New divers are always asking us what our favorite dive sites are or where the best scuba diving location is. My standard answer is where ever I am going next, but that doesn’t really answer the question now does it. So in a feeble attempt to actually answer the question without writing 10,000 words
Little Cayman and Little Cayman Beach Resort. I just adore this resort, the staff and of course Blood Bay Wall. If you can’t unplug and relax here, well then you just can’t. Wall diving and little creatures and turtles and sharks, they are all here and with over 100 foot visibility.
Cozumel. There are many reasons to love this island. It is affordable and easy to get to. The diving is easy, just fall off the boat and make sure you have your buoyancy and drift along. San Miguel has lots of things for your non diving friends and we enjoyed Scuba Club for their nice resort, but also for the proximity to town.
Fiji. The soft corals and Nemo is everywhere. And then you have such a different variety of fish. For example the Angel fish look the same body wise, but their markings are so different. Add in that the people of Fiji are just about the friendliest and happiest people we have ever had the opportunity to be around make this one of the must dives.
Turks and Caicos. The best way to dive this island chain is to dive one of the liveaboards. We have had pods of dolphins and a few pilot whales on our adventures here along with sharks and turtles.
I could keep going on about my favorite dive sites and you could probably guess. But to quickly round out the list of my favorite dive sites one would have to add St Lucia, the East End of Grand Cayman and Kauai.
So what are your favorite dive sites?
Our scuba adventures are as unique and varied as we are. Some like the baby turtles in this picture are just starting their scuba adventure while some been on the trip for a long time and yet some even wind up writing post like this one. But the point is it is your adventure and we hope you are making it your best adventure ever.
Some of us are content on our scuba adventure with just our basic open water card and some are happy to have the advanced open water card so they can “go deeper”. There are others that reach for the brass ring and want it all. The island life style and working and living in paradise. And there is the beauty of scuba; it can be anything you want.
Regardless of where you are on your scuba adventure as we begin 2016, take a moment to reflect and to think of all the awesome things you have seen. Dolphins playing in the wake of the boat, sharks, even the small things like the anemone shrimp and crabs. The wonder and amazement of it all. Now, let us take another moment and reflect on something, anything that might increase our enjoyment of this crazy adventure. Maybe, it is something as simple as joining a group trip to meet and dive with new buddies or it might be you want to learn more about the coral reef itself.
Maybe you are at the point in your adventure that you are now ready to show your kids the underwater world from a different point of view. You might want to add rescue diver to your adventure. Or even take classes with them and share the same adventure.
It is your scuba adventure and it can be whatever you want it to be and more. Let’s go diving!
Do you ever see an underwater photo in a magazine or one the web and say, “Dang, wish I could take pictures like that”. Well, my friend you can and you don’t need to invest a small fortune in your underwater photo set up.
First, get low and shoot up. Use the natural light of the sun and get some contrast in your images. Remember from your open water class that water absorbs colors starting with red in rather a swallow amount of water. Use the wall and the reef along with the surface to add depth to your underwater photos.
Second, focus on the eyes. Try and center your underwater photo with the subject eye in the center. Now, that is sometimes impossible especially with small creatures such as the Juvenile Drum as they are constantly swimming in a figure 8 patterns. But if you know the creatures’ behavior you can time the image and create some very pleasing shots. Plus, some fish such as the Lizard fish and Scorpion fish have really cool jaw lines and teeth.
Move slowly, you have been hearing this since basic open water. The trick to really cool underwater photos is to not scare the subject away. Turtles and seals will actually approach you if you can be still long enough. And those little shrimp that I love, well if you move to fast they will just disappear on you. Also, sometimes if you see the object of your desire like a turtle, if you look ahead you just might see an opening that the animal is heading for and you might be able to cut it off and get a really cool shot.
Tip number four; use one strobe. By using one strobe and turning it and the camera you can create shadows that will give your underwater photos some different looks and contrast.
And finally, practice and practice and practice. Find say a nice grouper at a cleaning station and practice. Turn the camera one way and the strobe a different way. Move slowly and try and get below your subject. That isn’t always possible on say nudibranchs, but look for different sight lines to give your underwater photos a different feel. But, what ever you do take the pictures that please you and enjoy them.
Just last week I got to watch one of our divers work on her dive log book while on the boat. She would draw the dive site map that the guides drew on the white board and then after the dive she would record her info that was important to her. I never did ask what she recorded as it is her dive log book, but she is approaching her 200th dive and still recording them. Also, on this boat were many different levels of experience of divers and watching this one so diligently work on her dive log book got me to thinking if any of the others are keeping a dive log book; and if they are, what type of information do they record?
But what are the benefits of keeping a dive log book?
Dive sites and maps of the site: I know another lady that has an app to keep her dive log book and this app allows her to upload photos and even if on line the GPS location of the site.
