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Dive Vietnam

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Vietnam

I first came to SE Asia when I was 19. A solo female backpacker travelling the world, meeting new people, exploring countries I had never been to before. Unfortunately, until very recently, Vietnam remained on this list of countries that I had never visited. However, this year I was lucky enough to spend a wonderful 10 days in this beautiful country. On my travels I’d heard so much about Vietnam – its breath-taking natural beauty, the delicious food, the kind people; one thing that I hadn’t heard much about however, was the diving.

First stop: Phu Quoc

VietnamMy first stop was Phu Quoc, a tranquil island in the south of Vietnam. I was met upon my arrival by my dive buddy from Rainbow Divers. I spent three days here in Phu Quoc where I did my Padi Nudibranch Speciality Course – a qualification specific to Vietnam. The course involved us going out on the dive boat every day and looking for nudibranchs, identifying them and then at the end of my three days here doing a short written exam. The visibility in Phu Quoc wasn’t the best and we didn’t see a huge amount on the dives, however I was surprised at how many different types of nudibranchs we saw – there were so many! All different sizes and colours – more than I have seen anywhere else in the world.

The capital city of Ho Chi Minh

I left Phu Quoc on a very delayed Vietjet plane – something that I quickly learnt was expected in Vietnam. I was heading to the capital city of Ho Chi Minh. Ho Chi Minh, also known as Saigon, is an ex French colony and therefore the city has a lot of French influence which I absolutely loved. Many of the buildings have French colonial architecture which makes it very picturesque, despite the swarms of mopeds driving round the city.

I was picked up from the airport by a driver from the 5* Hotel Caravelle where I was staying. After backpacking round Thailand this was an absolute luxury and he even had a cool box with him filled with soft drinks and beer! When I arrived at the Caravelle Hotel I was greeted by the manager of the hotel and the very kind staff as well as Jeremy – the owner of Rainbow Divers. We had some photos taken at the entrance for the local press and I was taken to my incredible two-room suite. After my backpacking adventures I was in heaven!

I wish I had longer in Ho Chi Minh as I loved the small amount of the city that I managed to see in my short stay. However, my delayed flight cut my time short here and early afternoon the next day we were off to the airport again to fly to Nha Trang.

My final destination: Nha Trang

VietnamNha Trang is a coastal resort, famous for its beaches and diving and I soon learnt it is very popular with the Russians. Here I stayed at the Evason Ana Mandara Resort – Nha Trang’s only beach front resort. The staff here were so friendly and kind and I was told I was staying in one of the beach front bungalows for my three night stay here. I was being so completely spoilt again with my accommodation! The bungalow was huge – I had my own balcony looking out to sea, a beautiful four poster bed and my favourite part of the room –  the outdoor shower/bath! Everyday I felt like I was showering outside in and amongst nature, which was truly blissful.

I dived in Nha Trang every day and was picked up from the hotel by Rainbow Divers early every morning by the Rainbow Divers bus that took us to to the dive boat. I was really surprised by the great diving in Nha Trang. As I mentioned earlier in my post, I hadn’t read much or heard much about the diving but the visibility here was really great, we saw loads of different species of fish on every dive including Bat Fish, Octopus and Giant Moray Eels, although the water temperature was a little chilly (for me anyway!)

My free time in Nha Trang I spent lazing in the hammocks of the hotel grounds, drinking cocktails by the infinity beach front pool and having Vietnamese cookery classes with the Sous chef or taking private yoga classes on the beach. The hotel, with it’s breath-taking views across the bay, really was paradise, and I would highly recommend this hotel to anyone travelling to Nha Trang.

I had such an incredible trip to Vietnam, diving with Rainbow Divers, staying in the beautiful accommodation, exploring new places and meeting some incredible people. I can’t wait to return.

Sarah Winterbottom is currently the title holder of Miss Scuba United Kingdom. She won the title in October, and since then has gone on to compete in the international finals of Miss Scuba International in Malaysia, placing in the top 5. Since winning Miss Scuba United Kingdom has completed her PADI advanced open water and dry suit qualification and is currently doing her rescue course in Thailand. Sarah also dived in Egypt, Cyprus, Malaysia and the UK for the first time since entering the pageant, and hopes to continue diving this year and to learn more about marine conservation. Sarah is from London and when she isn't diving - or doing all things Miss Scuba - works in PR. Sarah loves to workout and train at bootcamp several times a week. She also loves taking part in high intensity obstacle courses and took part in Tough Mudder last year in order to raise money for Deptherapy. Sarah is multi-lingual, having studied Spanish and Portuguese at The University of Manchester, and was lucky enough to live in South America as part of her degree. Travelling is a huge passion of Sarah's and she will be going on to dive in Vietnam after Thailand.

