Turtle Bay Dive Resort Blog

Dive Better, Dive Safer: 101 Tips That Will Make You A Pro

Posted by Ericka Villa on Tue, Dec 01, 2015 @ 02:34 PM


Hit the Pause Button 4 Times

Get in the habit of inserting pauses in your dive plan. It's a chance to take stock, collect yourself and relax a moment.

  • After you're geared up, pause a moment: Forget anything? Does everything feel right?

  • After you enter the water but before you submerge: Is your weight belt still in place? Is your buddy OK? Is there current?

  • After you reach max depth but before you move off: How do you feel? Check your equipment, check your gauges, check your buoyancy, check your buddy. Look around so you can recognize the scene when you return and are trying to find the anchor line.

  • After you finish your safety stop but before you surface: Hear any propellers? Check your buoyancy.

6 Tips for Better Buoyancy Control

  • Minimize your weighting. Extra air in your BC, to support extra lead on your belt, will change volume and buoyancy with depth, causing you to yo-yo and preventing you from maintaining neutral buoyancy.

  • Check it at the safety stop. It's at the end of your dive, not the beginning, that you should be weighted for neutral buoyancy at 15 feet. That means you'll be about five pounds heavy at the beginning of the dive. (That's the weight of the air you use.)

  • Suspend a weight bag. Hang a mesh bag with some one-pound and two-pound weights from the boat at about 15 feet. Start the dive with two pounds or so of your weight in a BC pocket. At the safety stop, next to the weight bag, you can transfer weights between pocket and bag to find your perfect weighting.

  • Relax. To find neutral buoyancy, go limp. Any sculling with hands or feet will create upward thrust.

  • Add and subtract air in small squirts. You must wait a minute for adjustments to take effect before adding or subtracting more. The effect is not instantaneous.

  • Use your lungs, not your BC. Make slight temporary changes to your buoyancy by holding more or less air in your lungs. That way you don't disturb the correct inflation of your BC. Hold air with your chest, not by closing your glottis, so pressure can escape.

17 Ways to Reduce Air Consumption

  • Streamline your equipment. Stash accessories in pockets or leave them behind. Reduce the lengths of your hoses where you can and route them close to your body. Clip in your console and your octopus. Choose a BC sized properly for your body and for the buoyancy you need; too much causes excess drag.

  • Drop weight. The less weight you carry, the less air you have to put into your BC to maintain buoyancy, so the less bulk you have to drag through the water. You use more air dragging more bulk around. Most divers can drop two pounds or so.

  • Get neutral. And get trimmed properly, so that when you're neutral, you're horizontal. That minimizes the size of the "hole" you have to make in the water when you swim.

  • Move slowly. Water resistance increases exponentially with speed. Swimming twice as fast requires four times as much energy. All your movements should be in slow motion.

  • Kick within your slipstream. Keep your fins within that "hole" in the water made by your body. Wider kicks increase drag.

  • Use efficient fins. Some deliver more thrust for a given effort than others, especially split fins. See ScubaLab tests in our Gear section for details.

  • Don't skim the bottom. Both the bottom and the surface cause turbulence that robs energy if you swim within a few feet of them.

  • Make long surface swims on your back. And breathe surface air: It's free.

  • Pause after inhaling. Under water, your breathing pattern should be inhale, pause, exhale, inhale, pause, exhale. The pause (held with your chest muscles, not by closing your throat) allows more gas transfer to take place in your lungs and less oxygen to be wasted.

  • Breathe slowly. Friction between the incoming air and your mouth, throat, lungs, etc. increases exponentially with speed. More friction means more energy expended for less air actually arriving in your lungs. Move the air slowly.

  • Breathe deeply. The more complete each breath is, the fewer of them you have to take. Breathe "from the diaphragm," trying to completely fill and completely empty your lungs.

  • Use a high-performance regulator. Better regulators minimize the work of breathing. They minimize the amount of air you burn just getting air.

