These 5 Sizzling Dive Deals come to you straight from our E-newsletter! We hope you find your next destination in one of these hot summer deals. We also have aÂ $50 off offer per person on any 7-night dive package booked during the month of July for travel anytime between Aug 11 and Sep 30, 2012. Click here for your discount.
GRAND CAYMAN, Sunset House Resort – Fall Festival Special, save 25% – 7 nights, $924, with 2-tank boat trips daily and unlimited shore diving +++ Aug 15 to Sep 30, 2012
COZUMEL, Hotel Cozumel – All-inclusive – 7 nights, $751, with meals, snacks, drinks, taxes, 5 days of diving +++ Aug 13 to Nov 18, 2012
ROATAN, Honduras,Turquoise Bay Resort – Reduced Price Special – 7 nights, $749, with airport transfers, meals 3 boat dives per da, free Internet access +++ Jun 30 to Dec 22, 2012
PHILIPPINES, Atlantis Resort Puerto Galera – $500 Airfare Credit – 7 nights from $1536, with meals unlimited scheduled boat dives, free WiFi +++ Jul 5 to Jul 22 and Jul 28 to Aug 31, 2012 – (This special is also available for the Atlantis Resort in Dumaguete, priced from $1668). Low-cost airfare from all cities available.
FIJI, Beqa Lagon Resort – Save $400 per person– 7 nights, $1095, with transfers, meals, 5 2-tank boat dives, unlimited shore diving +++ Aug 18 to OCt 6, 2012
Fiji - Beqa Lagoon
Check out our Last Minute Deals, Specials and Liveaboard packages by visiting our website or just click on the Quick Links provided in this e-newsletter.
Contact us for a customized quote, ask us questions on any of our specials, or let us look up the best airfare. We look forward to hearing from you.
We’re sure you may have heard or come across a diver who has explored Florida’s swampy treasure and wondered – WHY would you dive into a muddy soup to maybe find a gator or two? Truth is, if you enjoy muck diving and want to explore some of the rare sights Florida has to offer, grab your mask and fins because this is the dive experience for you.
Orange Grove Sink is one of two major springs in Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park which boasts nine other sinkholes and springs, and a long slough, meandering down to the famed Suwannee River. Peacock Springs also offers divers the chance to explore one of the longest underwater cave systems in the United States.
Enticed by your adventurous side yet?
Click here to read more on Diving Peacock Springs | Other Florida Destinations
Bet You Didn’t Know: Scuba Diving by the Numbers
For all the changes that have happened in scuba diving over the past 20 years, some things have stayed rather constant. A quick look at stats from PADI show some familiar trends (that actually aren’t that surprising) but interesting all the same.
A third of divers are female: Think scuba diving is a man’s sport? Think again. Since 2006, more than a third of all certifications have been issued to female divers. To many people, SCUBA diving is one of the few “gender neutral” sports where men and women can participate equally. Going back into the 1980’s and 1990’s, the percentage of female participants hasn’t changed all that much.
Photo courtesy of DiverWire.com
According to Scott D. Jones, publisher of DiverWire.com, “Women have always been a part of diving. Modern equipment has become more lightweight and user-friendly allowing both men and women to enjoy the sport equally. In diving’s early days, there was a much more ‘military-based’ feel to training. Modern certification programs still stress safety and education but in a more effective and inclusive manner.”
You’re Never too YOUNG to get started: Scuba certification trends have also held steady over the last 20 years when you examine the AGE of new divers. PADI worldwide statistics show that the average age of scuba certification is 29. To break that down more specifically, the median age for men is 30, while the median age for women is 27.
Photo courtesy of PADI
“Diving still appeals to a wide cross-section of people, but it’s the younger ones who are the lifeblood of the industry,” Jones points out. “Consumers who are just out of college are looking for a diversion and SCUBA represents a challenge. In many ways, it’s something that virtually everyone has thought about, but a smaller number actually take the plunge and dive into scuba.”
