Archive for the ‘Featured Travel’ Category

The World’s Best Destinations for Wreck Diving

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Why do the Top 100 Readers Choice Awards, now in their 23rd year, still matter to divers? Because these are your picks, based on thousands of votes from the most experienced dive travelers on the planet. Why do they matter to us? Because every month you hear from our editors on what we think matters in the world of dive travel. For the January/February issue of Scuba Diving we get to listen to you, and we’re taking notes.

Here, we proudly present the No. 1 ranking destinations in the Best Wreck Diving category of the awards. The full list of winning destinations is below.

Pacific and Indian Oceans

1) CHUUCK

Many places boast a few shipwrecks as gee-whiz alternatives to biological reefs, but there’s only one Chuuk, also known as Truk. More than 50 Japanese ships, planes, subs and all manner of machinery, weaponry and fascinating (and sobering) wartime history are on display, the result of America’s deadly aerial barrage on the Japanese fleet in February 1944. This warm, calm lagoon in Micronesia holds a World War II mari- time museum without equal. The 433-foot-long Fujikawa Maru is superb, both for military and marine-life attractions — Zero fighter planes in the hold, deck guns draped in soft corals — and is shallow enough for novices. Tec divers descend 175 feet onto the phenomenal San Francisco to see tanks, trucks and bombs. Shinkoku offers bright invertebrates and school- ing fish; inside, a soldier’s bones rest in sick bay. Chuuk is also a mass grave, a testament to the tragedy of war. — Brandon Cole

Go Now: visittruk.com

2) Red Sea

3) Palau

4) Thailand

5) Hawaii

North America

1) NORTH CAROLINA

Diving North Carolina’s wrecks doesn’t force you to choose between swimming the top deck alongside sand tiger sharks or penetrating. At a handful of sites, including the USS Indra and the tanker Atlas, drop inside tight quarters to navigate alongside these big fish. — Brooke Morton

Go Now: visitnc.com

2) Florida and Florida Springs

3) Washington

4) California

5) Great Lakes

Caribbean and Atlantic

1) BAHAMAS

You might expect that a nation of 700 islands would boast a massive collection of downed ships — and it does. Your favorite might change to whichever one you dived last, be it the shallow and marine-life-rich SS Sapona cargo steamer off Bimini or Edward Williams off New Providence, where you’ll likely come face to face with Caribbean reef sharks and goliath grouper. — Brooke Morton

Go Now: bahamas.com

2) Cayman Islands

3) Bay Islands

4) Curacao

5) Bonaire

How To Plan A Weekend Dive Vacation in Palm Beach County, Florida

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Drive and Dive: Palm Beach County, Florida

Let me get this right: a 10-foot hammerhead right off the bat, followed by two portly loggerheads, hubcap-size French angels and a supporting cast that makes me swear I’m diving in exotic waters. Then a 10-foot sailfish lollygags 20 feet away during my safety stop, something I’d never experienced anywhere. All this at Boynton Ledge, my first-ever dive in the waters of southeast Florida’s Palm Beach County? I could get used to this.

“Not bad for a first dive, eh?” says William “Taz” Tuzinsky, the imposing ex-police detective turned tec diver behind Scuba Center Delray, my day’s dive operator. “I get divers all the time who tell me they’ll rethink plopping down $5,000 for exotic dive vacations.”

He’s got a point.

LUCKY CONVERGENCE

If bragging rights are due for the Palm Beaches, as the county calls itself, you can thank three auspicious factors. First, there’s the Gulf Stream, a conveyor belt of clear, clean, warm, nutrient-rich water that provides a buffet for the entire marine food chain. The northbound current can be robust — and close. Just off Singer Island, the Gulf Stream comes nearest to shore at barely a mile out. Then there’s the reef. Swinging up from the Florida Keys is the world’s third-largest living reef, formed from ancient beach ridge complexes that anchored subsequent coral growth. It’s a virtual divers fun house, comprising an inner, middle, main and outer ledge system full of nooks, crannies, wrecks and rock piles at multiple depths that parallels the entire 47-mile length of Palm Beach County. Finally, there’s the dynamic of the Florida peninsula itself. As the interior heats, moisture-ridden clouds unleash massive convectional downpours that flow into estuaries, adding to the organic soup and sustaining incredible macro marine life along the Intracoastal Waterway as well as the reef system.

