08 February, 2009

Thousand Islands not just a Salad Dressing!!

My friend Harvey has recently sent in a brief report and some pics about relaxing and diving in Pulau Seribu aka Thousand Islands in Indonesia.

I quote Harvey's comment: "It is not an outstanding diving area, but very beautiful both above and below the water.
It has a lot of colour, hard and soft corals, but nothing like the variety of fish species you can find in Tulamben.
The main difference is the awesome feeling of tranquility you get sitting on a desert island and just wading out to the reef right in front of you".

Pulau Seribu means a "Thousand Island" consisting of almost 128 small islands located in the Bay of Jakarta in the Java Sea. Most of these are inhabited and can be reach in about 1 - 2 hours from Marina Ancol by ferry or by chartered board. The surrounding reefs are home to a wide variety of fishes, making Pulau Seribu an ideal spot for diving, Snorkeling and fishing. Some of the islands is this group developed for tourism are Pulau Bidadari, Pulau Ayer, Sepa, Coconut, Pelangi, Bira, Pantara, Kul-kul and Pulau Putri. There are also cabins for tourists, besides golden beaches fringed with coconut palms. The surrounding waters are a paradise for skin divers.They are filled with a myriad of tropical fish, which live among the multicolored corals.

Updates from Scuba Seraya

The following is a recent update I received from Patrick Schwartz of Scuba Seraya in Tulamben - Bali
We are in the midst of the rainy season now. Most of the days we face 1 ½ meters wave action and visibility that truly reminds one of Bali – the thick part of Bali Coffee that is! That does not deter our current (and only) long term guests Karel Mestdagh and Sylvie De Burie from jumping back in several times a day and occasionally come back with pretty amazing stories that include – a real first at SSR and probably all of Tulamben – the sighting of dolphins at Deep Secrets.
Apart from that I decided – despite a terrible cash flow – to keep all staff on full employ and redeploy them to other duties, mostly in gardening and environs and renovations to have the resort in top shape by early April when – so I hope – bookings will pick up again.
We recently received a trip report from Judy Gandossi, a Canadian, who stayed at the resort with her family in December. I could not have described my resort better, and if all that Judy writes is true, then it appears that we have, after all, achieved something.
Go to the link below for her full report. You don’t have to read it all, but have a look anyway; it contains a lot of great pictures.
There are more reports from various guests; most notably a new article in the January issue of Ocean Geographic which is equally flattering, by Michael Aw, as well as Jorgen Rasmussen who won this years Underwater Journalist Award at the 35th ‘Festival Mondial De L’Image Sous Marine’ . Incidentally, Michael Aw walked away from this year’s event at Antibes with no less than 3 awards! We are now sorting such reports and will post links to them on our web site and we started work on our forum-like website http://www.serayasecret.com/ which should be coming online soon.
Do keep in touch!
Also do check out this series of tremendous shots taken by Michael Aw while diving in Tulamben!!

Light Up, it could save your life !!!

The following was kindly contributed by Ken Chan of Sandy Bottoms Divers in Hong Kong:
Now, before you run to the nearest corner shop for some cigarettes, read on first.

On our SBD trip to Bali last Christmas, we met a group of divers from the USA. The land that brought us the “Spare-Air”. These divers had all sorts of equipment with them for emergencies. Clearly visible were things like a 3 ltr pony-bottle, large SMB, spool, air-horn and dive-flag. One could only guess what they had in their BCD pockets.

Over the past few years, there have been a number of incidents involving divers “left behind” in the Australasia region. The most famous being the one at the Great Barrier Reef, when two divers were left behind by their boat and the mistake noticed when it was too late. No trace has ever been found of the divers. )The film “Open Water” seems to be based on this incident.)
During April-May 2008 there were three incidents with divers separated from their boats and not found until a few days later. All 3 incidents ( Great Barrier, Tai Wan and Komodo) had happy endings.

How could this happen?

Boats could leave without having done a proper “head count” or it could be that divers surface too far from the boat to be seen/heard (or both). What can you do to prevent being left behind by your boat? In case of the former, get noticed on your boat. When people notice you, it will be more likely you’ll be noticed “missing” during the count.
Don’t go and hit the dive master though, be noticed in a “positive” way.
As for getting separated/left behind, be prepared.

Accidents do, and will, happen. It’s how well prepared you are that will make the difference.
In most of the cases that divers got separated from their boat, a (strong) current played a role. Currents were stronger than expected (Komodo) or went in a different direction than expected (Tai Wan).
A drift-dive can be extremely good fun and I can certainly recommend doing one. Do some research about the dive site though before you go and do one. While there are sites with predictable currents, there are also places where currents can be “unpredictable” and/or “come out of nowhere”. Think twice before you dive there, and if you do…… be prepared.
Do your home work!!! Consider doing the “Drift Diver specialty course”, properly!! (more about that in another article)

So what does that have to do with a cigarette? Nothing at all………….

With “Light Up”, I mean using a dive light. On every dive I will carry a reel/spool, SMB, whistle, small mirror and……………. a dive light. Night AND day !
A dive light comes in very handy when you want to see “true colours” or shine into dark places to get a better look.
It will also help to make yourself visible at night when you want to be seen/noticed by your boat or, touch wood, a search and rescue team.
When S&R teams look for people, divers, lost in the water, most searches will stop once it gets dark. It is very difficult to see people in the water during the day and impossible during the dark hours. Unless………………… you got a light. A light can be seen from far and when a S&R team knows for sure you got a light, it will be more likely that they continue the search. In fact, it would be easier to spot you at night (with your light) then it would be to find you during the day (in most cases).

