Posts Tagged With: diving

Perhentian Islands, Malaysia

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Without a doubt the single most memorable thing for me about the Perhentian Islands was the intensity of the colour. When the sun was shining down on the rocks, water, or clouds everything was taken to extreme. I loved it.

The reason we travelled to the Perhentian Islands was for diving. During our time on Langkawi Island whenever we mentioned to someone we were looking for a place to possibly go diving, everyone suggested the Perhentian Islands. The embarrassing part for me is I had never heard of them. But after some frantic internet education we decided to check it out for ourselves.

Taking it in

Admittedly, we did not see much of the islands. Our main purpose was diving and quite frankly, it was so damn hot that going for a stroll was a bit punishing. However this little bay just down the beach from our place was heaven. After diving one day we spent the better part of an afternoon relaxing here.

Perhentian Mosque

Several times a day we were reminded where we were by the loudspeakers from the mosque on the other island broadcasting prayers. It is interesting how quickly you acclimatize to these things.

Malaysian Coastguard

On our last day the Coastguard (I believe) did a cruise between the two islands.

During our visit we stayed at Tuna Bay Island Resort, which is located on the larger of the two islands. The food was excellent and the rooms were simple but clean and comfortable. As well, probably the best shower we have experienced since coming to Asia.

Tuna Bay Island Resort Beach

The beach out front of the resort was very nice. A small coral reef has been fostered within the swimming area so snorkelling was excellent right off shore. You did have to watch for the little black and white reef fish as when you stopped moving they liked to bite your legs. Nothing serious, just a hell of a surprise.

Universal Diver

Universal Diver was right next door to the resort and handled their scuba package deals. I found it a little confusing the first day figuring out their routine. However once I had that down the diving was great.

Universal Diver Boat

The gear was first class and the dive masters helped solve the problem of ill fitting fins immediately which made the rest of my dives very comfortable.

The diving was great. Visibility was between 2 and 18 metres, most of the time in the 10 – 12 metre range. We visited a variety of sites which kept everything interesting.

Porcupine Fish

This porcupine fish did not have the most welcoming face, but it was cute the way he was tucked into his little hole.

Crown of Thorns Starfish

Crown of Thorns Starfish. Unfortunately these are best known for having a great appetite for coral.

Giant Clams

Several Giant Clams in the area.

Cartoon Clams

I have no idea what type of clam this is, but I loved the cartoon nature of the opening. The white worm just added to the effect.

Dark Wreck

Just so you don’t think we ever have so/so dives. This wreck needed more time for coral to grow and fish to move in. Due to a head cold Karen had to miss this dive, which she wasn’t that sorry about.

Check out the short video I did of our diving here:

 

Mixing Cultures

One of the interesting things to observe here is the mixture of cultures. The majority of guests here are either Asians or Europeans. Seeing a lady in her bikini walking by a group of girls in their hijabs snorkelling causes no excitement whatsoever. Everybody just does their own thing. Rather refreshing.

And did I mention the colours?

Karen by the Bay

Karen relaxing by the bay.

View From the Beach

Couldn’t help but get this shot as I was laying on the beach.

If you get the chance, come visit the Perhentian Islands. Beautiful, reasonable, and did I mention the colour? Love it here.

Categories: Malaysia, Photography, scuba, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Diving Vietnam

As our time here in Vietnam is winding down we finally took care of an unfinished piece of business. Back in December when we were passing through on our initial tour of Vietnam we went diving in Nha Trang with Sailing Club Divers, www.divenhatrang.com. The dive company was awesome. Great staff, good, reliable equipment, and a well run outing. What they cannot control are the conditions. And in December, they were horrible.

Dive Boat

Everybody on the dive boat received the general briefing, then each group received their individual briefing on what to expect during their dive. We were fortunate to enjoy a ratio of two divers to each Dive Master.

Fast forward three months. Because we were so impressed with Sailing Club Divers we did not hesitate to contact them when we decided to give diving in Nha Trang another chance. We are so happy we did. Our day out with them was everything a day of diving should be. The water was a little chilly at 22C, but the wet suits took care of that. Visibility was excellent. The water was calm with very little to no current, it was wonderful.

Sea horse

We were so pleased to have been able to see a sea horse.

Our Dive Master, Hoang, was the same fellow we dove with in December but this time he actually got to show us stuff. We had a banner day for seeing an incredible variety of creatures. Karen mentioned to him she would love to see a sea horse and though it took some looking, he came through. Along with octopus, scorpion fish, lion fish, more nudibranchs than I can recall, it was a great day.

Cuttlefish

Cuttlefish are the most amazing creatures. The way they adapt their colour to their surroundings is magical.

The video below gives a good idea of the dives that day. Enjoy.