  • Maintain your regulator. They lose performance and increase work of breathing with use and age, and need regular maintenance.

  • Readjust your regulator. On many regulators, the purpose of the adjustment knob is not merely to prevent free-flowing on the surface. It's also to minimize work of breathing at depth. Periodically during your dive, open the valve until the regulator just begins to bubble, then back up on the adjustment a bit.

  • Stop all leaks. Lots of little bubbles add up. Usual suspects: tank O-ring, BC inflators, console swivels.

  • Stay above. At five feet less depth than your buddy, you'll see almost everything he does, but you'll use substantially less air. (Though the difference is greatest at shallower depths.)

  • Manage currents wisely. Learn how to detect, avoid and cope efficiently with adverse currents.

4 Ways to Be a Better Buddy

  • Communicate. Dive planning means talking. Don't assume you both know what to do. Be explicit about depth and time limits, buddy separation procedure, etc.

  • Two-way gear check. The gear check isn't over when you've checked your buddy's gear. He or she must check yours too. That forces your buddy to put hands on the gear, to take responsibility for it being correct. Likewise, make sure gauge checks during the dive go both ways.

  • Take turns. During the dive, don't always be the one who leads, because that trains your buddy to be a follower. Make a point of trading off, so your buddy takes as much responsibility as you for setting the pace and direction.

  • Be humble. Admit you can be wrong. Don't dismiss your buddy's warning/correction/suggestion out of hand.

3 Tips for an Out-of-Air Ascent

  • Relax. Easier said than done, but many "out-of-air" emergencies are really cases of anxiety causing the diver to overbreathe the regulator. Slow your breathing, and you may find you have plenty of air after all.

  • Keep your reg in your mouth. You may be totally out of air at depth, but keep trying to breathe. As you ascend and ambient pressure falls, more air will probably become available from your tank.

  • Exhale slowly. The air in your lungs expands as you ascend, and it's not uncommon to exhale all the way up and reach the surface feeling you have more air in your lungs than when you began the ascent.

5 Tips for Mapping a Dive Site

  • Sketch the dive site on your slate. Actually drawing it is a memory aid. It helps even if you never look at it again.

  • Orient toward north. Draw the map so north is at the top. Under water, lining up your slate with your compass needle puts things in proper orientation. Mark the direction of the sun and the current, too.

  • Use navigational charts. Or other site sketches to get the overall shape.

  • Listen to the dive briefing. Ask questions about depths, trend of bottom and underwater topography.

  • Use your eyes. Above-ground profiles often extend under water; a cliff above is often a wall below.

9 Ways to Minimize Your DCS Risk

  • Ascend slowly. A slow ascent rate is a "rolling" decompression stop that allows nitrogen to offgas before it bubbles.

  • Make a safety stop. It's not called a decompression stop, but that's what it is. It allows more offgassing before you ascend through the final 15 feet, where pressure change per foot is greatest.

  • Don't exercise after diving. It seems to increase formation of bubbles. "Like shaking a can of soda," some people say.

  • End the dive shallow. When you are ascending, you're offgassing from the faster tissues, which are usually most critical for neurological DCS. Time spent shallow at the end of the dive helps unload the nitrogen taken on during the early, deeper parts.

  • Avoid sawtooth and bounce profiles. It's believed that repeated ascents and descents increase the chance of microbubbles passing to the arterial side of your circulation.

  • Wait 24 hours before flying. Flying soon after diving has the effect of making the dive deeper, and bubble formation is greater.

  • Stay warm. If you're cold, your circulation is restricted and nitrogen is passed off more slowly.

  • Stay hydrated. If you're dehydrated, your blood is thicker and moves more slowly, so offgassing is slower.

  • Don't use all the green. Computer algorithms are predictions, not guarantees. Back off a "click" or two for more safety.

5 Compass Tips

  • Practice on land. Try walking around a parking lot or a football field while looking mostly at the compass. When you can return to your starting point, you'll be better able to do the same under water.

