manager / Subscriptions BILL LIDDELL
Phone: 1-877-974-4333 /
Accounting MARA SCALI
Contributing Editors
Advisory Board
Founder / Consulting Editor
DIVER magazine offices
216 East Esplanade, North Vancouver, BC, V7L 1A3
Phone: 604-988-0711
fax: 604-988-0747
Toll free: 1-877-974-4333
Views and opinions expressed in DIVER are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publisher. DIVER Magazine reserves the right to refuse
publication of any material for any reason. DIVER Magazine (ISSN 0706-5132)
is published eight times a year by Seagraphic Publications Ltd. Canadian mailing address: P.O Box 38529, North Vancouver, BC Canada V7M 3N1.
Subscription rates:
DIVER Magazine publishes eight issues per year.
Subscribe at:
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Printed in Canada by Mitchell Press, British Columbia.
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not send articles or images through regular post.
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Return covers only to DIVER Magazine, PO Box 38529, North Vancouver, BC V7M 3N1
Subscribe online:
Phil Nuytten
Publisher and Senior Editor
Photo: Nuytco Research Ltd
ow, The feature on San
Clemente Island, page
22 sure brought back
some memories.
On the bright
sunny morning of
November 21st, 1985, I was onboard
the vessel Egabrag – a converted selfpropelled scow whose previous everyday
cargo had been, well…read the name
backwards. Today, its cargo was a brand
new submersible called ‘Deep Rover’ – an
acrylic “bubble sub” rated for 3,000 feet
(915m) and I was about to make the first
full rated-depth dive in it. ‘Rover’ was
one of the first spherical all acrylic-hulled
subs, which are fairly common today.
The hull had been made for my company
Can-Dive Oceaneering by a Californiabased sculptor named Bruce Beasley.
He had perfected a method to cast
huge monolithic artistic sculptures out
of transparent acrylic, even though the
experts had said it “couldn’t be done’”.
With me that morning off San Clemente
Island was Graham Hawkes, the British
engineer that I had hired to do all the hull
stress calculations and to design various
portions of the frame structure. Also there,
with Graham and I, was Dr. Sylvia Earle,
a well-known and highly respected ocean
scientist and conservationist. All of us were
there to dive the new submersible and I
was scheduled to go first.
I had studied the San Clemente
hydrographic chart in the wheelhouse
of the Egabrag, looking for the depth we
needed – and I noted that there was a
clearly-marked munitions and explosives
dumping ground offshore the island. I
pointed at that circle on the chart and the
skipper of the Egabrag said, “Relax, that’s
on the opposite side of the island from us.”
In pretty short order I was floating
on the surface next to the scow while a
wet-suited swimmer unhooked me from
the crane line. I opened the ballast vent
valve and began to sink beneath the
gentle surge and chop. My first thought
was, “Holy Cow, there’s a lot of ocean out
there!” I had been used to peering out of
the small circular viewports in the ‘Pisces’
class submersibles and our own ‘Sea
Otter’ sub. In ‘Deep Rover’ with its fully
transparent hull, I could see everywhere at
once. Down I went with eyes glued to the
cabin depth gauge. Passing a thousand
feet (305m) it was getting darker, so I
turned on the underwater lights. Passing
two thousand feet (610m), there was an
absolutely incredible amount of life in the
water column, with bioluminescent critters
everywhere, it was like falling through a
70’s psychedelic light show.
I was busy checking out all the cabin
instruments, life support gauges, and
talking to the surface via the acoustic
communication system when I suddenly
landed on a mud bottom with a soft
“sploosh”. And there, as far as the lights
would allow me to see, were munitions!
Big shells, little shells, cylindrical items
with fins, and metal boxes containing
who knows what…. Man, this really was
a sphincter factor of ten! Apparently the
location of the munitions dumping ground
was not as precise as the hydrographic
chart would have had us believe.
I had landed on a steeply sloping
bottom, and just off to my right, almost at
Deep Rover surfacing
the end of the light coverage, I saw a rock
outcropping poking up through the soft
bottom amidst the munitions. I engaged
the vertical thrusters, then the horizontals,
and managed to fly over and land right on
the rock outcrop.
I was just in the process of mentally
patting myself on the back for a perfect
landing in spite of my unfamiliarity of the
new sub controls when ‘Rover’ slid slightly
forward on its perch and then proceeded
to fall face-first off the rock and into the
mud and the thick pile of munitions. I said,
“Ohh, fuuudge!” or something similar and
reached for the ballast tank control and
began adding air to the partially flooded
tank. And ‘Mirable Dictu’ the sub started
to rise. I was ecstatic that I hadn’t peed
myself (though it was close).
Heading up, it got brighter and brighter
and, in a surprisingly short time, I could
see the Egabrag above and well off to one
side. I was clear to surface. I popped up
into a beautiful sunny day and could see a
number of anxious faces peering over the
side of the scow.
I told the story of my short but incredible
dive and we moved away from the
uncharted dumping area. Graham and
Sylvia both dived the “Rover’ and reported
that the sub “worked as designed”.
So, do I remember San Clemente Island?
Yes, I most certainly do.
Remember, ‘close’ only counts in
Big Picture
By Nadia Aly
This image showcases the stunning reef off
Port Elizabeth, South Africa. This dive site,
Evans Peak, is a 30-40 minute boat ride from
the pier. On a bad day the viz can be below 30
feet (9m), but average viz is 30 feet plus (9m+).
On this day I was very lucky; the waters were
crystal clear and full of fish, beautiful corals,
and many different species of shark. I love
the diving in PE. The reefs are alive with life
and colour. I spend at least one month a year
exploring the oceans and wildlife here, with
April the perfect season to get some pretty
fantastic Sardine Run action! 10
nverness Graham Investments,
a private investment firm based
recently that its recreational safety
education portfolio company, Kalkomey
Enterprises, LLC, has invested in the
RAID Scuba Diver Training agency.
RAID is a rapidly emerging dive
training brand globally, with a mission
to innovate the dive industry through
digitizing education, systems, and
processes. Operating in more than 60
countries worldwide, RAID’s state of the
art online training platform features the
most comprehensive online, pro-active
quality assurance system in the industry.
The virtually paper-free RAID training
system has recently been recognized for
ISO compliance and its programs were
also found to meet the RSTC’s minimum
standards, paving the way for RAID’s
membership with the RSTC.
“We’ve been carefully researching
the options to enter the scuba market
for some time. We chose RAID because
it has the values we look for in a
company: world class programs driven
by an enthusiastic and passionate team
that is making Scuba fun for everyone
involved,” said Inverness Graham
Managing Principal, Michael Morrissey.
“Their vast array of training programs
and impressive technology platform
make them a perfect match to partner
with Kalkomey. This marriage positions
RAID to challenge the current industry
paradigm, which is exactly what we were
looking for.”
Kalkomey is the leader in online
recreational safety education for state
required certifications and is an official
EncyclopEdia of WhalEs,
dolphins and porpoisEs
Award-winning author and
former contributor to DIVER,
Erich Hoyt's 300 page hardback
book is a true
addition to
your library.
Detailed profiles
of 90 species,
sidebars full of
facts, amazing
provider of recreational safety education
RAID is known
for its high
materials for all 50 states, as well as
standards, new
Canada, Mexico, Australia, and New
way of thinking,
Zealand. Using a web‐based delivery
quality online
model, Kalkomey has helped millions
of students get educated to safely boat, RAID's co-owner
hunt, and operate off-road vehicles and
Paul Toomer
on the cover of
Jason Alexander, Kalkomey CEO,
DIVER, Volume
said, “Our research indicates that
42 Issue 6.
people interested in outdoor recreation
participate in many different activities
over their lifetime. We believe there is
enormous demand among the millions of
Boat-Ed and Fresh Air enthusiasts we’ve
already trained, as well as the hundreds
of thousands of enthusiasts that we
newly teach each year, that will want to
try scuba diving! We’re excited about the
opportunity to apply our expertise in
parallel industries to drive these potential
customers through the doors of dive
by DIVER contributor Brandon
Cole, and stunning illustrations.
It's the definitive guide for a
global audience. Read about it
next issue as Erich Hoyt gives us
the low down
on how the
book came to
be. That gives
you enough
time to run
out and buy a
Check out:
Firefly Books
centres that join the RAID movement.
Together with RAID we know we can
truly Partner with dive shops to help their
businesses grow and thrive.”
“The RAID system focuses on training
divers on critical skills such as proper
trim and neutral buoyancy in the diver
position. We believe it’s essential to also
train dive professionals on those same
skills to ensure they are best serving the
needs of their students to be divers, not
just certified,” said Jim Holliday, who will
continue on leading business operations
as President of RAID.
Diving is big business, with PADI
being sold last year for an impressive $700
million. Direct investment from the right
strategic partner can make or break an
upcoming training agency such as RAID.
Divers around the world eagerly await
to see what the future holds for RAID
and global dive training.
50 yEars of innovation
JW Fishers is a brand that
many divers hold close to their
hearts. Specializing in the design
and manufactuer of underwater
search systems, most notably
handheld metal detectors,
but also ROV's, sonar, line
detectors, underwater camera
systems, and more, this staple
of the commercial dive industry
began in the mid 60's when Jack
W. Fisher discovered there were
no underwater metal detectors.
In need of one, he began to
design and build his
own. In the mid80's underwater
exploration boomed
and new systems
were in high
demand. Over the
next few decades
JW Fishers brand
and technologies
advanced rapidly.
Today, the Fisher
family continues
to operate the company as
it pursues Jack's vision.
inventive april fool's
bi t es
Photos: / /
April Fool's may have been a little while ago now, but being a periodical
we thought it would be fun to show you three of our favourite April
Fool's jokes we saw floating out there in the wilds of the internet...
Regulator manufacturer Apeks claimed to have "done it" with the
innovative USB air compressor. Yep, simply plug your DIN tank into
your computer's USB port, and the internal fan will fill your cylinders!
England's Vobster Quay (a very popular inland diving quarry)
announced their new Scubaloo! To take the pressure of submerged
bladders they installed a handy habitat with full underwater en-suite
facilities, just don't forget to flush.
Finally there's GoPro's latest gizmo, the GoPro Armie. With Armie
you can capture the popular "follow me" footage that social media
sites are inundated with. Featuring
"FirmGrip" technology and
"GoPro’s proprietary ‘Elbow Up’
camera placement joint". Best of all
it's waterproof to 30 feet (9m)!
NYC humpbaCk fuNdiNg
The Sea of Change Foundation
has announced funding for
Gotham Whale's ongoing project
to study, document, and educate
the public about the return of
humpback whales to the waters
around New York City.
This one-off $5000 grant will
aid in the creation of a fluke
database, helping to identify
individual whales migrating
Underwater archaeologists,
treasure hunters, commercial
divers, law enforcement, fire
and rescue, engineers, militiary
units, and recreational divers
wish them a happy half century!
MEssagE in a bottlE
Pre-dating The Police's
classic song by a mere 93
years, the world's oldest known
message in a bottle was just
discovered on the Australian
coast. Dated 12 June 1886, the
between the coast of New York
and the Dominican Republic.
Public outreach will also help
promote responsible boating and
submission of public fluke photos.
The Sea of Change Foundation
is made up of dive industry
luminaries, and funds marine
conservation and research
initiatives around the globe. For
more visit:
note was sent from a German
ship as part of an experiment
into shipping routes. 132 years
later (The Police recorded their
hit in 1979), Kym Illman found
the bottle whilst going for a
stroll over some sand dunes on
a remote beach north of Wedge
Island in Western Australia. The
find was confirmed by Dr Ross
Anderson, Assistant Curator
Maritime Archaeology at the
WA Museum. Previously, the
Guinness world record for the
oldest message in a bottle was
Cetatek have
launched a crowd
funding campaign
for its new
'Aquabionic abs'
fin system. At time
of press it has
met its funding
and looks to be a
successful fund
raising initiative.
abs eliminate
foot-pockets and
traditional diving
boots, replacing
them with "a
new archetype"
of diving boot
that features
sole integrated
and standardized
binding inserts.
Basically, seperate
boots with clip
on fins. Not for
everyone, but very
customizable, and
a great option for
Atlantic ocean circulation is at its
weakest point in 1600 years. Research
by Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institution and University College
of London shows the global ocean
circulation system hasn’t been running
at peak strength since the mid-1800s.
If the system continues to weaken, it
could disrupt weather patterns from
the United States and Europe to the
African Sahel, and cause a more rapid
increase in sea level on the U.S. East
Coast. Full story: is a website that
aims to be the TripAdvisor of scuba
diving. They have more than 5500
profiles online and claim to be the
largest directory for dive centres, dive
professionals, and liveaboards. What
sets them apart? Well, they verify every
review by hand, no small task. It's
especially useful if you're looking for an
independent instructor. The website is
very intuitive, clean, and easy to use.
It's another in a long list of online dive
resources, but given time, it could prove
very popular for instructors looking for a
dependable review system.
108 years (between it being
sent and found).
thE urban gpo
The world's largest octopus,
the Giant Pacific Octopus is the
subject of not just our affections,
but also a new publication
looking at how it is effected by
urbanization. The publication
is available through REEF and
features data collected by
REEF surveyors as part of the
Volunteer Fish Survey Project.
The study was to determine
whether the habitat-use
patterns of GPO's could be
correlated with urbanization
intensity on nearby shorelines
in Puget Sound, Washington.
On dives deeper than 78 feet
(24m) REEF divers had a higher
probability of encountering
octopus in more urban locations.
Why was this? Food was
concluded not to be a factor;
however, more octo's were
found in locations where there
was a lot of junk. Read more:
Vals Tech
Founder & CEO
amphibico Inc.
Founder & CEO
1994 - 2004
Photo courtesy: ValsTech
aqua Vision
Systems Inc.
Founder & CEO
1982 - 1993
valentins (val) Ranetkins
F o u n d e r & C e o Va l s T e C h I n C .
How long have you been diving?
YMCA diver certified in 1968,
first open water dive same year.
What made you want to become a diver? While working in Venezuela in
1967, I snorkelled for the first in
the Caribbean Ocean and was so
impressed with the beauty of the
corals and marine life that upon my
return to Canada I took a SCUBA
course and built my first 8 mm film
plexiglass housing. I had to show to
my friends the beauty under the sea.
Most memorable marine life encounter?
While night diving at Stuart Cove’s
in the Bahamas I came across a
giant loggerhead turtle perhaps 9’
(2.75m) long. I was so exited to see
this monster that upon surfacing on
the boat I could do somersault flips.
How did diving change your life?
Diving turned me into a
businessman, developing and
manufacturing the most advanced
underwater imaging equipment.
world, including diving with the
Inspiration rebreather in the great
Bear Lake in northern Canada (while
shooting a fishing show). However,
today West Papua gives me the
most pleasure filming due to its vast
diversity of marine life and of course
the warm water.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve
seen underwater?
