Monday, April 29, 2013

Staff Report: Phil North explores Central America

Phil North, keeping us up to date with his Central American adventure...
Guatemala, the first stop on my Central American tour, is a country blessed with both a rich culture and superb nature. It is a country with a difficult past marked by violent oppression dating back to the Spanish conquistadores, right up to the civil war that blighted much of the second half of the 20th century.
Since 1996, the country has seen peace and stability and is gaining a deserved reputation as an exciting destination for more adventurous travellers. For those interested in history, culture and nature the reasons to visit Guatemala are compelling. The country is at the epicentre of the Mayan world, with countless sites to explore, each with their own history. Mayan traditions remain strong to this day especially in the highland regions where Mayan people make up the majority of the population. For nature lovers, the country's unique geography gives rise to fourteen separate habitats (that's six more than Costa Rica) ranging from coastal regions to cloud forests and supporting an incredible diversity of species. The country is ranked eighth on the world for biodiversity and is surely destined to become a future star of nature tourism in the region.
My visit took me first to Tikal, the largest and most impressive of all the Mayan sites in Guatemala - and arguably the entire region. Situated in the north-east of the country and accessible either from the capital or from Belize, Tikal was a vast Mayan city and remained at the centre of Mayan civilisation for almost 1000 years. The sheer size of the temples is overwhelming, something that you cannot quite appreciate until you are standing next to them. The surrounding jungle - which consumed the city after its demise - adds a mysterious, almost mystical quality. It is possible to climb the tallest pyramid - standing at 44 metres tall - offering spectacular views over the city and jungle. My first day in Guatemala and I was, quite simply awe-struck. The site is also renowned as a bird watching mecca and is home to the region's most iconic animal, the jaguar. Tikal has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its historical significance.
My adventure then took me to Antigua, the original Spanish capital before it was abandoned in favour of the current, Guatemala City. This beautiful city, ringed by volcanoes, is steeped in colonial history and is another UNESCO heritage site. Historic buildings and monuments, all built in the colonial style line every cobbled street, while relics and artefacts from the early Spanish rule abound. A tour of this city is like stepping back in time and is a must for any visit to Guatemala.

The final stop on my brief tour was Lago de Atilan, a lake formed after a huge eruption around 85,000 years ago. It is possible to dive in the lake, where there is a lost Mayan city to explore, but I was not able to during my short time here. Instead, a tough but rewarding trek up San Pedro - one of the three volcanoes surrounding the lake - provided stunning views of the area. The upper reaches of the volcano are home to the Horned Guan, a bird species found only in small highland areas of Guatemala and southern Mexico. Their habitat is so small only 1000 birds are though to exist, with around 50 on this volcano. While we were not lucky enough to see one, the view from the top was more than enough reward.

Next is Belize to dive the barrier reef, explore the Mayan site of Lamanai and hopefully, to dive with the whale sharks that gather here around full moon.

We look forward to the next chapter!

Looking to follow in Phil's footsteps?
Contact a member of the Dive Team to discuss your options.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Staff Report: Sarah Wight in Southern Oman

A magical land, full of history, culture, rugged mountains, bustling souks, desert landscape and beautiful beaches stretched along the 3,165km coastline all only a seven hour flight from the UK. The Sultanate of Oman is located on the south-eastern tip of the Arabian Gulf surrounded by the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman, both attracting an abundance of marine life in their nutrient rich waters.

There is plenty of adventure and discovery in Oman from the fjord like scenery in Musandam to the Bedouin camps outside of Muscat and the lush temperate climate of Salalah in the south. Underwater, divers enjoy untouched reefs and an abundant marine life of plenty of healthy corals and large pelagics such as devil rays, leopard sharks and grouper. It is common to see dolphins chasing tuna, turtles and whales off the coast. The Daymaniyat Islands out of Al Sawadi and the Hallaniyat Islands out of Salalah are of particular interest. Wreck enthusiasts will enjoy exploring the Al Munnasir and the City of Winchester wrecks. It’s also a great place to learn to dive. Saman Explorer liveaboard is mid-way through its second season offering week long trips to the Hallaniyat Islands (November to May). Departing from Mirbat, she heads out east in search of pristine dive sites with an abundance of marine life; the highlights being manta rays, humpback whales and the wrecks. Dive Worldwide were recently invited on board to experience this wonderful part of the world, unexplored by most.