  • Make sure the card rotates freely. If it hangs up, the reading will be wrong. Check by rotating the compass in your hand: The card should not move.

  • Fine-tune your buoyancy. Get in trim before taking a compass reading. If you are fighting to maintain your attitude, you will be more likely to get a false reading.

  • Use the bezel. Rotate it to mark your course. Checking your course requires only matching the north arrow to the bezel mark (or something equally simple, depending on the design of the compass).

  • Mount the compass on a slate. The slate helps you level the compass and is handy for marking bearings. Console mounts are often difficult to level because of the stiff hose.

15 Seasickness Tips


  • Pop a pill. All the pills are about the same in effectiveness and side effects. But if one of them—Dramamine, Bonine, Marazine, etc.—seems to work better for you than the others, stick with it. The placebo effect is very strong with seasickness.

  • Start taking pills early. Pills are better prevention than treatment. After you feel queasy, it may be too late for pills to help, so start 12 to 24 hours before going to sea. This builds up a level of the drug in your body.

  • Try the patch ... Scopolamine patches do work better than pills and have fewer side effects for most people. They are available by doctor's prescription.

  • ... Or the bands. Some people like "Sea Bands." They are bracelets with dots that purportedly touch acupressure points on your wrist. They have never been proven effective, but some people swear by them.

  • Bigger is better. Bigger, and especially wider, boats have a slower roll than smaller ones.

  • Stay on deck. It helps to be able to see the horizon, possibly because your eyes then agree with what your middle ears are saying—that your body is rocking and pitching. One theory is that nausea is caused by mixed messages when, below decks, your eyes report that all is stationary.

  • Don't try to read. Focusing your eyes on an apparently stationary target makes them even more convinced that your middle ears are wrong.

  • Close your eyes if you must go below. You may have to go below and lie down, in which case you should close your eyes so they aren't giving a no-motion message to your brain.

  • Be clean and sober. Even a mild hangover can easily degenerate into seasickness, besides increasing various diving risks. Likewise, fatigue predisposes you to seasickness.

  • Eat something. Opinions vary on this one, but most people feel better with a little bland food on their stomachs. Bread, bagels, pancakes, etc. are better than eggs and bacon. Coffee and orange juice are acidic and may irritate your stomach. Eat a little, not a lot.

  • Relax. Anxiety contributes to seasickness. Those who are frightened by the ocean and the movement of the boat, or anxious about the diving later in the day, are more likely to become seasick.

  • Watch for symptoms. Early signs include chills, headache and frequent burping. Now is the time to go on deck, or move to the lee rail if you're already there.


  • If you feel the urge, let it rip. You'll feel better almost immediately. Prolonging the inevitable only prolongs the pain.

  • Don't use a toilet. Or, God help us, a trash can. Go to the rail on the lee (downwind) side or use a bucket if one is designated. If you feel the urge coming, ask a crew member where to go. He or she will know the best place. Don't be embarrassed; you're not the first.

  • Get over it. After a few hours, most people feel better. For some it takes a day or two. Almost everyone gets over seasickness within three days.

6 Ways to Stay Warm

  • Wear a hood. It should be the first piece of thermal protection you consider, not the last. While near-surface blood vessels elsewhere in your body close down to minimize heat loss, those in your head continue at full flow.

  • Stop the leaks. The best wetsuit or dry suit is worthless if it lets in too much cold water. Repair broken zippers and split seams. The collar seal is especially important because as you swim forward it tends to scoop in water. Wear a hood if for no other reason than to seal the neck opening.

  • Cover up head to toe. Heat loss is huge where cold water flows over bare skin, so a thin full-length suit is warmer than a thicker shorty.

  • Stay shallow. Shallower depths mean the insulating neoprene of your wetsuit won't compress as much. And breathing air under less pressure chills you less.

  • Surface if you shiver. Uncontrollable shivering is a warning sign of hypothermia.

