Must See Snorkeling Sites

For you non-divers, you can still get your feet wet and see what the ocean has to offer!

Dean’s Blue Hole, Long Island, Bahamas

A blue hole is created when the ceiling to an ancient cave system collapses in the ocean―Dean’s is thought to be the world’s deepest. Fin your way off the powder-white beach and watch the sand go from 5 to more than 600 feet deep in just a few kicks.

Buck Island, St. Croix, USVI

An underwater trail makes navigating the tropical fish and young elkhorn coral easy. What rounds out a trip to this national park so nicely for me is a visit to Turtle Beach on Buck Island’s west end. A nap under a palm tree here, poised between emerald forest and aquamarine seas, will enhance your definition of paradise.

Crystal River, Florida

The best place in the country to experience the gentle West Indian manatee is in the springs and protected estuary of this coastal hamlet. Guides will gladly help you with manatee etiquette; for instance, gentle contact is allowed, but only if initiated by the manatee.

Rockhouse, Negril, Jamaica

The Rockhouse resort sits far from the bustle of Montego Bay on the rocky shores of Negril. Each bungalow is just steps from the water that laps languidly at the base of the cliffs. Being here is like diving into your personal aquarium populated by species usually found only on offshore reefs.

Pigeon Cay, Honduras

This postcard-perfect uninhabited island is a 45-minute boat ride from Roatán but feels a world away from everything. When I pulled up to the long spit of sand extending from the dense green of the island’s interior, I knew I was someplace extraordinary. Only one little girl and her mother were on the beach; otherwise, the island, with its calm waters and birds chattering in the trees, was ours. The 360-degree loop of sand beckons for a low-tide stroll.

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Best Wreck Diving (according to Padi)

Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia – Numerous wrecks

PADI wreck diverFor divers who want sheer variety, a far-flung journey to Chuuk (Truk) should be a priority. The Chuuk Lagoon was home to a Japanese naval anchorage and airbase during WWII, and when the U.S. attacked in 1944, the destruction was profound – 12 warships and 32 merchant ships were sunk, along with 249 aircraft. More than 20 wrecks have been found in the intervening years, and divers will find an incredible playground for exploration among ships like the 134-metre/440-foot Fujikawa Maruand the 153-metre/500-foot Shinkoku Maru.

 

* Sharm-El-Sheik, Egypt – S.S. Thistlegorm

The ships that have plied the Red Sea since time immemorial have left many traces in the water around Sharm-El-Sheik, but the marquee wreck dive is the S.S. Thistlegorm. The British Merchant Navy ship was built in 1940 and sunk just a year later when struck by German bombers. Its 128-metre/419-foot wreckage makes for a fascinating dive thanks to all the supplies that went down with the ship, including motorcycles and cars.

 

* Townsville, Australia – S.S. Yongala

There’s not a diver out there who doesn’t love the Great Barrier Reef, but there’s even more to love for those with a bent toward wreck diving. The SS Yongala, a luxury passenger ship, sank in a cyclone in 1911, and lay unidentified until 1958. The wreck of the 109-metre/357-foot ship is atmospheric in its own right, but the abundant marine life that inhabits the area makes it an even more thrilling dive.

 

Original Image by Sakdatorn* Palau – Numerous wrecks

Ships are always an attractive choice for wreck divers, but exploring a plane wreck adds a bit of variety to the mix. In beautiful Palau, you can have it all, from 152-metre/500-foot ships like the Amatsu Maru to a “Jake” seaplane with both wings and the cockpit still intact. While many of the wrecks are Japanese, the American U.S.S. Perry, a 95-metre/314-footer is also nearby off the island of Angaur.

 

* Grand Anse, Grenada

The nickname “Titanic of the Caribbean” ought to be enough to tempt most divers, but the more you learn about the wreck of the Bianca C, the more you’ll want to dive it. The luxury liner sank in 1961 after a boiler room explosion which caused a fire that burned for several days. At 180 metres/600 feet, this is the largest wreck that you can dive in the Caribbean and divers who have completed a full wreck-diving course will have even more to explore, thanks to multiple opportunities to go inside the ship.

