PRO DIVER

Local Intelligence 3 – part 2

More favourite sites from dive-pros from all over the world –
and we apologise again if they make you want to leave at once…

Appeared in DIVER May 2021

Deliberately sunk to create an artificial reef and diver playground off Mount Irvine point, the Maverick is Tobago’s most popular wreck-dive and an ideal site for those seeking their PADI Advanced Open Water, Deep Diver or Wreck Diver certifications.

Built by Ferguson Shipbuilders in 1960, the ship is 60m long and was launched in Scotland’s River Clyde as the Scarlet Ibis.

Together with her identical twin-sister Bird of Paradise, they were Trinidad and Tobago’s first roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) ferries, providing the vital sea link between the islands well into the 1970s.

Sunk upright in 30m of water in 1997, the ensuing years have worked Nature’s magic and the Maverick is almost completely covered in encrusting sponges and hard and soft corals.

Enveloped by schools of brown chromis, creole wrasse, silver baitfish, amberjack and bonito, a typical visit starts with a descent along the mooring-line to the forward deck, with a sweep around the bow for that classic image of the ship’s bow looming above you, perhaps pausing for a photo op framed by colourful sponges.

Dropping back along the port side allows you to peer into the car deck before descending further to inspect the rudders, where you might find sting rays and migratory cobias.

Crossing the stern loading-ramp leads you midships over collapsed decking and hull sections, the stairwell, porcelain toilet bowl, schooling striped grunts, mangrove snapper, French and queen angelfish.

Spiralling upwards brings you over the remnants of the bridge, where you’ll often find the wreck’s resident humongous green moray eel, before you reach the ship’s funnels, which mark the shallowest point of the wreck.

Consultation of gauges usually indicates the start of your ascent at this stage, which is accomplished along the mooring-line with the requisite safety stop along the way, so ending another exciting Tobago dive!

I thoroughly recommend getting wet on the Maverick.

underseatobago.com

Palau is like a good box of chocolates, but in diving – many options, but you can hardly go wrong with any choice, so picking a favourite is challenging.

Blue Corner is easily the most famous dive-site, and a spectacle that must be seen. Starting on either side of the “corner”, the dive starts as a stunning drift along the beautiful steep wall, overgrown in coral and busy with marine life.

From critters such as leafy scorpionfish to larger fish such as barracuda and bumphead parrotfish, the variety of species found on this wall-dive is countless.

Drifting with the current, it doesn’t take long until the dive reaches the corner, the edge of a flat plateau, running a couple of hundred metres out to sea. Currents can be strong in this exposed spot and the experienced guides from Sam’s Tours Palau help divers get “hooked” safely, right on the edge to enjoy the best views of the action.

The conservationist’s heart beats faster when seeing the numbers of grey reef, whitetip and other species of sharks patrolling in front of the divers. Trevallies, barracuda and a variety of tropical fish join the fun to make this dive an all-time favourite.

Larger pelagics such as bull, tiger and hammerhead sharks can be spotted in the deeper reaches of the wall at times, making Blue Corner an interesting technical-dive option.

The most famous crowd-pleaser for recreational divers is found on almost every dive: the resident and extremely curious Napoleon wrasse that demands attention and is everything but subtle about it.

The ideal finish to this amazing dive is the shallow plateau area where turtles, moray eels, more parrotfish and lots of critters await to help Blue Corner live up to divers’ high expectations.

samstours.com

Famous for their turquoise, clear waters, the Maldives are a paradise for scuba. They have good coral reefs but it’s the abundance of marine life that sets them apart, and no more so than at this dive-site in North Male Atoll.

This house-reef allows divers to discover its rich biodiversity, from tiny nudibranchs and colourful tropical fish to large reef sharks, rays and turtles. It hosts multiple species that will satisfy everyone’s passions and expectations.

The dive starts just beneath the water’s surface and already at a few metres deep you’ll be introduced to a wide range of colours while diving among powder-blue surgeonfish, pennant coralfish, parrotfish, big schools of bluestripe snapper and many other species.

When you reach 10m, look out into the blue and you’ll find curious batfish swimming all around you.

At that depth, sting rays and eagle rays can be spotted as well as reef sharks and turtles, all in search of food and/or resting on the edge of the reef.

Pay attention to the cracks and caves on the reef, because they provide shelter for many lobsters and, sometimes, sleeping nurse sharks.

To spot some of the species more active after dark, such as the nurse sharks and morays, night dives are organised around the reef and offer a great experience.

atmospherehotelsandresorts.com

The cave is located in a submerged reef 200m south of the Ortholosis sea stack, in the Petriti area. This dive is possible only in calm seas, and the boat is anchored in about 6m of water on top of the small reef We slip south, down a vertical wall, dropping all the time, past some big cracks. Entry is about 30m but the floor drops way deeper.

As we enter the cave, the scale is impressive. The blackness is split only by our lights. The bare walls drop vertically out of sight and the 5-8m-wide roof is at about 24m.

We stick to the left and, as we move further in, we round a bend losing sight of the mouth, then it seems even darker.

After 45m there is a sharp bend to the left into a kind of chamber. Keeping the wall on our left, we work our way out again.

On the walls are starfish, the odd shrimp and occasionally a rock lobster. Many other caves in the area have brightly coloured walls when lit, but “The Devil” is dark.

It’s really nice to see the entrance again but our exit is up the chimney, a vertical tunnel in the roof about 1m in diameter, starting at 25m and opening out at 17m.

This is a different world, bright and warm (above the thermocline). There is a lot of vegetation and small fish. We gently meander up the reef, around rocks and up through a nice arch where you can see scorpionfish and nudibranchs, turning stones to look for octopuses.