  • Break the wind. Between dives, a wet exposure suit becomes a swamp cooler. Many divers actually lose more heat between dives than when in the water. Wear a parka or a windbreaker, or take off the suit and dry off.

10 Ways to Avoid Nitrogen Narcosis

  • Take a course in deep diving from a qualified instructor. You'll learn warning signs of narcosis and skills in coping with it, and you'll gain confidence. Nitrogen narcosis can build on anxiety.

  • Be rested. Fatigue accentuates nitrogen narcosis.

  • Be clean and sober. A hangover, even the effects of over-the-counter drugs, can make narcosis worse.

  • Exhale thoroughly. You'll expel more carbon dioxide, which seems to accelerate the onset of narcosis.

  • Plan your dive, dive your plan. Decide depth, route, frequency of buddy checks, etc. and stick to it. Leave as few decisions as possible to be made "under the influence."

  • Watch yourself. Sure, it's supposed to be fun, but this much fun?

  • Watch your buddy. Does he seem uncoordinated? Silly? Acting odd?

  • Don't become fatigued. Don't try to do too much.

  • Watch your instruments. Believe them.

  • When in doubt, ascend. Often, an ascent of only 10 or 20 feet will clear your head.

8 Dive Boat Dos and Don'ts

Space is usually at a premium on dive boats, so secure your gear as neatly and compactly as possible.


  • Be early to board, early to gear up. Rushing increases anxiety and stress.

  • Remember cash for tips.

  • Secure tanks and weights and all other gear as instructed by crew.

  • Dress completely at your gear station except for putting on fins. Walk fins-in-hand to the exit door.


  • Leave open drinks on the camera table.

  • Dip masks in the camera rinse tank.

  • Forget your C-card.

  • Invade dry areas in a wet exposure suit.

9 Ways to Never Get Lost

  • Descend feet-first. And try to remain facing in the same direction, so you can correlate what you see on the bottom with what you saw at the surface.

  • Stop before you go. When you reach bottom, stop for a moment. Use yourcompass to orient yourself to your map. Look around for landmarks that will help you identify the scene when you return.

  • Use bottom contours. If you know the anchor is at 60 feet, you can find it by following the bottom slope to 60 feet, then following that contour.

  • Plan your route. Like, "Up-current at the 80-foot contour for 1,200 psi, then return to the exit at the 60-foot contour." Following your nose in a random pattern is more confusing.

  • Look for landmarks. When crossing a flat bottom, look for memorable landmarks in sight of one another: a rock outcrop, a large sponge, a bit of litter. Make your transit of the bottom a series of legs, from A to B to C to D, and you can find your way back.

  • Look behind you. On an out-and-back route, look back from time to time. You'll be more likely to recognize the scene on your return. Landmarks often look different from the other side.

  • Note compass headings. If you need to make an underwater transit from the descent line or anchor to the reef or the top of the wall, note the compassheading and note the scene when you arrive. The reciprocal course will return you to the anchor.

  • Note the direction of the sun. You can usually see it from under water. If it's on your left when outbound, it should be on your right for the return.

  • Learn the names. When you can identify the different sponges, corals, etc. along your route, you are more likely to remember them.

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Divers photo by Shutterstock.com

Source: http://www.scubadiving.com/training/basic-skills/dive-better-dive-safer-101-tips-thatll-make-you-pro

Tags: scuba diving

10 Best Diving Sites in the Philippines

Posted by Ericka Villa on Thu, Nov 12, 2015 @ 02:28 PM

Written by:

Famous for having a very high biodiversity, Philippines has been attracting tourist, researches and scientist all around the world. They take interest in observing the natural beauty of thearchipelago.

The country is bountiful with beautiful sceneries, and a great flora and fauna. Both are found scattered in the land and sea. A lot of people are a great fan of the Philippines underwater flora and fauna, in fact, bloggers and travelers often mention Philippine Diving Sites. Considering that 76% of the world’s coral species are found here in the country alone, underwater enthusiasts are really off to a great dive.