In 1976 while diving on Finger Reef
in the Florida Keys I found an old
speargun rod. While swimming I
came across a large barracuda
three feet (2.75m) away that was
facing or focusing on something
away from me. Stupidly I decided
to touch its tail with the rod.
Who is your go-to dive buddy?
I had many good diving
buddies but perhaps my
friend and partner Jim
Moore was the best.
First to develop and
manufacture optical
domes, underwater
daylight arc lamps,
underwater push
button controls and
electronic housing
Where would you like to dive but haven’t?
One day I would love to dive in
the Red Sea and Lake Baikal
in Siberia.
What does diving mean to you?
When underwater I feel free
and relaxed, I forget totally
about the topside world.
What is your favourite
dive site?
I enjoy many dive
spots around the
developed and
introduced the
aquatica housing
(modern day SLr
housings reflect the
original design of the
aquatica housing).
The Diving Almanac
showcases over 2,000 diving
records, diving personalities,
and historical events:
Big surprise, in a split of a second
the great barracuda was facing me
ready to strike, wow!!! This thought
me a lesson to respect all critters
Favourite dive snack?
I enjoy eating sweet tropical fruit
after my dives.
You can take any 5 people, past or
present, on a dive, who would they be?
I dived several times with Wes
Skiles, but I would enjoy diving
with Director Jim Cameron, Chris
Newbert who is a great underwater
photographer, Dan Humble from
DiveTech Training Center in the
Thousand Islands, as well as my
good friend and photographer
Paul Janosi.
Favourite diving movie?
I have two - The Deep
and The Abyss.
Proudest diving moment or achievement?
I discovered when diving with a
rebreather in shallow, very cold
water wearing a tropical wet suit
and breathing warm humid 100%
oxygen, it is almost impossible to
get hypothermia.
Favourite piece of equipment?
At the moment it is the Apple
iPhone X, we have a new Lenzo
underwater housing we’re testing
and the result are incredible.
What’s next?
The future of super imaging
technologies are just around the
corner. I wish I was 30 years
younger to enjoy them.
Diving facts
First underwater hotel:
Jules’ Undersea Lodge, Key Largo Undersea
Park - Launched as the research habitat
La Chalupa off Puerto Rico in 1971, it was
moved to Florida and transformed into an
underwater hotel in 1986. The habitat can
accomodate up to six guests at a depth of
21 feet (6.4m).
First underwater nightclub:
Subsix, by Per AQUUM resort in the Maldives.
The nightclub, launched in 2012, is located
20 feet (6m) below the surface and 1640 feet
(500m) from the shore, under the resort’s
overwater restaurant. Subsix has since been
converted into a restaurant.
Most isolated atoll:
The coral atoll of Kiritimati, located in the
northern Line Islands, is part of the Republic of
Kiribati. According to United Nations, Kiritimati
is the most isolated atoll in the world. It was
selected for nuclear testing by the UK and USA
from 1957 to 1962 due to its remote location.
Menduno, Michael (1952-):
Writer and technologist who coined the term
‘technical diving’ in 1991; founder and Editor of
aquaCORPS Journal (1990-1996); founded and
produced original tek conferences (EuroTek,
AsiaTek, Rebreather Forums 1 &2); public
speaker; and DIVER magazine contributor.
Cayman Dive Log
Start diving today at
Coral Triangle
Is this the best
destination in the
Coral Triangle?
Text and Photos by
Tobias Friedrich
The journey is long, but
the rewards are rich in
Papua New Guinea
apua New Guinea (or
PNG, as it is often called)
still seems wild and
undiscovered. Rumours
hold that cannibalism is
still practiced by some
tribes that live deep in the
rainforest on the highlands of the main
island, but nobody has been a witness
to these bloody and unthinkable acts
in many years. Indeed this beautiful
country attracts tourists with its natural
beauty and cultural diversity.
Geographically, Papua New Guinea
is situated on the island of New Guinea,
sharing it with the state of West Papua,
which belongs to Indonesia. Most of
the 600 islands that belong to PNG
were born through volcanic activity
millions of years ago. The mountains
that stretch through the main island
reach up to 14,700 feet (4500m) high
and here some of the old tribes still live
in absolute isolation. The whole country
is a wonderful mix of foggy rainforests,
active volcanos, tropical islands, and
rich coral reefs.
But remoteness has a price. From
Europe it takes about 30 hours to reach
PNG, usually with a stopover at the
Arabic Peninsula and South East Asia.
From North America it takes about the
same amount of time. Only Australia
provides a short-track flight. Air Niugini
is the only airline that connects the
country to the rest of the world, always
with a stopover in Port Moresby, the
capital of PNG. From there you can
take a flight to one of the many dream
destinations that the country provides.
Coral Triangle
Dream destination
Australian Max Benjamin recognized
the potential of PNG when he
became a resident in the late sixties.
Near the small village of Hoskins,
situated on West New Britain (one
of the larger islands of PNG), he
purchased a palm oil plantation.
“Year after year we enjoyed the
beautiful dive sites just in front of our
house and started to recognize the
value of it,” Benjamin says. Because
more and more people started
coming to visit him and his wife, he
built some bungalows for guests.
And so the Walindi Plantation Resort
started, in the beginning of the
eighties. As word spread and the
resort grew, Benjamin built a dive
centre at the pier, from which daily
trips still depart today.
The engines roar and the bow of
the aluminium boat cuts through the
smooth water in the early morning.
Fog still sits over the wet rainforest
and the active volcano smokes its
morning cigarette. How can a day
start more impressively? All the
dive sites in Kimbe Bay are within
45 minutes’ range and are reached
easily with the small dive boats.
Day trips usually have two dives,
with a rich lunch break in between
as well as some time to relax. All
the sites are impressively pristine
with amazing biodiversity. Most
of the corals are very healthy and
include sea fans, gorgonians, and
several species of hard corals,
which sometimes grow in fields the
size of tennis courts. Vanessa’s Reef
is one of the main attractions of
the bay, where huge sea fans – on
the order of 6½ by 13 feet (2x4m) –
stand, row by row, in a small area. I
find it difficult to get them properly
lighted, even with a fisheye lens
and two strobes. Sometimes even
passionate photographers are
destined to fail.
The dive centre at the Walindi
Plantation Resort is managed by Dan
Johnson and Cat Stinson, who each
approach their job with a high level
of professionalism. Each evening,
during or after dinner, they speak to
Large schools of barracudas turn
circles above the colourful reefs in
water with up to 160 feet of viz
Top: Large
schools of
barracuda are
common sight.
Above: A rich
culture on land
makes any
PNG visit one
to remember.
Middle: A macro
lovers delight
every single guest to see if everything
was OK and what their plans are for
the next day. Maybe that’s why the
Walindi Plantation Resort counts
among one of the best dive centres
in the world. But can that be topped
by a liveaboard in PNG?
MV Febrina
In the territorial waters of Papua
New Guinea, the MV Febrina
is already close to a legend.
Its captain, Alan Raabe, has
been exploring the reefs of the
country for over 20 years. Raabe
is a veteran when it comes to
liveaboard in PNG. He emigrated
from Australia when he met Max
Benjamin, the owner of the Walindi
Plantation Resort. Together they
started the “live and let dive” in
the Bismarck Sea of PNG, still a
very successful venture. Raabe is
a character, who makes everybody
smile when he yells from the bridge
to get the “bloody” rope fixed.
The MV Febrina has been
doing its job for decades, so not
everything on board is brand new.
Nevertheless, the living and diving
on board is very comfortable, partly
because there are twelve guests
maximum on each trip. All cabins
have private bathrooms with shower
and the saloon is equipped with a
big LCD screen to watch movies.
Photographers won’t have any
complaints, with lots of shelves
and safe places to store precious
photographic equipment and – a
special service of the MV Febrina –
soft towels provided fresh each day
to clean cameras.
Depending on season, there are
different routes through the territorial
waters of PNG, but mostly MV
Febrina plies the Bismarck Sea, north
of the Island West New Britain. The
Walindi Plantation Resort is always
the start and end point of the trips,
which always include some dives in
the magnificent Kimbe Bay. Amongst
others dive sites reached by the
MV Febrina are the Father Reefs
in the east and the Witu Islands in
the northwest. The Witu Islands are
known for muck diving; the reefs
might not be the prettiest, but they
are packed full of glorious small
critters. Here mantis shrimp, ribbon
eels, and frogfish, just to name a few,
dance across the photographer’s
macro lenses. The complete opposite
is the case on the Father Reefs: very
little macro, but lots of big fish. Large
schools of barracudas turn circles
above the colourful reefs in water
with up to 160 feet (50m) of visibility.
Turtles and sharks are common
visitors as well. In select spots the
crew prepares a bait box to attract
sharks. It’s phenomenal to watch
silvertip, grey reef, and white tip
sharks fight for every frozen sardine
– a guarantee of adrenalin and good
opportunity for close-up shots of
sharks for photographers.
Above: Plane
wrecks - above
and below
water - make
for fantastic
Top: PNG is a
Lissenung Island
West of the island of New Ireland
and adjoining the Bismarck Sea is
Lissenung Island, approximately
20 minutes by boat from Kavieng.
Feeling the sand between your
toes on the way to dinner or your
next dive, or just while taking a
walk, is the true attraction of this
small so-called “barefoot” island
– shoes are superfluous. The
small resort (maximum fourteen
guests) is managed by Dietmar
and Angelique Amon. The Austrian
and his wife fell in love with the
small island and the nearby dive
sites, and started to build up some
bungalows a few years ago. Since
then the resort has grown to a
full-fledged destination with its
own dive centre and restaurant.
The double-bungalows are very
comfortable. Each has its own
bathroom and mosquito nets grace
the beds. The bungalows are
scattered over the little island, the
circumference of which could be
walked within fifteen minutes – if
Coral Triangle
there weren’t trees in the way. To
keep the sand outside and the
bungalows spic and span, each
bungalow is equipped with its own
footbath. How cool is that?
With two dive boats, the dive
centre at Lissenung Island offers
several options to meet guests’
wishes. The day trips, with usually
two dives, start at nine o’clock
in the morning and are back by
lunchtime. Guests can decide if
they want to do an afternoon or
night dive on the shallow house
reef, which is well worth seeing.
Long dive times are anticipated
because divers don’t need to go
deeper than 25 feet (8m) here and
can relax in the 82°F (28° C) warm
water. But the highlight of the area
is the small channels. The rise and
fall of the tides causes the water
to flow quickly through the shallow
channels, which attracts a lot of big
fish. Common visitors are silvertip,
white tip, and grey reef sharks, as
well as huge schools of barracudas
and eagle rays. Lucky divers may
also see dolphins under water. The
reefs appear quite healthy and
show little sign of bleaching or
destruction by humans. Because of
the strong current, drift dives are on
the agenda every day, which take
you past beautifully covered walls.
It’s easy to overlook small things
like pygmy seahorses, leaf fish,
and colourful nudibranches while
fighting with the current.
The area around Kavieng is also
a great place for wreck enthusiasts.
Bomber and fighter planes from
past days of war were sunk in
the channels and are within easy
reach. Unfortunately, the visibility
here is sometimes only between
15 to 30 feet (5-10m), in contrast
to the 80-115 feet (25-35m) at
the outer sites. Another highlight
here is the domestic mandarin
fish, which make their home in the
middle of Kavieng harbour. Boats
continually cross over their heads
as they celebrate their daily ritual of
love: the bigger male ensnares the
female and together they ascend
from the coral. They thrill in ecstasy
for a few seconds before they rush
Photographers won’t have any
complaints, with soft towels provided
fresh each day to clean cameras
Common visitors
are silvertip,
white tip, and
grey reef sharks,
as well as huge
schools of
barracudas and
eagle rays
into the thicket of coral again – to
the sweet sounds of the swearing
of the photographer as they
Hard to beat
Papua New Guinea is worth the trek,
even if getting there is exhausting.
Allow three days of travel if starting
from Europe or the US, with a
stopover in Port Moresby. Because
of the limited travel options, the trip is
very expensive, especially compared
to other destinations in South East
Asia. But when it comes to abundant
biodiversity and unspoiled nature, it’s
hard to beat Papua New Guinea. This
might be the best location in the Coral
Triangle, giving Raja Ampat a real run
for its money. This combination of big
fish and critter paradise is hard to find
elsewhere in the world.
“All the sites
are impressively
pristine with
US Travel
san Clemente island
Our orders: to infiltrate shadowy kelp beds and survey rich
reefs in a remote scuba hot spot offshore southern California
Text by Brandon Cole and Jim Lima
Photos by Brandon Cole
ur trip begins with a
bang when the captain
announces that the
Navy has temporarily
opened Zone G off
the island’s northwest
corner. We are clear to jump.
Knowing that such a window of
opportunity for civilian recreation
is rarely open here, we waste no
time in taking action. There’s a
strong surface current sweeping
overtop Nine Fathom Reef, but we
grin and bear it, pulling ourselves
first along the granny line, then
down the anchor line. The flow ebbs
a bit as we descend through the
darkening blue. At the top of the
reef, we pause to get our bearings.
The depth gauge shows 42 feet
(12.7m) – curious, given this site’s
name. Mindful of the briefing, we
immediately work forward from the
anchor to avoid getting pushed out
into open water.
We free fall down a chasm that
runs to the bottom at 90 feet (27m).
The near vertical route takes us
past a stunning seascape. Brown
palm kelp stalks, red gorgonian fans
and foot-high (30cm) tufts of purple
hydrocorals all provide camouflage
for our reconnaissance patrol.
“Purple” doesn’t quite describe
the colour; each hydrocoral head
illuminated by our lights exhibits a
slightly different hue, ranging from
electric blue to deep violet. Pretty in
purple. But we’ve got an objective
to achieve here and so far, our
crustacean of interest has eluded us.
Jim’s light sweeps across the reef
and …target acquired! Hunkered
down beneath an overgrowth of
gorgonians rests a platoon of
spiny lobsters, their wary antennae
now tracking his every move.
Jim struggles to restrain himself,
his huge neoprene gauntlets
shaking. The urge to bag these
bugs is strong. But as they are out
of season, he eventually stands
down. I close in with my camera,
aim, and pull the trigger. Mission
accomplished, and we have the
picture to prove it.
Red gorgonians
and schooling
populate a
crevasse of the
California coast
Property of USN
It’s hard not to think in military
terms when you’re exploring remote
San Clemente Island. The 21-mile
(33.6km) long island is the most
southerly of Southern California’s
eight Channel Islands. It is owned
by the United States Navy, which
uses it as a combat training ground
and bombing range. During surface
intervals, you can watch F-18s
scream overhead or imagine what it
must be like to be a member of an
invincible SEAL team scrambling
ashore. But the best action for
wannabe G.I. Joes like us is found
underwater on the surrounding reefs
thriving with life and bursting with
colors – blue, green, red, and gold –
in sharp contrast to the stark, mostly
barren scenery topside. There
are upwards of twenty dive sites
ringing the island, many of which are
clustered around the southern tip.
