Diving Costa Rica – Playa del coco and Bat Island

For most avid divers Costa Rica diving is synonymous with Cocos Islands. However the west cost of Costa Rica has many treasures that can be reached from shore by a short boat ride, offering an economical alternative to live-aboard diving as well as wide range of top side activities and national parks. Playa del coco, a sleepy town on the west coast of Costa Rica, only 36 km from Liberia’s international airport, is a perfect gateway to local dive sites as well as Bat Islands.

Coco is the largest of the Papagayo villages in the region of Guanacaste. The area is studded with little towns and villages of varying size with a wide variety of services and tourist attractions. There are four well known dive shops in the village offering daily 2-3 tank dives to local dive sites as well as training and certification plans. Daily trips depart from the main beach by small motor boats bound for one of the rock formations located in the North West end of the coast’s half-moon shape. Most dive sites are reached within 5-15 min and surface intervals between dives are spent on the boat.

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Underwater Macro Photography A Personal Perspective

My first SCUBA experience was no more than 15 years ago. Looking back, I recall only one detail from those days – The burning question in my mind – How to take a camera underwater.
Almost a 1000 dives and several camera/housing sets later I’ve yet to scratch the surface …

As photographers we seek to capture unique scenes and bring our own personal view of them to light. This pursuit leads us to the far corners of the world in search of each creature’s habitat. With exposure comes appetite and soon one has to study the seasonal seas/currents and set off chasing some of the less known underwater species.

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Raja Ampat’s epic bio-diversity is legendary. I recall reading articles by divers and travelers, going back over 15 years, who struggled to describe in words what their eyes could not believe. Perhaps the only aspect of these articles, more memorable than the amazing images, was the writers’ pride for reaching such a remote destination along with detailed accounts of the frustrations associated with such trips.
Even today, with the wide range of possibilities to visit Raja Ampat, after it had become a relatively accessible and common destination for many divers, it defies common definitions. During a recent trip aboard Pindito, after speaking with our captain I realized that even the geographical definition of Raja’s borders is unclear. “Four Kingdoms” were/are a collection of numerous islands stretching from the Sothern region of Misool to the northern border of Indonesia. Majority of the islands, clustered in four main regions, are uninhabited and their names very from map to map. There are many notions about Raja Ampat, and particularly diving in this region, that will remain unexplained even after several visits. It’s vast, diverse, wild and most of all dynamic.
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Diving Raja Ampat’s Northern Islands aboard Pindito

Raja Ampat is one of the holly grails for most warm water divers. Little can be said about this remote and untouched chain of Islands off West Guinea to describe their true nature w/o the risk of plagiarism.

In a land home to over 17,500 Islands and the longest stretch of coastline the Four Kingdoms may appear on the map as just another collection of mostly uninhabited Islands. My first impressions were formed as soon as our plain slowly descended below the clouds, in our approach to Sorong, to reveal a vast horizon dotted with countless Islands and green top rock formation randomly protruding above the surface. Sorong, the gateway to Raja Ampat, is a typical Indonesian port city with its busy roads and low building mostly skirting the harbor. A short car ride from the airport leads to the docks were the capable and well organized crew of Pinditio scooped us aboard the zodiacs to the magnificent ship and by daytime we were on our way on remarkable journey through some of the worlds most prolific dive destinations.

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Diving in Dumaguete, Negros Island, Philippines

The largest and most populous city on Negros Oriental Island, Dumaguete is the gateway to the island. Its local airport provides fast and easy access from several points including Manila and Cebu. This bustling city offers travelers easy access by air or fast ferry from Cebu. In essence Dumaguete is a collage town. Home to one of the biggest and oldest universities in the Philippines its streets are overflowing with young students from neighboring islands and countries.  There is no shortage of restaurants, bars, Internet Cafes and all other types of businesses one can look for after a long stay in a secluded island.

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Diving in Moalboal Cebu Island Philippines

Roughly 3.5hr car ride from Cebu airport MoalBoal has been in the news recently thanks to the controversy surrounding whale shark feedings by local fisherman. Having booked the trip with Sea-Explorers I chose to stay at Kasai Village resort. The resort is nicely designed with pool view and ocean view rooms. The dive shop is well equipped with a very large camera room that eliminates the need to carry your gear back and forth and provides ample outlets for battery charging.


All dive sites, with one exception are about 10 min boat ride from the resort. The farthest site offered is Pescador Island, famous for its resident sardine bait balls, which were out of the office during my visit. Most are sandy slopes or sandy slopes leading to a wall dive. Depths range between 12-40m with the exception of south Pescador Island. Generally speaking most dives will be restricted to 25m max depth with gentle currents.  MoalBoal boots with life. Its coral gardens are home to some of the largest sponges, gorgonians and sea fans I’ve seen.

