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:
I was going to Japan at the end of May, but Arturo who was travelling in Cuba made us an offer to join him in Mexico to go dive around Cozumel, and get back just in time for my flight to Japan. Since I had never been to Mexico to dive or otherwise, and Jennifer only once a long long time ago, before she was certified, we accepted and joined him there.
The first day, we went to dive in a Cenote (underground river system), which was a bit colder (24C), mostly devoid of aquatic life (it was fresh water, not salt water), but the cave formations were interesting to dive.
A few pictures from the Cenotes:
We then took a ferry to Cozumel, where we did a combination of boat dives (2 every morning, some in the afternoon), and shore dives which actually were quite good considering, especially if you enjoy fishies in training like Jennifer likes to say:
fish like to hunt in pair with rays
so many lobsters, everywhere...
The wreck dive was interesting:
My heart will go on... :)
Nice fishies in training by the jetty for a dusk/night dive:
those baby rays were being 'friendly' :)
More boat diving:
they had very nice sea horses
The night dive we did from the boat was particularly good. Octopus coming out to hunt, giant crabs, lobster, and more:
The next morning, I got up at 05:00 to do a night/sunrise dive by the jetty and it wasn't half bad either :)
this shrimp was suicidal in my opinon :)
We then had time for 2 more boat dives before being done for the day:
A few vidoes I got by the Jetty:
An octopus hunting at night:
Octopus feeding by the jetty at night:
Baby ray, those things are so cute:
Now a few videos from the boat dives. We saw many turtles, including this turtle eating:
They also had those shrimp crabs everywhere. This one was busy eating:
There were lobsters everywhere. We saw those two lobsters 'talking':
This lobster was out hunting at night:
A big crab out hunting:
And a big octopus hunting:
And that was it for diving in Cozumel. The water was super nice, great vis, temps in the 29-30C range, not too much current, and actually pretty good critters to see. Thanks to Arturo for getting us there :)
As part of our trip through New Zealand, my guidebook mentioned Poor Knights Islands as some of the best sub tropical diving in the world (and especially New Zealand], so we took 3 days to go dive there with Ocean Blue Adventures. It's a small liveaboard, but they were nice enough to give us the one room (they had some bunks for the rest of the folks), and it was comfortable enough for that duration. The crew of 2 did everything they could to make the trip and diving as nice as possible.
Poor Knights Island is a 2H boat trip from Tutukaka, so it was nice to be able to stay on site and do more dives than the other boats that only did 2 dives per day.
Water was on the cold side (19 to 22C). Jennifer got too cold on her first day due to not putting 2 wetsuits on right away (ideally one would have been enough, but her body just gets colder than mine and then needed more time to recover). She missed a few dives as a result, but enjoyed the ones she did. I did all the dives myself, although 19-21C with a 7mm suit was really on the cold side.
The diving was interesting. There were scorpionfish everywhere, as well as nice nudibranch (some quite fat), and even nudibranch on top of scorpionfish (that was weird):
I totally missed the scorpionfish underneath when I took the picture
There were loads of rays too:
Loads of moray eels of all kinds:
nice blue moray eel
that poor fish had a tumor
We did one night dive. Lots of little food floating around :)
And that was the conclusion of our 3 days of diving at Poor Knights Islands. It was cold, pretty tough for Jennifer and borderline for me, but it was interesting to see different critters from what we usually see during tropical diving
Here is a google photos picture gallery if you'd like that after viewing this post: https://plus.google.com/photos/106981743284611658289/albums/6073787459128610737?authkey=CPHRzYaNzL6VSg
After diving Raja Ampat with Waow last year we had a fantastic time (huge boat with big rooms, more crew than guests, great crew, and satellite internet on the boat during the trip, what else could you ask for? :).
