While we were Diving with the Philippines Siren, we had a special dive where we got to see a lot of whale sharks (around 10 or so).
So, the story goes that the local fishermen started feeding the whalesharks to keep them away from where they were fishing, because they were getting in the way. Eventually they grew to like them, and figured it was better to feed them and show them to tourists than to fish.
Snorklers get to wait a long time and spend only 10-15m in the water. Divers however get to spend whatever time they'd like (1h+ for us) and see them underwater for real. I've always been told that whalesharks don't like bubbles (which is true of sharks), but those not only didn't mind, but at least some actually liked our bubbles. One of them followed us away from the food to swim around us and dance in our bubbles.
As for the question of whether this prevents the whales from otherwise eating naturally, they only get fed in the morning, and they do migrate away to live and eat elsewhere, so it doesn't seem to be a real problem. I'm hopeful that it's a net positive, especially if it gets all those people to use the money to live instead of (over-)fishing.
Still, as I found out later, the place remains controversial, at best, more details here: http://dive-bohol.com/conservation/5-reasons-not-go-oslob
I went with a gopro for filming in the left hand, and took pictures with my camera in the right hand. I then took a few screen grabs from the 4K video to supplement the pictures taken by the camera.
So, speaking of pictures:
Here's a 4K video of the encounters:
And more pictures below:
sadly, our friend whale shark had a lot of parasites on it
Half way through the dive, we had to reposition and noticed 2 cuttlefish at the bottom, one was doing a very good weed impression:
don't look at me, I'm a weed
Back to whalesharks:
this one loved bubbles
not just one, but 2, then 3, and up to 7 whalesharks
chasing bubbles again
So that was it, it was a lot of fun and the shalesharks seemed happy enough, at least with us, divers.
All the pictures below are geotagged, so you can click on them to see where they were taken
Arturo, Regis, Jennifer and I went to San Jose, Mexico, the southmost tip of Baja, California, to board a 9 day liveaboard (which really only has 6 days of diving due to the time lost in travel), to Socorro Islands, Mexico's Cocos Island. Socorro Islands just became a national park where fishing is totally prohibited, and likely better enforced than in Cocos.
There were 2 boats that could have gotten us there for 9 days (they advertise 10 but it's really 9): Solmar V and Valentina. We ended up picking up Valentina as it was more reasonably priced and more inclusive. I think the boat and cabins were also a bit larger (although I'm not positive on that).
We arrived the day before to visit San Jose and try some ATV'ing, and the next day, we took a long day tour to LaPaz to go snorkel with whale sharks, and finally got onto our diving boat that evening:
This trip was about diving. Just like Cocos, it's a long way there, over 24H each way, so we had time to read, sort pictures, and pass the time in other ways :) The folks on the boat were all great, so it made the trip much better.
The diving was spectacular, especially the first 3 days (out of 6, with a total of 22 dives): Hammerhead sharks, Manta Rays (more than I remember), many friendly and curious dolphins, and then 3 different whale sharks! We also got lucky that the water was much warmer than planned (26 to 29C, mostly 27-28, when it was supposed to be in the 22-26C range).
Ok, I think I must start with Whale Sharks, 3 different ones on 4 different dives. We were so lucky...
even small whale sharks were big
I found a few octopii, although only 3 of them:
Got lucky to find a small octopus that continued hunting after I found it:
We saw some hammerheads:
Plenty of other sharks:
Plenty of sharks at Roca Partida:
Plenty of friendly dolphins:
Look at how many dolphins came to see us:
One site had dolphins that actually came to us and wanted to be pet. We tried to tell them that maybe wasn't maybe legal, but they didn't care, and kept saying "pet me, pet me please", we had to pretend to pet them to appease them :)
So many lobsters, too bad we couldn't help cull them :)
So many manta rays:
Mantas love bubbles
Lots of different Manta Rays at one site:
While at Punta Tosca, a ray followed us during almost our entire dive:
Also mobula rays:
And electric rays we hadn't seen anywhere else:
Plus other rays:
fun to see those swmimming in pairs
It was Xmas early
We picked up a few tired birds on the way:
Other pictures from the boat:
navy base on Socorro Island
It was a middle class liveaboard with reasonable pricing, so it was a good deal in the end. The last days of diving were not as good due to the weather changing, but we had seen so many awesome things in the first days, that it didn't really matter.