 

http://www.padi.com/blog/2013/03/27/wreck-diving-5-of-the-worlds-top-destinations/

More Diving Myths!

 If you think scuba isn’t extreme enough for you, you’re not seeing past the first step. Sure, a lot of people never go beyond puttering around in nice, calm water, looking at nice, calm fish. But if you get the right training and equipment, you can get radical with this sport. Try swimming through the surf zone off Southern California and it’s you who’ll need the Geritol, not Grandpa. Need more? Ever hand-feed a shark? Explore the far reaches of a flooded cave? Chase a 400-pound fish through the legs of an offshore oil rig? Go inside the rusting hallways of a sunken ocean liner? Swim beneath the polar ice caps? These are just some of the experiences that divers–and only divers–get to have. But you’ve got to build up to it, junior. So check your ego at the door, show Gramps a little respect and take the first step–earning Open-Water certification–before you start talking smack. Or better yet, pull Grandpa aside and ask him to tell you about that dive he never told Grandma about.

 There are few things that rival the experience of being suspended weightlessly in warm, clear tropical water while floating effortlessly along a colorful coral reef. Unless, of course, it is the experience of drifting through a California kelp bed with a pod of sea lions. Or exploring the amazingly preserved ruins of a wooden shipwreck in Lake Michigan. Or finding a million-year-old shark tooth completely intact in South Carolina’s Cooper River, or … the list goes on and on

 Don’t tell Hollywood, but the factual record on shark vs. diver is pretty dull: Sharks just don’t make a habit of munching on divers. In fact, except in certain conditions and environments, they don’t even stick around when divers get in the water. Let’s look at it from the shark’s point of view. You’re out cruising the depths, when out of nowhere this noisy, bubble-blowing pack of creatures that looks and moves like nothing else in the ocean drops into the water and starts flashing lights (i.e., camera strobes) at you. It’s got to be the shark equivalent of Close Encounters. The first thing most sharks do? Turn tail and run.

How To Choose Your Fins

Full foot versus open heel?

Despite the vast array of choice on the market, there are just two main styles of foot pocket – open heel and full foot. Both types of foot pocket will come with an array of options for blade.

Full foot fins are usually cheaper than open heal fins, easy to don and less bulky, however, if they are not a perfect fit for you will cause lots of friction issues and blisters. Never compromise, always go for fit when selecting full foot fins. Do not be talked into buying wet suit socks to ensure a proper fit for full fit fins or be tempted to purchase full foot fins where your toes feel cramped because they are on sale! Ideally, you do not want the top of the foot pocket to come too high on your instep as this may result in friction and chaffing. If the fins feel comfortable and a good fit, try standing up on your tiptoes whilst wearing them, if your fins stay on at your heel, they will not fall off in the water. Quite simply put, if full foot fins do not fit perfectly do not purchase, you are wasting your money and will live to regret your decision.

The downside of a full foot fin is that is the water is cold, they do not offer any thermal protection for your feet. Another negative is, if you are shore diving, you will need to consider where you will be walking as, without boots, your feet will be vulnerable over rock pools and similarly on hot dive decks.

As a result of the restrictions on full foot fins, most divers tend to go for an open heel fin type where a neoprene dive boot or dry suit boot is required to be worn underneath. Open heel fins are more adjustable, comfortable and versatile than full foot fins and provide cushioning and chafing protection, but tend to be bulkier, more expensive and can have complex strap adjustment mechanisms. An open heel fin worn with a dive boot will offer thermal protection in colder water and given that water is a much better conductor of heat than air is, I have never complained about my feet being too warm in tropical waters! Versatility is key with an open heel fin, the same fin being able to be worn with a pre-fitted dry suit boot or even a pair of trainers (yes, I have seen this!), eliminating the need for multiple fins being required in different conditions. Open heel fins also have the added advantage of providing additional stability and maximum propulsion.

