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April 2011    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 26, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Curacao, Fiji, Papua, Maui . . .

dive sites where you can expect the unexpected

from the April, 2011 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Egypt, the Red Sea. We've reported on diving during tsunamis (see our book There's a Cockroach in My Regulator, available at www.undercurrent.org), and now one of our good subscribers has reported about diving during a revolution - - and a big loophole in Diver Alert Network's travel insurance. Peter Korn (Oakland, CA) was off to dive with the Red Sea Diving College in Sharm-el Sheikh in February "just at the start of the protests that led to the ouster of President Mubarak and the military takeover of the country. With Internet access down, no ATM machines would function, and the government had ordered the banks closed - - and I hadn't arrived with much cash. The staff at Red Sea Diving College allowed me to overpay by credit card, and then refunded the difference in cash so I could get by. I had planned to dive with them three days before a six-day liveaboard trip with the Torpedo Fleet. However, concerns about a potentially deteriorating security situation (Mubarak had pulled back police in Cairo, Alexandra and Giza, and all but invited looting) and worries about future gasoline deliveries to Sharm led me to cancel the liveaboard and travel to Israel earlier than planned. The U.S. State Department directive to all U.S. citizens to leave Egypt immediately also influenced my decision. I was disappointed to discover that my DAN travel insurance doesn't cover missed trips due to "civil unrest," which meant that the insurance I had taken out was useless to me in attempting to recover my pre-paid liveaboard trip. Unfortunately those funds are gone, and I will avoid pre-paying (and forgo any discounts that provides) in the future."

Cendrawasih Bay, Papua, Indonesia. Undercurrent webmaster Dave Eagleray, who lives in Ubud, Bali, tells us that in this remote Papua location, local fisherman feed whale sharks and the area is getting "hot" for divers. See http://blog.secretseavisions.com/2010/09/cenderawasih-bay-whale-sharks.html. Many liveaboards are now scheduling trips, so if you want to beat the crowds here, contact Grand Komodo (www.komodoalordive.com), Dive Damai (www.divedamai.com) or Tambora (www.tamboradive.com)

All West Apartments, Curacao. Now that Captain Don's Habitat has shut the doors (they expect to reopen near the end of the year) where does one go on Curacao? We wrote about All West Apartments in June 2008 and subscriber Paul Selden (Portage, MI) told us he took our advice, stayed at All West in December and had good diving with Ocean Encounters. "All West is clean, very roomy, and with wellequipped kitchens. It's a tremendous bargain, especially for people like me who prefer quiet lodgings with low room counts. My package included unlimited shore dives and a rental car. Ocean Encounters keeps tanks at All West in a dedicated room unlocked by guest keys. Curacao is a large island, with some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world on the one hand, and some of the most picturesque cityscapes on the other. The dining experiences were fantastic. I did four boat dives with the Ocean Encounters' well-stocked shop in Westpunt, just a short drive from All West Apartments. The boat dives were drifts in very mild current. The reefs were recovering from last August when the water temperature hit 88 degrees. The amount of coral bleaching was shocking - - Mushroom Forest indeed resembled a forest of giant (pale white grocery store) mushrooms. I did my shore diving in four areas, all worthwhile. But the shore dives I found myself making again and again were right in front of All West Apartments off their tiny beach, reached via steps that begin just after leaving their dive room." (www.allwestcuracao.com)

"DAN travel insurance doesn't cover missed
trips due to "civil unrest" - which meant
the insurance was useless in attempting to
recover my pre-paid liveaboard trip."

