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November 2021    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 47, No. 11   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Pacific Quartet, the Caribbean, and Great Whites

we’re getting back in the water

from the November, 2021 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

I'm surprised about how many divers in our Undercurrent community are getting back in the water. And I'm pleased. With the tropical Pacific and Asia destinations widely closed to travelers, the Caribbean and cold Pacific waters are getting increased are getting back in the water. And I'm pleased. With the tropical Pacific and Asia destinations widely closed to travelers, the Caribbean and cold Pacific waters are getting increased interest.

Our readers have been submitting detailed and helpful reports, and I've selected and summarized a few that should be of great interest when you consider your diving options. Of course, even the vaccinated must keep COVID in mind, and Rick Pavlescak's report on St. Eustatius demonstrates how careful some counties are. And while you may not get any nude diving in, as did our long-time contributor from Germany, Mike Joest, there is still plenty of diving action ahead as these reports show.

Big Fish Action

The Eastern Pacific has the big-fish quartet of Mexico's Revillagigedo Islands, Costa Rico's Cocos Islands, Colombia's Malepelo, and of course, Ecuador's Galapagos. Craig Wood (Radnor, PA) has dived them all and says, "Galapagos had the most diversity: all kinds of sharks, mantas, whale sharks, penguins, marine iguanas, sea lions, mola mola . . . The most big animals probably goes to the Revillagigedos; many sharks, dolphins, and mantas, mantas, mantas. Cocos also had many big animals, hammerheads, tiger sharks, many, many whitetip sharks."

In August, he visited Malpelo aboard the Colombia Dive Adventures' Ferox. He says Malpelo is "the wildest, all kinds of stuff, big and small, and the most challenging conditions. The trip is 30-36 hours. Sleeping was not easy when being rolled back and forth in bed . . . The Ferox is not a luxury liveaboard, but is safe and comfortable and takes just 12 divers in 10 cabins . . . All diving is from two rigid inflatables . . . The food was generally good to very good, often Colombian cuisine . . . There are currents, sometimes strong, often changing during the dive, and on one dive, I would take a kick or two to slow my backward movement, only to shoot forward at a very fast rate. Often, the surface would be 80-81 degrees and would drop abruptly to 72-73 at depth . . . Guide Sten Johansson has 10 years' experience diving Malpelo and an uncanny ability to plan and execute a perfect dive . . . The dives varied from good to amazing. We saw numerous scalloped hammerheads and many Galapagos sharks, once swooping toward us from every direction. We often had huge schools of fish around us: bigeye jacks, bigeye trevally, mullet snapper, leather bass, and cubera snapper. At Bajo del Monstruo, we were dropped on a whale shark, and another came cruising. Reef fish were on every dive: king angels, Chinese trumpetfish, blue-spotted coronet fish, and Moorish idols. One huge school of mullet snapper and bigeye jacks was so dense that we lost track of one another."

As for the Galapagos, Max Weinmann (Atlanta) was aboard the Tiburon Explorer in October with eight Americans and four Europeans (see his important piece about COVID on page 12) and reported that the liveaboard is "relatively new and in great condition. The cabins are large and luxurious, and the dining room was huge. The menu was rich, varied and delicious . . . The crew could not have been any more attentive. The dive deck is well laid out . . . Zodiacs made a quick sprint to the sites; diving with SMBs and GPS devices was compulsory. At no time did I feel at risk . . . Jorge and William, the dive guides, were always pointing out creatures large and small. Whale sharks emerged from the shadows; hammerheads lingered further off and then darted across our field of view . . . The dive conditions were definitely not for the faint of heart; it was damn cold, around 50 F at some Southern sites; some divers had electrical, thermal dive shirts. On some large swings of depth on deco stops, it was not unusual to fluctuate 10 to 15 feet in depth. Sea lions darted among us, a challenge to photograph at those kinds of speeds. Similarly, cormorants and penguins."

Hotel Based Comfortable Diving

For those of us who prefer land-based, easy diving, Curaçao and Go West Diving at All West Apartments continue to please Undercurrent subscribers. In July, Robert S. Kuhn, who has made more than 1000 dives, made his 22nd visit to Curacao. "The better diving is on the west half of the island. We rented a truck for shore diving. All West Apartments is the shore diver's dream, with an air station and dive locker that you have access to 24/7. We did boat dives from Go West, a four-minute drive from the Apartments. You can shore dive from the apartments to Playa Piscado for some of the best turtle diving in the world. Affordable accommodations, ns four restaurants within walking distance." Diving is similar to Bonaire, and it's nowhere near as crowded these days.

Loreto, on Mexico's Baja California peninsula, about 300 miles north of Cabo San Lucas, has good diving, says Frank Postillion (Tucson, AZ). After diving with Land and Sea in October, he says, "I am amazed by the variety of sites. Even snorkeling, I found a nice octopus and several balloon fish. The best diving is from early summer to the end of October. Then the sea starts turning over with large amounts plankton and the temperatures go down [eds note: water can run the 80ºs in early fall to the high 60ºs in winter] . . . On the first dive, I spotted a friendly turtle; eels were abundant, no pelagics but abundant reef fish: Mexican hogfish, Cortez angelfish, sergeant majors . . . At Bird Island, sea fans were plentiful, and the walls were spectacular. A huge bait ball of sardines engulfed me several times. Fish attacked the ball like a Nat Geo special . . . Villas del Palmar was beautiful, and the food was good, especially the tortilla soup. Book directly with Land and Sea because the pricing is much better."