Categories: scuba, travel, Vietnam | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Diving Cambodia

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The views coming out of the old harbour provided some interesting insights into what Cambodia is doing to survive. Not all of it was that pretty.

While we were in Sihanoukville, Cambodia we took the opportunity to do a couple of days of diving with Scuba Nation. We were lucky enough to be the only two clients on the first day and were joined by two other divers on our second day. Both days we were guided by Max with Alison accompanying us as a Dive Master in training.

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Without a doubt the Sihanoukville harbour is not the cleanest or safest looking harbour I have ever seen.

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After picking up fresh bread and fruit on our way to the harbour the first order of business was getting some real coffee in our systems. Max got the coffee going while Alison started to prep the gear. It was kind of nice to be a client again after working on our last dive outing.

As we headed out we went by one of the dredging operations running off the coast of Cambodia. If you ever wonder where all the sand is from that China is using to build their islands, a bunch of it is from the waters of Cambodia. We were informed that these operations are running 24/7, creating massive holes in the bottom of the bays.

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On a brighter side, we were able to see several fishing boats heading to work. Of course the sad part was some of the areas they were fishing are supposed to be protected. Unfortunately this is not enforced.

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We were excited to see what Cambodia had to offer under the water. It was not spectacular, but it was beautiful. Lots of clams, a good variety of fish, a spotted blue ray and even some nudibranchs.

On to the diving though. I have to share that I was very impressed with the the rental equipment and professionalism of our dive master Max. He did thorough and meticulous briefings and confirmed all safety checks were done. As well the dive profiles were set up to ensure plenty of time for a built in safety stop at the end of the dive. Of course this wasn’t too difficult as the deepest we dove was only 14 metres with most time spent at 6 – 9 metres. If you wanted to go deeper you would have to bring a shovel.

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The briefings were concise and thorough. This always tends to make dives that much more enjoyable.

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The one hour trip out in the boat took us to the north end of Koh Rong Sanloem for our first day. We dove “Last Chance” and “Koh Kon South”. If you want a closer look at the map click here.

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We went to the same general area but dove two different sites on day 2. “Mpay Bay” and “Koh Kon West”. If you want a closer look at the map click here.

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This was our dive boat “The Colombe”. Nothing fancy, but nice and stable and more than comfortable enough for the 1 hour commute to the dive sites.

As you may have picked up from some of the photos, the weather was not exactly blue skies and sun shine. However, it is perfect for sitting around in wetsuits and not dying from overheating. The second day provided us with plenty of rain but that is ok, we were wet anyway.

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Most of the second day it was socked in and rainy. But the diving was even better the second day so no complaints here.

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As we returned on the last day we got a good view of where the fishermen live. Certainly a room with a view.

I will finish off with a short video I put together of some of what we saw while diving. The visibility was not great, anywhere from 3 – 10 metres, but still a wonderful couple of days with a great company. If you are ever in the area, try the diving. The busier the industry hopefully the better the waterways can be protected.

 

Categories: Cambodia, Photography, scuba, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Diving South Australia

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A Leafy Sea Dragon at Rapid Bay Jetty. One of the coolest animals I have ever seen. Amazing camouflage.

On a recent road trip between Melbourne and Adelaide we took the opportunity to do a couple of days of diving. In Geelong, just outside of Melbourne we went out for a single tank dive and a snorkel. To be honest, not the best diving we have done in a while. The operators were good and the equipment was good, but “Man!” was the water cold. We certainly have become spoiled over the last couple of years. The water temperature was 11C and even though the 7mil wetsuits did their job there is just no minimising that initial shock as you hit the water. The first dive was at a place called Pope’s Eye. Lots of kelp and fish but between the current and the cold we did not enjoy that dive as much as we could have. Still beats the hell out of working though.

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Chinaman’s Hat is home to a colony of Australian Fur Seals.

After the dive, the boat headed over to a snorkel location called Chinaman’s Hat. It was rather humorous seeing a bunch of humans jumping in the water to swim around this structure while a couple of dozen Fur Seals stayed out of the water watching us. One eventually joined us in the water and I was able to get a little bit of video of it as it was playing in the water near us.

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Wirrina Cove Marina where we met the dive operator. Very out of the way and quiet.

The best diving by far was when we got to South Australia and met up with Underwater Sports Dive Centre at Wirrina Cove, a bit south of Adelaide, and headed out in their boat “Aladdin”. The rental equipment they provided was top notch and their professionalism was what one expects in a dive operator. Other than the excellent rental gear they brought to the dock for us, the first hint we were in for an outstanding day was the classic rock music coming from the boat as we walked down the jetty. We received a basic briefing before leaving the harbour, then the music was cranked and we cruised out for the short trip to the exHMAS Hobart dive site.

