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Where’s Ellen? Part Four…

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Ellen is cave diving in Tulum 😉

Tulum might be on your bucket list for diving the beautiful cenotes where sunlight penetrates the sinkholes and creates stunning sceneries. Guides take people in these caverns the whole time but the exact definition of a cavern dive seems a bit stretched to me. In some areas daylight is 60 meters away, try swimming that distance in an ‘out of air’ scenario…

To feel safe entering the underworld and be there for my offspring in the future, I embarked on a RAID full cave course last year and once I mastered the skills I was allowed to enter this stunning underwater wonderland which literally sometimes takes my breath away, but…in a good way!

This year I returned to maintain my skills with UK cave instructor Garry Dallas (Simply Sidemount & Simply Tec) and after a few days I felt confident to go on a dive with Explorer Robbie Schmittner.

For decades Robbie’s been passionate discovering new cenotes, caves and passageways and his aim is to find the connection between the different systems discovered today and explore new ones, making the underwater world in the Yucatan the biggest cave system in the world. Last year he found the connection between Sac Actun and Dos Ojos and his quest for the near future is the connection to Ox Bel Ha.

Robbie spoiled me and our two days in the jungle will be hard to forget. The first day was pretty off the beaten track to Yab Yum for a stage dive which brought us to a giant pit where I felt like skydiving or soaring through space. (The image of a man in black signaling me to enter the dark side will be imprinted in my brain forever).

On the second day we were guided through one of his explorations from 1999: Dos Pisos. The diversity of speleothems and even underwater tree roots, some dissolved within the calcite drips, makes this a world where your imagination is tickled and it reminded me of an eerie fantasy world where nymphs were about to appear.

Cave diving is not for everyone but chances are that those who take that plunge are pretty hooked on it.

If you’d rather explore by the seat of your pants, you can follow Robbie on Instagram @Robbieschmittner. Explore through his eyes, it’s a stunning world!


Find out more about Ellen and her photographic adventures at www.ellencuylaerts.com.

As an underwater and wildlife photographer, Fellow of The Explorers Club and having a front seat in exploration being part of the Flag and Honours Committee, Ellen was also recently inducted in the Women Divers Hall of Fame. She travels the world and tries to make the most of every destination and the path that leads her there. Ellen acts as an ocean citizen and believes as divers we should all be ocean ambassadors and lead by example! She’s also a crazy cat lady and lives with her family in the Caribbean.

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Breaking News: Captain charged in Conception boat fire tragedy

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According to reports in the international press today, it has been announced that the Captain of the dive boat Conception, which was completely destroyed by fire last year, resulting in the tragic loss of 34 passengers and crew, has been charged with 34 counts of seaman’s manslaughter. 

The Captain Jerry Nehl Boylan was among five crew members to escape the blaze on board Conception, a dive boat operated by Truth Aquatics, which took place in the early hours of 2 September 2019 whilst the boat was moored offshore, close to Santa Cruz Island off the coast of California.

The BBC reports that Mr Boylan has not publicly commented on the charges, and is expected to surrender to the authorities at a later date. According to the BBC, each charge of seaman’s manslaughter carries up to 10 years in federal prison.

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Crossover to NAUI for FREE!

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As a boost to help the diving industry, NAUI are still offering a FREE Instructor cross-over course together with five free certifications to all Instructors. This can include Open Water, Advance, Rescue, Nitrox and various other specialities and can be mixed and matched so all five do not necessarily need to be for the same certification.

NAUI have also frozen the membership fees for 2021 for instructors crossing over or restarting.

NAUI’s Southern UK Rep Simon Lodge says: “Throughout this year, the diving industry has severely suffered so as a result, to help kickstart the diving industry NAUI will not be charging membership fees 2020/2021 to any new instructors.” 

Founded in 1960, NAUI Worldwide is one of the scuba industry’s largest not-for-profit agencies whose purpose is to enable people to enjoy underwater activities as safely as possible by providing the highest quality practical education, and to actively promote the preservation and protection of the world’s underwater environments. As a pioneer in diving education, NAUI has developed many of the programs and concepts accepted throughout the diving industry. NAUI: A Higher Standard!

For more details please contact Simon Lodge (Southern UK Rep) on simon@europe.naui.org or Craig Warner (Northern UK Rep) on cwarner@europe.naui.org.

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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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