Dive Charter Curacao. Elise O. Lovell of Chicago says Dive Charter Curacao owner Niels Jorissen was very responsive to her requests for a December trip. "He was in phone contact the day we landed, and also called repeatedly the next morning until he tracked us down when dive conditions forced a change in launch location. They dive west, north and south, going for more remote locations, although conditions kept us south. Niels uses a RIB. It's an extremely low-key operation that was perfect for us. Lots of stories and jokes, more like diving with friends than a company. Definitely appropriate for more advanced divers. You'll pay a little more with Niels, but the diving is very good to excellent, the day was a blast, everyone on the boat is friendly, and the divers know what they are doing - - a treat." (http://divechartercuracao.com)

Thumbs Up for Maui's Lahaina Divers. Robert Halem (San Jose, CA) was on Maui in November and booked Lahaina Divers' all-day trip to Molokai, hoping to see hammerheads. "When we boarded the boat, the captain gave a weather briefing where he told us to expect a very wet and wild ride both to and from Molokai, with the possibility that when we got there, we would not be able to dive due to the swell, surge and breaking surf. For those who didn't want to go, he offered a full, no-hassle refund. I took the refund. Lahaina Divers gets all five stars for this very customer-friendly policy." (www.lahainadivers.com)

Thumbs Up and Down for the Dancer Fleet (Formerly Peter Hughes' Operation). Judith Kendall of Los Angeles went to Bali's Alam Asmara Dive Resort, and while she reports it was of excellent quality, with fine dining and accommodations and superior staff service, she was not pleased. "The problem existed in calling this a 'diving' resort. It simply was not true. Guests had to be shuttled by van to a sandy beach sometimes as much as one hour away. Then a small Balinese-style skiff motored us to the various dive sites. You had to gear up in the water. This unknown issue made it impossible for me to dive since I am a handicapped diver. The Peter Hughes travel agency booked this resort for us but did not explain the diving logistics. However, they did know I was a handicapped diver. We paid ahead for both our resort stay and diving. Yet the travel agency refused to refund my money or offer me credit for all the days of diving that I could not use."

However, the crew of Peter Hughes' former Paradise Dancer in Raja Ampat showed great compassion for Sharon Dickinson (Bowling Green, KY) last November. "First, Raja Ampat is a location not to be missed on the bucket list of dive destinations. Although it does not get the 'crazy-critters' rating of Lembeh Strait, it definitely offers color, unique fish sightings, and more pygmy seahorses and wobbegongs than you can imagine. And the Paradise Dancer is a gorgeous yacht fit for a queen. However, just a few days into my adventure, I received a call via satellite phone that my father had passed away. We were in the middle of nowhere, four days into our journey. Through calm and rational thinking, Peter Hughes' crew and well-trained staff were able to coordinate my return, and safely and efficiently arrange my transport back to Sarong and on to the U.S. I have encountered on-boat tragic or emergency situations before but never have I experienced such professional, well-coordinated and safe efforts with low impact and low drama. I feel it is important to dive with someone with experience and professionalism - - it's the behind-the-scenes stuff we never see that we are really grateful for. Note: Purchase trip insurance! I got most of my trip package cost back, but not the airfare. Worth the money if there is a problem." (www.dancerfleet.com)

Wananavu Beach Resort, Fiji. A few years ago, Kai Viti Divers precipitously departed Wananavu Beach Resort in Rakiraki (www.wananavu.com), and Ra Divers, who had been working the area for a decade, replaced them. But Ra has just announced it will no longer take divers from Wananavu after May 31 and will be exclusively working with Volivoli Beach (www.volivoli.com). While Wananavu manager Ben Plummer assures us he has a plan, be cautious about making reservations there until you know how diving will be handled. So here is one alternative.

Lalati Resort, Fiji. Our reviewer loved it years ago. Diving is easy and accessible, not spectacular, but with a good range of South Pacific life. Andy Wiessner (Snowmass, CO) was there in December and says, "Lalati Resort is under new ownership, and they are great. The bures are huge and well-appointed, and staff is super friendly. Food is four stars out of five, with some meals surpassing that. We loved the diving on coral heads in Beqa Lagoon. The resort is in a small bay, so kayaking, snorkeling and swimming are excellent. No real beach right at the resort but you can walk to a beautiful one in 10 minutes or kayak to one across the bay. Nice swimming pool and deck. Firstclass operation in a stunningly beautiful location." (www.lalatifiji.com)

- - Ben Davison

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