This week marks a huge milestone in manta conservation – tailor-made specialist Dive Worldwide is delighted to reveal that the Indonesian government is to establish the world’s largest manta ray sanctuary, encompassing a massive 6 million sq. kms. of ocean. The new legislation now enforces full, nationwide protection for both manta species across Indonesia. To protect these giant rays still further, UK based tour operator Dive Worldwide are introducing a conservation holiday that monitors the mantas in Raja Ampat, an archipelago of islands in eastern Indonesia, at the epicentre of the Coral Triangle.
Indonesia boasts the second-largest manta tourism industry in the world, making the species vital for many communities relying on ecotourism for their livelihood. However, manta rays are a highly threatened species as they are targeted for their gill plates which are sold as a medicinal tonic on the Asian market, despite no scientifically proven health benefits. Although there is clear evidence that stocks are in decline, these fisheries continue to increase their fishing efforts, posing a huge threat to the survival of manta populations.
Dive Worldwide offers its new trip in association with the Manta Trust which continues to research and monitor the Indonesian manta population and works closely with local communities to increase awareness and support of alternative, sustainable incomes.
Guy Stevens, chief executive of Dive Worldwide’s new partner in conservation, the Manta Trust,commented: “Manta rays are an iconic species; they symbolise what is at stake if we choose not to protect our oceans and their inhabitants for our future generations. The Indonesian Government’s decision to legally protect manta rays is a great step along the road to effective conservation of these increasingly vulnerable species. I applaud the government for this positive action and I strongly urge other nations to follow in their footsteps.”
New Dive Worldwide Conservation Trips in Partnership with the Manta Trust
As the only UK tour operator to work in partnership with the Manta Trust, Dive Worldwide has introduced the following trips to its Just Conservation programme in Indonesia and elsewhere:
Monitoring Mantas in Raja Ampat, Indonesia: This trip invites divers to explore the underwater paradise of Raja Ampat in Indonesia. From a luxurious liveaboard vessel, visitors can take on the role of research assistant, monitoring manta rays, collecting data, taking underwater photographs to identify them, or naming one if it’s unknown. Dive up to three times per day.
Price: An 11-day trip costs from £4,865 pp inc. international flights and full board accommodation. Group size 1 – 10. Recommended for experienced divers.
Manta Research in Yap: Head to Micronesia to join the Manta Trust, where time is divided between a superb liveaboard in pristine waters and on shore diving. Research assistants use diving skills to help identify manta populations and to collect habitat data. As no other liveaboards exist in the area, it is possible to explore waters where no divers have previously been.
Price: A 14-day trip costs from £5,385 pp inc. international flights, transfers, and 12 nights’ lodge / liveaboard accommodation. Departs 30 June & 7 July 2014. Group size 1 – 10. Recommended for experienced divers.
Manta Monitoring in the Maldives: working alongside expert Dr Guy Stevens (founder of the Manta Trust), the team will cruise the less explored Baa Atoll, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, on board The Explorer, a luxury Four Seasons liveaboard. While taking on the role of research assistant, witness the incredible mass feeding natural phenomenon, and study both reef and giant oceanic manta rays – with aggregations of up to 150 mantas. Divers are also likely to see hawksbill and green turtles, whale sharks, honeycomb moray eel, Napoleon wrasse, scorpion fish, titan trigger fish, schooling banner fish and colourful coral reefs.
Price: A 10-day trip costs from £5,325pp inc. international flights, 7 nights’ full board on the liveaboard, all transfers, and up to 4 dives daily. Departs 20 August & 10 September 2014.
All prices are per person based on two sharing and include a donation of £100 to the Manta Trust.
For further information visit www.diveworldwide.com or call 0845 1306980.
Dive into Festive Fun With PADI
Marina Scuba School’s Santa Splash Discover Scuba Experience
Join the festive fun at Marina Scuba School’s Santa Splash on the 16th of December in Crosby. While the real Santa may be busy, Marina Scuba School’s staff members will be dressed up in festive attire for a 2-hour DSD with a Christmas twist.
Open to adults, families, and children over the age of 8, this festive dive is jam-packed with Christmas treats.
The festive fun begins at Marina Scuba School, where you’ll be greeted with a warm welcome and some delicious Santa snacks. During the 2-hour Discover Scuba Diving session, you’ll have the chance to learn essential skills required for scuba diving, all while searching for some Christmas goodies hidden beneath the surface.
This holly jolly dive experience takes place on the 16th of December in Crosby and only costs £40 per participant.
To book this exciting dive contact the dive centre by email: email@example.com
Vobster Quay in Bristol is thrilled to announce the return of the Vobster Santas, a spectacular yuletide diving event that promises to make waves for a cause. This festive fun is open to all levels of divers and invites participants to don their Santa gear and dive into the holiday season in style.
Scheduled for the 10th of December, the gates to Vobster Quay will open at 7:30 am, with a comprehensive dive brief at 09:30 am, leading up to a mass dive at 10:00 am. The goal? To surpass the previous record of 185 Santa divers in the water simultaneously, promising a visually spectacular and undoubtedly jolly spectacle.
Vobster Santas isn’t just about the joy of diving; it’s a mission with heart. The event serves as a vital fundraising opportunity for two esteemed charities, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Help for Heroes. Both hold special significance for Vobster Quay, and participants are encouraged to secure sponsorships through JustGiving to support these worthy causes.
Since its inception, Vobster Santas has successfully raised over £40,000 for these charities. This year, the bar is set higher, and Vobster Quay is committed to leading the charge. To kick off the fundraising efforts, Vobster Quay has generously donated £1000 to each charity, igniting the holiday spirit of giving.
For more information, sponsorship opportunities, and to download the event poster, visit: Vobster Quay – VOBSTER SANTAS 2023
Photos: Jason Brown
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
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