Every year at the DEMA (Dive Equipment and Marketing Association) Show, which is the largest dive industry trade show, among other things, we look for one new item, thing, device, or program that will help introduce the general public to the amazing world of scuba diving. This year at the November 2018 show, we had to give two fins and a snorkel up to the Peter Diving System. At first glance the Peter Diver System resembles a hookah system where air from the surface is supplied to divers down below. In this case two to three people can simultaneously breath off of one tank of compressed air. The tank, or cylinder of air, floats on the surface in a yellow boat shaped-like harness with multiple hand hold built right in the sides, and has a dive flag mounted on top. To use the system requires students to don a mask, snorkel, wet-suit, and fins. An instructor goes over a large sized but easy to follow teaching/safety training chart before taking the students into the water just like during a discover scuba diving program, then the students can put on a very light weight belt in warm waters, place the regulator in their mouth, and go under water. The peter system will let students dive down to a max depth of 6m (20ft).
The instructor stays with the students and can look up at the tank to see how the air supply is doing by quickly checking the color of the emitted gauge light: green is full, yellow is half full, and red is the last quarter of the tank, and time to surface. It’s fun and easy to learn and try, afterwards the kids are ready to do a discover scuba dive. They already know the drill about training by chart before the dive, so they are ready to take the next step, and before you know it, they are excited and ready to sign up to become open water divers, with weight, belts, buoyancy compensator vest, and back mounted tanks.
The conversion rate is great, but this is not the end of the story, it’s just the beginning. People with physical challenges or adaptive needs, will find that it is easy to use diving underwater when the weight of a back mounted tank is removed from the equation. It’s easier for those of us with back issues too. The entire system with a carbon tank may weigh only 10kg (22lbs) and only needs to be placed in the water, not strapped to your back during the dive. This is great for hull cleaners and people doing repairs underwater too, as tanks can get heavy even when you’re neutrally buoyant or floating like a leaf.
So, you can see that there are multiple benefits from using the Peter Diving System; SSI (Scuba Schools International), a worldwide diver certification/training organization has teamed up with a diving school in Majorca Spain to get people interested in the world below. The Peter Diving System is available in at least seven other locations around the world; see the map at www.peterdiving.com. We feel that any system that can easily excite and usher in new potential divers to any scuba training organization is a positive advancement for the entire scuba dive industry, as well as a win for all future local dive communities and a lifelong family recreational activity.
Scuba Diving Is Transformational
Scuba Diving Is Transformational!
Has scuba diving changed your life?
A recently released 2016 research study conducted by researchers at East Carolina University working with Outside Magazine showed the motivation for adventure travelers has changed from a former study completed in 2005. The new study revealed that adventure travelers crave transformative experiences, but not as a byproduct of the pursuit of adventure activities. Instead, adventure travelers are actively motivated by a desire for personal growth and change.
Interestingly, of the 10 recreational activities identified as transformational by all those who participated in the research study, scuba diving was listed as number 8 and the overwhelming majority of participants were not scuba divers.
Earlier this year, we asked our e-news and social media followers to tell us how scuba diving was transformational for them. Our divers disclosed that scuba diving not only transformed them as individuals, but also influenced a loved one or their entire family, helped them overcome a fear, embrace a healthier lifestyle, and reminded us that you are never too old to get certified.
Louise and Dennis Marquering were both teaching biology and oceanography over forty years ago when they got married. They went snorkeling on their honeymoon and two years later became certified divers, which helped enhance their teaching experience. They have been each other’s dive buddies from the start and have traveled together to places they would never have explored otherwise. But, it doesn’t end there. In her own words, Louise writes, “Mothers have tears when their daughters get married. I teared up when our daughter completed her check out dive as a young teenager.” Well, their daughter has since grown up and is married to a diver. Now, the entire family goes on dive vacations together.
Scuba diving can help children’s self-confidence and create strong, family bonds. Valerie Rule defines this passionately when sharing her story. She tells us that they got their children in the water as early as age two, placing them on their laps, putting a mask on them and allowing them to breathe from their octopus regulator underwater. They enrolled their children in a scuba rangers program and, as soon as they were old enough, took them on their first dive vacation to Belize. Now in their twenties, their children are still their dive buddies and the four of them are still traveling together. Scuba diving has been, she says, “transformational in these and so many countless ways, and it has been an indispensable tool in binding the four of us together.”
Ed Rau discovered scuba diving as a young single man. He got married and his wife also became a certified diver. The couple had three children and they all became certified divers. He now has a 13-year-old granddaughter who is now a certified diver. Ed writes, “I always found a way to sacrifice whatever I had to in order to be able to go on a dive trip.” He shares that he started taking 8 mm snapshots that played movies on those old film projectors, which eventually progressed to underwater video. The whole family goes on dive travel vacations together and they always have “3 generation pictures” taken of them underwater! Certainly, the images and video relive their memories but also serve as a legacy for future family generations.
Sometimes scuba divers need to fend off certain anxieties, but what if the anxiety one is dealing with is unrelated to going underwater or the diving experience? We have all heard stories of individuals who had to escape a demon or two in order to accomplish a life goal.
Dr. Bill Bushing has been an educator and avid scuba diver his entire adult life, teaching marine biology at the high school and college levels. But, Dr. Bill (as he is known) had to overcome his fear of flying commercial aircraft in order to travel to those select destinations that he so desperately wanted to dive. He got over his fear of flying and has traveled all over the world, from the Caribbean to the South Pacific and Australia, including the islands of the Bahamas, the Philippines, Palau, Egypt, Fiji, Tahiti, Thailand, and other dive destinations. He also goes on trips to conduct studies and produce films. He has a newspaper column and TV Show, “Dive Dry with Dr. Bill,” and is a recipient of the 2011 California Scuba Service Award. He is a good example of someone you might consider never had a fear to overcome, but his story reminds us that our love and passion for scuba diving, and our desire to explore the oceans worldwide, is enough to dare us to overcome any fear – even when that fear is flying.