In total, PADI reports that the organization issued 930,000 certifications last year and that the cumulative number of certifications is more than 20 million.
Learning to Scuba Dive – A simple process with lifelong rewards
In order to enjoy the many wonders and sights of the underwater world, recreational scuba divers need to become “certified.” The process, which is not difficult, is however very important since diving does bring with it some inherent risks.
There are several scuba diving training organizations – PADI, NAUI and SSI are among the most popular. Each has established a set of minimum standards that need to be met for a student to become “certified.”
photo courtesy of PADI
These standards include knowledge reviews about the scuba process, how to use modern scuba diving equipment and safe diving practices to name some of the top elements. The certification process, introduced as part of an Open Water Course, involves three main elements – basic knowledge and review, pool skills and equipment evaluation and open water training (or check-out) dives.
Basic Knowledge Review: Today’s modern “e-Learning” techniques and programs have made it simple for students to do the academic portion of their training in the comfort of their home or office. Any eLearning program can be easily accessed so you can learn at your pace. They include video demonstrations, academic exercises and everything necessary to become a certified scuba diver.
Pool Skills:Â You can’t become a diver without getting WET – online training can only take you so far. You can either complete the online academic portion of your training first OR work with a local dive store to complete the “pool sessions.” This typically involves several sessions where you’ll learn how the equipment works, how to calmly and securely breathe underwater and how to enjoy the scuba diving experience in a controlled environment.
“Check Out Dives”: The final part of your open water certification program is a series of open water dives with your instructor. During these dives, you will demonstrate your proficiency with the equipment, show your skills and expand your experience in a “non-controlled” environment.
Photo courtesy of PADI
Many people ask “how long does it take to get certified?” The answer to that can be different for each individual diver. Most courses are “skills based,” meaning that once you master a skill, you move on to the next. Some students pick these skills up faster than others. As a rule, most courses can be completed in a few weeks depending on the schedule and number of sessions each week.
Once you receive your Open Water certification, you are able to rent equipment and scuba dive virtually anywhere in the world. You will receive a “C-Card” with your photo on it that becomes your license to dive. Your certification has no expiration, but it’s recommended that you stay current and get in the water at least once a year.
Open Water certification is just the beginning. Many divers choose to take advanced courses following their initial certification. There are many different specialty courses including Advanced Open Water, Rescue Diver, Nitrox Diver, Night Diver to name just a few.
Top Aquatic Attractions in the Cayman Islands
There is no question the Cayman Islands are one of the most popular scuba diving destinations in the world. Just ask Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman the well-known actors explored the islands underwater treasures during filming of the motion picture The Firm years ago (a portion of those dives even made it into the film).
The Cayman Islands (a group of three islands Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac) first became prominent among scuba divers back in the 1970s. Until that time, the island was most prominent among bankers and international financiers. But in the scuba diving world, Grand Cayman holds a special place.
The coral reefs, which are accessible both from shore and short boat rides, offer a unique diversity that complements the vast marine life in the islands. But there are three MAIN underwater attractions that almost every diver should see at least once.
Photo courtesy of Martin Stepanek
Located in the shallow waters of the northwest corner of Grand Cayman’s North Sound, its been called the worlds best 12 foot dive and for good reason. Almost every visitor to the island books a trip to this site at least once (sometimes more than once).
The site has been around for years, first discovered by Skin Diver magazine writers and photographers in the early 1980s. Fishermen used to clean their catches in the shallow, calm waters. The local Stingray populations, natural bottom feeders always looking for a free meal, make daily visits to the site and often stay until they get their fill.
Guests traveling to the site, a short boat ride from Seven Mile Beach, can often watch the stingrays following the boats anticipating a free meal. Dozens of stingrays, both large and small, glide to the site and then quickly surround the divers and snorkelers.
Stingrays are often misunderstood as being aggressive, but in reality, they don’t mind being touched and hand-fed small pieces of squid or bait fish. If you’re going to visit Stingray City, be sure to plan an early-morning adventure as the many daily visitors can stir up the sand and make the water cloudy.
