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My week in Grenada and Carriacou

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If you are looking for somewhere warm to dive, with good visibility, where the family will be happy and safe, friendly people, great food and excellent accommodation, then I would thoroughly recommend Grenada in the South East Caribbean. I have just visited the island for a week and here is a taste of this diving destination from my notes and photos.

After a few days of travelling, I always find it strange at first to arrive at a new destination. This time I was in Grenada and had arrived at the Coyaba Beach Resort on the southern side of the island. It takes me a day or two to settle in properly, especially when on my own.

My room was on the ground floor and just a stone’s throw from the beach. I did allow myself to have a quick wander down to the golden sand to put my feet in the warm blue water but I needed to get back to my room to unpack and have a shower. The room was comfortable and had a wide view across the resort lawns to the sea. I could explore more in the morning.

My room phone rang at 7pm and my designated driver, Mandoo, had come to collect me to take me to the Coconut Beach Restaurant for the evening meal. It was then I learnt I was to be dining alone which was OK but kind of sad. Mandoo also thought this was a bit lonely and he charmingly rearranged his later pick-ups so he could stay and eat with me and keep me company.

The Coconut Beach Restaurant was the perfect place to start the trip. The hosts were very welcoming, the food was absolutely delicious and the beer was cold. Mandoo was a great dinner companion and we talked about our lives, politics, conservation and our families. Great evening after all.

I was up early next morning for breakfast and to get my cameras ready for the day’s diving with ScubaTech.

Scubatech Grenada are situated on the beach and Eveline, the owner and dive guide, got my gear quickly sorted and into the boat. We had two dives, the first on the Shakem wreck in about 31 meters and the second on the locally named Purple Rain Reef.

While the wreck was interesting and abundant with life and colour, the heavy rain from the last week had reduced visibility to around 10-12meters and given the water a slight green tinge, what we would consider excellent diving conditions in British waters!

The Shakem had sunk in 2001 carrying a cargo of cement which heavy seas soaked and shifted in the hold. In the short time the ship has been underwater the gentle currents have encouraged plenty of growth and fish life.

We used nitrox to give us a decent bottom time but as with most dives, it was over too soon. For our topside intermission we pulled into a beautiful quiet bay before heading out again to Purple Rain Reef. Here again the visibility was affected by the previous rain but the reef gave us a gentle drift over both hard and soft corals supporting shoals of yellow snapper as well as the usual wonderful array of reef life which included these two spotted moray eels fighting over territory.

On our way back to base, Godwin, the skipper took us close to shore to get a better view of the beaches. He told me Grenada had 365!

The afternoon dive was cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances and so I had an extended lunch with Eveline and her son at the West Indies Beer Company. Behind the bar were rows of distilling tanks each giving off a wonderful aroma of the best kind of home brew. We decided to go for the taster trays which when produced held 18 small glasses, one for each brew. On top of that, Janet the owner provided a fantastic ice cream pudding to finish it all off.

My only course of action for that afternoon was to have a short walk along the hotel beach followed by a nap before being picked up for supper by Roger, my new driver and guide. Once again amazing food and a good venue in the Marina.

The next day’s diving started at the Aquanauts Dive Centre where I met Peter the owner and Robbie my dive guide for the two dives we were having that morning.

The first dive was at the underwater sculpture park in the Molinere Beausejour Marine Protected Area where there is a stunning collection of life-size sculptures to dive around and admire. These creations are very shallow and in easy reach of snorkellers as well as divers. First created by British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor in May 2006 these underwater statues create a very unique habitat for marine life and are well worth a visit. See www.puregrenada.com/explore/scuba-diving/underwater-sculpture-park

Just a short swim from the statues and lying in 75 feet of water is the small and complete wreck of the sloop Buccaneer which was sunk as an artificial reef in 1978. All easy and enjoyable diving with little or no current. It was while heading to the wreck we saw the amazing Peacock Flounder skimming gracefully across the sand.

The afternoon saw me diving with Christine from Eco Dive where we explored the Southern Comfort reef. Visibility is getting much better now and we had a great encounter with a large Green Moray that was busy hunting through the abundant corals.

The day was then rounded off with an excellent meal at the Aquarium Restaurant with Diane, where the sound of the ocean gently breezed up to our table and the warm air helped the rum punches slide down with great ease.

Next day I was diving with Native Spirit run by Adrian Blackman. Adrian tells me that Native Spirit was the first all local run dive shop.