Lying 80 miles (126km) west of
San Diego, San Clemente is out of
range for most mainland California
day charters. Thankfully, multi-day
US Travel
liveaboard boats are your ticket to
adventure. We chose the 79-footlong (24m) Conception out of Santa
Barbara, one of three vessels in
the Truth Aquatics fleet. Having
dived these waters for more than
40 years, the Truth operation has
unmatched “fins in the water”
experience and know San Clemente
(and all of the other Channel
Islands) extremely well.
Underwater maneuvers
At Truth Rock, which rises from
the bottom to within 15 feet (4.5m)
of the surface, we anchor within
view of what looks like a villa on
a terrace overlooking the sea.
This is no high-end beach house,
however; Navy SEALs use this
structure for their famously rigorous
special ops training. We are not
on the elite team roster, so instead
we submerge to find undulating
surfgrass, feather boa kelp, and
numerous California sheephead
fish, with females outnumbering
the larger, blunt-headed, bucktoothed males. Several sheepshead
approach each other head on,
abruptly stop, bare their formidable
mandibles, and then break off,
reverse course and quickly swim
away. Courtship or combat?
Pyramid Head is a large conical
volcanic rock, one of several that
sprout on the southeast corner
of the island. It is home to a
quintessential kelp forest towering
over a shallow reef and an outer wall
that steps down to a depth in excess
of 100 feet (30m). Our intel states
that over 800 species of marine
life live in these amber jungles and
that this amazing plant can grow
more than two feet (60cm) a day.
The rock ledges are decorated
with sponges, bryozoans, and
zooanthids intermixed with a variety
of sea anemones. More lobsters
flaunt their seasonal invulnerability.
A garibaldi patrols the reef near his
nest, valiantly warding off anything
that ventures too close for comfort.
San Clemente…is owned by the United
States Navy, which uses it as a combat
training ground and bombing range
Top: A Pacific
electric ray
through giant
kelp. Left: Pacific
rock crab.
Middle: Garibaldi
defending a
nest. Right:
An opalescent
nudibranch next
to a spiny brittle
sea star
Ascending toward the surface, we
tour the kelp forest canopy to spy
opaleyes and calico bass amongst
the kelp fronds. On our safety stop,
a silver sheet of jack mackerel, one
fish wide by 50 fish deep by several
fish long, comes screaming through,
gone as quickly as it appeared.
Permission granted
So good was the dive that Jim and
I request permission to repeat.
Conception’s captain agrees,
tasking us to chart a different
course through the terrain in hopes
of uncovering additional high value
targets. We earn our stripes and
then some with quality sightings of a
Pacific electric ray (aka torpedo ray)
resembling a B-2 stealth bomber,
shouldered pinnacle that rises from
140 feet (42m) to about 65 feet (20m)
below the surface. A few stalks of kelp
may mark the structure’s position. Or
not, if a storm has visited recently and
ripped free the telltale algal clue, in
which case one wisely relies on GPS,
and experience, to line up and strike
true. Trusting in both, we bomb with
precision straight down to find the
mother lode. Golden seafans gently
sway in time in a thicket of palm
kelp. Sea stars march overtop lush
invertebrate turf. Miniscule orange,
blue-banded gobies zip from their
lookout posts to their hiding places
with a whoosh. Waves of blacksmiths
stream through a dramatic fissure
plunging downward, a spectacularly
photogenic crevasse practically on
fire with the flaming bright, currentloving red gorgonians reaching
upward. This has long been one of
my favourite reefs, a fact contributing
to San Clemente Island itself always
having held the top rank in my
logbook. Climbing back onto the
boat, we enthusiastically volunteer for
a follow-up mission ASAP.
and two giant black sea bass. It’s
especially heartening to see these
monsters lurking in the forest again.
Twenty years ago encounters with
this impressive fish – black sea bass
can reach lengths of over seven feet
(2.1m) and weigh 500 plus pounds
(227kg) – were rare indeed. They had
been fished to near extinction by the
time I first started diving California
waters. The critically endangered
fish finally gained official protection
by the State in 1988, and those
measures appear to be working.
Divers in the know can now find
sea bass at a number of sites in the
Channel Islands.
During a surface interval on San
Clemente’s southwest corner, we
watch the air show put on by Navy
F-18 fighter jets using the terrestrial
bombing range just beyond the
rock headlands. Then we gear up
and splash at Sun Point, where
an extensive surface kelp mat
shadows a craggy reef complex
with mini-walls separated by narrow
sand channels. We start the dive
at about 80 feet (24m) and angle
shoreward underneath majestic,
soaring kelp arches where we find
all the usual suspects, plus some
other characters. A cunningly cryptic
giant kelpfish hides in plain sight
next to the kelp strands. Rock crabs
on defense wave menacing claws
and exquisitely painted nudibranchs
slime their way along. All these
species, and the tangle of brittle
stars in a kaleidoscope of colours,
make me glad I’m armed with a
macro lens on this exercise.
Top left: Truth
Top right: A
black sea bass,
almost hunted to
extinction, now
slowly recovering.
Above: Common
dolphins enjoy the
California sun!
Final drop
For our last dive, we reposition
to open water. About a half mile
(800m) west and seaward of Pyramid
Head lies Mystic Mountain, a broad
A spectacularly photogenic crevasse
practically on fire with the flaming
bright, current-loving red gorgonians
San Clemente Island is owned
and controlled by the U.S. Navy.
Most waters around the island
are usually open to divers; the
Navy may restrict access to
certain operating areas. Visit for more
information on closures.
Average water temperature is
approximately 65°F (15.5°C) in
the summer and 55°F (12.8°C)
in the winter. A full 7mm wetsuit
or drysuit is recommended for
thermal comfort.
Visibility ranges from 30 to 50
feet (9 to 15m) in winter and
spring and 50 to 90 (15 to 27m) in
summer and fall.
San Clemente Island offers a
variety of dive spots whose
offshore location, deep water,
and variable currents combine
to make for challenging
intermediate to advanced diving.
The island’s distance from the
mainland means that it is not
as frequently visited by charter
dive boats as the other Channel
Islands. Multiple-day, liveaboard
trips are the norm, with
occasional all-day trips from the
Los Angeles and San Diego area.
For more information on the
Conception or the other Truth
Aquatics’ vessels departing
Santa Barbara, visit:
Travel Tips
Long haul flight survival
Spending hours inside a metal tube at 30,000 feet with hundreds of other passengers
is not the best way to start a vacation. Fly & Sea Dive Adventures ease the pressure...
Take Vitamin C
Avoid alcohol and caffeine
There is nothing worse than arriving
at your destination and not being
able to dive because you caught a
head cold on the plane. Load up on
Vitamin C for a few days before your
flight and also during the long hours
you’re in the air.
We know that a celebratory we’regoing-on-vacation drink can be nice,
but alcohol and the caffeine found in
coffee and soda will only dehydrate
you in the already desert-like
conditions of an airplane cabin.
Upgrade for extra legroom
Create a survival kit
You’re going to need some
amenities in order to keep fresh
and comfortable, like a toothbrush
and toothpaste, chapstick, and eye
drops. Pack all of your essentials
in a small pouch and place it at the
very top of your carry on. When you
get on the plane, put it in the seat
pocket in front of you.
Pack some entertainment
Photo: Maxwell Hohhn
Pack something in your carry-on
that will occupy your mind for at
least half the flight. A book, some
podcasts, music, an iPad loaded
with movies, and of course a copy of
DIVER magazine!
Bring your own snacks
Throw a bag of nuts or a granola
bar in your carry on, something rich
in fiber, an ingredient often lacking
in the meals served by airlines (and
help avoid traveler’s constipation at
the same time).
Eat carefully before and during
It’s best to avoid greasy food before
boarding a plane. You don’t want to
have an upset stomach for the whole
flight. In addition, science has proven
that being in the air prevents our
bodies from properly digesting. So
it’s best to avoid overeating as well.
Stay hydrated
The air inside an airplane cabin is
often held at a humidity level of
10-20%. This is much lower than
the normal indoor humidity level
of about 40%. For this reason,
it’s easy to become dried out and
fatigued during a long flight. Combat
dehydration by drinking at least 8
ounces of water for every hour you
are in the air.
The easiest way to be comfortable
is to upgrade to business or first
class. Alternatively, you can pay for
economy seats with more legroom
on most airlines. If you’ve got
frequent flier miles, use them.
Not all flights
offer exciting
views like this, so
take an iPad, a
good book, and
of course a copy
Research your plane
Before you choose a seat, look up
your flight on The
website uses its own algorithm as
well as customer reviews to tell you
which is the best seat on your flight.
Every hour or so, get up and move
around. Whether it’s a lap around
the plane or a few yoga postures in
the standing area, a bit of exercise
will help you feel less restless.
Layer up
You never quite know if the plane is
going to be boiling hot or freezing
cold, so it’s best to dress in layers
that you can add or remove.
Ready for romance? Experience one of these world-class most
romantic dive resorts and create incredible memories with
somebody special. Pristine settings, luxurious accommodations,
and all the one-of-a-kind moments a couple could ask for – romance
goes above and beyond at these exceptional properties. Here are
Fly & Sea Dive Adventures top 7 most romantic dive resorts:
Qamea - A secluded
retreat ripe with romance
If it’s privacy you want,
Qamea’s seventeen lavish,
air-conditioned bures (huts)
deliver. Nestled among
swaying coconut palms
and lush tropical gardens,
this 100-acre (40ha) resort
features a private white
sand beach in front, and
soaring volcanic mountains
behind. Share the magic
with a catered picnic lunch at a cascading waterfall, or book a
romantic appointment for two at the South Pacific’s only Guinot spa.
Celebrate romance with incomparable views. The accommodations
here are so incredibly rejuvenating, they’re called “sanctuaries” –
and every one of them has been organically constructed to promote
harmony with nature. Individual bridges lead to grand, sweeping
spaces, where bedroom, living area, and private infinity pool flow to
an open-ended platform overlooking the sea.
Dreaming of relaxing in a romantic overwater bungalow for
two? Situated on the sparkling, translucent waters of Tahiti’s
Rangiroa Lagoon, Kia Ora Hotel offers a unique space to unwind.
Accommodations are modern and clean in design, with nothing
to distract you from sinking into the moment together. Unless, of
course, it’s the extraordinary underwater viewing through the glass
window in the floor of your bungalow.
Dealing with seasickness
There’s nothing worse than gearing up a boat dive only to have your tummy lurching
within minutes of leaving the dock. Fly & Sea Dive Adventures are there with you...
Choose the right destination
commonly thought to minimize the
effects of motion sickness.
Don’t choose a destination where
you have to hit the open ocean in
the middle of monsoon season to
reach a dive site. Try to pick areas
with sites within protected harbours
or seas to minimize the amount of
waves you must battle. In addition,
if you are considering a liveaboard,
choose a larger ship with a built-in
stabilization system.
Drink something
Coca-cola contains phosphoric
acid and sugars, the very same
ingredients you will find in common
anti-nausea drugs.
Take some drugs
Rest before departure
Feeling exhausted is a good way to
make your body more susceptible to
motion sickness. Take a night to get
some good sleep before you board
your next boat trip.
inner ear is sending. Correcting this
miscommunication is the best way
to manage sea sickness.
Get some fresh air
Mid-ship near the water
Being stuck in the interior of a
boat can amplify the effects of sea
sickness. Fresh air has two benefits:
allowing our minds to focus on
the wind blowing on our face and
removing us from the oppression of
a confined space.
Look at the horizon
Looking at the horizon helps our
eyes to correct the signal they are
sending to the brain. As the eyes
look at the moving horizon, they
begin to realize the movement of the
boat and match the information the
This is the location where a boat’s
unnatural movements are minimized
the most. If you are sailing on a
liveaboard, request a cabin near the
middle of the boat with a window
looking out to the sea.
Eat something
Contrary to popular belief, sailing on
an empty stomach will not prevent
you from throwing up. A light, nongreasy meal is the best breakfast
before heading out. Try taking along
some ginger cookies to snack on
every couple of hours. Ginger is
Can’t get enough of those overwater
bungalows? Palau Pacific Resort
has five of them - with vistas as
spectacular as their interiors.
Stretched along a private dock where
turquoise ocean meets azure sky, you
can linger both indoors and out. Relax
by the ocean in your very own hot
tub, then see what the marine life is
up to through the glass-panelled floor
at your feet.
Photo: Wakatobi
Diving is fun,
this is not! The
best way to avoid
sea sickness is
to stay on land,
and head to the
nearest bar!
Pairing an unspoiled island setting
with five-star comfort, Wakatobi
promises the vacation of a lifetime.
No crowds, no traffic - just glorious
sunsets, romantic beach dinners, and spacious accommodations
mere steps from the ocean. All chef-prepared meals are included
at Wakatobi, but be sure to book a Villa so you and your loved one
can enjoy the benefits of a private butler and dive guide!
Wak tobi - a
romantic paradise
12 to 24 hours before setting sail,
consider over-the-counter antinausea drugs like Dramamine or
Bonine. These work by blocking the
miscommunications your eyes, feet
and inner-ears are sending to your
brain. However, side effects can
include drowsiness, so best give
them a trial before diving.
Wear a patch
These are worn behind your ear, and
work by reducing the signals sent by
the nerves of your inner ear. As with
over-the-counter pills, you must be
mindful of the side effects which can
include blurred vision and dry mouth.
Try an acupressure wristband
These bands put pressure on a point
of the wrist called P6. While the
science behind the technique is still
being tested, many people believe
that bands remedy the nausea
caused by seasickness.
Rustic, yet oh-so-comfortable, Misool Eco
Resort does environmentally friendly in style!
You’ll find everything you need in a romantic
get-away when you stay in one of the resort’s
water cottages. Built entirely from reclaimed
wood, these secluded accommodations
feature grass roofs and Balinese-style, open-air
bathrooms. Dream the days away together in
your private hammock, or plunge straight into
tropical blue waters from your direct-access
At Atmosphere Resort’s seven-acre coconut
plantation, hospitable warmth mingles with
first-class amenities. With beach-front location,
complimentary breakfast, and luxuriously appointed rooms, your
only decision will be whether to sink into the enchanted spa or
unwind by the pools. Don’t forget to reserve the most romantic
dinner ever – a three-course meal with wine, served by private wait
staff in an elevated tree house by the sea!
Photo Courtesy: Wakatobi
Dive Traveller
The dive
cenTre aT
The end of
The universe
(towels provided)
Eric Vohr takes a private jet
to explore Indonesia’s Eden
Dive Traveller
Photo: Marco Fierli
ometimes, you have
to travel to the end
of the world to find
spectacular diving;
Wakatobi Dive Resort
is one of those places.