After an overnight flight, a quick stop in the Duty Free and a short flight south to Salalah, we met our fellow divers and were driven to the harbour, passing camels and not much else. It was great to be in the warmth of the sun and back in 25°C water for the check dive, whilst my friends and colleagues suffered in the cold back home. 

 We woke up the next morning to panoramic views of mountainous Al Sawda, the most westerly of the small group of islands, and not a soul in sight. Easing us in slowly, the dive sites here are shallow and full of life swimming around and hiding in the coral bommies and gardens. My camera was kept busy on our exploratory dive; table corals, moray eels, puffer fish, lion fish, blennies, grouper and a crocodile fish posing during our safety stop. The best experience of the day? A chance encounter with a massive pod of wild dolphins at sunset!
Divers with a pioneering spirit will enjoy this week at sea, the itinerary liable to change to suit the needs of the passengers and their thirst for marine life!  The second day was spent moored by more of a giant rock than an island, in hope of manta ray encounters at Schmies rock. We were mesmerised and if we could have stayed in the water all day observing these beautiful creatures, we would have!  Although we didn’t see them on all four dives, the chance was definitely there.

Al Qibliyah island, the furthest east offers a mix of rocky sites to explore both in the protected bays and on the outside, where the currents can be fairly strong but the marine life very rewarding. Amongst the kelp covered rocks, hard and soft corals, we saw lobster, Arabian angel fish, schools of trevally and goat fish, moorish idols, grouper and shovelnose guitar fish hiding in the sand.

All 120 metres of the City of Winchester wreck lies at a depth of 28 metres in a bay off the coast of Hallaniyah island. For most, this was the highlight of the trip. Although the visibility wasn’t that great, plenty of time was spent exploring the cargo ship, the first casualty of WWl. She’s covered in soft corals, anemones and fans; home to scorpion fish, honeycomb morays and lion fish and is a very interesting dive both during the day and in the dark of night.

We ended our week at sea with a morning dive on the wreck of a broken up cargo boat lying on the reef just off the coast from the Marriott at Mirbat, where we spent our final night. It was hard to find a spot to rest without disturbing the waking parrot fish and gaze at the hundreds of schooling fish around the mast. I had to stop counting species and just watch the marine life get on with its daily routine. Amazing!
A visit to southern Oman was on my list ever since my first trip in 2005. It’s definitely off the beaten track and a great way to get away from the world for the week. We headed back to the ‘hustle and bustle’ of Muscat for our final two days, spending time visiting hotels, shopping in the souk and exploring the Grand Mosque. If we’d had more time I would like to have gone back to the Daymaniyat islands and inland to explore the forts and wadis. Next time I hope to be able to visit the turtle reserve and perhaps go out on a dhow to spot whales and dolphins. Then of course, there’s the whole of the Musandam peninsula to consider!

Inspired and looking to visit Oman?
Sarah travelled aboard the Saman Explorer in the Deep South in Dec 2012.
Thank you to Extra Divers and everyone on board!
We feature the key dive areas and can help you create your perfect holiday itinerary to discover why this is a fantastic destination to visit throughout the year.
Call Us: 0845 130 6980

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Turks and Caicos

Thank you to John & Jacqui C for this wonderful video of playful dolphin (s) on a recent dive from Bohio on Grand Turk. The humpback whale season is Jan-Mar, but there are plenty of other reasons to visit year round!

BOHIO DOLPHINS MPEG 4 FILE from John Campbell on Vimeo.

Truk Lagoon and the Philippines

We just wanted to take the opportunity to thank you Michele, for all your help with the planning of our special anniversary holiday. We were given champagne and a poem from the crew of the Odyssey and a meal on the last night from Thresher Shark Divers in Malapascua . We would like to thank you for all your help and advice and we were singing your praises to all and sundry when we were away, we will certainly use your services again for our next trip! 

On the whole we thoroughly enjoyed the trip especially Odyssey which is the best liveaboard we have ever been on. The diving at Truk was everything we expected and more. The accommodation at Blue Lagoon was adequate and we understand that due to flight schedules, we needed the extra couple of nights there before heading to the Philippines.

Kim & David R, April 2013

Dive Worldwide: As with most of our suggested itineraries, they can be tailor-made to suit your holiday requirements. Our Truk - Wreck Extravaganza trip is a popular starting point! Our happy clients let us know this was a special occasion and we did all we could to make it memorable. If you're travelling for your birthday, anniversary or any other special reason, let us know!


All the questions were answered very quickly and accurately. We visited the Philippines. Thanks for one of my best holidays and the best diving ever!!!!

Colin & Philippa M, March 2013

Three days left of a great holiday!  A beautiful island (Dimakya), completely unspoilt. No rubbish or plastic anywhere and a pristine sea (apart from a few jellyfish which means snorkelling in a full wet suit!). We have the best room in the resort (Club Paradise and the Dugong Dive Centre), one of four cottages on a very private stretch of beach, so close to the sea it feels like being on a boat. Faces due east so great sunrises and constant breeze as a storm beach! Good dive trips with small numbers on comfortable boats. Interesting sites and great vis. Thanks for your efforts Phil!

Alan & Gilly W, March 2013
Dive Worldwide: The Philippines is one of our favourite destinations. There are so many places to visit and dive throughout the year. Not only can you twin-centre amongst the islands, it's possible to visit here and Micronesia in one holiday!
Holiday Ideas: Island hopping around the Visayas, wreck diving in Coron, Big Fish tour, liveaboard weeks in Tubbataha or Sogod Bay (whale sharks).
What's Bubbling: Issue 1 2013 is available now. This issue of our newsletter features Philippines Uncovered - a detailed map of the destination with plenty of amazing ideas!
Contact one of our consultants to discuss your options!
T: 0845 130 6980 or E:


Fantastic relaxing holiday to Bonaire, thanks Phil! I would recommend Buddy Dive Resort. The accommodation is basic, but clean and functional. Very well set up for divers. Would highly recommend a trip to East Coast Divers - best dives of the week (would like to seem them included in the package if possible).

John T, March 2013

Vilamendhoo, Maldives

Another excellent holiday to the Maldives with lots of good diving, including diving with manta rays. I am very glad to say that Vilamendhoo is still living up to expectations. Although it is now over two years since the refurb, everything is still looking in good condition. The staff were as friendly and helpful as ever, the food is good and plentiful, and the diving was excellent.

Euro Divers ran a very good operation as usual. We ended up doing 20 dives each, and surprisingly for me more than half of them were boat dives. We did the all day manta trip and were rewarded with a couple of brilliant dives where we saw several mantas for quite a long time – they really are awesome creatures! We even managed to see a manta on one of the ordinary boat trips, just after seeing a stingray and then an eagle ray in quick succession. On other dives the smaller fish life was very prolific, often with shoals of fusiliers or trigger fish as you jumped in off the boat. On a couple of occasions we experienced a bit more of a significant current. However, overall I would say that we had a brilliant holiday with plenty of chilling out between the diving and eating – I even managed to read two books! Thank you Sarah.
Cynthia & Simon G, Feb 2013

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Teresa at the Thailand Academy

Most of us would really enjoy a week in Thailand; with its idyllic beaches, warm weather, friendly locals, world-class dive sites and sumptuous cuisine. Teresa is currently enjoying all of this as part of the Thailand Academy, but it’s a trip with something a little different…and she’s having a lot of fun and discovering much more about the destination, so let’s start by sharing a little with you.

A traditional long tail boat ride gets you to a lot of places, this time it’s Koh Klang in southern Thailand. "Koh Klang is a village located by the Krabi River and Andaman Sea, covered by a vast mangrove forest of tens of thousands acres. On the island is the habitat of a peace-loving Muslim community who lives amidst this prosperous city and still live like they did in the past. The main profession of the people on the island is fishing, but now they have started tourism as their additional job."
 The week of activities includes:
  • Meeting and learning about their local fishing methods; shallow water coastal nets and finding shellfish on the beach the traditional way.
  • Experience the process of Sungyod rice production, a type of rice that is only harvested in two places in Thailand, the other being Pattalung. The farmers practise and actively campaign for organic agricultural methods.
  • The traditional symbol of Krabi is the small Hua Tong boat. Participants will learn how to make models of these, a tricky skill.
  • Learn about and create batik in the textiles group; very popular!
  • Kayaking in the mangrove forest in Krabi, visiting  Khao Kanab Nam and searching for wildlife.
  • A trip to the award winning Waree Raksa Amazing Day Spa. A must after a busy week.
  • Sightseeing at Hong Island where white sandy beaches and crystal clear water awaits – a top secret beach destination.
  • Discovering caves and island hopping to Chicken Island – all part of the adventure!

We look forward to hearing all about it in the office!
In the meantime, Teresa's adventures are on Facebook.

For holiday ideas and information on travelling to Thailand, speak to a member of our Dream Team. All have been to Thailand and some have even worked there!
E: T: 0845 130 6980