Sunset House Mermaid:
Photo courtesy of DiverWire.com
Located just off the shoreline of Sunset House Resort, the famous bronze mermaid (also known as Amphitrite) has been attracting scuba divers for more than a decade. Created by diving enthusiast and sculptor Simon Morris, the statue has had virtually thousands of visitors.
According to Morris, Cayman Island tourism officials were looking for something that both divers and snorkelers could enjoy and approached him about creating a memorable piece. The resulting 13-ft. statue was created to help illustrate the relationship that divers have with the aquatic realm. The size of the statue and prominent placement make it almost impossible to miss and many underwater photographers have found Amphitrite to be a spectacular subject for underwater photography.
Photo courtesy of Cayman Islands Dept. of Tourism
It may have taken nearly a decade to become a reality, but it hasnâ€™t taken long for the Kittiwake wreck in Grand Cayman to rise to the top of MUST lists for divers and snorkelers traveling to the Caribbean.
The 251-ft vessel was sunk in 2010 after years of planning, preparation, re-planning, inspections, studies and safety checks. Sitting in just 64 feet of water, the vessel is easily viewed from the surface and perfect for both scuba divers and snorkelers by design.
Wreck diving is one of the more popular PADI specialty courses. The team planning the Kittiwake wreck project took this into account when designing the site. The wreck has multiple decks for all levels of divers from the beginners to intermediate and advanced. Some dive operators have even used to site for wreck diving certification courses.
While the Kittiwake is an excellent dive, it is recommended that all diving visitors only dive to their level of certification.
The Cayman Islands have dozens of excellent scuba diving sites and attractions. Stay tuned for an update with even more very soon.
What’s the difference between SCUBA, snorkeling, free diving and spear fishing?
It’s a recreational activity enjoyed around the world. And something that a vast majority of people say they’ve “always wanted to try” – scuba diving.
SCUBA is an acronym for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Divers enjoy the freedom of being able to explore coral reefs, wrecks, lakes, rivers and other bodies of water through their own air supply carried weightlessly on their backs.
Today’s scuba divers benefit from more than 60 years of innovation, discovery and updates from the very first scuba unit, the Aqua Lung invented by Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnon. Many people recall the Cousteau series of television specials with fond affection, which inspired more than a few of today’s divers to take the plunge and become scuba-certified.
Other popular aquatic activities such as snorkeling, free diving and spear fishing have all have become popular as a result of scuba diving.
Here is an overview of some of the differences between the different activities:
Snorkeling: A common activity in warm water destinations, resorts, islands, beaches and pretty much anywhere underwater attractions are observable. Snorkeling requires no certification, but snorkelers should speak to local operators to discuss any hazards or safety concerns prior to getting in the water.
Snorkeling can be enjoyed by virtually anyone at any pace . The only equipment required is a mask, fins, and a snorkel (a short J-shaped tube that allows users to breath while their face is in water). Mask and fins, which can also be used for scuba diving, allow the participant to see what is in the water below while fins provide easy movement through the water.
Free Diving: An added element to snorkeling is the concept of free diving. Free divers hold their breath and use their fins to move underneath the surface. Competitive free divers often compete for the greatest depths, longest breath holds and other categories. Free diving is a skill that takes practice, but is also something many travelers enjoy because it allows participants to get even closer to marine life, colorful corals and submerged sights.
Spear Fishing: The natural out-growth of free diving is the sport of spear fishing. This activity is just exactly as it sounds participants free dive with a spear in order to capture fish, which almost always become dinner. Spear fishing is not allowed in destinations that have been declared marine parks. Avid spear fishers are extremely environmentally conscious and only spear what they will later eat.
SCUBA Diving: Those who enjoy snorkeling and free diving frequently want to go to the next level and learn how to scuba dive. This natural progression is an easy one since many of the initial skills in a scuba course are the proper use of masks, fins and snorkels that many snorkelers and free divers are already proficient with.
