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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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August 2003 Vol. 18, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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New Dive Destinations, Part II

from our fearless subscribers

from the August, 2003 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

When we get good tips from readers that check out, we offer periodic updates so you don't have to wait until the end of the year to get it from the Chapbook. Last month we offered several, and here are a few more to give you an update on unique dive destinations to consider.

Fiji: There's a new resort in Fiji, says Rosemary Gutwillig (Greenport, NY): Tiliva Resort on Kadavu Island. In April, she landed "on a gravel strip and embarked in an open 27-foot skiff for an hour-long, scenic but bumpy ride to the resort. Guests are housed in beautifully appointed wooden cottages modeled after Fijian bures. The tiled bathrooms have up-to-date fixtures and plenty of hot water. There is no air conditioning, but the ceiling fan worked well. The cook makes marvelous original combinations of local and Western cuisine; the fish dishes were especially good. You could become an addict of their coconut sauces. Steak, chicken, and pork chops were served other evenings. The dive operation is run by a Fijian divemaster; the boat is the same outboard that met us at the airport. There is new Apollo gear (regs, BCs, fins) -- no rental fees are charged. The Astrolabe Reef is a beautiful perpendicular wall, broken into canyons, caverns, pinnacles, overhangs, and swim-throughs that are fun to explore and dramatically eerie at night. There are gorgeous soft corals, sea fans, whips, and enormous plates of hard coral. There are countless species of pairing and single butterflies, half a dozen different bannerfish, and varieties of angels, puffers, triggers, surgeons, groupers, glasseyes, and tangs. Schools of copper sweepers, pyramid butterflies, scissortail sergeants, and bannerfish, and groups of steelhead parrots and harlequin sweetlips. Clark, skunk, and tomato anemone fish. Banded sea snakes. Ringed pipefish. Thorny oysters. Brilliant painted crayfish. A turtle and a few whitetips. And a 4-inch Fijian octopus to hold in the palm of your hand." (, +679-331-5127)

The Bahamas: Easy Goin', says Robyn Churchill (Hollywood, FL), is a first-rate dive live-aboard. "The three-member crew is beyond wonderful. You never feel smothered by needless rules and restrictions on your diving. The 62-foot vessel is spotlessly clean and comfortable. Trips are limited to six or seven guests, with personalized attention for each guest. Besides spectacular diving, there are other activities such as fishing, snorkeling, and kayaking with their onboard ocean kayak. They do weekend trips to Bimini and weeklong trips to the west end of Grand Bahamas. There are upper and lower berths in each cabin, with a storage room. Two of the three guest cabins have full-size lower berths for couples. The boat has satellite TV, VCR, and stereo. There's also a sun deck with lounge chairs. First mate Peg serves three delicious meals each day, with great appetizers before dinner and snacks between each dive. On past trips we've been treated to grilled steak, lobster, swordfish, shrimp Creole, homemade conch fritters, and fresh-baked breads and desserts. There's also complimentary beer, wine, and Captain's rum punch after the last dive of the day. In March, there was a great abundance of tropicals and lots of colorful soft corals. Turtles and rays are numerous in Bimini, and on one dive we saw four nurse sharks, six reef sharks, and several large grouper. Wall diving, wreck diving, and night diving are all included -- the Sapona wreck is not to be missed! We did a night dive there and saw several huge lobsters, a variety of crabs, turtles, rays, and several parrot fish encased in their nighttime "cocoons." We also came across a small school of approachable squid, and their iridescent blue color set against the nighttime blackness of the water was unbelievable!" Paul Osmond (Weston, FL), on board in March, adds: "If you book the boat, they will take you where you want and make this the best live-aboard experience of your life. I have been on many liveaboards, and this surpassed all of them. Best of all, you leave out of Ft. Lauderdale! (954-524-8717,

"We stayed down as long as we wanted -- my average
dive time was 69 minutes, about a 38 percent increase
over the 45 to 50 minutes the Brac dive boats allow."

Cayman Brac: Reis Kayser (Glen Ellyn, IL) put together an unusual trip for Cayman Brac. Says Kayser: "We had a wonderfully appointed two bedroom and two bath condo with a fully equipped kitchen, living room, balcony, and all the amenities, for about $1,000/week. It was on the far end of the island, away from the airport, so we never heard anything but the waves crashing outside. Shelby Scott owns a 23-foot twin outboard fishing boat that he runs fishing charters on and occasionally takes divers. He has lived on Brac his whole life. The four of us chartered his boat for six days of three daily dives, tanks, and weights. He required us to dive with a local divemaster -- Bunny Watson -- on the first day so that he could be comfortable that we knew what we were doing. Bunny grew up on the island and has been a divemaster for many years. Bunny, who was a lot of fun, showed us an amazing number of critters that we would have missed. It was so enjoyable diving with Bunny that we hired him for the remainder of the week. We stayed down as long as we wanted and my Cochran told me my average dive time was 69 minutes, about a 38% increase over the 45 to 50 minutes the Brac dive boats allow. We made two trips to Little Cayman, though divers at the hotels told us that the resort boats were unable to visit the Little Cayman 'rough seas.' The divers seemed to feel it was due to high fuel prices. It is possible that while the water was dead calm where we launched, the other side of the island where the marina and the resort boats dock was rough all week." For accommodations, Nina Banks (; 345-948- 1463); for shore diving guide, Bunny Watson (; 345-948-0254); or boat diving, Shelby Scott (345-917-7074). Shelby is not into computers yet! All told, we paid $2,500 for Shelby's boat for the week, $100/day for Bunny, and $1,000 for Cayman Breakers, a sixteen- unit condo complex with central air, satellite TV with VCR, washer and dryer, and picnic tables, hammocks, BBQ grills, and a rinse tank. (Robert and Nina Banks,, 345-948-1463)

Sea of Cortez: Rich Goldman (NYC) says The New Beginning is a "wonderful, small 60-foot Lien Hwa Motor Yacht with an 18-foot beam. It takes only six passengers and visits the spectacular lower Sea of Cortez out of La Paz. The rooms are small and the back deck (for both relaxing and gearing up) is not roomy, but the boat is by no means cramped and certainly not uncomfortable. Showers are shared, but the water is hot, and with so few people aboard there is hardly any overlap. There is a sun deck upstairs, and there is plenty of room at the bow -- where I spent most days scanning the sea surface for marine life. While the boat is advertised as fully air-conditioned, the AC was only run in the rooms at night and is hardly cold. Small, individual room fans help a bit. The back deck dive table or salon coffee table serves as the camera check/maintenance area; there are plenty of American-style outlets for battery recharging. The boat is run by Nancy Tomlinson, captain and dive guide, and her husband, Darrell (dive guide and everything else). A friendly local helped with the cleaning, cooking, etc. They are an engaging, professional couple who know the dive sites well and tailor the itinerary to the guests' desires. We did three or four dives a day, which included a few excellent night dives. While Nancy's food was not copious, it was tasty and sufficient but could be improved to make the New Beginning an exceptional dive boat, which it is in other ways. The size allows for easily arranged private charters, an intimate topside experience, and a no-crowd underwater situation. The dives include La Reina, where close-up encounters with giant Pacific manta rays are almost guaranteed this time of year; El Bajo, where we saw medium- sized hammerhead schools on two of three dives; Las Islotes and Sea Lion Rock, home to frolicking sea lions and pups; and Las Animas, teeming with fish life and a host of pelagics. While this area has been discovered by the Japanese, it is still relatively undived. It is one of the best dive areas I've experienced and is world-class diving. Nancy and Darrell once dropped us off in the middle of the sea, picked up a school of dolphins at their bow, and ran the boat by us so we could photograph the dolphins from underwater. They would drop us off and pick us up in their Zodiac when the New Beginning couldn't anchor close enough to a given site. I have dived this part of the Sea of Cortez many times, from live-aboard and from shore, and the New Beginning is by far the best way! (, 760-346-3685)

Puerto Morelos, Yucatan: About a half hour south of Cancun is a pleasant little village that has so far been bypassed by the development of Cancun and South. I visited there a year ago and loved it. While the diving doesn't have the walls of Cozumel, it is superior to Cancun, for sure. Patrick Gilley Sr. (Belvedere, IL) found Mystic Diving and their 33- foot canvas-covered boat in November. "Twin 115-hp outboards. Excellent condition. $45 tank dive. DAN First Aid kit and oxygen on board. Ship to shore radio. Victor Reyes' wife, Mary Lu, was personable. Corals and sponges outstanding. Saw the biggest green moray ever in a cave! Large lobsters, eagle ray, 5-foot nurse. Little to no diving in area so everything is pristine. Not broken up like Cancun." And John Thurston (Golden, CO) found Diveair, Ojo de Agua, this past March. "Pat Beach, a Canadian woman and PADI Instructor, runs the dive operation from her house near the hotel Ojo de Agua. Her boat leaves from the beach in front of the hotel. She takes up to six divers, but will go with only one diver. The boat is an open, small boat with an awning. Dives are usually done with an interval on the boat. Pat is a conservative dive leader and will not go out when the winds are strong. I lost several days of diving due to strong winds. The dives are to a sunken warship that has been opened for diving and to various coral areas. I saw a lot of small fish. The coral and sponges are not as good as the best of Cozumel, but the diving is a lot less crowded. Snorkeling is available for coral and fish a short distance from the hotel. The town is quiet and has several good restaurants. The hotel is air conditioned and comfortable." (, 52-998-871-0634)

Australia: One of Australia's more posh resorts and a favorite spot for honeymooners is Lizard Island on the Barrier Reef. Wayne Leonard (San Francisco, CA) visited in October. "We were dropped off at Lizard Island at the end of a three and a half day live-aboard trip last October. Amazing island. The resort only has 40 rooms. Very exclusive feeling and relaxing. Pricey, but worth it. The resort has dinghies that guests can take to secluded beaches and close outlying islands. Amazing to pull up on a beach/island and be the only ones there. A few good hikes are available. The diving is fairly average (for the Great Barrier Reef), though it is close to Cod Hole so there are opportunities for giant potato cod encounters. Though I was the only one who requested a night dive, the resort took me out. I had a private guide all to myself. When I commented to the manager about the service, his response was 'Well that's what we do here on Lizard Island.' All-inclusive prices began at US $431/person, plus diving. (

- Ben Davison

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