Three Tips for Diving Without Wrecking Reefs
Photo of Ernie by Tom Gorman
All to often on our trips we see divers and yes UW photographers who need to improve or watch their buoyancy. Consider corals as a friend who is recovering from illness, and who you are about to visit. This means you need to treat them with care and respect, while enjoying their presence. Anything you can do to reduce your impact on corals helps them to fight more effectively against the “disease”--warming waters, but also pollution and other threats they face.
The Coral Triangle’s reefs are having a hard time. With climate change in full swing, vast swathes of these sensitive organisms are dying as a result of sudden increases in water temperature. Actually, estimates show approximately 10% of the world's coral reefs are now dead.
Not only is the loss of corals inherently sad--it is also bad news for the countless fish species that call reefs their home. Fortunately, as divers, with a little effort we can make things a little easier for them.
1. The first principle is that you should never touch corals. Why? These are fragile organisms that are susceptible to disease, so every time you come into contact with them you increase the risk of weakening them.
2. Avoid smothering the coral. When you’re hovering above (proper buoyancy control please!) to admire them, watch out for your fins as they may unintentionally raise a cloud of sand from the sea bottom that could cover the reef.
3. If you’re diving rather than snorkelling, secure your "dangling bits” (and by that we mean your air source and other gear), that may damage the reef. It is surprisingly easy to break off parts of a coral structure with loose equipment.
That’s it. Keep those tips in mind next time you go under and you’ll be giving reefs a much needed break, while still having a great diving experience. Oh, and did we mention this: “Don’t feed the fish!”
Posted by WWF My Coral Triangle
Sandy visits Roatan and WBD Top Recommendations Turquoise Bay and Mayan Princess
10 days diving on Roatan in January, what could be better? Well...how about having a pair of dolphins show up on the wreck that we were diving for the very first dive of the trip? Yup...it really happened!
Sandy and WBD friend Tom spent 10 days learning about Roatan and WBD Top Recommendations Mayan Princess Beach & Dive Resort and its sister property, Turquoise Bay Resort as well as Roatan’s great diving.
Mayan Princess is located on the southwest corner of the island, in West Bay, and Turquoise Bay is located about half way up the island, facing west, toward mainland Honduras. Diving off both locations is great and the two dive operators, Mayan Divers @ Mayan Princess and Subway Watersports @ Turquoise Bay are both well staffed and well equipped. Both did great jobs keeping us wet just as much as we wanted.
After meeting the dolphins on our first dive with Mayan Divers, We were pleasantly surprised with the rest of the diving in that area. There are nice steep mini-walls with the tops at around 50 feet and the bottoms well below recreational depths. I was pleased with the quality of healthy soft corals and we saw turtles on nearly every dive as well as schools of Caribbean reef fish and lots of nice sized grouper.
We moved up the coast to Turquoise Bay for the second half of the trip and found the underwater structure to be quite different. The walls were steeper, the canyons were longer and weaved around and there were several beautiful caverns. Several of the shallow reefs came up to around 15 feet, so many of our safety stops were extended dives on the top of the reefs.
On three different days, we had pods of dolphins playing in the boat’s bow wave during the surface interval between dives. The boat’s captain took the time to bring the boat back around and let us enjoy having the dolphins up close.
The two resorts are quite different, as well. Mayan Princess is a condo/hotel located in the more busy end of the island, with a busy beach and lots of activity. Turquoise Bay is located in a much more remote area of Roatan, with traditional hotel rooms in separate 4-plex buildings that are spread throughout the resort. The beach at Turquoise Bay is expansive and usually very quiet and private, as well. Turquoise Bay is as quiet as Mayan Princess is active.
Both resorts can be all-inclusive, including meals and drinks. The Mayan Princess condo design includes full kitchens, however, so if you prefer to do some or all of your own cooking, that option is open, as well.
There is a lot to do on Roatan besides diving. Zip lines, horse back rides on quiet beaches and there is a very active bar/restaurant area in the town of West End, near Mayan Princess.
One last thing to mention is the shark dive that is available on Roatan. There is only one operator on the island that does it, and all of the other dive operators use them for their guests. We did that dive one morning, and it was very professionally run, with lots of sharks. I enjoyed it thoroughly!
