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October 2010    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 25, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Why You Need Undercurrent

we really give you the truth about “undiscovered” dive sites: Florida, Borneo, Grand Cayman …

from the October, 2010 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

From the first day of publishing Undercurrent, my goal has been to provide accurate and honest information about diving and dive destinations. There was too much foolishness in the print publications, with articles like the best 10 undiscovered Caribbean dive destinations or the five best dive destinations in the world, inevitably chosen because advertisers had ponied up. Well, it’s still going on. Recently the website WideWorldMag.com picked the 10 “best dive sites on the planet that you didn’t know about.” Most every destination listed we have written about endlessly, as have our readers. Ari Atoll in the Maldives, the Galapagos Islands, Saba, the Similan Islands in Thailand, Curacao and the Orkney Islands’ Scapa Flow are six of the top ten sites “you didn’t know about.” Balderdash.

The others have some merit - - drysuit liveaboard diving in Spitsbergen, Norway; Farne Islands in the U.K.; Pemba Island, Tanzania (not everyone raves about the diving); and liveaboard diving in the Red Sea from Port Sudan. So rather having you rely on sources more interested in hype than truth, let us tell you about a few destinations to consider . . . and some maybe not to consider.

Jupiter Dive Center, Florida. This dive shop north of Palm Beach gets continuing good reviews from Undercurrent readers. The Gulf Stream runs a mile off shore, making dives here far more fishy than most other spots in the Caribbean/Atlantic region. Brent Barnes (Edmond, OK) writes that Jupiter’s boats are “equipped with all safety equipment, and excellent dive briefs were given. With 18 divers on Saturday, the boat was crowded. All diving is done as drift dives, and the captain is excellent at following the divers. In August and September, the goliath groupers congregate. In our three dives on Sunday in mid-August, we counted 57 goliath grouper! Many were enormous. This is the same area where lemon sharks congregate for mating in the late winter/early spring. We saw several reef sharks, nurse sharks and many green and hawksbill turtles.” Veronica Harding (Valrico, FL) also finds Jupiter hard to beat. “They are organized and efficient both on land and in the water. JDC has two boats and pack in a lot of divers, particularly on summer weekends, but this is the only dive center we don’t mind diving with a full boat. Marine life there appears to be on steroids - - sharks, goliaths, massive morays, turtles the size of boulders . Visibility varies from 40 to 80-plus feet. Some dives in summer season are 82 degrees top to bottom, but be prepared for upwellings and thermoclines (down to upper 50s once in a while). Diving is drift, and currents can range from benign to really ripping. Some dives took us well over a mile on a single tank. Once at depth, most of the dives are at a very relaxed pace. Dive depths range from 60 to 90 feet. Divemasters know their sites, and the deckhands assist wherever necessary. Divers are responsible for setting up and changing out their own tanks. If you’re an experienced diver, make sure to do the three tank dives on Friday and Sunday mornings. These offer a wider variety of sites, along with fewer and more experienced divers.” (www.jupiterdivecenter.com)

The Tambora, Borneo. Well, not every destination is great, as Richard Troberman (Seattle, WA) unfortunately learned. His experience gives fair warning. With thousands of reports on our website, the absence of information about a destination is a cautionary sign. “For several months, I had been watching for a reader report on Borneo or the Tambora but never saw anything. Now I think I know why. The diving on the east coast (East Kalimantan and Celebes Sea) was extremely disappointing. The reefs along the entire east coast have been totally destroyed by dynamite fishing. I went for the big stuff but all I saw, for the most part, was small stuff. Even the large numbers of mantas reported to frequent Sangalaki were absent; I saw four or five. I saw only a handful of sharks (white tips, black tips, grey reef sharks), and a few tuna and giant trevally. The barracudas were present in large numbers at Big Fish Country and Barracuda Point, but that was one of the few bright spots. We traveled down the east coast of Borneo, then crossed the Makassar Strait for exploratory diving along the west coast of central Sulawesi before ending the trip in Palu, Sulawesi. The reefs on the Sulawesi side are in even worse shape than those in Borneo! The Tambora is a wooden, Indonesian-style boat in its second year of operation. Tambora claims to have been built by divers for divers but it has some odd features. Wetsuits are hung in an interior dive staging area, where there is no ventilation or any opportunity for the suits to dry between dives or even overnight. The Tambora is well equipped for cameras. Diving is done from two inflatable tenders: 36 dives were offered during the nine and one-half diving days. Nitrox. The dive guides were good at finding stuff. The food could best be described as average. We encountered heavy unseasonable rain, and all of the cabins leaked. The owner of the Tambora, who lives on the boat, says this problem will be resolved. One highlight was a night land excursion on Sangalaki Island to see nesting sea turtles and the release of hatchlings. Another highlight was a snorkeling trip to a saltwater lake on Kakaban, home to four types of non-stinging jellyfish. There were a few nice walls and some good current dives and muck dives. But the widespread destruction of the reefs really put a damper on this trip.” (www.tamboradive.com)

