Destination Guide for Diving the World

September 27th, 2009

 

 

 

Diving is available in many places around the world. Great oceans surround many countries offering excellent diving of all kinds. Travelling to these countries offers a unique experience that many only dream about and something that will stick with you for the rest of your life.

 

We have compiled a very extensive list of diving locations around the world. Each page offers information about diving the area, such as visibility, what you’ll see underwater, water temperature, best time to dive, passport information, currency, etc. This information can help you to decide on a place to visit as well as give you valuable information on what to expect when you get there

Cave Diving on Merritts Mill Pond

October 4th, 2009

by David Miner

Map to the Mill Pond

Map to the Mill Pond

Merritts Mill Pond is located just outside Marianna, Florida in the Panhandle part of the state. It is easily accessed via I-10 from either the east or west.

Merritts Mill Pond is over four miles of crystal clear water, beautiful cypress trees, and steep hills lining its banks. The Pond’s beauty can only be measured in geological time periods because at times you feel as if you returned to the times of the dinosaurs when nature was untouched and unmarked by human existence. There are some homes on its banks and many other signs of human interaction, but Merritts Mill Pond is still an extremely beautiful place.

A man made damn at the southern end of the pond creates Merritts Mill Pond. Jackson Blue Spring, a first magnitude spring on the northern end of the pond, creates the lake effect from the thousands of gallons of water flowing out of the ground and being stopped by the damn. Sand, hydrilla, and cypress trees and stumps makeup the bottom of the pond and provide the vibrant white, green, and brown colors that contrast beautifully with the clear blue water.

The land that surrounds Jackson Blue Spring and the Mill Pond creates its watershed, which extends into Alabama. It is approximately fifty percent agriculture and fifty percent forest, clay hills, and limestone at or near the surface. All of the springs on the Mill Pond are tributary to the Chipola River. Unfortunately, due to the amount of agriculture in the area, water tests at Jackson Blue Spring and the Mill Pond confirm the second highest concentration of nitrates of any first magnitude spring in Florida. It is estimated that the water flowing out of Jackson Blue Spring has flowed underground for approximately 17 years. This means that if nitrate intrusion is reduced in the watershed area, that it will not have any impact on the Mill Pond for nearly 17 years! Nevertheless, the Mill Pond is a place of tranquil beauty and home to some of the best cave diving anywhere.

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Diving Santa Barbara’s Channel Islands

October 4th, 2009

A Lush, but Chilly Experience
by David Miner

For my fifteenth birthday, my parents fulfilled my extreme desire to scuba dive by paying for my open water certification. How lucky was I to be beginning my underwater journey, which has now spanned 20 years, at such a young age. Living in Florida, with water all around, made the diving possibilities endless.

My open water instructor was from California and constantly talked about what it was like diving off the California coast in the lush kelp forests. I listened intently, but my passion was more for the warm tropical waters in Florida that nourished the rich coral reefs. But, the more I heard about diving in California, the more it intrigued me, especially diving in Giant Kelp, so the seed was planted in my brain and California kelp diving was added to the “to do” diving list. Who new at the time, but it would take 20 years before I finally plunged into a California kelp forest, and it was well worth the wait.

The Channel Islands off California’s coast are some of the most spectacular untouched islands in the world. There are a total of eight islands in this Southern California area that extend approximately 160 miles from Point Conception to San Diego. Five of these islands make the Channel Islands National Park, including San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, and Santa Barbara island. Each of these islands is special unto itself, each supporting unspoiled coastlines and species of wildlife found nowhere else on earth. The islands are nothing more than rugged peaks and cliffs of rock popping straight out of the Pacific Ocean. Seawater splashes at their bases forming sea caves, blowholes, and small rock islands. Colonies of sea birds, seals, and sea lions populate many areas of the islands. During whale season, just offshore, you can encounter Grey, Humpback, and massive Blue whales. This is only what you see at the surface, because as soon as your head dips below the water, an array of sea life, different from anything you’ve seen, comes into view.

