Once I’d organised my 6 day/5 night Jurassic Komodo trip, I knew, if I was going to travel all that way, I needed a bit more time to acclimatise and explore. With flying through Bali a popular route from the UK to Labuan Bajo, it made complete sense to spend a couple of days there before flying out. What better way to get the trip started than revisiting where my underwater photography journey started back in 2013 and diving around Nusa Penida? The opportunity came up to spend 2 nights with an amazing little dive resort on Nusa Penida Island called Pure Dive Resort, and it was the perfect start to my trip.
Pure Dive Resort was created in January 2019 after the owners sold their share in a dive resort they built on Ceningan, and has been operational since 1st May 2019. Pure Dive Resort has big plans to create a full-scale dive resort offering quality diving on Nusa Penida. Unfortunately, the Covid outbreak caused delays, and at the moment only the dive centre is operating. However, while I was there, you can see work is in full effect and the place is already looking amazing. After speaking to the owner Ark and the ambition he has for the place, it’s clear that Pure will be a sought-after resort on the island; a place focused on high service and safety standards, while concentrating on keeping it personal for each and every guest.
While the plans for the resort proceed, Pure Dive Resort are using Ring Sameton Hotel for their dive and stay packages, just a 2-minute stroll from the dive centre. Pure Dive Resort are running 2 custom built dive boats, each capable of taking up to 14 divers (including guides) onboard. I for one was very impressed with the dive boat and how spacious and comfortable it was, especially as ‘Manta Point’ is quite a ride away and it can be a little choppy; however, on this occasion the journey was a super comfortable and a fun ride out. The boats are equipped with marine radios, 2×100 4 stroke engines, emergency O2 and life jackets, keeping safety paramount. Not only is Pure Dive Resort a well-equipped dive centre, it also has a freediving school, and they use their own custom-built boat with the capacity of a maximum of 10 freedivers onboard.
While I was impressed with the professionalism and facilities of Pure Dive Resort, it was the equipment for hire and the capabilities of the centre which really stood out. As I was flying to Labuan Bajo late the next day, and I was only scheduled for 3 dives, I was reluctant to use my own dive gear for fear of drying time. I requested a wetsuit and BCD and was really impressed with the quality on offer. Almost brand new ScubaPro equipment is available, and you can see it is well looked after and kept in perfect order in a dry room at the back of the centre. So, after the formalities were over, it was time to get familiar with diving in Nusa Penida once again. Our first dive was scheduled for ‘Manta Point’, easily the most famous/popular dive site of Nusa Penida. I was really looking forward to getting back to a dive site that was the catalyst for me becoming an underwater photographer 10 years ago. The journey to ‘Manta Point’ is an adventure in itself, and just adds to the experience. The rough and ready coastline of dramatic cliffs, pounded by a lively sea, leave you in awe, as the rising sun breaks over the top of the island, creating dramatic rays of light through the spray and mist. The boat skips along the surface, with the excitement building over every swell.
After around a 45-minute journey, we arrived at ‘Manta Point’ earlier than a lot of the other boats that were heading there, thanks to Pure Dive Resort working to create the best experience for their guests and aiming to beat the crowds. Ark was my dive guide for the dive and one other diver would join us. After a thorough dive briefing, where you could tell Ark was very knowledgeable about the area, dive site and mantas, we dropped in and were soon graced by the presence of a black-morph manta ray. Honestly, it couldn’t have been much more than 2 minutes into the dive and the manta went gliding over my head. What a start! Two more manta rays were seen during the dive, but they didn’t seem to want to stay around. That’s wildlife for you; you can’t guarantee the manta rays will circle above you for the whole dive. We still got guaranteed manta rays and saw three, along with a fever of blue spotted stingrays all huddled together on the reef floor. A great start to my trip, and seeing a manta ray within 2 minutes of entering the water is pretty incredible.
Our manta fix wasn’t quite finished though. While we headed back along Nusa Penida to our next dive site, we stopped at a known manta feeding spot for juveniles. It’s an area where a lot of the snorkelling boats go to experience manta rays, and sure enough, we could see a lot of activity in the bay. Ark made the decision to take us over and see what kind of action was happening. It wasn’t long before we spotted a large black shape breaking the surface, and Ark asked if we’d like to jump in and snorkel. It was a unanimous decision and we were dropped in the path of the manta ray. More incredible manta moments were had, as it passed by circling the bay area as it fed. I managed to grab some cool shots showing the contrast of the top of the manta to the seafloor. Nusa Penida really is a unique place and great for manta ray interactions.
