29 April, 2008

Diving with Sharks in The Big Mango (aka Bangkok)

I just could not believe it when I looked at the date of my last log entry!! It read 18 November 2007 – Tulamben – Bali – Indonesia… A streak of minor ailments, a series of business travels and the relocation from Hong Kong to Bangkok have kept me out of the water for five months!! Living in the heart of the Big Mango (aka Bangkok) there are only two possibilities for diving and I decided that I should postpone the thrill of emulating Mr. Carlos Barrios, the expert sewer diver of Mexico City and possibly the man holding one of the worst jobs in the world!! Instead, I opted to book myself for a Dive with the Sharks experience at Siam Ocean World bang in the centre of town.

I booked the dive through Planet Scuba, the only diving operator certified to operate these dives.

I met with Khun Num, my dive guide, at 09:30 am at Siam Ocean World and got a good tour of the “back stage” sporting my Shark Diver visitor pass. Only Giant Groupers but no Groupies!! Most interesting!

The the moment I had been waiting for! The large tank ranges in depth between 3 to 5 meters and is populated by a large variety of fish but the real stars are 20 or more sharks. Primarily Sand Tiger Sharks (aka Ragged Tooth Shark) but with a number of Leopard Sharks, Black Tip Sharks, Nurse Sharks and Rays to complement the scene.

Diving by and over the glass tunnels and walls seeing wide-eyed visitors staring at you from the other side is a surreal experience especially when used to diving in the open sea. Having a three meter shark swimming by your face and giving you the eye can be slightly intimidating and generates a lot of awe for these beautiful animals.

Certainly this will go down in my list of memorable dives!

28 April, 2008

How Fit are You for Diving?

I now hold some 13 diving certification cards and I cannot help noticing how little emphasis is given to the subject of fitness in diving in the various certification level courses I have put myself through.

Certainly it is good that leisure diving as most know it has become a global phenomenon, a billion-dollar industry which can offer memorable and educational experiences to all who are willing to take the plunge. However, not many people seem to realize that, while the adjective "leisure" in diving portraits an image of peacefully finning along colorful coral reefs, the sport can quickly turn into a strenuous activity for both the body and the mind especially when the elements decide to disregard our leisurely attitude towards diving.

While diving skills and experience play an extremely vital role in making our chosen leisure activity a safe one, so does fitness. Leisure Scuba Diving is a sport and like all sports it requires an appropriate level of commitment to being fit not only to get more fun out of it but, more importantly, to practice it safely by minimizing the danger of being caught unprepared when that extra stamina can make a difference between an exciting story to tell and a potentially tragic story to be remembered by.

Excercising is easy, it only requires some true commitment and a workable fitness plan that can fit around individual lifestyles. A well structured 40 - 50 minute exercise session 4 to 5 times a week can make a huge difference with evident benefits not only in the diving area and without necessarily requiring one to take up a membership at the gym!

Personally I learnt a lot about fitness for diving reading a manual called "Fitness for Divers" by Cameron L. Martz.
So..... how fit are you for diving? You can get an electronic copy of it directly from the author for as little as USD19.95 which, to me, is a small price to pay if you need some structure to your exercise routines.

22 April, 2008

You Missed ADEX? Come to Bangkok!

If you happen to have missed out on the Asia Dive Expo in Singapore in April you have a second chance to mingle with the who is who of the Asian dive scene, look and buy cool gear and learn about dive destinations in Bangkok this May at the Thailand Travel and Dive Expo which will be open to visitors between 15 - 18 May 2008! Hope to see you there!

20 April, 2008

Sharks - What are you waiting for?

While living in Hong Kong for a few years before moving to Thailand the sight of thousands of dried shark fins lining the windows of specialized shops and restaurants was a sad testimony to the pledge of these incredible creatures. Take a stroll down the streets of China Town in Bangkok and the scene is not much different. Shark finning is literally pushing an animal species which has roamed the oceans for the past 400 million years to absolute extinction!

While the plight of the shark was a known fact to me, it was not until I watched the documentary movie SHARKWATER - (Thanks Alex!!!) – that I realized that, like many other people, I had been basking in absolute ignorance of how complex and deadly this affair really is and what bunch of primates totally out of control a good part of human kind truly is.

This documentary movie is an absolute must-be-seen masterpiece. The photography is breath-taking, the plot is thrilling and, because so real, made me absolutely mad, sad and hopeful at the same time. I am not afraid to confess that it made some very deep feelings swell from within and drove me to tears.

Profiteering from shark finning is second only to the traffiking of illegal drugs! A true mafia network is out there colluding with mercenary governments while sharks of all sizes and species are being sterminated and while the rest of the world is busy trying to save other species of animals which do not suffer from such misrepresented and stigmatized identity as the one of sharks.

So here is what you can do to make a world of difference:

1) Watch the movie but make sure you buy an original copy as part of the profits will actually go towards the cause and not in the pockets of the same mafia which is profiteering from shark finning!!!!! Support the cause, get the dvd, show it to people, and help us push the movement to save the oceans. We don’t need to hug trees anymore, we need a revolution, and that necessitates your help.

2) Sign up for Save the Sharks petition.

3) Visit Savingsharks.com


16 April, 2008

Bewitched by Bali

All pictures are thanks to Renaud Wicky Bali Hai Diving Adventures http://www.scubali.com/
Diversity of diving is one notable hallmark of Bali. Be it big fish sightings — such as Mola Molas and mantas; a superb and accessible wreck; or fascinating discoveries with muck diving.

