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Dive Fest Diaries – Day 2

Caribbean DTA Team

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Each year the magical, Caribbean island of Barbados holds a festival to celebrate scuba diving, free diving and marine conservation. This year, Nick and Caroline went along to see what it was all about…


Thursday 5th July: Day 2

Refreshed and ready to go, we awoke to a bright sunny day in Barbados. We were back diving with West Side Scuba Centre and the plan for the day was some more west coast diving in the morning, followed by a night dive. Whilst we were diving, other centres were involved in introducing people to freediving as well as scuba diving, with events going on at different locations around the island, but we were here to dive!

Our diving equipment had been rinsed and dried off by the team at WSSC and so by the time we arrived at The Boatyard, the dive boat was fully loaded and we were ready to go. Our first dive saw us head out to the outer reef and a dive site called Castle. The reef was covered in huge barrel sponges – it was incredible! Everywhere you looked, these purple towers reached out from the reef bed.

We found shrimps hiding within them and lobsters taking cover at their bases. Turtles grazed, undisturbed by the divers drifting past in a light current. All the dive guides here carry spears to hunt any lionfish found on a dive, and there is even a competition during Dive Fest. Our guide caught one of the invasive species during the dive, showing expert skill. We let the current take us along the top of the reef, enjoying the reef-scape, until it was time to ascend back to the boat, which had been following our guide’s SMB.

We headed back to the dock to drop off some divers doing just one dive that day and then headed back out to one of the signature dives of Barbados – Carlisle Bay. Here a host of wrecks have been sunk in shallow water to create an underwater park for divers and snorkelers alike. You can take it slowly and examine each wreck as an individual dive, or you can move a little faster and take in a few. The beauty is, that as the site is so shallow, you have plenty of time underwater. Whilst we have dived here before, we had never ventured inside the Bajan Queen wreck, and so this lady was our dive plan. On our way, we came across the biggest stingray we have even seen, skimming over the reef that skirts the wrecks at Carlisle Bay.

The inside of the Bajan Queen is wonderfully atmospheric. The light penetrates through the gloom in sunbursts where doorways and hatches in the metal structure look up to the surface. Every now and then, you might get a flash of red as a fish swims through a shaft of sunlight. There is plenty of room to swim through the boiler room and into the quarters at each end and we had the place to ourselves – it was wonderful. Outside, schools of fish were hanging out at the propeller of the Bajan Queen, creating an attraction for both the divers and freedivers that visit the site. We still had time, after our exploration on the Bajan Queen, to visit two other wrecks, each one with its own ecosystem and highlights. We could dive this site every day and never get bored.

We had an extended lunch at the Radisson Aquatica, whilst discussing their plan to reduce single-use plastics in the hotel. Already they are using compostable food containers and cups, and provide a re-hydration station where fresh water with tropical fruits tempt guests away from plastic water bottles. It was refreshing to hear such a positive, conservation-minded vibe from a major hotel and to hear how passionate they were about the marine life just a stones thrown from where we were sitting.

Our final dive of the day saw us heading back to Carlisle Bay to dive the wrecks as a night dive. We jumped in as dusk fell, allowing our eyes to adjust to the gloom and the darkness to fall around us while we were on the dive. As expected, just like our daytime dive, there was a huge array of marine life. Nick found a tiny seahorse clinging to a small sponge on the seabed as we swam between wrecks. A turtle cruised past and an octopus displayed as the camera focussed in on it.

To top off the day, we ate dinner at the fabulous Waterfront Café to the sound of a live jazz band. Delicious, cold cocktails and great food by the waterside was, without a doubt, the perfect way to end the day.


Want to join in on all the fun at Dive Fest Barbados 2019 – put the dates in your diary: 3rd to 7th July 2019

www.divefestbarbados.com

www.westsidescuba.com

www.coconut-court.com

www.radisson.com/st-michael-hotel-bb/brbbbds

www.waterfrontcafe.com.bb

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Jamaican Vibes

Sean Chinn

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With part of my wife’s heritage being of Jamaican descent, I really don’t understand why it’s taken so long for us to visit this amazing Caribbean Island. Firstly, as a couple enjoying adventures together and then over the last 5-6 years with our daughter as a family.

Finally we made it and enjoyed an amazing two weeks together, with the in-laws also in attendance. Initially scheduled for 2021, Covid reared its ugly head and a postponement meant we had to contain our excitement for another year until July 2022 came around and we were off.

We had booked your typical two week all-inclusive style holiday with TUI, stopping at the Royalton Negril. It was also my daughter’s longest flight but thankfully she coped really well and was a pleasure to travel with. It took a few days to get into the holiday as we made use of the all-inclusive perks of the hotel. Stuffing our faces in the abundance of restaurants or food stalls on-site (the jerk hut was a frequent lunchtime visit). While we also enjoyed the entertainment from the on-site Vibes Team. I really love the energy and enthusiasm for music in Jamaica, with the dance routines and music choices entertaining pool side.

As fun as it was on-site, you can start to feel a little trapped all inclusive. We were soon itching to break free and explore other parts of Jamaica. Being in Negril we were too far from the famous Dunn’s River Falls, so opted for the equally impressive YS Falls. It’s rainy season in July, so the falls were powerful in force, albeit less clear with a brown tinge. Still, it was a beautiful place to visit, while also enjoying rope swings into the pools and swims to cool off.