Past a few shallow caves, interesting rock formations can be found at 5m. They look volcanic but this is unlikely in limestone so we guess they are petrified trees. Perhaps this is where the name Petriti comes from. Back to the anchor and onto the boat for our surface interval, to change tanks and head for our second adventure of the morning…

paxosoasisub.com

Solitude Lembeh Resort’s private jetty juts out into one of the sheltered bays of the Lembeh Strait and the midst of the dive-site known as Jahir, making it our virtual house-reef. One of the most convenient aspects is its suitability for all divers from bubble-makers to advanced open-water divers – there is plenty to discover at any depth!

Jahir offers a variety of fascinating marine life. Divers are greeted by the sight of numerous vibrant coral bommies teeming with reef fish. One of the highlights is our “Seahorse Hotel”, established under the guidance of expert Dave Harasti, where we frequently spot common and thorny seahorses as well as the occasional frogfish lurking.

After indulging in this initial shallow part of the dive, we continue deeper, following the black-sand slope. Divers can then head right, for remnants of wreckage offering excellent opportunities to find various species of nudibranch and eel, or take a favoured route to the left and the iconic muck-diving more associated with Lembeh.

Here we progress slowly, carefully scanning the sand for the most highly sought-after critters. Jahir is a dive you can do time and time again and yet it feels different on each occasion – from one dive to the next, the critters you see can be completely different.

Look out for mimic, coconut, mototi, long arm and hairy octopuses as well as diver favourites such as flamboyant cuttlefish, ghost pipefish and hairy frogfish.

This is my favourite Lembeh dive-spot, and one I would dive daily simply for the plethora of rare creatures that could be lurking.

Every dive here feels like a new treasure hunt!

solitude.world

If they asked me to dive every day at Playa Grande, I would say yes!

Every day is a different day there, with varying life. We even find new species – every other week.

We can reach Playa Grande from our dive-centre by walking with the kit through the water – it’s super-relaxing, so we can take our time.

We go down from the beach onto a sandy plateau where we can get up close with many small lifeforms, but also big ones such as the typical angel shark (Squatina squatina) and many species of ray: eagle, sting, butterfly and torpedo.

When we reach a depth of around 20m we find a drop-off that just keeps on dropping – to about 1500m! Here we find reef fingers with spectacular swim-throughs.

On the reef we’re bombarded with the colours of sponges, little corals and much more. Many critter species can be found, including moray eels, crustaceans and my favourite nudibranchs!

When we reach our deco limit or are getting low on air, we have a small house-reef at shallow depths between 5 and 10m where we can fin around until we finish our air.

This reef too is full of life, and often we’re able to find a seahorse in the shallow rocks, as well as octopuses, cuttlefish and many other creatures.

If you’d like to come diving with us here at Playa Grande, I can assure you that I’m up for plenty more dives there. I hope to see you soon!

• Euro-Divers Lanzarote, euro-divers.com

When asked to write about my favourite dive-site around Bunaken, I thought it would be easy. Then I changed my mind at least five times a day for a week, because we’re so spoilt for choice – we have drift dives and walls, sloping reefs and muck-diving rich in critters.

In the end I chose Mandolin. Why? Because this is a site (wall and drift) abundant in dazzling coral and possibly the most impressive variety of marine life I have ever experienced.

Pelagics cruise the drop-off, eagle rays glide serenely along the reef, a large school of black snapper lurks menacingly, coral overhangs provide shelter for whitetip sharks, and the only constraint to seemingly limitless visibility are the dense schools of butterflyfish and red-toothed triggerfish.

And then there are the turtles; unruffled by divers, they rest on ledges or contentedly munch coral – a photographer’s dream! – while for macro-lovers, the soft corals are home to a bewildering variety of crabs, shrimps and nudibranchs.

The reef-top is spectacular, and I often spend half the dive cruising through one of the loveliest coral gardens I have ever seen with my camera at the ready, because the fish and critter life here is simply stunning.

I could dive Mandolin every day, and every day have a different experience. Indeed, it has given me some of the most incredible dives of my life. Mandolin is special.

bunakenoasis.com

I’m sure you’ve all heard about the magnificent Sardine Run in South Africa, where you can watch a massive, migrating baitball between the months of June and July.

But did you know that you could witness a similar phenomenon in Moalboal all year round?

Only a five-minute boat-ride from Kasai Village Dive Resort you can watch 10 million sardines congregate in tropical waters with a spectacular wall as a backdrop, just a few metres offshore. If this dive isn’t on your bucket-list yet, it’s time to add it!

Divers and underwater photographers come from all corners of the world to witness this underwater tornado of sardines.

Because of the location and the fact that the big ball of sardines can be found at a depth of only 5-15m, this is a suitable dive for anyone from beginner to experienced diver, and it’s also perfect for snorkellers.

At the moment no one really knows what causes the sardines to act this way – the phenomenon is poorly understood from an ecological point of view.

But importantly the sardines attract a lot of tourists and the locals understand the positive effect of this, so no net-fishing is allowed in Moalboal.

The traffic is heavy down here, but it’s the sort of traffic you wouldn’t mind and is perfectly organised.

The sardines are all effortlessly co-ordinated, creating alien formations and moving together to perfection.

The sight will keep you hypnotised for the better part of your tank. It’s the top attraction for the resort’s divers, and it’s easy to understand why.

kasaivillage.com


More dive-pros will be sharing their favourite dives

in future issues of DIVER!

If you missed what our first group of pro divers
from around the world nominated as their
favourite local dive-sites CLICK HERE

… And for Local Intelligence 2 CLICK HERE