It took another 30H or so to get back to San Jose, and the next morning we left soon after sunrise for a private transport to Cabo San Lucas before having to take our flight in the afternoon:
Since we were going to San Jose Del Cabo for our diving boat, after a bit of research, I figured out that La Paz had swim with whale shark tours, and that our time to visit was the right season. Woohoo!
So, we arrived the previous day from our boat departure, got picked up at 06:40 for the 2H+ drive to La Paz, and joined the tour. Sadly, they just introduce a reservation system where only 2 or 3 boats are allowed in the area at a time. While this makes sense since you don't want all the boats dropping people at the same time on top of a few poor whale sharks trying to feed, sadly the current system works by having boats leave the harbour, and then wait in the middle of the water, burning gas, for their turn to enter the area. For us, that was a 1h30 wait before we were allowed to finally enter the area, which was annoying given that we had gotten up at 06:00.
But once we got there, finally, it was great. Several juvenile whale sharks were feeding at surface level, and our boat sent people 3 at a time with a guide just next to a whale shark feeding. Sadly, the first 2 we got dropped by, were way too fast for me to keep up with just the small fins they gave us (apparently bigger fins don't help at the surface). You could barely keep up with them if you swam with your hands, but with a camera with each hand, that was not possible for me, so I had to let them go.
Thankfully they picked a slower one for us for the 3rd and last one, and I was able to keep up with it just with my fins and get some good shots.
Here is a summary video:
And here are some shots:
one had fish attached to its tail
So, while the first 2 times in the water were frustrating, because I couldn't keep up with the whale shark due to the small fins and inability to swim with my hands while holding a camera and a video camera, the last encounter was awesome since we got a slower whale shark and could keep up with it for a long time.
in Australia, Diving, Ozsafari2017
We were 2 days on Hamilton Island as part of our Oz Safari Flying trip, so I figured the best thing we could do was go dive on the great barrier reef. I however didn't realize it was a 4H boat ride away (2H each way) and really for total beginners. The staff kind of asked why we were there when I said we had 500 dives, or why we would even come back a 2nd day; probably not a good sign :)
We went to what we knew as a "sacrificial reef" where all the total beginners go and stomp on everything, but thankfully once our dive guide realized that we were coming up with over 100 bars and we could last more than twice as long as the other people she usually goes with, we ended up going just with her for the last 2 dives, and she took us to the better places in their reef.
glass bottom boat
they even had helicopter flights, which felt like not worth it at all
they had a big barge that was attached to the reef and that the boat took us to, it had a glass bottom too
they were setup for volume
All in all, it ended up not being so bad. Not the best GBR diving we've done obviously, but still 4 nice enough dives (never mind the 8H of boating total we had to do to get to them):
All the pictures below are geotagged, so you can click on them to see where they were taken
This was our 3rd trip with Waow, this time we boarded in Maumere and the boat took us to some dive spots on the way until we arrived in Komodo where we dived for a week, including South Komodo (with colder water) to see the Manta Rays, and boy did we get lucky with those dives, we saw plenty of huge mantas. Sadly, I have to mention that some motherfucker in Maumere Airport managed to steal my travel pouch with my wallet, passport, international drivers license and all my travel documents while I was waiting for my luggage. Worse, the low life son of a bitch didn't even have the decency to ditch my papers somewhere that lost and found would find them. Not counting the money lost, losing almost all my credit cards, passport, and more, sucked big time. Bali is a fine place to visit (pretty safe, people genuinely nice, great food). The rest of Indonesia not as much as far as I'm concerned.
Anyway back to diving, we really lucked out. 10 days, 34 dives, and many were between great an epic. The amount of things we saw in those dives was only equalled by a prior Waow trip, gems of alone through the banda sea.
