July 2016 – Trip Report – Mexico

Celine and Anna were in Caribbean Mexico for a destination wedding but diving was also high on the list of things to squeeze in…

 

img_9695-1Anna and I were heading to Mexico for a wedding, and although I was yet to complete my Ocean Diver qualification, I was determined not to miss the opportunity to go diving while we were there.  I spent quite some time researching dive centres in Playa Del Carmen, and found one I instantly liked among the many I contacted.  Blue Life Diving were totally understanding of my position as a novice diver, who’s never been diving in the sea, and who is yet to complete my qualification, which was a big help for my nerves.

Fast forward a few months and I found myself in Stoney Cove twice in the one week doing my last Ocean Diver sign off, and also practicing some skills that would probably be of use to me in Mexico – Thanks to our fab trainers for helping me get it completed in time!  BSAC were also equally as fab in turning my qualification card around in 6 days for me to take with me.

The plan was to squeeze in at least one days diving in the weeks were were there.  On my first day, I was diving with just a dive guide, Leo.  After spending some time going through kit, talking about what to expect on the boat and from the dives, we strapped all our kit to ourselves and walked the 200 yards to the beach to meet the boat.  The boat has all the cylinders and weight on board so we didn’t have anything too heavy to carry.

img_9651Our first dive was on a reef called Moc-Che which would see us diving between 7 and 15m on a slow current.  All kitted up, and sat on the side of the boat, it was time to backwards roll in and off we went!  The view on descent was amazing, the visibility was immense and warm water was lush, although the current made me a little wobbly to begin with.  I soon forgot about that as there was just so much to see along the reef; coral formations, fish, moray eels, and more.  Within the first few minutes we saw a massive Spotted Eagle ray which taught me a fabulous lesson; if you swim at it wanting to get a closer look, it invariably swims off!  Still, it was a amazing to see and set the tone for the whole dive.  The reef was amazing, with lots of little inlets where even more life gathered including lion fish, parrot fish, trumpet fish, sponges, crabs and so much more.  Towards the end of the dive there was an arch to swim through where tons of porkfish and grouper had collected. Forty eight minutes went by so quickly!

Max depth 16m
Total dive time 48mins
Safety Stop – 6m for 3 mins
Water temp 29degrees (nope not kidding!)
Surface interval 56mins

Back on the boat, sea sickness totally got me at that point, which wasn’t pleasant (no one warned me about this!)  I spent the surface interval staring at the land and sipping water, but I was feeling better so onto the next dive.

img_9647Second dive was along the Cerebros reef, where we would be diving between 6 to 12m.  Again, the reef life was amazing, with some huge Angelfish, spotted Moray and loads of lobsters, crabs and shrimp.  During the dive, Leo had said we would swim away from the reef, across the sand to find a sunken statue that was placed there to bless the waters and reefs along this section of coastline.  This is where we crossed paths with a Barracuda which thankfully didn’t seem to mind us being there.  We swam around the amazing shell statue a couple of times, and then headed back to the reef and to finish the dive.

Max depth 13m
Total dive time 45mins
Safety Stop – 6m for 3 mins
Water temp 29degrees (still!)

img_9677A couple of days later I was back with Blue Life, this time to do a deeper first dive, on the Tortugas reef (Tortugas being mexican for ‘Turtle’!). There were two other pairs on the dive boat with us that day, as Tortugas reef offers intermediate ~20m diving as well as deeper sections up to ~40m.  Lots of sea grass and massive barrel sponges lined the reef at the 20m area, with some huge Angel fish, Yellowtail Jack and Tarpon swimming around them.  However, it was the hawksbill turtles that were the star of the show in this dive! We didn’t see loads of them, which surprised Sarah (todays guide), but they were stunning.  In fact, I was so taken back after seeing the first one, I drifted over a large coral/sponge formation and came pretty much face to face with a 3m green moray eel who had decided to exit its hidey hole just at that point. Back on the boat, again feeling sea sick (why had no one warned me about this!?) but we spent the surface interval at the shore, so we all got off and cooled down in the water which helped.

