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April 2010    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 25, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Oman, Fiji, Hawaii, Bahamas…

need a change of pace? check out these dive sites and operators

from the April, 2010 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Musandam Peninsula, Oman. While European divers have dived forever in the Middle East, Americans are just beginning to have a look. Dan Clements (Everett, WA) spent two weeks in November diving the northern portion of the Musandam Peninsula, which forms the southern side of the Straits of Hormuz. Visibility ran from 30 to 45 feet and the water was 77 to 81 degrees. “My first week was with Extra Divers in Khasab, the second as part of a Reef Check study with Biosphere. After a multi-day check out, I was allowed to solo dive with my photography gear. The crew were exceptional and so was the diving - - lots of endemics, including rays, dolphins, nudis and some of the most pristine coral I have ever seen. There are hundreds of miles of coastline, but just one operator in the area. The only other divers we encountered were on the southeast side of the Peninsula, originating from Dibba. Khasab is an easy three-hour drive from Dubai.” (www.musandam-diving.com; www.reefcheck.org)

Astrolabe Reef, Fiji. First, there was a serious cyclone in March and while we have no reports of significant damage to dive operations, you might check in before you go. That said, for the best combination of value and time spent, Fiji is a good place for Americans to get a serious taste of Indo-Pacific diving. Let us direct you to two operations diving the Astrolabe Reef.

Sandy Falen (Topeka, KS) went with Mai Dive in November, with visibility up to 120 feet and water averaging 74 degrees. “An all-inclusive dive resort on Ono Island, part of the Kadavu group in southern Fiji. After the 11- hour Air Pacific crossing from LAX to Nadi, and a five-hour layover at a nearby hotel, I took a one-hour flight on Pacific Sun, Air Pacific’s affiliate, to Kadavu. Mai Dive picks up its guests at the airport for the 90-minute boat trip to Ono. The bungalows are simple but lovely, with wonderful beds and modern facilities. Food was outstanding, with local dishes and fresh fish, hamburgers and pizza. Service was warm and efficient. Homebaked bread or rolls at every meal. Organic produce is grown on site so there was always fresh fruit and veggies. The Astrolabe Reef surrounds Ono on three sides. Boat trips were generally 10 to 15 minutes. Dive sites included bommies punctuated with stunning swim-throughs, pinnacles and drifts along walls encrusted with gorgeous soft corals. We saw sharks on nearly every dive, sea snakes, Napoleon wrasse, schooling barracuda, giant morays and a wide variety of colorful tropicals such as fire dartfish, anthias, anemone fish, Moorish idols, triggers, and unicornfish. We did a few drift dives but only once was the current ripping. Dive crew were professional and safety-conscious but also good-humored and a lot of fun. I made all of my arrangements via email and fax, with inquiries answered promptly. I’ve spent more on Caribbean trips but for exotic beauty and pristine diving, it’s hard to beat the South Pacific.” (www.maidive.com)

Debbie Pasich (San Diego, CA) dived the Astrolabe Reef with Mad Fish Dive Center at Matava Resort in November. “Dive sites were anywhere from a 10- to 30-minute ride and surface intervals. Outside the reef there was always an ocean swell, between two and three feet. Inside the reef was calm but because the weather was unseasonably windy, we usually had some surface chop. I dove Manta Reef twice, with no less than ten mantas total. At Eagle’s Rock, at least 25 white-tip, black-tip and gray reef sharks of various sizes were schooling together in the reef inlet. Japanese Gardens had a beautiful assortment of soft corals. Besides the largest variety of butterfly fish I’ve ever seen, I saw a dolphin, a Napoleon wrasse, a sea snake, several lionfish, octopus, turtles, giant clams, eels, clownfish and stunning nudibranchs. With traditional thatched bures tucked into the mountainside of Kadavu Island, Matava is a beautiful place to get away from it all.

The newest (honeymoon) bure at the top of the hill (94 stairs of various sizes to climb) has an absolutely spectacular view. It’s an eco-resort and a majority of the power is supplied by solar so leave your hairdryer at home. Maggie, the resort host, has a unique style of hospitality and makes sure that you feel welcome. All the homemade breads were terrific. Lunches were varied and dinners ranged from satisfactory to quite good with excellent flavors. Soups were extraordinary. This close to New Zealand you will likely be served lamb for at least one dinner.” (www.matava.com).

Blue Wilderness, Hawaii. Looking for an alternate operation on the Big Island? Dan Clements (Everett, WA) says, “I’ve dived with 10 different Kona operators and Blue Wilderness is one of the best, especially if you’re staying in the Waikoloa area. It is located in Queen’s Marketplace and launches a few miles north at Paniao. Diving is off a zodiac. I found the coral, fish and invertebrates much better here than at Kailua dive locations. At one point, I was diving lava tubes with whales ‘talking’ 100 yards away. The tubes amplified the sound and it was magical. Turtle cleaning stations, lots to see, good operation.” (www.divebluewilderness.com)

Anguilla. It’s one of those tony Caribbean islands that rarely gets ink about diving. Daniel Spitzer (Piermont, NY) reports, “I have been visiting Anguilla for some 17 years now and have seen the progressive degradation of the entire Caribbean reef system, from Grand Turk in the north to Curacao in the south. That said, if your travels take you to Anguilla, by all means dive with Anguillian Divers. Small, intimate and personal, they have decent equipment and friendly smiles. One of my favorite dives anywhere is Blowing Rock - - amazing underwater topography, variable conditions (crashing waves on one side, calm on the other) and routine sighting of pelagics - - turtles, spotted eagle rays, even 10-plus minutes with a dolphin two years ago. Ask for this dive by name. Another fun dive, especially for newer divers, is the Osterdeep wreck, covered with orange cup coral and teeming with barracuda, jacks, large lobsters, etc.” (www.anguilliandiver.com)

Cape Eleuthera Resort, Bahamas. Mark Miller (Dallas, TX) tells us that if you’re an experienced diver grown weary of being told how long to dive or to change your diving profile to accommodate “beginning” divers, try Cape Eleuthera’s dive operation. “Neal Watson has a passion for diving that is reflected in how much freedom he gives his customers. His first question is, ‘What kind of diving do you like?’ From there, the whole process revolves around the diver. The water is beautiful in this area of the Bahamas, with excellent visibility. There are numerous wall dives at 100-plus feet, the top of the reef is perfect for shallower dives. The coral is in good shape and numerous fish abound. The resort is very secluded with luxurious two-bedroom condos and also offers biking, hiking, snorkeling, fishing and tennis.” (www.capeeleuthera.com)

San Carlos, Mexico. Ed Raver (Tijeras, NM) tells us that travel to San Carlos on the Sea of Cortez is now a “hassle-free zone,” the same as travel to Rocky Point farther north. “No visa required all the way to Guaymas. Diving was fine, but visibility was limited unless you went deeper. There, it was 80-plus feet. Lots of very playful sea lions. Water temperature was 74 degrees; I was in a 5-mil and was fine. Turtles, octopus and all the other usual critters. The Mexican people were just great and very hospitable. English is widely spoken. Night dives are available. For dive trips, contact Desert Divers in Tucson, AZ, a five-hour drive away.” (www.desertdivers.com)

- - Ben Davison

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