Michael Joest (Kehl, Germany), longtime Undercurrent contributor, has dived much of the Red Sea and in October went to Marsalam, Egypt, and stayed at the Marsa Shagra Eco Lodge, which has accommodations in tents and huts. "Meals were lovely mixtures of Arabic and Western buffet; desserts were a mouthwatering dream . . . Dive center is a smooth and efficient operation. For the beautiful house reef, you have entry from the beach, or they give you short Zodiac trips south or north, and you dive back. With a buddy, you can go as often as you like. You could find nearly everything there, starting with a scorpionfish called "Walkman" to surgeons, lions, trigger, puffer, hundreds of anthias, crocodilefish, moray eels, turtles, eagle rays, blue-spotted stingrays, even dolphins. Water was 28C . . . Getting to Elphinstone in the morning was a tough, bumpy, and hard ride but worth it. Dolphins on the surface, which accompanied us down. Everybody looked for the evasive longinmanus (oceanic white tip), but only one woman was lucky. Three liveaboards were there . . . The best site was Um Hallalala, where you swam through an amazing maze of bizarre pillars and boulders with a stunning abundance of hard coral and fish all around . . . A couple celebrated their 100th and 200th dives. To properly do this, they suggested a nude early morning dive. I thought they were kidding. Next morning they warned me, "Mike, remember, without wetsuit." At 17m, two women stripped and we three guys more or less followed their example. Well, it was a totally new experience, which normally you only have at home in your own tub. Our guide later told us he thought this was "highly inappropriate" - maybe because we had knowingly left him out of the fun."

St. Eustatius, a short hop from St. Martin, has better-than-average Caribbean diving, and Rik Pavlescak (West Palm Beach, FL) enjoyed it in October. He reported on how complicated diving can be where the government - in this case the Netherlands - is hell-bent on caring for its citizens. He writes: "Diving in the time of COVID can be a challenge, and travel is no longer particularly enjoyable. Being in a new place is, though . . . Once on St. Eustatius, depending on what level of 'threat' your country represents, you are under a 'COVID Protocol.' For U.S. residents, this requires masking and social distancing for five days - in the dive shop, on the boat, before and after dives, and eating only at outdoor restaurants. On the fifth day, you receive a rapid antigen test, and, assuming it is negative, you are no longer under the protocol for the sixth day (my final day of diving) . . . This trip was organized by RU4Scuba out of Rochester, New York. Jim did an excellent job of 'coaching' travelers through the COVID requirements . . . Divers pile into the back of a Scubaqua truck for a short drive to the dock, then go through customs at the dock entrance: get off the truck, walk through a turnstile and then return to the truck to be driven to the boat. Given that we were under the 'COVID Protocol,' we stayed on the truck, a manifest was given to the customs agent at each crossing, and then we were waved through . . . Valet diving was not offered due to COVID. Each diver had to set up and break down gear for each dive. At the end of the day, gear bags were left on the boat and rinsed by the high-spirited, good-natured crew, who went out of their way to help everyone . . . If looking to dive in a calm marine sanctuary in the Caribbean, I would recommend Statia and Scubaqua."

French Polynesia is a nine-hour flight from Los Angeles and boasts some unique diving, as Martin Klein (Waxhaw, NC) reports of his June trip. He visited Rangiroa and Fakarava, one of the more rustic islands in French Polynesia. He dived with Top Dive; traveling to the famed Tiputa pass was spectacular. "Fish life and reef are stunning. The water clarity is incredible. Coral in excellent shape. The strong current carries you quickly, so you mostly notice the larger things. Tons of grey reef sharks along the drop-off. Most are 4 to 6 feet. Huge schools of fish - jacks, barracuda . . . A good number of big Napoleon wrasses. Also saw a couple of marlins. Up to 12 dolphins would accompany us on each dive. The Kia Ora is a wonderful hotel. The grounds are gorgeous, staff is friendly, the restaurant is very good, with a great buffet breakfast with French pastries, fresh fruit, eggs, bacon and other meats, to excellent sashimi. By over-water bungalow standards, it's a bargain at $1,000/night when compared to Bora Bora at $2,500+. We really liked the island. A nice, relaxed vibe, and the views are stunning." Martin has written a comprehensive report, and if French Polynesia interests you, you can find it among reader reports on our website ( along with a few Undercurrent reviews from a few years back.

Great Whites Two Hours South of San Diego

Want to dive with great white sharks? Nautilus Undersea will take you from Ensenada, Mexico and drop you in a cage at Guadalupe Island, which Linda Briggs (Carrollton, TX) did in October. "This is the cleanest liveaboard I have ever been on . . . Nondivers are allowed only in the nonsubmersive cages. However, there was still plenty of shark action for them. The cages were open from 6:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. . . . Shark wranglers tied a chunk of tuna on a rope, and as the sharks went for the bait, the wranglers would yank it out of the water so the sharks would jump up for it. It was quite a show! The action was just as exciting from the dive deck . . . There were also several tuna after the bait. We were told seals and the tuna will tease and play with the sharks at times because they know the great whites are unable to turn on a dime to chase them."

The Travelin' Diver's Chapbook

In December, we will provide you with a compilation of reader reports organized into our annual Chapbook for easy reference. If you have been traveling this year, please submit your report so we can include it for the benefit of your fellow readers. Click here to write it up.

And thank you for being an Undercurrent subscriber. Since we take no advertising, we rely on divers like you to help us continue our honest and uncensored reporting on all aspects of diving, here and abroad.

- Ben Davison

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