In order to scuba dive, one must receive a certification from a nationally-recognized training agency, such as PADI, NAUI, SSI or SDI. While each agency has their own individual standards, many of the skills and information taught are similar.
A basic Open Water scuba certification typically involves three phases: a) knowledge and basic scuba theory, b) skills and proficiency in using scuba equipment and c) open water skills demonstration. There is no hour requirement to receive a certification however all students need to show proficiency in basic diving knowledge, master their in-water skills both in a confined water (pool) and the open water. Typically, most classes involve two to three pool sessions, two or three lectures and two days of open water dives.
Scuba Diving Travel is a prime motivator for many participants. A large number sign up for a scuba class prior to trips or cruises to warm water destinations. A growing trend among scuba enthusiasts is a concept known as the Open Water Referral. This process involves the student completing the first two portions of the Open Water course (knowledge review and equipment skills) at home. They then work with a diving operator at a resort destination to complete the third phase (open water skills and demonstration) in order to complete the course.
Scuba Diving Myths – and REALITIES!
SCUBA diving is one of the most beautiful and enjoyable activities on the planet today. If you’ve ever explored the underwater world by snorkeling or trying SCUBA, you would have to agree.
Photo courtesy of DiverWire.com
Despite the beauty (and challenges) that go with SCUBA diving, there are still many myths out there keeping people out of the water. Here’s a brief look at some of the SCUBA myths AND the realities!
MYTH: Diving is a very dangerous activity TRUTH: When done within the guidelines you’ll learn about in your open water certification course, diving has an extraordinary safety record. Diving is an exciting activity that combines all the thrills of exploration and adventure, with a safety record that compares favorably to a sports such as bowling.
MYTH: Diving is complicated and difficult to learn TRUTH: Learning to dive is easy today. Professional diving instructors use all the learning materials and proven strategies to make it simple and fun to learn. Before you know it you’ll be breathing underwater and using all the cool “toys” that make diving easier than ever before to learn and participate regularly.
photo courtesy of PADI
MYTH: You have to be in top physical condition to dive TRUTH: Like any active sport, diving is more enjoyable if you are physically fit. And you do need some basic swimming skills in order to learn. But it’s nothing extreme; if you are comfortable in the deep end of a pool, can swim, and you can walk for several minutes without getting winded, you can probably learn to dive.
MYTH: The ocean is full of dangerous animals like sharks TRUTH: Most divers actually consider a shark sighting to be a special and memorable occasion, since it is rare to see them. While such critters as sharks and barracuda should be respected and treated as wild animals, the vast majority subsist on a diet of things considerably smaller than a scuba diver. In fact, most sharks and barracuda are somewhat intimidated by divers; with our long fins and other equipment, we appear big to them which is something they don’t want to mess with! Besides, it’s a myth that sharks are perpetually hungry or are always on the attack. It is not uncommon at all for a shark to go two weeks without hunting, and in one documented case, a healthy shark did not eat for better than a year.
Photo courtesy of DiverWire.com
MYTH: It expensive TRUTH: When you put it up against other leisure activities, such as owning a quality mountain bike, golfing, boating, or skiing, diving compares very favorably. And the more you dive, the more true that becomes. Dive gear, for instance, is very durable and can last for many years. In fact, after a short while, the cost of your gear can work out to just a few pennies per dive.
Popular Destinations for Beginning SCUBA Divers
OK, so you’ve completed your Open Water SCUBA certification, now what? There is a world of underwater opportunities available to you, but which one(s) do you select first? There are certainly plenty of choices, but here are a few of the top rated destinations for beginning SCUBA divers to consider.
Florida Keys: The unquestioned scuba diving destination in the continental United States, the Florida Keys provide a wide range of options for the first-time dive traveler. The Keys have been called Americas Caribbean and are a 120-mile long chain of coral islands.
Photo courtesy of Florida Keys Tourism
Start in Key Largo, where you can dive on shallow reefs and experience the world famous John Pennekamp Marine Park, and work your way South along US Route 1 (the Florida Keys Overseas Highway) until you reach Key West the farthest point South in the entire country.