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Islamorada Diving and more

October 4th, 2009

by David Miner

Islamorada is located in the Florida Keys approximately a quarter of the way down A1A towards Key West between mile markers 85 and 80 or so. Islamorada is known for its fishing, shopping, good restaurants, and quality hotels/resorts. But Islamorada also offers fantastic diving opportunities. Dive sites are within four miles from shore and include primarily reefs and wrecks. A spectacular coral reef runs down the entire Florida Keys coast offering some of the best diving in the U.S. The Gulf Stream runs just offshore providing the nutrient-rich water that helps to sustain the coral gardens and keeps the water very clean offering excellent visibility that can range from 50 to 100 feet.

Islamorada reef dive sites include Alligator Reef that has a great shallow section dive (8 to 20 feet deep) where some of the best fish populations of any reef in the Keys reside and a deeper section (50 to 80 feet deep) where large Grouper, turtles, Snook, rays, and other larger species roam. Crocker Reef, which has a fantastic 6 to 12+ foot ledge where sightings of turtles and large rays is not uncommon. Crocker Reef depths range from 50 to 80 feet deep in the deeper section and 10 to 30 feet deep in the shallow section. Hens and Chickens Reef, which is a shallow dive (8 to 15 feet deep) with an assortment of fish and large patches of reef structure.

Alligator Reef

Alligator Reef

One of the other most popular dive sites in Islamorada is the 269-foot long shipwreck of the Eagle. The Eagle was a tire transport ship that was sunk as an artificial reef in 110 feet of water. During Hurricane Georges in September of 1998, the Eagle broke into two pieces. Lying on its side, the Eagle is a spectacular dive offering sightings of Goliath Grouper, huge rays, green morays, large schooling Permit, and gigantic Tarpon. You never know what you’re going to encounter when you descend on the Eagle, making every dive different and exciting. The Eagle is a must dive in the area!

Islamorada offers some of the best of everything when traveling to the Florida Keys. If you’re looking for a diving vacation where you can shop, eat well, fish, and enjoy nightly entertainment, then Islamorada is a perfect spot. Plan your trip early and allow enough time to take in everything Islamorada has to offer.

Diving the Cay Sal Bank

October 4th, 2009

by David Miner

The Cay Sal Bank is situated just 30 miles north of Cuba and 60 miles southeast of the Florida Keys, between Andros Island, the Bahamian Islands, and Cuba. It is a member of the Bahamas, but there are no facilities of any kind on any of the islands. The Cay Sal Bank is the most remote area of the Bahamas, which is why the Bahamian defense force doesn’t even patrol the area. It is left to the U.S. Coast Guard to patrol these waters for drug and smuggling operations.

The entire Cay Sal Bank is about 37 by 53 nautical miles and approximately 140 nautical miles in circumference forming a dramatic limestone plateau. There are about 100 small islands in total with eight of them being named. The eight named islands are Dog Rocks, Muertos Cays, Deadman Cays, Double Headed Shot Cays, Elbow Cay, Cay Sal, Anguilla Cay, and Daenas Cays.

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Adrift off West Palm Beach Florida

October 4th, 2009

Drift diving in the mighty Gulfstream with Pura Vida Divers!
by David Miner

What do a nutrient-rich current, crackling clear blue water, rich coral reef, warm water, large pelagics, many sea turtles, great wrecks and ledges, and photo-rich opportunities all have in common? Drift diving in the beautiful waters off Palm Beach County Florida.


Photo: Steve Straatsma

The Palm Beaches stretch from Riviera Beach south to Lake Worth on the east coast of Florida and comprise an area where the mighty Gulfstream current runs closer to shore than anywhere else along the state. What does this mean? This means that clear, nutrient-rich, warm water feeds the reefs and brings critters that are seen nowhere else in Florida. The current runs north and can range in velocity anywhere from 1 to 3+ knots. This constant flow of clear blue water often provides visibility in the 50 to 100 foot range and provides a unique and fun way of diving, called drift diving. Drift diving is a technique where all divers are dropped at the same time along with a dive master who is carrying a tethered surface marker. All divers drift together along the reef, while the boat above follows the tethered marker on the surface. When the dive is complete, all divers surface to the waiting boat. Drift diving can be very exciting and relaxing. Allowing the current to carry you along, only using your fins to steer, makes for effortless diving.