After a brief snorkel, we were soon back on the boat skipping across the surface to our next port of call located on the North West side of Nusa Penida. Our next dive site of choice was ‘Pura Ped’, a sloping hill reaching down from the surface creating a gradual descent broken up with stunning hard and soft coral spread throughout the site. The visibility was just amazing, and while Ark kept an eye on the depths in the hope of seeing Mola Mola, I concentrated on the reef and marvelled at the amazing coral on show. While we had no luck with Mola Mola, Titan triggerfish, huge pufferfish and three hawksbill turtles kept me entertained throughout a thoroughly peaceful dive.
Before I descended for my third dive of the day. We ventured back to the dive centre and enjoyed an incredibly tasty lunch, included with a dive day package. The Soto Ayam in the restaurant opposite the dive centre was bursting with flavour and well needed after two great dives.
My third dive was to concentrate on some macro critters that call Nusa Penida home, and Intan was highly recommended to be my guide. Intan had a big reputation with the other guides who said she was incredible at finding the small stuff. I wasn’t originally planning on doing any macro, so it was lucky that my room wasn’t far, and I rushed back to change my lens. The dive site also wasn’t far, as we made a short journey out to ‘SD Point’. I’m so glad I switched to macro and could witness and document the diversity of diving here. Intan’s reputation was well deserved, as she continually pointed out some amazing critters, with leaf scorpionfish, peacock mantis shrimp, scorpionfish, nudibranch, porcelain crab and more spotted throughout another amazing dive.
My trip to Nusa Penida with Pure Dive Resort was short and sweet, and left me wanting a lot more. A day of diving was nowhere near enough that’s for sure, with Ark confident he can find Mola Mola within a few days during the high season of August and September. I feel a trip must be planned for that time next year to explore so much more that this area has to offer. I feel I also missed out on exploring more of the island and its rugged beauty. A trip across to Kelingking Beach is a must next time (even though it is the quintessential tourist view of Bali). While I enjoyed meals at Penida Minang and Penida Colada, a week of culinary exploration is also much needed while I take in the sites. The only question I have now is – ‘Who’s joining me and Pure Dive Resort for an amazing week in Nusa Penida?’
For more information about diving in Nusa Penida:
Whatsapp: +62 811 3999 852
Sean Chinn Instagram: @greatwhitesean
Diving into the World’s Fastest Tidal Rapids
In the mystical waters just north of Vancouver, Canada lies a narrow channel called the Skookumchuck Narrows, or simply “The Skook.” It’s a hidden gem in the Salish Sea that boasts a unique spectacle – a tumultuous dance of tides and currents that draws adventurers and spectators from far and wide.
Imagine this: a channel so narrow and shallow that a single tide can unleash an astonishing 200 billion gallons of water, creating a tumultuous display of standing waves, whirlpools, and currents surging at 16 knots (18 mph or 30 kph). Such speeds may seem mild when driving a car, but the erratic water is a different ballgame. Skookumchuck Narrows is a contender for the title of the world’s fastest tidal rapids, rivaled only by Nakwakto Rapids further up the British Columbia coast.
But there’s a twist – this aquatic battleground isn’t just for adrenaline seekers; The Skook is an oasis for life beneath the waves. April 2023 marked a rare convergence of perfect conditions: a celestial alignment allowing divers to witness The Skook in all its glory. And who better to guide this daring expedition than Porpoise Bay Charters, a family-run venture led by the seasoned Kal Helyar and Ann Beardsell?
Raging currents = an abundance of life
The allure lies not in the danger but in the vibrant marine ecosystem fueled by the relentless currents. Ocean currents act as nature’s turbochargers, transporting nutrients that transform places like Skookumchuck Narrows into underwater havens with colorful life thriving amidst the rocky terrain.
It’s important to debunk the myth that this is a reckless plunge into chaos. Diving The Skook is not about courting danger but choosing the right moment: at slack when the tide turns, the water experiences minimal movement, and the currents are a mere 4-5 knots. Picture this – a scuba diver slipping gracefully between tidal changes, maneuvering with precision as the water changes its course and gradually picks up speed. Timing is everything, and finding the rare dates when daylight piercing through the emerald-green water coincides with navigable water conditions is critical. April 2023 granted us a mere handful of these golden days of nature’s alignment for the first time in four years.
