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October 2009    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 24, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Off the Beaten Path

dive destinations worthy of your consideration

from the October, 2009 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Despite a tough economy, plenty of Undercurrent subscribers are not forsaking dive trips to the Caribbean, Pacific and other dive destinations. While a few wrote us about dive operators that need to do some work on their service, most said it was money well spent.

Bequia Dive Adventures, St. Vincent, & The Grenadines. Not many readers visit the tiny, charming and picturesque island of Bequia, but Kristin Farrag (Dundee, IL), who made her fifth visit in May, said its good Caribbean diving. I dived it years ago and though its not St. Vincent I still liked it. About Bequia Dive Adventures, Kristin says, Ron and Laury are professional, safety-minded, respectful to the underwater environment and its creatures, and they are really good at finding little things like frogfish and seahorses. Bequia diving is almost all drift diving, but its a nice, slow drift. Bequia is difficult to get to - weve been stranded in several places trying to get to & from it but I think its so worth it. (www.bequiadiveadventures.com)

Wananavu Beach Resort, Fiji. In our June issue, we reported that Kai Viti Divers had closed as the resorts on-site dive shop and was replaced by Ra Divers. Gene Huff (San Ramon, CA) visited the same week Ra officially replaced Kai Viti and says the shop did a good job for his group of 10. Ra was getting a new boat the week we left, so those going now will get a luxury we didnt have on their old boats that looked well past their prime. Divemaster Bob and guides Jimmy, Nitesh and Solo all did a great job, managing the group in currents and letting us do our own thing on bommie dives. There was a mix of skill levels in our group and they managed to keep everyone happy and safe, with only one eventful dive when the currents were ripping a lot faster than anyone expected. Shore diving is available at no charge, and several times either Ra or the resort motored us out a ways and let us do a one-way back in. Norman Ross (Abilene, TX) visited in September and says about Ras new boat, There were nine divers and two dive masters, and it was not crowded. The front part of the boat is enclosed, which is nice for the long ride out to Bligh Waters. The two dives I took in Bligh Waters were very good, with a number of fish and great coral. However, the other sites did not have nearly as many fish. When you end up taking pictures of just coral, thats a sure sign fish life is lacking. I love the people and the resort, but its not worth a return visit.

Moodys Namena Resort, Fiji. On its own private island, Moodys is a wonderful little resort with some of Fijis best diving. Mona Cousens (Santa Barbara, CA) who went in July, say, However, you need to get there first, which isnt so heavenly. The crossing over from Savusavu on Vanua Levu took one hour and twenty minutes in an open-sided speed boat through medium-sized waves, wind and rain. I was lucky though -- the guests on an earlier flight got the bigger dive boat for the crossing, which took two and a half hours in rough seas. But on arrival, you forget all that when greeted by owner Tom Moody. The island is 110 acres, with the resort occupying only 10 and the remaining acres just as it was. This means lots of kayaking, hiking trails through wild terrain, and a nice beach with hammocks and lounge chairs. My bure was spectacular, perched on the side of a cliff hanging over the ocean. What a view. A king-sized bed with mosquito netting and adorned with fresh flowers changed daily. Each bure contains his-and-her bathrooms with a shower in between. To reach the dockside dive shop, you must walk down the 110 steps from the hillside resort. You suit up and go, as your gear is already on board. During my week, the six divers were split into two groups with two dive guides. Sites are varied; there are walls with beautiful fans and soft corals, and on the pinnacle dives, you can spiral around a bommie with myriad sea life, then swim to another one close enough to enjoy both on one dive. The reef breaks at Kansas and Fish Patch featured sharks, Napoleon wrasse, huge dogtooth tuna, a grouper which weighed about 200 pounds, schools of jacks and barracuda and so many fish species I am at a loss to name them all. There are two dives offered daily, and do not try to alter this schedule. It is not flexible. You are welcome to snorkel off the dock in the afternoon but do not ask for an extra tank! Yes, Tom and Joan Moody, whove owned the resort for 27 years, are set in their ways. Its like if you have guests in your home, you like them to follow certain rules as well Otherwise, you are in for a treat. (www.moodysnamenafiji.com)