The briefing at the exHMAS Hobart was fantastic. Complete with diagrams and explanations we knew exactly what to expect and what the plan was before we got in the water. As well, we had two apprenticing dive masters along with the official dive master going down with us. We were very well looked after. I have to admit a slight bit of nervousness went through me when I realised Karen and I were the only two without any type of personal anti shark devices on our bodies. The apprentice dive master explained that he had one that was intended to cast a wider range of protection. It was not until later that I learned that the effectiveness of this technology is still being discussed. It did make me feel better at the time.

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Anti shark array. Intended to cause confusion in the sharks target acquisition system.

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An Old Wife fish swimming through the kelp on the exHMAS Hobart.

The visibility on the Hobart was a bit limited but it was still an excellent dive. The wreck is in great shape with an amazing amount of sponges and marine life encapsulating it. When we came up from the dive the skipper had the song “Ghost Riders in the Sky” playing over the speakers on the boat. It was the theme song adopted by the crew of the Hobart when she was in service. It rounded out the experience nicely.

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Sausage sizzle on the Aladdin. An Australian tradition for social outings and a great snack during the surface interval.

During the surface interval between dives we headed over to Rapid Bay jetty. This site can be accessed from shore but is much simpler from a boat. The old jetty has been abandoned by a mining company and now serves as a fishing and diving destination. The water beneath the jetty is teeming with life and with the columns rising to the surface and the sun casting shadows it becomes an other worldly experience. The dive masters also delivered on finding a Leafy Sea Dragon for us to observe. Certainly one of the coolest animals I have ever seen.

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This cowfish was one of dozens of different types of fish we found under the jetty.

With the Rapid Bay Jetty dive being only 8 metres deep it provides the perfect ending to the day. You basically can stay down as long as your air holds out and there is an endless variety of nudibranchs, sponges, fish, and other sea life to entertain you. The video is a brief glimpse at some of the sights we were fortunate enough to take in. Please enjoy.

Categories: Australia, Photography, scuba, travel, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hawaii

First off, I have to say that I am not sure that a cruise ship is the best way to see the Hawaiian islands. Not to say I did not enjoy it, but it is a bit limiting and quite frankly a bit expensive to experience the islands from a cruise ship. We stopped at Hilo, Kona, Lahaina, and finally Honolulu with the cruise ship before renting a car and spending the last three days on the north shore of Oahu at a place called Turtle Bay. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Hilo, on the island of Hawaii was my most anticipated stop. As my mother and myself were booked in for a hike around and through a volcanic crater. Our guide, Leo, was excellent and provided a non-stop flow of information. The day was perfect for a hike and we had a lovely time.

My mother and I at the halfway point of our hike around and through the Kilauea volcano crater.

My mother and I at the halfway point of our hike around and through the Kilauea volcano crater.

At the end of the hike we had a chance to explore a lava tube which was cool and provided me with the perfect excuse to haul out my tripod that I had been carrying all around the volcano. On the return to the ship we also did the obligatory side trip to the macadamia nut plant and gift shop. There is one place I wish I had shares in. I’m fairly sure everyone on every tour is delivered to this destination. They are delicious nuts though.

We got a chance to explore the Thurston lava tubes. Very impressive.

We got a chance to explore the Thurston lava tubes. Very impressive.

A couple of the more exciting points during our stops are where we had to take tenders from the ship to shore. Boarding these tenders in the harbour is a piece of cake, however, embarking and disembarking from the ship to the tender was a whole different story. If you happen to be changing vessels at the right time you would wonder what all the excitement was about. But if you were in transit as even light swells were going through it was like a ride at the Stampede (Calgary Stampede reference for you non Calgarians). The height difference between the two decks would go from zero to a metre (3 feet) with very little warning. The crew members were fantastic in working to keep passengers safe, however the Darwinian urges of some of the passengers helped me understand how people could get hurt during these operations.

Due to the depth of the harbours at Kona and Lahaina we had to take tenders to and from shore.

Due to the depth of the harbours at Kona and Lahaina we had to take tenders to and from shore.

Crew members standing by to assist passengers with disembarking from the tender at the side of the ship.

Crew members standing by to assist passengers with disembarking from the tender at the side of the ship.

In Kona, Karen and I took the opportunity to head out with a small group to do some scuba diving at a couple of sites just off shore. Big Island Water Sports are a small outfit who provide great service. We were fortunate that the group of six were all competent divers and needed a minimum of guidance, which makes for a more relaxed outing and plenty of time to explore.

Lots of Yellow tangs darting around the volcanic reefs.

Lots of yellow tangs darting around the volcanic reefs.

Moorish idol fish drifting around in groups of three or four.

Moorish idol fish drifting around in groups of three or four.

