SCUBA diving Flicketti

 
Latest diving Flicketti

The war ship was burning almost as much diesel fuel as diesel vehicles in the wholestruggling country. It became a divers' attraction at the end.

A diver walks underwater. Sense of near weightlessness is like a walk on the Moon. Note sidemount tanks (UTD system).

SCUBA diving in Bora Bora. The main attraction is huge lemon sharks. They were abundant on the outer reef.

Reef diving near Varadero, Cuba. The flick shows what you ca see on a typical dive in the area.

Weird wobbegong shark lives mostly around Australia and Indonesia. This footage was shot in Raja Ampat, Indonesia while cruising on Damai II.

Probably one of the most luxurious liveaboards in Asia, Damai II. Flick shot on a Raja Ampat route.

Divers feed fish tying a container with bread to a mooring line. Shot in Moorea, French Polynesia.

A curious turtle encountered on a dive in Bora Bora. It would return to us several times making circles, then "examined" the camera and divers literally touching things.

Cenderawasih Bay, West Papua

Since the animals are sharks, not mammals like whales, it makes them the largest, biggest fish in the world. Gentle GIANTS.  The only thing to watch out is their tail, it can knock you hard. Otherwise, no teeth to bite and they seem to have no interest to divers or snorkelers around. Sometimes there would be 3-4 at the same time at the same platform. 

The largest sharks and fish in the world, however without teeth! Divers can swim around them without fear of being attacked. The sharks get close to the fishing platforms because the platforms' lights attract small fish and other creatures at night. The effect is amplified at new moon. Then they stay around during the day as well.

They get close to the fishing platforms because the platforms' lights attract small fish and other creatures at night. The effect is amplified at new moon. Then the sharks hang around during the day as well. They circle and then get to the platform and suck the small fish (naturally there or thrown by the fishermen) or anything which looks like food, air bubbles or splashing water. Filmed using GoPro 3

The single place to stay onland on a trip to the whale sharks of Cenderawasih Bay. Do not expect much. Liveaboard trips are a more comfortable option for now. We bit the bullet because we wanted to see the sharks and there was no a liveaboard trip at the time of our travel.

Cenderawasih Bay is one of the few spots in the world where whale sharks are almost guaranteed to be seen


Where in the world:
Not close, and not on major routes for sure. It is in West Papua, province of Indonesia on the Island of New Guinea. Getting there will depend how you want to do that, from land or from liveaboard.


How to get there:
There are no resorts in the area. At least nothing you could call a "hotel". You would need to either work out a land operator from Nabire or do a liveaboard. Liveaboard is a MUCH preferred way. We had to do this segment from land and it was not an enjoyable accommodation. We combined this segment within one trip which included liveaboard in Raja Ampat and Baliem Valley. Cenderawasih Bay was our last stop. We found online Kali Lemon "resort".  We had no choice since there were no liveaboards getting into the bay during our specific time. We saw the sharks, but concluded that we would enjoy the experience more getting there on a liveaboard. Lately many companies opened regular routes through the bay.


The sharks: 
Gentle GIANTS. They get close to the fishing platforms because the platforms' lights attract small fish and other creatures at night. The effect is amplified at new moon. Then the sharks hang around during the day as well. We had four at one time. They circle and then get to the platform and start sucking water. You can literally touch them. You can dive or just snorkel. I ended up taking more photo and video snorkeling and free diving.

Rangiroa, French Polynesia

Rangiroa, French Polynesia is a place where you play with wild dolphins while diving. They live around Tiputa pass, a break in the ring of the coral atoll with a strong current. Their behavior is so much resembling dogs! Curious and playful. The dives are either a drift through the pass or, when current is into the ocean, we would hang at the corner where dolphins would come to play in the current.

A reef dive in Rangiroa, French Polynesia. This is what you can encounter while diving around the corner of the Tiputa pass. Healthy hard coral, schools of tropical fish, turtles, octopus, dolphins, andoccasional sharks.

Feeding a turtle in a strong surge.

The video was used in an episode of daily Planet, Discovery channel. The program was about currents and tides and they spotted my flick on YouTube. I gave them permission to use it in the program. 