Our first dive was to be down to the MV Veronica. Originally wrecked close to shore the ship was picked up and moved to its present location 18 years ago. It is only in 14 meters of water and can easily been seen from the surface. 25 meters long the Veronica is home to a myriad of small fish and is frequently visited by shoals of Creole Wrasse and solitary Jacks darting in to snatch an easy meal. It’s an easy dive with plenty of marine life and had I not been on a busy schedule I would have liked to dive the wreck several times to do it justice.

That evening I was entertained by Ryan Hopkin, son of Sir Roystan Hopkin, Ambassador for Tourism and Chairman and Managing Director of the Spice Island Beach Resort. We ate 5 star food in the magnificent resort restaurant and talked about the fascinating and colourful history of the islands. Too much information to recount in this short article but so interesting and shows it is well worth doing a little background history research before coming to the Grenada.

I decided to miss breakfast the next morning as my waistline was beginning to increase and I returned to Eco Dive to join Christine again. We dived the reefs at Happy Valley where the corals are rich and healthy and the lobsters in great abundance. We did see a turtle but it was timid and headed quickly for deeper water. Plenty of Moray Eels and shoals of Yellow Snapper.

 

Carriacou

If you do get to Grenada, I would highly recommend you spend a few days on the Island of Carriacou just north of Grenada. Only a few hours ferry journey, the island is tropical with high lush green hills and crystal clear blue-water bays. The ferry is run by Osprey Lines, leaving from St.Georges in Grenada and arriving in Hillsborough Carriacou roughly 90 minutes later. I was immediately struck by the natural charm of the island, the golden sandy beaches and small easy going towns are a treat waiting to be discovered

With time against me and after being welcomed to the island by Rina from the Grenada Tourism Authority, I was taken to my hotel for a quick unpack and shower. It was called the Grand View Hotel and surprisingly that’s just what is was! Perched up on the hillside over looking Hillsborough the view was simply lovely.

No time to linger. I was picked up by my taxi driver Linky and taken to meet Diane and Richard from Lumbadive who were very welcoming and made me feel right at home. After a huge lunch we kitted up and went to the first dive site. In fact we squeezed in three dives that afternoon at different sites where each one had its own charm and character. Highlights were when two Eagle Rays glided by and a Southern Stingray swooped over my shoulder taking me totally by surprise. The small ledges of the reefs were crammed with Spiny Lobsters and then just towards the end of the dive the bizarre Spanish Lobster marched slowly across the sand.

On the second dive of the three, several invasive Lion fish were speared as part of a huge eradication programme to clear them from the Caribbean where they are doing untold damage to the local fauna. One of these dead fish was introduced to a small Spotted Moray Eel and to my utter amazement the eel took it head first, dragged it into its hole while wrapping its body tightly around it and then in a matter of a few short minutes had eaten the whole thing. Diane and Richard later told me that the Spotted Moray does in fact now predate on living Lion fish and so nature begins to re-dress the balance. Diane mentioned that they had even seen a battle between a Golden Tail Moray Eel and a spotted one for the same Lion fish.

That evening, dinner with Diane and Richard was at the Bogles’s Roundhouse Restaurant where the food and service were perfect.

My last morning’s diving was with Deefer Diving owned by Gary Ward. So much to see and so little time. The two dives took in fields of huge Gorgonian Fan Coral as well as a perfect little wreck of a tug boat.

The wreck sat in about 20 meters of clear water with a small shoal of Sergeant Majors gracing the wheelhouse. The easy return to shallower waters gave us sleeping Nurse Sharks, a very curious Sand Diver and a couple of the biggest Spiny Lobsters I have ever seen.

All too soon it was midday and time to think about heading for the ferry back to Grenada. But not before a perfect lunch at a small beach restaurant called La Playa situated in the most beautiful setting.

The ferry journey back was pleasant and got me back to the Coyaba in plenty of time to start packing for the next day’s flight. The last main meal of the trip was at the waterside Sails Restaurant with Roger who had been my driver and occasional companion for the entire week and I must thank him for being a great fixer as well as driver and guide.

Last day of the trip. The flight wasn’t until 6.20 pm so there was time for a tour of a few island highlights which included Fort Frederick built in 1770 by the French and the House of Chocolate where I learnt the fascinating history of chocolate. Finally we walked through the main market place in St.Georges where stalls abounded with a cornucopia of fresh fruit and spices.

It has been a wonderful week with delightful company, great food, stunning locations and exceptional diving. If you are planning a trip to the Caribbean then think Grenada, it definitely deserves your attention as a place to visit. I would like to thank all the people and organisations who made me feel so welcome.

Flights to Grenada are direct from the UK. If you would like to know more about diving in Grenada visit www.PureGrenada.com. 

Jeff Goodman is the Conservation editor and also the Underwater Videography Editor for Scubaverse.com. Jeff is an award winning TV wildlife and underwater cameraman and film maker. With over 10,000 dives to his credit he has dived in many different environments around the world.

Marine Life & Conservation

Exhibition: Protecting UNESCO Marine World Heritage through scientific research

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From now until 30 October, the photo exhibition “Protecting UNESCO Marine World Heritage through scientific research” features 21 photographs at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, as well as a digital edition.

Exceptional photographs highlight how innovative marine experts and scientists take the pulse of the ocean by exploring ecosystems, studying the movement of species, or revealing the hidden biodiversity of coral reefs. Scientific discoveries are more important than ever for the protection and sustainable conservation of our Marine World Heritage. This memorable exhibition comes ahead of the launch, in 2021, of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (“Ocean Decade”). The exhibition was jointly developed by UNESCO and the Principality of Monaco.

The 50 marine sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, distributed across 37 countries, include a wide variety of habitats as well as rare marine life still largely unknown. Renowned for their unmatched beauty and emblematic biodiversity, these exceptional ecosystems play a leading role in the field of marine conservation. Through scientific field research and innovation, concrete actions to foster global preservation of the ocean are being implemented locally in these unique natural sites all over the world. They are true symbols of hope in a changing ocean.

Since 2017, the Principality of Monaco supports UNESCO to strengthen conservation and scientific understanding of the marine sites inscribed on the World Heritage List. This strategic partnership allows local management teams to benefit from the results obtained during the scientific missions of Monaco Explorations. The partnership also draws international attention to the conservation challenges facing the world’s most iconic ocean sites.

The exhibition invites viewers to take a passionate dive into the heart of the scientific missions led by Monaco Explorations in four marine World Heritage sites: Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (Philippines), Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary (Colombia), Rock Islands Southern Lagoon (Palau), and the Lagoons of New Caledonia: Reef Diversity and Associated Ecosystems (France). It is also an opportunity to discover the work of a megafauna census; the study of the resilience of coral reefs and their adaptation in a changing climate; the exploration of the deep sea; and the monitoring of large marine predators through satellite data.

To visit the Digital Exhibition click here.

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Dive Training Blogs

Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 7

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Join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy for the final part of his Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.

Deptherapy expeditions do not just magically happen, they need planning and they need funding.  This expedition was funded by our long-term partners the Veterans’ Foundation.  The funding is part of a grant they awarded us for programmes this year, which were then put on hold because of COVID.

All charities in the Armed Forces’ Sector are struggling for funds. Deptherapy desperately needs support going forward and every penny counts.

We know what we do works and at the end of this blog you will find details of the research studies into Deptherapy’s programmes and how they impact on the lives of our beneficiaries.  This includes details that are hot off the press about the latest study that reports that what we offer through scuba diving and 24/7 support has benefits beyond those found in other sporting rehabilitation programmes.

Well tomorrow we fly home, late in the evening with the journey home for some of the guys who live up North taking around 15 hours after leaving Roots.

We want to make the most of today but with the tide running we are not going to be able to dive until later this morning which means only two dives today.

Oatsie and Swars about to start their sidemount dives

Things, however are really busy over at the dive centre with Swars and Oatsie putting their sidemount kit together for their training dives with Steve Rattle leading to their RAID sidemount qualification.  It has been nice to be able to offer the guys this extra training, given the amount of work they have put in this week.  They have needed to get through their theory quickly but given the RADI online learning system this has not been too arduous.

Steve came diving with us yesterday to get some more photos and was really amazed at the progress that Corey had made. He was quite open in his praise, as in his view Corey has gone from a non-diver to being a very competent OW diver capable of diving, unsupervised, with a buddy.  Praise indeed.

Other than the sidemount course we are diving as a group today: Corey, Keiron, Michael, Moudi and me. Corey has been given some tasks – SMB deployment on both dives and the afternoon dive will be a ‘naturalist dive’.  Guy Henderson has set Corey a task: ‘to identify three species of fish and record the time into the dive and the depth at which each one was spotted’.  Guy runs Marine Biology courses on the reef and knows where the fish are to be found, how long into the dive, and at what time.

The two Toms are getting put through their paces. They have walked their cylinders down to the entry point, but Steve sends them back to the dive centre to collect other kit they should have brought with them.

Our general dive goes well and the sidemount guys appear from their sidemount dive some 90 minutes after dipping their heads under the water.

Corey enjoying being a RAID OW20 Diver

Lots of bubbly chat at lunchtime, a group of really happy divers. Corey really has benefited from the week and over lunch thanked the team for making him a diver. He has very quickly become part of the family and after returning home he published an amazing post on Facebook about his experience.  Corey really gets Deptherapy and had soon realised that we see past mental and physical injuries and see the person inside and work with that person.  He also realised that we want beneficiaries to see their fellow beneficiaries in the same light.  He knows he now has another ‘family’ – a family of brothers in arms who have two things in common, they served their country and they have suffered life changing injuries or illnesses.

Back into the water for the afternoon dive and Corey identifies the fish and records the details on a slate.  The two Tom’s complete their second dive and qualify as RAID Sidemount Divers. Great!

Kit packed away and it is time to return to the camp for a few well-earned last night drinks.

I am often asked why we use Roots as our exclusive base for diving. I have mentioned before that it offers us an ideal retreat, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We are secluded and there are no distractions such as late-night bars etc.

Roots Accessible Room

The second reason is the amazing welcome we receive from Steve, Clare, Moudi and the team.  We have been going to Roots since 2014 and many of the staff have become good friends, they understand our needs and are the friendliest people you could ever wish to meet.

The third reason is the huge investment Steve and Clare have made in making the resort and dive centre accessible for those with physical injuries including those who need to use wheelchairs.  All our beneficiaries can enjoy Roots and, in fact, love it here.  The reef is perfect for us and in non-COVID times we can travel to the Salem Express and other dive sites to enjoy more of the Red Sea experience.

Accessible toilet on the Roots beach

After discussions with the team I was very proud to be able to tell Corey that his progress had been such that we were inviting him on the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust sponsored two-week Marine Biology Course at Roots in June 2021. There is lots of homework to undertake under the guidance of Dr Debbie McNeill of Open Oceans and Corey will be sent the Red Sea Guide which is the basis for study.

While on that programme, Corey with fellow beneficiary Dale Mallin, will complete his RAID Advanced 35 course.  This all builds to a 10-day Red Sea liveaboard in 2022, onboard Roots’ new boat Big Blue where 18 beneficiaries will compare the coral and aquatic life on the wrecks of the SS Thistlegorm and the less known SS Turkia that is to be found in the Gulf of Suez and is rarely dived.

Paul Rose, our Vice President, is supporting the programme and is seeking the support of the UN and the Royal Geographical Society. A comprehensive report will be submitted to our partners in the project and to the Egyptian Authorities.

Last night and chill

What we do works:

In recent years there have been three academic studies into our work:

2018 – A study by a team from the University of Sheffield Medical School.

2019 – A study by The Centre of Trauma at Nottingham University.

Both these studies reported very positively on Deptherapy’s work both underwater but also in terms of the provision of 24/7 support.

The following is from our press release which was issued on 26th October:

‘A new study into Scuba Diving Rehabilitation Charity Deptherapy’s approach to supporting Armed Forces veterans with psychological injuries such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) through the medium of scuba diving has been carried out by Petra Walker in conjunction with Hanna Kampman of the Posttraumatic Growth Research Unit at the University of East London.

This study, which used Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), demonstrates that scuba diving has rehabilitation benefits beyond those found in other forms of sporting rehabilitation exercise. IPA is a qualitative methodology that examines the experiences of participants and has been used in previous studies of Posttraumatic Growth (PTG) in para-athletes.

Petra is an experienced diver herself and was exploring the wellbeing aspects of scuba diving as part of her Masters in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology when she came across a previous study on Deptherapy. Past studies have mainly focused on the medical aspects of diving, so the opportunity to examine the mental health side of rehabilitative scuba diving was impossible to ignore. The full study is currently embargoed until it is published at a future date in an academic journal, but it follows similar academic research into the work of Deptherapy by the University of Sheffield Medical School (2018) and the University of Nottingham (2019).’

This is amazing news and sets us apart from other sporting rehabilitation programmes.

We are currently working with our VP Richard Castle who is a Consultant Psychologist and our Dive Medicine Advisor Mark Downs to identify further areas of psychological and physical dive related research.

We end the week on a happy note.  A young man who has learned to dive properly with a RAID OW 20 certification, a new RAID Master Rescue Diver, two new RAID Sidemount Divers, 5 new RAID O2 Providers, many assessments for our DMs but most of all a week of learning, of making new friendships, renewing old friendships, and building on our family ethos.

Until we meet again…

For us, Deptherapy is a journey, a journey that continues to push boundaries in the use of scuba diving in the rehabilitation of those suffering life changing mental and/or physical challenges.  On our journey we want to change the way the scuba diving industry views diving for those with disabilities.

In the new year, we will be launching, with our diver training agency partners RAID, a new and exciting adaptive teaching programme that will offer diving to the disabled community. We can’t wait to share it with you!


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

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