What’s on your scuba diving bucket list? Mine is very long…

I was just sitting here thinking that I have been pretty lucky to visit as many of my bucket list destinations as I have, so far.  Later this year, I will cross off another one.  In November, I will be diving Palau.  I feel really blessed to get to do that one.  There are a lot of sites I will probably not ever make it to that are high on the list.  Galapagos, Australia, Coco’s Island, The Socorros, Raja Ampat, the Solomon Islands,  Wakatobi, the Red Sea & Thailand are all on the list but they are all pretty expensive.  Will I get to all of them?  Not likely, unless the Powerball gods smile on me.  However, I will probably make it to some of them before I have to quit.

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The biggest challenge right now is finding an affordable and reasonable way to get there.  Especially for transpacific & transatlantic flights.  With diving, you have equipment.  With equipment, you have checked bags.  The days of 2 free checked bags are nearly over.  Many airlines charge for all checked bags to some destinations and only for the 2nd bag to others.  Recently, United and some others have raised a second bag fee to $100 each way!  That’s a pretty handsome profit for a small amount of handling.  Another thing I had never even given a thought to when flying, is what countries I am flying over?  After the recent Malaysia Air tragedy, it is certainly something to think about.  I can’t say any of this will ever keep me from going but it’s an eye-opener for sure!

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There are just so many really special places in the world for scuba divers and vacationers, I hope you get to visit many of your bucket list destinations!  I plan to keep at it until something makes me quit.  Diving is the passion of my life and I discovered it when I was already 45.  I love it as much now as I did when I first started.  Now if the airlines would just let us enjoy our sports and our vacations by making their bag fees reasonable and still make a profit without bankrupting its travelers in the process!

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Scuba Diving Belize – Nurse Sharks & Eagle Rays & Morays – oh my!

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When I planned this group trip to Belize, I had visions of the Blue Hole and clear waters on the barrier reef off Ambergris Caye in my mind.  I have to say, the reality of the diving in Belize really surprised me.  First, I knew they had nurse sharks there but I never had any idea of how many.  We literally saw dozens on some dives.  The second thing that really shocked me was the eagle rays.  I have never seen an eagle ray that was not afraid of people and swimming away.  That includes many destinations in the Caribbean and all over the South Pacific.  I saw at least a dozen and none was afraid.  Most were close enough to get a photo of and see them clearly.  That impressed me, a lot!  Some swam so close you could nearly touch them.

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Moray eels were in abundance too.  The above picture is an eel on my fin as I was kneeling to take the photo.  They were friendly and playful.  I can only think that the dive masters in Belize don’t harass the big animals to the point of wanting to flee because they seem to actually enjoy interacting with divers.  That is very unusual!  The biggest down side to the diving was that because the barrier reef is just that – a barrier – the visibility was not as good as I thought it would be.  There is surge against the reef that stirs things up.  However, it did make for a great place for pelagics.

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We did the Blue Hole & Lighthouse Atoll area one day.  I had heard that the boat ride was long and brutal – it was!  I had also heard that the 2 dives after the Blue Hole at Half-Moon Caye and Long Caye make the boat ride worth it – They do!  We dove with Hugh Parkey’s at the Sunbreeze and their boat was bigger than a lot of them so that did help some but it is still a very long ride.  The Blue Hole is cool but it is a do it once – check it off the list – type of dive.  The other two dives were absolutely beautiful.  We had planned to make another excursion to Turneffe Atoll but a broken boat side-lined that plan.  Too bad, I would have loved to dive more of the Atolls.

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The top-side activities on Half-moon Caye include a trip to the Red-footed Booby nesting site.  They are found only in the Galapagos and here, on Half-moon Caye.  The picture above clearly shows the red feet and blue bills that make them unique.  It was a nice place for lunch and nature watching.  On the whole, I waited a long time to dive Belize and am really glad I finally got to do it.  Next time, I would either do a live-aboard or stay out at Turneffe so I can do more diving on the Atolls.  However, that said, I think the trip to Ambergris Caye for diving was really worthwhile.  The resort is very nice and dive operation is first rate.  Everyone is very friendly and helpful.  The eagle rays and nurse sharks alone made this trip worth it!