The name Wakatobi
is a portmanteau of the four
main Tukangbesi Islands in the
southeastern corner of Sulawesi,
Indonesia: Wangi-Wangi, Kaledupa,
Tomia, and Binongko. Roughly 10
miles (16km) off the east coast of
Borneo in the Indian Ocean, it takes
two-and-one-half-hours to get
here on a private chartered flight
from Bali. This might seem like a
bit of a haul, but it’s actually brief,
compared to the three days it took
founder Lorenz Mäder to get here by
boat in the late 1990s.
The excitement builds as you fly
on a special charter plane with the
rest of Wakatobi’s guests over the
remote islands and pristine reefs
that make up this part of the world.
Truly in the middle of nowhere,
Wakatobi Dive Resort lies on the
white-sand shores of a tiny island
in southeast Sulawesi called Pulau
Tolandona, adjacent to its betterknown and bigger brother, Tomia.
As you climb down from the plane
onto the tarmac of the tiny airstrip
on Tomia, the gentle tropical breeze
welcomes you to a land that time
forgot. Imagine what Bali looked
like a hundred years ago, and you
get the idea: small fishing villages,
crystal cerulean water, and miles
and miles of empty topical beaches
fringed with swaying palm trees.
A short boat takes you across a
narrow channel to the resort, which
blends naturally and seamlessly with
the unspoiled natural beauty here.
Wakatobi’s reefs are some of the few
worldwide that are actually growing...
recently designated as a reserve
Wakatobi is
located at the
world’s epicentre
of coral reef
biodiversity and
offers unlimited
diving for guests.
We like the sound
of that!
Reef biodiversity
For divers, however, this is much
more than just a tropical paradise.
Eighty-five percent of the world’s
coral reefs are located in the
Indo-Pacific “Coral Triangle”, and
Wakatobi Dive Resort is in the
very epicenter of this coral reef
biodiversity. As such, the waters
around the resort boast more
than 400 species of coral and 700
species of fish.
One of the factors that add
significantly to the abundance of
sea life here is the lack of damaging
run-off from large rivers or urban
Photo: Walt Stearns
centers, which can destroy reefs via
siltation and pollution. The region
also has a perfect temperature for
coral growth (77-84°F/25-29°C),
and an optimal average depth of
66 feet (20m). (Shallow waters have
too much temperature fluctuation
and disruptive wave/surge action
and deep waters diminish the light,
which decreases diversity.)
In addition to perfect natural
conditions for healthy marine life,
Mäder and his team have gone to
great lengths to preserve the waters
and reefs around the resort. As
any visitor to Asia knows, overfishing is an ever-present threat
here. On a recent sailing trip to a
remote archipelago in Myanmar, we
encountered an army of squid boats
illuminating the night horizon in all
directions with their powerful lights.
To help protect the flora and fauna
at Wakatobi, Mäder made a deal
with the local fishermen. In return for
providing running water, electricity,
job opportunities, and community
financial support, locals have agreed
to curtail damaging fishing practices
and safeguard the reefs. This
conservation effort has been such a
great success, Wakatobi’s reefs are
some of the few worldwide that are
actually growing; in fact, UNESCO
recently designated the region as a
Marine Biosphere Reserve.
Abundant life
Wakatobi Dive Resort’s staff take
guests to more than fifty mapped
and named dive sites, all within a
short distance of the dive center.
Of course, this represents only a
fraction of the wealth of great dive
locations here.
Many of these dive sites include
Wakatobi say
they’ve only had
to skip 4 days
of diving in the
last ten years, so
no time is a bad
time to dive in
over your head
shallow reefs that are easily
accessible for snorkeling, so those
who are not avid divers can also
join in the fun. The resort also
provides extensive courses for
guests who want to learn how
to dive or expand their existing
knowledge and skills.
Wakatobi’s extensive
biodiversity means you’ll see a
lot of critters of all shapes and
sizes, including my favourite,
nudibranchs. These other-worldly,
space-ship-like critters never fail to
amaze me with their insane shapes
and colours. I counted at least
twenty different species over my
five days of diving here. In addition,
I saw multitudes of flatworms, tiny
shrimps, and pipefish.
Wakatobi is known for its
abundance of another special
little creature, pigmy sea horses.
Photo: Wakatobi, Marco Fierli
Dive Traveller
You’ll need one of the resort’s
expert guides to help you find
these little guys, as they are super
well-camouflaged. You generally
dive with the same guide during
your entire stay at Wakatobi, so
he or she knows what you want to
achieve with your dives and thus
can help you have the best possible
experience underwater. Our guide
was a local man named Muji
who had an eagle eye for pigmy
seahorses and nudibranchs. Not
only did he help us locate these
hard-to-find critters, but he also
took the time post-dive to help us
properly identify each one for our
dive log — an often-daunting task.
Flouro experience
An especially unique experience we
encountered on this trip was fluo
diving (a.k.a. fluorescent diving,
fluoro diving, UV diving or glow
diving). Wakatobi Dive Resort is the
first dive operator I’ve encountered
who offers this alternative way to
enjoy the undersea world — in fact,
it was the first I’d ever heard of it.
For those who have not yet
experienced this special type of
diving, it’s basically night diving
using a UV light and a special
yellow filter on your mask, which
together unveil amazing and
unexpected fluorescent colours
that are otherwise invisible.
Fluorescence happens because
some marine animals and coral
absorb high-energy UV light and
instantly re-emit it as colourful lowenergy light. This is different from
phosphorescence, where animals
store light and re-emit it over time,
glowing long after the original light
source is gone.
Interestingly enough, divers
did not discover fluorescence in
We always felt safe, got all the
personal attention and guidance we
needed and never felt rushed
Top left: Your
private charter
from Bali to
bringing you
one step closer
to luxury
relaxation (above
left). Stunning
dives are also
accessible by
Wakatobi’s own
liveaboard yacht,
the Pelagian
marine life until recently. Even more
puzzling, nobody knows why some
animals glow, why they give off a
specific colour and why some don’t
glow at all (even different members
of the same species don’t always
glow the same way).
Safety at Wakatobi Dive Resort
is always paramount, so before
our fluo dive, our guide gave us a
detailed and informative training
session. For additional safety, they
chose a site we had already dived
during the day, so we would have
a rough idea of the underwater
geography. This turned out to be
a very good idea, as UV torches
Photo: Wakatobi, Michaela Urban
provide less light than normal
night-diving torches, making it even
harder to navigate.
My first fluo encounter was the
amazing yellow-green of a normally
dull brain coral. Next to the brain
coral was a bright orange glowing
whip coral covered with blue and
yellow sponges at its base, and
tiny (usually invisible) sea lice
glittering in an electric orange that
seemed to scream, “Look what
I can do!” I also saw shocking
pink glowing soft coral and small,
rainbow-coloured anemones. Even
boring lizardfish, which are the
same colour as sand during the
day, suddenly sparkled in a bright
green under my fluorescent light.
Something for everyone
The resort provides three boat dives
per day and unlimited house reef
dives. It maintains a high guide-to-
guest ratio, so there are never more
than four divers per guide. That
means we always felt safe, got all
the personal attention and guidance
we needed and never felt rushed or
guilty for lingering at one spot to gaze
at something especially fascinating.
In spite of all the great diving, I
highly recommend taking at least
one morning or afternoon off to
enjoy the resort on land. There’s a
quaint traditional fishing village you
can visit, or you can view some of
the unique bird life on the island’s
many peaceful nature trails.
If you’re looking for more
adventure, Wakatobi also offers
kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding,
and kite surfing. It turns out that
in addition to top-notch diving,
this region also has near-perfect
conditions and topography for kite
surfing. The resort has already
hosted some pro kite surfers who all
Top right:
Bungalows on
the sea, and
the house reef
within reaching
distance. Above:
Flouro diving for
all! Discover a
new underwater
To visit the last place
you’ll ever want to
be, check out:
seem to agree that its “rips” here.
If you’re looking for some down
time, there’s nothing better than
simply lounging in your beach
chair under swaying palm trees on
the white sand beach in front of
your private bungalow, while being
serenaded by the small ripples of the
resort’s gentle bay.
Those who enjoy abundant and
diverse marine life and unspoiled
natural beauty and want to really
get away from it all will love
Wakatobi Dive Resort. The waters
here provide a level of sheer diving
pleasure that rivals any dive site
I’ve visited to date, and Wakatobi
Dive Resort not only has the perfect
setting to enjoy and explore this
amazing dive Mecca, but the ecominded owners are working hard to
preserve and protect this magical
spot so generations of divers can
enjoy it for years to come.
Dive Traveller
game of
hid ”
One of the most biodiverse destinations
on the planet, Cocos Island is a 5-star
stop off on the marine superhighway
Text and Photos by Scott and Lauren Johnson
Cocos is known for many
great experiences, few are
as thrilling as watching a
night hunt as adrenaline
pumps through your body!
Dive Traveller
rinkling our
at the
of ripe
guano and ocean spray, Alberto
(Beto) Muñoz, the long-standing
captain of the Okeanos Aggressor
I, and I are the last two divers left
in the panga at the start of our dive
at Dirty Rock, a craggy pinnacle
beloved by shark aficionados
around the world. The two of us
have made a hundred or so dives
together around Cocos Island
(Cocos), Costa Rica over the years
and thus share more than a few
“you’re not going to believe this” big
fish tales. Muñoz says, “I never get
tired of this, you know. Well, maybe
the smell, but not the diving. Cocos
is always full of surprises.” I smile,
nod and say, “Let’s do it.”
As if on cue, just as we are about
to back roll off opposite sides of the
panga, a 35-foot (11m) “you’re not
going to believe this” humpback
whale breaches a mere 20 yards
(18m) behind us. Muñoz and I
merely stare at one another with
open mouths and then turn to see
if the whale will breach again. A few
anticipatory heartbeats pass and
then Muñoz yells, “Thar she blows!”
As soon as the behemoth crashes
back into the water, the two of us
follow suit. We descend through a
churning vortex of bigeye jacks and
find three graceful spotted eagle
rays gliding along the steep, jagged
walls at 75 feet (23m). Yet, try as
we might, we cannot locate the
flamboyant whale below the surface.
When we finally make it back
to the Okeanos Aggressor I,
Muñoz says, “In almost 20 years
of working these waters, I have
spotted humpbacks quite a few
times. But that is the first one that
almost jumped on my head.” We are
lucky to have the panga driver as a
witness because none of the other
guests or crew saw the whale. And
One of the top 10 most biodiverse
countries on the planet in terms of the
number of species per square mile
All creatures
great and small
at “the most
beautiful island
in the world”
according to
yet, such unexpected encounters
are an integral part of both the
beauty and mystique of Cocos.
Divers never know what lurks around
the next corner, overhead, or just
out-of-sight in the blue.
Plundering booty
Situated in the heart of the Central
American isthmus, the Republic of
Costa Rica is bordered by Nicaragua
to the north, the Caribbean Sea to
the east, Panama to the south and
the Pacific Ocean to the west. It is
the second smallest country in the
region at 19,730 square miles (51,100
sq km), making it slightly smaller
than the state of West Virginia in
the U.S. Costa Rica does not crack
a list of the top 100 countries in
the world by total area and yet it
contains a mind-boggling 5% of
the world’s biodiversity. It is easily
one of the top ten most biodiverse
countries on the planet in terms of
the number of species per square
mile (sq km).
Costa Rica dedicates over 25% of
the available land to national parks
and protected areas – the global
leader in that regard. In addition,
Cocos Island, the gem of this
renowned national park system, was
designated a World Heritage Site by
UNESCO in 1997. Jacques Cousteau
crowned it “the most beautiful island
in the world” in 1994. Cocos is a
remote, untamed, and uninhabited
volcanic island that was birthed from
the sea floor as the lone island on
the Cocos (tectonic) Plate. Located
340 miles (550km) southwest from
the port city of Puntarenas in the
Tropical Eastern Pacific, the island
is only accessible to divers via an
extended liveaboard charter.
This wild and rugged terrestrial
rebellion to the vast open ocean is
the only island in the eastern Pacific
realm that supports high altitude
cloud and rain forests. These
densely wooded areas receive over
23 ft (7 m) of rain annually. Cocos’
abundant supply of fresh water and
secluded location were a “Come
& Get It” beacon to pirates back in
the day. Descendants of pigs and
deer originally brought to the island
as self-perpetuating sources of
meat are still present. Legends of
buried booty have clung to Cocos
for centuries. Though no golden
doubloon discoveries have ever
been publicized, precious natural
treasures are abundant. Divers are
the modern day pirates now visually
plundering the riches of Cocos.
Check-out dives at most
destinations are rather mundane
exercises that allow you to evaluate
your buoyancy and gear in calm
conditions. Check-out dives at
Cocos are a wee bit different. To
start, the 32 hour crossing from
the mainland gradually builds
One of Cocos
Island’s signature
would be the
This little guy
hung around long
enough for a few
hundred shots
before darting off
into the blue
anticipation from “Oh, I can’t wait
to go diving again” to “OMG! Get
me off this boat, so I can see a
shark … NOW!” Basically, you
have a day and a half to check your
gear, toss your cookies if you are
prone to seasickness and mentally
salivate about your almost-herechance to experience a true diving
mecca. And once you finally arrive,
you realize you are smack dab in
the middle of nowhere. Then, in the
initial briefing, Muñoz tells you the 15
or so sites circling the island are a
basically a free-for all when it comes
to marine life and that Cocos is the
epitome of raw, wilderness diving.
My check-out dive at Manuelita’s
Coral Gardens off the northeastern
tip of the main island is a welcome
tonic for the previous two days of
semi-zombie status. The marine life
in this sheltered, inner side of the
islet is abundant, with whitetip reef
sharks lying on the sand and thick
schools of fish, such as Mexican
goatifish, hovering over hard coral
and rock outcroppings. A green
Dive Traveller
sea turtle slowly rises from beneath
one such school to makes its way
to the surface for another breath of
fresh air.
The shallow depth, nominal
current and 80 feet (24 m) of visibility
in Chatham Bay allow me to take
test shots at a leisurely pace in
preparation for the “real” stuff on
the next dive. Satisfied my Aquatica
housing, camera, and strobes are
properly synced, I decide to make a
quick swim-about before surfacing.
Just as I round a large rock, I literally
come face-to-face with a 6-foot
(2m) scalloped hammerhead shark.
Both the shark and I momentarily
do our best deer-in-headlights
impersonation, then I raise my
camera to fire off a couple of hurried
frames as the startled hammerhead
snaps its caudal fin and darts away.
It’s clear there are no rote, Mickey
Mouse dives at Cocos.