This white mouthed more eel cam out to say hello as I was going by.

This white mouthed Moray eel came out to say hello as I was going by.

The small reef fish were plentiful and beautifully coloured. The coral growing over the volcanic rock made for a stunning backdrop for the fish. It was the first chance I had to use my new underwater light so the colours were even brighter than I expected. At the second dive sight we were treated to an absolute mobbing of dolphins as we approached the site but unfortunately they all went elsewhere by the time we got in the water. Great day of diving though.

Heading to our second dive site. With our ship in the background. Great staff on the boat.

Heading to our second dive site. With our ship in the background. Great staff on the boat.

As we returned to the ship after diving I was able to get a reverse shoot of our cabin from water level. Circling this ship in a little tender certainly brings home the size of these vessels.

Our room was on the second row of balconies from the bottom on the left. Great location.

Our room was on the second row of balconies from the bottom on the left. Great location.

Our stop in Lahaina marked a milestone. It was my sister’s first Lu’au and first proper Hawaiian Lei. Everyone had a great time at the Old Lahaina Lu’au. The food was excellent and the entertainment non stop.

A much anticipated event of our time in Hawaii was my sister attending her first luʻau and getting a proper lei.

A much anticipated event in Hawaii was my sister attending her first luʻau and getting a proper Hawaiian lei.

I have to put one last plug in for the entertainment onboard the ship. The productions were first class and the performer were excellent.

I have to put one last plug in for the entertainment onboard the ship. The productions were first class and the performers were excellent. This was the last show during our time on the ship.

Our last port of call with the ship was Honolulu. This worked exceptionally well as we were on the ship for two nights here, giving us a whole day to explore Honolulu before departing northbound. We did a bunch of walking before getting tickets for the Waikiki Trolley Tour. It is a hop on hop off kind of set up, but quite frankly I was fine with just hopping on and enjoying views and commentary.

Packed in the Waikiki Trolley Tour around Honolulu. The full tourist experience.

Packed in the Waikiki Trolley Tour around Honolulu. The full tourist experience.

King Kamehameha at the King Kamehameha V Judiciary History Centre in Honolulu on the island of Oahu.

King Kamehameha at the King Kamehameha V Judiciary History Centre in Honolulu on the island of Oahu.

The trolley did a trip out to Diamond Head which afforded beautiful views of the shore and the surrounding hills and volcanoes.

A view down the south shore of Oahu. One of the stops on our Waikiki Trolley tour.

A view down the south shore of Oahu. One of the stops on our Waikiki Trolley tour.

The last sunset from the balcony of our stateroom on the ship looking west across the harbour entrance in Honolulu.

The last sunset from the balcony of our stateroom on the ship looking west across the harbour entrance in Honolulu.

From Honolulu we rented a Jeep to drive north to Turtle Bay along the north shore. Unfortunately the weather was a bit overcast and rainy, but still a wonderful area with great beaches and facilities along the roads.

The north shore of Oahu in Turtle Bay.

The north shore of Oahu in Turtle Bay.

Hawaii is a wonderful holiday destination and a great place to enjoy sun and sand. However, I must be truthful and admit it was tainted a bit by the sad farewells and ‘see you laters’ with my Mom and sister. As well as the mystery and draw of what awaited us in the southern hemisphere. Life is not always filled with easy choices.

Enjoying the view on the north shore of Oahu. Looking forward to our next adventure.

Enjoying the view on the north shore of Oahu. Looking forward to our next adventure.

Categories: Hawaii, Photography, scuba, transportation, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Playing the Tourist

Getting ready for a trip up the beach on the horses.

Getting ready for a trip up the beach on the horses.

After settling in to a comfortable routine on the coast in Costa Rica, we were fortunate to be able to get together with some fellow gringos and take part in some of the more touristy activities in the area. First up is horseback riding. There is a wonderful gentleman with a place on the road into Playa Matapalo, Angel, who does horseback tours. He arrived at our neighbours house at the agreed upon time with three horses in tow and sun hats for everyone.

The view as we went down the beach. Absolutely gorgeous.

The view as we went down the beach. Absolutely gorgeous.

After making sure we knew what we were doing with the horses and giving us a briefing, we were off. Angel provided an entertaining monolog of the sights and points of interest as we went along. Angel’s english is limited, but his ability to make himself understood was truly impressive. Whether it was speaking slow enough so we could interpret in our own minds or hand gestures and even drawing in the sand when necessary.

Half way point rest stop. Parts of my body were needing the break by now.

Half way point rest stop. Parts of my body were needing the break by now.

