Posted by: francesco | April 24, 2011

DIVING IN MALDIVES

Me and Liz already went there last year when I still didn’t know anything about diving, and a posteriori I may say that snorkeling few meters away from the beach of Chaya Dhonveli could’ve been the first push towards my underwater journey, such an exciting experience it was.

We were somwhere on the water villas on top-right

With the memory of the splendid waters we decided to go once again, but this time “upgrading” a little our stay. As we did the first time again we booked through Vermillion, that I strongly suggest due to its variety of choices and the very good customer service. The resort this time is the Medhufushi Island Resort, a so called 5 stars.

No, that's not our villa, that's the Spa

I can’t complain at all, but considering all what you take into account when organizing an holiday I’m sure next time (because there will be a next time) we’ll go back to Chaya: at the end we go to Maldives to relax and enjoy the beach, the water and the marine life. These three things do not depend on how many stars the resort has… The only thing we care (Liz more than me) is that we have to enjoy the FOOD; which in Chaya is great, if you compare it to the difference in price with this other resort!

But let’s go back to the dives now!

The diving center is belonging to the Werner Lau chain and everybody is extremely professional. The divemasters Sammi and Elsa (you can check on them here) are really cool and I wish them all the best for their project of opening in the southern Spain their own center.

The diving center

Within the luck of diving in Maldives I’ve been quite unlucky tough: there are 29 different sites that can be reached from the resort, some are for easy dives, some for drift dives and some for current dives.

Current dive!!! I want it!!! The first day I subscribe it right away, but the guy at the shops looks at my logbook and says “I don’t think you have enough experience to do it, it is better to start with an easy one and see how your skills are”.

I think, pity but ok, there will still be tomorrow!

I go for my dive at MANTA&MORE (courtesy of Werner Lau):

During the season from May to December Mantas can almost always be sighted with their offspring, busying themselves around the numerous cleaning stations at 10 – 15 metres. OF COURSE I WAS THERE IN FEB AHAH!!! (ndr)

The gentle slope from 15 – 30 metres is adorned with coral formations and is the home of barracudas, napoleons, sharks and tunas. This spot is a natural meeting ground for numerous other big fish.

In ideal currents it is a dream to dive here.

You can read more about it here.

It is an amazing experience, the visibility is maybe 25m and I feel like I don’t want to come up, it is too beautiful!!!

But after 45mins of bottom time it’s already time for the safety stop.

Manta & More

At the end of the dive Sammi tells me that yes, I can join the current dive, if I’m lucky to get one the day after. But I’m not, sigh! There will be another easy dive for me. This also because I want to spend some time with my wife as well, so I limit myself to one dive per day.

The Manta I didn't see...

The next dive is TRIPLE ROCK (courtesy of www.scubaplex.com) :

Triple Rock consists of three small Giris at west of Medhufushi. At about 10 meters, eaves are going up to the east. To the southeast there is a plateau with large coral formations 15 meters. Macro photography lovers will be delighted with what you can find on this site. In this magnificent area live schoals of fish, from fusiliers, surgeon fish to king mackerel. Here you can see all kinds of fish. In central Giri you can find soft corals and clams killer.

Triple Rock

I realized only at the end that the hoze of my BCD was disconnected for the whole duration of the dive… Well, it was a great exercise for buoyancy control, no?

Well, up to Feb 2011 these two dives have been the best ever, and for sure I’ll be back to try the current dive, maybe in a liveaboard, who knows…

final vote: 9/10

Posted by: francesco | April 15, 2011

BUY GEAR ONLINE

Do you want to have a new gear but Dubai made you lazy and you want your ass to stick to the sofa?

Well, just visit www.scubauae.com and buy from there ;)

Posted by: francesco | April 11, 2011

ADVANCED OPEN WATER

October and November have been extremely busy months, I didn’t have the chance to go diving at all. Anyway in this middle eastern area winter is not exactly the period to enjoy the best dives of the year.

However, it is the best period to take some course without the stress of being always on a sardines-can-boat. So, it’s time to go down to 30m!

After checking around for the right dive center where to take my new license, I opted for Arabian Divers in Ras Al Khaimah.

The reason is that among the 5 specialties I want to take wreck diving, and this is the closest spot to reach the MV DARA.