Suuz Martines, works in the dive industry, and has developed her professional persona, CoCo Cheznaynay® Secret Agent of Truth & Style, who teaches courage, truth, and advocates facing your fear. But as Suuz stated, “when I began scuba lessons, a strange performance anxiety surfaced; not about water, claustrophobia, fish, nor the equipment, but the act of being lined up to perform the certification skills. This was the beginning realization of the bullying I buried from my childhood. I knew I had to overcome this fear and get my certification or abandon CoCo. How could I teach through a character when I could not do as she says?” If not for scuba diving, she would have never embarked on solo dive travel trips beginning in 2000 and met strangers who became friends.
Scuba diving encourages some people to live healthier lives and embrace the sport ever so lovingly. Sherry Mitchell depicts herself as “a lover of life and scuba diving.” She and her husband gave up smoking, started exercising and eating better after becoming certified divers. As part of their dive classes, they were learning how to stay healthy so they could dive safer. They also became closer in their relationship and joy in life that they did not experience before scuba diving. Sherry also writes that they have been to some wonderful places and poetically illustrates the diving experience when describing her encounter with wild dolphins, giant manta rays, sharks, jellyfish and other marine life. She finishes off by telling us that they want to continue their plans of living healthy so that they can continue traveling and diving long into their senior years.
Many scuba divers will still be enjoying diving and traveling into their senior years, but Karen Jernigan is proof that you are never too old to fall in love or get certified. She was in her 50’s when she met her husband, who was a diver. A year later, she became certified. Since then, they have been traveling all over the world to scuba dive. She says she cannot imagine a vacation without the opportunity to dive. Karen says that they have also met many wonderful divers and they do seek warm water diving. The couple is now in their 70’s but looking forward to more years of traveling and diving.
Another group of divers who have benefited from scuba diving are war veterans and those with physical or emotional challenges. When they enter the water, experience underwater life and realize they are weightless and free, it becomes therapeutic. Specialized instructors, family, friends and fellow divers will willingly assist while more destinations and resorts are welcoming their visits. Many have learned to manage almost all on their own quite well. Others may require additional assistance, but all exhibit a new level of confidence and are so upbeat and resolute that nothing can stop them from diving.
Many encounters in life influence and change us in various ways. We all seek to focus on good things that bring about positive changes that make us happy when engaging in any sport, hobby or interest of any kind. As witnessed by the revelations of our readers, diving not only motivated them but became a shared fulfilling lifelong journey pursued with intense passion. In reading their truthful inspiring experiences, we realized two things. Human emotion creates moisture around the eyes and for everyone who becomes a certified diver; puts on special gear, loads a tank on their back, inserts their regulator and plunges into the water; there is one unanimous conclusion…
Scuba Diving is Transformational!
Tobago. The Less Known Dive Vacation Island
Drifting Along with Macros and Pelagics
From the smallest seahorse to an abundance of majestic sized mantas to gigantic groupers to perhaps the world’s largest brain coral, Tobago has something to offer just about every diver. It’s not always this black and white when you are talking about a dive destination. That is unless you are talking about Tobago’s black sand beaches being on the Atlantic side of the island and the white sand beaches on the Caribbean side, but Tobago has lots of macro sea life to view as well as an unusual abundance of pelagic life. The reason for the great quantities of reef and pelagic life is because of the out flow of nutrients from the nearby Orinoco River in Venezuela, South America which feeds the plankton who in turn feed the small fish and this process works its way up the food chain at an amazing exponential rate. This doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed to see a whale shark or school of 30 scalloped hammerhead sharks on your visit, but it does increase your chances of filling up your camera and video cards with lots of awesome images and memories.
Before you get ready to jump off the dive boat, we should probably give you some background information about Tobago and mention what you might want to see and where you might like to dive first. Tobago is the small sister island in The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. It is approximately 40km (25 miles) long and 10km (6.2 miles) wide. It’s where many from Trinidad come to take a leisure vacation as it is only 35km (22 miles) away; a twenty minute flight. We should mention that Tobago is only 80km (50 miles) from South America. In fact, most of the flora and fauna is identical to what you would expect to find in South America as a land bridge connected this region during the end of the last ice age.
The Arawak were the first to inhabit the island and they were later replaced by the Caribs. Columbus discovered Tobago on his third voyage and soon afterwards, in what seemed at the time like an endless rotating order, the Caribs were replaced by the French, English, Dutch, Spanish, and finally by Africans and East Indian descendants. You might say Tobago has changed hands more than any other island in the Caribbean, and yet somehow, it remarkably retained one of the oldest forest reserves in the western hemisphere starting in 1776. The Main Ridge Reserve is 550m (1804 ft) high at Pigeon Point Peak near the village of Speyside. If you want to visit this protected forest and view the beautiful water falls you’ll have to hire an official Tobagonian guide. Tobago also has some small islands off its coast that have become bird havens or sanctuaries. The south end of Tobago is low lying and is home to the Robinson International Airport (TAB). You can fly nonstop into Tobago, or go “directly” through Trinidad, or you can even take the ferry service which runs from Port of Spain, Trinidad and takes 2.5 hours to reach Crown Point, Tobago.
Back to diving that will excite beginners to the most experienced, 4km (2.5 miles) south of the airport are the sites of some of the most well-known drift dives near the island, and when it comes to drift dives, the name Flying Reef pretty much says it all. Here you can drift by at 0-2 knots down to 17m (58ft) of depth over the coral and past a ship’s anchor as you keep a look out for stingrays, turtles, schools of fish, nurse sharks, and passing pelagics. This dive site goes right into Sting Ray Alley where guitarfish, electric rays and more nurse sharks are usually spotted. Nearby Divers Dream is the site with overhangs for nurse sharks to the left, and a rock garden full of fish for those that dive to the right. Nearby Divers Thirst is where black tips, bull sharks and tiger sharks are spotted.
Mt Irvine Wall with is another dive destination where one dive site leads to another or is nearby. The Wall is where you may find lobsters, crab, shrimps, and sea horses, but over at the Mt Irvine Extension is where the grouper, eagle rays tarpon, cobia, and hawksbill turtles like to hang out. Rainbow Reef in the middle of the bay goes down to 21m (70ft) and is named for the rainbow runners that like to hang out around a 17th century fishing anchor.