Angel had a wonderful spot for us to rest about halfway through the 3 hour tour. He put on a wonderful show, demonstrating the different types of coconuts and their tastes as well as the mangroves and explaining their importance. On the way back we detoured into the trees and had the opportunity to sample cashew fruit, mangos, star fruit, and an interesting little fruit that looked like a plum but had a huge seed. Quite tasty. Imagine just riding along and being able to reach up and pick fresh fruit from a tree. It was very cool.

Angel showing us how to open a coconut.

Angel showing us how to open a coconut.

Nearing the end of an awesome morning.

Nearing the end of an awesome morning.

I would highly recommend Angel for horseback tours. He is very reasonably priced, the horses have a great temperament (they just ignore the dogs when they come running at you barking), and he puts on a great show.

One of the beautiful waterfalls we got to swim in.

One of the beautiful waterfalls we got to swim in.

Next in the set of adventures was a trip to find some newly opened hot springs. Some would say, “What’s the adventure?” and that is a fair question. But let me set the context. Our neighbour says to us, “Would you like to come along and see if we can find a new hot springs everyone is talking about, but no one has been to yet?”. We look at each other, shrug our shoulders and say, sure. The “tour” consists of a taxi driver, Leo, showing up in a 4×4 Ford Nasa with the gringos and Leo piling in the front of the 4 door truck and our tour guide and his helper jumping in the box and us setting off for 50 minutes on a brutal back woods track to a home just outside of Las Bocas. Leo seemed to know where he was heading but is so casual about it it actually starts to make one a little nervous. However, the fellows delivered in style. We arrived at a homestead where they have just completed putting seats in the hot spring pools.

Karen enjoying the hot springs. Not super hot, but comfortably warm considering it is about 30C out.

Karen enjoying the hot springs. Not super hot, but comfortably warm considering it is about 30C out.

Enjoying a hydro massage in the creek that runs right below the springs. It was a natural slip and slide that made you want to play like a kid again.

Enjoying a hydro massage in the creek that runs right below the springs. It was a natural slip and slide that made you want to play like a kid.

The owners dog checked us out after he finished sitting in the creek to cool down.

The owners dog checked us out after he finished sitting in the creek to cool down.

After relaxing and enjoying the springs and creek we were taken to two other waterfalls in close proximity. We were able to swim in both and only saw 4 or 5 locals at one of the falls. Other than them we had the place to ourselves.

Our guide showing us how to get a massage from the falls.

Our guide showing us how to get a massage from the falls.

Wonderfully secluded waterfall about 200 metres off the track. Something was nibbling our toes in this pond.

Wonderfully secluded waterfall about 200 metres off the track. Something was nibbling our toes in this pond.

We had a full day of touring around the local waterfalls and getting a peek at what the locals are able to enjoy everyday. We count ourselves as very fortunate to have been included in this adventure.

The last trip was to go diving off the coast of Manuel Antonio Park, just outside of Quepos. There is only one dive shop operating in this area and they are Oceans Unlimited. The rental gear was adequate and the boat we went out on was great. The dive master was a young lady who certainly knew her underwater creatures well. There were only 8 of us in the group, including the dive master and assistant dive master so that made for a nice sized group.

The diving itself was not the best. The visibility sucked (3 metres, 12 feet at best) and the terrain is not terribly inspiring. However, having said that, any day under the water is a good day in my books. We did see some nice fish and a cool little eel with lots of attitude. Once you got close enough the plant life was colourful as well.

It is fun once in a while to play the tourist. Kind of like taking a holiday from the grind of house sitting on the coast. Oh well, back to work.

Categories: Costa Rica, Photography, scuba, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Diving Coiba Island, Panama

 

A beautiful good bye to Playa La Barqueta. Sunrise as we pack for the days journey.

A beautiful good bye to Playa La Barqueta. Sunrise from our bedroom as we pack for the days journey.

Map of our bus trip from Santa Catalina to Panama City.

Map of our bus trip from Playa La Barqueta to Santa Catalina.

What an experience! Karen and I booked a three day diving trip to Coiba Island, reported to be some of the best diving in Panama. The whole adventure started with a flawless bus trip that involved three different buses and a taxi trip between bus terminals in Santiago (Total travel time was just under 9 hours). Sometimes you will hear people complain about how slow things happen in Central America, or the lack of customer service (which are both true at times we have found), but when it comes to bus travel I have yet to experience a better system. It is true, when you first look at a bus terminal you can’t imagine ever finding the bus you want, or that it will ever leave on time (it probably won’t, get over it). But once you start asking directions, we have found people go out of their way to help you get to the right bus. It is not that they always come across as being happy about helping you (You are probably the 10th gringo that day to stumble up lost and confused asking for help in a foreign language). But none the less they at least point you in the correct direction. Just a note on that. If your experience is that the locals are consistently pointing you in the wrong direction perhaps you need to take a critical look at your demeanour when asking for assistance, just my personal opinion.

