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Just two hours underwater in Maui



I especially love the dive holidays where you can leave home in flip-flops and arrive at the dive destination in flip-flops (or slippahs where I went). Los Angeles to Maui is one version of the flip-flops only necessary dive holiday.

I had a short trip ahead of me, three nights, more for personal reasons than diving. Theoretically I could dive three of the days, but realistically probably only one. I did not hesitate though as to whether I should pack my equipment or not. But I have done it so many times that I know if something is missing, because each item has a specific spot in my suitcase or backpack. This includes my camera gear. However, I still had to run through the routine of pre-trip equipment check as it had been over a year since my last dive.


On top of it I had procrastinated, so when it came time to reserve dives with a boat, only one of my three days was available. Although potentially with some extra effort, I would have been able to dive each day from the shore. But I knew the boat I wanted to dive with: Mike Severns.

This group is big on showing you animal behavior rather than running you around underwater showing you a lot of critters. They can find most of what you ask for, for sure, but they would rather show you fewer animals, but ones displaying interesting behavior. Furthermore, some of their people have been there a long time and have their own interesting histories. I have dived with Pauline a few times over the years (although she didn’t remember me) who has her own obsession with nudibranchs inhabiting Hawaiian waters. Her website is called seaslugsofhawaii, and you will hardly notice it, but she carries a small point and shoot to document new critters that she might find. Our other dive guide/instructor, Warren, used to practice dentistry.

Note to self: it is possible to leave your life of logic for “another way of living,” as someone on a dive boat once said to me.


It is a confusing way to start your dive day. A trip out to Molokini requires an early start time in order to avoid the afternoon trade winds that make the sea rough later in the day. We were up in the dark with the moonlight still above us, and flashlights (thank you iPhone) to fill out our consent forms. But the sun showed up before we left the harbor at the small Kihei boat ramp. The opposite of a night dive (and a bit like a Norwegian winter day on the walk to work).

At this time of the year, the search for marine life begins as soon as the boat leaves the breakwater. Humpback whales are in Maui to give birth, court, and breed from perhaps as early as December through April. Some females will begin their journey back to the north, pregnant and without having eaten a thing for their entire time (months) in Maui.

So you are immediately on the look-out for whales spouting, breaching, or just chilling on the surface on the way out to Molokini. At first you think you are imagining the poofs of water vapor here and there, but once you see a body attached to it, a very long graceful one, and a tail, you realize that what you are seeing is real. Our special treat on the way out was a mother and a calf perhaps nursing at the surface.


Hawaiian waters are not necessarily so warm, even in summer. I wasn’t happy to have to put on a 7mm wetsuit so near the equator, but below 26°C is too cold for me in 3 mm. Pauline gave me a straight answer when I asked for the temperature, which was even lower than they expected (20°C). However, 7 kg of weights easily fit into my integrated weight pockets, and I did not need a hood or gloves.

We jumped and made our way down the mooring line to the sandy bottom on the inner side of Molokini. The endemic Hawaiian garden eels as I remembered them welcomed us. Unfortunately with the same behavior as anywhere, it is impossible to approach them before they discreetly disappear into their sandy hole.

You never know what you will find. Maui for sure is different than coral diverse areas like Raja Ampat, but there is always something on a dive I have never seen. Pauline found the blenny (huge, huge blenny by the way; gargantuan I think) that she had described in the dive briefing; the male would be found with the eggs, which would be yellow if recently laid. And near the end of the dive over the coral reef, something caught my eye. Another eye – an octopus which apparently is not commonly seen there. For all of you Incredibles (a.k.a. Indonesian dive guides), I have been paying attention. In between were colorful fish, mostly the Hawaiian version of something I have seen elsewhere.


You never know what you will be obsessed by. The second dive, Wailea Point, was shallower and more of a macro dive. Pauline had told us that baby frog fish were in season (to view of course) and sure enough, she spotted a bright speck of yellow, smaller than her thumbnail, navigating the sandy bottom. Black sea cucumbers looked as if they had just been randomly strewn about. And as anyone knows, they are a unique habitat, especially for crustaceans, that might be called for example, the sea cucumber crab. Once you turn a sea cucumber over, you have to look quickly before the crab/shrimp slips away to the underside of the animal again.

I found myself behind again photographing… sea urchins. Sea urchins? They are everywhere – black ones, red ones, striped ones. It is a real wonder how the pencil urchins develop, but more of a mystery is how do they move around. They look stuck and you wonder, do they develop in the hole you find them in and are lodged there for life, or do they move around somehow despite their large solid spines? Edward Scissorhands underwater went through my mind.

The real magic of these dives though is something that you can not even see. It is what you hear (or you think you hear): humpback whale songs. They still are going through my head, like an ethereal recording playing in a shop selling incense meant to transform you into a peaceful state. A minor inconvenience is that you have to breathe, which makes an obstructive noise over the background of the whale song. I was told that each whale song lasts 20 minutes, and of course you have no idea exactly how many animals you are listening to at any moment. I wish I had tried to make a video of just anything, even the blue, to prove the music was real.

