My favorite dive sites

favorite dive sitesNew 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?

Shark Week Good or Bad?

shark weekDiscovery Channel’s hugely popular Shark Week is set to start August 10, but my question is simple. Is shark week good or bad? The ratings are huge and it is must see television for many. And from looking at the line up of 13 fresh and new “shows” I am sure it will be widely watched this year. You can find the line up http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/shark-week/tv-shows/tv-shows.htm.
There are shows about legendary sharks such as “Monster Hammerhead” and “Lair of Mega Shark” that should be interesting as they are trying to find and prove the existence of these sharks. Much like shows about other creatures of myth and stories and are staples of shark week.
Of course there are the standard features about shark attacks such as “I escaped Jaws”. Where survivors of shark attacks will tell their stories about how and maybe why they were attacked and escaped. As well as the talk show that anchors shark week.  Honestly, I think Shark week is better with out this one.
But there are 4 shows that caught my attention and I will be tuning in for them. Of course they are more research style shows but “Zombie Sharks” looks interesting. Apparently there have been a number of Orca attacks on Great Whites and the theory is that the Orcas have been able to create what is called tonic immobility in the sharks. This tonic immobility is a catatonic zombie like state and a professional diver is going to attempt to induce this in a great white.
In “Jaws Strikes back” they will be using some high tech cameras and gear to track the hunting patterns of the great whites. How about “Alien Sharks”? A researcher is trying to find bioluminescent sharks that live in the abyss. And finally, “Spawn of Jaws 2: The Birth”. The birth of a baby great white.
shark weekSo, is shark week good or bad? I would say it is a mixed bag again this year. Some shows will make the shark lover cringe and some will excite. Some shows will have people saying I am never going to the ocean again. The only thing for sure is that the ratings will be huge

Is DAN in your dive bag?

DANIn every basic open water class we talk about DAN, Divers Alert Network.  We tell our students that DAN membership and insurance is so affordable and that they should consider joining. I think we should take it one step farther and you should have DAN, just like you have a save a dive kit.

Most of you have heard the story of the young man who worked in the shop that somehow separated his shoulder at the crater and how DAN paid his medical bills.  But, I was told a story this week that really brings home how important it is to have DAN with you on any trip.

A diver, not newly certified, but not very experienced was diving in Cozumel.  Now, we consider Cozumel easy diving and a great place to go for the newly certified or low-level of experience; but there are some more highly advanced dives on the south of the island and the currents can become very wicked and there is even the potential of down currents.  This diver was with a small group of divers and definitely the least experienced of the group.  During the briefing the dive master stated that the currents were very strong on this site, but this diver didn’t think or realize just how strong the current was.  The plan was to drop down to the sandy bottom at 30 feet and then slip over the wall and drift along.  The problem was that the current was so strong that as soon as they hit the water they were no longer over the sandy bottom. As they started their descent this diver got caught in a strong down current and was pushed down fast.

By the time the dive master realized what was happening and caught the diver they were at 200 feet.  The dive master was able to bring the diver slowly back to the surface where they immediately called for help and then called DAN.  DAN advised the diver to get to the hospital and even told the diver that if they were not there in 10 minutes they would send someone to pick them up.  Dan then called the hospital and arranged for treatment of this diver.  The story does have a happy ending as the diver made a full recovery from the pulmonary embolism that was developing.

And this diver never saw a bill as DAN paid the entire cost.

So, is DAN in your dive bag?

Unique Survival in the Aquatic World

Sea StarIn the aquatic world it is a fish eat fish life.  There are some amazing ways of survival in some of our favorite marine life. In your open water class you learned that most injuries to divers from marine life are defensive so let’s take a look at a few of these unique survival strategies.

Did you know that star fish can regrow limbs?  They can practically regrow themselves from a small portion of the remaining body, leaving their attacker with just a snack.

The porcupine fish is so cute to look at with their big eyes and they look so innocent, that is until they feel threaten. Then they swallow water and blow up. Sure the new size helps to protect them, but by blowing up those spines that cover their body are now standing up and cause serious problems for the predator.  The sea urchin also has spines to protect itself from an attacker, but did you know that the Triggerfish has learned to blow water at the urchin to flip it over so the Triggerfish can use its hard beak like mouth to get at the less protected part of the urchin?

We know about how some can hide almost in plain sight.  Creatures such as the Mimic Octopus and Scorpion fish are wonderful examples of camouflage.  How about the Peacock Flounder?  They can be so hard to see as the just lie there on the sea floor.

sea cucumberOne of the most fascinating survival mechanisms is that of the Sea Cucumber.  Some sea cucumbers can actually eject their internal organs from their body so that it can escape an attack.  They will excrete tentacle like tubes out of their digestive tract, these are toxins and are said to inhibit oxygen intake in the predator and usually causes the attacker to drop the sea cucumber allowing an escape.  The sea cucumber will then regenerate the organs that it expelled in a few weeks.