Pelagic playground
The waters surrounding this lone
speck on a map are consistently
bathed by the cool, nutrient-rich
Equatorial Undercurrent. The base
of the island deflects this deep water
current skyward, which distributes
plankton to the reef inhabitants. The
healthy reefs, plankton-laced water,
and 360 degree access to deep,
open ocean water attract pelagics,
including billfish, dolphin, rays,
sharks, and whales. Picture Cocos
as 5-star seafood restaurant along
an otherwise deserted stretch of
marine highway.
Conditions here are ever-changing
and the nearest recompression
chamber (and hospital, for that
matter) is in another galaxy. That
means dive briefings on the
Okeanos Aggressor I are taken
seriously – very seriously. Muñoz,
the dive guides, and panga drivers
are highly skilled at reading the
marine tea leaves and putting divers
in the right places at the right times.
Without such a briefing, you might
think the western, seaward side
of Manuelita would offer the same
experience as the Coral Gardens.
And, you would be wrong. The latter
is more of a swim in a park, while
the former is usually an adrenalinepumping game of hide & seek.
The best time to make this dive is
when the current is strong and the
big animals are cruising with and
against it. Divers need to get down
to the volcanic boulders on this
sloping outer wall quickly and then
follow a guide to one of the many
cleaning stations to wait for a scaly
customer to stop by for servicing.
My goal on this dive is to try
to hide in plain sight by using the
swarming mix of blue-and-gold
snappers and bigscale soldierfish
as living camouflage. These brightly
hued fish swirl about my head
while the barnacle-laced rocks
Access to deep, open ocean water
attract pelagics, including billfish,
dolphin, rays, sharks, and whales
The Okeanos
Aggressor I, a
liveboard built to
take whatever the
Cocos Islands (or
its dive guests)
throw at it!
both shield me from the unrelenting
current and serve as the front wall
of my makeshift blind. I am not on
a rebreather, but the 2-knot (4km/h)
current dissipates the noisy bubbles
and quickly carries them away from
my quarry.
The objects of my desire are
the 100+ muscular scalloped
hammerheads alternately combing
the sand at 110 feet (34m) and then
circling back to the busy cleaning
stations near my position at 70 feet
(21m). Soaking in their majesty from
afar is a much different proposition
than photographing them at point
blank range. Stealth is essential if I am
to fill my viewfinder with the elongated
head of one of these otherworldly
creatures as it stops for industrious
barberfish and king angelfish to clean
mating wounds and similar sensitive
areas. Now comes the toughest
part... the waiting.
About the same time as my
computer politely suggests it’s
time to make for shallower water,
the sharks sweep over the reef en
masse. I fire in bursts of two to
three shots as I pan my camera
from one shark to another. The
Lauren tries to make
new friends with a rather
bemused looking frogfish!
Dive Traveller
continuous action momentarily
overwhelms my senses and leaves
me in awe. With all due respect to
the hip hop artist MC Hammer, this
is the real hammer time.
Suddenly, from out of the haze
of the plankton-tainted water, a
25 ft. (7.6m) juvenile whale shark
takes center stage. Heedless
of losing the security of my VIP
seating, I surge into the current
to swim alongside the largest
species of fish. Remoras form a
pseudo mustache and goatee as
they are packed inside the shark’s
wide maw and ride upside-down
underneath it. There are even
remoras stuffed inside its spiracles
like radical head piercings.
Pucker up
Thermoclines are a fact of life here,
especially during the rainy season
months of July to December. It
is below three different chilly
thermoclines at Ulloa (Lobster
Rock), which is southeast and
across the bay from Manuelita,
that I go in search of endemic
rosy-lipped batfish. These benthic
creatures prefer sandy or rubble
terrain at depths of 90 feet (27m)
or more. Their flat profiles, browntan colouration and mottled
patterning make the batfish really
challenging to find.
After dropping from 79°F (26°C)
at the surface to a shivering 66°F
(19°C) at 105 feet (32m), I eventually
spot a rosy-lipped batfish walking
along the bottom on specialized
pectoral and pelvic fins that
function as legs. Once the oddlooking fish stops, I swim in front of
it and gradually approach to within
ideal shooting range. As soon as
I am about to squeeze the shutter
button, the naughty fish makes a 90
degree turn and then rests again. I
go through this rather unpleasant
dance routine four more times
before managing to photograph the
plump rosy red lips on an otherwise
inconspicuous animal.
Wafer Bay, to the west, offers the
second safe anchorage around the
The brutality and sheer power
on display also reinforce the
unparalleled mystique of Cocos
The appropriately
named rosylipped batfish.
Above: Hard
to believe this
appeared from
Middle: Though
longline fishing
has depleted
numbers over the
years, Cocos is
still a one-of-akind destination
island. A visit to the ranger station
here gives guests a chance to walk
across a hanging bridge made
from illegal fishing line and buoys.
It is a stark reminder of the serious
commercial threats impacting
even this isolated outpost of life.
For example, when I made my first
visit to Cocos in the 90’s, silky
sharks were both numerous and
cheeky. They were ever-present
and somewhat eerie companions
on safety stops and while waiting
at the surface. Longline fishing
has significantly depleted their
numbers over the past 25 years.
So much so, that I relish each silky
appearance during my return.
From Wafer Bay, we dive sites
around the south half of the island,
such as (from east to west) Punta
Maria, Dos Amigos, Submerged
a couple of feet (1m) above the
sharks as they wedge heads in
crevices and then batter one
another whenever prey is flushed.
One of the sharks sports a half
moon bite wound on its head. I am
amazed it’s still alive, much less
fighting for dinner. The brutality
and sheer power on display also
reinforce the unparalleled mystique
of Cocos.
A week at the island flies past
all too quickly. The lengthy return
crossing offers plenty of time to
dry and pack gear, read a book,
watch movies, share “you’re not
going to believe this” big fish
stories with fellow newly baptized
Cocos converts, and rest. I
remember Muñoz saying, “I never
get tired of this, you know.” Lord
knows, I never get tired of it either.
In fact, I will gladly let the Okeanos
Aggressor I crew pamper me
awhile longer while I plan my
next return to the island I have
I grown to love.
Rock, and Alcyone. Dos Amigos
actually represents two distinct
islets, Dos Amigos Grande and
Dos Amigos Pequeña. And
Submerged Rock is somewhat of a
misnomer, since the crest is above
the surface at low tide. Surge can
be significant at all three sites, but
so can the sheer biomass of fish.
A massive arch at Dos Amigos
Grande extends from 65 feet (20m)
to the bottom at 110 feet (34m) and
often shelters a school of burrito
grunts and resting marble rays.
An equally picturesque, though
smaller, swim-through filled with
whitetips, snapper, and soldierfish
runs from 50 feet (15m) to 75 feet
(23m) at Submerged Rock.
Punta Maria and Alcyone are
current-swept and relatively
deep (80 and 90 feet (24 and
27m), respectively) seamounts
that are irresistible to scalloped
hammerhead and burly Galapagos
reef sharks. The depth and current
limit your ability to explore the
surroundings. The goal is to find
a busy cleaning station and then
become a thrilled spectator. As
with most of the other Cocos sites,
gloves are essential here. The
seamounts consist of barnacleencrusted rocks with healthy
doses of long-spined black sea
urchins and cat-sized scorpionfish
to boot. You cannot avoid the
rocks because you need to hide
behind them as you look to the
surface and gawk at the wriggling
silhouettes of dozens of scalloped
Hunting with sharks
The shark activity spikes
dramatically as the sun slips
beneath the horizon. A return
to the check-out dive spot of
Manuelita’s Coral Gardens yields a
heart-pounding and utterly unique
night dive. The beam from the
Sola 800 light mounted to the top
of my housing reveals an army of
whitetip reef sharks mercilessly
combing the coral heads for
hapless victims. I float mesmerized
No good sea
mount would be
complete without
a nice eerie swim
through filled
with whitetips!
Location: In the Pacific Ocean,
approximately 342 miles (550 km)
from the Pacific shore of Costa
Rica in Central America.
Population: Costa Rica –
4.5 million. Cocos Island –
none, Park Rangers only.
Getting There: Air Canada,
American Airlines, Delta
Airlines, and United Airlines
offer regular flights between the
North America and San Jose in
mainland Costa Rica. Charter
boat to Cocos Island.
Departure Tax/Visa: $29.00
departure tax in U.S. dollars.
A 90 day stay is typically granted
upon entry. Visas are not
required for Canadian or
U.S. visitors.
Currency: Costa Rica Colons
(CRC), U.S. dollars and credit
cards are widely accepted.
Driving: Rental cars, motorcycles,
mopeds, and bicycles may be
available by location. Drive on
the right side of the road.
Electricity: 120 volts AC,
60 Hz, with outlets that use
U.S. style plugs.
Language: Spanish is the official
language. English is used by
many travel/tour operators.
Time: UTC/GMT -6 hours.
Hyperbaric Chamber: On the
mainland and many hours away
from Cocos Island.
For more on Aggressor visit:
Need to know:
Dive travel
anD kiDs
Text by Margo Peyton
have spent the last three decades
of my life diving and traveling
with families from around world.
I created a company called Kids
Sea Camp that takes families with
kids age 4-18 on vacations to
experience and learn more about
the underwater world. As I’ve have
been diving, traveling, and teaching
kids and adults, I have picked up
a few good bits of advice and tips
along the way...
Photo: Kids Sea Camp
Top destination for kids age 5-8
The Cayman Islands. I created Kids
Sea Camp there because it is where
my son Robbie was born. It has
calm seas, clear water, and a climate
that’s perfect for the little ones. The
islands have stunning white sand
beaches and offer biking, snorkeling,
skateboarding, fishing, hiking,
windsurfing, museums, art galleries,
and a plethora of food and spirits
for all to enjoy. There are multiple
flights daily from the US and it’s not
expensive to get too.
I chose the Cayman Islands for
its ease of diving and abundance
in diversity. SASY (Supplied Air
Snorkelling for Youth) and Seal Team
kids can dive into the ocean and
enjoy learning about marine life in a
confined safe setting. Cobalt Coast
in Grand Cayman would be my top
choice, the resort offers one and two
bedroom suites and the dive team
there is very kid-friendly.
On Cayman Brac, Brac Reef Beach
resorts has a 140,000 gallon pool
sitting right on the ocean for the little
ones to do their aqua missions. It’s
all one-bedroom hotel-room style so
I feel for a family with one child the
double rooms are perfect. The resort
also has four rooms that can connect
to house larger families.
Bonaire is also a great destinaion.
Buddy Dive is a fantastic place for
SASY and Seal Team adventures.
They do these programs every week
of the year and their team is well
trained. They have the best “jumpoff-the-dock” marine life, and I would
say hands down the best dive team
for the little ones in that area.
The Cayman
Islands are a
fantastic place
to travel with
your kids, calm
water and lots of
activites make
it a great family
dive vacation
Don’t try to impress your child
or show off, I promise they will
try to do what you do
What is your favourite
destination for large families?
Buddy Dive Bonaire has one, two
and three bedroom villas and is
a great value for large families.
Bonaire caters to all levels of diver.
My second choice, if you’re willing
to travel, would be the Philippines.
Pura Vida Homes Resort in Dauin
Dumaguette is spectacular! They
also have one, two and three
bedroom villas. For your diving
dollar it’s the best diving in the
world, easy and very reasonably
Best for families with older kids
that have been diving a while?
Galapagos would be my first thought.
We use the Galapagos Sky and the
Majestic Explorer for our trips. I’ve
been taking kids to the Galapagos for
now 14 years. We dive from pangas,
so the kids and adults roll off the
side. It’s big animal interaction: big
turtles, wild dolphins, giant mantas,
marine iguanas, and tons of sea
lions. We always travel in June or July
which is peak whale shark season. It
is one of the last diving frontiers and
I feel like every time I go it’s a trip of a
lifetime. If you want to share the
rare and off the beaten path with
your children, then take them to
the Galapagos.
What’s your top choice for
families with non-divers?
St. Lucia at Anse Chastanet is
my number 1! Spa, jungle biking,
volcano hiking, paddle boarding,
sailing, snorkeling, chocolate culinary
classes, cupcake making, shopping,
and local sugar plantation walks, as
well as a jazzy sunset cruise. It offers
lots of time together as a family and
many fun activities for non-divers.
Second would be Palau. Palau
offers Rock Islands kayaking, World
War I and II history tours, museums,
shopping, spas, beautiful beaches.
What makes Kids Sea Camp
Special Needs friendly?
For the past six years we have been
taking special needs adults and kids
diving around the world, exceeding
their expectations. I have a team of
dive instructors that are experienced
in areas such as high functioning
autism, deaf, handicap, ADD or
ADHD, and even elderly divers that
just need a little more hand-holding.
We even have Valet Diving Service to
make everyday diving details easier
and less stressful.
We provide private one-on-one
instructors or dive masters for people
that need a little bit more professional
assistance. We have smaller tanks
and BC’s for smaller adults and
kids. We have destinations that can
cater to needs of dive platforms and
wheelchairs, and we can help people
with gear off in and out of the water. If
families give us specific instructions
that we need to have in place, for the
most part, we meet those needs.
Most importantly, the doctor who is
treating the special needs participant
has to give authorization for that
person to participate in scuba diving
activities. I require at least six months
notice and a few good in-depth
conversations about the needs. If we
can make it work, we will!
Photo: Kids Sea Camp
Any advice for parents and
relatives of new divers?
Know your kids’ depth limits and
profile restrictions. If you are not
a PADI pro or other dive pro, and
not an avid up-to-date diver, then
when you dive with your kids, always
make sure to request to have a dive
master or instructor leading you
on your dives. Many parents have
enough on their plate taking care of
themselves in the water and when
you add kids to that it can become
very stressful. Kids move around
faster and you can’t just talk or yell
at them underwater. So parents
and relatives should make sure they
have had a refresher course and
know their signals and skills well,
so that they can assist young divers
when needed. I also want to remind
parents that your kids watch you and
learn from you when you dive with
them. So lead by example. Make sure
your gear is streamlined, check your
gauges early and often, ascend and
descend slowly.
Always let someone else know
you’re going diving and make sure
you have a slate to write on. Things
happen, currents come up and you
need to be able to communicate
with each other.
It’s fun for families to come up with
some of their own signs and signals.
Kids should not assume that parents
know the same signs or signals. Go
over those before your dive.
Make sure you do a weight check
prior to diving and know the type of
dive you are going to do.
Make sure you are not forcing your
child to dive. If he or she is scared
or doesn’t want to go, then discuss
what’s going on and make it OK not
to dive. The worst thing you can do
is force a child or adult to dive when
they do not feel safe or well.
Don’t try to impress your child
or show off, I promise they will try
to do what you do. Just enjoy your
time in the water and enjoy the zero
gravity like kids do.