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Western Ecology Tour Expedition Report – Pembrokeshire

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Whilst the team were in Pembrokeshire, we were supporting Neptune’s Army of Rubbish Cleaners, a charity run by divers who are passionate on keeping their local dive sites clean. They have been running clean ups since 2005 and were the first underwater clean up group. The team and I were guided by Lloyd Jones and David Kennard, who have been running the operation for several years now. NARC work alongside the local community as they help locate pollution and rubbish that needs to be cleared, a lot of these reports come from local fisherman who lose their gear and take a note of the location to tell the team later. NARC use equipment to aid their team and to maximise their efficiency, from cutting equipment, lift bags, and boat crews to help them in removing as much rubbish as possible. NARC also take a great stance on education and take the time to not only carry out these clean ups but to also educate the local community and public on the importance of clearing debris off our beaches and to pick up any trash you may see whilst diving.

The first day was spent working with NARC and diving a local dive site in the evening. The first dive was at Hobbs Point, and we were given a full briefing about what to expect on the dive and the kinds of rubbish that needed to be lifted from the site. The team were told that there were 12 Oil Drums, Nets, fishing line and a whole assortment of other rubbish, on this dive we were all equipped with net bags for smaller chunks, as well as Lift Bags for lifting the bigger pieces. There were several RIBs on standby to pick up what came up on the Bags and who also waited for our team to surface and bring us back to the dock. We were only working mere feet from the dock, but this was an active shipping lane with a Ferry actually just in from Ireland, unloading no more than 300 metres down.

Dave gave the go ahead to descend and the visibility was no more than 0.5 metres with some of us struggling to see our own hands in front of our faces, let alone seeing our feet or even our buddies. Therefor the work was done through a combination of touch communication, very close signalling and using torches to keep people together. Andy descended and dropped straight into a shopping trolley which he sent up along with nets, other members such as Lloyd, descended onto the Oil Drums with four of the twelve being lifted. There was a lot of rubbish present at this site unfortunately, with it being as easy to find as simply putting your fingertips into the mud and pulling up handfuls of discarded fishing line and lead weights. In total we managed to lift Four Oil Drums, one Scooter, one Shopping Trolley, and four Nets with one of them containing three fish which were saved and released. We also managed to retrieve bags and handfuls of fishing line and lead weights. At this point the team at NARC were due back at this site five weeks later with their goal to retrieve the rest of the oil drums and other large pieces of debris.

The second dive of day one was at Martins Haven, a dive site situated inside the Skomer Island Marine Reserve, during the briefing we were told about what to expect at the dive site and were also told that if we were to remove any Lobsters and Scallops at the site, it would incur huge fines along with the confiscation of our dive gear. The site was truly breathtaking, with large kelp beds that flattened out on to Sand flats that were covered in huge Scallops, some reaching 6 inches in width! There were large Spider Crabs who littered the bottom searching for food and a mate. The turning point of the dive was when the team came across a Pink Sea Fan, something that looked as if it belonged on one of the worlds tropical reefs rather than in the UK’s frigid waters. On the way back in we came across beautiful walls lined with kelp, anemones and barnacles, with copious amounts of Moon and Purple Jellyfish sitting in the surface water.

The final day of the expedition was a single dive at Stackpole Quay, a shallow site with easy access to the water. The crew parked at a National Trust Car Park and kitted up before walking 100m to the shore, some members of the team, including myself, were yet to see a single Catshark during the expedition and we were hoping to see some before the trip came to an end. This dive definitely didn’t disappoint, with many Small-spotted Catshark’s resting amongst the gulley’s and Kelp, some of us counted upwards of 15 Sharks on this single dive. Other sights on this dive were large shoals of Sand Eel and Sprat, young pollock and huge male Spider Crabs which had managed to gather up a number of females and whom fiercely protected them from those who came in to close to take photos. The visibility on this dive was around 3 metres so caution was took to keep close to one another and to ensure that none of us became separated.

After the dive was done, we returned to the campsite for a debrief, not only the final day, but also from the trip, along with a final meal at a local pub.

Surprisingly for some of us, the trip was not quite over as when we arrived in Pembrokeshire, we heard about spaces being available on one of Celtic Deep’s trips, namely their snorkeling trips, on this trip you get taken out to snorkel with Puffins, Razorbills and potentially Seals. There were 2 spaces available on the Saturday and Sunday with 4 of us taking up the opportunity to go out and experience another unseen story and finish the expedition with a bang.