Check out Turquoise Bay and Mayan Princess here on the World’s Best Dives web site and take a look at their web sites.
And why that is an important Question.
Meeting and talking with 1000’s of divers at the dive shows throughout the US, It surprises me HOW FEW TIMES we are asked this question. This would be one of the first questions I asked if I were seeking advice on where to spend my hard earned dollars and use my limited vacation time . I would want to know that the person I’m asking for advice had the qualifications and experience to help guide me in finding a true value and "Trip of a Lifetime” experience. And would they help me find a destination and operator that fit my needs and not just try to sell me on the products they have.
While I can’t speak for other exhibitors, I can say with confidence that an show attendee will not meet a TEAM with as much dive and travel experience as the WORLD’S BEST DIVE staff.
The dive and travel experts of the World's Best Dives have gained our expertise over many years of diving and traveling the world. We've literally "been there/done that" when it comes to the resorts, live-aboard and dive operations that we've personally selected as "The World's Best."
World's Best Dives is made up of dive industry professionals who literally have decades of dive and travel experience and have logged countless hours of bottom time. We aren't desk-bound travel agents. We're scuba instructors, boat captains, resort staffers and live-aboard crewmembers with expert knowledge that we've put to good use to help you select and enjoy the very best dive travel adventures in the world.
And the best thing – we aren't selling anything! We are not booking agents or commissioned salespeople.
We do represent the very best dive and travel experiences in the world, and we use our expertise to help you find the destination that fits your personal style – and your budget, too. But since we don't sell anything, you won't find yourself being talked into the "deal of the day." We simply offer you the most comprehensive travel information anyplace – and we can help you decide on the adventure that's right for you.
For more information on the WORLDS BEST DIVE TEAM Staff go to ABOUT US Section on this website
To discuss dive travel, MEET the WBD TEAM at one of the many dive shows or Email us at info@Worldsbestdives.com
Diving can never be more exciting with thresher sharks, majestic walls, manta rays, schooling pelagics and critter galore - what more can a fussy diver ask for?
by George Koh Published in EZ Dive Magazine
Bent on getting photographs of the illusive thresher sharks, I made my second beeline back to Maratua Island to bag that prized photo. The evidence to prove that the underwater myth is alive and well in the waters of Kalimantan off Maratua Paradise Resort.
I am on a mission to seek out these sharks that seem to go into hiding. Deep water are deep dwellers that are so shy, they go all out to avoid contact with Earthlings. However, like most fish, these threshers need to be cleaned of parasites, and it is probably for this reason that they penetrate the waters of Maratua where cleaner wrasses are in abundance.
Maratua is best known for The Channel – where grey reef sharks roam and schooling tunas, rainbow runners, hammerheads and schooling barracudas swirl into a giddy parade; it is here that the wide-angle junkies battle it out with strong currents along its magical walls. Be sure to watch out for eagle rays that make their cameo appearance and the giant groupers that guard their caves just a few meters below the ledge.
But the most talked about experience now is the once-in-a-lifetime chance to dive with the big-eyed, long-tailed shark at the cleaning station. Unlike Malapascua in the Philippines – the only other known thresher shark destination – sharks here get cleaned in the afternoon instead of insanely wee hours of predawn, so visitors get to sleep in, well rested to take in all the adrenaline pumped demands of the diving day.
Sleep deprived divers like me would get to explore other dive sites in and out of Maratua after breakfast, and then dive into some afternoon fun with spot-the-shark. Be sure to check with the experienced dive guides on the tide and moon phase before plunging in.
Depending on the tide, the dive generally commences at about 3:30pm with the tide rising slowly coupled with slight current. The guides will settle you on a gentle, sandy slope at about 25 meters while prepping for the spectacular sighting.
Thresher sharks typically emerge from the deep against the current and then go into a circular swim pattern. Avoid banging your tank or making excessive noise in order to maximize your “face-time” with them. Once the dark silhouette is sighted from afar, the guides will then signal to descend deeper to 32 meters for an up-close and personal encounter with these beauties. At least two sharks passed me twice on a single dive.
