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March 2009    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 24, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Bonaire. Of course, youll find the Caribbeans best shore diving on Bonaire, and subscriber William Whitman (Peekskill, NY) says the best deal is with the Dive Friends operation based at Yellow Submarine. They run a friendly operation and a weeks worth of unlimited air diving was $170. The same package with Nitrox limited one to three dives a day for that price. The big plus is that Dive Friends runs four different operations spread around the island where you could pick up or drop tanks. Dive Friends left us to our own devices after the first dive buoyancy check and purchase of marine park dive tags. The site right in front of Yellow Sub was a nice dive with a supereasy entry and exit, and the convenience of walking right out of the water to the tank drop and picking up tanks to take with us for the next morning. (www.dive-friends-bonaire.com)

As we have reported for many years, Bonaire has a crime problem. According to Whitman, Friends of ours in a rental house, perhaps four doors down from the Yellow Sub location, had their house broken into while they were out to dinner, and returned to find cell phones, laptop computers, cameras and other items stolen. The police were polite and quick to respond, but ultimately not encouraging. Even more distressing was that several people claimed to know who had done it but wouldnt volunteer names out of fear . . . We rented a beautiful villa called Yellow Crown Villa in the Sabadeco area, with private pool, air conditioning, modern kitchen, ocean view and even a private entrance to the (dry) cave system underneath! It was great. (www.bonairenet.com/yellowcrownvilla)

And Kenneth Smith (Sebring, FL) reminds us why people like Bonaire shore diving so much. He stayed at Divi Flamingo Beach in February and reports: The only negative was the extreme control imposed by the divemasters on most trips. Our group dove all week, and all of us were experienced, but the controls never let up. Theyd say, Ill go down and check the current, then we all go the same direction. There was never any current. So we all herd along in a scattered group in one direction, then back across the same stuff to get back to the boat. Maximum depth was 50 feet but I always went 20 or 30 feet deeper (divemaster waving me up, I waved back), just so I could sweep a different area on the way back. Kind of boring, after a week . . .The shore diving can be more adventurous but requires more logistical work, and you cant get to Klein Bonaire, where the reef is much more intact. The main island suffers from 20 to 40 percent die back, in my observation.

Cozumel Internet Discount. Dave Dori (Pasadena, MD) went out with Dressel Divers at the Iberostar Cozumel in January and says, I wish I knew you could get a 15 percent Internet discount by booking in advance. They take credit cards and offer a 5 percent discount for cash. Very well-run operation. Special trips to Maracaibo are no extra charge. Paul (British) is the manager and his staff is excellent. We dove six days, and had different divemasters every day, all very qualified. Nice big dive boats able to handle up to 16 divers but we never had a group larger than eight, including the two divemasters on each boat. Good fish life. They offer a trip to the Playa Del Carmen Iberostar to do a bull shark dive in the morning and a Tortuga Reef dive in the afternoon ($120 per person). We saw four huge bull sharks at 70 feet on a sandy bottom. The second dive is a fast current, and we did see six or seven turtles. (www.dresseldivers.com/en/mexico.htm)

Flying to Palau. Sandy Falen (Topeka, KS) reminds us there is a much less expensive way to get to Palau than to island-hop on Continental - - if you have the time, that is. I took the scenic route to get to Koror, traveling American and its partner, Japan Air, from Dallas to Tokyo to Manila, where I stopped for a night before catching Continental Micronesia from Manila to Palau. At the end of my stay, I flew Continental to Guam, spent another day, then it was back to Japan Air/ American to Tokyo, Dallas and home. It took longer but I enjoyed the stopovers and it saved a ton of money - - it cut my Continental fare by more than half, compared to the usual Continental routing from the U.S. mainland.

Bargains in The Philippines. As weve reported before, once you get there, hotel and diving costs are among the least expensive anywhere. There are plenty of good reports online at Undercurrent, but Jennifer Widom (Stanford, CA) says Peters Dive Resort is a standout. It cost her family of four $65 a night to stay in the family house for New Years week. Its a beautiful, spacious, modern place - - a separate bedroom with king bed, plus two pairs of single beds in a big area that also includes a living room (couches, coffee table, TV) and a full kitchen. The house would sleep six comfortably. In addition to the house, there are free-standing cottages and rooms adjacent to the restaurant, dive operation and swimming pool area. The dive operation was extremely well run. Dive sites range from one minute to 45 minutes away, and theres a house reef. Boat dives were $24 each, although we got a 10-percent bulk discount. The diving was varied and generally excellent. The Napantao Wall across Sogod Bay has healthy soft and hard corals, and hordes of small fish. Whale shark trips ($72 each, minus the 10 percent discount) are run every few days during the season, from November to May. We had four magical experiences swimming with two of them. (www.whaleofadive.com)

Widoms family spent another week at Polaris Beach and Dive Resort, spending $1,850 for a seven-night package that included a two-story, air-conditioned family room, daily breakfast, and 11 dives each for the four of them. The resort grounds are extensive, the food consistently good. The dive operation was run very efficiently and competently. Dont expect to see pelagics or even large numbers of fish at Cabilao, but the macro and interesting critters are exceptional, and the house reef on the resorts doorstep was one of the best. Relatively shallow and low-current diving. (www.polaris-dive.com)

Konas Pelagic Magic Night Dive. Bob DeFeo (Novato, CA) tells us about a must-do dive he made last fall with Jacks Diving Locker. Three miles off Kona, while drifting in the current with a parachute in the water attached to the bow, you descend down to 60 feet, tethered to a weighted line attached to the boat. You are in complete darkness, broken only by dive lights and the camera lights used by the crew. My dive time on air was 86 minutes, multi-level, wearing a full 3-mm suit with 3-mm hood and vest underneath, reef gloves and boots. Almost fully protected from jellyfish and nicely warm, I saw creatures that come right out of your wildest imagination. These gelatinous animals are mesmerizing to watch and possess incredible colors and movements. This dive is not for the faint-hearted, as it takes some gumption to go into 6,000-foot-deep water at night, tethered to a line that makes you look exactly like bait on a hook to whatever chooses to come by. The crew cautions you not to urinate in your wetsuit because they have seen it attract toothed predators. They also advise that you will be getting out of the water if any show up. I saw none but I did see a variety of drift fish, box jellyfish, squid, and the assorted and amazing gelatinous creatures. On Jacks other advanced dives, I saw 10-foot-long hammerheads and five white-tipped reef sharks up to five feet long, as well as large mantas off in the blue and near the shore. Advanced dives started at 100 feet. Drift dives with the boat following above were in light currents south of Kona near the Red Hills dive site. Nitrox 32 is available at $15 per tank. The Pelagic Magic dive was $165 and well worth it. (www.jacksdivinglocker.com)

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