The boat left shore at 9am but everyone had to arrive at 8:30am for briefing before disembarking, the briefing was led by Richard and Nicki of Celtic Deep. Everyone was told about how the trip is to be structured and how to effectively swim with the Puffins and how to get in close to take photos, after the briefing it was a 40-minute steam out to Skomer Island, once moored up we all jumped in off the back the boat and began to slowly approach large amounts of Puffins, Guillemot’s and Razorbills. The birds were a little shy and aired on the side of caution even if they are naturally curious, thankfully one person in each buddy group had a puffin decoy on a string, painted and donated to Celtic Deep by David Millard. These decoys were larger than an actual Puffin, so this of course peeked the Puffins interest, however as the birds approached and a camera appeared from under the water this of course scared the birds away. Nicki and Richard mentioned that the birds were unfortunately a little more skittish than usual and judging by some of their images it shows that the birds do indeed come much closer.

After spending 2.5 hours in the water with the birds it was time for us wll to get out and warm up for an hour before heading to the next site at Skokholm Island, here everyone was told that there was a chance to swim with Grey Seals or as the Skipper Fen calls them, “Maggots”, due to how they move when out of the water and how they look from a distance. Everyone jumped in and the rule of thumb to stick by was to allow the animals to get confident with us all being there and then allow them to come you, after around 2 hours in the water and the animals popping up to have a look at us all at distance it was time to head back to the boat to head back to port. As everyone was exiting a young seal came and approached the group and even grabbed onto cameras with her paws resulting in some truly close shots.

In total the trip with Celtic Deep was truly amazing with some breath-taking encounters and the opportunity to experience something truly wild, the team were professional and incredibly knowledgeable allowing us to truly enjoy a British wildlife encounter unlike anything else.

Expedition WET Summary

In conclusion the UK is almost a hidden gem of diving, many people would argue that going abroad is better. But as our team experienced during the trip, there is some truly breath-taking diving and wildlife encounters to be had, the UK has Sharks, Seals and Nudibranchs that rival that of those overseas. With a wealth of Charities carrying out hard work, experts who lead them, and life that is truly special, it’s difficult to say what the UK doesn’t have to offer for keen Divers and Photographers alike even if you must look that little bit harder to find it.

Not only is diving just as good as places abroad but it’s also easy to access with all the sites described in this report being accessed by simply walking off the beach and taking the plunge. Not only is it easy to access but it’s also better for the environment and our planet by diving local sites rather than only diving abroad. The team may have done a lot of driving during the expedition but in terms of our carbon footprint, it is a mere drop in the Ocean in comparison to getting a flight.

Keep an eye out soon for Expedition WET’s Film, which is currently in production with Ollie Putnam & Andy Clark. It will show more about the projects that were supported, the team, and life that was found during the expedition.

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The Scuba Genies head to Bonaire! Part 2 of 2

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In the second of this two-part blog, The Scuba Genies share their trip report from the Come Dive with Us hosted trip to Bonaire in September 2021. Missed Part One? Read it here!

There is another dive we just must share with you and one that we can confidently call a ‘Dive of a Lifetime’. There were 12 of us in our group, and collectively we have logged in excess of 8000 dives in some very special places around the world. And every one of us was totally blown away by this dive! A fellow diver, by way of the Girls that Scuba FB group mentioned that if the timing was right, an ostracod dive was one not to miss. A link to an online article noted that 2 to 5 days after a full moon and 45 minutes after sunset, was the best time to observe the mating ritual of these tiny creatures. And only if they have not been exposed to light of any kind. That meant no streetlights and no torches. NO TORCHES!

We lucked out and were in Bonaire during a full moon and planned our Ostracod dive carefully. One the fifth night after the full moon we headed south to Red Beryl, a site we had previously been to and knew the terrain. We were in awe of the soft coral forest at the site, and this was the perfect environment for the ostracods. As the ‘show’ only lasts about 20 minutes, we entered the water while it was still light and left a beacon on the shore to help guide us after the dive. We gently finned out over the sand and hovered above the soft coral at around 8 metres as the dark crept in. Little sparks of light started to appear in ones and twos, and then just as we had hoped, chains of these tiny creature were all around us, in hundreds and then thousands! Everywhere you looked, the ostracods were rising to the surface, like underwater fireflies linked together flashing their bioluminescence one after the other, giving us nature’s most amazing firework show! The only way I can explain it is seeing thousands of Tinkerbells all at once! 20 minutes later, it was all over so we turned on our torches and headed slowly back to the shallows, happy to find a sleeping turtle, scorpion fish, more octopus and lots of little creatures.

As our holiday inevitably came to an end, we chose a site within minutes of Buddy’s called The Invisibles. A highly recommended dive site, we parked up alongside the beach, kitted up and walked down the rock beach and into the water. 95 minutes later, we walked back up the beach with memories of green turtles feeding, free-swimming moray, immense sponges and a plethora of anemones with their tenant critters – shrimp, crabs, and all things fascinating. And back in the sandy shallows we didn’t know where to look! A golden spotted snake eel, juvenile angel fish and a box crab that scuttled across the seabed before vanishing into the sand in a finger-click.