In case you’re planning for a visit in these sites, you might want to consider picking the best of the best, so feast your eyes on the ten best diving sites in the country.

Tubbataha Reef

Diving in Tubbataha Reef by Q Phia via Flickr
Diving in Tubbataha Reef by Q Phia via Flickr

Currently listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Parks, Tubbataha Reef National Park will never miss the list of any scuba divers even when they are from the other side of the globe.

Home to roughly 360 species of corals and 600 species of fish, you will surely be blown away bythe 10,000 hectares of this splendid ecosystem. Since it’s biodiversity is so rich, and it’s a certified protected area, there are specific rules and regulations to be followed by every diver who goes there to ensure the conservation of this area.

Located 150 km south of Puerto Princesa, Palawan, it’s easy to access given that there are motor boats that you could rent. It takes mostly 10 hours to get there from Puerto Princesa City, but the long wait is surely well paid at the end of the day.

Subic Bay

Diving in Subic Bay photo by Boardwalkdivecentre.com
Diving in Subic Bay photo by Boardwalkdivecentre.com

Philippines is not only rich in corals and marine animals, but it’s also quite rich in historical shipwreck sites too. For people who fancy diving into the past, this place is surely a great deal for them.

A total of 19 shipwrecks can be found under Subic Bay, which are either from the 1890’s or 1940’s, a period when Spain, America and Japan were in tug-of-war for Philippines’ ownership.

In totality, there are 14 wreck sites that features all the shipwrecks, and 6 equally beautiful Reef sites, so you may choose whichever your diving heart desires.

Anilao, Batangas

Plectorhinchus Polytaenia in Anilao Batangas
Plectorhinchus Polytaenia in Anilao Batangas – by Jnpet – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Dubbed as the birthplace of diving in the Philippines, you will truly be amazed with the 40 diving sites located in this side of the country. It is regarded as one of the most amazing diving sites in the Philippines by several travelers and bloggers as well.

It’s a two and a half hour drive from the busy city of Manila and you may choose to stay in the hotels available near the beach area. There is a wide array of activities that you choose from upon staying here but most vacationers prefer diving.

Apo Reef, Mindoro

A yellow crinoid in Apo Reef
A yellow crinoid in Apo Reef – by Dr. Dwayne Meadows, NOAA/NMFS/OPR. – NOAA Photo Library: reef4318. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Apo Reef is another crowd favorite, being the largest atoll in the Philippines, and the second largest atoll in the world. It is home to several species of marine animals like manta rays, tunas and sharks.

The place is very accessible and you can choose from either flying directly to Mindoro or Travel by bus from Manila and grab another 4 hour trip to Apo Reef National Park.

Busuanga, Palawan

Diving in Coron
Diving in Coron

Busuanga, Palawan is a haven for nature lovers. It is home to Calauit Safari Park, which is more known as Little Africa of the Philippines. But more than the rich fauna and flora on land, Busuanga offers a lot more underwater. Other the rich biodiversity, shipwrecks are also a plenty. Experienced divers may opt for an extra challenge, by diving into the deep to see different sunken Japanese ships.

Be mesmerized by the beauty of Busuanga Island. You may take an hour domestic flight in either Cebu Pacific, Zest Air, Air Philippine Express, and Sky Jet Air going to Busuanga Airport.

Moalboal, Cebu

Diving in Moalboal Cebu
Diving in Moalboal Cebu – by Per Edin Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

There are 10 diving sites found in Moalboal Cebu namely, Pescador Island, Panagsama Beach, Copton Point, Dolphin House, White Beach, Toble Reef, Talisay Wall, Tongo point, Kasai Point and Marine Sanctuary.

A domestic flight from Manila to Mactan is to fastest way to get to Cebu. After getting to Mactan, catch a ride to any bus heading South Cebu then tell the driver to drop you off in Moalboal.