The Palm Beach area offers a variety of diving opportunities from the popular Breakers Reef and Juno Ledges to the wreck of the Mitzpah and a corridor of four wrecks called The Corridors. There are also many other sections of reef and ledges providing excellent diving, such as Breakers South, Fourth Window, Double Ledges, Undercut Ledge, and 100 foot Caves, just to name a few. Divers of all skill levels can enjoy the variety of diving West Palm Beach has to offer.

Photo: Jeff Nelson

For our dives in the area, we chose to use Pura Vida Divers, a dive shop and charter that operates out of the Singer Island area. Sirena, a 30-foot United States Coast Guard-certified Island Hopper, equipped for up to 12 divers, departs the Riviera Beach Marina daily for the short trip out to the reefs and wrecks. Pura Vida Divers is a full-service dive shop offering PADI dive training, equipment service, and all of your gear needs. Sirena is a safe and comfortable dive boat offering an array of amenities including a freshwater shower, shampoo, conditioner, sun block, towels, marine head, CD Player, fresh seasonal fruit, a variety of snacks, and refreshments including soda and bottled water. Sirena is also equipped with a wide dive platform and two Christmas tree-style ladders for easy on and off the boat, DAN Charter Boat Oxygen Unit, first aid kit, and an extensive save-a-dive kit. Your comfort and diving fun is their top priority!

Photo: Debi Buck


Photo: Dean Shuler


Photo: Debi Buck

Diving West Palm is unique due to the proximity of the Gulfstream current, the very short boat rides to the dive sites, and the ability to drift along with the current. The reefs are magnificently alive with an amazing array of corals, tropical fish, sponges, schooling grunts and spadefish, green and spotted moray eels, goliath grouper, nurse sharks, lemon sharks, occasional hammerheads, lobster, and a variety of invertebrates. The ledges can range from 2 to 15 feet tall with deep undercuts and swim-throughs and also offer the opportunity for great critter pictures or if you’re a hunter, spearfishing opportunities.

The wrecks are covered with extensive growth and provide a rich experience with many marine critters as well. Giant barracuda hover just above the wrecks, goliath grouper cruise the superstructure looking for their next meal, and reef sharks scoot by without acknowledging your presence. Due to the number of hurricanes that rampaged the area over the past two years, many of the wrecks have undergone damage. Some have been broken up with pieces scattered in many directions. There are still large sections of wreck superstructure to enjoy, but they’re not as intact as they were just a few years ago.

One of the greatest and most frequent encounters you’ll have on any dive in West Palm is with a sea turtle. Almost every dive we did, we encountered one of the four species of turtles that live in this area. Four of the world’s seven species of turtles can be seen diving these rich waters. Hawksbill turtles, Green turtles, Loggerhead turtles, and Leatherback turtles frequent the waters just offshore. Hawksbills and Loggerheads are the most common, but if you’re diving during nesting periods, you can see them all.

Over the course of a couple weekends, we made numerous dives with Pura Vida Divers, without ever going back to the same dive site. We have to say that, comparatively speaking, West Palm Beach is one of the best diving locations in the continental United States. The multitude of dive sites, the ability to be at a dive site in less than 30 minutes (from the dock), the clear blue water, the beautiful reefs and wrecks, the amazing critters, and the ability to relax while you drift effortlessly with the current knowing the boat will be right there to pick you up when you surface makes West Palm Beach a must diving trip for divers of all abilities. Whether you like to take pictures, dive wrecks, reefs, or ledges, spearfish, or just sight see, there is something for everyone.

Photo: Steve Straatsma

Half day charters are the norm, giving you the opportunity to get in two dives in the morning and be back to the dock by noon for a relaxing lunch and afternoon at the beach or shopping the area. We recommend that you spend at least two days diving the area to get a real taste of what West Palm diving has to offer. If you’re in the area longer, Palm Beach County also offers other excellent recreational opportunities. With renowned restaurants, white, sandy beaches, great shopping, sport fishing, championship golf courses, and a variety of nightly entertainment, Palm Beach has everything for a lengthy vacation.

For information on diving with Pura Vida Divers, go to their website at www.puravidadivers.com, email them at info@puravidadivers.com, or call them at (561) 840-8750.

Watch video of diving West Palm!



Photo: Jeff Hawes