Sean Chinn concludes his travels in Jordan with an overview of the diving highlights on offer in Aqaba.
Hopefully you have all read my article on diving the new C-130 Hercules dive site in Aqaba. If you haven’t then you can find it here: www.scubaverse.com/making-history-aqaba-scuttling-c-130-hercules/
As well as the Hercules site, Aqaba has a host of underwater delights on offer. In my opinion, Aqaba is a perfect destination for those new to diving who want to enjoy some nice relaxing easy dives to gain experience while being amazed at the colour and thriving fish life the coral reefs have to offer. It is also perfect for clubs from the UK or Europe to organise trips to and potentially use as a base to run courses; making use of the warmer waters and working with the local friendly dive centres for a great professional service.
A Wreck Specialty would be perfect on my personal favourite dive site of the trip, The Cedar Pride. This is a relatively shallow wreck at a max depth of 25m to the sea floor. With clear waters it really is a fun wreck to explore, with 32 years of coral growth creating stunning areas of colour and fish life. Many lionfish can be found hiding within the nooks and crannies. It is also easy to penetrate and find small schools of fish hiding inside using dark areas for protection. I only did the one dive there and was concentrating more on photographing the outside but would love to go back and explore more of the wreck.
Japanese Gardens and The Power Station were also extremely pleasant dive sites full of coral and fish life, providing lots of colour typical of the Red Sea. These are also sites where you were able to explore a little deeper if you wanted to, as they either slope to around 30m in the case of Japanese Gardens, or have a steep wall drop off like The Power Station. However, both also provide nice, easy shallow dives on the coral plateau for those willing to take their time and look for the little creatures that call the reef home. Sometimes taking your time can be the most fun as you’d be surprised at how much you miss whilst working along the reef and neglecting taking a closer look.
One of the major highlights for me was getting under the jetty of Berenice Beach Club. As I stated in my previous article, Sindbad Dive Club have their own jetty meaning all the dive sites are within easy reach of the club. What you should realise though is that you don’t need to get on the boat to have an amazing experience underwater. Grab a tank, or even just your mask, snorkel and fins, and jump in under the jetty and explore the house reef. The life under there is amazing and I decided on one surface interval to have a little snorkel and loved working my way through the piers, following the school of sardines that call the jetty home. Lionfish would creep into view as they came away from the camouflage of the pier and into the blue. I could have stayed there all day but I needed to save my camera battery for the dive on the Hercules in the afternoon.
I also got the chance to do a sunset dive and explore the macro life of the reef under the jetty and beyond. The peppered moray eels are bountiful and are great to watch as they explore the sea grass, keeping an eye out for scorpion fish camouflaged in the reef. Again, this is a place I would love to explore more and see what other critters were hiding from me.
I’m looking forward to the day I get back to Aqaba and explore more of what I missed on this short trip. I would definitely recommend it as a destination for people looking for an enjoyable diving experience that is not too challenging, and where you can also enjoy land based adventures. Be sure to think of Aqaba when booking your next holiday!
Join Murex Resorts in North Sulawesi and embark on a Passport to Paradise!
Are you planning your next tropical diving holiday? With literally the world at your feet and so many different types of diving to choose from it can be tough deciding where to go…
The Indonesian province of North Sulawesi lies in the heart of a marine rich region and offers incredible wall diving in the Bunaken Marine Park: wreck, critters and reef combinations in Manado Bay; colorful coral reefs surrounding Bangka island; and the world’s best muck diving in the Lembeh Strait. So how do you begin to choose which region to allocate your holiday time to?
Whilst many divers have heard of these world class diving destinations, many may not realize the close proximity within which they are located. Taking a scuba diving holiday in North Sulawesi does not mean that you have to choose between locations – you can see all that is on offer and explore the areas which appeal to you – IN ONE TRIP!!!
Bunaken Marine Park was one of the ﬁrst Marine Protected Areas in Indonesia – and it shows! The dive sites around this small island are characterized by staggering coral walls which are teeming with life. The resident population of green sea turtles has grown from strength to strength and at some dive sites you’ll lose count of the number of turtles you see in a single dive.
Manado Bay is home to wide ranging marine life and diverse dive sites. Manado Bay is becoming increasingly recognized for its black sand, muck diving sites, which are home to a plethora of unusual critters from numerous cephalopod species through to seahorses, nudibranch and crustaceans. The Molas wreck is an exciting wreck dive and also offers a myriad of ﬁsh and critters. To the South of Manado Bay lays Poopoh – a record breaking site where 385 different species of ﬁsh were recorded in just one morning.
Bangka Island is as beautiful underwater as it is on land. This white sand, paradise island is surrounded by kaleidoscopic, soft coral reefs. Schooling snappers, passing reef sharks, occasional dugongs and an array of reef ﬁsh and critters have all made Bangka Island their home. Bangka offers phenomenal diving coupled with the chance to completely get off the grid on this stunning, remote tropical island.
The Lembeh Strait is home to the highest concentration of rare and unusual marine life on Earth. Exploring Lembeh’s world famous muck diving sites is akin to opening a treasure chest of critters. Even the most seasoned of divers can’t help but be impressed by the species found here: eight different species of frogﬁsh, ﬂamboyant cuttleﬁsh, wunderpus, mimic octopus, blue ring octopus, bobtail squids, harlequin shrimps, tiger shrimps, three species of pygmy seahorses, countless species of nudibranch, bobbit worms, Ambon scorpionﬁsh and rhinopias – just to name but a few!
The idea of moving from resort to resort can seem arduous and result in wasted diving days – but in North Sulawesi this does not need to be the case! Stay with us at Murex Manado (for diving Bunaken and Manado), and smoothly transition to Murex Bangka and then on to Lembeh Resort too. You can choose the number of nights you wish to stay in each location and transfers between resorts are by boat and include two dives along the way! No wasted diving days, no logistical planning, no drying and packing gear and your dive guide will stay with you from start to ﬁnish. Dive your way, hassle free, from one place to the next. Two resort combinations are also available.
For those of you who want to experience the full diversity of Indonesia, choose from up to 150 dive sites and maximize your diving opportunities – a Passport to Paradise is the dive trip of a lifetime.
For more information or for enquiries: email@example.com
A Flying Visit to Nusa Penida, Bali
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
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