Entering the abyss
As our vessel, under the watchful eye of Captain Kal, approached the infamous Skookumchuck rapids, a tangible excitement filled the air. These cold-water adrenaline-filled dives are the scuba diving equivalent to scaling Everest. The unpredictability of The Skook, where currents can whisk you in any direction, demanded respectful caution from our experienced salty crew.
With a reassuring smile, Captain Kal dismissed the notion of a toilet bowl experience, where divers are pulled in a circular direction by the currents as if flushed down a toilet. He emphasized that they only dived during an easy drift in the current, which was hard to fathom possible in such treacherous waters. Approaching the narrowest section of the channel, where the current was fastest, Kal’s experienced eyes scanned for the telltale signs of slack tide. Tidal ripples slowed, and we entered the water in the few precious minutes within the next year when it was possible to witness Skookumchuck in all its sunny glory.
As we descended into the underwater world, a mysterious algal bloom cast a dark green haze, unveiling a breathtaking palette of colors below. Bright red and pink anemones, neon orange encrusting sponges, and deep purple ochre sea stars adorned the rocky canvas, showcasing nature’s artistic prowess.
Surrendering to the sea
Descending further, we felt the force of the tide, like a river yet to subside. Gripping onto rock holds and kicking into the current, we felt like underwater rock climbers. Adjusting our underwater camera settings and getting comfortable with the flow of the water, we marveled at the transformation of the underwater landscape. Slabs of rock, once pounded by the current, now hosted a vibrant community of marine life.
After a mesmerizing twenty minutes of relatively gentle water, the current intensified, signaling the roller coaster drop ahead. We surrendered to neutrality, letting the current guide us along the wall. Boulders and back eddies added a touch of unpredictability; with trust in our abilities and Captain Kal’s promise of a safe pickup, the thrill was exhilarating rather than menacing.
As the current ebbed, we found ourselves in a tranquil cove adorned with green sea urchins, marking the end of our underwater odyssey. The Skook had shown us its splendor: a delicate balance of chaos and life beneath the surface – leaving us with memories as vivid as the colors we witnessed.
About the Author
Nirupam Nigam is a dedicated underwater photographer and fisheries scientist. While growing up in Los Angeles, he fell in love with the ocean and pursued underwater photography in the local Channel Islands. He received degrees in Aquatic and Fisheries Science and General Biology, as well as a minor in Arctic Studies, at the University of Washington. After working as a fisheries observer on boats in the Bering Sea and North Pacific, Nirupam became the Editor-in-Chief of the Underwater Photography Guide and the President of Bluewater Photo – the world’s top underwater photo & video retailer. Check out more of his photography at www.photosfromthesea.com!
US-based divers: explore more close-by dive destinations with Bluewater Dive Travel here.
All photos: Nirupam Nigam
Hunting Lionfish Safely and Responsibly in Curaçao
Curaçao, a picturesque island in the southern Caribbean, is not only renowned for its stunning beaches and vibrant culture but also for its commitment to preserving its marine ecosystems. One of the key threats to these delicate ecosystems is the invasive lionfish. To combat this menace, responsible hunting practices are crucial.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore how to hunt lionfish safely and responsibly in Curaçao, including the use of pole spears (the only legal method in Curaçao). We will provide you with the top 10 safe hunting practices, including the use of a Zookeeper. We will also address what to do if you are stung by a lionfish and emphasize the importance of consulting with local experts before embarking on your lionfish hunting adventure.
Why Safe and Responsible Lionfish Hunting is Important
Lionfish (Pterois spp.) are native to the Indo-Pacific region but have become invasive predators in the Caribbean, including the waters surrounding Curaçao. Their voracious appetite for native fish species and rapid reproduction rates poses a severe threat to the delicate balance of marine ecosystems in the region. The introduction of lionfish has led to a decline in native fish populations and the degradation of coral reefs.
To counteract the lionfish invasion, responsible hunting practices are essential. Hunting lionfish can help control their population and protect the native marine life of Curaçao’s waters. However, it is imperative to follow safe and responsible hunting techniques to minimize the impact on the environment and ensure the safety of both divers and the marine ecosystem.
Understanding the Pole Spear
In Curaçao, the only legal method for hunting lionfish is using a pole spear. It’s important to note that a pole spear is distinct from other spearfishing equipment, such as a Hawaiian sling or a spear gun with a trigger mechanism. The use of Hawaiian slings or spear guns with triggers is illegal in Curaçao for lionfish hunting due to safety and conservation concerns.