We followed up our visit to YS with a Black River Safari (you can easily manage the two trips in a day). This was a real highlight for me as I love big predators ,and seeing the American crocodiles up close again was great. It was also another stunning place as we cruised through pristine mangroves listening to the sounds of nature. Then on the way back we stopped at some local food huts for traditional Jamaican cuisine.

I love enjoying trips with the family. However, none of them are divers and I was desperate to sneak off and get some diving in. With getting married this year, diving had really taken a back seat and was long overdue. Before I left for Jamaica, I asked advice on a Facebook group for diving out of Negril and dive centres they recommended. However, I was disappointed to see a lot of negative comments basically telling me to save my money and how it really wasn’t worth it etc. Undeterred, I knew I still wanted to get some dives in and was able to get connected to Michael Cabana, who is the owner of Scuba Dive Today. Unfortunately, Michael was out of the country but put me in touch with his MSDT Sharren Robinson. They were based out of Coral Seas Cliff Hotel and he recommended coming to do a couple of dives on their house reef.

It was an eerie feeling when I first arrived for diving at the Coral Seas Cliff Hotel, as it is still closed since the pandemic and I wondered if I’d got the right place. However, I soon met Sharren, where we filled in the necessary paperwork and he provided me with all the necessary equipment. He also explained that when the high season returns the hotel is due to open back up for the first time since Covid. Immediately I saw its appeal as a group dive holiday destination in the area.

We made our way through the “abandoned” hotel towards the cliff’s edge where we had a short giant stride in. What a beautifully peaceful dive with nobody around but me and my guide Sharren. I wasn’t left disappointed like the commenters on Facebook alluded to. The water was stunningly clear with plenty of life on the reef and beautiful coral formations akin to the rest of the Caribbean. A really easy pleasant dive along the reef and sandy bottom down to around 20 metres.

I had some problems with my camera on the first dive and didn’t take any photos but I soon rectified that between dives and was glad to go back in for a second. On the first dive we went right along the reef before circling back. So, on the second we went left before circling back. Equally beautiful scenery with an abundance of fish life and soft coral to photograph. The small yellow stingrays were ever-present on both dives along the sandy bottom, while seeing one of my favourite species of marine animal – the octopus – is always a joy. Unfortunately, this particular one stayed well hidden in the rocks and I wasn’t able to get images with my fisheye lens.

My next two dives out of Negril came a week later as two other divers joined Sharren, which meant I could join a boat trip out to other dive sites. We visited two of the more popular dive sites out of Negril – Shallow Plane and Arches dive site, along with the Throne Room. Again, both sites benefitted from great visibility and an abundance of beautiful soft corals. The plane wreck is only small and after a quick circle around we were back on the reef. The most fun part about both sites were the abundance of swim-throughs along the reef and overhangs to explore. The interesting topography made the dive that bit more adventurous with plenty of big crabs and lobsters inside the cracks. It was also nice to spot a nurse shark on the Throne Room dive, albeit a little far off for any photos as it changed direction once seeing us.

While I was left disappointed by the numerous negative comments online about diving in Jamaica, I was glad I took the plunge and saw it for myself. I would definitely recommend jumping in if you’re on a family holiday to Jamaica, while I’d also highly recommend Jamaica as a holiday destination. The rest of our holiday was filled with some exciting adventures as we explored Rick’s Cafe (yes, I did the high jump and it was a lot higher than expected!) We also had a fun day trip to a river rafting site that was the highlight of the trip for my 5 year old, and finished off with a swim in the Luminous Lagoon. A surreal experience that had us all smiling with excitement. I also did A LOT of snorkelling but will leave that for another blog, so stay tuned…

For more information about diving in Negril, Jamaica, take a look at:

www.scubadivetoday.com

info@scubadivetoday.com

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The Suit Ocean Team leads the Ultimate Curacao Snorkeling Adventure

Bryan Horne

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Snorkeling and scuba diving in Curacao is a dream for anyone who loves the combination of amazing beaches and the mind blowing biodiversity that exists along 104 square kilometers of its fringing coral reefs. So if you are interested in the ultimate Caribbean snorkeling adventure then keep reading as The Suit Ocean Team takes you on a one hundred kilometer snorkeling tour of Curacao’s southern shoreline.

As passionate residents of our Dutch Caribbean Island, we must congratulate The Suit Ocean Team for creating more awareness about the importance of protecting our beautiful fringing reef systems in Curacao.

The film, Curacao Underwater Kunuku (Kunuku is Papiamento for Garden), not only documents this ultimate snorkeling adventure showing you how easy it is for everyone to access and enjoy a snorkel or diving experience, but it also showcases the interaction between man and nature, highlighting the beauty of underwater life while promoting conservation, preservation and the need to protect these vital habitats.

These are the key ingredients to this beautiful short film documentary. Watch NOW and please enjoy our “CURACAO UNDERWATER KUNUKU”.

This film, produced by the Lawrence Mensa Foundation (LMF), is also available in multiple languages including: Spanish, Papiamentu, Dutch, Portuguese and German.

Images courtesy of The Suit Ocean Team
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