In between, you’ll have an opportunity to stop off in historic towns including Islamorada, Marathon and Big Pine Key each providing you a chance to experience what locals call the Keys Lifestyle. More importantly, as a new diver, you’ll be able to dive a different and unique location throughout your trek through the Keys. Once you’ve gained a bit more diving experience, you may want to consider returning to the Keys to dive some of the many wrecks scattered up and down the coastline. These wrecks are most appropriate for advanced divers.
Bonaire: This small island off the coast of Venezuela continues to impress divers around the world and for good reason. Bonaire has no rivals when it comes to diving simplicity something every new diver wants and needs. As a new diver, your first dive trip can bring some expected nervousness and apprehension. Easy shore diving and calm, clear waters (which Bonaire delivers almost every day of the year) can make your first diving experience a memorable one.
Photo courtesy of Tourism Corp Bonaire
The island is surrounded by a coral reef that is also a marine park. This makes shore diving a breeze and boat dives a pleasure. According to a recent survey of divers by a leading scuba diving publication, Bonaire ranks first in both shore diving and marine life. As you become more comfortable with your surroundings, you might ask one of the local Bonaire photo pros about some of the islands unique underwater sights. A short boat trip to Klein Bonaire, an island just under a mile from the main island of Bonaire, is also something special for a new diver.
Cayman Islands: This group of three islands (Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, Cayman Brac) is well known for two things, international banking and scuba diving. Since most of us don’t often have a need for a large off-shore bank, the next best reason to head to the Caymans are to get your feet wet and explore its crystal-blue waters.
Photo courtesy of DiverWire.com
The islands rich scuba diving history provides a great backdrop to diving opportunities that include colorful coral reefs, spectacular walls, a myriad of fish and marine life and even a few man-made aquatic attractions. The diving on Grand Cayman is divided roughly into 3 areas: Seven Mile Beach and the Northwest Point, The North Wall and The East End. Each area offers a little different type of diving and beginners might want to log a dive in each area to build a good base of diving knowledge.
The Cayman Islands have a distinctive British feel and atmosphere and the dive operators all have their secret spots.” The important things for any new diver to remember are being comfortable and enjoying the experience. Diving visitors to the Cayman Islands won’t have any trouble making that happen.
These are just three possible destinations for new divers. Whether it’s one of these or another destination, the important thing to remember is that diving is all about the experience – the more you experience it, the more you’ll enjoy it.
Scuba Diving Specialties: What is MUCK Diving?
It’s certainly not the most glamorous type of scuba diving. There isn’t the visual appeal of reef diving or the sense of adventure in wreck diving, but for a growing number of scuba divers, “MUCK” diving is all the rage.
Photo by Jerry Cummins
What is “muck” diving? Believe it or not, it is exactly what it sounds like – diving in sand, broken corals and sometimes even trash. In short, MUCK. But before you get completely turned off, you need to know that some of the most spectacular underwater photographs have been taken by divers exploring muck sites and these shallow dives means more time to discover many unique critters.
Many of the popular muck sites are in the South Pacific. A recent group of dive professionals just returned from diving in the Philippines. Some of the critters that were discovered (yes, in the muck) included a variety of nudibranchs, sea horses, pipefish, frogfish and the very “shy” Mandarin fish – that only comes out at night.
Photo by Jerry Cummins
It doesn’t help that many of these critters are small and hard to find (most would easily fit on top of a quarter), but to hard-core muck divers, that’s part of the challenge. “There are some creatures just a short distance from shore that you won’t find anywhere else in the world,” said one dive pro. “Some divers spend all their time in the muck – and are very happy about it.”
Certainly muck diving isn’t for everyone, but you can’t argue with the photos (some of the most spectacular and colorful shots found anywhere). While there isn’t a “muck diving” specialty course, there are some underwater photographer and videographer specialties that can introduce interested divers to this unique form of diving.