A pole spear consists of a long, slender pole with a pointed tip, often made of stainless steel or fiberglass, designed for precision and accuracy. Unlike a trigger-based spear gun, a pole spear requires the diver to manually draw back on a rubber band then release towards the target, providing a more controlled and selective approach to hunting.
How to Hunt Lionfish Using a Pole Spear Responsibly
When using a pole spear to hunt lionfish, it’s crucial to do so responsibly to ensure the safety of both the diver and the marine environment. Here are some essential guidelines on how to hunt lionfish using a pole spear responsibly:
- Safety First: Always prioritize safety when diving and hunting. Ensure you have the necessary training and experience for hunting lionfish. Consider the Lionfish Scuba Dive Experience offered by Ocean Encounters. This opportunity allows participants to learn under the expert guidance of local scuba diving professionals.
- Check Regulations: Familiarize yourself with local regulations and restrictions related to lionfish hunting in Curaçao. Respect no-take zones and marine protected areas.
- Target Only Lionfish: Use your pole spear exclusively for lionfish hunting. Do not attempt to spear any other species, as this can harm the fragile ecosystem.
- Aim for Precision: Approach your target lionfish carefully and aim for a precise shot to minimize the risk of injuring other marine life or damaging the coral reef.
- Use a Zookeeper: A Zookeeper is a specialized container designed to safely store and transport lionfish after capture. It prevents the lionfish’s venomous spines from causing harm and keeps them secure during the dive.
- Respect Lionfish Anatomy: Target the head of the lionfish and stay away from its venomous spines. Aim for a clean and humane kill to minimize suffering.
- Avoid Overhunting: Do not overhunt lionfish in a single dive. Limit the number of lionfish you catch to what you can safely handle and process.
- Practice Good Buoyancy: Maintain excellent buoyancy control to avoid inadvertently damaging the reef or stirring up sediment, which can harm marine life.
- Dispose Responsibly: Once you’ve caught lionfish, carefully place them in your Zookeeper. Do not release them back into the water, as they are invasive and harmful to the ecosystem.
- Report Your Catch: If applicable, report your lionfish catch to local authorities or organizations involved in lionfish management to contribute to data collection efforts.
In the Unlikely Event of a Lionfish Sting
While lionfish stings are rare, it’s essential to know how to respond if you or someone you are diving with is stung. Lionfish have venomous spines that can cause pain, swelling, and even more severe reactions in some cases. Here’s how to respond to a lionfish sting:
- Signal for Help: Notify your diving buddy or group immediately if you are stung.
- Remove Spines: If the spines are still embedded in the skin, carefully remove them with tweezers or a clean, sterile tool. Be cautious not to break the spines, as this can release more venom.
- Clean the Wound: Rinse the affected area with warm water to help alleviate pain and reduce the risk of infection.
- Pain Management: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help with pain and swelling. However, if you experience severe symptoms, seek medical attention promptly.
- Seek Medical Help: If the pain and swelling worsen or if you have an allergic reaction to the venom, seek medical assistance immediately.
Consult Local Lionfish Experts
Before embarking on a lionfish hunting adventure in Curaçao, it’s crucial to consult with local and responsible dive shops or organizations dedicated to lionfish management, such as Lionfish Caribbean.
These experts can provide valuable insights, tips, and up-to-date information on how to hunt lionfish safely and responsibly, hunting locations, safety measures, and environmental conservation efforts.
Start Planning your Next Caribbean Adventure
Knowing how to hunt lionfish safely and responsibly in Curaçao is not just an exciting underwater activity but also a crucial step in protecting the island’s marine ecosystems. By using a pole spear and adhering to the top 10 safe hunting practices, including the use of a Zookeeper, you can contribute to the control of the invasive lionfish population while preserving the delicate balance of Curaçao’s underwater world.
Remember that safety should always be your top priority when diving and hunting lionfish. In the unlikely event of a lionfish sting, knowing how to respond can make all the difference. By consulting with local experts and following ethical and legal guidelines, you can enjoy a rewarding and responsible lionfish hunting experience while safeguarding the beauty of Curaçao’s marine environment for generations to come. Please always dive safely and responsibly, and together, we can make a positive impact on Curaçao’s underwater world while learning how to hunt lionfish effectively.
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