At the time, Jay and Kay, the cruise directors recommended that we come back for their once a year trip from Maumere to Ambon (part of the trip they need to do from Bali to Raja Ampat after they're done with Komodo). This trip goes from Alor (many sea snakes) to the Banda Sea towards Ambon. You do get to see bigger stuff like a school of 50 or so hammerheads, giant humphead parrotfish, and huge schools of diverse fish. I also got to see 3 cuttlefish on one dive, and I love those things :)
large crew, 24 people
After a sunset dive, we had a boobie come on our boat and go back to our main boat with us. He was probably tired of flying and sleeping on a boat is better than drifting at sea all night :)
we gave him fish :)
Anyway, this was about diving, so let's get back to that. The Waow Crew was again fantastic, they took care of all our diving needs every day, and took us to great dive sites where I was able to take these pictures with a crappy point and shoot camera.
A couple of video medleys first.
Sea snakes are awesome, this is compilation of some of the ones I saw on a single dive. They are very poisonous, have no predators, and are inquisitive, so sometimes they'll come check you out, but you're not their food and they have no reason to attack you:
Our very last dive, we found a young blue lobster that didn't know not to run around the reef, so we went to play with it a bit :) Our dive guide also saw a manta shrimp and ferreted it out. After that it gave up on hiding:
this corral (animal) had little hair in its mouth, sensed something going in, and then closed down on it
This parrotfish had a protection bubble around it, created for protection when sleeping at night
this was a 4 meter shark, it was huge
One dive, we got very lucky and found a school of hammerhead sharks, about 50 of them, and I was able to get in the middle of them for a few pictures:
Thanks to Arturo for taking this picture
Manta Shrimp, usually very shy and hard to find
One dive, I got lucky, and found 3 different cuttlefish. Usually they just sit there and let you take pictures all day long, and change colors depending on their mood (annoyed, scared, or relaxed):
Diving, how does it work? Which way is up?
Here are some video bits:
Small fish pulsing with light:
I love those fish. We always joke that we should take 2 together and make a knot with their hair tail :)
A classic, but clownfish are always fun, expecially these:
Electric Jellyfish found during safety stop. I had colors pulsing through its body:
Nice flouder fish:
I love cuttlefish, so many colors and minicing abilities
Another one on the same dive. This one was a bit afraid because it had gotten bitten by something else earlier (I later saw a piece missing). This is why it was swimming away from me:
So many schools of fish on Amet Knoll on the 11th day:
Most of the time was spent on the boat, but we had a land excursion at Pulau Naria, a port where Dutch, British and Portugese used to fight for the rights to indonesian spices, and specifically the nutmegs (noix de muscade) that were growing there. We got to see a fort that was used to defend the island:
we had a 2nd breakfast to sample local goods
we finished with a market visit
poor little kitten, it's a bit sick
Also, one of the islands we stopped at had an active volcano, very cool:
thanks to Arturo for this picture
And before we knew it, the 12 days were over:
BBQ dinner on our last night
nice fondant au chocolat
the staff sung songs that evening
And that was the end of 13 wonderful days, thank you to all the crew!
Arturo, Regis, and Bill invited me to their diving trip in San Diego, and having forgotten how cold it was last time, I foolishly accepted :)
I brought a semi dry 7mm wetsuit, a full hood, and as a backup a 2nd shortie with hood that was 5.5mm (or a total of 12.5mm of neoprene). That was a wise decision, the semi-dry 7mm wasn't much warmer than a 7mm, and after my first dive, I was very cold, so I put the 2nd wetsuit on top.
This turned out to be barely enough, and I was still cold on most of the dives, but it turns out the temperature got as low as 13C (55F). It was sad when I saw my computer say 16C (60F) and that felt warm, but the 2 wet suits, tight hood, and 28lbs of lead just weren't comfortable or fun.
All that said, we had above average vis (which means somewhat poor instead of very poor ;) ), and no current, so we got lucky with the conditions actually being as good as they could have been for there (except the temps).
On the first day, we did a couple of kelp dives first, and the Yukon and Ruby in the afternoon. On the second morning, double dive of the Yukon on nitrox, and finished up with the Ruby again, where I took a crap on the toilet :)
Unfortunately most of my pictures are crap because my real camera lens kept fogging up. I used my gopro as a backup, and the nicer pictures are from Arturo.