Kosrae Village Ecolodge, Micronesia. If you dream of sleeping in a thatchedroof hut with woven-mat walls next to the beach, this is the place for you, says Jeanne Sleeper (Laguna Beach, CA,) who visited small, out-of-the-way Kosrae in August. In a world where resort usually means luxury, at Kosrae it means purposeful simplicity and sustainability. Fly to Hawaii, then take an island-hopping Air Micronesia flight, and get off at the third stop. The staff picks you up in their personal car for a 30-minute drive on the one road that follows the coast. The resort sits where the rainforest meets the beach Its dining hut serves three meals a day and luckily the food is varied, good and fairly priced, as there are few other places to eat on Kosrae. Their dive boats, flattop pontoons with no camera area, tie up at two different harbors to shorten the boat run time to the dive sites. You leave the resort at 9 a.m. by car to the harbor. Ben, Jerry and Gordon do all the work, including setting up your dive gear after you show them once how you like it. Water temps are 80-plus degrees, and my trips visibility ranged from 60 to 150 feet. But what will knock your fins off is the coral - acres of huge, healthy, hard corals, so many kinds in perfect condition. The fish range from Napoleon wrasse to small fire dartfish. Schools of big barracuda and snapper cruise the wall, which starts at 80 feet. The anemones and their clownfish are varied I saw butterflies, wrasses, damsels, puffers, unicorns, sweetlips, hawkfish, parrotfish, anthias, turtles, eagle rays, giant clams and one shark in the distance. Not much soft coral or many nudibranchs or eels The locals spear fish so targeted species are wary. Dive, kayak, hike the rainforest, eat, sleep - thats it. Clear water, pristine coral, an accom- modating dive operation with few divers. To unplug from daily life, this is a perfect spot. I cant recall when Ive had the luxury of being only one of two divers on a boat and a crew whose primary goal was to be sure I had a perfect day. (www.kosraevillage.com)

Serifos Scuba Divers, Greece Greece has little for divers on its barren fishless bottoms and diving is carefully controlled to protect whatever antiquities remain. Still, reports Bob Lamberton (Athens, Greece), there is one unique dive off the island of Serifos, a 2.5-hour ferry ride from the mainland port of Piraeus. It offers the one really world-class dive Ive done in Greece. Its all about bluefin tuna. An unknown number of these big fish, some more than six feet long, are present 10 months of the year and come up to divers for an extra snack. I had 10 of them milling around me for 20 minutes. This is in a no-take zone respected by the fishermen and the richest area for marine life Ive seen in Greece, where no-take zones are precious few. (www.serifosscubadivers.gr)

Browning Pass Hideaway, British Columbia. This is rugged, rustic, drysuit diving country but you come here for the amazing macro and large fish life among incredible walls and pinnacles, says Paul Vitkus (Reno, NV), who dived Browning Pass in September. Attractions include wolf eels, giant pacific octopus, large lings, red Irish lords, and rockfish, not to mention the well-camouflaged little sculpins, including the odd-appearing grunt sculpin. The Hideaway is reached by getting to Vancouver Islands northern end at little Port Hardy. Owner/captain John deBoeck meets you at a predetermined time at Iveys, a local watering hole with good food, after which you transfer your gear to one of his dive boats, then cruise for 90 minutes. The Hideaway is an eclectic assemblage of cabins sitting on top of a large raft of cedar logs tethered in Clam Clove. Not your traditional dive resort! Accommodations are basic but acceptable. Food is simple but ample and varied; nobody goes hungry. You need to bring your own alcohol. No TV, telephone or cell phone service and no power other than what the generator can provide. Its the diving and topside scenery like bald eagles, orcas, dolphins that keep me coming back. On this trip, I had the late evening opportunity of orcas surfacing all around me in the Queen Charlotte Straits. Large tidal exchanges mean there are periods you may have to wait for suitable currents but typically you get three or four daily dives. Briefing at the site and you dive sans guide, thus you dive your own plan and are picked up by a live boat when you surface. While this is diving for the experienced, beginners will do well. All you need is a drysuit and appreciation for diving in a remote, rustic, simple setting.