 

 

Have any other interesting survival mechanisms of marine life to share?  Please leave a comment.

My 5 top dive sites

Last night as I was reading the newest issue of Sport Diver and their top 50 dive sites in the world, I got to thinking about my 5 or so top dive sites.  Sure we all have our bucket list of the places we want to go and see and dive, but what about the places we have been.  The ones that for whatever reason we just want to dive again?

Sea HareBlue Heron Bridge in West Palm Beach Florida is a must dive. This shallow no more than 20 foot depth is home to just about everything you can imagine.  An easy to navigate shore dive that can only be done at slack tide. On our dive last summer we saw octopus, 3 different types of shrimp, star fish and star gazers, a bat fish, lobster and crabs and the list of little critters is long and varied. And at 20 feet the bottom time is unlimited.

 

The Manta Dive off of Kona. This is a night dive, but I think it is best to do off the Kona Aggressor as you get to spend another dive or two during the afternoon exploring the area.  Make sure you keep looking out into the blue as you will probably see these amazing graceful creatures soaring by at depth before they come up for the nightly show.

Oil Slick Leap, Bonaire. The entry can be a little intimidating for some as it is either a rickety ladder or a nice 10 to 15 foot giant stride.  This dive has all the critters you want to see and can be done from as little as 25 feet to 70 feet.  With no current, head north one dive and then south the next.  Vary your depths and enjoy.

CrabPalancar, Cozumel.  This isn’t just one site there are actually 3 and I enjoy them all.  Maybe it is the many swim tunnels or the lazy drift that makes this one of my favorites, but it is a staple of Cozumel diving and I can’t wait for our trip back there this coming fall.

The Elbow, Belize. Again, not just one site but more of a region south and just south of Turneffe Atoll.  This can be a drift dive, but it is well worth the 3 or so hour boat ride to take in the amazing coral and marine life.  If you are spending the week on Ambergris Caye add this 3 tank day to your week.  The difference between the Elbow and the local diving off of San Pedro will delight you.

What are some of your top dive sites?

ok

Are you doing your buddy check?

You remember your open water class and the buddy check, right? BWRAF or BCD, weights, releases, air and final ok and you do it before every dive, or do you?  Well, do you do a buddy check even if it is valet diving and the crew has set up your gear, or do you trust the crew to set up your gear the way you like?

Let me tell you a few stories.

buddy-check

On one occasion as we were on the surface a diver was struggling to stay buoyant and to float on the surface.  He was close to panic.  Fortunately I was behind him and I was able to get a leg under him and support him and myself as I attempted to inflate his BCD.  The problem was that his inflator was not properly installed on his BCD, it was loose and that allowed the air to escape.  I was able to securely reattach his inflator and after he relaxed we were able to make our dive.  Had he or his buddy check his gear after the crew had set it up, they would have noticed this potential dangerous problem and corrected it before the dive.

Digital Camera

On another occasion, and this happens more than you would think, when the dive crew swapped over tanks for the second dive of the day they somehow got an empty or almost empty tank.  The diver ran out of air in less than 5 minutes and had to buddy breathe with his buddy since his buddy didn’t have an alternate air source.  Fortunately his buddy was close by, but his buddy didn’t see the out of air signal and didn’t hand over the regulator so this diver just reached over and took the regulator from his buddy.  Had the divers done a buddy check they would have noticed that the one diver did not have sufficient air to even enter the water, let only make a dive to 60 feet. The other issue is not having an alternate air source in case of an emergency, but that is for another post

Moral of the stories, Do your buddy check.

 

Please feel free to leave a comment

Are you ready for a scuba trip?

FIJIMost of us got scuba certified to travel and go places and you see all the awesome pictures and hear all the fun that divers are having on our group scuba diving trips, but you are not sure that a group adventure is for you?  Well, there are many advantages to group travel.

First, sometimes we can save a few bucks when we book group trips.  The resorts offer us things such as free Nitrox or extra diving to entice us to come and visit their resort and bring our diving friends.

Think that groups are for only the “experienced” diver?  We have divers joining our trips that are making their first dives after certification.  Actually some have gotten certified just to go along on the adventure.

Aw, groups are so “structured”.  You have to do everything as a group.  Nah, as I say it is your vacation.  Feel like just crashing on the beach and reading a book and not diving, that is your choice.  Want to head off and explore the local culture or night life, enjoy.  Now some resorts do have group meals, but that is to make things easier on them and it is rather rare.St. Lucia

Some groups are “cliquish”.  The group dynamic is what makes it so fun.  As you know divers are a rather friendly and outgoing group. I bet you will make lifelong friends instead of feeling like a third wheel.  Don’t have a dive buddy?  No worries, we have a group of dive buddies ready to dive with you.

Still worried about your experience level?  All of our trips are instructor led and we are very happy to work with you to increase your experience level on any trip we led.  From doing your advanced open water to a specialty class, we are there for you.

How Scuba Divers can protect the Aquatic World

As  scuba divers we marvel at the underwater beauty that we are so lucky to get to see.  And with that comes an awesome responsibility to protect the underwater environment and the rest of our incredible world.

So let us take a moment to review the 10 ways that we can protect the underwater environment.

project aware1)      Dive carefully to protect the fragile aquatic ecosystems. Corals and sponges are very delicate and some grow very slowly. Just one bad fin kick can wipeout decades of growth.

2)      Streamline your gear and take a Peak Performance Buoyancy class. Dangling gauges and bad buoyancy can cause you to crash into the reef.

3)      Keep your scuba skills sharp.  If you haven’t been diving in a while take a scuba tune up or maybe another PADI specialty course.

4)      Consider your interactions and how they may affect the aquatic world. Petting the nurse shark or turtle may stress the animal and may even harm you.

5)      Respect and understand underwater life. The coral reef is a complex and wonderful ecosystem and one little action can cause harm to the delicate creatures that reside there.  Concern enrolling in a Project Aware course of the PADI underwater naturalist course.

6)      Be an eco tourist.  Don’t collect shells and other marine life.  Take only pictures and leave only bubbles.

7)      Respect and protect the underwater culture.  Wrecks are amazing dives and they serve as home to many different creatures.  Help preserve these for the future by obeying good and safe diving practices.

8)      Report any destruction you see. As divers we are in a unique position to help monitor the health of the reef. If you notice anything unusual or strange substances report them to the proper local authority.

9)      Be a positive role model for both divers and non divers in your interactions with the environment.

10)   Get involved in local cleanup projects and other conservation projects. You can find many projects on the Project Aware web site.  Even in land locked states like Colorado we can help by doing cleanup projects at our local lakes.

You can affect your corner of the world by doing the small things to help protect and conserve our planet.

Yes, there is an app for that

saba queen angelWhile teaching dive planning at Colorado Mesa University the other week, one of the students asked if there was an app for dive tables.  Well, there is an app for everything, so we looked and sure enough there are 7 for IPAD and 24 for IPhone and a few for Android.

While the free ones are not awesome by any stretch of the imagination and the ones that work well such as Dive Plan Lite, which does appear to mirror the PADI Dive tables, will only do one dive then you need to upgrade for $6 to plan more. 

There are even dive log apps.  There are 13 for IPad and 42 for IPhone.  One of our dive buddies Christine has one on her IPAD and it works really well. I want to say she paid like $30 and she has been using it for a few years. She likes to take a picture of the dive briefing map and then add in the dive site coordinates, longitude and latitude.  After the dive she can load some of Martin’s photos from the dive and finishing logging her dive.

Looking for a dive site on the islands or even maybe in San Diego or Bonaire?  There a few apps that have the coordinates, tide info and more. Some locations like Bonaire and the Maldives even have their own dedicated app. There are even boating ones that have some really nice maps and a ship wreck locator.  Wonder if the treasure hunters developed that one?

There are apps for dive signals, fish id apps (of course the Fish ID books are more complete).  There is even an app to turn your I Phone into your dive computer and dive light and even your dive camera, and yes the app is free; but the housing for your phone is over $300.

Just doing a little search for scuba diving at the app store returned over 100 apps for the IPad and over 200 for the Iphone.  Magazines, Certification Agencies, Manufacturesregal angel FIJI

Yes, my friend there really is an app for that!

Welcome to Scuba Joe’s Blog

After many months and a little work we have a new look to our web page and a new addition to our page, Scuba Joe’s Blog.  Here we will try to post some wonderful pictures from our adventures and offer a few tips and pointers that you have enjoyed over the years in our newsletters, although on a more regular basis than our newsletter and a little more in depth than the newsletter allows.

scuba joe's blog turtle In this space we will try to feature all the happenings at Western Colorado’s only PADI 5 Star IDC.  All the fun local dives and social events that are happening such as our upcoming customer appreciation night on December 12, where we will have chair massages and other fun things.  Make sure to mark your calendar for a fun night of socializing with your fellow divers in Grand Junction.

Of course the Scuba Joe’s blog will cover all things scuba. New gear and specials.  Classes and trips and social nights.  We will even have a guest blog, writing about their scuba adventures.

We hope you enjoy our new page and Scuba Joe’s blog.  If you have any suggestions for tips and pointers send Scuba Joe a message or even better leave a comment