Grateful Diver

We popped up from an epic dive at the famed Sipidan Island in Borneo, squeals of glee, long drawn out “awwwwwwwwesomes” and wows came out of all three of us. We had seen huge schools of Barracuda, massive Humphead Parrot Fish, sharks and too many giant turtles to count. It was a stunning experience. Back on the boat the girls asked me how this rated in the top dive sites I have seen on the Furthur Adventure. For sure I have been blessed with diving at the some of the tops dive sites on the planet. I responded, “It rates right up there in the top sites”. This is not an easy mark to hit, the competition is stunning.

So I thought I would recap the marvels of the underworld I have experienced in the last three years. Some are just phenomenal on their own, some we hit it lucky and some are just too much fun not to include. I hope to keep adding to this list as we continue to seek out the wonders under the sea.

The dry suit got left in Mexico, where the diving got warm and fun. The list must start with a dive that was not especially beautiful but any dive where I laugh my regulator rout of my mouth has got to be included. We dove the Sea Lion nursery on a small rock in the Las Partida islands just outside of La Paz. I can still picture the fifty yapping sea lion pups bubbling at the surface eager for us to come play with them. When we hit the bottom they bit our fins and dragged us across the white sand, bubbles burst out of my mouth as I raged in laughter and ya, I lost my regulator. l

The next on the list was all the way across the Pacific Ocean in the Tuamuto Island of Fakarava. Fakarava is a large coral atoll with two passes into the lagoon,north and south. We booked on a local dive boat for the north pass dives as they were a bit away and local knowledge was needed. It was there I saw a real,raw toothed, steel eyed and magnificent Tiger Shark. I knew something extraordinary was up when the normally almost bored dive guide started bounding madly and waving.

Then we move to the south pass and did not expect anything like what awaited us. For several days we dove the entrance at flood tide, each dive becoming a lifelong memory. This is shark lovers Mecca. The narrow pass became a wall of 6-8 foot Grey Reef Sharks, by the hundreds if not thousands. Word do not do this entry justice, see the video on my video section of the blog.. Sadly this dive has spoiled me for most shark dives, yet I am always happy to see one, even the smaller Black Tip Reef sharks we saw today.

Moving west we dove with the massive Lemon Sharks at Bora Bora. Sheer size and peacefulness of these critters put this dive on the list.

The small island of Neui hosts some geography that puts it on the list, I do love diving in caves and they are everywhere on this honeycombed island. This area is famed for the abundant Sea Snake population, a critter more feared than any shark but no problem for us. This dive got on the list not because of the dive but the ride out, we came across a massive pod of Spinner Dolphins, laws not as strict here we all jumped in with them and the RIB operator had us hang on the side as she drove right through the pod. With unlimited visibility we saw the hundreds of Spinners below us. A group of young males made the front guard and came at us to keep us at bay. The encircled us, not aggressively butwith clear intent. And here a once in a lifetime event happened, a dolphin came right under me and popped up right in front of me as it pooped, I had been pooped on by a dolphin. The brown cloud passed by and I hit a hallmark in my life.

From there we headed for the exotic land of Tonga and added another entry to the list.Again this was not for the dive but the added bonus. They have self- regulated the event but the dive operators can take you, with snorkels only, right next to the Humpback Whales that frequent the area this time of year. We did a combo whale and scuba package. The driver took us right up to surfacing HumpbackWhales after reading their behavior and determining we would be welcome. The operator took this very seriously. We jumped into the water as the giants of the deep descended began their ritualized singing. We did not see much of them but the song was loud, clear and mystical. There is a recording on the video section of the owing scuba dive was excellent but the memory over shadowed bythe whales of course. The next day our friends went and won the lottery, they spend several hours with a mother and calf that welcomed into their world and played with the calf under the mother’s watchful eye.

We did some fine diving in Fiji and even a shark feeding dive with four species of sharks.Normally this would have hit the list but it was far surpassed by more natural shark experiences.

It is not until Australia and the famed Great Barrier Reef that another entry occurs. We dove on the outer reef several times venturing out and retreating when the weather turned. On one such trip we did a night dive. I like night diving and find it an adventure especially if the party is going and the locals come out to play. Here it was a real festival of sea life. Huge Terrellis darted about us using our dive lights for hunting, it was awesome to be engulfed in a school of these frantic massive fish.

A list of great Australian dives must include the dive of the Yongala this wreck dive is world famous and a must any dive enthusiast in Oz. Sadly it had just been hit by a Cyclone and the top half was gone. The wreck was home of some huge Manta Rays, and tons of fish.

From Australia the dive trail takes us to Indonesia where we had a boat load of enthusiastic divers. Many good and even great dive sites but the cream of the crop was in the Komodo National Park. On one of the dives right off of Furthur, we came up for the safety stop just under a group of spectacular Manta Rays circling like ballet dancers right above our heads. We watched for 20 minutes lying on our backs in the 15 foot of water, very glad we had come up with extra air. Another dive that gets on the list, for sheer fun was the sleigh ride drift dive in the narrow pass between the small islands. At full current this was an E ticket ride for sure and the steady 40’ depth kept it safe and manageable.The ride sent us rolling into a wide area aptly named the “Fish Bowl”.

Again we found other good and even great diving in Indonesia, hence we are going back this year. But there were no entries into the list until we hit Thailand. Thailand has a productive and expansive tourist dive industry so most diving is done cattle boat style by less than enthusiastic guides. We had our own boat and the benefit of befriending several local pros so got the best info and dives. All the pros and local talked about two pinnacles that jet out of the water miles from any land, Deng and Meng. We made the long, weather sensitive trip out and snuck in two dives before we were blown off the dive site. It was not as plentiful in large fish as we hoped but still a dive for the list.

Two areas must be on the list, not for specific dives but for just great diving in many places. The Samilian Islands are a diving Mecca on the outer west coast of Thailand. The islands are spattered with great diving and anchorages. The other site is 20 miles south of Ko Phi Phi 20 miles. Here we found some magnificent cave diving and many wonders to see. Real fun dive sites all around the islands.

So that brings us to today, we dove the famed Sipidan Island, this site has been boasted about by every dive guru on the planet not the least of which is the dive god himself, Jacques Cousteau, who raved about the site in the 80’s. Like all the above sites, it deserves a blog on its own and I will post one with some great pictures soon.

It has been fun going down this submerged memory lane. I have been blessed with some of the best diving the world has to offer and some of the best dive partners. I will continue search for the wonders the sea has to offer asking for guidance and safety from the one who rules the underworld. As we are explorers sometimes we hit dead ends, sometime hidden treasures, sometimes we dive were others do not go. I hope you might get to dive some of these places and hope I can inspire you to search them out. Make your dream your story!