For kids a bit
older and looking
for something
a little more
the Galapagos
Islands offer an
incredible family
Remember diving should not be
like the military; you kids want to
have fun! They enjoy playing with
zero gravity and doing summersaults
and being upside down. Make some
of that OK, teach them when it’s OK
to have fun and when it’s not.
Do not give kids over the counter
medications before a dive
If I had a dollar for every time a child
told me their parent loaded them
with an antihistamine before a dive, I
could go out to a nice restaurant for
dinner. That can be very dangerous.
It can cause reverse blocks and also
cause panic and anxiety depending
what you gave them. Most common
is dehydration. Diving is very
dehydrating anyway, so adding a
decongestant before a dive can make
it ten times worse.
Margo Peyton is
Instructor, and owner
of Kids Sea Camp.
For more:
There is never a day that I don’t
learn from the moms or dads that
dive, or learn to dive, with Kids Sea
Camp. I have enriched my knowledge
and life from the children I meet.
My greatest moments are turning
a frightened and anxious mother’s
face into a calm and confident
smile; seeing three generations of
divers enjoying diving together as
a family; and taking special needs
kids out of the only world they have
ever known and showing them the
magical zero gravity world of water
for the very first time.
Travelling and diving with kids
can be an enriching and bonding
experience for the whole family.
Snapping happy
A first experience diving with crocodilians and a talk with the Gatorboy who started it all
Text and Photos by Jordan K. Snyder
ave you ever
wondered what it
would be like to be
face to face with a
prehistoric predator
that has been on the
planet for over 150
million years? An opportunity to
find out now exists in South Florida.
Chris Gillette, former cast member
of Discovery Channel’s Gatorboys
and professional alligator handler,
has recently established a dive
where you can get up close and
personal with these impressive
predators. This is the first and only
legal crocodilian interaction in the
U.S. With alligators being one of
Florida’s most exotic and captivating
animals, this is truly a once in a
lifetime experience.
Changing attitudes
Upon first entering the water, I
was filled with a childish sense of
fascination as I watched these large
charismatic animals swim past me
with no interest in my presence.
Sharing space with them and
observing how they glide through
the water was a surreal experience.
I saw them in a new light, like
tranquil dragons flying above my
head instead of merely jaws and
teeth. Not many get the chance
to witness these animals from this
perspective. The opportunity to
observe the natural behaviour of
these animals convinces me that
it’s respect that they deserve, not
fear. While there are 15 gators in
the enclosure, the dive focuses
around Casper, the alpha male and
the largest gator (about 10ft/3m
long). Chris understands Casper
remarkably well. Their relationship
allows first timers to get comfortable
around an alligator and also allows
photographers to take up-close
photos. During the dive, I was
able to get extremely close to
these alligators, without touching
them, and appreciate being in their
environment. The clarity of the water
is a thousand times better than the
best day in the Everglades, creating a
They are far more social than
people think and spend the majority
of their time sitting together
For some,
swimming and
an alligator may
be a little too
intimidating, but
in a controlled
environment, it’s
proving popular
comfortable environment for people
to freely observe these animals and
get some amazing photos. Having
interacted with apex predators in
and outside of the water, I can truly
say that this was a unique dive. Their
ability to go about their day without
reacting to you, not only is extremely
calming, but also allows for some
awesome photo opportunities. This
was my first crocodilian dive and I
can assure you that I don’t intend it
to be my last.
Gators in “rescue”
The dive takes place at the
Everglades Outpost Wildlife Rescue
in Homestead, Florida. This is not
a zoo, but a rescue sanctuary for
hurt or injured wildlife. Animals that
are unable to be returned to the
wild will be kept at the sanctuary;
this includes nuisance alligators.
Nuisance gators are alligators that
were in the wrong place at the
wrong time. Essentially these are
gators that have come too close to
civilization, such as being found in a
backyard or swimming pool. Florida
forbids alligator relocation because
they have excellent homing ability
and would likely come back to the
same location. More often than
not, nuisance gators are killed; very
few are placed in rescue. While the
dive experience is in an enclosure,
these animals are still wild. Some
have been there for years, while
others have only been there for a
few months; none of them were
raised in captivity or treated as pets.
Chris works with these animals
to teach them, he says, “To know
[humans are] not a threat and not
a food source, so they are largely
uninterested [in people].” The
understanding he has built with the
alligators and the captive situation
allows Chris the ability to move
them around for amazing photo
After the dive, I sat down with
Chris to pick his brain about this
amazing experience and what sets it
apart from other crocodilian dives.
DIVER: What gave you the idea to set
up this type of experience?
Outpost Wildlife
Rescue in
Florida offers
the chance to
get up close and
Gillette: Over the last decade I
have worked professionally with
gators and crocs in the worlds of
research, tourism, and photography;
both in the wild and in captivity.
My underwater shots of gators and
crocs in the wild caught the interest
of photographers and thrill seekers
wanting to join me, but due to safety
and logistical constraints I saw no
way for this to be possible. Luckily
[Everglades Outpost] had an alligator
enclosure with a filtration system
I saw them in a new light, like
tranquil dragons flying above my
head instead of merely jaws
and a light bulb went off in my head!
Do you think the enclosure takes away
or alters from a wild experience?
[These nuisance gators] get to live
out their lives at the rescue and
spend the majority of their time
doing normal gator things, such as
basking, swimming, and interacting
with each other. The spacious
enclosure holds 15 alligators. They
are far more social than most people
think and they spend the majority
of their time sitting together and
laying on top of one another, even
though there is ample space. On
multiple occasions in the wild, I
have seen over a 100 alligators in a
similar-sized pond; their densities
can shift dramatically depending on
the season each year. Being cold
blooded, the alligators actually eat
very little. They are typically fed
once a week and are not sedated
or overfed in any way. Their placid
demeanors are 100% natural as
evidenced by my underwater shots
of them in the wild.
Chris Gillette, former cast
member of Discovery
Channel’s Gatorboys and
professional alligator handler
Many see this as manhandling
wildlife and prefer wild interactions,
so how does this experience
compare with places to see
crocodilians in the wild?
When people ask for comparisons
to wild interactions and that it is
“unnatural” for these gators to
be in captivity or to be handled,
I like to remind that these gators
would have otherwise been shot
and killed if not at the rescue and
that the crocodile interactions in
Mexico and Cuba are only possible
by feeding wild animals, because
otherwise the crocs wouldn’t hang
around for photos. Wild animals,
yes – just like my gators are
wild – but not wild behaviour in
any way, and completely humanmanipulated through feeding and
habitation. I don’t see a problem
with these operations, I’ve done
it in Mexico and would love to
go back, but people need to
understand that it is not a “wild
interaction” when you have been
hand feeding and habituating an
animal for years.
Will these interactions stop the
inexperienced from going into
the wild and attempting to swim
with alligators?
One of the things I hope my gator
dives at the rescue can do is
provide a safe and legal outlet for
people wanting to get in the water
with an alligator. So many people
want photos of or with an alligator
and try to illegally feed wild gators
for their photo opportunity; I hope
this provides a way for people to
get what they want in a controlled
environment without the danger.
I hope my gator dives provide a safe
and legal outlet for people wanting to
get in the water with an alligator
hope they have the experience
to do it safely.
Is there a necessity in creating
such an experience or is it more of
a personal intrigue for someone to
share space with an alligator?
People come to dive with the gators
for different reasons. Some for
the novelty and to get a selfie with
a gator, while some are hardcore
underwater photographers looking
for the next big species to check
off their list.
Do you think this can be recreated
in other places?
This is the only dive of its kind in
the U.S.; I think it is a really neat
and unique idea. As cool as I think
it is, it also requires a very in-depth
understanding of gator behaviour
that takes many years to accrue.
If someone else does try to make
their own version of this idea, I just
For more information
on this dive visit:
For those interested in getting the
chance to meet Casper and his
friends, booking and pricing are done
through Chris’ website. On the day
of the dive, you’ll show up at the
Everglades Outpost at around 9am.
After a dive brief by Chris on alligator
behaviour and safety precautions,
you’re set to get in! Only one guest
is allowed in the water at a time,
but no need to worry because Chris
will be in the water with you. While
touching the gators is not allowed,
you are permitted to get close and
take photos. Along with a mask and
snorkel, Chris recommends you
bring a wetsuit, as the water tends
to be chilly. A weight belt is also
recommended if you want spend time
on the bottom, which allows for some
great overhead shots of the alligators.
Cameras and GoPros are welcome.
No excuses, get snapping!
Dive Traveller
To rent, or not to rent?
Text by Fly & Sea Dive Adventures
our diving vacation is
booked, and now your
mind turns to packing.
Should you bring your
own dive gear with you or
hire at your destination? Ultimately,
the decision should be made taking
in a variety of factors.
Photo: BARE
Bring your own
No gear hire costs: Resorts will
sometimes charge upwards of
$20 for rental of a wetsuit per day.
These costs can add up, even
if you get a package deal that
includes all your gear. By the end
of your trip you could owe a fair
amount of $$.
Familiarity: Unless your gear is
brand new, you will have built up
a certain amount of familiarity
with it. This means no awkward
fiddling looking for the dump valve
or strange contortions trying to get
air out of an unknown BCD.
Comfort & fit: You bought your
gear for you, to fit your body. It’s
likely snug, comfortable, and
the perfect size, which clearly
might not be the case with rental
equipment. Those who fall into
the XXL or XXS size categories,
it’s likely that you will struggle to
find suitably fitting gear at your
destination. Nobody wants to be
distracted from their dive because
they are too uncomfortable.
Style: Do you want to be diving
in 50 shades of neon or would
you like the photos of your diving
vacation to feature something a
little more stylish? Some resorts
don’t update their gear regularly,
which could mean that a neon pink
disaster awaits you.
Well maintained: Do you have
any idea of the of the condition
of the equipment where you are
going to rent? A good scuba diving
travel agent will have vetted the
operations they are selling, which
helps. However, your dive travel
agent may not have been to the
resort in question and perhaps
hasn’t seen the dive gear in person.
Ease: You won’t have to waste
time trying on and sorting out gear
on arrival. You can stash your gear
and dash straight to the pool bar!
Carrying it: Taking it with you
means schlepping it around from
house, to the car, to the airport,
to another car... why start your
vacation off with hard labour?!
Photographers: Shooters may
already have substantial additonal
baggage, being able to cut down
on another heavy bag could make
your trip more enjoyable.
Excess luggage charges: Airlines
differ in their policies so you have
to check their website for the most
up to date information. Generally
speaking, the more bags and the
more flights, the higher the cost.
If you’re heading to a remote
destination and require small
planes, additional bags can cost a
small fortune.
Maintenance and spares: If
you take your own gear, you are
responsible for its upkeep, so not
only do you need your gear to be
ready and fully serviced, you also
need to bring some spares.
Getting it dry: For anyone who has
ever travelled with scuba gear, no
more words are needed here. If this
If looking stylish
on vacation is
important (and
let’s be honest,
no one wants to
look bad in their
vacation photos)
you should
consider taking
your own gear,
rather than rent a
is your first time, understand that
it is likely that your gear may be
packed wet and therefore heavier
than you would like, and it may still
need drying when you get home.
Ultimately, the decision is going
to be based on personal preference.
While cost is always a factor, try not
to let this be the deciding factor.
Do strongly consider your level of
comfort and the type of diving you
are doing. If you are travelling to a
new location with different conditions
to what you are used to, will you be
more at ease in your own gear?
You also don’t have to decide
one or the other, but can of course
combine your own gear with rentals.
Maybe you take your own reg, mask
and wetsuit, but rent a BCD and fins.
It’s worth noting that as a diver,
you’ll always be more comfortable
using your own familiar dive gear.
Your local dive store can help you
make the right gear purcahsing
decisions depending on your needs.
This will ultimately make you a safer
diver, and help you enjoy your dive
vacation more.
The ProPlus X is designed around a perfectly
clear, high visibility, TFT screen with an advanced
digital compass, Bluetooth connectivity, quick
disconnect, intuitive color-coded interface
and powered by Dual Algorithm. It is our most
advanced dive computer ever. Learn more today
at your local authorized Oceanic dealer.
Back Pages
Things you need to know about dive gear, medicine, photography and more...
It’s all in the lining!
Stay Ultrawarm this season
Being Digital
One easy mistake
= one expensive
Don’t push it take it easy on
your ears
A plethora of
page 52
page 56
Final Cut
Eau Canada
page 54
page 60
page 66
Good storytelling
is essential for
good filmmaking
Evaluate your
mental health
before the dive
page 62
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It’s a bryozoan
bonanza in the
Welland Canal
Ultrawarmth Accessories
7mm hood $89.95 - 5mm gloves $79.95
As any good tailor will tell you, the lining makes a suit. BARE seems to share
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the unique lining captures wasted body heat and reflects it back to your body.
In fact it’s actually been FDA determined to increase thermal energy. Last year
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Diving lABEls
Personalized Diving Labels
Every diver on the planet has at some point
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onboard a dive boat; after all, most dive gear
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Practical, useful and only yours!
A heavy duty light for demanding explorers,
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Bang for buck, Princeton Tec may well make the best dive lights on the market.
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*All prices in USD unless noted
Being Digital
My Beautiful
By Michel GilBert & Danielle alary
ometimes we run
out of luck, make
stupid mistakes and
accidents happen.
This is how my most
beautiful paperweight
came to be.
Over the course of a lifetime
many things happen: some good,
some bad. Some are not deserved,
others are bound to happen due to
your own behaviour.
Once upon a time…
On the west coast of Florida,
the sun rose slowly on an early
February morning, casting soft light
on the low-lying fog. We woke up to
the sound of singing birds.
This was part of our annual
manatee trip, the twenty-fifth edition
of this image gathering adventure.
I sat at the equipment table to
assemble my camera housing. Next
to me Gavin, a 9-year old curious
boy, watched in fascination.
The child was eager to jump
Photos: Alary-Gilbert/SUB-IMAGES
"Two of my most precious
cameras: the Kodak Brownie
of my beloved aunt Lulu and
my priceless paperweight,
designed by Nikon and
flooded thru my own fault"
in the water. His mom Holly had
brought him on their first trip to
manatee country: Crystal River.
Children are inquisitive and
Gavin wanted to learn as much as
he could about manatees. He also
wanted to know more about the
photo gear that I planned to use.
As I worked on my equipment
I explained to my young friend
how things worked. I commented:
“One must pay close attention
to maintenance in order to avoid
catastrophic flooding. Those little
black rubber parts are called
'O-rings' and they are responsible
for keeping the water out of the
housing, preserving precious
cameras and lenses.”
Ever more curious, Gavin politely
asked more questions and I gladly
answered. I saw myself in his
young eyes. I was this kid asking
tons of questions, especially about
all things related to water, scuba
diving and photography. I was the
mentor I did not have.
I noticed a stream of small bubbles
coming up from the housing body.