How about conditions such as the temperature of the water? Water temperature changes all throughout the year, if you travel to the same location every year at the same time the water temperature will be within a degree or two and this will be helpful in remember what exposure suit to bring. For example in 2007 we dove with the Turks and Cacios Explorer and as we were preparing to return to visit them again the water temperature was being reported as in the low 80’s. But when I went back into my dive log book and checked what the water temp was the last time it was actually in the mid 70’s. This information changed my mind as to what suit I took and I was very happy and warm thanks to my dive log book.
Some other useful things to keep in your dive log book are things like how much weight did you use or for the new diver how much air and how long did the dive last. Did you use a steel tank or a smaller aluminum tank? Did you see anything different? Maybe you are starting to notice different creatures and are learning how to spot some of them based on the habitat that they keep. All of these are fun and useful bits of information.
Oh, one last benefit of keeping a dive log book is that you can prove your dive experience and training. This can be helpful if you want to do some of the “advanced” dives that often available to those with at least an Advanced Open Water rating.
So if you do keep a dive log book a hearty well done to you, and yes we keep ours and record all the dives; even the ones at the crater.
Buddy Team, you hear about it from the second you open your open water diver book and begin your adventure into the undersea world. In the newest open water book from PADI some of the knowledge review questions even expand the buddy team to be 3 people. But what are some of the best practices for being a good buddy team? Let us take a look at a few things that all good buddy teams do and sometimes they don’t even know they are doing them.
Is your buddy team ready to go diving? Have you done your pre-dive safety check? If you watch my buddy and I you will not see us doing the formal BWRAF that you learned in your open water diver class, but you will see us do it as we are sitting next to each other going over our dive plan. Which leads me to the second thing every buddy team should be doing and that is after the briefing if you are listening to one you should be finalizing your final thoughts and dive plan.
Is everyone in your buddy team easy to recognize underwater? Many divers have BCD’s or fins that look familiar or are even identical to others on the dive boat. Sometimes our buddies might even look like someone else on the boat; after all it isn’t easy to recognize everyone under the water in all that gear with just a quick glance. So are you staying close to your buddy team? Have you as a buddy team talked about what an acceptable distance is away from each other? Does that distance change with conditions such as heavy current or night?
Has your buddy team ever practiced or even talked about emergency procedures? Are you familiar with your buddies gear? Are your skills compatible in your buddy team? Even a dry run on the boat before the dive could prove to be beneficial in case something where to go wrong.
And finally does your buddy team have the same goals for your diving? Critter finder or just cruising and exploring what do you and your buddies enjoy most in your diving?
See you under the boat
Bet you didn’t know that there is a class called Diving Etiquette? Well there isn’t and since we are very excited to have you join us in exploring the 70% of the world that the land lubbers just do not get to see up close and personal we want to take a few minutes and discuss some diving etiquette. It is the one thing that isn’t cover to deeply in your Open Water class is diving etiquette 101, sure there is a mention about how to pack for the boat and how limited space is; but let us take a little closer look at some diving etiquette.
A lot of diving is done from boats and as we know boats are limited in space, even the liveaboards that I enjoy so much. Since space is limited it is important to get your gear set up and then everything else stored away. Having a mesh bag streamlines the storing of your personal gear instead of those bulky roller bags that are better suited for the airline. Once you have your gear set up, move to an uncrowded part of the boat such as the sun deck.
Some of the most important diving etiquette happens in the water. Upon entry or exit allow the diver in front of you ample room to get either to the tag line, their camera or even on the boat. Many accidents happen when a diver falls onto another diver, so give space. Under the water diving etiquette means giving your fellow divers space, while staying close to your buddy in case of emergency. Allow your fellow divers room to swim free and if a small awesome creature is spotted, take turns. Diving etiquette means allowing the diver that is looking at say a crab enough time to look and maybe even snap a picture or 3.
Speaking of cameras and diving etiquette new diver, watch your buoyancy. Until your buoyancy is perfected you might want to stay off the reef a few extra feet. Will your pictures get the really small critter? Probably not, but we are protectors of the sea and reef, in time you will nail your buoyancy and get those amazing shots. One last thing about cameras and diving etiquette. If you have your camera on a “selfie” stick and you put that camera in the area that I am attempting to take a picture, you just may find that “stick” some where else.
Divemaster? But, Scuba Joe when would I ever be a divemaster in Colorado? Or maybe you don’t want to worry about getting the insurance or you just don’t want to turn your hobby into a “job”. Trust me I understand. But there are many different reasons for enrolling in the dive master program.
First, the divemaster program will fine tune your dive skills to the envy of all your dive buddies making you the most sought out dive buddy and the best dive buddy in your group. Much like the rescue diver class fine tuned yourself aid and rescue skills, the divemaster class will sharpen your skills to a professional level. Just imagine everyone on the dive boat will be envious of your skills.
Secondly, you will become a resource for all your diving friends. You will be amazed at some of the questions and topics that they will bring to you.
Third, for the challenge and growth you will gain as a diver. Expanding your horizons and your knowledge and taking you out of your comfort zone will enhance your diving and bring you even more enjoyment. And you just thought Rescue Diver pushed the limit of your comfort zone.