For specific fish destinations we recommend Arnos Vale, max 14m 45ft depth, which is a rock crevice nursery for all kinds of fish and is a great place for beginner divers as well as for night dives. Kelliston Drain near Goat Island and not far from Speyside, is home of the world’s largest brain coral at over 3m (10ft) high and 5.3m (16ft) wide; while not every diver is amazed by these measurements, at least the large number mantas who pass by here are impressed. The nearby Sisters are a group of five pinnacles that rise up from the deep and this is where you have a great chance to see scalloped hammer heads, especially during October to May, and whale sharks whenever they feel like it. Also close by is Japanese Gardens near Goat Island and it gets its name from all the soft corals, sea whips, and barrel sponges. This dive site flows right into the rock corridor named Kamikaze Cut. London Bridge is another popular spot when currents permit, and where water pushes you between two hard rock surfaces and empties you out into a 15m (45ft) deep area of sand. You’ll see where it got its name from before you even get close to the exposed topside rock formation. It’s a great spot to view black surgeonfish, trumpet fish, and trunk fish. Some of the more unique fish you may find around the island include: cherub angelfish, flame angelfish, angle sharks like the sand devil, and giraffe garden eels. As for wreck dives, the M.V. Maverick, 107m (350ft) long passenger and car ferry that was cleaned and opened up and made safety ready for divers before being sunk on purpose in 1997, has plenty of coral and animal life including: crabs, clams, schools of bonito and bait fish, turtles, and eagle rays.
Now for adventurous divers and weather permitting, there is practically untouched diving 32-64km (20-40 miles) away at the off shore reefs. Plus, there is the wreck of the S.S. Kioto, which was sunk Sept 15, 1942 by U-boat 514. After three torpedoes, it finally sunk in 12m (40ft) of water and the scattered debris are still visible.
As you can see, Tobago is a small island, but there are more than 40 dive sites to choose from. There is also bicycling, birding, exploring the old sugar mills and plantations, visiting the 1770 Fort George, or checking out the beaches in April-July to view the leatherback turtles nesting. We didn’t even have time to point out all the beaches, but Tobago is where Disney filmed Swiss Family Robinson in 1958, so you already know that the beaches are Disney approved; even the Pirate’s Beach. There is a lot to experience, so you might not be able to fit everything in on one vacation trip, but the steel drum music bands are always playing something good, the crab and dumplings “Creole style” are simmering in the pot, and to make Tobago’s sunsets complete, the island just needs you.
Dominica The Nature Island
Dominica the Nature Isle
If you immediately think this island is adjacent to Haiti and next to Puerto Rico, this is not the island you’re looking for. Dominica “the Nature Island” can only be found by traveling over to the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea and there between Guadelupe and Martinique close to half a dozen volcanoes rose up from the deep sea floor and separated the Caribbean from the Atlantic ocean by forming one of the youngest islands in the Lesser Antilles: approximately 290 sqmi (750 km squared). Three of these volcano peaks rose above 4,000ft (1220m) in height. Morne Diablotin (Diablotin Mountain), the highest, stands at over 4,692ft (1430m) tall and has been inactive since the Holocene epoch or last 10,000 years. Morne Trois Pitons erupted a mere 920 years ago. These tall mountains collect moisture from passing clouds and disperse this mist over the island in the form of rain, streams, and rivers, making Dominica one of the most prolific and relatively untouched rainforests in the Caribbean. There are many rare plants and birds on the island. In fact, the Sisserou Parrot (Imperial Amazon) is only found on this island and on Dominica’s flag as well.
By the way, Dominica is pronounced with the stress on the second “i” as in DOM-i-NEE-ka. We think that the stress on the island name Domin”í”ca will perhaps be the only stressful event you encounter when visiting the island.
One last note on the natural pristine beauty of this island is the fact that both Pirates of the Caribbean movies two and three were filmed here because, even Hollywood can’t make a background as cool as the naturally occurring settings on the beaches and along the Indian River.
As far as the historical background goes, Columbus discovered the island on Sunday November 3rd, 1493 during his second voyage and therefore named it Dominica which in Latin (dies dominica) apparently means “Professional Sport’s Day” (our Latin may be a little rusty). Fortunately he didn’t discover more islands on Sundays or there would be more confusion on which island was which, than there already is. The Spanish never did much with the island and that upmost remarkably includes not slaughtering or dislocating every member of the local population of Island Caribs or Kalinago, as happened on most other Caribbean Islands. Even to this day on the northern end of the island there is a reservation similar to U.S. and Canada for indigenous islanders. Next came the French who in 1727 harvested timber and set up coffee plantations with the help of enslaved West Africans. The West Africans quickly made up the majority of the Island’s population and a dialect of French Antillean Creole became the dominant language. In 1761 the English invaded and ever since then, English has been the official language. There were more fights and squabbles between the French and English, but this is the quick cliff note version for scuba divers who prefer their history not too dry.
As for divers, the young volcanic nature of the island lends to black sand beaches, swim throughs, crevices, tunnels, corals growing on granites, deep walls, canyons, finger like ridges, and unique warms spots where volcanically heated water is swept up between fissures and cracks and in one location is known for the sulfur tinted bubbles that rise towards the surface in what appears to be an endless procession.
As for the fish and invertebrates, this secluded island boasts vast schools of jacks, grunts, big eyes, flying gurnards, squirrelfish, frogfish, angle fish, blue chromis, seahorses, eagle rays, spotted rays, southern sting rays, turtles, tube sponges, a wide variety of soft and hard corals, octopus, lobster, crabs, and flamingo tongue shells to name a few.
As for the dive sites, the unique volcanic past has created some one of a kind dive spots at the south end of the island. The Scottshead Soufriere Marine Reserve encompasses three miles of coastline and a large submerged crater. One of the most famous dive and snorkel destinations is in the most northern area of the marine reserve and is called Champagne Reef. The entrance is from shore via a long wooded walkway to help avoid the long rock strewn beach. Divers typically do a leisurely swim around the fish and corals and perhaps take in a view of a prevalent school of reef squid. Then at around 15ft (5m) while relaxing at a deco stop you can view what appears to be champagne bubbles seeping out from the sand and up between the rocks. This hot water and bubbles can burn your hand if you place it too close to the sub-aquatic hot springs, but the scene is a mesmerizing sight to witness. The repeatedly requested dive site Swiss Cheese with three swim throughs and two large granite rocks that form an arch way that leads to a coral area and across to a famous spot called Scottshead Pinnacle with a swim through at 35ft (11m) that exits to a wall that drops down to 120ft (37m) should not be missed. Another popular spot is Dangleben’s Pinnacle which is a series of five swim throughs that you can circumnavigate down at 80ft (25m) and the area is filled with colorful vertebrates and invertebrates alike. Also well known here is L’Abym with a wall that descends straight down to 1500ft (457m).
