For Non-Subscribers June 2, 2010
Consumer Reporting for the Scuba Diving Community since 1975
Before you book an August-October trip anywhere in the Caribbean, you’d better consider that NOAA thinks the 2010 hurricane season could be a real whopper. It is predicting anywhere from 14 to 23 named storms, and three to seven hurricanes that hit Category 3 or higher. Other major forecasters are predicting 15 to 18 named storms. To put things in perspective, the Atlantic had an average of 9.6 named storms per year from 1950 to 2000. The average for 2000 to 2009 soared to 15. While most of the Caribbean is affected, favorite diving destinations such as the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Cozumel, the Caymans and Belize are especially in harm’s way.
Consider the one reader David Funderburk (Greeley, CO) had in Baja California last month. “I paid for a three-tank dive. On my first dive, the divemaster, a young lady who had been diving for four years, took us to the sandy bottom at 67 feet and motioned us to stay there. After 18 minutes, she returned and had us surface. Apparently she had become lost and had to surface herself to get oriented. The second dive was uneventful but the third dive she aborted after 20 minutes, and no reason was given. That trip ranks as one of my worst experiences.” Has your dive day been ruined by a “certified divemaster” who brings shame to the title? What do you think — are certifying agencies granting Divemaster and Instructor certificates to people with so few dives they’re totally unqualified to lead other divers? We’re considering a story on how well divemasters are trained, both in and out of the water. So give us your bad experiences, as well as good ones showing us which divemasters others should exemplify. E-mail me at PublisherBenD@undercurrent.org
You’ll find more free content for divers than anywhere else at Undercurrent — we’ve made much more available to the public. Thousands of resort reviews, free access to all Undercurrent issues and reports prior to 2008, and blogs from the smartest and funniest people in the industry. And loads of improvements to make finding the information you need quickly and easily — more details below. You can also get a complete free sample issue of a real issue.
In this month’s travel feature, Doc Vikingo writes about his superb dive at Boo Rock, featured on the cover of Burt Jones and Maurine Shimlock’s latest book. It’s the definitive guide book on what the authors call “the greatest repository of tropical marine life on earth.” This 146-page book is filled with descriptions of mind-blowing dive sites, along with good descriptions of the area, the people, what you need to know to dive there, and fantastic photos of Raja Ampat’s unusual critters. Order it now at Undercurrent by going to “Books” and clicking on the cover photo. Our profits go to help reefs like Raja Ampat stay amazing.
If you’re looking for a summer deal with great accommodations and surely some of the Caribbean’s best diving, Paradise Villas on Little Cayman, a big favorite of Undercurrent subscribers, is a great choice. Owner Marc Pothier emailed us to say he’s rolling prices back to 2005 to get divers in the water. Paradise Villas has 12 oceanfront villas with kitchenettes if you want to prepare your own meals or hold a barbecue. Or dine at the casual waterfront restaurant Hungry Iguana, right on the property (everything from burgers to salads to steak and lobster). The house dive operation, the well-regarded Conch Club Divers, sports a 42-foot Newton for comfortable transport to Bloody Bay Wall. The whole deal is right here at www.paradisevillas.com. When you book, mention that you read about this offer from Undercurrent (use code “Undercurrent/Paradise Villas 2010″ or something similar) and you will get a $25 restaurant credit per person.
The barge-like Caribbean liveaboards stopped operations last month. Will divers who made reservations get their money back? Which other liveaboard fleets are stepping in to offer them replacement trips? Read our report “Nekton Cruises Shuts Down” for free at Undercurrent.
Joshua Hinsdale of Examiner.com has put together some good links to monitor the oil spill, including an oil spill movement forecast map and an explanation of BP’s latest well-plugging effort, the top kill procedure. If you want to see the depressing site of what the Gulf looks like now beneath the waves, check out this video of Philippe Cousteau and Good Morning America’s Sam Champion diving in hazmat drysuits for a close-up, underwater view of the “toxic soup.”
With political unrest in Bangkok, travelers are warned to avoid Thailand, even though the country’s dive sites are in the south, away from “state of emergency” regions. Still, the U.S. State Department recommends on its website : “U.S. citizens should defer all travel to Bangkok and all nonessential travel to the rest of Thailand.” Jenny Collister at dive travel agency Reef and Rainforest recommends divers now to fly to Phuket via Singapore or Hong Kong. “All liveaboards are based in Phuket, where it’s business as usual.” But the violence is having repercussions on dive destinations outside Thailand. No one can make reservations at Kasawari Lembeh Resort in Indonesia’s North Sulawesi region right now. It has its booking office in Bangkok. [They have now reopened the office -- DSE].
Joan Moody, who, with her husband Tom, developed the marvelous little Fiji dive retreat Moody’s Namena Island Resort, passed away in early May. They were instrumental in the creation of the marine reserve to protect the stunning barrier reef surrounding Namena Island from being overfished. Before going to Fiji, they operated Moody’s Pidertupo, a dive resort in the San Blas islands off the coast of Panama. It was burned to the ground by vigilantes and Tom was seriously wounded. The complete story is in There’s a Cockroach in my Regulator (order it at Undercurrent)
Then you need Step Zero II: Preparation for a SCUBA Live-Aboard Trip, which has a long checklist of actions to complete (Where do I want to go? Who do I want to go with?) and things to bring (How much do I pack? What photo equipment do I need?). This is a great guide to ensure you have an enjoyable time and don’t leave any essentials behind. (Paperback, 120 pages, $42.50 list price, $8.95 for the Kindle version). Go to www.Undercurrent.org, select Books, and you’ll get Amazon’s best price — and our profits will go to save coral reefs.
We’ll send you a case of 32 Travelin’ Divers’ Chapbooks (the new 2010 version) for your dive club — or dive store — if you make a $100 tax-deductible contribution to our effort to save reefs. Send the check to Undercurrent, 3020 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94965, with instructions about where you want the case sent. We’ll even throw in a free subscription to Undercurrent.
If you were a subscriber, you’d be reading about these stories in our 16 page June issue:Superb diving on Raja Ampat’s Archipelago Adventurer II . . . misunderstood and overlooked dive sites in the Caribbean and Pacific . . . price-fixing dive shop owners on Catalina Island, and how a third one went undercover to reveal their scheme . . . why divers get a bad deal on life insurance, and how they can get a good one . . . what’s more dangerous: the rebreather or the diver using it? . . . a night time raid shuts down Fiji’s Lagoon Resort and Beqa Adventure Divers . . . is Divers Alert Network staying true to its mission? . . . and much more.