I have been diving in a number of locations in Bali over the years. The fast-and-furious drift dives around Nusa Penida, the wall diving in Menjangan complemented by some superb natural surroundings and the washing-machine experience at Gili Selang. But there is one place I am always eager to go back to: Tulamben.

The two-hour transfer from Denpasar to Tulamben is always filled with all the colors, sounds, scents and flavours which make Bali such a unique destination. The road to Tulamben winds its way through Gianyar, Klungkung and Amlapura. It then climbs up the flanks of Gunung Seraya affording great views of the famous rice terraces and of the imposing volcanic cone of Gunung Agung which, at 3,142 meters, dominates, unperturbed, the local landscape. The most memorable moment during the transfer is, however, when the road reaches a vantage point which affords a spectacular view down the valley; past the emerald-green rice terraces lie the Tulamben coast with its sweep of black cobbled beaches in stark contrast with the countless bright white, blue and red jukungs (local fishing boats) pulled up beneath the trees and the very deep blue waters of the Bali Sea.

I always stay at Scuba Seraya Resort which sits bang in the middle of Tulamben Bay. With a 120-meter shipwreck, a dramatic drop-off reef, rich sand slopes and bank reef to explore and other prominent dive site within easy reach, this place can keep a diver happy for weeks. In reality, Tulamben, is one diving spot where, personally, I will never tire of diving. I really don’t understand divers who say “We have been there already”. This is as illogical as saying you have seen a sunset on a particular beach once, and don’t need to see it from the same place again. We spend only a brief period underwater, usually barely an hour at the time, and the probability that we will see everything of interest in that moment is nonsensical. I have been going diving to Tulamben on a regular basis since 2005 and every time it has been a truly memorable experience.

The resort offers some very comfortable living with all the amenities one would normally expect. Attentive, charming and good humored staff, a good selection of tasty food to keep the energy levels up, a well organized and professionally staffed dive centre…all the things that contribute towards a very pleasant diving experience. However, the one thing that truly makes this place special is the interesting characters you always meet there. Starting with Patrick Shwartz, the founder of SSR, you always end up meeting some fascinating and like-minded individuals with their own unique diving and non-diving stories to share.

Even during the rainy season Tulamben remains a fascinating diving destination while waiting for the east wind to start blowing steadily in April signalling the official start of the southeast monsoon (the dry season).

The only true dive guide to Bali:

12 April, 2008

A Fetish for the Morbid?

You may have noticed that under the heading News from the Deep on the right-hand side of the page you can select to view news about scuba diving accidents.
I am not trying to spoil your fun and I certainly have not developed a fetish for stories about deadly or near-death experiences. The truth is that much can be learnt from other people's mistakes especially when engaging in an activity, like diving, which presents some real potential and life-threatening dangers.
It was with this idea in mind that I picked up a book titled "DIVER DOWN - REAL-WORLD SCUBA ACCIDENTS and HOW TO AVOID THEM" by Michael R. Ange.
One chilling account after the other these are true tales of trouble in the deep with a difference. Unlike most books where the sad events are normally dramatized and laid out to entertain the reader, in this book Michael Ange not only provides a very factual account but also provides a detailed analysis of what went wrong, why it went wrong and how it could have all been prevented.
To put it simply this is not a simple reading book, DIVER DOWN is a unique survival guide that explores the gamut of diving situations, including cave and wreck diving, deep-water dives, river and drift diving, decompression sickness, and much more. So much so that, in my personal diving literature collection, it is actually shelved along with diving manuals.
As far as I am concerned this book should become a feature in every diving instructor, dive master or diving enthusiast's collection. In fact I believe it should become a compulsory reading as part of any scuba diving introductory level course!

08 April, 2008

Everything has to Start Somewhere

I guess if George Mallory had been a deep sea diver instead of a high altitude climber his famous answer would have still been the same: "Because it is there".

Why do I dive?

I am not Mallory and to me it must be more than just because it is there. It is the people I dive with, it is the places where I dive, it is the challenge, the emotions, the technique and sometimes the fear. It is also things that may go back to when I was in my mother's womb and perfectly capable of surviving in fluid without any technical aid; or it may be something even more primordial, something going back to the dawn of time where the first creatures from the sea mutated into amphibians beings capable to survive and prosper both below and above the water line.

So why this blog?

Mallory would have probably said: "Why not?"....... Well said Mr. Mallory! but to me this blog is also an experiment. No matter if you have been diving for a long or a short time, when you go diving, like when you go climbing, you always come across like-minded people, unique individuals with their unique stories to tell and experiences to share or regular folks with a great sense of humor and comraderie. This blog is not intended to be "my" blog but, hopefully, "your" blog too. A meeting place for like-minded people with a passion for the big blue. A platform for sharing experiences, thoughts, humor and dreams that eventually will come true.

In any case..... there you go. If you are interested in becoming an author on this blog let me know. If you want to just make comments to the posts, be my guest. If you just want to browse that's also fine... whatever suits you. From my part I will do my best to keep it current, keep it interesting and, as Ali G would say... Keep it real!

The picture above is of a 6m Whale Shark and was taken while diving at Richelieu Rock, Andaman Sea off the coast of Thailand in February 2007.