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Paradise Found at Small Hope Bay in Andros

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

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Andros is a Bahamian island we had not visited on any of our previous trips and so we were looking forward to a new experience. We arrived at Small Hope Bay, a family run, (truly) eco-friendly all-inclusive resort that sits right on the beach overlooking the clear blue waters we would soon be diving into. Our early morning flights meant that we had time to meet the team, head to our rooms, set-up our camera equipment and then walk along the jetty to the dive centre to get ready for a day of diving. We only had one day of diving here, so we were determined to make the most of it.

Our three dives were to cover a wide range of types of diving. Our first dive was to visit the famous oceanic blue hole and we were to be led by Jeff Birch, the owner of the resort and a legend in the scuba diving world. The dive started off on a beautiful reef and then Jeff beckoned us towards a crack in the reef. We followed him down and suddenly we found ourselves within the blue hole, heading deep to enable us to look up at the “window” of the blue hole and watch the divers swim past in the blue.

All too soon it was time to start to head to shallower water, and Jeff led us up through a fissure in the reef back up to the coral, where we found a school of friendly batfish to play with as we carried out our safety stop. Andros is famous for its blue holes, with both oceanic and inland sites to explore and the Small Hope team offer a speciality in this type of diving.

Our second dive was a real treat, as we got to see the pioneering conservation work that Small Hope Bay are involved in. They have set-up a coral allotment on the seabed, where they are growing new coral to transplant onto the reef. Our group even got to try their hand at a bit of coral “gardening” by helping to clean off any algae. There was also time to explore the reef and enjoy the marine life such as turtles, angelfish and barracuda.

Our final dive saw us visit the famous wall off Andros. Here the reef plummets to huge depths. We kept to the top of the reef and peered down the wall, watching reef sharks cruise by. We got a taste of the incredible diving that Andros had to offer and we wished we had more time to further explore the island and its diving.

For a day off diving before our flight, our hosts at Small Hope offered us a tour of the island, allowing us to visit the inland blue holes, as well as visiting the batik fabric industry that the island is famous for. Our walks would find us following trails through woods full of medicinal plants, that would suddenly open up to reveal a beautiful blue hole. Many of the group took the chance to jump in and go for a swim and the braver ones took a dive off the high platforms!

Whilst our visit to Small Hope Bay was very short, we were immediately made to feel like family. The staff join you for nibbles and cocktails after a day of diving, and everyone sits around talking about their experiences of the day. The food was excellent with some of the best vegetarian food we have eaten in the Caribbean.

We wish we could have stayed for longer!

For more information please visit:

www.smallhope.com

www.bahamas.com


All images & text by Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown of Frogfish Photography.

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and they are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit www.frogfishphotography.com

Blogs

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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