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Time (and air) goes fast under water. When you have only two hours to dive, it seems to go even faster. Before I knew it, my time was up, and I had to drag myself, weights and all, up the stairs behind the dive boat. The sun was out from the clouds and hot by then though, and with a few views of spouting whales on the way back, the trip was not over until we reached the shore. A mere test dive day, perhaps, but packed nevertheless.

Janice Nigro is an avid scuba diver with a PhD in biology.  She is a scientist who has studied the development of human cancer at universities in the USA and Norway, and has discovered the benefits of artistic expression through underwater photography and story writing of her travel adventures.


Book Release: Diving the Thistlegorm – The Ultimate Guide to a World War II Shipwreck



Diving the Thistlegorm is a unique in-depth look at one of the world’s best-loved shipwrecks. In this highly visual guide, cutting edge photographic methods enable views of the wreck and its fascinating cargo which were previously impossible.

This book is the culmination of decades of experience, archaeological and photographic expertise, many hours underwater, months of computer processing time, and days spent researching and verifying the history of the ship and its cargo. For the first time, Diving the Thistlegorm brings the rich and complex contents of the wreck together, identifying individual items and illustrating where they can be found. As the expert team behind the underwater photography, reconstructions and explanations take you through the wreck in incredible detail, you will discover not only what has been learned but also what mysteries are still to be solved.

Find out more about:

  • One of the world’s greatest dives.
  • Incredible ‘photogrammetry’ shows the wreck and cargo in a whole new light.
  • Meticulous detail presented in a readable style by experts in their respective fields.

About the authors:

Simon Brown is an underwater photographer and photogrammetry/3D expert who has documented underwater subjects for a wide range of clients including Historic England, Wessex Archaeology and television companies such as National Geographic Channel and Discovery Canada. Jon Henderson is Reader in Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh where he is the Director of the Underwater Archaeology Research Centre. With specific research interests in submerged prehistoric settlements and developing underwater survey techniques, he has directed underwater projects in the UK, Poland, Greece, Italy, Egypt, Jamaica and Malaysia. Alex Mustard is a former marine biologist and award-winning underwater photographer. In 2018 he was made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for “Services to underwater photography”. Mike Postons pioneered the use of digital 3D modelling to visualise shipwrecks, as well as the processes of reconstructing original ships from historic plans. He has worked with a number of organisations including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Historic England and the Nautical Archaeological Society.

About the book:

  • Release date 25 November 2020
  • Limited run of Hardbacks
  • RRP £35
  • ISBN 978-1-909455-37-5
  • 240 photo-packed pages
  • 240 x 160 mm

Available to pre-order now from, Amazon, online, and from retailers.

Check back on for a review of the book coming soon!

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Deptherapy’s Dr Richard Cullen becomes a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society



Dr Richard Cullen, Chairman of Scuba Diving Rehabilitation Charity Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education, has been recognised as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Fellowship of the Royal Geographical Society is a prestigious Fellowship that is open to those who demonstrate a sufficient involvement in geography or an allied subject through publications, research or professional experience.

Paul Rose, Deptherapy’s Vice Chair, and a world renowned explorer, author, broadcaster, who is a former Vice Chair of the RGS said: 

“This is a huge achievement by Richard. His Fellowship is richly deserved, and a direct result of his steadfast commitment to preserving our oceans through Deptherapy’s very powerful ‘Protecting Our Oceans’ Programme.  I know the top team at the RGS are looking forward to welcoming Richard into the Society.”

The RGS was founded in 1830 to advance geographical research, education, fieldwork and expeditions, as well as by advocating on behalf of the discipline and promoting geography to public audiences.

Paul Toomer, President of RAID, said:

“I have been close friends with Richard for many years and his passion for our seas, even at 70 years of age, is undiminished.  Deptherapy are the world leaders in adaptive scuba diving teaching and are our much valued partners.  Taking UK Armed Forces Veterans who have suffered life changing mental and/or physical challenges and engaging them in major marine biology expeditions, is to most of us beyond the realms of possibility.  The skills these guys have to develop is just awesome.  This is a great honour for Richard, a great honour for Deptherapy, and also for us as their partners.  The diving world must come together to celebrate and acknowledge Richard’s achievement.”

Richard joins some distinguished Fellows of the RGS.  Former Fellows include Ernest Shackleton and many other notable explorers and geographers.

Richard said:

“I am both honoured and humbled to become a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. When I was invited to apply for a Fellowship, I was, which is very unusual for me, lost for words.  I hope it will allow me to take our message of Protecting Our Oceans to a larger audience and to further develop our programmes.  The Fellowship is a recognition of the charity’s work to raise awareness of the plight of our oceans.  The credit belongs to a group of individuals who have overcome massive challenges to let alone qualify as divers but now to progress to marine biology expedition diving”.

For more information about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education visit

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Sharks Bay Umbi Diving Village is a Bedouin-owned resort with stunning views and a lovely private beach. It is ideal for divers as everything is onsite including the resort's jetty, dive centre and house reef. The warm hospitality makes for a diving holiday like no other. There is an excellent seafood restaurent and beach bar onsite, and with the enormous diversity of the Sharm El Sheikh dive sites and the surrounding areas of the South Sinai, there really is something for every level of diver to enjoy.

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