Turks & Caicos Explorer II: We reviewed one of the better Caribbean liveaboards in August 2006 and asked our reviewer to report again to see if the trip is still up to snuff, given the hurricanes that have hit the area. He writes; the Explorer II has a check-in time of 3 p.m. , I booked a flight to arrive after the time, so we were able to take a taxi van directly to Caicos Marina where the Explorer II was docked. Theres a risk because if youre delayed a day the boat could leave without you; however there are little airports throughout these islands, so it wouldnt be difficult to hook up with it. While the capacity is 20 guests, only three other divers joined my group of eight. The crew of five was headed by the experienced and personable veteran captain Jean Francois Chabot. The legendary Stan Simmons, who has been with the Explorer fleet for more than 20 years, whips up delicious, hearty meals while outfitted in his colorful shirts and a huge smile. His cuisine is too hot and spicy for me, but he toned it down for me, keeping it fully flavored without the hotness (and honored other requests as well). Lunches might be spaghetti with sausage and tuna pasta For dinner a BBQ on the sundeck of steak, chicken skewers and corn on the cob, topped off with barbecued bananas with ice cream for dessert. We began with a day and a half at Provos Northwest Point. At first check, the reef damage from Ike and Hanna seemed minimal. Some barrel sponges lay on the bottom in the 40-foot shallows. A few coral heads had been toppled, but the sand that had been transported from the shallows to the coral reefs and algae seemed a bit more prevalent but only to someone like me who had been here before and was looking for it. On most dives, reef sharks made close passes by the divers Turtles appeared on half the dives. The usual crew of marine life included queen, gray, rock beauty and French angelfish; large puffers; goliath, tiger and Nassau groupers; ocean and queen triggerfish, durgons; garden eels; and green and spotted morays. One green moray awaiting us on French Cay was more than seven feet long. Three slender coronetfish swimming together ranged from 18 inches to three feet. Lionfish were on every dive on Provo and West Caicos, and a couple of dives in French Cay. Dive rules were safety-oriented but minimal: Buddy dive unless youre solo certified, 130 foot maximum on air and 110 foot max on Nitrox, back to the boat with 500 PSI. If you need a buddy, you can always accompany a crew member, because there was always at least one in the water on all dives. After Northwest Point, we spent three days at West Caicos, then the final day and a half was at French Cay before motoring back to the Marina. The standard day was breakfast at 7:30, followed by dives at 8:30 a m , 2:30 p m and 4:30 p.m. , with snacks like chocolate cake and mozzarella sticks after each one and dinner at 6 p.m. Visibility was disappointing throughout my May trip, only averaging 60 feet, and waters were murky. Before our arrival there had been three weeks of storms, with lots of strong wind and rain, resulting in lots of sediment in the water. On many dives at West Caicos, the wind and currents were moving so that the Explorer II was floating parallel to the reef. That meant I had to use a compass to find the reef, and again to find the boat. Water temp stuck at 78 degrees, making 3mm wetsuits and hoods comfortable. Our groups ages ranged from 50 to 84 years, so there were lots of old knees that appreciated the good dive ladders. If the Explorer crew keeps up its excellent service and hurricanes give the Turks & Caicos some muchneeded respite, expect to have nothing but a fine week of Caribbean diving. Main deck cabins are $2095, the two VIP cabins on the upper decks are $2295, and two lower deck cabins are $1895. Wine, beer and liquor were included in the trip price, but there are surcharges for nitrox, fuel, hotel tax. www.explorerventures.com

Nekton Rorqual, Puerto Rico and St. Croix. People give thumbs-ups to the crew and service, but isnt it time they cleaned it up? We get many reader reports about how the ship is due for a facelift. It is a worthy boat but its old and showing its age, says Doug Dellisanti (Huron, OH), who was aboard in September. The carpet is in dire need of replacement and the curtains have never fitted correctly. Many of the lower cabin doors cannot shut fully. Subscriber Randy Saffell says, Its a nine-year-old boat that seems much older. We had to dock the last day and dive under Frederiksted Pier again to fill the freshwater tanks due to a leaking pipe. Our cabin door would not shut despite all our efforts, so we just left it ajar. The rooms only come with one electrical outlet. My wife and I have large camera systems so we brought our own power strips to have enough outlets to charge batteries.

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