Santa Catalina is an “at the end of the road little surfing town” on the Pacific coast of Panama. If you don’t like things “rustic” and don’t surf or dive you may want to check out other vacation destinations. But if you enjoy a bit of adventure and a very social atmosphere, this is a great little town. We found some fantastic restaurants and the diving ……more on that to come.

A view across the Santa Catalina beach.

A view across the Santa Catalina beach at low tide.

A artist sprucing up the sign for one of the many tour providers in town.

An artist sprucing up the sign for one of the many tour providers in town.

We spent our first night in Santa Catalina at the Santa Catalina Hotel. It was a bit of a rough beginning and I admit to losing my “Zen” for a bit (Karen was able to send me outside while she dealt with things). But all was resolved and the two nights we spent there after the dive trip were uneventful. The tour company we chose to go with was Scuba Coiba, owned by Herbie Sunk.

Scuba Coiba's shop, right by the beach in Santa Catalina.

Scuba Coiba’s shop, right by the beach in Santa Catalina.

We rent all of our gear when diving, as hauling all that equipment around the world is simply not worth the aggravation and cost, we believe. I know there are lots of divers that don’t agree with that, but…… they’re wrong. The gear we got was in good repair, and the one regulator that Karen had for her first dive that wasn’t working quite right for her first dive was immediately replaced for the second dive. Not something you can always do when you only have your own gear to work with. Our Dive Master, Nick, was very good. Before all dives we received a briefing and knew whether we needed to stick with him or if it was ok to go exploring by ourselves. The two man crew on the dive boat were very good and had the equipment ready to go at the beginning of every dive. The only criticism I had was the Captain was transfixed with always using full throttle when travelling between sites. The surface conditions did not always concur with that speed which made for some rough rides occasionally.

Nick and the crew in our dive boat preparing equipment.

Nick and the crew in our dive boat preparing equipment.

We dove for three days at a variety of sites. Our two nights were spent in cozy dorm style bunk houses on Coiba Isla. It used to be a prison but was declared a Protected Area and has been transformed into a eco destination over the years.

Welcome to Coiba National Park.

Welcome to Coiba National Park.

The accommodation is advertised as very spartan and basic dorm rooms. They deliver exactly what is advertised. However, it was clean, the washrooms could use some work, and the rangers turned on a generator at night that allowed you to recharge batteries and have air conditioning (if all occupants of the room could agree) all night, which I thought was an amazing luxury.

Out humble home away from home for two nights on the island.

Our humble home away from home for two nights on the island.

The diving….was spectacular. It was more challenging than anything Karen or I had done before which was fantastic. It allowed us to improve our skill set and confidence while enjoying some of the most amazing schools of fish we have ever seen. As well as seeing lots of White tip reef sharks (I know, to experienced divers you go, yawn, however, still cool to see for the first time) as well as Moray eels in numbers and variety that left us shaking our heads in wonder. Also diving with divers with much more experience than I allowed me to come to grips with and accept that I truly am an “air hog” and will nearly always be the first one surfacing during a dive. Humility is a good thing in some activities, it helps keep you safe.

 

One of the dozens of Moray eels we encountered on our dives.

One of the dozens of Moray eels we encountered on our dives.

We came upon a field of starfish. I was partial to these cuddling ones.

We came upon a field of starfish. I was partial to these cuddling ones.

Karen all smiles as we head for another dive site.

Karen all smiles as we head for another dive site.

Still smiling after 3 days of diving.

Still smiling after 3 days of diving.

Some fishermen enjoying some down time in a secluded bay.

Some fishermen enjoying some down time in a secluded bay.

We did not get much of a chance to explore the island. However we did meet the resident crocodile (a solid 3 metres long) as well as Black Vultures truly comfortable with interacting with humans, rather disturbing at first.

This fellow lived just behind our bunk houses.

This fellow lived just behind our bunk houses.

Vultures working hard to keep the beach and kitchen area clean.

Vultures working hard to keep the beach and kitchen area clean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the things I had never really thought about before was the effect visiting cruise ships have on a small locale. We happen to be on the island for two of the days a week that small cruise ships stop there. Wow! It is incredible to watch the landing party from the ship hit the beaches before any of the passengers are even awake and transform a third of the beach into a little “Club Med” for lack of a better term. The nice thing is these workers from the ships rake the garbage on the beach, tidy up the public restrooms and put toilet paper and soap out for the users of the washrooms. It is almost surreal watching the passengers come ashore and do their activities under the watchful eye of the ships crew. Don’t get me wrong, I have done a couple of cruises and loved them. I just never had the opportunity to see all the work that goes into transforming a primitive site into a luxury spot in such a short period of time. It is quite amazing.