In the middle of the island on the west side we have well known dive sites such as sloping Nose Reef, and Rina’s Hole with a swim through, black coral, azure vase sponges, golden crinoids, and if you see a thing in the reef with bright shinny teeth, that’s a moray. Actually, here there are several moray eels. Rodney’s Rock is considered one of the best critter dives around and a good spot to find assorted crabs and spiny as well as slipper lobsters.
Up by Portsmouth, Cabrits Dive Site is a great drift dive over barrel sponges and schools of creole accented fish. Douglas Point is known for its abundance of flamingo tongue shells, Pointe Ronde and the Craters has hot bubbles percolating out of the sand at 120ft (37m), Toucari Bay has coral covered rocks at 40ft (12m), two tunnels plus multiple caves, and Five Finger Rock in the Cabrit Marine Park appears mostly submerged in the shape of its name sake with lots of critter life as well.
For wreck divers, there is the 55ft long (17m) Canefield Tug Wreck sitting almost perfectly upright at 90ft (27.5m) and the links of chain from the 18th century Cottage Point Wreck in less than 30ft (9m) has some interesting pinnacles close by..
As for night dives, there is Newtown Dropoff, Sea World Pinnacle, Fort Young Flats, or a second round at Rodney’s Rock.
There are over thirty official dive sites around the island, as well as “secret spots” which can be experienced when weather and currents permit exploring.
For a non-diving day, you still will want to remain on the water as whales are prevalent throughout the year. Whale watching tours go out to see, hear, and record the sounds of sperm whales; the largest toothed whales in the world who can be seen from October to March. The nomadic males get up to 60ft long (18m) and don’t socialize until they are 30 years old. Females form natal family units that encompass several generations and may consist of 70 year old grandmothers, mothers, and male and female calves that enjoy the gentle deep waters off the west coast of Dominica. The waters offshore dip down to over 3,280ft (1,000m) and this is where sperm whales are presumed to hunt for giant squid using their spermaceti organ in their oversized nose region as a sonar system in the deep dark waters to locate their prey. They also make social noises “codas” with different clicks, sounds, and dialects around the world. Using a boat’s hydrophone you can hear these sounds miles or kilometers away. For an extra treat, Humpback whales can be heard in January and February. We like to think of these boat trips as the beginning of Eco “Echolocation” Tourism. There are some twenty other mammal species that frequent the islands including: spotted and spinner dolphins that roam in mixed pods of over 500 members strong, pilot whales in pods of 50 members, and bottle nose, risso’s, and other dolphins in smaller groups.
Now if you would like some time off from getting wet, then we recommend hiking some 300 miles (500km) around the island and visiting Trafalgar Falls, Victoria Falls, and Emerald Pool. We recommend taking a poncho and sweater with you as it can get cold, and the rain falls over five times as much up in the mountains as it does near the beaches. Hiking in the Morne Trois Pitons National Park rainforest is a must to see Boiling Lake; the second largest boiling lake in the world. On the way up to this site, tourists often stop in the Valley of Desolation to boil an egg in the sulfur laden springs or creek. Personally, we prefer eggs at a table setting with a pinch of salt, sometime before the eight mile (130km) return hike begins. You also have the chance to rest in relaxing hot springs along many trails, so in Dominica you never really have to miss being out of water any day during your entire stay; it’s your choice.
There is much here for all to discover as Dominica is a remote volcanically formed island lush with tropical rainforests, rivers, waterfalls, friendly people and abundant sea life. You have to change planes from one of the nearby Caribbean islands to reach one of the two local Dominica regional airports, and you also have to stress the way you say the island name, but coming here is definitely worth the effort to have a chance to explore what is rightly called the nature island, and dive literally some of the hottest dive sites on this planet.
For additional information on Dominica and various special dive and vacation packages, Click here.
Turks and Caicos
Turks and Caicos White Sand and Wicked Wall Dives.
There’s a group of islands just over an hour’s flight from Miami and they are so much more than their ancient Lucayan name for red blossomed topped Turk cactus and string of islands (caya hico) implies. The low lying limestone islands here are bordered by white sand beaches and while at least one of them you can walk across to at low tide, a few are separated by the 7,200 plus feet deep Turks Island passage. Huge pelagics such as North Atlantic humpback whales pass between the islands during their annual migration from January to March. The passage also divides the main eight islands with West Caicos, Providenciales (Provo), North Caicos, Middle Caicos, East Caicos, and South Caicos on the west side, and Grand Turk and Salt Cay on the east side of the passage. Some 299 uninhabited islands help round out the rest of the island chain.
Whales aren’t the only thing that has passed by these islands. Christopher Columbus passed by here in 1492 on his first voyage to discovering a western route to Asia. He may have been off on his calculations by a continent and an ocean or two, but had he known how far the circumference of the Earth really was, or that the Vikings had made settlements in the New World already for some 500 years, Columbus might not have been able to talk anyone into joining him for the first of four total expeditionary cruises. Another explorer passing by Turks and Caicos, astronaut John Glen, orbited Earth three times in 1962 before making a splash near the islands and coming ashore for some rest and relaxation at Grand Turk.
Now it’s easy to reach the shores of Turks and Caicos by scheduled airlines to the international airport with ongoing inter island flights or cruise ships. The Grand Turk Cruise Center is home to a 3,000 foot pier and the recreational and shopping center is home to the largest “Jimmy Buffet” Margaritaville in the world. If you want to visit somewhere less crowded, take a short trip over to Salt Cay and do some whale watching from the ruins at Taylor’s Hill or take a short excursion over to Gibb’s Cay to see the stingrays swim right up next to the beach. Don’t forget to visit the Columbus National Marine Park complete with 25 dive site moorings to visit with corals, garden eels, turtles, nurse sharks Nassau groupers and a host of smaller fish species.