The water was unseasonably warm, usually around 30C, and it went as high as 33C (!), although that's actually bad for coral which can bleach and die when it gets too hot, and we saw some traces of that in one dive site.
We did a few land excursions during the trip, the main one of course was to go to an Island to see Komodo Dragons:
Komodos will eat monkeys if they can get their hands on one
Another day, we happened to spot them on a beach when we were on the boat, so we took a dinghy to go see them:
And a few days later, we went on an Island to climb its peak and have some snacks and drinks on the beach as the sun set:
We lucked out this time, the boat was not very busy, and we got upgraded to the master cabin, which was ridiculously roomy :)
But anyway, we were there for diving, so let's focus on that. A few pictures of us:
We saw many scorpionfish:
A fair amount of octopuses, more than I had seen in a single trip, including 2 big ones not shy to be out during the day and making nice colors and shapes for us:
This octopus is worth watching. First it made some displays for us and tried to stand tall to look impressive, and then it went hunting:
And we got so lucky with cuttlefish, from babies to pygmy to 9 full size ones that got together dazlle one another with colors and mate:
this little guy was learning to hunt. It wasn't very good, but a lot of fun to watch
it changed to yellow before going to pounce on little fish
it tries to dazzle them
While this video of the little guy is a full 5 minutes, it's so much fun to watch to see what it does, that I recommend it:
Then, we got the incredible chance to stumble on 9 cuttlefish that clearly were in the same place because they meant business of some kind :)
And more mantis shrimp than I had ever seen:
A few sharks:
A few turtles:
Plenty of triggerfish and clown triggerfish:
A few nice Napoleon and Humphead wrasse:
A few crabs of varying sizes:
orang outang crab
Most of the night dives were incredible:
hairy frogfish, awesome
we saw a pygmy seahorse
and one big one
nice colorful crab
this cuttlefish kept running into my camera and was trying to slide under it
I chased a squid to take pictures, it wasn't happy :)
a somewhat rare cat shark
On the 6th day, we went south of Komodo to Manta Alley. Water was a comfortable enough 24-25C when it can drop to 19-20C, and we got super lucky with many mantas, some came to swim around me to check me out when I surfaced. They came close enough that I could have touched the tip of their wing, but they skillfully bent it just enough so that it was slightly out of reach :)
we got some huge black mantas
Not counting Mantas, some other rays:
a single eagle ray
A rare torpedo ray?
nice spotted ray
By the 9th day, we had left Komodo and started sailing towards Bali. We stopped by a volcanic island and had two dives there. On one, we could see the methane coming out of the ground:
Lots of nice shrimp:
pretty sea urchin with 2 small shrimp
nice cleaning shrimp
Gobi and digging shrimp
I always like sea snakes, fun to watch when they go around hunting while totally ignoring you :)
one of our dive guides :)
a few fish :)
batfish are often quite tame and curious, they kept swimming around us
on one of our 2 manta dives we were also rewarded with huge humphead parrotfish
Pictures from the boat:
our partners in crime
Our last day, we had a nice BBQ, and the crew celebrated their upcoming month off after 5 months of work:
We had never gotten the opportunity to dive a nice aquarium so far, and while in Singapore, I figured we should give it a try, so we did.
After heading to Sentosa Island, we went directly to the SEA Aquarium's neighbour location, Adventure Water Park, and entered the aquarium's main tank from there. We had a photographer/dive guide with us, and sadly they would not allow me to take my gopro during the dive, even after paying a fee and dipping it in a bucket of bleach to sanitize it. The other unfortunate part was that I was told we couldn't use/bring our masks, and turned out we could. Sadly, their masks sucked and fogged up constantly, despite my having tried to treat mine before the dive, that made the dive much less enjoyable than it could have been.
Nonetheless, it was a cool experience to be on the other side of the glass window :)
we used their diving gear so as not to contaminate their tank
Since we were staying in Geelong, it was only about 30mn from the dive shop where I had to be at 06:30 to rent equipment before the first dive boat leaving at 07:15. Getting up at 05:30 wasn't exactly a problem though since I had just arrived from California and was jetlagged anyway :)
I have few pictures though, due to a combination of:
I got pushed a bit to go on the first boat that was leaving, and forgot my big camera (just too a few shots with gopro)
2nd dive (drift dive holding rope) was cancelled half way to a moron that left the rope to go get a lobster, causing the dive to be cancelled after 15mn
For a reason I still don't know, the camera battery was then dead for the 3rd time, so I just did a few screen grabs from the gopro video.
Impressions on the place:
Conditions were tough the day I went, 3 meter swells, 2nd dive (wreck dive) got cancelled and replaced with a drift dive which was then cancelled half way
3rd dive was also cancelled and replaced with another dive (which thankfully was actually better). My dive buddy, Alastair was a good match, he used air at about the same rate as I had bottom time left on my 3rd dive (despite 32% nitrox).
Vis was not terrible, but far from great
Water at its warmest season was still cold (18C), which is barely warmer than Monterey (16C on a good day, 5-8C in the winter). I used their rental 7mm suit and used my own 5.5mm shortie on top. That was warm enough.
Sea life wasn't great, but it was ok. A few different fishes than what I'm used to, but didn't get to see the leafy seadragon they have there
Anyway, as a result, I only have a few crappy pictures, not Linus fish-butt bad pictures, but close :)
5kt of current, my first drift dive with a rope
Video of the 2nd and 3rd dive (4K), not earth shattering, just in case you care :)
As part of our trip on the Argos in Cocos Island, we signed up for 2 dives on the onboard sub from DeepSee submarine that is part of the boat (although sub dives do cost extra :) ).
The sub is a 3 person sub (pilot and 2 passengers), has 3 different battery systems, and the equivalent of a rebreather system for the cabin to give occupants breathable air for 3 days in case of emergency. While it has full freedom of movement, it's not very fast for horizontal trust, so it gets towed by the surface boat which also keeps constant comms (both voice and telemetry). The cool thing is that they can send location to the sub underneath by locating it compared to the boat's GPS location using sonar.
After arriving Cocos on the Argos and doing some dives on the first day, the second morning we went for our first dive to 100 meters. The whole thing was almost 2H.
A few pictures below:
Diana, our pilot
the surface boat crew supervised the sub going down and back up
it was bullying us, even though we were bigger :)
distortion made it looks like it jumped inside (not photoshopped)
some hammerhead sharks buzzing us
back from the first dive
A few short clips from my camera:
And a 6mn summary of the whole thing taken from my gopro (feel free to skip forward inside it, it's not action packed :) ):
The next afternoon, we went back for a longer 3H+ dive to 300 meters. We got lucky to see Rays swimming around us during the dive, and had a peek at the ocean bottom and the critters that live there in virtually no light:
200 meters deep
300 meters deep
rays were checking us out during a good part of the dive
deep sea crab working in mostly dark seas
Here are some videos of the rays going around us during the dive:
And 7mn summary of the 3h dive:
So, my impressions?
It's obviously an experience in a lifetime, not many people have gone to 300 meters under water
As a geek, of course, I could not but be impressed with the sub. It's super cool see it work, especially if you think about the geolocation technology, marine com technology, and how it can even know how it's moving compared to the ground thanks to 4 sonar pings going down and using the doppler effect on the returning signal.
Taking pictures was difficult because the dome acts as a big prism that splits light colors and makes all pictures somewhat blurry, especially if you try to zoom. The one exception are pictures you're taking without external lighting (mostly pictures above you) which since they're mostly blue, don't have the light splitting problem and look nicer.
All the pictures below are geotagged, so you can click on them to see where they were taken
Cocos is interesting and different, starting with the fact that it requires a 36H trip each way to get there (no runways and too far to get via helicopter). We chose the Argos since it was part of the dive alliance, which contains the best boats in each location, and because they had a special research trip chartered by TIRN (Turtle Island Restoration Network) that was longer than usual (9 days of diving and 3 days travelling).