Instantly, my heart shifted in high gear
Time to suit up
After completing maintenance and
assembly of the camera gear, we
suited up on the dock in front of
the house. We were lucky. This was
a cold morning with temperature
hovering around the low 50’s
Fahrenheit (10-12°C).
As we were putting on our fins we
could see the sleeping manatees
on the other side of the canal. They
would come up to breathe and we
could hear their respiration in the
silence of the early morning.
Holly and Gavin slowly entered
the water, making sure they did
not disturb the resting sireneans.
After four days they knew the drill,
especially Gavin, who, despite
his excitement, was behaving in
Photos: Alary-Gilbert/SUB-IMAGES
the most respectful way. As the
quintessential passive observer, he
let manatees be manatees, enjoying
their presence and building in his
mind memories that would last a
He swam with his mom in the
most fluid manner and enjoyed the
moment – carpe diem.
Shit happens…
I slid into the water a few minutes
after my friends. Grabbing the
camera housing that Danielle
handed to me, I swam toward the
entrance of Three Sisters Springs’
runoff. All was fine and I took the
time to look around for photo ops.
Right before I entered the runoff
canal I saw a manatee swimming
down. He was leaving Three Sisters,
slowly gliding with the flow. I
thought, “Time for a picture.”
I brought my housing up and, as
I was looking into my viewfinder, I
noticed a stream of small bubbles
coming up from the body. Instantly,
my heart shifted in high gear, I rose
the housing above the water, port
facing down. There was about a
tablespoon of water inside the port.
I turned off power on the camera
and swam back to the dock as fast
as I could. I was praying Neptune
and all the Gods of the sea to
preserve my camera. It was a brand
new Nikon D800 and the housing
was also new.
Coming out of the water I rushed
to the garage where I had a towel
atop a workbench. As I put the
housing down to open it, I looked
around all the sealing surfaces and
found the source of the flood, and
the blunder I had made.
A little piece of rubber was
sticking out from the side of the
housing, exactly where the front and
back part mate.
Cause of the flood: a pinched
O-ring. Cause of the pinched O-ring:
Michel giving explanations to Gavin,
not paying enough attention when
he closed the housing, not looking
Gavin has a
great manatee
encounter at
Florida's Crystal
River, he also
learns a valuable
lesson - at
someone else's
around the mating surfaces before
entering the water, not looking for
streaming bubbles before starting to
swim, not looking at the viewfinder
to see if the blinking LED water alarm
had gone off.
Summarized: simple stupid error
on the part of the photographer.
It did not seem like the water
had entered the camera body and
I hoped to save it. Despite our
best efforts to dry its bottom after
battery removal, the immaculate
D800 was pronounced dead.
An expensive paperweight
Today, this pristine camera body
sits on my desk as a CAD$3000
paperweight. I see it everyday and it
acts as a reminder of my stupidity, a
lesson learned the hard way.
As for Gavin, he is growing up
and still thinks about that magic
experience. After all, a camera is a
small price to pay to help a kid learn
and enjoy the miracle of nature.
Happy bubbles!
Final Cut
Tell a Good Story
ne of my
heroes, Stan
Waterman, has a
remarkable ability.
An octogenarian,
he has regaled
the diving public with fascinating
stories for decades. His storytelling
prowess has inspired fellow divers,
and led us to learn and care more
about our natural world. At film
festivals, he commands the podium,
takes a thoughtful breath and utters
six words, “Let me tell you a story,”
before introducing his short film.
Inevitably, he is rewarded with
applause and often a standing
ovation. When he presents his work,
he owns the crowd.
Photo courtesy: Jill Heinerth / Excellence Canada
By Jill HeinertH
Neurologists and researchers
have noted that the words, “Let
me tell you a story,” elicit a very
particular primal response in the
human brain. Like sitting around
the communal campfire listening
to life-saving wisdom offered by
elders, the words, “Let me tell you a
story,” can offer caution, joy, or vital
information. While we listen, our
brain chemistry changes, releasing
a neurochemical called oxytocin.
Our bodies fabricate this chemical
in situations of trust and kindness
and its production motivates
synergy and collaboration with
others. When the narrative involves
a character-driven plot, cooperation
between listeners is the result.
Essentially, good stories will entice
As underwater filmmakers, it is worth
noting that good storytelling featuring
a protagonist will inspire viewers
As one of the
Explorers in
Residence for the
Royal Canadian
Society, Jill is
used to telling
stories in
front of large
crowds, seen
here speaking
at Excellence
people to engage and participate
in solutions. As underwater
filmmakers, it is worth noting
that good storytelling featuring a
protagonist will inspire viewers to
empathize and act.
So how does storytelling apply
to your vacation video from the
blue depths of Bonaire, Galapagos,
or Micronesia? Creating an arc
of narrative will shift your video
from destination travel log to
masterpiece and leave your
audiences asking for more.
Photos: Jill Heinerth
pulls the audience inward to root
for the success of the protagonist.
Conflict can exist between
predators and prey, man versus
nature, or mankind against all odds
of success.
Keep it real
Your audience wants to be able
to see themselves in your story.
They want to be whisked away to
a place where their imaginations
can participate in either a positive
or negative way. An iceberg diving
experience should give them chills
and a school of mantas might make
them want to book a vacation. In
either case, you want them to feel the
brace of the cold water or the joy of
the dive itself. You want the audience
to feel something, not just observe.
Set the hook
Keeping it real might tug at
audience heartstrings, and when
you have the audience experiencing
empathy, you can set the hook that
keeps them watching. I recently
read the book jacket of Peter
Hunt’s, The Last Intruder, a story
about searching for a U.S. Navy A-6
aircraft which had crashed offshore
of Whidbey Island, Washington.
I might not have invested time in
reading yet another dive log story
about searching for a wreck, but
when I read the quote on the back
cover I was hooked. It reads,
“Although I owned a boat, I had
no sonar, metal detector, or any
practical method of surveying the
ocean bottom. With an incurable
illness, no prospect of financial
reward, little chance of success,
brain surgery looming, and one
child in college with another about
to start, I was not in a position
to spend thousands of dollars
on a search. Still, desperate for
a distraction, anything to pry my
focus away from the disease, I
decided—the hell with Parkinson’s.
I’m doing it.” Peter Hunt had my
attention and with those opening
lines enticed me to read on. I
was coaxed into the book by his
character and wanted to know how
it all turned out.
Your diving trip might not have
such a dramatic motivation,
but there will be something that
compels the character in your
narrative to take on their mission. Is
this the trip of a lifetime? Have you
made life sacrifices to participate
in this trip? Are you exploring your
personal limits? Are you in search of
a particular animal or phenomena?
What is your quest?
Share the tension
Every Hollywood film is built with
tension. When you share your story,
you can offer apprehension and
anxiety that invests the audience
in the outcome. Is there a hurdle
to overcome such as bad weather,
difficult diving conditions, or
financial barriers? Are you nervous
about jumping into a shark cage or
diving deeper than you have been
before? Sharing real feelings makes
a character relatable and further
Behind the
scenes of Jill’s
recent talk at
the impressive
event, part of
the Whistler Ski
& Snowboard
Festival - think
of it as TED
Talks pumped on
Highlight good outcomes
Resolve your story in a way that
spotlights a happy ending. When
the audience experiences success
despite difficult odds, they will
leave the viewing experience
feeling satisfied. Good stories
reveal a heroic success found
after challenge. You will make the
greatest impact when you offer
an “ah ha” moment that helps the
audience see the bigger picture
about your message. Perhaps they
watched your character achieve
a deepest dive despite personal
anxiety and seas that nearly forced
the weekend to be scrubbed.
Maybe your story follows the
pursuit of diving with whale sharks
despite the financial sacrifices
made to make the trip possible.
Perhaps your story covers an issue
of conservation that is prescient
and reveals a call to action.
Picture this. It is 11:15 p.m.
on the clock in the hallway of an
average home and we see the
light coming from the bottom of a
bedroom door. The camera intrudes
into a young girl’s bedroom. She
has fallen asleep with a book in
hand. Great White Sharks of the
Pacific is seen on the cover. A jar
of loose change sits on the bedside
table with a label that clearly
reads, “SCUBA.” With that short
opening scene in your vacation
video, the audience is welcomed
into a personal world and learns
about the catalyst for the story. We
immediately want to see the young
girl succeed and get her chance to
dive with sharks. If we see her in a
scuba classroom, or practicing in a
pool or assembling her gear without
assistance, carrying the load to the
boat, then we become invested
in her success. The attention to
the narrative could turn another
family travel log into a story that
motivates the audience to love the
character and will perhaps translate
her success into taking on greater
challenges in their own lives.
Now, that is a great story!
If you want to read Peter Hunt’s
book The Last Intruder and feel the
compelling triumph of the human
spirit over adversity, visit:
Go Easy on Your Ears
By Divers Alert Network
he diver was a 36-year-old
woman who had done four
dives in the two months
since her certification. She
was physically fit and in
good health but reported
having intermittent difficulty
equalizing during her certification dives.
On a warm Saturday in June, the diver
did a series of three dives to a maximum
depth of 64 feet (20m) in a freshwater
quarry. Her bottom times were within her
computer’s no-decompression limits,
and she performed surface intervals
of at least an hour between dives. Her
last dive of the day was to 45 feet (14m)
for 45 minutes. During this dive she
reported trouble equalizing during her
initial descent and increasing difficulty
on subsequent descents. She did not
complain of pain or any other significant
symptoms, but she did report a feeling of
“fullness” in her left ear. She stayed out
of the water for the next two days and the
sensation of fullness decreased but did
not completely resolve.
After the two-day break the diver
believed she would be able to equalize
effectively despite a residual feeling of
fullness and decided to dive again in
the same location. This time she found
equalization difficult and uncomfortable
as she descended. The discomfort
continued to her maximum depth of
55 feet (17m). She continued her dive
for approximately 20 minutes until she
could no longer tolerate the discomfort
and signaled her buddy to being an
ascent. At approximately 20 feet (6m)
the discomfort intensified and became
distractingly painful. The pain combined
with the diver’s inexperience led to her
making an uncontrolled ascent caused
by a failure to vent her BCD. During the
rapid ascent, her ear pain intensified
Having missed her safety stop,
the diver and her buddy attempted
to descend to 15 feet (4.5m). As they
descended she realized she was
unable to equalize and made a forceful
attempt at approximately 10 feet (3m).
She reported hearing a “pop” and
experiencing a very sharp pain in her
ears. The diver then aborted the descent
and returned to the surface and required
assistance to get back to shore. Once
ashore she was observed staggering
Photo Courtesy: DAN
The injury
and unable to walk without aid. She also
became nauseated and vomited several
times. The diver found she could not
tolerate lying flat or moving her head,
both of which provoked further nausea
and vomiting. At this point the diver’s
buddy called for emergency medical
services, which transported the diver to
the hospital.
The diagnosis
Upon examination the treating physician
noted nystagmus (rapid involuntary
eye movements), acute nausea, and
vertigo. The diver also complained of
diminished hearing and a persistent
sensation of fullness in the left ear.
Examination revealed slight redness of
the right tympanic membrane (eardrum)
and significant redness and bulging
accompanied by fluid and blood
accumulation behind the left tympanic
membrane. The combination of these
symptoms indicated a middle-ear injury
exacerbated by ear barotrauma, most
likely caused by the dive profiles and
attempts at forceful equalization.
Lessons learned
Early in our dive training we are taught we
should never dive with congestion, a head
cold, or allergy symptoms — these can
interfere with equalization, we are taught.
At some point in our diving careers many
of us forget this and begin to push our
luck with equalization, diving on days
when perhaps we shouldn’t and using
allergy medications to make equalization
possible. This diver’s injury is an excellent
example of a minor situation exacerbated
by a failure to recognize an injury early
and stay out of the water. While this diver
had to contend with her symptoms and
stay out of the water for several weeks
after her injury, ending her first dive after
experiencing difficulty equalizing and
taking a day or two to rest may have had
her happily diving by the middle of the
following week. Avoid learning this lesson
the hard way yourself, and go easy on
your ears.
For more information on safe diving
practices visit
You dive. You explore. You take risks others
would never consider. And you do it confidently
knowing DAN is with you.
DAN membership benefits include:
4 $100,000 Emergency Evacuation Coverage
4 Access to the World’s Leading
Dive Accident Insurance
4 Emergency Medical Assistance, Including
DAN’s 24-Hour Emergency Hotline
4 Dive Safety Resources
4 Alert Diver Magazine
Plus, your DAN Membership helps support vital
dive research and education to improve dive
safety for both you and divers like you worldwide.
Explore with DAN
Join Today:
Tech Diving
It’s a Mindset Thing
erhaps we should
move away from
this whole technical
diving nonsense, and
simply agree to call
all recreational diving,
At least until we have a clearer
picture of where ordinary or ‘sport’
diving ends and ‘technical’ diving
begins, because right now, that
boundary line looks pretty fuzzy and
nobody is able to explain – to me or
anyone else – exactly what technical
diving is…or is not.
Surely asking where one ends
and the other begins is an innocent
enough question? The human
condition is built around being able
to pigeonhole things, to categorize
the random and rationalize chaos.
Photo: Jill Heinerth
By Steve LewiS
We talk about genres for films,
novels, poetry, music, TV, and
radio stations; schools of painting,
sculpture, and architecture. We
particularly like to classify people by
their careers – as in “my brother is
an accountant” – and by the things
our friends and neighbours like to do
with their lives.
We have classifications for animals,
plants, rocks; even clouds! It should
be easy enough then to come up
with satisfying dimensions for the
‘technical diving’ pigeonhole, but it’s
not. The scope keeps changing. What
was once ‘technical diving behaviour’
is now something every diver does
(breathing nitrox was once considered
technical diving, for example). It’s like
trying to take aim at a moving target.
Perhaps that’s a good thing.
What defines a
technical dive? A
rebreather, task
loading, wreck
diving? In some
way, all diving
is technical
The chances are that you’re a
certified diver – the first clue being
you’re reading this magazine.
Chances are also that you been
asked what technical or tech diving
is, perhaps by friends or family,
especially if you’re engaged in it.
And if you are not, you may have
asked the question yourself. So, you
already know it’s close to impossible
to answer without some long,
drawn-out, convoluted, explanation
that new divers and non-divers
probably wouldn’t understand; and
that the majority of people calling
themselves ‘technical divers’ will
disagree with anyway.
In some way, all diving is technical.
You and I can’t breathe
underwater without the aid of some
trick of engineering. Whether the
dive is open-circuit, closed-circuit, or
something in between, the ‘breathything’ keeping us alive down there
is technical. Even the compressor
to fill gas tanks – air, nitrox, trimix,
oxygen, diluent, whatever – is a piece
of technical engineering.