Drift through Tiputa Pass, Rangiroa. The tides move water in and out of a lagoon 80x30 km size through narrow brakes in the atoll ring - passes. This creates fast rivers in the passes. Divers jump outside the pass and hang in the blue, drifting but not realizing how fast. Then, as they start seeing the bottom, it gets closer and moving faster and faster....

A trip to a part of Rangiroa, coral atoll in the Pacific, where the sand is pink, sharks are abundant and smaller islands are a home for birds, where there are no predators for them. No water except rain, no cellular connection.

An example of what you can see on the reefdiving in Rangiroa.

Another fast drift dive through the Tiputa pass. Rangiroa is a coral ring-like atoll with few passes in the ring for the water to move in and out during the tides. This creates a strong river with water moving either into or from the ocean.

Rangiroa's uniqueness is it fast passes

Rangiroa has two features which put it on the map as one of the best dive sites that we visited: its fast Tiputa pass and wild dolphins curious enough to interact with the divers. Other seasonal features are encounters with mantas and hammerheads. It also has some interesting things on land.

Where in the world:

It is a coral reef atoll further east from Tahiti and Bora Bora. This part of French Polynesia is formed by coral atolls, not volcanic islands like Bora Bora.

There are direct flights from Papeete on large commercial aircraft. Papeete (capital of French Polynesia) has direct flights from many large cities.  You may need only one change of planes.

Where to stay:

There are some smaller places, but for us it was a no brainer, Kia Ora Rangiroa was a luxury resort 15min from all diving spots and a dive shop in the resort. There are overwater bungalows and the setup is similar to Bora or other island in Tahiti. French quisine, good wines. The only disadvantage we spotted was several boats anchored in front of the resort. People sailing either locally or from far stop at the resort. This may change since they were building a marina.

Diving:

Rangiroa atoll forms a huge ring, 80 x 32km with an enclosed lagoon in the middle. Water during tides needs to rush in and out of the lagoon through narrow passes, or breaks in the ring. It is like Niagara, just under water. When you are in that water flow it feels like an underwater roller-coaster! The reef is healthy, plenty of fish, turtles, octopus, but the most remarkable was dolphins!

Dolphins are attracted to the rush of water and they live around the area. They are not afraid of the divers, and you move like them they may start playing with you. We have done dives with trained dolphins, but there is nothing like an interaction with a wild animal. Unforgettable!

The pass on the other side of the resort, Avatoru pass is frequented by the large white tip sharks.

Beyond diving:

Pearl farms, if you are into pearls, much cheaper than Bora or other places. We found an 18mm pearl! Other attractions include a trip to a remote small islands with pink sands. There are was a fishball of sizable black tip sharks there. Generally, shark are plentiful in French Polynesia. No Chinese finning ships allowed!

Sipadan, Malaysia

Sipadan is a well known Mecca of diving. It is one of the best overall dive sites with decent lodging. On a regular dive day you can encounter huge schools of jack fish, barracuda and bumphead parrotfish.

Scuba diving at Sipadan island is one of the best in the world. Large schools of fish forming fish balls, or tornadoes.

Diving around Sipadan Island, the giant bumphead parrotfish.

School of barracuda at the Barracuda Point, Sipadan Island.

Mabul Water Bungalows is built entirely on water, there is no beach or land in its boundaries. It is connected with the Mabul island by a long jetty. It is the most luxurious place to stay for diving Sipadan Island.

Diving with schools of barracuda, turtles and bumphead parrot-fish in the waters of Sipadan island.

Diving on a house reef at Mabul Water Bunglows. 

Sipadan island is one of the best all around diving spot we visited so far.

Where in the world:

The islands belong to Malaysia. They are located East off the island of Borneo. Sipadan island is closed for resorts and divers need to stay on the adjacent islands. Properties around Mabul and Kapalai island are the closest. You would need to fly to Tawau either from Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. Then the resort will drive you to Semporna, where you will be transferred on a boat to the resort. They do not run boats at dark, so time your flights either in the morning or plan to stay overnight if your plane lands late.