Some 13 miles south of Salt Cay exists an ocean pinnacle and at 40ft of depth (12.5m), is the wreck of the HMS Endymion, a British fifth rate 49 gun warship that sunk in 1790. Ironically an early diesel five-masted schooner General Pershing wrecked here at Endymion Rock as well in 1921, and now you can see the chains running over from General Pershing’s anchor towards the Endymion’s anchor. As far as ship wrecks go, Turks and Caicos has the oldest wreck on this side of the pond. The Molasses Reef Wreck dates back to 1505. Many wrecks came to rest on Molasses Reef, but this Spanish ship was thought to be Columbus’s famed Niňa and so some divers in the 1970’s blew this historical artifact up in search of treasure. They didn’t find what they were looking for, but cannons, crossbows, and crew personal effects are now on exhibit at the Turks and Caicos National Museum built before 1885 and located near the seat of the government since 1766; Cockburn Town on Grand Turk. There is also a lighthouse built in 1852 with cast iron tower worth a sightseeing visit while on Grand Turk.
The ages may seem old, but when you consider that the Arawaken speaking Tainos lived here from 500 AD to 800 AD, and the classical Tainos moved here in the 1200’s, then anything after 1500 AD doesn’t seem so long ago. In fact, the classical Tainos had a good thing going for close to 300 years until Juan Ponce de Leon recorded the islands in 1512 and introduced the locals to a work abroad program that he just wouldn’t let them refuse. By 1513, His work and no-release program left the islands once again uninhabited until the salt collectors appeared in 1645. Pirates used the islands for awhile; the most notable being Anne Bonny around Parrot Cay in the 1720’s. Loyalists from America fled to the islands from 1775-1783. Also since Britain abolished slavery in 1833, many slaves that were shipwrecked or intercepted in transit in near waters were freed, and the population of the islands modestly grew once again. So now knowing the brief history of the islands, you are now able to appreciate the local architecture, the local island culture, cuisine, and part of the geography.
Across the Turks Island Passage you’ll find the Providenciales International Airport on Provo (Providenciales Island). Provo is the home of several major all inclusive and independent resorts. Some of these resorts cater to families, others to adults only, and all with miles of spectacular white sand beaches, beautiful pool settings, pool bars, and many with their own or otherwise serviced by dive operators with boats to take you to some of the hottest dive sites around the Caicos side of the islands.
Now, although thousands of boats have sunk around the islands, the main attractions are the reef and wall dives. That is except for the Mad Max style Thunderdome that was used for the pilot of a French game show. The thunder dome collapsed during hurricane Francis in 2004. But at 20ft from the surface and 35ft at depth, it makes a great swim through to view shrimp, scallops, clams, barracuda, queen angelfish, gray angelfish, lobster, and schools of snapper, goatfish, and others will surround you on this one of a kind dive.
Many of the dive sites here are named after what you expect to see at the site: Hole in the Wall starts at the top of the reef at 55ft and a tube goes down to and you exit out onto the reef at 90ft. The Crack cuts down the reef at 55ft down to 100ft, Eel Garden…take a guess at what is found here besides peacock flounder, and nurse sharks. The Amphitheater is a wall dive with an under hang that goes back about 15ft at the base at 85ft of depth. Perhaps Becky’s Beautiful Bottom doesn’t quite describe the huge coral heads off West Caicos, Brandywine doesn’t quite showcase the sand chutes at this site. G Spot doesn’t at first invoke images of Gorgonian soft corals. Double D off French Cay might not readily conjure up images of two pinnacles, but other dive sites such as Shark Hotel, Elephant Ear Canyon, Aquarium, Football Field, Graceland, Grouper Hole, and Highway to Heaven may appear less scandalous when mentioned in your log book and social media posts. Oh, and expect to see big eye jacks, grouper, rays and schools of smaller fish just about everywhere you go. Some sites such as the Molasses Reef, a wall dive, is south of Provo by French Cay and takes awhile to get there, so it’s usually part of a two or three dive excursion that may leave in the morning and not get back until 5pm. The two and three dive boat trips are the best way to see the sights at the farthest ends of the islands. For extended liveaboard trips around the islands may we recommend the Turks and Caicos Aggressor II or the Turks and Caicos Explorer. Remember that the winter months are peak tourist season, and dive boats may fill up fast. It doesn’t help when these islands are getting so much good press as being one of the top dive destinations but the reefs are available every month.
Turks and Caicos has several marine and shore preserves and national parks to see on your non-diving days and besides viewing birds such as frigates and flamingos at the parks, there is a Rock Iguana preserve on Long Cay. You can get around the islands by car, scooter, TCI Ferry system, and other boats.
The Caicos Conch Farm on Provo is the only place in the world where they raise queen conch for local consumption as well as export. This ten acre oceanfront aqua culture farm has 65 acres of adjacent circular pens where queen conchs graze and grow. People will think you’re a marine biologist after a short tour at this site.
And speaking of conch, no trip to Provo would be complete if you didn’t stop for conch served at Bugaloos Conch Crawl or da Conch Shack and Rum Bar. Fried or marinated, you “conch” go wrong man, with this delectable and renewable island resource.
So there you go, islands filled with tourist attractions, cruise ships, shopping and dining, islands uninhabited, islands with long white sand beaches to relax on, or get up, dive and explore almost endless miles of reefs, walls, wrecks, with extensive marine life such as turtles and corals. So no matter how or what century you get here, Turks and Caicos has something for everyone.
North American Aquarium Diving
North American Aquarium Diving
There may be times when you find yourself in a another city either due to work, visiting relatives, or just because you wanted to get away, explore, and play. If this happens to you, and you can’t bring all your dive gear, and yet you are looking for something a little more exciting than viewing goldfish in hotel lobby aquariums then we thought you might like the following list of relatively convenient yet definitely unusual dive sites.
Sure, this list is all about aquariums, but ones so big, diver friendly, and filled with sharks and other exotic creatures that you may have to rethink how you classify the seven seas. So, starting off our list of potential dive sites in a semi-random pattern from east to west this is what we have discovered so far.
