NZSteve

NZSteve

My Dive Map

Reviews (3)

Wananavu Beach Resort

4
4
4
4

DANGER, DO NOT COMBINE’ should have been printed on our itinerary to Wananavu Resort in Fiji. Combine the cold New Zealand winter, the lure of a warm tropical paradise and four guys bursting for a great time and you get a recipe for some Fiji fun. Two divers and two non divers begin the trip and four divers emerged at the end with some fantastic diving, heaps of laughs and memories of a life time especially for the oldest in our group who dove for the first time at 73.

I knew when Jeremy and Kristen at Reef Safaris said ‘my dive shop is your dive shop’ that we would be well looked after and boy did they. Within a 30 minute boat ride of the resort we were dropped on some excellent sites on Sail Stone Reef. Dive sites like Golden Dreams, Bula Maize, and the Pinnacles had us mesmerised and keep us coming back for more. We could not wait for the next days diving and as we came up from the first dive we were thinking about going down for the next and as someone said we were going up and down like a naughty girls pants (of course with an appropriate surface interval).

Crystal clear warm water greeted us and as we were soon guided through some great swim throughs and between tall pinnacles by our Dive Master at a depth of 15 to 25 metres. Golden Dreams was named for the golden soft coral lavishly spread on the balmys and swim throughs. Visibility was between 30 to 50 metres with some beautiful soft and hard corals and a huge quantity of fish. We saw several White Tipped Reef Sharks, mating Octopus, several types of Stonefish, Lion Fish, Blue Fin Tuna, Spanish Mackerel and the small colourful reef fish were as thick as fleas on Grandpas hound.

One of my highlights was the high population of nudibranchs from the Blue Dragon (up to three per square metre) to Diserable Flabellina. Several varieties were photographed and listed as undescribed in the guide book so you do not know what waits to be discovered. These slow and beautiful sea creatures are perfect for the new and experienced photographer and the lack of current and good visibility helped get those clear shots without an external strobe. The Dive Master was great at pointing out these miniature dragons and was always willing to make the dive our dive by finding and pointing out animals or plants we wanted to see.

At Wananavu Resort we were spoilt for activities on our day off. Choices of several village visits, bamboo rafting, kayaking, snorkelling and petanque were all available. Talks on medicinal plants and ‘the tree of life’ the coconut kept us informed. Our group loved the interaction with the locals and I do not know who laughed the most at the waterfall village. After drinking kava, chewing on the sweetest sugar cane I have ever had and sliding down a natural waterfall into a refreshingly cool rock pool we bought a few pieces of handicraft.

One tip for the interested traveller which the Islanders really appreciated was the giving of items we take for granted. Everything from summer clothes for adults and kids, kids books, rugby boots and eyeglasses (like those you buy from the $2 shop) are greatly appreciated. As always in Fiji the Fijian people add a great deal to the experience. We go to the islands for the warmth and sun and soon discover the Fijians are just as warm and sunny.

Another buzz would have to be the light in Mike’s (age 73) eyes describing the fish and coral on his first dive. With a splash he was over the side looking at a world he had never imagined. His enthusiasm was infectious and had all the charm and adventure of a kid explaining his new discovery. He felt lucky to be able to experience the underwater world just as every diver feels when they come up from a great dive. Unimaginable is the only way I know how to describe scuba diving. A whole new world awaits you, we do not have to leave this planet and you can begin at almost any age.

Visited on 07/2011 - Submitted on 02/25/2014
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Galapagos Islands

5
4
5
4

Our Family spent six adventurous weeks in Ecuador dividing our time between the Amazon, Quito and the Andes and ten days in the Galapagos on a catamaran, Galapagos Vision. This review is about our time in the Galapagos.

Most of our adventures happened during the day when we walked the islands or leisurely snorkelled the blue coastal waters. We snorkelled at least twice a day with marine iguanas, two types of turtles, sharks and sting rays not to mention all the fish life. The Galapagos Vision was not a dive boat but a fifteen metre catamaran holding ten paying passengers and six crew including a naturalist, Milton.

I can still hear his warm and smiling voice. ‘You do not have to look for the animals, they will look for you’. We thought he was just trying to keep us on the track but Milton turned out to be a legend. He seemed to know where to find stingrays, which ledges were hiding white tip reef sharks and where to find sea turtles gracefully feeding in the current.

‘Stay still’, was easier said than done as half a dozen stingrays swam around our feet in ankle deep water. Once again ‘The legend’ had led us to a beach on Floreana Island. The sculptured dunes were the nesting area for green sea turtles and only twenty metres off the beach two turtles were mating.

In this precious place we had to follow certain rules like the ‘two metre rule’. We were supposed to stay at least two metres from all animals but no one told the animals. We felt a connection as Green Sea Turtles comfortably fed just centimetres away under water. White Tipped Reef Sharks snoozed below us in the shallow water sometimes closer than we wanted to be.

These islands are epic. With regularity we would get out of the path of a determined sea lion or marine iguana as they moved to a new sunning perch. The oohs and aahs as baby sea lions nursed or a Nazca Booby stood up to expose a furry chick. Magnificent and Great Frigate birds, Waved Albatross, Blue Footed Boobies and Tropic Birds were in great numbers on some islands.

One of the highlights was seeing marine iguanas swim in from the cool sea with their serpent swagger and climb sometimes twenty metres up a cliff to a warm perch. They are the only marine lizard in the world and we found them lounging in great numbers (photo).