 

Diving on both ends of Viti Levu, Fiji – Bligh Waters & Beqa Lagoon

I have been fortunate enough to visit Fiji twice.  The first time was on the way back from Papua New Guinea and we dove Bligh Waters on the north end of Viti Levu.  I was really impressed by the visibility of Bligh Waters!  I was afraid it would be a let down after PNG but it wasn’t at all.  Fiji is known for its colorful soft coral.  What they don’t tell you about soft coral before you get there is that soft coral requires current to open up & look so beautiful.

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It really is stunning to see the many colorful corals and sponges of Fiji.  They also have a great variety of fish and critters in Bligh Waters.  We mostly dove pinnacles in the open ocean.  These dives are best reserved for an experienced diver because of the possibility of strong currents.  That said, there is diving that is for all experience levels in Fiji.

The vista from our resort, Wananavu,  was unbelievable as you can see below.  We were treated to a nightly Kava Kava ceremony and the friendliness that Fiji is famous for.  Literally everyone was friendly and gave a “Bula” when they saw you.  That is the Fijian greeting.  You really felt welcome and appreciated.

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The topography underwater was pretty spectacular too.  There was a lot of structure and swim-thrus on some dives.  The one above was one of my favorites.  The water was so clear and blue it made for a really spectacular background for shots like the fan below.

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The colors are so fun underwater.  When you put a light or flash on it, it comes to life.  There were a lot of critters too.  The nudibranch above is such a pretty one.  They are fun to photograph because there are hundreds of varieties.

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The second time I visited Fiji for a dive trip was to the southern end of Viti Levu to dive Beqa Lagoon.  This is an easy diving area.  There are lots of pinnacles and rock outcroppings to swim around and between.  You just never know what you were going to see.  Nudibranch’s, octopus, eels, anemone fish, scorpionfish, and many others.

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I really enjoyed the anemone fish here (nemo fish).  There had been some rain before we arrived so the visibility was not nearly as good as my last trip but there were so many things to see, it was great diving.  I also experienced El Nino for the first time.  I never knew what a difference in water temperature it really made.  The water was at least 4-5 degrees cooler and when diving, that is a huge difference.  They offer a shark dive there that is pretty entertaining.  You can see up to 7 different shark species on a single dive.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get any spectacular pictures because of the visibility but the memories are priceless.

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We stayed at Waidroka Resort on the south end of Viti Levu.  They offer both diving and surfing.  The staff was wonderful and had that same friendly Fijian style.  One day we went diving at Frigates Reef, one of the favorite surf sites too.  It was great!  I would say that for experience level, Beqa Lagoon is more suited to all levels, including a new diver than Bligh Waters.  I would also say that you would see so many things here, if you were a new diver, it would boggle the mind!

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It is hard to compare the two ends because the weather made the diving so different.  I really enjoyed both but the visibility and water temperature make me naturally prefer the diving in Bligh Waters on the first trip.  However, if those two things had been equal, there was a lot to see on the southern end that made it really fun.  The shark dive and the variety of fish and critters made it special.  Getting to Fiji is really pretty easy.  From LAX, it is an easy 10 hour flight on Air Pacific with great food, great service and free wine.  How can you beat that!

 

Travel is my life and scuba diving is my passion!

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For you experienced bloggers, believe me when I say, I am not!  I love to travel and decided it was time to start a blog and write about travel!  That may include travel I have done or travel I want to do.  My bucket list is long.  I am most passionate about scuba diving and have been fortunate enough to have traveled to some of the most remote and pristine dive destinations in the world.  This first post is a hello from a total blog newbie and a promise that I will get better.  I will strive to make it fun and interesting!  Be talking to you soon…