Long Island Aquarium. This must be one of the easiest dives in the world. They provide everything for you including a mask with underwater communication abilities and you don’t even have to be a certified diver. A trained shark dive instructor goes with you inside a shark cage, which is lowered, into the 120,000 gallon Lost City of Atlantis shark exhibit. Besides a 12ft long trident, pillars, and remnants of the lost city, you just might see sand tiger sharks, nurse sharks, moray eels, grouper and a 300lb turtle named “Jaws”. This adventure also includes a souvenir beach towel and an emailed photograph of you diving. www.longislandaquarium.com
Baltimore’s National Aquarium. Be a guest diver in the 335,000-gallon Atlantic Coral Reef Tank. This is an authentic fabricated oval reef with some 500 plus fish, rays, and sharks. The 13ft deep dive is operated by Atlantic Edge scuba school and dive shop in Gathersburg. You must be certified and bring you own wetsuit, mask, snorkel, and fins. After the dive don’t miss the new 225,000-gallon Blacktip Reef exhibit with 793 different fish and sharks.www.aqua.org
North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke Island. The “Dive with the Sharks” program allows you to dive with sand tigers, sandbar, nurse sharks, and a replica of the USS Monitor ship in a 285,000-gallon “Graveyard of the Atlantic” exhibit. You can have photos and a video made of you experience. They have two dive sessions each weekday and one session on Saturday and Sunday. All gear is supplied and you must be a certified diver.www.ncaquariums.com/roanoke-island
The Georgia Aquarium. Here you can dive with whale sharks, the largest fish in the world, in the largest indoor habitat that we know of. The Ocean Voyager exhibit built by Home Depot is 284ft x 126ft and 20-30ft deep and holds about 6.3 million gallons of seawater. It’s a chance to dive with up to 4 whale sharks, rays almost 9 feet wide, and 1,000 other fish. They supply all the gear, but you can bring your own mask if you want and you have to show your dive certification card. www.georgiaaquarium.org
The Epcot Dive Quest at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The Caribbean Coral Reef is 5.7 millions gallons of saltwater fun and includes over 6,000 sea creatures, which is more sea life than you might see on a natural reef. For swimming with sharks and rays you need to have a C-card, but not the for the Dolphins in Depth program. Diving here is one of those “book early, book everything, and book often, adventure sites”, but would you expect anything less from a Mickey Mouse operation? https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/events-tours/epcot/epcot-divequest/
The Florida Aquarium in Tampa, Florida. The Dive with the Sharks program operates in a 93,000-gallon tank called “Sharks Bay”. The dives are 3 times daily and you can basically kneel in the sand and watch the teeth glide by you. Were talking teeth attached to sand tigers, zebra sharks, nurse sharks, and black tip sharks. A paired Florida Aquarium divemaster makes sure you have a fun and safe dive. Bring a mask, towel, swimsuit, and C-card. www.flaquarium.org
SEA Life Minnesota Aquarium at Mall of America. SEA Life has two really cool exhibit dives. Atlantis is their Saltwater dive and you will swim in a tank of sand tigers, nurse sharks, huge bowmouth guitarfish, large sawfish, wobbegongs, white tips, zebra sharks, and more. You glide right over the tunnel of people peering inside the exhibit and it’s fun to pick shark teeth up right out of the sandy substrate and show the families walking through the tunnel what you found. The second dive in Sturgeon Lake is an unexpectedly fun dive, especially if they are feeding the turtle and fish. You’ll never experience outdoor lake diving with this degree of clarity nor this docile concentration of alligator gar, walleye, sturgeon, and bass. Bring all your dive gear including C-card, gloves, and a hood. SEA Life supplies tanks and weights. After the dives you get a souvenir T-shirt and you can keep all the shark teeth you find.
Great Lakes Aquarium, Duluth, Minnesota. The “Dive-N-Feed Experience”, may not be found on the website, but it’s still occasionally offered on special request with plenty of advance notice. Here is a chance to feed freshwater fish and dive in a two story, three chambered, Isle Royale exhibit with Steelhead, kamloops, brown, coaster brook, and lake trout. Also, Siscowet lake trout, burbot, Atlantic salmon, coho salmon, sturgeon, walleye, longnose suckers, and American eels. They have over 100 Great Lake species in all. Bring your C-card and dive gear to keep you warm in the 52ºF 45,000-gallon main tank. Caution, diving here may lead to you becoming an active volunteer diver too. http://glaquarium.org/
Downtown Aquarium, Denver, Colorado. There are several ways to dive this aquarium, but all are done in conjunction with A-1 Scuba and Travel. For certified divers you can dive with the fish in the “Under the Sea” exhibit, and Dive with the Sharks in the “Depths of the Pacific” exhibit. If your not scuba certified, dive students training with A-1 Scuba and Travel may complete open water dives 1 & 2 at the aquarium, so call A-1 for more information on any of their aquarium dive programs. www.divedowntown.com
Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, Nevada. Their “Dive with the Sharks” program is available for guests staying at Mandalay Bay. Now just about any marine biologist or batfish going blind from nematode infection will tell you that Shark Reef has had several unfortunate die offs in the last unlucky seven years from eels, sea turtles, schooling fish, and sharks. Fortunately, after the main circular lobby tank sprang leaks, the fish and sharks from this exhibit were transferred to the tank where the cow rays recently died off, so it all looks good to passing tourists, but concern about alleged reports about a shark left on the loading dock over a weekend and becoming injured, to not being able to dive 48 hours in the salt water after being chemically treated for parasites, and sharks with visible signs of parasitic infection, or showing signs of abnormal behavior still seem to plague Shark Reef, but hopefully a team of marine biologists can turn all this around soon, as Mandalay Bay Resort is one of the best beach resorts in Las Vegas. www.mandalaybay.com
Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, California. Daily dives into the 350,000-gallon Tropical Reef Habitat ;swim with over 1000 fish, use an underwater camera, and get a souvenir towel and memory card all combine to make this a fun dive. All equipment is provided, but you can bring your own mask and booties. Must be certified and see age restrictions. www.aquariumofpacific.org
Oregon Coast Aquarium, Newport, Oregon. People come here annually to this 23-acre Pacific marine wildlife attraction. Passages of the Deep is considered the best shore dive on the Oregon coast. This was the former home of Keiko the Orca whale and the site was transformed into three ecosystems so you can dive 26ft deep at Halibut flats with skates, sturgeon, and rockfish, or sit on a 13ft ledge or dive with the big sharks like the 10ft long Broadnose Sevengill shark at the Open Sea Exhibit. Eugene Skin Divers Supply operates the underwater dives. Must be open water certified. http://aquarium.org/
Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Tacoma, Washington. Their “Eye to Eye with Sharks” program just started last year, but it’s a big hit with those that have experienced it. They actually have two dives in this 240,000-gallon tank, one is a cage dive for non-certified divers, and a scuba dive for those that are certified divers. The sandbar tiger sharks, nurse sharks, and even the wobbegongs here are some of the biggest you may ever see close up and personal. Dives are available Fridays through Mondays up to four times daily. All gear is supplied for these dives, and you will wear drysuits, so you can wear street clothes on underneath and keep them dry without need of a towel except for hair, but they’ve got that covered with a souvenir towel! No personal cameras are allowed. www.pdza.org/dive
Maui Ocean Center, The Hawaiian Aquarium. The Open Ocean exhibit has 750,000-gallons of salt water, 20 sharks, stingrays, and thousands of fish. Open to divers three days a week except holidays. They supply weight belts and tanks; you bring everything else. Why dive an aquarium in paradise? Guaranteed sightings of sharks! A constant rotation of sea creatures with those in the nearby natural native waters makes every visit here unique. Reservations required and you get to keep the shark teeth that you find in the sandy substrate. www.mauioceancenter.com
Now it’s quite possible that this list is ever changing and hopefully forever expanding. Keep in mind that available days of diving and the frequency of dives may change for any location. Most locations give you a tour of their backstage areas and a glimpse of other animals not normally seen by the general public. This includes breeding pools of fish, and species specifically raised to trade with other zoos and aquariums. A briefing on the dives and in depth information on fish, sharks, and local ecosystems may also be provided. The total tour time could take 3 to 4 hours. Sharing these dives with family members will create life long memories whether they go on the dives with you or look in from the other side of the clear acrylic wall. We hope you get a chance to take part in some or all of these unique diving opportunities.