Darwin explored the Galapagos and developed his theory of evolution by noticing the changes in the length of mockingbird’s beaks and variation in finches from Island to Island. It was fascinating as visitors to easily see evolving forms of animals. Sure enough every island of the nine we visited showed a change in adaptation. The mockingbird’s beaks were longer, iguanas colour changed and finch’s beaks were noticeably stouter on some islands.

Even the islands change and evolve as they drift slowly east getting older, flatter and lower. Rabida is the ‘red’ island and some islands have the contrasting colour of old and new lava flows. We did not visit the most volcanic and westward islands of Fernandina and Isabela which would provide even more variety.

Exploring the Galapagos by boat and living aboard puts less pressure on the growing infrastructure of the islands but you need to have some sea legs to enjoy the journey. Our family never found it rough but some on our cruise looked a bit pale. The alternative is a land based exploration, sleeping on land and making boat trips to the islands.

Our shipmates were as varied as the wildlife consisting of people from Italy,
US, Netherlands and New Zealand. Another bonus of our travels is we feel we have made lifelong friends and with our new acquaintances we have invitations to visit so it seems, the journey never ends. There are boats to meet every need and price range carrying passenger of a few to one hundred.

The snorkelling was so different than anything I have experienced before. The animals were new but the quantity of sea life was unbelievable. The water was cool but not too cold to snorkel without a wetsuit but I would recommend one for diving.

After our cruise which is a great way to see some of the islands we spent several days in Puerta Ayora to regain our land legs and look around the main town on Santa Cruz Island. My son and I chose to dive with Silberstein Dive Centre and did two dives off Baltra Island. Both dives were drift dives and were easy and gentle and called Mosquera and North Seymour. The dive master was adequate as was the rental equipment and we had no trouble. It did make me realise after our trip on Galapagos Vision that it is the guide that can make the difference between a special trip and an adequate trip. The guys at Silberstein were adequate. The schools of Jacks were incredible and at one stage we were surrounded by them while doing our safety stop.

There are many dive shops to choose from in the Galapagos and I would recommend using the forums on TripAdvisor and Bluewater Travel to find the best ones. Have fun!

Visited on 12/2012 - Submitted on 02/25/2014
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Crystal Blue Resort

4
4
4
4

I was lucky enough to attend a ten day underwater photography workshop in May of 2013 led by Scott Gietler, Mike Bartick and Brent Durand. This dive destination was combined with a few days in Manila and a homestay in Port Barton but more about that latter.

Crystal Blue Resort is divided into five distinct levels on the picturesque hillside overlooking Balayan Bay and Maricaban Island. Just a few steps from the water is an excellent undercover 'gearing up' area for scuba divers with showers, rinse tanks for cameras and drying racks. Once the dive masters know your diving equipment (BCD and Regulator) which is usually after the first dive, your tanks are in your boat every morning ready for your first dive. Nitrox seems to be the norm so you will have relaxing long dives in most cases.

Up the next few steps lies a well appointed air conditioned camera room with twenty camera bays complete with 220v sockets, lighting and storage areas. Dry towels are generously given and it is a great environment for downloading the days pics, cleaning and preparing for the next days shoot.

After a good time diving the next level will feed your soul and stomach at the open air restaurant serving delicious and generous plates of seafood, asian, filipino and continental meals in buffet style. The prawns were to die for and hats off to the Chef for turning out such tasty and varied meals. A portion of this level is divided into a comfortable lounge area where you can sometimes pick up wifi.

The next few levels provide the office and accommodation.The rooms were spacious, air conditioned and well lit with two queen sized beds in our room. The Bathroom was adequate and clean as was the room.

Now to the really exciting review, the diving was fantastic! Critters galore, nudibranchs too numerous to mention, seahorses big and tiny, frog fish of all colors, and on it goes. If you like muck diving you are going to love this place. The dive guides are very accommodating and will respond gratefully to any special request. We were doing four dives a day on Nitox which included a night dive and never found a dive site boring. Some of our shallow dives were up to fifteen metres deep and we had dives of up to eighty or more minutes. Our deepest dives were to twenty eight metres. Our group of four divers (usually three or four divers per guide) especially liked the house reef, Twin Rocks and Kirbys. The dive boats were outrigger types with a boatman at all times. Sometimes the boats lacked a shade overhead but most of the boats were comfortable.

Dive conditions were very calm most of the time with little current but we had one dive where we had to just hang on until the current stopped. Visibility was excellent and up to thirty metres. I wore a full length 3mm wet suit more for protection against any stinging things and had no trouble.

This is a great place for macro photography but also has sites for wide angle and most sites are within thirty minutes.
I can easily recommend this resort on all levels and hope to go back one day. All the staff are friendly and the manager Mike Bartick is friendly, witty and fun to be around. The only thing I noticed not working was the jacuzzi and the wifi was pretty intermittent.

Other things to do in the Philippines......have a look around Manila, cheap shopping, culturally a huge shift from the West and great food but travel with your eyes wide open.

I also traveled to Port Barton on the island of Palawan to do a home stay with a filipino family with FlipFlopTours which was a great experience but not for someone expecting to be catered for in Western ways. I was accommodated to a much greater standard than my host and we had better food that they would normally have. The returns to me were the experience and seeing how real people of the Philippines live.

Visited on 05/2013 - Submitted on 02/25/2014
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