In summary, the diving here was very special – it truly lives up to its reputation of being one of the best destinations to visit, and in fact, over-delivered when it came to our expectations from the Caribbean. To mix it up, in addition to shore diving we also scheduled 4 days of boat diving right from the dock at Buddy’s. We were able to explore all around Klein Bonaire and reach some of the more difficult shore-entry sites including Karpata and 1,000 Steps. We would recommend this highly if only to get away from a daily dose of sand in your boots!

Buddy’s is a full-service dive operation, offering quality accommodation, good food, and the dive centre is as slick an operation as we have ever seen or experienced. The drive-thru tank station is genius for shore diving, the house reef is easily accessed, and the boat diving from the dock on one of their 5 purpose-built dive boats is organised perfectly. Catering for newbies all the way through to technical and rebreather divers, Buddy’s delivers it all, and very well. The staff are fun, highly professional, and the whole set-up is geared to making a dive trip work without any fuss. Even the shop is very well stocked with kit, spares, forgotten stuff and replacements for broken things!

Importantly, Buddy’s is also a supporter and enforcer of the Marine Park protection rules – the whole of the island is surrounded by a protected marine reserve, so no touching, no gloves, no pointy-sticks. Turtle nesting and coral regeneration programmes are evident, and given the fantastic health of the reefs, the protection initiatives and regulations work.

Would we go back? Without any hesitation, and repeatedly!

Bonaire delivered the goods. Great diving, great accommodation and freedom to dive wherever and whenever you want – especially with the tanks on the house reef available 24/7. A perfect destination for dive clubs and groups as the 3–bedroom apartments really work.

Bonaire is exceptional value for money. There are very few places on this planet where you can dive so much for so little in a great marine environment.

Key Facts:

  • Getting there: Flights with KLM to Bonaire depart from any major UK airport via Amsterdam. From London Heathrow it was a 12-hour total flight time. An extra 23kg bag also costs less than £90 return if booked in advance.
  • Air temperature: Tropical – average daily temperature throughout the year is 31’, reasonable rainfall (passes quickly) and the sea breezes are most welcome!
  • Water temperature: 28-30°C. A 1-3mm full suit is recommended to protect from scratches and stings and to keep the sand out.
  • Visa requirement: No tourist visa was required, but under COVID there are protocols in place. See https://www.bonairecrisis.com/en/travel-to-bonaire/ for the current requirements.
  • Currency: US Dollar with ATMs easily found, and all major credit cards are accepted.
  • Electricity: 120V with American 3- and 2-pin plugs. Our US/UK converters worked without issue

Accommodation: You mention Bonaire and Buddy Dive Resort is the first place people mention. Only 10 minutes from the airport makes for a super simple transfer. Multiple room types, all with kitted out kitchens and air-conditioned bedrooms. Two pools, two restaurants, full-service dive shop and staff always around to answer questions or lend a hand.

Diving: With both world class shore and boat diving available, warm and clear water, abundant marine life, coral and sponges like you’ve never seen, what more could you ask for?

Price Guide: Expect from £1500 per person based on two sharing for 7 nights with bed and breakfast. Unlimited shore and house reef diving, Nitrox and car rental all included. Return flights and transfers also included.

Additional costs:

  • STINAPA Marine Park passes: $45 per calendar year. We purchased ours online prior to departure and carried a copy in the vehicle when shore diving.
  • Buddy Dive Vehicle Insurance: $19 per day of vehicle rental for one named driver for the duration of your stay. For an extra $5 you can name another driver for a day. This was added to the room bill, and we split the cost with the rest of our apartment.

Our Advice: Stay longer…. 10 days would be the perfect amount of time in our opinion to get the most out of the shore and boat diving. And with numerous flights during the week to choose from, any duration can easily be arranged.


Find out more about the worldwide dive itineraries that The Scuba Place offers at www.thescubaplace.co.uk.

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Egypt | Simply the Best Itinerary | 04 – 11 November 2021 | Emperor Echo

Jump on board the latest addition to the Emperor fleet and enjoy diving the famous sites of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer. Great value for money and perfect for small groups of buddies with a ‘Book 5 and 1 dives for FREE’ offer all year round.

Price NOW from just £1275 per person based on sharing a twin cabin/room including:

  • Flights from Gatwick to Hurghada with 23kgs baggage
  • 7 nights in shared cabin
  • 3 meals a day, soft drinks, red wine with dinner
  • 6 days’ diving, guide, 12ltr tank & weights, Marine Park fees and port departure fees
  • Free Nitrox

Subject to availability.
Alternative departure airports available at supplement.

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk.

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