MV Dara on fire

MV Dara on fire

This wreck apparently represents the worst peacetime maritime disaster after the Titanic, with 236 deaths.

Only two days ago UAE was celebrating the 50th anniversary from when it sunk (read about it on The National).

To know more about the ship history just check out here.

The specialties I took are the following:

- Peak performance buoyancy

- Deep dive

- Wreck dive

- Underwater navigator

- Underwater naturalist

Now… Everybody knows that the AOW is the most useless course, that you need to do just because you want to go down to 30m and that while taking it the most common thought you have is “PADI is a money making machine”.

Notwithstanding this, I have to say that PPB was really useful; for the first time I have been able to control my path using exclusively my lungs, and I was surprised by finding myself staring at fishes and corals staying still few centimeters from them.

Moreover, my first wreck dive was something extremely exciting: once reached the top of the MV Dara, I didn’t realize at all where I was standing, I just thought to be on the seabed. Then, a wall of metal appeared below my fins, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Amazing. Pity for the visibility, about 3m only.

Underwater naturalist: epic fail. Better to get some books and some dives to know how to recognize what you’re looking at.

The dive sites where all this happened were:

- Snapper Alley

- Al Hamra (it must not be that famous if I’m not even able to get a link for it)

- Mina Saqr (crap link, so again not the best spot for diving)

- MV Dara

As I said, the visibility was very bad due to the period of the year that I chose to take this course (my mistake), but still diving a wreck was a great experience and in the end it was good fun. Arabian divers are fairly professional, unfortunately they don’t enjoy one of the best dive spots on earth, so probably they get bored. And it shows.

final vote: 7/10

Posted by: francesco | April 4, 2011

DIBBA ROCK

In UAE we have a nice rewards program, with a wrong name, called Airmiles that have nothing to do with frequent flying.

You can redeem vouchers for supermarket shopping, electronics, cinemas, restaurants… dives… :)

The diving center participating in this program is Freestyle Divers (link) in Dibba. Wether Dibba is in UAE or in Oman I’ll never understand.

Anyway, since I’m full of these Airmiles let’s try to dive for free!

I involve in the day trip my colleague Marco, who’s as passionate as me about diving.

Dibba rock

Dibba Rock

As soon as we reach the place we understand why they have to participate in the program in order to increase the affluence:

Even though they organize trips in Musandam over the weekends, for day trips they count EXCLUSIVELY on Dibba Rock, a dive site just in front of the diving center, that we reach in 5 minutes by boat.

There is no divemaster guiding us around, on the contrary we are told to enter the water and to “follow that direction”. Consequently loosing energies and air below the surface before reaching the reef.

Moreover half of the dive is spent at 3 meters depth (with a maximum depth of 12m) and in more than one occasion I stand and surface :/

But not all is bad, the visibility is pretty good (September), there’s plenty of turtles including a “resident” without a leg and one passage very nice where the reef makes a wall all of a sudden taking you down in free fall. That was cool!!

Dive description (courtesy of Wannadive):

CHARACTERISTICS

Dibba Rock Turtle

Dibba Rock Turtle

Average depth  6 m / 19.7 ft

Max depth 12 m / 39.4 ft

Current Low ( < 1 knot)

Visibility Medium ( 5 – 10 m)

QUALITY

Dive site quality Good

Experience CMAS * / OW

Bio interest Outstanding

DIVE TYPE

- Drift dive
- Sharks
- Big fishes
- Reef

DIVE SITE ACTIVITIES

- Marine biology
- Children dive
- Night dive
- First dive
- Dive training
- Snorkeling / Free diving
- Orientation
- Photography

 

 

Didn’t see any shark unfortunately :( Perfect site for Open Water courses and beginners.

 

final vote: 6/10

Posted by: francesco | April 1, 2011

SCUBA BOARD

Every Thing You Always Wanted to Know About SCUBA DIVING But Were Afraid to Ask is in these forums.

Enjoy!

Posted by: francesco | March 30, 2011

DIVE IN KOH TAO (THAILAND)

Even if my wife is Thai, it seems like I’m going to Bangkok more often then her to visit our kid who’s temporarily staying with his grandparents. He’ll join us in Dubai the coming summer. Inshallah.