And finally, taking the divemaster class also sharpens and enhances your leadership skills. From supervising new students to assisting your instructor with a class to risk management to problem solving, which are all major things that employers look for when they promoting someone at work or even hiring new employees.
There are many good reasons to take the challenge and enroll in a divemaster class and most dive master classes can be worked around your schedule. So what are you waiting for? Get signed up today for an amazing and rewarding dive master class.
See you in class
Dive Hacks, aka Life Hacks are simple to use and quick fixes for different types of things that on one of our dives just decide to, well not work like it should. Most people know about the “defog” dive hack, that is baby shampoo or even a mild liquid dish soap that you can buy for under $2 at the nearest big box store near you, but did you know it also makes a great little lube to help slide on your wetsuit? Leave those plastic bags at home or better yet take them back to the store and recycle them.
Here are a few more dive hacks to help you out on your next adventure. And Yes, I do keep some of these in my save a dive kit, you just never know when you need some dive hacks.
Does your wetsuit start to get a funky smell about half way into your dive trip? Well this simple and most used of our dive hacks will cure that smell in about 30 seconds. A cap full of liquid fabric softener or simple green in the wetsuit rinse bucket will wash that order away for you. Just make sure it is wetsuits only that go in the rinse bucket. Or you can even spray some of that “defog” into your suit before the dive.
Lots of people suffer from swimmers ear during the summer months and they spend a lot of money on drops for their ears. Just 1 ounce of that stuff sells for $5 and it is 95% rubbing alcohol. This is probably the second most popular of our dive hacks, but mix rubbing alcohol with vinegar in a 50/50 solution and now we are drying our ears and cleaning any nasty stuff out of them all for less than a $1.
Dry bags for your trip, dive hack them with freezer Ziploc bags. Do your hands get cold even when wearing nice gloves? Add a pair of wool gloves underneath your dive gloves. Even though the wool is soaking wet it still retains its insulating factor.
Has your console retractor given up on you? One dive hack to keep your gear streamline is to use those old split rings and a couple heavy duty rubber bands to keep your gauges or flash lights close to you.
So, yesterday was Earth Day, a day to celebrate earth and support environmental protections that was first started in 1969 with the actual first Earth Day in 1970. It was mostly an American event and largely acknowledged by the youth and in Universities until 1990 when Earth Day went “global”. For many it is a reminder that we need to protect our resources and Earth Day is largely responsible for many of the recycling projects that many people start in their own homes, but what I noticed yesterday is how many of the post to social media and even in the evening news was only about earth and not water. In other words it was all about the less than 30 percent of the surface of the earth.
We celebrate Earth Day as a reminder to take care of our planet every year, but we largely ignore the ocean. After all, the ocean covers over 70% of the planet and gives us so much in the way of food and energy and yes even entertainment. In 2000, research showed that 11% or the planet’s coral reefs were damaged and degraded beyond recovery and in 2004 just about 20% of the reefs were dead. We are slowly losing a major player in maintaining our biological diversity as the coral reefs die off due to pollution and other factors. One such factor is the new deep water port for the cruise ships just off Palencia in Southern Belize. Yes, we celebrate Earth Day; but we forget about Mother Ocean.
If you haven’t downloaded the free book from Project Aware’s website, I will encourage you to do so. Just 115 pages it is an easy and quick read and yes you can even earn a PADI specialty afterward, but the book is very enlightening about our water covered world.
Or do you leave your dive plan up to the dive master or instructor? Once upon a time you may have hear something like plan your dive and dive your plan, but with computers today most divers most divers basic dive plan is whatever the dive master says in their briefing and then what their computer tells them during the dive. That is if they have a computer at all.
Let’s review three easy ways to do a dive plan. We will assume that it is our first dive of the day and we are diving on a nice little reef area that is a maximum of 74 feet and we are going to follow the reef along slowly exploring as we work our way to the top of the reef at 40 feet. Being the first dive of the day the dive master calls for a dive plan of no more than 40 minutes.
Looking at the Dive Table it shows us that a dive to 70 feet allows for 40 minutes of bottom time. But since this dive is actually deeper than 70 feet we look at the time limit for 80 feet and see that we only have 30 minutes. Bummer looks like our dive will be shorter that the others or we adjust our dive plan to a max depth of say 65 feet allowing us the full 40 minutes
Or, we get our our handy eRDPml and finding the dive plan mode and following the prompts for multi-level and first dive of the day we see we get 35 minutes for 74 feet. And since we are doing our dive plan, we will plan that depth for say 20 minutes as we will take that long to explore the side and bottom of the reef as we work our way to the top at 40 feet. Again following the prompts on the dive plan tool we see that at 40 feet we now have up to 83 more minutes of bottom time. WOW
But, I will dive plan with my computer. My Computer tells me just what the table does, but since it will take a reading every 20 seconds as I dive my time limit is ever growing as I work my way to the top of the reef my computer tells me that I have 87 minutes of bottom time left after 22 minutes.
See you on the dive boat