A DELRAY DAY

With lodging in Delray Beach, a rental car and my own dive equipment, I’m on a marathon, aiming to rack up as many dives as possible — a fairly simple quest because scores of dive sites are barely 10 minutes offshore. After my intro dive, Tuzinsky takes me to nearby Delray Ledges to the south. Talk about drift diving. At 60 feet, we scoot at 4 knots over a profuse tapestry of gorgonians, barrel sponges and 15-foot ledges with shadowed alcoves of snapper and jacks peering into glints of sunlight. Along our flight path we come face to face with the vacant-eyed stares of several lemon sharks, and at least two nurse sharks tucked beneath ledges. After we’re a mile from our drop, it’s time to call it a day, and once again I get a parting gift when I spot a green sea turtle employing its finely serrated beak to tear sea grass swaying in the current.

Driving north to my next day’s dive rendezvous in Jupiter is an eye-opener. You can just smell the money in Palm Beach. Gorgeous white sand, swaying palms, Bentleys and Mercedes, trendy cafes — it’s almost surreal. But even if the price of admission here is high, the diving is equal opportunity — a bargain, really, considering the variety, quality and convenience.

JUPITER RISING

I put this assertion to the test when I hook up with Philip Berg at Jupiter Dive Center. “It’s all about the Gulf Stream. We’ve got everything — manta rays, tons of sharks,” Berg says during an en- route rundown of today’s possibilities.

I learn that the area is dive central for four world-class seasonal aggregations that divers go nuts for: lemon sharks (January and February), marine turtles (May and June), goliath grouper (August and September) and lobsters (late spring through summer). “Goliath grouper and lemon sharks are huge here. We get destination divers from all over the world who come for these alone,” he adds.

Our first drop zone is a threefer of sorts: a mile drift that begins at Captain Mike’s and continues past Area 51 to just north of Juno Ledge. We fin diagonally and thread between ledges, peer into fishy grottoes and fly over sand flats where, just as Berg promised, we see it all: blacktip reef sharks, nurse sharks, goliath grouper, loggerhead and green turtles, schools of blue runners and parrotfish galore, not to mention humongous barrel sponges and colonies of sea whips and fans. By the time we’re ready to surface, I’ve added green morays, a school of large barracuda and a school of horse-eye jacks to my list.

Two more dives out of Jupiter are just as riveting. At Spadefish, we trade abrupt ledges for a gentle slope leading to a hard, steep wall. Sharks, turtles, green morays: check, check and double-check. Our final dive at Bluffs, known as Jupiter’s prettiest, is simply extravagant. Intermittent sand patches of an ancient riverbed separate a series of cul-de-sacs, each an aquarium unto itself. There are napping loggerheads in one. Over there a small hawksbill munches on sponges. Down below an eagle ray flutters in the sand. Just ahead a lemon shark hovers above a ledge. When I put on the brakes — not easy in the current — I take in a bevy of angelfish, wrasses, blennies and parrotfish that all sparkle like gems in a jewelry box.

MACRO WONDERS AND GENTLE GIANTS

If there’s one dive you don’t want to miss in the Palm Beaches, it’s Blue Heron Bridge at Phil Foster Park, christened by many as one of the world’s premier easy-access macro sites. The critter list is a who’s who of macro stars, from seahorses and pipefish of all stripes to frogfish, batfish, stargazers and upward of 100 species of nudibranchs. It all comes easily because of its shallow 12- to 20-foot depth and choice location in the protected Lake Worth Lagoon, just beneath the bridge leading me to my next dive appointment with Jim Abernethy, owner of Scuba Adventures.

“There have been eight species of newly ID’d nudibranchs at Blue Heron in one year, plus three species of batfish and six species of seahorses,” Abernethy tells me at the nearby docks, where we suit up aboard M/V Deep Obsession. But this macro mecca was not in the cards for me on this day because of tides. “It’s a little tricky. You have to stay clear of the channel and enter just before high slack tide because of the currents,” Say what you want about the do’s and don’ts of interacting with marine life — this 400-pound grouper has become a revered mascot throughout the area. Epinephelus itajara can grow to nearly 10 feet and reach 800 pounds. The species almost crashed due to overharvesting but was declared off limits to fishermen in 1990. Its numbers have since grown to the point that there’s talk of lifting the ban, and that’s a big concern in the diving community here. As I watch Shadow, it’s easy to tell he (she?) has an affinity for divers, and for Abernethy in particular. The big grouper makes numerous passes as Abernethy wields his DSLR, twin strobes flashing. Shadow comes my way and purposefully rubs against me, begging for scratches, I’m thinking. It’s tempting, but I stay put, hugging the bottom while Shadow weaves between Abernethy and other divers in an inter- species duet that is as poignant as it is routine in this Gulf Stream water world.