I love him very much, but I can’t keep on going there without taking as well the chance to start visiting one of the most sought after underwater paradises.

Said and done. I’m so excited about it that I make the unfortunate mistake of telling my friend Gianpaolo about my plan. The day after him and the wild animal under the name of Alessandro already booked the ticket to join me.

GREAT, you’d say… NO WAY! They’re not divers, or yes they dive but into clubs at night, under skirts maybe, not under water. And Koh Samui, where we’ll be staying, is homeland to party in Thailand.

It is going to be a though long weekend.

We are staying at the Chaweng beach, the Party Central of Samui, if you want to understand what I mean just take a look here.

I soon understand that my salvation can come only from the fact that to reach Koh Tao in time for the morning dive I have to wake up when my friends will go to bed, so after enjoying a dinner together and few drinks at the Muay Thai stadium, I leave them in hell and go to bed. Yes darling, alone.

Muay Thai Stadium

Muay Thai Stadium

The following morning at 6 I’m already waiting for the bus, that takes me to the catamaran to Koh Panghan first and finally Koh Tao. Total trip: 2 and a half hours.

The Easy Divers diving center is… easy and laid back. The dive master as soon as we access the boat asks us not to go to the tip of the boat, which is a sacred place for prayers.

She, a half Thai half Swedish girl, explains about the two sites (courtesy of Asia dive sites):

Chumpon pinnacle:

Situated around 11km to the northwest of Koh Tao is one of the better regarded dive sites in the area. It consists of one large main pinnacle with several more smaller ones surrounding it, rising from depths of around 35 to 15 meters. There are large underwater plateaus rich in branch corals, sea whips and barrel sponges and an exceptional presence of reef inhabitants and pelagic visitors. Chumphon Pinnacle is where you are most likely to spot the seasonally visiting whale sharks and occasionally manta rays.

Chumpon Pinnacle

Chumpon Pinnacle

Depth: 14 – 35m

Visibility: 5 – 25m

Currents: Can be strong

Getting there : Boat 45 mins

Best months: April/May

Twin Peaks:

On the far side of Koh Nang Yuan starting at around 5 meters below the surface and dropping to a depth of 18 metres is Twin Peaks or just “Twins”. This is an ideal site for beginners due to its depth and ease of navigation. The rocks are embedded into white sand and there is no shortage of marine life here. A friendly pair of rare saddleback clownfish and be found to the western side of the larger of the Twins.

Twins

Twins

Depth: 8 – 18m

Visibility: 5 – 20m

Currents: Weak

Getting there : Boat 10 mins

Best months: April/May

The dive sites are amazing, the water crystal clear and the variety of fishes is impressive. For the first time, along with the usual colorful reef fishes, I see big sized ones like groupers.

Chumpon Pinnacle

Chumpon Pinnacle

The only black dot in this dives is that down there I spotted as many divers as fishes, and once at the surface the boats waiting were so many that we struggled to find ours. However, this is the price of the popularity, and if a site is so popular there must be a reason, isn’t it?

final vote: 9/10

Posted by: francesco | March 27, 2011

OMAN TRIP

Everything now feels so new. The desire of starting proper dives without the interruption of exercises, scenarios and so on is great.

I am very lucky to live in Dubai from where in one and a half hour drive I can reach several nice dive spots, from Oman or Fujairah on the Indian Ocean to the Musandam on the Gulf Coast.

But what I lack is a buddy. None of my friends dives, and at this stage I’m still not well introduced into the diving community. Only several months after this moment I will start discovering that many of my colleagues or customers share the same passion with me…

Not to talk about my wife: she doesn’t even want to hear about trying, she is simply terrified, not by drowning under tons of water or by being eaten by a school of shark (which still is acceptable) but by the fact the SHE CAN SEE THINGS THAT SHE DOESN’T WANNA SEE. Mh. At least I think this is what I understood.

Anyway, the friend of a friend of my friend has a friend who dives which makes the perfect buddy to start, so here we go, we get with us few more friends for snorkeling and we reach Dibba.

At Discover Nomad diving center everybody is ready, waiting for us since as always we got lost; this time in a sheep stuffed village in the middle of the rocky mountains, next to the wonderful Six Senses Hideaway. At least I think it is wonderful, I’ve never been in, but since I’m curious I checked the website.

