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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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June 2011    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 37, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Mexico, Myanmar, Palau, Roatan

where to see big fish, where to avoid dead reefs and daytrippers

from the June, 2011 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

M/V Jazz, Myanmar. While we divers love to fantasize about that marvelous Indian Ocean diving, it's not all perfect, as longtime subscriber reader Randy Preissig (San Antonio, TX) reports of his March trip. "I feel strange writing a negative review, but Undercurrent serves its readers best by warning of shortfalls as well as telling them of undiscovered 'new' dive sites. There were two big problems with this six-day trip (the two days in the Thai Similans were much better, and included a giant manta sighting). In Burma (Myanmar), gross overfishing is wiping out the fish. This includes 'finning' of sharks, which has essentially eliminated sharks from Thai and Burma waters. I did not see one shark in 49 dives. Far worse is the dynamite and 'chemical bombs' that continue to decimate the reefs, as well as the fish population. We had fishing boats at all our dive sites. On one of our 13 Burma dives, a bomb went off so close that I looked toward the surface for the rest of the dive to make sure one wasn't floating down on us! Some dive sites had most of the coral stripped off the walls above 60 feet and piles of rubble below. And they took us to the best dive sites! We did see two eagle rays, cuttlefish, some baitfish schools with rainbow runners feeding, an octopus, seahorse, pipefish and a school of small snappers, but Burma is not the virgin area it is advertised to be. Reportedly, whale sharks and mantas are victims of finning, overfishing and dynamiting. The second big problem was the condition of the Jazz itself. We were quite crowded with 13 divers. They advertise four divemasters and a tour leader, but we only had two divemasters. Ric and Clive did their best, but their attitude had been worn down. They no longer lead night dives. This resulted in three night dives missed or severely compromised. The Jazz has one air conditioner in the main lounge area. Each room is fed air from this by a tiny fan in the wall of each room! The A/C couldn't be set low because it 'might break,' and the people who had deserted their rooms to sleep in the lounge didn't want it cooler. The smell of bug spray and mold was almost overwhelming in some rooms. The food was good and no one got sick, but I used to inspect kitchens for the health department and I can tell you that the tiny, hot hole that the food came out of was downright scary, and we were warned not to go in there!"

Revillagigedos Islands, Mexico. You don't have to travel halfway round the world for big fish, as Michael J. Millet (Dublin, CA) reports. Simply hop on a liveaboard in Cabo San Lucas. But keep in mind if it's a winter trip (Miller traveled in January), the water can be chilly - - 70 degrees or even less. "This was my fourth trip on the Nautilus Explorer to the Revillagigedos. After a 24-hour voyage from Cabo, the first dive site is the Canyon at San Benedicto Island. Here we encountered an occasional hammerhead and a couple of manta rays, but the visibility wasn't the best. The next day, we dived the Boiler on the west side of the island. Here we had awesome encounters with several manta rays, large schools of cottonmouth jacks and bigeye trevally. The next two days were at Roca Partida Island, a seamount where the main attraction is sharks -- whitetips, Galapagos, silvertips. The highlight was a whale shark, maybe 20 feet long. We spent the last two days at Socorro Island. At Cabo Pierce, we had close encounters with manta rays, dolphins and a school of hammerheads. The Nautilus Explorer is a very comfortable boat with a good crew and great food." (

Then there is the venerable Solmar, the first boat to make this a regular destination. Jeanne Sleeper (Laguna Beach, CA) was aboard last December, when the water was warmer (76 to 80 degrees). "I wore a 3-mm suit and a hooded vest, and was toasty warm. Dove from 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., which translated into three or four dives at 60 minutes each. Mostly 50- to 80-foot dives with dolphins, mantas, sharks, jacks and a whale shark. The rock cracks are filled with lobster; big octopus were out hunting in the daytime. Big mantas with 26-foot wingspans come out of the blue like stealth fighters - - suddenly they are in your face but never touching you. Solmar divemasters Eric and Rey were excellent watermen, and their detailed knowledge from years of diving Socorro, Isla Benedicto and Roca Partida were invaluable. The seamanship of the entire crew and tip-top condition of the ship are critical when you are 300 miles offshore. The anchors went down first time, every time, and were exactly where the dive briefing said they would be. Customer service was exceptional. They clearly know the above- and below-water territory from firsthand experience - - no reading a chart and guessing with this operation." (

The newest kid on the block is the Rocio del Mar, which Christophe Beraud (San Francisco, CA) took in March. "We dived with 7-mm full suits and hoods, and were comfortable. Giant Pacific manta rays, various shark species (hammerhead, Galapagos, whitetips, silvertips, silkies), dolphins and humpback whales. Visibility ranged from 30 to 70 feet, and water temperatures are between 68 and 73 degrees. The boat is simple but very stable and functional, the crew is great, the food is delicious, and diving is only limited in duration; no deco diving allowed. You can do your own diving or follow the divemasters. Nitrox is available on board." (See our full review in the March 2010 issue). (

Palau. It's a long trip, so many people like to stop off at Kosrae, Yap or another destination, but others do backto- back liveaboard trips. In April, Laurel Fulton (Denver, CO) took "a fantastic two-week trip on the Palau Aggressor with only nine divers on board. Crew was fantastic, Captain Drew is the best, photo pro Johnny and divemasters Ike, Jason and Marc were great. Nice layout on the boat, hydraulic skiff lift is wonderful. We did an exploratory trip to Velasco Reef and had great dives - - we felt like pioneers, and got to see a whale shark ascending on one! Soft and hard coral were incredible, diverse and healthy. Abundant fish, turtles, anemones and clownfish, giant clams, nudibranchs." ( If you decide to take a back-to back liveaboard trip, regardless of the boat, try to negotiate a discount of at least 10 percent for both legs. And some Palau travel tips from Fulton: "The stopover in Yap has a security check where half the plane has to get off while they inspect the seats; get a seat on the right side if you can, because both times the left side had to get off while we just had to switch sides for inspection. In Palau, next door to the airport is a luxury waiting lounge with WiFi, recliners, bar and snacks. Well worth $15 if you have a few hours to wait for a flight. After checking bags, just walk over from the terminal. I stayed at the Cliffside Hotel on the travel agent's advice - - a bit dated, far out of town, not on the water. The Sea Passion is a nicer hotel, and has a snorkeling area." (

CoCo View Resort, Roatan. This is one of the true dedicated dive resorts in the Caribbean, a favorite spanning four decades. So we applaud their recent decision to stop accepting cruise ship and day guests. "With strangers always on our beach and at the bar, and with our facilities in constant demand, we were afraid we wouldn't feel like CoCo View anymore," said Mitch Karlson, the resort manager. "So rather than open the cash register to walk-in traffic and the fast cash that comes with it," CoCo View opted out. Exception: If you've been through their dive orientation previously (e.g., been a guest) or are a scuba professional, you're still welcome to drop in. (

- - Ben Davison

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