Click Here For A Three-Day Travel Itinerary!


Need To Know

Map of Dive Sites in Palm Beach County Florida

When To Go Diving is excellent year-round. During spring, turtles are mating, schooling sharks jump out of the water and eagle rays, manta rays and swordfish abound. With the cooler water of winter, larger fish move in.

Dive Conditions Most Palm Beach County dives are drifts ofupto1mile.May through September offers the calmest seas and warmest water, hovering in the mid-70s, though temps can reach 86 degrees. In fall and winter,water temps drop to 68 to 72 degrees; come spring, water temps hit the mid-70s. Visibility averages 60 feet but can reach 100 feet during cooler months.

Operators In Delray Beach, Scuba Center Delray (scubadelray.com) visits reef and wreck sites along the middle and southern region to Boca Raton. Scuba Adventures (scuba-adventures.com) in Lake Park visits Palm Beach offshore sites while offering custom itineraries. In Jupiter, Jupiter Dive Center (jupiterdivecenter.com) cruises the northern-most sites as well as wrecks and reefs.

How To Plan A Weekend Dive Vacation in Palm Beach County, Florida

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Drive and Dive: Palm Beach County, Florida

Let me get this right: a 10-foot hammerhead right off the bat, followed by two portly loggerheads, hubcap-size French angels and a supporting cast that makes me swear I’m diving in exotic waters. Then a 10-foot sailfish lollygags 20 feet away during my safety stop, something I’d never experienced anywhere. All this at Boynton Ledge, my first-ever dive in the waters of southeast Florida’s Palm Beach County? I could get used to this.

“Not bad for a first dive, eh?” says William “Taz” Tuzinsky, the imposing ex-police detective turned tec diver behind Scuba Center Delray, my day’s dive operator. “I get divers all the time who tell me they’ll rethink plopping down $5,000 for exotic dive vacations.”

He’s got a point.

LUCKY CONVERGENCE

If bragging rights are due for the Palm Beaches, as the county calls itself, you can thank three auspicious factors. First, there’s the Gulf Stream, a conveyor belt of clear, clean, warm, nutrient-rich water that provides a buffet for the entire marine food chain. The northbound current can be robust — and close. Just off Singer Island, the Gulf Stream comes nearest to shore at barely a mile out. Then there’s the reef. Swinging up from the Florida Keys is the world’s third-largest living reef, formed from ancient beach ridge complexes that anchored subsequent coral growth. It’s a virtual divers fun house, comprising an inner, middle, main and outer ledge system full of nooks, crannies, wrecks and rock piles at multiple depths that parallels the entire 47-mile length of Palm Beach County. Finally, there’s the dynamic of the Florida peninsula itself. As the interior heats, moisture-ridden clouds unleash massive convectional downpours that flow into estuaries, adding to the organic soup and sustaining incredible macro marine life along the Intracoastal Waterway as well as the reef system.

A DELRAY DAY

With lodging in Delray Beach, a rental car and my own dive equipment, I’m on a marathon, aiming to rack up as many dives as possible — a fairly simple quest because scores of dive sites are barely 10 minutes offshore. After my intro dive, Tuzinsky takes me to nearby Delray Ledges to the south. Talk about drift diving. At 60 feet, we scoot at 4 knots over a profuse tapestry of gorgonians, barrel sponges and 15-foot ledges with shadowed alcoves of snapper and jacks peering into glints of sunlight. Along our flight path we come face to face with the vacant-eyed stares of several lemon sharks, and at least two nurse sharks tucked beneath ledges. After we’re a mile from our drop, it’s time to call it a day, and once again I get a parting gift when I spot a green sea turtle employing its finely serrated beak to tear sea grass swaying in the current.