Remember to equip yourself with a reef hook in case the current picks up during the dive. Another essential tip for great results is to stay low so that the sharks can pass above or by the side. Chasing after them for a better glimpse is a cardinal sin as they might just spool and scoot into the dark and never to return for the duration of your bottom time.
My first encounter set my heart pounding as the shark approached from the side to check me out. It did so swiftly and then continued with another quick swim pass. The second sighting of the same shark was just as – if not more exhilarating and awesome – it decided to show its authority by taking off and re-emerging from above looking down at me wondering if I made a good teatime snack.
This circuit can continue for about 15 minutes before they retire for the day. I temporarily disregarded my no-decompression limit and stayed for just a little longer than I should before returning to shallower waters for my safety stop.
During the time-out, Amir, my guide, made a sound from his regulator and pointed to a coral boulder. He started to swim towards that direction at nine meters and I followed suit like an eager beaver wondering what was in store. To my surprise and utter amazement, there was a thresher shark swimming towards us, as if we were intruders on the prowl on its turf. What a time to be low on air! We decided that it was time to start our decompression stop! After the dive, we returned to the surface and stared wide-eyed at each other, it was the dive of our lives!
Maratua has just about everything a diver desires on a reef without having to travel far. The Denise pygmy seahorse never fails to be a favourite among macro lovers, and they are just two minutes away from the resort. They can easily be found hiding in seafans between 11 to 19 meters here in Maratua compared to deeper waters off Indonesia. Pester your guide to show you the often talked-about but seldom seen seahorse for a perfect afternoon dive.
After your afternoon dive, you need only to dive under the pylons of the resort for prolific macro life named the Lion’s Den. The jetty was built in such a way that tired divers can just put their gear in the comfort of their door step and slip into the water without hassle. Here you can enjoy your night dive with a low bottom time to photograph these colorful critters.
Lionfish come in close range to check you out in pairs for you to photograph them against the setting sun. Be sure to catch the guaranteed performance of mandarinfish mating at the rubble at two meters in the gorgeous evening twilight.
Sand dwellers like the white V-octopus, stargazers and the home grown lionfish come out to feed on cardinalfish at the stroke of night fall. Spend some time observing them striking at prey in a split second, and you will be in shock and awe. By the time you decide that you had enough for one night, simply follow the well lit lamps above to guide you back to the entry point. End the dive with a warm shower and head towards the restaurant for a sumptuous dinner prepared by the chief chef.
Guests get to visit Sangalaki Island at least twice during a 7-day stay at the resort. Be sure to visit the Manta Parade and Manta Run. Divers can expect up to 20 mantas hovering gracefully above the sandy patch at the two cleaning stations. The action does not stop here. After your dive, don your snorkeling gear during the surface interval and frolic with magnificent giants when they come up to feed on the plankton during low tide. Remember to enter the water quietly so as not to spook them for a close encounter you will never forget!
Kakaban’s Jellyfish Lake – just 1.5 hours from Maratua – is a must-visit now site as a new jetty and boardwalk are now in place. Constructed by the local government, the new jetty allows ease of entry without destroying the natural environment. The jellyfish here have lost their sting defense mechanism and the snorkeling experience is simply surreal. Barracuda Point is a high-action yet easy and exhilarating dive for divers new and experienced. You will stumble upon white-tip reef sharks and leopard sharks resting on the sand ledges while resident barracudas and batfishes cruise above the reef crest. These animals never fail to show up every time I visit the site.
Diving can never be more exciting with thresher sharks, majestic walls, manta rays, schooling pelagic and critters galore – what more can a fussy diver ask for.
Getting There: There are direct flights from Jakarta and Singapore to Balikpapan daily. Connect to Berau via Trigana, Batavia or Kalstar. Entry via Sabah is also possible via Tawau and Tarakan. For domestic connections, consult Adventure Journey World for latest updates.
When To Go: Diving is available all year round, but the sea is a little choppy in January, August and September. Water temperature ranges between 26-29 degrees Celsius ( 78.8-84.2 F). A 3mm wetsuit will suffice
For more info and pictures GO TO RECOMMENDATIONS section of this website, click on Maratua.