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Diving the Mergui Archipelago

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In February 2014 I traveled alone to Thailand and went diving in the Andaman Sea for 7 days on a liveaboard. The Deep Andaman Queen is not a luxury dive boat, but the cabins were clean and air conditioned (a necessity in the heat). There was always plenty of food at all meals, and the crew was exceptional. The dive masters were excellent as well. I give the boat itself a C plus, but the crew and dive masters receive an A plus! As we all know, service and safety is more important than 5 star meals and cabins (though I love the boats that pamper you). The dive platform was large and ample as well. I journaled each day and eventually turned my entries into blogs. Here is one of my journal entries about the Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar (formerly Burma):

It is beautiful here, but to be blunt, the diving is less than great.  The visibility is poor to fair, and we’ve seen nothing major to report, except for a sea snake (my first sea snake!!!).  If I was seeing large pelagics, as in the Revillagigadoes Islands  in Mexico, I wouldn’t mind the conditions, but when there isn’t much to see except coral (which is gorgeous) it is a bit disappointing.  You know how desperate I am for animals when I take several photos of sea cucumbers!  Of course, these sea cucumbers are really incredible. I’ve never seen sea cucumbers walking around on a million legs before.

Tam 1

As in so many other places around the world, we are at odds with fishing boats. It may be illegal, but there is dynamite fishing going on here, and you can see the “rubbish” and “rubble” it brings up from the bottom. The dive sites definitely show signs of having been fished in this manner.  Longtail fishing boats are everywhere and most of the dive sites have had at least one boat hanging around, ready to dynamite it for fish. It is distressing to see.

Tam 3I saw two small blue spotted rays. Except for the sea snake, that’s about as exciting as it got. If you think there are a lot of sharks in the Andaman, you would be dead wrong.  The water is nutrient rich here, huge numbers of small fish, unbelievable numbers of schools of silversides and glassy sweepers and chevron barracuda, but the question is: where are the predators and the pelagics?  Nary a one.  No turtles, dolphins, sharks, mantas, only the two small rays, and nudibranchs.  I do love the tree coral and the feather stars!  They are fascinating. I also like the huge schools of fish, but I long to see something a bit bigger.

Due to the water conditions we are not going to Black Rock, supposedly the best dive site in the area. The description speaks of whitetip and blacktip sharks, and majestic mantas and whale sharks. I was so looking forward to see Black Rock, but the ship captain knows best, and it just isn’t going to happen.

I’ve enjoyed my dive buddies, the “boys”.  Most passengers are couples, or in a dive group from Spain, so I’m hanging with Chris, the American wild and crazy guy, the Finn twins, and Mauro, from Italy but living in Finland. I seem to always hang out with the guys. So far, I haven’t run into another woman traveling and diving alone. Next to the actual diving I love meeting the divers, and being part of a group of people who love to dive as much as I do.

For more from Tam, visit www.travelswithtam.com.

Tam Warner Minton is an avid scuba diver, amateur underwater photographer, and adventurer. She encourages "citizen science" diving, whether volunteering with a group or by one's self. For Tam, the unexpected is usually the norm!

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Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 1

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Over the next seven days, join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy as we publish a Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.

Deptherapy made the very brave decision to book an expedition to our home in Egypt as soon as Roots Red Sea received their certificate from the Egyptian Authorities that the camp and dive centre was COVID secure. Roots is one of very few resorts to receive a certificate from the Egyptian Government.

We arrived in Roots the day after they re-opened.

Getting together an expedition was a major task. Very few Approved Medical Examiners’ of Divers or Dive Referees are conducting consultations at the moment. Availability of beneficiaries and the requirement to quarantine on return from Egypt affected the number of beneficiaries available.

There was also a requirement to pass a COVID PCR virus test within 72 hours of travelling.

We had decided on a small expedition and on the day of travel we had six flying to Egypt.  Unfortunately, Chris Middleton had to drop out the day before we travelled after emergency wisdom tooth surgery.

Our group comprised of Richard Cullen, Michael Hawley, Tom Oates, Tom Swarbrick, Keiron Bradbury and Corey Goodson.  Keiron was undertaking his RAID Master Rescue Course and, as it turned out, Corey was undertaking the RAID Open Water 20 course.

A deserted Gatwick Airport at 0900 on 10 October

Our outbound flight was before midday on Saturday 10 October and I must admit we were all shocked at how deserted was.  Checking in with easyJet took minutes and when we boarded the plane, we found it less than half full.

Corey is a paraplegic since a car accident two years ago while he was training prior to joining the Royal Anglian Regiment.  Corey has no sensation below the waist and is unable to use his legs.  The cabin crew on our flight were quite amazed to see the two Toms and Michael lift him from his wheelchair and place him in his seat for the flight.

Mask protocols were strictly observed by the team, the flight was uneventful, and the easyJet Cabin Crew superb. We also took a digital thermometer to check temperatures prior to flying.

Corey having a pre-flight temperature check

Hurghada Airport was very quiet and we moved through Immigration and collected our baggage in very quick time.

Two things to note:  If you are travelling to Hurghada you need to complete a COVID declaration for the Egyptian Authorities. If not, you have to fill out the rather lengthy form when you arrive.  You can undertake a COVID test on arrival at Hurghada Airport but the queues are long.  It costs much less than the tests we had done in the UK – BUT – you are required to be quarantined at your hotel until the test result comes through.  This means two days with no access to resort facilities.  If the test comes back as positive you have at least two weeks being confined to your room.

COVID guidelines

Transport to Roots was, as ever, on hand and we were soon at the camp and being briefed about the COVID arrangements.  A lot of work has been put in place to make Roots COVID compliant – and all at considerable expense.

None of the usual hugs with the Roots team and you have your temperature checked every morning and every time you return from the dive centre.  Your dive kit is sterilised every night ready for the next day’s diving.

Sterilised Dive Kit

We all felt very COVID secure.

Check back for tomorrow’s Blog and our first day diving…


Find out more about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education at www.deptherapy.co.uk

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And the winner of our TUSA Paragon S Mask competition is…

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We’d like to say a big thank you to all of you who entered our competition to win a TUSA Paragon S Mask from our good friends at CPS Partnership!

As usual, lots of you entered… but there can, of course, be only one winner!

And that winner is…

  • Lee Evans from the UK.

Congratulations Lee – your prize will be on its way to you soon!

Not a winner this time? Don’t worry – there are plenty of other competitions running on Scubaverse.com right now. To see what other awesome prizes you could be in with a chance of winning, click here!

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