Driving north to my next day’s dive rendezvous in Jupiter is an eye-opener. You can just smell the money in Palm Beach. Gorgeous white sand, swaying palms, Bentleys and Mercedes, trendy cafes — it’s almost surreal. But even if the price of admission here is high, the diving is equal opportunity — a bargain, really, considering the variety, quality and convenience.

JUPITER RISING

I put this assertion to the test when I hook up with Philip Berg at Jupiter Dive Center. “It’s all about the Gulf Stream. We’ve got everything — manta rays, tons of sharks,” Berg says during an en- route rundown of today’s possibilities.

I learn that the area is dive central for four world-class seasonal aggregations that divers go nuts for: lemon sharks (January and February), marine turtles (May and June), goliath grouper (August and September) and lobsters (late spring through summer). “Goliath grouper and lemon sharks are huge here. We get destination divers from all over the world who come for these alone,” he adds.

Our first drop zone is a threefer of sorts: a mile drift that begins at Captain Mike’s and continues past Area 51 to just north of Juno Ledge. We fin diagonally and thread between ledges, peer into fishy grottoes and fly over sand flats where, just as Berg promised, we see it all: blacktip reef sharks, nurse sharks, goliath grouper, loggerhead and green turtles, schools of blue runners and parrotfish galore, not to mention humongous barrel sponges and colonies of sea whips and fans. By the time we’re ready to surface, I’ve added green morays, a school of large barracuda and a school of horse-eye jacks to my list.

Two more dives out of Jupiter are just as riveting. At Spadefish, we trade abrupt ledges for a gentle slope leading to a hard, steep wall. Sharks, turtles, green morays: check, check and double-check. Our final dive at Bluffs, known as Jupiter’s prettiest, is simply extravagant. Intermittent sand patches of an ancient riverbed separate a series of cul-de-sacs, each an aquarium unto itself. There are napping loggerheads in one. Over there a small hawksbill munches on sponges. Down below an eagle ray flutters in the sand. Just ahead a lemon shark hovers above a ledge. When I put on the brakes — not easy in the current — I take in a bevy of angelfish, wrasses, blennies and parrotfish that all sparkle like gems in a jewelry box.

MACRO WONDERS AND GENTLE GIANTS

If there’s one dive you don’t want to miss in the Palm Beaches, it’s Blue Heron Bridge at Phil Foster Park, christened by many as one of the world’s premier easy-access macro sites. The critter list is a who’s who of macro stars, from seahorses and pipefish of all stripes to frogfish, batfish, stargazers and upward of 100 species of nudibranchs. It all comes easily because of its shallow 12- to 20-foot depth and choice location in the protected Lake Worth Lagoon, just beneath the bridge leading me to my next dive appointment with Jim Abernethy, owner of Scuba Adventures.

“There have been eight species of newly ID’d nudibranchs at Blue Heron in one year, plus three species of batfish and six species of seahorses,” Abernethy tells me at the nearby docks, where we suit up aboard M/V Deep Obsession. But this macro mecca was not in the cards for me on this day because of tides. “It’s a little tricky. You have to stay clear of the channel and enter just before high slack tide because of the currents,” Say what you want about the do’s and don’ts of interacting with marine life — this 400-pound grouper has become a revered mascot throughout the area. Epinephelus itajara can grow to nearly 10 feet and reach 800 pounds. The species almost crashed due to overharvesting but was declared off limits to fishermen in 1990. Its numbers have since grown to the point that there’s talk of lifting the ban, and that’s a big concern in the diving community here. As I watch Shadow, it’s easy to tell he (she?) has an affinity for divers, and for Abernethy in particular. The big grouper makes numerous passes as Abernethy wields his DSLR, twin strobes flashing. Shadow comes my way and purposefully rubs against me, begging for scratches, I’m thinking. It’s tempting, but I stay put, hugging the bottom while Shadow weaves between Abernethy and other divers in an inter- species duet that is as poignant as it is routine in this Gulf Stream water world.

Click Here For A Three-Day Travel Itinerary!


Need To Know

Map of Dive Sites in Palm Beach County Florida

When To Go Diving is excellent year-round. During spring, turtles are mating, schooling sharks jump out of the water and eagle rays, manta rays and swordfish abound. With the cooler water of winter, larger fish move in.