Valeria, my buddy, has to make a quick refresh since after getting her open water centuries ago she never dived again. And it shows. I’m not in the position to show off with 0 dives in my log book after the license, but at least when the boat reaches the dive site I have with me a wet suit :)

The dive sites of today are Lima Rock North and Ras Marovi.

Lima Rock location

Some general info about these two sites (courtesy of http://www.arabiahorizons.com):

LIMA ROCK – NORTH

  • LOCATION: This Island is outside from the mainland which is 20.5 nm @ 029 degrees from Dibba port of Oman.
  • TYPE OF DIVE SITE:     It is a wall combination of slopes with lots of nice corals.
  • DEPHT:10 – 25 meters
  • MARINE LIFE:There are so many things to see in the area such as turtle, sting ray scorpion fish, devil fish, stone fish, electric ray. Shoal of fishes that can be seen around the island are jack fish, fusiliers and parrot fishes which is located in the shallow area.
  • TEMPERATURE:22 – 26 degree Celsius
  • VISIBILITY:5 – 10 meters
  • REMARKS:This island has a beautiful reef but beware of the current on each tip of the rocks which could lead to some danger. Check the current first before your dive entry to avoid any potential problems.

RAS MAROVI

  • LOCATION: This dive site is separate from the mainland which is 21.2 nm @ 021 degrees from Dibba port of Oman.
  • TYPE OF DIVE SITE:The north east of this Island is wall. And in the west coast is a beautiful
  • slope w/ nice soft corals.
  • DEPHT:10 – 35 meters
  • MARINE LIFE:There is a different kind of shoal of fishes such as barracuda, jack fish, fusiliers, parrot fishes, sting ray, turtle and you might find sea horse as well.
  • TEMPERATURE:22 – 26 degree Celsius
  • VISIBILITY:5 – 15 meters
  • REMARKS:There are some current in the channel which came from the north. Start your dive entry at the north side of this island and go with the current either on the left or in the right side of the reef.

The visibility is very good (about 15m), the dive master who leads us around the reef is very competent (and good looking) and she doesn’t miss to spot a single interesting marine life: from clown fishes in their anemones, to box fishes, angel fishes, turtles and so on. We reach the max of 18m depth but the sites are around 25.

Again Lima Rock

Corals are really colorful, particularly in Lima Rock and the shape of the reef itself makes it very interesting to be followed.

The current is pretty weak, which makes it a perfect easy dive to start. Of course my buoyancy control at this stage is still funny, I guess, I keep on inflating and deflating the BCD trying unsuccessfully to find the perfect balance, but the fun is immense.

When back on the boat princess Valeria gets her gear off and starts chit chatting with the snorkelers. I kindly offer my help to dismantle her equipment. Grunt.

Knowing that the wonders I had the chance to see are just a small portion of what can amaze me down there I can’t wait to get another opportunity like this. Seeing other divers from above instead, tells me: soon you should start looking for an advance license! Will do.

final vote: 08/10

Posted by: francesco | March 24, 2011

INTERMISSION #1

A summary of my virst Vespa trip as I mentioned in the post “HOW DID I GET INTO THIS?”

Posted by: francesco | March 23, 2011

OPEN WATER!

Back to the sun, today 07/08/10 is THE day. Diving in open waters, reaching 18m depth, be a certified diver.

Preparing for the first dive in open waters

The dive site is Koversada, few minutes by bus from the diving center… crossing a naturist camp!

Basically you can see on one side of the bus butts, boobs and more dangling up and down, and on the other people overdressed in wet suit sweating to get the gear on.

What a scene!

First giant step, first thermocline, first feeling of freedom under the water!!!

Now that I have few dive sites in my log book I must say that this Koversada was nothing special at all, poor visibility, poor range of marine life and of course me I was more concentrated on avoiding crashes on the reef and basically on SURVIVING :) than on having fun.

But still, something happened; the feeling of calm and relax, the muffled noise, the fact that actually there is a completely different world awaiting to be discovered, the fact that everybody helps each other and takes responsibilities, the social part before and after the dive… All of this and much more got me, right away.

I must thank as well the instructor, Michel Shoenmaekers (no, not Michael Shumacher, that’s another sport), who helped to start up the passion!

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