Cocos belongs to Costa Rica which we spent a week to visit before the diving trip.
It's a 36H boat trip away from Puntarenas:
We got the chance to get talks from Todd, Randall, and Brock about their efforts to save turtles and sharks from overfishing, fishing bycatch, and illegal shark fining. Brock, who volunteers/has volunteered at multiple such organizations, including Sea Shepherds, also joined us. They have been responsible for so much work to help sea life along the years that it was great to learn about it, even if much work still needs to be done. You can read more on the seaturtles.org, Pretoma, Sea Shepherd, and Fin Free sites.
I got a picture with them at the end of our trip:
They organized this trip to tag some sharks and turtles (to see their migration patterns and help keep zones fishing free to hopefully help curbing their clear decline) as well as take some tissue samples from some sharks.
We also did 2 submarine dives to 100 and 300 meters respectively, as explained on this page
Here is the map of what we dived (3 dives a day and just a few night dives):
Argos is a big converted boat with a crane to move skiffs and the submarine on and off the boat:
the inside was spacious enough
The crew kept us well fed :)
Of course, we were there to dive. Argos had some nice skiffs:
Cocos was full of sharks, and mostly fish that sharks don't eat, like lots of puffers, boxfishes, and porcupine fishes (they are all poisonous):
When these two have sex:
with those two:
You get this :)
this one actually looked pissed off :)
this one is "hunting" by blowing on sand to look for things:
This shows sharks bumping into a poor puffer fish and confirming that they don't want to eat it:
Lots of eels, mostly moray eels that have an understanding with sharks, and don't get eaten either:
they always look mean, but this one genuinely seemed to be
this one looked mellow
and had nice bloodshot eyes
Plenty of other eels:
Same thing with triggerfish, some of which were quite colorful:
And same thing with rays too, from marble rays, eagle rays, and mobula rays, some were bigger than sharks:
whitetip sharks mating:
Interstingly, sharks didn't seem to eat flounder fish either:
Hell, they don't even eat lobster, they really go after the easy prey:
Lots of sharks, many many whitetip sharks:
this shark had an old tag
Of course, there were plenty of hammerheads, but we're told not nearly as many as there used to be, unfortunately thanks to illegal shark finning, sadly a lot came from Taiwanese boats :(
Usually we got to see hammerheads at cleaning stations. Here, you can see the barberfish which act as cleaning fish. The hammerheads find them and swim in the middle of them:
a tiger shark, those are huge and eat turtles amongst other things
The night dives were 'interesting'. Sharks followed us to feed. That was impressive and sad for the fish being eaten:
This video shows the shark feeding, and it gets a bit insane. Poor little fish:
But we found some crabs and lobsters, and even a slipper lobster:
On a couple of dives, some wild dolphins came to check us out:
We got to see several huge schools of fish, mostly jacks:
Other misc fishes:
those fish change color from black to white
Also, some jelly fishes:
One day we went on the island for a short hike:
a collection of fishing hooks collected by the rangers
the coast to coast hike which unfortunately we were not allowed to do
this bridge was made with confiscated fishing gear
And here are a few pictures taken from the dive boats:
lots of small volcanic islands
Of course, lots of birds, mostly boobies and frigate birds:
Unfortunately the location of our boat prevented viewing any sunsets, and I didn't catch any sunrise, so I got this:
Unfortunately, we didn't get to see any turtles, having over 63,000 turtles fished and killed per year just in Costa Rica waters, by long line fisheries (thousands of hooks on multi kilometer lines strung under water).
Also, what doesn't help either that tiger sharks have become more abundant in Cocos and like to eat turtles :(
But this was a great trip, 9 days of nice diving, plus 72 hours traversing to Cocos and back :)
But again, these ecosystems are vanishing fast. The amount of sharks that are being killed just for shark finning, is unbelievable, and the number of turtles and other sea animals thare being killed mistakenly just as bycatch for other seafood we eat, is a huge problem.
Please take a chance to learn more aobut these problems and spread the word, contribute, and/or donate: