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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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November 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 29, No. 11   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Cozumel, Roatan, South Africa . . .

dive with a “Shadow Diver,” or in a Las Vegas show

from the November, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Dive with a Best-Selling Author. John Chatterton, the main diver in that best-selling book, Shadow Divers, frequently teaches advanced wreck diving at the South Florida Dive Headquarters in Pompano Beach, FL, and Larry A. Malato (Woodinville, WA) and his wife took the classes there in October. "The captains are very competent, and the crew was helpful and respectful. They are tech-savvy and put us on good wrecks despite some brisk currents. Timing currents was not an option, as this is an advanced course and negotiation of currents is inherent in technical wreck diving. This area is rich in wrecks at recreational, as well as technical, depths, and to have a tech-savvy boat operation is a real find." ( www.johnchatterton.com; www.southfloridadiving.com )

Stop the Music! Nothing spoils a good dive vacation more than a little unwanted night music, as Marilyn Walker (Castro Valley, CA) reports of her trip last month to Kasawari Lembeh Lodge in Indonesia. She says she was disturbed by at all hours by loud music emanating from fishermen's homes separated from the small resort only by a cinder block wall. "The fishermen have concert-sized speakers that blast music at all hours of the day and night. The resort provides ear plugs . . . The resort itself generates noise, too, from the air compressor and the power generator. Most resorts keep these noisemakers some distance from the sleeping rooms, but this one is too small for that. The whole package was intolerable. Unfortunately, having pre-paid for the room and the diving, I lost my money. There are no refunds for cancellations. I moved to Kungkungan Bay Resort, which is distant from the local village, and where I enjoyed the peaceful environment and good diving." ( http://divekbr.com )

Wild Rides on Cozumel Dives. We have often mentioned that currents, especially downcurrents, can get the best of Cozumel divers, and Karen Card's (Dana Point, CA) experience in June brings that to mind once again. Diving with Pro Dive, she writes, "My first four days were in such strong current, there wasn't much I could do to slow and see anything, unless in a protected swim-through. Feeling like Superman flying over the reef was fun for a while, but I cut my hand trying to hold onto something I should not have in order to stop and see what the divemaster was trying to show me. We called it Mr. Toad's Wild Ride Dive Tours . . . Packed like sardines on the boats, there was neither enough room to move around nor seats for everyone. Bad O-rings were replaced right and left. One day we were sent out on a fishing boat with a deckhand who had no idea what to do with divers. I slipped upon re-entry, with nothing to hold on to and no assistance. One lost diver was found when he surfaced 200 yards away. His wife was hysterical. Another couple told me of being caught in a downwards whirlpool during their safety stop and dropping to 100 feet before they knew what was happening. The divemaster caught them . . . My partner has been diving since 1972, and has been in Cozumel before, but was blown away by conditions. Honestly, you can't really get left behind because you can see shore and there are lots of dive boats all around, but it was all a little unnerving . . . On one dive, the dropoff was so far from the reef, and the current so strong, I used up nearly 1000 psi just swimming to the reef. That was a short dive!"

Volunteer to Swim with the Great Whites. Long-time subscriber Bill Mashek (Forestville, CA) volunteered for a great white shark study in South Africa last month and shared his story with us. "I spent 15 days as a volunteer for White Shark Projects in Gansbaai. The highest concentration of great whites is found in this area, and it is the best place in the world to observe these aquatic behemoths in their natural habitat. Great White Shark Projects is more than a shark-cage diving company. Besides taking people out on cage dives, they are involved in eco-tourism, education, conservation, community projects and shark research. They take data on individual sharks -- their physical characteristics, size, gender, behavior and specific markings. This information goes to the South African Shark Conservancy for shark research and conservation. As a volunteer, I was trained in white shark biology, research, behavior, conservation, shark attacks, basic seamanship and shark tourism. I learned how to get in and out of the cage, and how to remain secure and safe once inside it. Shark Projects supports South Africa Shark Conservancy (SASC), a shark research organization. I spent two days working with SASC, diving and catching (by hand) cat sharks and small leopard sharks for tagging research. The diving around southern South Africa is very similar to Northern California; its kelp forests are very similar to our bull kelp. Overall, this was a profound experience for me, and I highly recommend it for any diver who has the time and the interest in great white sharks." ( www.whitesharkprojects.co.za/projects/volunteer-project.html )

Seagrape Plantation, Roatan. For divers seeking a bargain Caribbean vacation, nothing beats Roatan Island in Honduras, as reader Jonathan Morrow (Gardnerville, NV) points out. He spent a July week at Seagrape Plantation, and got his room and 14 dives for $750 per person. "The staff sets up your BC, regulator and weight belt on the boat before you arrive. There are three dives a day at 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., and night dives at an additional cost. At the end of diving, the staff takes the BCs, regulators and weights, and washes and hangs them up in the gear room . . . The El Aguila wreck at 108 feet is five minutes by boat. Shallow dives generally start on the reef and may move to the wall edge. There are abundant small reef fish on the points where the wall drops off. Nurse sharks are not uncommon. Large morays and big black grouper are seen on most dives. Divers are followed by dogtooth snappers on almost every dive, waiting to be fed lionfish. I spotted eagle rays on five days, and green and hawksbill turtles are common. I watched a large octopus eat a conch. The reef seemed healthy, and some spots can be quite spectacular with sea fans and large barrel sponges. Divemasters are easygoing with experienced divers once they have assessed one's ability. With rooms and bungalows 100 yards from the dive shop, this is one of the easiest places to dive out of." ( www.seagraperoatan.com )

But a Word of Caution. The Beach House and Sun Divers were the Roatan choice for Sandra Maruszak (Meredith, NH) last February. She thought highly of both, but shared this caution: "I felt safe, but I would not leave objects out on the beach. People noted that their flip-flops, sunglasses, etc., disappeared when they went swimming. A guest left her room unlocked, and a local boy stole her electronics (witnesses saw him leaving her room but they couldn't recover the items). I kept my room locked at all times and never left anything out of sight, and I was fine, but a local boy did grab my husband's sunglasses and started running before we stopped him, so it's a nuisance." ( www.sundiversroatan.com; www.thebeachhouseroatan.com )

A Diver's Dream in Las Vegas. Get a behind-the-scenes underwater view of a Vegas show? Leigh Vinzant (Centennial, NV) did, and so can you. She says, "I did the Diver's Dream at Le Reve, a show at the Wynn Las Vegas, and what a magical experience! The Diver's Dream package includes a two-night stay in a suite at the Wynn, the VIP Indulgence treatment at Le Reve, a backstage tour, an orientation dive in the Dream Theatre pool and a dive during a live performance of Le Reve. We were given a two-hour backstage tour and learned all about the intricate workings that went into production of the aquatic show. Next, we took an orientation dive of the Dream pool. We saw the hydraulics involved in lifting the stage, the energy chains and caissons, the speakers, bubble diffusers and props. We swam through the tunnels the performers use to enter the pool, and watched the dive team get everything in place for the evening performance. That night, we were taken to our private dressing room to prepare for our dive (we wore their all-black equipment) and meet many of the performers. We sat through the pre-show dive briefing, then, hidden from the audience's view, we followed the dive team into the pool. As the lights dimmed and the music started, I could feel the excitement all around us. Performers waved at us as they swam by, and dive team members offered up fist pumps. Watching the show from underwater was incredible. Two hours felt like just a few minutes, and before I knew it, my Diver's Dream experience was over. Before leaving, we were given SDI specialty certifications in 'Dream Diving.'" The price? The equivalent of 10 days in Honduras -- $2,450 a couple -- but for Vinzant, it was definitely worth it. ( www.wynnlasvegas.com/Shows/LeReve/DreamDive )

-- Ben Davison

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