Most “emergency kit-lists” will have a strobe on them (no not the one for your camera/video). A strobe works great but will only be useful for that purpose alone, not many people are willing to purchase one for that reason. A, small, dive light however can be used as mentioned above and be your back-up light on night dives.
If you dive with a camera/video and strobe(s), you could fire those when you hear a boat/plane at night.

Take note though, having an extra piece of gear does NOT mean you’ll be safe. It’s just another “tool in the toolbox” to help you deal with anything that might happen.
Proper training and Experience are two other major “tools”.
So, on your next dive……….. “Light Up” and “lighten up”, it’s meant to be fun !!!!!

03 February, 2009

Announcing the Biggest Event of the Ocean in the Asia Pacific…

The following post has been kindly contributed by Michael Aw, Director of Ocean Geographic:
Announcing the Biggest Event of the Ocean in the Asia Pacific…
The 8th Celebrate the Sea Festival 2009
12-14 June, Manila Ocean Park, Philippines

A Mardi gras, an International Underwater Imagery Festival, a day to Celebrate!
Manifesting in an official proclamation in 2008 by the President of the Republic of the Philippines, Her Excellency, Gloria Arroyo, declared the month of June to be the Celebrate the Sea month and the second Saturday in every June to be the Celebrate the Sea Day.

Now into its 8th year, the Celebrate the Sea Festival is confirmed for Manila this June and to add greater fervour to the celebration of Philippines 1st official Celebrate the Sea Day.

The success of the festival in 2008 received participation from a global audience of novice and professional competitors, children, nature and ocean lovers, celebrated luminaries such as five times Emmy award winners, Stan Waterman, National Geographic explorer Emory Kristof, founder of the world Underwater Picture Festival Daniel Mercier, five times world record free diving champion Frederic Buyle to name but a few. In collaboration with the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Philippines Commission on Sports Scuba Diving (PCSSD), OceanNEnvironment looks forward to the biggest and most exciting festival ever to be stage in the Asia Pacific.

Adding to the highlights of this year activities, a mardi gras of the ocean’s flora and fauna will be initiated for participation from all the provinces of the Philippines. “This is the first ever mardi gras of the sea and we will make sure that it is the most joyous, filled with fun, music and dancing on the streets of Roxas Boulevard” said Under Secretary Cynthia Carrion. Confirmed to attend for the 2009 festival, are international luminaries and underwater photography legends from National Geographic David Doubilet and Jennifer Hayes, BBC’s Blue Planet & Planet Earth Cinematographer Peter Scoone, deep sea explorer and inventor Phil Nyutten PhD, coral spawning discoverer Carden Wallace PhD and many more associates of the Ocean Geographic Society.

Celebrate the Sea has seen the greatest increase in competitors since its inception in 2002 with over 5500 entries from 38 countries in 2008. The 2009 festival is destined to be bigger and bolder than ever before. The main venue for the 3 days festival from 12 to 14 June is once again the landmark at Manila Bay foreshore, the Manila Ocean Park, the Philippines’ first state-of-the-art Oceanarium comprising of open water marine habitat, boutique mall, and restaurants.

With the Philippine as our role model, being the first ever to declare an official day to celebrate the sea, the primary objective of the festival still remains; to have every country in the world dedicate a day to remember and celebrate the sea- like a Christmas or a New Years day. If and when it is achieved, then most certainly the current dreadful state of the sea will have hope redeemed for the coming generations of humanity. For now, Celebrate the Sea is the biggest underwater picture festival outside of Europe where the ‘World Festival of Underwater Pictures’ (Festival Mondial de l'Image Sous Marine) is staged annually in Antibes, France, now in its 36th year. Celebrate the Sea festival is seen as the dominant platform to promote conservation, marine tourism, providing education and entertainment to create greater awareness of our ocean environment. The world’s best marine images and films have a powerful effect on both the diving and non-diving community.

The 2009 festival will comprise of imagery presentations and seminars by a panel of celebrated underwater luminaries, image makers and marine scientists. One of the principal highlights is the International Underwater film festival; 15 recent award winning features from the World Festival of Underwater Pictures, Antibes will be presented at Celebrate the Sea. There will also be a photo exhibition of benchmarked underwater images by some of the world's best underwater photographers plus all the prints in the competition.

Photographers and films makers, send in your entries now to compete in Asia Pacific's most prestigious international underwater imagery competition where the premier prize is the conferred title of ‘President, Grand Award of Highest Achievement 2008’ with US$2000 as prize money. (www.CelebratetheSea.com). It gets even better if you are visiting the Philippines any time from 15 Feb to 15 May; stay or dive with one of the participating resorts / operators and you will be eligible to enter your pictures in the WOW Philippines Imagery competition.

You will be competing for one of these prestigious titles:
The WOW Award – for the most outstanding image
The Hi Five Award – for the highest scoring or the most well balanced portfolio
The Quick Draw Award – for the best action shot
There will be medals, cash, equipment and holiday package prizes for all categories as well as for the WOW imagery competitors. The cash and holiday prizes for the WOW Imagery competition is sponsored the Manila Ocean Park and supporting sponsors.

All winners qualify as a contender for the ‘President Grand Award of Highest Achievement 2008 with cash prize of USD2000. ROLEX is the main sponsor, supporting the hosting of Rolex’s ambassador. For more info: email cts@oneocean.com; www.celebratethesea.com

· The Celebrate the Sea Festival is a non-profit event funded and produced by OceanNEnvironment Australia and for 2009 the partner and principal sponsors are the Department of Tourism Philippines and PCSSD. From the first to the current Festival, Rolex has been supportive as a major sponsor.

Minus Eight to Tubbataha!

Jessica of Donsol Eco Tour has just alerted me that only 8 places are left aboard of the expedition boat for the adventure diving trip to the Tubbataha Reefs this 24-29 April 2009.

See previous post for details.

If you are planning to join do let me have your response ASAP by e-mail: