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CEX II engineer dives in to help frame a few shots & do a quick hull inspection.

CEX II engineer dives in to help frame a few shots & do a quick hull inspection.

St. Kitts & Saba Islands Diving

I just left the Explorer II this afternoon to fly back to SFO. I needed a last minute dive trip STAT, and landed onto the Explorer II quite by chance. We had some serious underwater photographers on board, and some seriously funny divers! A very interesting mix indeed.
There was never a dull moment above or below the surface.
The crew worked tirelessly to insure our dive safety, and skillfully handled our gear & cameras.
Captain Ian runs a tight ship, and keeps things on schedule. It’s fun to try to get him to crack a smile.
The DM’s were knowledgable of the area & helped us find some critters. Not a Batfish in sight, though Claire went out of her way to seek them out. When I would ask Stephen what he could help me find on a dive, he responded, “The boat!” Always a good answer! Kate was also an excellent DM to dive with.
All the crew members were great to us. One crew member in particular went out of his way to help the divers. Any issues with scuba gear, cabin maintenance problems, or camera gear challenges were skillfully handled with a smile by Robert Wolfe. He was courteous, professional, and went above & beyond to meet the needs of everyone on board.
Robert was always on the dive deck to give guidance on which camera to take on a particular dive depending on the site. He kindly accompanied me on a few dives so I could get the shot I was looking for. He even got the guests together at various points on the trip for photo opportunities that we would have otherwise overlooked.
Many thanks to the Explorer II crew. A special thank you goes out to Mr. Wolfe who exceeded all expectations & made St Kitts & Saba a trip to remember.

My Great White Shark photo adorns the window in Carmel By The Sea.
Carmel Camera, San Carlos & 5th Avenue.

Great White Shark Diving!

When I was asked about my vacation plans I told my friends & colleagues that I was headed to Mexico for a dive trip.  They smiled and said, “That sounds nice and relaxing.” To a non-diver, the words “Guadalupe Island” means not a thing. They figure it is just another vacation destination in Mexico.

Not until the very last work day did I give up any details.  As I finished my shift I said, “I hope I get some good photos of the Great White Sharks there.”  At first there were glances around the silent room, each coworker looking to see the reaction of the other, each assuming I was kidding.  Then one shouted, “Oh my God, you are not kidding!”  Shock & disbelief fell over the room.  Warnings about the dangers of those blood-thirsty apex predators with razor-sharp teeth, and tales of scuba divers being dismembered, or swallowed whole, and of course the movie “Jaws”were all mentioned.  Did I mention “Shark Week” just aired on a TV special this week too?

Explaining that sharks are not interested in hunting or eating humans, AND that I would be protected by a metal cage did nothing to ease their concerns. Someone said, “Can’t you just go visit one at the Aquarium on Cannery Row?”

Well, I made it back in one piece thanks to a very knowledgeable  and professional crew aboard the Solmar V. Safety of both diver & shark is priority and I would recommend this trip to any diver who wants to see these awesome creatures in their natural habitat.  We had about 8 different Great White sharks show up during our 3 day stay at Guadalupe Island.  We even had some breaches which was a spectacular show.  We had a great group of people on board as well which made the trip a lot of fun.  I would love to do a trip to Socorro in the future to view & photograph the Giant Mantas.

The great thing about Guadalupe Great White Shark diving is that you only need to bring your 7mm wetsuit, hood, gloves, boots, and mask.  No regulators, snorkels, tanks, or fins needed.  The 2 cages attached to the stern are 8′ deep.  The cage diver wears a harness (provided) with about 50lbs. of weight or so.  I wore 40lbs and felt like a burro trying to climb in & out of the moving, floating cage.  It was a little less than graceful, but I managed.
  They have a Hookah system so that it is easy to stay submerged for a long time while observing sharks or taking photos. The water temp was about 65 which is warmer than I am used to here in Monterey.  The air temp during the day was 75-80/nights down to the 60’s.  The vis was about 60′-100′ depending on what the tide blew in.  When the sun was out, the rays penetrated deep beneath the surface. This made the water column illuminate like a huge fiber-optic lamp. It was mesmerizing.  The light rays would sparkle on the otherwise drab, grey shark hide creating
a beautiful dappled appearance.  It was like no other experience I have had diving.    
  Certified divers may also utilize the submersible cage which descends on a crane system down about 40′.  You still use a Hookah system for your air supply.  This lets you observe the big picture as the sharks circle around the surface cages, the ship, and the bait.
If you go shark diving, be sure to go on The Solmar V.  They are the only outfit licensed to bait the sharks.  The Great Whites swim so close you could reach out and touch them………..BUT I kept my hands to myself in spite of the temptation.

Cozumel was my first warm water destination after logging about 60 dives in cold water  between Monterey and the Channel Islands in 2005.

I was so enchanted by the warm breeze, 80 degree water, and 100+ foot visibility that I wanted to move there.  Cozumel was literally a dream come true.  I have had 2 recurring dreams since childhood.  One is that I can fly in my dreams, the other is that I can breathe underwater.  As I swiftly glided along with the current with my dive buddies I suddenly realized that these two dreams had become a reality.

Now, 6 years and over 200 dives later I returned to Cozumel to enjoy some drift diving as a more experienced diver, as well as owning a better underwater camera.

I had the awesome opportunity to travel to the islands of Hawaii………gratis! (free)

I had met a divemaster, and fellow underwater photographer from  “Lahaina Divers”  while diving Wakatobi, South Sulawesi, Indonesia in 2009.  He recommended his shop to me, and somehow I remembered the shop name a year later when the opportunity arose.

"The Dominion"

Green Sea Turtle

Sunken Pier

In Maui, I enjoyed the sunken pier dive off LaHaina with lots of reef White Tip sharks, schools of large fish, and turtles.  There were Frogfish too, but I missed that one.

The Manta dive was a bust for everyone except me.  I followed my instincts and ventured away from the large group on the reef towards deeper waters.  I captured an Eagle Ray on this dive.

Eagle Ray

The boat ride to Molokai was brutal!  Most of the divers hurled over the sides.  It is the second roughest channel in the world.  The swells were so large that my 6′ safety sausage was not visible to the boat crew upon surfacing!  We even had a wave crash over our heads while floating in the open ocean.  We were bobbing in the 15′ waves on the surface for 20 minutes.  This was considered a mild wave day.  This is NOT a beginner dive.  The only saving grace is that a Hammerhead scout came right up to me to look into my lens dome. I was eye to eye with this beautiful creature!

Hammerhead Shark

Lanai was a beautiful place to dive.  The Cathedrals are spectacular.  We went one by one into a cavern where the ocean swells surge through.  We positioned ourselves at the mouth of the opening awaiting our turns one by one.  About every 30 seconds the strong surge sucks you straight out the window of the cathedral and spits you onto the reef outside the structure.

Cathedral Surge Corridor

The reef was beautiful in Lanai as well.  I got a shot of an eel hiding in the coral while others divers were passing by.

Spotted Moray Eel in Coral & Diver

Lanai Reef

Hawaii was a pretty decent place to dive to my surprise.  Not my favorite, but definitely worth a quick 5 hour direct flight from San Jose.