Tag Archives: diving

In Which We Dive an Undersea Volcano

17 Oct tendrilly fan corals in scarlet and orange off halmahera, indonesia

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Indonesia is not, let us say, short on dive sites.

And, when you can snorkel with giant manta rays, turtles and jellyfish defanged by evolution off Pulau Derawan in Borneo and see pretty much all the Togian islands have to offer (bar the plane) without fronting up for cylinders and BCD, it makes sense for any traveler with more time than money to be a little picky about where they actually dive.

An active undersea volcano, fringed with bright corals, falls well into the “yep, I’ll dive that!” category. One of almost 50 newly catalogued dive sites off Halmahera in East Indonesia, it nestles just offshore from Galela, only a couple of hours by dive boat from Tobelo.

The pure black sand beach, glittering with shards of mother of pearl, fringed by coconut palms and encircled by rocky coves full of lobsters, submarine hot springs and coral means there’s plenty for snorkellers too.

But descending into the crater itself? Wow! Continue reading

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Video: Dancing Clownfish

3 Sep

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This little guy was defending his nest and his baby just left of the dock in Pulau Derawan: he’s straight out of Finding Nemo.

He’s not as elegant as the manta rays and the turtles. But the kids thought he was hilarious….

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Turtle Island, Indonesia

26 Aug

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Pulau Derawan, a tiny palm and sand island off the coast of Indonesian Borneo, is famous for sea turtles.

Now, in general, when it comes to sea turtles, it’s wise to keep your expectations low. Maybe, just maybe, there’ll be a glimpse of a reptile or two sculling in the blue yonder, when you’re diving. Maybe, just maybe, over a long enough night, one will lay her eggs on shore.

Sea turtle grazing amid coral. Pulau Derawan, Indonesia.

The first words we heard in our guesthouse on Pulau Derawan? “Can you see the turtle?” Continue reading

Eight Months, Seven Countries

24 Aug Giant tree roots grow down over the ancient monastery of Ta Prohm, near Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

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As Z and I enter our eighth month of continuous travel, here’s one amazing thing we’ve done in each month of the year.

January: Making the Leap!
I’d been a home owner for almost a decade when we left in January. Working constantly for longer than that. Between us, Z and I had accumulated piles upon piles of, well, crap. Sifting through it was like sifting through past lives, wondering what this next phase would bring, what would happen when we stepped off the plane with packs on our backs, an odd mixture of anticipation, excitement and, yes, I guess, grieving, too. Continue reading

Sign Language

17 Jul

Closeup of Z and Solene drawing at a table.One of my spawn’s many endearing qualities is that he generally, as here with his new friend Solène, looks as though butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.

So you wouldn’t necessarily expect him to have created his own – hem! – innovative variations on the standard divers’ sign language.

Now, as you’d expect in a branch of the teaching profession so rarefied that students quite often attempt to kill not only themselves but their tutors, diving instructors already have quite a few obscene variations on this theme.

Such as: “You! Look. At me! Your FACE. Makes me SICK!” Or: “You! Look. At me! YOU are f***ed. You are TOTALLY f***ed.” Continue reading

Into the Deep

12 Jul

Z in scuba gear exiting a boat with a giant stride.

One small step for mankind... One giant stride for a boy.

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]Why learn to dive?

Well…

Scuba diving opens up an entire new world. There’s the fluid, graceful movement in three dimensions, moving up or down (quite literally) on a breath, turning any way you wish like a gymnast in zero gravity, powered only by your legs and fins.

There’s the chance to explore the complex ecosystems of coral reef: a surrealist, ancient, technicolour landscape, populated by a myriad creatures who, unlike their land equivalents, have yet to learn to fear human beings.

There’s that warm, buzzed glow of discovery you get when you surface. And that edge of anticipation as you take the giant stride off the side of the boat…

Which is exactly what Z is doing, in the picture above. (The ginormous wetsuit is, in fact, an extra small.) It’s his first giant stride as a qualified Junior Open Water diver, off Koh Tao, Thailand. Continue reading

Full-Contact Management

14 May

We have Doc McGhee, the rock ‘n’ roll svengali who kept Motley Crue, Jon Bon Jovi and Kiss on the road, to thank for the term full-contact management. That’s punching people…

Now, I’ve been considering training as a scuba instructor over the next year or so. It seems like a nice lifestyle, a good string to one’s bow, relatively stress-free, combines easily with other occupations, and the like.

Sure, I’m not the best diver in the world. But compared to earning the money required to spend a lot of time underwater, acquiring a profession which gives you free diving and free time in which to do other things makes a lot of sense from where I’m at now. (Z considers it a “cool job”.)

Then I met Matt… Continue reading

Full Fathom Five…

13 May

Imperial Japanese Navy ship AkutsishimaThere is a sepulchral magic to a shipwreck. Viewed from underwater, with russet filigrees of sea ferns flourishing on the fractured edges of a shell hole in the side, lettuce corals unfurling from a rusting crane, the gossamer fins of lionfish undulating like silken flags outside a propshaft, a wreck is one of the most awe-inspiring sights the planet has to offer.

The battle of Coron Bay might have faded into history. Just another skirmish in the closing throes of the Second World War in Asia, where US Helldiver pilots annihilated a Japanese supply convoy hiding in the Calamian Islands.

After the raid, in September 1944, it took weeks for some of these monsters to sink. They drifted, crippled, on the currents for many miles. Others went down almost instantly, taking many of their crew with them. Some have never been found.

Z and I visited three of the ones that have. Continue reading

Learning to Dive

9 May

View of Barracuda Lake in the Calamian Islands, Philippines

40 degrees centigrade below the surface!

We are still in Coron. That’s Coron Town, the meandering if unbeautiful little port of Busuanga Island, not Coron, the island, across the way. As is the thing to do in the Calamians, we’ve been diving.

There are many amazing things about scuba. There is the feeling of weightlessness — neutral buoyancy — whereby you move through the water in whichever direction you like, slow and lazy as an astronaut.

Then there’s the closeness to nature. You will, and do, see more of nature on a coral reef in a 30-minute dive than anywhere on land bar, say, the Serengeti or the Arctic during one of their great migration.

And, in coral, you are right among the life. Fish (and sea snakes) swim up to you, past you, around you, without the slightest fear, amid coral gardens picked out in technicolour.

It’s extraordinary. Not just coral reef. But lakes, rivers, quarries, kelp forests too. And a world that you have to experience. And I’m so, so glad that Z loves it too. We just need to get him qualified… Continue reading

Underwater Frisbee

15 Apr

Z has had his first dive! In Puerto Galera, the Philippines, one of the world’s best diving spots.

He’s become progressively more excited about diving since we met William Hudson in Kampot — a cave diver, who discovered a new system in the Philippines, and teaches dive masters the physiology of diving to dive masters.

Z did the PADI Bubblemaker course, which is open to kids from the age of eight, with a guy called Guido, from AB Divers, on Sabang Beach. And — whether as a teaching tool or just for the hell of it — underwater frisbee is every bit as fun as it sounds. Continue reading