Dive Conditions Most Palm Beach County dives are drifts ofupto1mile.May through September offers the calmest seas and warmest water, hovering in the mid-70s, though temps can reach 86 degrees. In fall and winter,water temps drop to 68 to 72 degrees; come spring, water temps hit the mid-70s. Visibility averages 60 feet but can reach 100 feet during cooler months.

Operators In Delray Beach, Scuba Center Delray (scubadelray.com) visits reef and wreck sites along the middle and southern region to Boca Raton. Scuba Adventures (scuba-adventures.com) in Lake Park visits Palm Beach offshore sites while offering custom itineraries. In Jupiter, Jupiter Dive Center (jupiterdivecenter.com) cruises the northern-most sites as well as wrecks and reefs.

The World’s Best Scuba Diving Locations

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Why do the Top 100 Readers Choice Awards, now in their 23rd year, still matter to divers? Because these are your picks, based on thousands of votes from the most experienced dive travelers on the planet. Why do they matter to us? Because every month you hear from our editors on what we think matters in the world of dive travel. For the January/February issue of Scuba Diving we get to listen to you, and we’re taking notes.

Here, we proudly present the No. 1 ranking destinations in the Best Overall Diving category of the awards. The full list of winning destinations is below.

Caribbean and Atlantic

1) BONAIRE

Diving is such an integral part of this spunky desert island not far from South America that it’s hard to separate the underwater and topside experience. Luckily, you don’t have to, because 24/7 access to its vibrant near-shore reefs is what sets Bonaire apart. If there’s a place you can have more fun than piloting your rental truck around Bonaire’s cactus-lined ring road, pulling off to submerge almost anywhere — slowing down just long enough to admire the flamingos or grab a burger at the kiteboarders beach — we haven’t heard of it. — Mary Frances Emmons

Go Now: tourismbonaire.com

2) Cayman Islands

3) Mexico

4) Bay Islands

5) Bahamas

North America

1) BRITISH COLUMBIA

Your first B.C. dive will likely take your breath away, and not just because of the refreshing 50-degree water. Novice and expert divers alike regularly rate Vancouver Island the planet’s finest coldwater diving. The mix of engaging critters, hot invertebrate colors, artificial reefs extraordinaire, rugged scenic beauty and warm Canadian hospitality ensure your return. — Brandon Cole

Go Now: hellobc.com

2) North Carolina

3) California

4) Florida

5) Washington

Pacific and Indian Oceans

1) INDONESIA

If the host of accolades from this year’s Top 100 alone don’t convince you of Indonesia’s greatness — Best Macro, Healthy Marine Environment, Best Underwater Photography, not to mention Best Overall Diving — we’re not sure what will. But we’ll keep piling on until we prove this archipelago of more than 17,000 islands has something for everyone. For metalheads, Bali is home to the most photogenic wreck on the planet — and perhaps most accessible — a U.S. Liberty-class ship lying 25 yards off Tulamben’s rocky shore. Healthy reefs and fish overload more your style? Eastern Indonesia’s Raja Ampat has hundreds of sites with colorful reefs where schools of fish are so thick you won’t be able to see your buddy. Macro divers will go gaga for the nudibranchs and weird critters in Lembeh; big-fish aficionados will love Komodo’s manta trains; and wall divers will get vertigo in Wakatobi. One trip to Indonesia and you’ll see what all the fuss is about. Just remember to tell your friends. — David Espinosa

Go Now: indonesia-tourism.com

2) Micronesia

3) Palau

4) Galapagos

5) Red Sea


How We Got the Numbers Thousands of Scuba Diving subscribers and online users rated their experiences at dive destinations in a variety of categories on a scale from one to five. Final scores are an average of the numerical scores awarded. A minimum number of responses was required for a destination to be included in these ratings.

Scuba Diving with the Deadliest Animals on the Planet

Friday, January 8th, 2016

DIVE IF YOU DARE

There is diving — the casual pursuit of water time for the simple fun of it. And then there’s DIVING — exploring new frontiers and edgy locations where divers are few and far between. It’s about discoveries with purpose, and exotic marine life that are truly exceptional. Risk? Sure, there’s some. But the rewards are substantial. For anyone who loves checking off another species (and an excuse to travel around the world), here are diving’s most daring encounters.


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