As an underwater photography destination it offers endless Wide Angle, Close Focus Wide Angle (CFWA) and Macro opportunities. Its walls, slopes and cathedral caverns are home to some of the largest soft coral gardens with a host of sponges, gorgonians and sea fans. The area is frequented by big game such as, Whale sharks, turtles, eels, tuna and barracuda as well as a colorful variety of Macro life.

Diving Philippines’ Central Islands of Cebu, Negros and Bohol

The Philippines offer recreational divers of all skill levels endless opportunities ranging from muck to big game. For an Underwater Photographer the Philippines are probably the best value available. Year round favorable weather conditions and pleasant water temperatures ranging from 26-30C are constant draw for divers from across the globe. Whether aboard one of the leading live-aboard ships frequenting its central and western islands or island hopping, you’re set for an unforgettable tropical sensory overload. The overload starts long before jumping in the water or even boarding a plane bound for your destination; choosing your dive destinations in Philippines, among over 7000 islands, is the first challenge. With year round warm waters, numerous islands, wide selection of accommodations from Luxury liveaboards to basic huts, various must-see species (Whale sharks and Thresher sharks just to name two) and tempting prices you’re facing some very “difficult” decisions.

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Local diving – Hampton’s Shinnecock Bridge

Location is probably one of the most influential aspects of diving. Just like skiing or surfing it’s all about access to locations within season.  With time we set out to discover destinations and encounters both rare and remote. For those lucky enough to have local diving opportunities, those that can be covered in a day trip, the time between the rare and remote can produce amazing surprises and new understanding of our backyard.

By the peak of summer it became clear that my next trip was few months away. An early August trip to swim with hundreds of whale sharks in Mexico (phenomena recently discovered in the Mexican Riviera, Lookup Afuera) had to be canceled and with most late summer trips already booked the prospects were not good. That’s when talking to a colleague who lives on the Long Island shore I learned about several dive and spear fishing sites in the Hamptons.

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Fiji from shark dives to Kava-Kava you’ll be speechless

There are few places rivaling Fiji’s reputation as an exotic destination. White sand beaches, crystal blue water, sundrenched islands, lush green mountains and the ever present smiling faces of locals might be the main attraction for a family vacation or the perfect backdrop for a romantic honeymoon. To me, Fiji holds an even more unique quality; the purity of its wild side. Whether you dive Beqa island for one of the most exciting shark dives or the channels of Taveuni where dolphins seek refuge from approaching storms you’ll be sure to notice the locals in their element.

There are over 300 islands in Fiji, not counting the smaller islets, each boasting a large number of dive sites making it hard to claim to know Fiji. This abundance allows for multiple visits each to a new region, island and new dive sites. Fiji’s marine life is as diverse and exotic as its hills and markets. It’s a perfect destination for big fish and macro alike. In a span of a single dive day you can swim with bull sharks, Tiger sharks, white tips, black tips, travellies and countless other indigenous big fish.  Once the chum induced frenzy settles down you’ll notice the blue ribbon eel picking its head beneath you asking for some peace and quiet.

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Lembeh –Muck diving capital of the world

I live and work in New York City, yes the greatest city in the world the one that never sleeps. Over the years I’ve met very few people who were not totally excited about visiting NYC. The hustle and bustle of the city streets, its famous urban skyline, endless iconic attractions, arts and cultures, supreme luxury and some of the best food anywhere all count toward New York’s universal appeal. After few years of living here, one learns the ways of true NY’rs and realizes that the real gems are hidden in places we least expect them; A windowless stained black door down a staircase full of boxes is the entrance to one of the best clubs downtown or some of the most creative food is served out of trucks parked next to Brooklyn museum. New York sometimes stares you in the eye while going unnoticed and as it turns out same rule applies to some dive destinations.

Before booking my trip to Sulawesi and Lembeh I did all the research I could to be prepared. I learned about the dark volcanic sand and the great Super Macro opportunities and added some diopters and wet lenses to my gear. Reading about snoots and other makeshift underwater lighting techniques I fitted my strobes with an adjustable cone and mounted a focus light for videos. Before arriving to Lembeh I interrogated anyone who was willing to talk to me about what to expect and tips on where to go and what to look for. I started several online discussion treads asking for dive shop recommendations and places to stay (I’ll leave the details for a separate entry). None of the above came even close to preparing me for what I was about to experience and for that I’m very thankful.

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