Where to stay:

We found that Mabul Water Bungalows was the most luxurious facility. Actually quite luxurious and pleasant. The entire resort is built on stilts, so it is all overwater. They have regular bungalows and three larger bungalows with several rooms. In addition to this resort there are other less expensive places on the island itself (SMART) and around (Kapalai and Seaventures Dive Rig), but at the time when we researched they appeared less attractive to us. You cannot go wrong with Mabul Water Bungalows.

Local diving:

Scheduled boat dives take you around Mabul and Kapalai sites. No currents, warm clear water, easy interesting diving. There is always something to see.The resort offered unlimited house-reef diving, which is actually very good. The place is loaded with smaller creatures and crocodile fish. You can dive as much as your computer allows you. 

Sipadan diving:

You will need a day permit to dive there. The resort buys them in bulk and then your luck depends on how many guests want to go. Eventually it will be your turn. In high season you may have only one day out of 4-5 days to get a chance to dive at Sipadan. So, pick a low season for your visit. Diving is incredible. We were mostly impressed with large schools of fish, either barracudas or jack fish. Very cool to swim through these fishballs. There are also large schools of bump-head parrotfish. They come in indian files. Huge fish, quite impressive if they come right at you. Also tons of turtles. Overall, we think that the place is one of the most interesting out of easy dive sites in the World. It is a must for all divers, especially those who likes relaxed warm diving. Everything was there, from macro life to the large fishballs

UNEXSO, Grand Bahama

Diving show with a trained dolphin in open sea with UNEXSO. Freeport, Grand Bahama.The dolphin does a number of tricks, like kissing posing for photographs, swirls divers in a "washing machine", and several others.

Shark feeding by hand with UNEXSO, Grand Bahama. The divers are in chainmail (steel wire suits) and the SCUBA hoses are in steel sheaths. The sharks push each other to get the food, and some become "friendly" enough. They let pet themselves, and slowly fall into trance (paralysis) when their faces are rubbed by hand. they can be handled like logs in that state.

Shark feeding dive with UNEXSO, Grand Bahama. One of the most exhilarating experiences. The feeders feed sharks from hand, right into the shark's mouth. These strong animals can go into trance or catatonic (paralysis) state when their faces are rubbed by hand.

In our opinion UNEXSO provides pretty much best shark feeding we could find in our research. 

Where in the world:

Freeport, Grand Bahama is actually a 2hr boart ride from Florida. There are direct flights from several large cities in US. You would have to connect there. There are also some seasonal direct charter flights too.

Where to stay:

Our main focus was on diving and we stayed in a resort just across the road from UNEXSO, the Grand Lucayan hotel. It is a standard high rise resort with a private beach. There are other options, possibly more luxurious/boutique, but you would have to drive to UNEXSO.

Diving with UNEXSO:

UNEXSO is one of the oldest SCUBA centers in the world. Not surprisingly, the dives were well organized, safe and unforgettable. Either shark feeding or dolphin dives were well though through and prepared. The staff catered for all or requests and made sure that the divers (mostly not experienced) were safe and could enjoy the show. And what a show! The shark feeders are all dressed in chain-mail. Even the regulator hoses are wrapped in steel tubing. They could feed the sharks from hands. In a matter of minutes the two feeders were surrounded in a fishball of sharks. A spectacle you may never see anywhere else. Remarkably, shark can go catatonic when their faces are rubbed by hands. Their spinal muscles contract and they freeze motionless. In that state they can be handled like logs. Unbelievable and unreal dives. Even for a well traveled diver it was an event. Just do not forget to exhale! People float up from excitement...

Diving with trained dolphins was also fun. We felt that dolphins are like underwater dogs, cheerful, playful and smart. Although they are trained the show itself is in the open sea. They come to the divers, kiss them, spin them, play with them. All perfectly organized and thought through. All dives are in shallow waters, perfectly suitable for people with limited experience.

Reef dives:

UNEXSO is protecting the reef and it is as good as it gets around Bahamas. Not like Fiji or Raja Ampat, but can be enjoyed between the shark and dolphin dives, unless you want to spend more time on the beach. 

Bottom-line is that, as a diver you need to do shark feeding dive at least once, and UNEXSO does it very well, likely better than anywhere in the world. They also offer a shark feeding course. You can learn to feed the sharks!