At a dive show in the UK this past
winter I watched a presentation
explaining what divers as a whole
can learn from the technical
diving community. It was a great
presentation and brought up some
compelling ideas:
Risk management
Proper gas planning following
the rule of thirds
Streamlining kit and our orientation
in the water
Being able to move through the
water without kicking up clouds
of silt or kicking the heck out of
coral reefs
Developing a better understanding
of and respect for the marine
Having a clear dive plan
(and following it)
Having a realistic contingency
plan if bad things happen
Working as part of a team
These are all mom and apple-pie
issues, but really these are all things
that we introduce to punters off the
street when they sign up for their first
open-water diver course.
Thought-provoking stuff; certainly
for me. And of course, just like you, I
have my own take on what technical
diving is and any necessary exchange
of ideas with the general community.
Technical diving really has
nothing to do with equipment,
choice of gas, increased bottom
time, how far outside the NDL
we’ve wandered, how far from the
surface we’ve traveled, the colour
of our fins, how many certification
cards we have in our wallet, or the
agency that issued them.
Those are simply diving things.
It’s about mindset. It’s about the
way we approach whatever time
we have in the water, and how we
allow our minds to operate when
we’re diving.
If we need to put a label on the
type of diving we enjoy and then stuff
that type of diving into a specific
pigeonhole – and maybe we don’t,
but if we do – let’s start there.
Someone I respect and who took
the time to teach me to be a mindful
diver, explained that when things
go pear-shaped in the water, what’s
dangerous is our reaction to it rather
than the situation itself. He pointed
out that when things break or stop
working deep in a cave or inside
a wreck or when we’ve racked up
a decompression obligation that’s
going to require a slow stroll rather
than a quick sprint back to the
surface, security and comfort comes
from fixing the problem in situ rather
than running away from it. That’s a
mindset thing.
In the type of diving he was
teaching me about – trimix diving in
deep caves – he explained there is
absolutely no room for panic. There
is no option to bolt for the surface.
He said, if you get the urge to flee
or freeze rather than stay and fight,
you’ll die. His phrase contained a
handful of Anglo-Saxon expletives
delivered in the special potency that
an Alabama accent brings into a
conversation, but the sentiment was
exact and precise. If you think you’re
apt to panic, try another activity…
golf perhaps.
When things go pear-shaped in
the water, what’s dangerous is our
reaction rather than the situation itself
We can control panic by
controlling circumstances –
inspecting our kit before the dive,
using a checklist, having a realistic
dive plan and following it, having
a plan B, etc. That’s an approach/
attitude thing, and that’s mindset.
A second step is to learn how to
direct our reaction to surprises; to
be unfazed by stuff hitting the fan.
And the secret to being cool at those
times is to control our breathing.
Martial arts, yoga, and meditation
teach us that it is all about breath
control. Add diving to that list.
Breath control is a mindset thing.
I wrote a book called Staying Alive.
Is about diving, not the disco song.
The trigger for writing it was a spate
of diving deaths in the technical
diving community caused by the
same human failing: complacency.
Not analyzing breathing gas or not
labelling it correctly, diving without
the proper gear or training or recent
experience, or diving without a
bailout plan are complacent acts.
Diving with gear that is known to be
wonky or unsuitable, diving without
inspecting your kit and without any
pre-dive checks, these too are acts
of complacency. In that book, I
borrowed the term the Normalization
of Deviance, first applied to the
Steve Lewis is an
author, adventure
travel consultant, and
a technical diving
evaluator. He lives
in a small converted
schoolhouse in the
wilds of Muskoka
and has what he
terms “the good
fortune” to travel
around the world to
lecture and teach
NASA mindset that lead to the
Challenger Space Shuttle disaster.
The Normalization of Deviance
essentially boils down to not
bothering to do what you know is
the correct or prescribed way to
do something because there’s an
easier way, and it takes less time.
That easy but riskier way worked
fine last time, it may have worked
fine for a dozen times. You know
it’s not as safe, but it works… until
it doesn’t and then people die. And
complacency is a mindset thing.
The one problem with all of this
mindset business, is that it’s primarily
common sense, and as such not
just a technical diving concept. Or at
least, it shouldn’t be. Should it?
Above all, if cultivating the right
mindset works for technical diving,
surely it works for all recreational
diving. And recreational diving
is what we all do; you, your dive
buddies, me, and most of the folks
we read about in magazines like
this one. All non-professional,
non-military, non-research, nonscientific, non-commercial diving
operations. We dive for fun, not to
find a cure for cancer or to build
bridges or docks; we mustn’t let
ourselves lose sight of that aspect of
the activity (something perhaps pure
sport divers can teach us all).
We all love to belong. We all love
to join a club. It’s another aspect
of the human condition to want to
belong to a tribe. It’s natural, nice, a
handy support structure. But there’s
a potential bad side to all forms of
tribalism. It has the power to divide
and segregate us.
It’s probably fair to ask why we
need to define technical diving as
different to non-technical diving;
unless we need to prove one is
superior, it’s simple elitist tribalism.
What I do and write about is
considered technical diving: caves,
wrecks, rebreathers, and so on. But
honestly it’s just diving. It might be
a little more complex and hopefully
more interesting than a bimble in the
local quarry. But my aim, if there is
one, has always been to demystify
what I do, and to point out that it’s
all just diving. We’re all in the same
“business” and that business is
having fun, safely.
So maybe, this lack of definition,
this clouding of the lines between one
type of diving and the other, is a good
thing. And maybe we should be less
uptight about making technical diving
distinct from anything else, and focus
instead on being more mindful rather
than drawing up tribal boundaries.
Dive Medicine
Mental Health
and Diving
By Dr. DaviD Sawatzky
his column is going
to be an “off the
cuff” comment on
mental health issues
and diving from my
perspective as a
diver, instructor, and
diving medical consultant.
So where to start? In spite of
what some of us may believe or
pretend, no one is perfect. All of
us have mental stresses every day
of our lives. All of us have severe
mental stresses on occasion. It is
a virtual certainty that something
“really bad” is going to happen to
everyone at some time in their lives.
Photo: Maxwell Hohn
So how do we decide when it is safe
to dive, when it is safe to do what
kind of diving, and when we should
let our dive gear dry out for a while?
On a broad scale, there
are personalities, personality
disorders, and psychoses.
Personalities are easy. We all
have one, some a bit stronger and
more unusual than others. I think it
would be fair to say that divers, as
a group, have stronger and more
unusual personalities than the
general population. We are a selfselected group and the sport only
attracts certain types of people.
I am reminded of an observation
They were making decisions based
on a false self-image and should
not have been doing these dives
For some
people diving is
a way to let go
and relax, for
others, high risk
situatons add to
that stress. Self
evaluation is key
I made many years ago. I have
had the good fortune of getting
to know quite a few individuals
who perform individual activities
(diving, cave-diving, caving,
climbing, skiing, etc.) at a world
class level. They all tend to have
the same personality traits: smart,
independent, self-reliant, driven,
active. Some divers also fit this
elite group, but I believe all divers
have more of these characteristics than
does the general population.
Contact with reality
Psychoses, psychotics, and individuals
suffering a “psychotic break” are also
pretty simple to understand. They do not
live in the same world as the rest of us.
This is usually described as a “loss of
contact with reality”. If you truly believe
that you are Hitler born again and that
you are going to conquer the world,
you should never be allowed to dive.
No one who is experiencing psychotic
symptoms should dive. Their judgement
is almost always poor.
When some individuals are going
through an extremely stressful time in
their lives they may suffer a psychotic
break. This may happen with severe
depression or when a person’s ability
to cope with the stress in their lives is
grossly exceeded. When you believe
the situation in the world around you
is substantially different than what
everyone else believes, you should not
dive. Of course, many people going
through a divorce think that their ex is
“psychotic” but that isn’t the same thing!
When a person has gotten through their
psychotic break and is back to “normal”,
diving MAY be reasonable.
Just to make it perfectly clear, people
suffering from psychotic symptoms should
never dive because their judgement may
be so compromised that they could kill
themselves or someone else.
Personality disorders
Personality disorders happen when
people are suffering from a functional
mental disorder but they do not have
delusions or hallucinations. Historically
this was often called a “neurosis” or
the person is said to be “neurotic” but
these terms are no longer used. Their
behaviour may be odd, but it is usually
within socially acceptable limits (barely).
They pretty much “live in the same
world” as the rest of us.
Personality disorders include
obsessive-compulsive, impulse control,
anxiety, hysteria, and a large number of
phobias (fears). These behaviours limit
the person in some way and they create
difficulties, but they still allow them to
get on with some form of useful, often
highly productive life.
Karen Horney was a German
psychoanalyst who practiced in the
USA in the early 1900s, who had a very
interesting theory about the underlying
cause of neuroses (personality
disorders). She believed that those
suffering personality disorders have a
distorted way of looking at the world
and at themselves, and that this is
determined by their own needs.
Horney believed insecurity and anxiety
causes the child/person to develop an
idealized image of themselves so that they
can gain a feeling of identity and unity.
Basically, personal flaws are ignored or
seen as strengths. As adults they may be
narcissistic (self-centered), perfectionistic,
and/or vindictive. Or they may go to the
other extreme and be self-effacing, too
compliant, needy, codependent, resigned
or schizoid (isolated).
All of us have these characteristics to
some degree. The secret is that we have
to keep things in balance. Someone who
is a world-class skier should have a large
amount of pride in their ability to ski, but
this pride is based on reality and not an
inaccurate image. Anyone who does an
extreme sport at a world-class level has
to absolutely believe in themselves, but
it should be proportionate to their skills.
We all know people whose ego is so big
that it is hard to fit into the same room
with them. One easy way to identify
these people is that they tend to talk
about themselves, a lot. Their sentences
tend to start with “I”.
Anyone who does an
extreme sport has to
believe in themselves, but
it should be proportionate
to their skills
The opposite of neurosis or
personality disorder is “self-realization”.
Basically, we need to have an extremely
clear and accurate understanding of
our real skills and abilities. We need to
respond to life honestly as ourselves
and not on the basis of an insecure/
anxiety driven image or compulsion. The
amount of divergence between our selfimage and reality is a measure of how
big a problem we have.
I basically see mental health as a
continuum from the “perfect” selfrealized person who responds to life
honestly and openly, through the
personality disorders who respond to
life on the basis of a partially false selfimage driven by insecurity and anxiety,
to the psychotic who responds to life
based on a false reality.
In diving
OK, very interesting, but how do I actually
decide if I should go diving today?
If someone is so stressed that they are
having trouble dealing with the day-today activities of life, I strongly advise
them to stop diving until they get things
under control. If a person is very stressed
but still coping, I try to teach them the
following analysis so that they can decide
themselves if they should go diving.
Diving requires several specific skills.
You have to be able to focus and be
completely aware of what is going on
around you. The simplest dive still
requires you to keep track of your air
supply, your depth and time, the location
and condition of your buddy, your
location relative to where you want to
end the dive, etc. More complex dives
just add several more items that you
have to keep track of during the dive.
Very complex dives (cave survey,
photography, or exploration) require
absolute focus and concentration. If life
is very stressful but you can attain and
maintain this focus, the dive becomes
relaxing, because for that period of time
all of the bad things in your life cease to
exist. At several times in my life exploring
underwater caves has provided this
relaxing break. At the same time, if you
find yourself thinking about the stresses
in your life while you are diving, you
should abort the dive and get out of
the water. If you are not focused on the
dive, you will lose track of something
important like depth/time/location and
are highly likely to have an accident.
This also applies to planning and
getting ready for the dive. If you find
yourself making mistakes when you
are putting your equipment together,
consider cancelling the dive.
I will never forget seeing an
experienced cave diver take four hours
to put their equipment together for a
fairly simple cave dive. Another friend
of mine nearly died while cave diving
and after that experience made a lot of
mistakes while cave diving. Both of these
divers were clearly afraid of cave diving
but they would never admit it, even to
themselves. They were making decisions
based on a false self-image and should
not have been doing these dives. Mental
health and diving really boil down to a
few simple questions. Are you making
good decisions based an accurate selfimage and reality? If not, don’t dive. Is
your mind clear and focused on the dive
without unrelated intrusive thoughts?
If not, don’t dive. Are you getting ready
for the dive efficiently and accurately,
not making mistakes? If not, don’t dive.
During the dive are you relaxed, enjoying
and focused on the dive? If not, abort the
dive and get out of the water.
When life is stressful, for some people
diving is a relaxing break from the
stress while for others it simply adds
to the stress and puts them at high risk
of having an accident. Evaluate your
mental health before and during every
dive, and abort the dive if you are not
mentally fit to dive.
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With over 7,000 islands to choose from, great diving isn’t hard to find. The Philippines enjoys
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Eau Canada
by David Gilchrist
isibility decreases seasonally in the
deeper sections of our local bodies
of water. It’s at these times that I find
it interesting to stick to the shallower
waters along the shore. These areas
usually have an abundance of aquatic
plant growth, often quite thick, in which
there is a variety of freshwater life.
At one of our local dive sites, the Welland Scuba
Park, located in a section of the Old Welland Canal in
Welland, Ontario, divers can encounter one of the more
unusual freshwater organisms: freshwater bryozoans.
Also known as moss animals, at first sight they
appear to be a jelly-like sac. They are actually colonial
organisms that form into this shape. Locally, some are
as big as a softball with a slightly irregular shape, but
they can grow to the size of a football. The local species
observed is the Magnificent Bryozoan.
Like their marine cousins, freshwater bryozoans are
filter feeders. They tend to thrive in eutrophic waters,
with lots of unicellular algae and other small forms of life
that they can filter from the water. They prefer standing
or slow moving water and will grow attached to pretty
much anything. Previously we had spotted the odd
colony, but recently my buddy and I hit a bonanza when
we spotted dozens of colonies growing attached to
the tall aquatic plants growing in less than 10 feet (3m)
of water. Conditions were perfect for their growth and
made for a great photo opp.
If you look closely, you can see the structure of the
individual zooid within the colony. Depending on your
camera system, you may be able to take close-up to show
the detail of these interesting freshwater organisms.
Olympus TG4, 1/160 shutter, f2.8, ISO 100. No strobe.
Now available: Aquatica housings for Olympus
Panasonic GH5
Deep down you want Aquatica
Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 features:
20.3MP Digital Live MOS sensor
4K Video Capture
5-Axis In Body Image Stabilization
12 FPS Continuous shooting
0.76 x 3.68m-Dot OLED Viewfinder
$1,799 USD
The BC1 wreaks havoc on traditional
BC design. The Atomic design team
reexamined every detail. Every
material and component was
rethought. The BC1 is the
world. For divers who
want only the BEST.
Tough. Virtually impenetrable.
Sheds water like a raincoat.
Exclusive design. Easy. Secure.
No weaving through a buckle.
Incredibly easy. Weight pouches
glide in place and snap to lock.
ww w. a t o m i c aq uati c s . c o m
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