Connect with us


Mexican Navy ship to become Baja’s first artificial reef



artificial reef

Divers plan to sink former Mexican naval vessel off the coast of Rosarito Beach

For three decades, the Uribe served as a patrol boat for the Mexican navy. Now, the 220-foot vessel has a new destiny, 90 feet under the sea, as Baja California’s first artificial reef.

After six years of knocking on doors, filling out permits, commissioning studies and raising funds, Francisco Ussel and fellow members of Baja California’s diving community are preparing a major step forward: sinking the ship off the coast of Rosarito Beach on the 21st November.

Scientists estimate it will take at least two years for a full-blown underwater habitat to develop on and around the vessel, with kelp, strawberry anemones, octopus, lobsters, and schools of fish.

“The sinking of the ship will be the beginning of a dream,” said Ussel, a 60-year-old architect and Tijuana restaurateur, who is president of Baja California Divers.

The long-term vision is the creation of an underwater park that would be the centerpiece of a new tourism sector for Baja California, bringing in visitors during off-peak months, fall through spring, when the conditions are best for diving. The natural market would be Southern California divers.

In planning the Uribe’s sinking, the Baja California diving community found a strong ally in San Diego’s scuba diving community: Dick Long, former president of the California Oceans Foundation, and founder of Diving Unlimited International. An early adviser to Baja California Divers, he continues to champion their efforts.

“People are going to see Mexico as a place other than to drink margaritas,” said Long, whose group was behind the sinking of the Canadian destroyer HMCS Yukon off Mission Beach in July 2000. “It’s going to bring tourism to Mexico.”

According to California Ships to Reefs, an organisation that promotes the creation of artificial reefs, the Yukon brings an estimated $4.5 million a year to the San Diego economy, as visiting divers book local hotel rooms, dine at restaurants, and rent boats and diving gear.

The Uribe was named for Virgilio Uribe, an 18-year-old Mexican sailor who died in 1914 while defending Veracruz against U.S. occupation. Built in Spain, the vessel suffered irreversible damage to its bridge and other areas during a fire in November 2011. Ussel, who also heads the Artificial Reef Foundation of Baja California, was able to secure the donation of the ship to Rosarito Beach, which is lending it at no cost to the foundation.

So far, the foundation has spent more than $600,000 toward the sinking of the Uribe. Just moving it from the mainland port of Manzanillo cost approximately $100,000. A good portion of the funds have paid for scientific studies of the area to determine the most suitable location for the ship’s sinking.

The Uribe’s steel hull will rest about two miles offshore in an area of fine sand and mud, in Bahia El Descanso off the community of Puerto Nuevo, said Luis Alvarez, an oceanographer with the Ensenada Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education, or CICESE. To determine its suitability, scientists studied a wide range of other factors, including depth, incline, turbidity, the strength of currents, and the direction of waves.

The project has also awakened the interest of CICESE researcher Victoria Diaz. A specialist in benthic zones, a term describing the lowest levels of bodies of water, Diaz plans to follow the development of the reef around the Uribe.

“It’s an interesting project, because it will attract tourism, and give us a chance to study how the reef is colonized,” Diaz said.

Support from all levels of government – federal, state and local – has been critical to the project’s progress, Ussel said.

Baja California Gov. Francisco Vega de Lamadrid, a certified open-water diver, was quick to back the ship’s sinking, and the state’s tourism, economic development and fishing secretaries all have lent support.

The city of Rosarito Beach, whose economy is heavily dependent on tourism, has been the strongest champion, Ussel said, as successive mayoral administrations have embraced the project. Under current Mayor Silvano Abarca, the city has contributed more than $300,000, said Juan Tintos, a former Baja California tourism secretary who is now an adviser to the city.

“It’s been a learning experience,” said Tintos. “We’ve never sunk a ship in Baja California before. We’ve never promoted scuba diving before.”

The vessel’s sinking would be only the first step. Ussel and his fellow divers are planning a 100-acre underwater park, with a ship graveyard in the deepest section that would feature the Uribe and three other vessels. A shallower section would be covered with pyramids, busts and statues to evoke a pre-Hispanic Atlantis. Another would pay homage to the Titanic, with chimneys, propellers and other pieces of wreckage. A museum on shore would allow non-divers to learn about the project.

Ussel said his love for the ocean dates to his Mexico City boyhood, when he read Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” He has lived in Baja California for 33 years, but it wasn’t until 18 years ago that he made his first dive and got hooked.

He recently celebrated his 60th birthday by scuba diving in Acapulco and traveled with his wife to dive in Florida’s Key West to celebrate their 40th anniversary.

“It’s a passion to see this growth, to see these fish, to see the colours, to see God’s hand here,” he said.

Ussel said the project has already sparked interest in promoting scuba diving. Hotels are offering packages that include trips to dive in the Coronado Islands. Rosarito Beach has seen the opening of its first dive shop, and a hotel owner is planning to build a marina to serve tourists who come to dive.


Photo: John Gibbins


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.

North Sulawesi, Nord Sulawesi, Celebes Sea, Murex Manado

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:

Continue Reading


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 


Continue Reading

E-Newsletter Sign up!


Experience the ultimate all-inclusive Curaçao dive vacation at Sunscape Curaçao Resort, where a high-quality dive resort and thrilling diving adventures meet. Enjoy the perfect blend of value and adventure with Curaçao's premier on-site dive shop, Ocean Encounters. Whether you're a seasoned diver or a beginner, we have something for everyone. Click the link to plan your all-inclusive dive vacation to Curaçao today! Sleep and Dive Packages include: 7 nights accommodation of choice, 5 days of 2 tank boat diving (including unlimited shore diving) and round-trip airport transportation.  Pricing will vary depending on room type and preferred travel dates. Contact us for more details. More Less

Instagram Feed