In terms of fit, open heel fins need to feel as though they are holding the boot and the foot in the foot pocket. The foot should not feel as though you can wiggle it easily from side to side and similarly not too much of your boot should stick out of the bottom of the foot pocket. Whilst fit will vary between style and manufacturer, most manufacturers will provide a shoe size range as a guide for each fin size to make fitting a little easier.

Blade type – split fin versus paddle blade?

Ask any experienced diver or dive professional this question and it will undoubtedly provoke a lively discussion! Whilst paddle blade fins have been around for many years, split fin technology is a relatively recent addition to diving.

The whole idea of a split fin is that the blade causes a vortex in the water as you swim along. Also, on the divers upward fin stroke, where minimal propulsion is achieved in any fin, the split blade opens up and allows water to easily pass through. These features essentially provide excellent propulsion for less effort and ensure that a split fin is more efficient than a paddle fin. In essence, split fins are easy to use and as a result, many divers find that they can conserve up to 40% more air with a split fin over a more traditional paddle blade. People who suffer from cramping, are injured or have weak knees, ankles or back problems will benefit from using split fins because they are so easy to use. Splits also make an excellent snorkeling fin, allowing you to conserve energy and ultimately stay out longer and see more!

Many new or inexperienced divers have ineffective fin techniques (“the bicycle kick”) or are simply not good swimmers. Regardless of your fin technique, with a split fin, you will get somewhere efficiently and this makes the split fin an excellent option for novice divers.

With all these positives for split fins what is the catch I hear you say? Well, whilst split fins may be more efficient than paddle blades, they are not as powerful. What this means is that whilst split fins may be easy to use when the conditions are good, when the conditions turn, you simply will not have the power that a paddle blade fin can offer. In any sort of current, give me my paddle blade fins any day over splits! Because of the extra grunt that a paddle blade will offer, they tend to be the preferred option for most dive professionals when power is key for chasing students, conducting rescues and so on.

The Final Call:

In summary, you really need to assess the type of diving that you intend on doing most of. If this involves cruising around on easy sites with little current, or you are prone to cramping or nursing an old injury, then splits are probably the answer for you. If however, you want to go on and do more technically demanding diving in conditions that are less than perfect, go for a paddle.

Some SCUBA Records

The world’s deepest scuba dive
 
 
The world record for the deepest ever dive using self contained breathing apparatus is held by Pascale Bernabé, a French SCUBA diver, who claims to have reached a depth of 330 meters off the coast of Corsica. He made his descent in just 10 minutes, but took just under 9 hours to safely return to the surface. This dive is actually deeper than the 318-meter dive completed by the Guinness Book of Records deepest diver, Nuno Gomes. Bernabé’s dive was not officially recognized by the organisation, as they have stopped recording deep dives due to the inherent health and safety risks associated with this extreme sport.

 

The world’s deepest wreck dive
 

Leigh Cunningham and Mark Andrews hold the world record for the deepest wreck dive, after their descent to 205 metres at the wreck of MV Yolande in December 2005. The pair of British scuba divers were underwater for 205 minutes at this site in the Egyptian Red Sea, and they spent a total of 6 minutes at the deepest part of their dive.

 

The world’s deepest freedive (diving without SCUBA equipment)
 
Austrian freediver, Herbert Nitsch set the world record for the deepest freedive, when he reached 214 metres in Greece. This extraordinary achievement confirmed his place as the greatest freediver on the planet.

 

The world’s largest mass SCUBA dive
 
A total of 2,486 divers set the world record for the largest number of divers involved in one single dive. The incredible scuba dive took place off the coast of North Sulawesi in Indonesia.