Paul Gauguin ship arrived on the second day of our stay.

Paul Gauguin ship arrived on the second day of our stay.

Windstar Cruises arrived on our third day.

Windstar Cruises arrived on our third day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Panoramic sunrise shot from the lookout just above our settlement on Coiba.

Panoramic sunrise shot from the lookout just above our settlement on Coiba.

Our last day was spent exploring Santa Catalina. We borrowed some bikes and peddled the short distance to Playa Estero. It is well worth the short trip. It is a beautiful beach at low tide. There are several wonderful restaurants and bars in town to check out during a stay there.

Posing with our bikes on Playa Estero.

Posing with our bikes on Playa Estero.

The tour boats on Santa Catalina beach loading up for the days tours.

The tour boats on Santa Catalina beach loading up for the days tours.

Off to Panama City next. Very excited for this next adventure.

 

Categories: Panama, Photography, scuba, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Diving Bocas del Toro, Panama

Street view of Bocas Diving Pirates in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

Street view of Bocas Diving Pirates in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

One of our goals in visiting Bocas del Toro was to check out the diving here. It had been several months since we had been diving so we were very much looking forward to the outing. There are not a ton of dive shops in Bocas, but as we walked around town sticking our heads in the door and asking a few questions at different shops it was quickly obvious who we would be diving with. The young lady who greeted us at the door of Bocas Diving Pirates was knowledgable, enthusiastic, and honest about what to expect when diving here at this time of year. When we returned on the day we booked we met the owner, Andre Roy, who also was our dive master for both our days of diving with them. His enthusiasm and gregarious personality is what one would expect from someone who gets to do this for a living.

View from the dock at Bocas Diving Pirates.

View from the dock at Bocas Diving Pirates.

During our two days of diving we were treated to an overcast dreary day and a beautiful sunny day. The thing that struck me was the enthusiasm for us to have great dives no matter what the weather was. The visibility was quite limited on the first day but Andre had the boat Captain take us to spots where we could still enjoy the dive despite the visibility.

A little murky, maximum visibility was about 8 metres (25ft).

A little murky, maximum visibility was about 8 metres (25ft).

Andre posing to give an idea of the size of the barrel sponges.

Andre posing to give an idea of the size of the barrel sponges. 

One of the wonderful things about diving here is the diversity and colour of the coral along the bottom. We never went deep, as the visibility made it so there was nothing to see, but at 8 – 12 metres it was awesome. Our group consisted of Karen, Andre, and myself, so we were able to drift slowly along and take the time to enjoy the beauty that truly surrounded us.

An incredible variety and range in colour of coral.

An incredible variety and range in colour of coral.

Peaceful beauty while hanging out in the shallows.

Peaceful beauty while hanging out in the shallows.

Lots of reef fish around the coral. Something to see everywhere you looked.

Lots of reef fish around the coral. Something to see everywhere you looked.

Our second day of diving is what people think of when they think of diving. The sun was shining, visibility was better and the sights endless. We did a nice relaxed drift dive then headed over to check out an old sunken barge. Not the most exciting wreck, but the coral and fish were fantastic.

Starfish were everywhere in the shallower water near the Ferry Wreck dive site.

Starfish were everywhere in the shallower water near the Ferry Wreck dive site.

"If I don't move no one will see me"

“If I don’t move no one will see me”

I was able to put together a short video of our second day of diving, I hope you enjoy it.

I would recommend making the effort to check out diving in Bocas del Toro if that is something you are in to. Warm water and good people help to make it a great experience.

Karen getting ready to come aboard.

Karen getting ready to come aboard.

End of a fantastic day of diving.

End of a fantastic day of diving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Panama, Photography, scuba, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Photo opportunities beneath the waves off Roatan

We have just completed a week of diving on the Barrier Reef off of Roatan, Honduras. The weather was fantastic and so was the resort we were diving with. The staff and equipment at Anthony’s Key Resort were first rate. I would like to tip my hat to our Dive Master, Calderon, and the Boat’s Captain, Richard. These two gentlemen did an outstanding job and made the experience even more enjoyable.

Our view each morning as we prepped our gear for the days dives.

Our view each morning as we prepped our gear for the days dives.

Each morning we could see the dives listed for the day and check their location on the map

We could check the location of each days dives.

We could check the location of each days dives.

I unfortunately missed four dives due to some stomach issues (you have to love travelling), but still managed to get 15 dives in during the week. The average trip on the boat to each dive site was approximately 5 minutes.

Karen and I before starting a dive on another beautiful day.

Karen and I before starting a dive on another beautiful day.

The diving on the reef is fantastic. The water at depth is about 24C (76F) and if there is any current it is fairly gentle. We saw an amazing diversity of plant and animal life on every dive.