Living the Dream Divers, Grand Cayman. And for every rule there is an exception, and that might be Living the Dream Divers. Brett Rosenhaus (Lake Worth, FL) has been “diving for 25 years and reading Undercurrent for 20. When I was looking for a new dive operator in Cayman, I was apprehensive when there were no reviews about them on Undercurrent, but Gary, Johan and Liz are genuine, caring and professional. They didn’t hesitate to call off a dive when they felt conditions were not safe. Their boat is brand new, wide open and built for 18 divers. They carry no more than eight divers. I don’t know why there aren’t other reports on Undercurrent, but don’t hesitate to use them - - they are one of the finest operators I have ever dove with.” Why no other reports? Well, they are a new operation, and it takes a while for our established readers to give up on old friends and try someone new. So thanks, Brett. And there is at least one other review now. (www.livingthedreamdivers.com)

Mantana Beach Resort, Fiji. With summer down under coming up, it’s a good time to consider a Fiji trip. While a lot of our readers like Wanavanu Resort, Mantana has its supporters, one being Cindy Edgerton (Bellevue, WA), who found Mantana last March, when the water ran 77 to 82 degrees. “Six of us had the resort to ourselves for several days. Diving was very good - - lots of swim-throughs and interesting topography. Generally not a lot of current. Yellow Wall had fabulous yellow soft coral and a large swim-through, combined with a good mix of large and small critters - - three eagle rays, two clown triggers, various wrasses, butterfly fish and groupers. Evil Trench had a chimney that started at 100 feet and went down to 182 feet, where there is a large cave you can swim through and out to the blue ocean. Lots of large lobsters in the cave, and occasional sharks (advanced divers only). At King Kong Mountain, I saw a white-tip shark, two hawksbill turtles, stingray, clown and titan trigger fish, lyretail grouper, reticulated butterflyfish, emperor angelfish and a flame angelfish. This was my seventh trip to Fiji but I saw fish here I hadn’t seen before, including the Fiji clown blenny. Mantana’s bures are basic but have the essentials - - queen bed, private bath, solar hot water with gas backup, ceiling fan and window screens. All bures are down near the beach, and the dining area is above them. The beach bar is open for happy hour before dinner. Food was basic but good (you pre-order lunch and dinner at breakfast).” One thing to keep in mind about Fiji, it has summer cyclones, and Edgerton said, “We were delayed getting here, due to Cyclone Tomas, and after it passed through, we had a stationary front that dumped rain on Kadavu for several days, impacting visibility.” (www.divekadavu.com)

Nakia Resort, Fiji. On Taveuni, we hear good things about this resort, but Cyclone Tomas had an impact there as well, says Jason Pellegatto (Worcester, MA). In May, there was “a lot of damage to the hard coral in shallow water at the top of the reef. However, once deeper than 20 feet, the hard and soft coral were in excellent condition and looked to be unaffected. On all dives, there were thousands of gold and purple anthias swirling about the reef, feeding on plankton in the currents. I also saw schools of blue fusiliers, barracuda, yellow tail barracuda, tuna and trevally. On most dives, white-tip reef sharks were seen, and four dives had large Spanish mackerel and grey reef sharks. Closer to the reef, there were lots of tropical fish, anemonefish, and I saw a dozen blue ribbon eels. Nakia Resort consists of a house for the owners, four bures for guests, swimming pool and an excellent restaurant. The bures are only a couple of years old, spacious, very clean, and the beds are comfortable. There isn’t AC but this wasn’t a problem in the dry season. The restaurant serves fresh fish, good steaks, and salads and vegetables picked from gardens on site. Every night features just-baked desserts. Nakia arranges trips to coastal walks, waterslides and other activities. Taveuni Ocean Sports has a well-maintained, fast catamaran dive boat with dual four-cycle outboards, so there was little noise and no fumes. Owners Julie and Aaron are avid divers, as excited to go diving as the guests, and work hard underwater to point out interesting and unusual marine life.” (www.nakiafiji.com)

That’s it for this month. Don’t forget to go to Undercurrent to file your trip report.

- - Ben Davison

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