Dive Sites to Stretch Your Budget

Bonaire

Do-it-yourself diving doesn’t get any better than Bonaire. With more drive-and-dive opportunities than anywhere in the scuba universe, divers here enjoy the ultimate schedule freedom. The dollar-stretching strategy is to rent a pickup and take advantage of the many drive-through tank-filling stations that proliferate the island. Package deals that include auto rental are a great way to save cash. As are the diver-friendly condos with kitchens that allow groups to pool their resources and keep their costs low. There’s nothing cut-rate about the diving, though. As Bonaire diving boasts colorful coral gardens flush with cool critters, including signature dive trips such as 1,000 Steps, Red Slave, Karpata and the landmark wreck, Hilma Hooker.

 

Roatan

The biggest of Honduras’ Bay Islands, Roatan is loaded with dive shops and diverse accommodations placed squarely in the penny-pinching category. You’ll pay about $30 per dive at most shops on the island, even less if you book multiple dives. And the underwater scenery? Priceless. Seahorses, so elusive elsewhere, are regularly spotted on Roatan’s 340-mile reef, home to some 300 fish species and 150 varieties of coral. From swim-throughs to drop offs and wrecks, your dive dollars win you big time variety here, too, with rare black corals, barrel sponges the size of refrigerators and crevasses all on the Roatan diving menus.

 

The Florida Keys

No warm-water domestic dive vacation delivers the mix of diversity and accessibility of the Florida Keys. And with so many dive shops and such a wide range of Florida Keys hotels — not to mention stellar oceanfront campsites like those at Bahia Honda State Park — throughout the 120-mile chain, you can always find a deal. Visit during the summer for the most bang for your buck. When you’re not cavorting with morays and turtles on shallow reefs on the third-largest barrier reef system in the world, or diving deep wrecks like the USS Vandenberg, cheap topside thrills include people-watching at Mallory Square’s sunset celebration in Key West and feeding the Tarpon at an Islamorada marina.

Shark Diving: Bars or No Bars?

Often, the people who are most afraid of sharks and feel they need to have bars between them and the sharks have yet to meet one. Those who have gone on shark dives generally describe an experience of great beauty, transcendence, and transformation. The experience usually leaves them with a strong appreciation of and even affection for these animals, describing them as intelligent and peaceful, charismatic, magnificent, and non-aggressive toward humans—the exact opposite of common perceptions of sharks as ferocious man-eaters.

Most shark divers are seeking a more personal interaction with sharks in order to learn more about a misunderstood animal that few of us know much about. They do not choose to go cage-less because they are seeking an adrenaline rush, but rather because they desire a better connection with the animals, and respect but do not fear the sharks. The caged option, where available, does not provide the same experience.

Additionally, underwater photographers and filmmakers seek to capture this experience for others. Many powerful and beautiful photographs and films produced from these expeditions free of cages have led to a better understanding and appreciation for sharks and their critical importance within ocean ecosystems.

It needs to be said, sharks are not puppies meant to be cuddled. They should be recognized and respected for what they are: perfect predators that have survived hundreds of millions of years. While most of the Shark Angels dive cage-free, choosing to interact with sharks more intimately to dispel the “Jaws” stereotype that divers need steel cages to protect them, we also acknowledge personal comfort levels and limitations. Cages, more than anything else, protect the sharks from our own egos and also make these encounters accessible to a wider range of skill sets. Their necessity in facilitating a safe encounter is most often the exception, not the rule, but the bottom line is this: dive at your comfort level and on your terms.

Is Diving With Sharks Safe?

The risk of injury, let alone death, while diving with sharks is incredibly low.

In contrast, more common leisure activities such as biking, swimming and boating result in a significant number of injuries and fatalities each year. True, In the US alone, the risk of death by drowning is approximately 3,000 times greater than being bitten by a shark, and the number of fatalities from boating accidents is more than 300 times greater. The comparatively low risk posed by diving with sharks is far outweighed by the reward. It enables people to develop a healthy respect and passion for a critical role player in the health of our oceans that is majestic, yet misunderstood.