Max depth 24m
Total dive time 40mins
Safety Stop – 6m for 3 mins
Water temp 30degrees (I’m now sweating underwater)
Surface interval 1hr 14mins

freeswimming_giant_green_moray_eelSecond dive today was on Sabalos reef, a shallow reef between 7 and 12m with amazing coral formations and some fabulous colourful Snapper, Triggerfish and Doctorfish.  By this point I was really starting to get the hang of the slow drift on the current and found I could steer myself a lot better to see things hidden in the corals and the reef walls.  I was also able to spend more time with my camera pointing at things rather than tying to use it as some sort of balance aid.

Max depth 14m
Total dive time 44mins
Safety Stop – 6m for 3 mins
Water temp 30degrees (I honestly don’t have my shower this hot)

By this point in our holiday, Anna was pretty bored of hearing me go on and on about diving, and was keen to get out to see some sea life as well, so we both went on a snorkelling trip to Akumal beach.  Akumal beach is famed for its green turtles, which we spent an hour snorkelling with, just a 20m swim from the shore.  Although there were a fair few other people there, it was still a magical experience.  After the beach our trip also took us deep into the Mexican jungle, to a Cenote; a fresh water hole in the ground.  We got to jump in and swim around the stalactites and stalagmites in the cold, but amazingly fresh water. After spending the day in the 40 degree sun, the water was just what we needed!  I think it was this evening that Anna had her epiphany and decided she was going to become a diver as well.

Oh, and the wedding was also amazing; on the beach in the evening sun, frozen cocktails, sunset.  We would definitely return to this part of Mexico again, as there is so much to do, and so many dive sites to explore – Hopefully next time we will both be diving!14500338_10157483094305257_9073863225373179790_o

 

January 2016 – Trip Report – Mauritius

Phil Bradley and his partner Dawn travelled to Mauritius in January of this year, here is his trip report.  SPOILER ALERT – it will make you yearn for the Indian Ocean!

 

My partner Dawn and I booked a holiday and headed for some sun on the beautiful island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. Our expectations were high as our only other visit to the Indian Ocean (the Maldives) was fantastic.

We had booked into a small boutique hotel in Pereybere, on the northwest side of the island, with the most beautiful beaches on the island. We settled into our room with a courtesy bottle of champagne on the balcony overlooking the ocean.

Mauritius dive trip jan 16 philThe following day we went in search of a dive school. We found a professional looking school almost opposite our hotel (http://www.basediving.net/en). The school was indeed very professionally  run (and owned) by a friendly and very experienced PADI course director Barlen.  Joined by his wife Fi, who ran the shop and administration side of the business, Berty the dive instructor and Madlen the dive guide and boat driver.

 

Our first dive was a reef dive ……….. the water was warm and clear but compared to the Maldives it was disappointing, the reef was small and the fish life was both small and scarce. Over the following days we dived every other day, getting in two dives before a nice lunch overlooking the ocean.

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Once our expectations had been recalibrated, we thoroughly enjoyed the diving, the reefs were colourful and we found some excellent subjects for our camera lenses.

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Surprisingly there are not many wrecks around the area, but we did dive on one that was a 20 minute boat ride away.

On the reefs we found many beautiful coloured leaf fish, morays. On one particular dive site we regularly found turtles resting amongst the coral beds and we were able to spend considerable time observing them and taking copious photographs.

 

mauritiusphil5Over the course of the holiday we did 14 dives which we thoroughly enjoyed as well as spending many hours touring the beautiful island of Mauritius.  Whilst we are in some of these beautiful places we privileged to visit it is nice to take in some of the local culture. At the time we were visiting the locals came to the end of their fasting period and had a festival to celebrate, which we visited in the adjacent village.

The Mauritian people of a mixture of cultures, Indian, French and….. but are exceptionally friendly and very welcoming of the English, due to our colonial history.

 

 

Not only is Mauritius beautiful below the water but also on top, it had many areas of beautiful mountains and forest.

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