Beautiful coral everywhere.

Beautiful coral everywhere.

In addition to Permit, Scrawled Filefish, Sharpnosed Puffers, Great Barracuda, Queen and Rainbow Parrotfish, Black Durgon, and tons of Slippery Dicks we saw hundreds of other fish. I included a few shots I managed to get with my Go Pro camera.

Porcupinefish

Porcupinefish

Blue Tang

Blue Tang

Green Moray eel

Green Moray eel

Not sure what fish this is. Can anyone help me?

Not sure what fish this is. Can anyone help me?

A big old Grouper cruising by.

A big old Grouper cruising by.

French Angelfish

French Angelfish

Green turtle making its way to the surface.

Green turtle making its way to the surface.

In addition to the multitude of fish and coral we also managed to dive a couple of wrecks. The Odyssey rests in about 110ft of water. It was sunk intentionally 10 years ago as a diving feature.

One of our companions playing Poseidon on the mast of the Odyssey

One of our companions playing Poseidon on the mast of the Odyssey

We visited Maya Key one day for our surface interval and lunch break. Managed to check out some local birds.

Some local colour on Maya Key

Some local colour on Maya Key

Our diving group explore ring the Aguila.

Our diving group exploring the wreck Aguila.

 

Shot of Karen and I by the wreck Aguila. It rests in 110ft of water.

Karen and I by the wreck Aguila which rests in 110ft of water.

All in all, a great week on the island of Roatan. Now back to Belize.

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Diving Roatan, Honduras

After nearly four months in Belize we decided we had earned a holiday. So with Karen’s amazing sleuthing skills she found a dive package on the island of Roatan. The largest of the islands that make up the Bay Islands of Honduras. Initially we were planning on going to the island of Utila, however the difference in travel time was ridiculous for two destinations so close to each other. For Roatan from San Pedro we left in the early afternoon and arrived before supper time. For Utila we would have had to depart before 4AM and would not have arrived until after 10PM. This was supposed to be a vacation not an epic trek, so Roatan it was.

Our first glimpse over the pilots shoulder of the island of Roatan, Honduras.

Our first glimpse over the pilots shoulder of the island of Roatan, Honduras.

When it comes to clearing immigration, arriving on a plane with only six passengers is the way to do it. The Immigration Officer came and met us at the baggage carousel to deal with our documents. Very pleasant and helpful. We are staying at a resort called Anthony’s Key Resort on the west side of the island. I have to be honest here, if you were hoping for information on Honduras or the island of Roatan you won’t find it here. We were here for the sole purpose of diving. We were outfitted the morning after we arrived and did four dives that first day including a nighttime shore dive. It was awesome.

The resort has a hut manned by knowledgeable personnel to brief you on the shore dive. As well they store tanks there so you do not have to carry them over. Nice.

The resort has a hut manned by knowledgeable personnel to brief you on the shore dive. As well they store tanks there so you do not have to carry them over. Nice.

Each dive boat at the resort has a Captain and a Dive Master. You stay with the same boat all week which is fantastic. It gives everyone a chance to get to know everyone else. The water temperature has been a very pleasant 76F with the air temperature pushing 90F later in the week. Our Dive Master, Calderon, is very good. Competent and relaxed, allowing people to move at their own pace.

A welcome sight as one nears the end of a dive.

A welcome sight as one nears the end of a dive.

The accommodation ranges from slightly rustic to the very comfortable. We ended up in a lovely air conditioned villa out over the water with a beautiful deck.

The walkway to our villa out over the water.

The walkway to our villa out over the water.

I unfortunately missed a full day of diving due to an upset stomach, but Karen has been out non stop. She has developed quite the reputation as one of the first off the boat and a fantastic eye for spotting unique marine life.

Green turtle making its way to the surface.

Green turtle making its way to the surface.

A big old Grouper cruising by.

A big old Grouper cruising by.

French Angelfish

French Angelfish

BarrierReef

A typical landscape on the reef we are diving. Simply beautiful.

Karen and I received our first real wreck dives as well. Very cool and kind of eerie. Both of the ships were sunk for the purpose of diving. The Aguila 17 years ago and the Odyssey 10 years ago.

Divers exploring the Aguila wreck.

Divers exploring the Aguila wreck.

Our diving group explore ring the Aguila.

Our diving group exploring the Aguila.

We were diving when the Olympic gold medal game in Men’s hockey was being played, so we unfurled the flag at 85ft in honour of our Olympians.

Showing our Canadian pride during the Olympics.

Showing our Canadian pride during the Olympics.

Shot of Karen and I by the wreck Aguila. It rests in 110ft of water.

Shot of Karen and I by the wreck Aguila. It rests in 110ft of water.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Photography, scuba, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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