In terms of relative risks, in California [the U. S. state with the second highest incidence of shark attacks in the country], there is only one shark attack for every one million surfing days, according to the Surfrider Foundation. Your chances of drowning when entering the water in the US are 1 in 3.5 million. Your chances of being attacked by a shark are 1 in 11.5 million and your chances of dying are 0 in 264.1 million…

Myth, media, and sensationalism have created and perpetuated an irrational and inaccurate fear that sharks as ruthless killing machines. The statistical reality is that sharks do not want to eat people. Shark incidents are extremely rare and those incidents even more rarely result in death. With hundreds of millions of people living near the shore, and even more who travel, these are infinitesimal numbers when considering the potential interactions vs. the actual interactions.

The reality stands that people just are not a natural or desired source of food for sharks. Shark bites happen, but they are infrequent and there are a variety of theories regarding why sharks bite – ranging from defensive posturing, to curiosity, to competition, to mistaken identity. From our experience, this varies by species, conditions, and even the individual animal. Suffice it to say, this is not a statistically frequent occurrence.

Save Our Seas recently posted some good information about white sharks and why they may bite. The first and most commonly accepted explanation is that they are accidental, exploratory bites – a case of mistaken identity. Secondly, sharks, who don’t have hands, use their mouths to investigate objects they are innately curious about. Finally, it is believed that certain types of sharks defend their personal space by communicating through body posturing and biting. http://saveourseas.com/articles/why_do_white_sharks_bite_people.

Regardless of why a shark bite occurs, most sharks will typically bite once, realize that we are not a source of food, and leave. The rare fatality is usually due to loss of blood after that exploratory bite. Given the advanced predatory skills of sharks, if humans were a perceived food source, there would be almost as many fatalities as there are shark incidents, and many more incidents.

Remember – sharks are large wild animals. Stepping into their habitat has some risks. With the proper safety protocols, a high level of diving experience, and guidance from reputable dive operations, the risk is small when compared to the reward of an up-close encounter with one of the great co-inhabitants of our earth.

Diving Myths: Debunked (Three)

MYTH: The ocean is full of dangerous animals like sharks and barracudas.

TRUTH: Most divers actually consider a shark sighting to be a special and memorable occasion, since it is rare to see them. While such critters as sharks and barracudas should be respected and treated as wild animals, the vast majority subsist on a diet of things considerably smaller than a scuba diver. In fact, most sharks and barracuda are somewhat intimidated by divers; with our long fins and other equipment, we appear big to them … something they don’t want to mess with! Besides, it’s a myth that sharks are perpetually hungry or are always on the attack. It’s not uncommon at all for a shark to go two weeks without hunting, and in one documented case, a healthy shark did not eat for better than a year.

MYTH: It’s very cold underwater.

TRUTH: Many divers choose only to dive in warm water in Florida, the Caribbean, Hawaii or in the South Pacific, where water temperatures may soar to more than 80 degrees F (27 degrees C). But with the proper thermal protection a diver can do plenty of diving in cooler northern climates, exploring shipwrecks, clear lakes and many locations that might be off limits to an unprotected swimmer.  Click here for more information about your options for exposure protection.

MYTH: It’s expensive.

TRUTH: When you put it up against other leisure activities, such as owning a quality mountain bike, golfing, boating, or skiing, diving compares very favorably. And the more you dive, the more true that becomes. Dive gear, for instance, is very durable and can last for years and years; after a short while, the cost of your gear can work out to just a few pennies per dive.

MYTH: I’m very petite, the dive gear will never fit me.

TRUTH:  Dive gear is available now to fit individuals as small as pre-adolescent children. The piece of gear that smaller people view as a potential obstacle is the tank, but since people of smaller stature generally don’t consume as much air, they can comfortably dive with the smaller tanks that many dive centers have on hand.

MYTH: I have a medical condition that precludes diving.

TRUTH:  While it’s true that there are some medical issues that are incompatible with scuba diving, the list is shorter that you might think. Ask your local dive center for a set of guidelines that you can take to your family doctor so he or she can evaluate your fitness for diving. You might find out that what you’ve believed all along isn’t actually the case.