Abaco, The Treasure Of The Bahamas Out Islands
Abaco, The Treasure Of The Bahamas Out Islands
If you are into numbers, there are 16 main islands in the Bahamas and another 684 cays (pronounced keys) that push out above the ocean some 50- 400 miles off the Florida coastline and appear as a dotted string just above Cuba. Thousands of boats and sailing vessels traverse these islands yearly and it’s easy to loose your bearings: An Italian guide brought a Spanish tour group here in 1492 and proclaimed that these islands were the East Indies. Perhaps geography and navigation weren’t Christopher Columbus’s strongest assets, but as an explorer you have to admit that no matter how misguided, he was determined. This tenacious sea going attitude might explain why some 500 Spanish galleons sank after hitting reefs off the Bahamas Islands. Hundreds of more modern wrecks also litter the reefs. One traditional way to seek shelter from rough seas has been to anchor in the Sea of Abaco, which is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a series of cays and fringing reefs and is part of the third largest reef in the world. The Abacos or Out Islands consist of some 13 islands and cays and the entire island chain contains untold generations of vast coral growth.
When the ice age seas were 400ft lower than today, rain entered the porous coral outcroppings, eroded away the limestone, and left articulate patterns and astounding designs and shapes of stalactites and stalagmites in hollowed out chambers. When the seas rose to their present height, some of the cave roofs collapsed and created blue holes. The 120-mile long chain of islands has more blue holes than anywhere else in the world. Some of them are inland, also called island bush diving, and have fresh water and/ or shrimp and blind cave fish, and other blue holes near shore or just offshore are filled with saltwater invertebrates and/or large schools of fish. Tech divers visit the Abacos Islands to dive The Abaco Blue Hole, Dan’s Cave, Ralph’s Cave, Reel Breaker, Big Blue, Starfish Blue Hole, and the Guardian Blue Hole to name a few. Ocean going recreational divers are blessed with swim troughs, enchanted and strangely illuminated caverns, and shallow holes just about everywhere you dive. Some of these hot spots include: Coral Caverns, The Catacombs, The Craters, and The Towers.
If you are into nature dives, the Abacos Islands has six national parks. Diving with the abundant sea life at the Fowl Cay Government Preserve 30-98ft deep and north of Man-O-War Cay is a must.Also do the Tarpon Dive, Coral Condos, Valley of the Sponges, Grouper Alley, Sea Gypsy Reef, and Coral Gardens. Abaco is also known for its turtle population and at the northern most island Walker’s Cay you may see up to 150 sharks on a dive and at Sandy Cay, one of four islandsin the Pelican Cay National Land and Sea Park where you can expect to find the largest stand of Elkhorn coral in the world. This Sandy Cay is not to be confused with Sandy Cay south of Bimini, Sandy Cay east of Long Island, or the Sandy Cay northeast of Nassau which was the island pictured in season one of the TV show Gilligan’s Island. Yeah, Christopher Columbus wasn’t the only one who had a tough time naming the islands in the Bahamas.
Most of the wooden wrecks from decades ago have long since been eaten away or pummeled by waves and surf, but the metal parts such as iron canons, and pieces of silver and gold are still occasionally found in the sand. The 207ft long U.S.S. Adirondack, a Union wooden screw sloop struck a reef here in 1862 a mere six months after she was launched and now two 12ft long cannons and 12 smaller canons can be seen in 10 to 30ft of water. The 234ft long S.S. San Jacinto built in 1847 was a one of the earliest American steam vessels and on blockade duty for the U.S. Navy when she ran a ground in 1865. Her remnants can be found in 40ft of water. The Train Wreck is another popular dive site where pieces of two Confederate captured and sold Union trains were being shipped to Cuba, but now they rest as scattered pieces in 10-20ft of depth.
For more information on these mentioned dives as well as the H.M.S. Mermaid, and the Violet Mitchel freighter, we recommend stopping by Brendal’s Dive Center located adjacent to the Green Turtle Club . Brendal has close to 30 years of local diving and teaching experience, having certified or taught specialty courses to over 5000 students. So even if you brought your own boat, tanks, and weights, we still say, diving with Brendal is the easiest way and most rewarding way to see the local dive sites and cays.
TheGreen Turtle Club Resort &Marina which was established in 1964 has been a haven for boaters, vacationers and scuba divers ever since. The marina was recently dredge even deeper and currently contains 40 slips. The resort has several types of accommodations from deluxe rooms to 3 bedroom cottages that are completely up to date, offer many amenities, ocean-views and are minutes from several spectacular white sand beaches. For dinner you may have a tough time deciding on which delicious main course item to choose. We like the seafood choices or the fresh catch of the day. Many boaters like to stay here as part of their Bahamian sea going journey. Many tourists come here for weddings, honeymoons, and family reunions in addition to those who wish to vacation actively or passively . Did we mention that the resort is also popular with former Presidents, music & movie stars, and more importantly, scuba divers?
Green Turtle Cay, the Abacos Islands, and especially the town of New Plymouth first became popular when old English Loyalists had the revolutionary inspiration to flee New York in the late 1770’s. Today you can still see their architectural designs everywhere on the islands.
Green Turtle Cay is only 3 miles long, and nearby beaches include: White Sound Beach, Ocean Beach, Coco Bay Beach, Bita Bay Beach, and Gillam Bay Beach. To see them all and to take along lunch and snorkeling gear you really need to rent a golf cart. Yeah, that’s about as fast and furious as it gets on this island in the daytime, at night the island pace slows down even more. Green Turtle Cay is a great place to relax, lay on a white sand beach, scuba dive, rent a boat, play some golf, view Abaco Parrots, try local foods, savor Tipsy Turtle rum drinks, watch sunsets, and get ready to do any or all of it again the next day.
So why haven’t you ever heard of Abaco Island, or the Out Islands before? Perhaps it’s because it takes an incredulous long 55 minute long flight from Florida, an unbelievable 5 minute taxi ride to a ferry, and an epic 15 minute ride on a ferry filled just to get here. Who’s going to believe that a place with such world-class tech and recreational diving is such a short hop away from the USA?
They may have run the pirates out of the Bahamas in 1718, but because of the local accommodations, beaches, blue holes, wrecks, and spectacular dive sites, scuba divers are here to stay. No doubt, word of mouth be a powerful reminder of what you can expect to discover for yourself when you visit Abaco in the Out Islands.
For more information on exclusive dive travel offers, competitive airfare, and how you can visit Brendal’s Dive Center and Green Turtle Club Resort and Marina, Click Here
Destination Spotlight: Bonaire
Just 50 miles north of Venezuela and about 38 miles east of Curacao, lies a 24-mile long island with some of most beautiful and well protected dive sites in the world. We’re talking about Bonaire, of course. And if you haven’t experienced it for yourself just yet, this post might be the nudge you’ve been waiting for!
We’ve got the skinny on real 24/7 diving (we knew you’d love that), exquisitely preserved marine life, attractions and activities and some history for all you yesteryear junkies.
It just would have been wrong to keep this all to ourselves, so here it is, your virtual trip to beautiful Bonaire.
As a result of submarine volcanic eruptions (millions of years ago, don’t worry!), Bonaire is the peak of a submerged mountain with sloping fringing reefs that are very close to shore. In addition, the dives are considered to be some of the best in the world. Bonaire has more #1 rankings from divers in the Caribbean including best shore diving for 20 years, best advanced/beginner and best macro/underwater photography.
We’ll tell ya!
Visibility is AMAZING: the underwater visibility is over 100 feet year-round and most of Bonaire’s 86 marked dive sites can either be accessed from the shore or are no more than 15 minutes away via boat. Since almost every dive is from a moored dive site, Bonaire’s appeal is from the newest to most experienced diver. So get your fins and cameras ready!
Over 360 different fish species: tons to see + clear waters, seriously what more could a diver ask for? From seahorses to turtles, nurse sharks, eels, angelfish, damselfish, peacock flounder and the not so occasional pelagic, the fish life is extensive. There are also tons of extensive colorful coral, sponges, crabs, mollusks and invertebrates. You’ll just have to see for yourself.
Truly unlimited diving: one of the best things about Bonaire is that you can pretty much get into a car and drive to one of about twenty dive sites and dive in. But most dive resorts (and there are many) allow you to dive when you want. Whether it’s 3am or noon, you can grab a tank and in one giant stride (or take the less climactic ladder) you’re moments away from the beautiful reefs and diving freedom. Want more? Then explore 80 dive sites from their custom dive boats.
Some popular dives include:
Forest (Klein Bonaire)
Hands Off (Klein Bonaire)
Oh! And for all our certified Nitrox divers, the resorts on the island offer Nitrox.
Bonaire takes pride in being one of the world’s most beautiful treasures, which is why it’sdetermined to protect its natural resources. All of the waters surrounding Bonaire and the uninhabited Klein Bonaire or “Little Bonaire” have been named Marine Parks since 1979. To maintain and preserve the natural environment spearfishing and reef anchoring are strictly prohibited. Collecting seashells, sea fans, sand and any type of coral are also against the law.
Underwater environmentalist Captain Don Stewart (Captain Don’s Habitat’s founder) was also at the forefront of environmentally sound developments and reflected this love in his resort. This continues today from the low impact construction methods, to the use of solar water heaters and energy saving devices, as well as a state of the art wastewater treatment system, every detail has been designed to have the least possible impact on the local environment.
Bonaire is rich in beautiful fauna and flora, so it’s perfectly okay to want to spend some time outside the water too. So what can you do around an island that does not have a single traffic light?
Here are some awesome topside activities:
Windsurfing at Lac Bay: the peaceful, protected lagoon at Lac Bay is the perfect spot for windsurfing with clear, waist-deep water at a constant 15-25 knots per hour winds.
Flamingo Watching at the Salt Flats: THE place to watch flamingos, there are thousands, is at the salt ponds in the National Park at Goto Meer or at the southern end of the island at the solar salt works. Every day at sunset, the entire flock flies back to Venezuela for feeding. A beautiful not-to-be-missed sight.
Washington Slagbaai National Park: A truly natural and dramatic terrain which offers excellent snorkeling and subtle discoveries but don’t feed the Iguanas!
Kralendijk: The Capital City: Bonaire’s capital is a quite town of colorful, well preserved buildings. Only a few blocks in size, you can sightsee the island’s highlights such as: Fort Organje, Queen Wilhemina Park, Government House and the mini Greek temple-style fruit and veggie market. The city also offers a variety of bars and restaurants that offer authentic dishes that blend the best of European and the Americas cuisine and drinks.
Come visit the most diver rewarded destination in the Caribbean and you will discover why Bonaire has the highest percentage of diver repeat visitors.