 Donsol, Sorsogon

Diving in Donsol photo from Orpheusdive.com
Diving in Donsol photo from Orpheusdive.com

Made famous by the “butanding” or whale shark, Donsol, Sorsogon also makes it to the must see dive sites in the Philippines. There are two dive sites that you can find here: the Mantra Bowl and the San Miguel Island.

The best way to get here for backpackers is via bus since there are no direct flights to Sorsogon. If you’re coming from another country, then you can still choose to fly to Legazpi City, then take another ride (van) going to Donsol.


Diving in Camiguin by CamiguinIsland.net
Diving in Camiguin by CamiguinIsland.net

This island ranks as the second smallest island of the Philippines. But it does island does not fall short with surprises. Currently there are at least 20 dive sites listed here. Among which, Mantigue Island, Tangup Bay, Sunken Cemetery and Old Volcano are listed as diver’s favorite spots.

Camiguin Island can be found in the Northern coast of Mindanao. You can directly fly here since it has its own airport. Cebu Pacific being the only airline with a regular flight if you are coming fromCebu City.

Puerto Galera, Mindoro

Dive Puerto Galera by Travel-Stone.com
Dive Puerto Galera by Travel-Stone.com

This beach has been gaining popularity. It’s slowly ranking with the other Beaches in the Philippines like the ever famous Boracay, and The Twin Beaches in El Nido. But other than the beautiful coastlines, this beach also has 30 dive sites to fill any diving-lusting soul. The canyons and the Shark Caves are among the listed favorites, but with all those 30 sites to choose from, there would sure be a perfect dive site for everyone

Going here is easy peasy, just get a bus ride to Batangas Pier and from there, go for a ferry ride to Puerto Galera.

Sit tight, relax, enjoy the sea breeze and the next thing you know you’re in Puerto Galera, basking the sweet sun’s heat.


Diving in Bohol by diversiondivetravel.com
Diving in Bohol by diversiondivetravel.com

Upon mentioning Bohol, the first thing that would come to your mind is a pair of wide eyes, coupled with a small furry figure, clasping its small hands to a branch of a tree and several mounds of earth that vary in color depending on the season. But think again, because Bohol has so much more to offer.

For one, there is also a good number of diving sites here, enough to satisfy your cravings. Among the most famous are Turtle Point, Diver’s Haven Black Corals Forest and Royal Forest in Balicasag Island, and the Cabilao Island, Habagat Shipwrecks and Pamilacan Island.

The easiest way to get here is through air, and there are plenty of domestic flights you can board. If you are also into traveling by sea, then you may do so choose this.

These are the most breathtaking underwater places that the Philippines boasts as being a part of the coral triangle and as a highly diversified ecosystem.

So what in the Lord of Poseidon are you waiting for? Grab your things, a good heap of cash and a brave diver’s heart and plunge in to the bounty of the sea.


Discover the Philippines, Visit Moalboal: 

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Tags: diving, best diving destination, Moalboal, philippines

Why Do We Pee in our Wetsuits?

Posted by Ericka Villa on Thu, Nov 12, 2015 @ 02:05 PM

By blogger Dr. Suzanne Gaskell

Since dehydration can increase the risk of decompression sickness, it’s important that divers fully understand the science behind why this urge to pee happens when they submerge.

Let’s face it: Most of us have committed the cardinal sin of peeing in our wetsuits — even if we say we haven’t. We either spend half our dive with the unrelenting urge to ascend, frantically peel off our neoprene skin and run to the bathroom, or we just…go. This unpleasant experience can convince people they have a bladder problem, or at the very least, deter them from drinking enough water before a dive. In turn, dehydration can increase the risk of decompression sickness, so it’s important that divers fully understand the science behind why this urge to pee happens when they submerge.

Immersion diuresis literally means “water loss due to immersion.” It is thought that there are two main mechanisms behind the process: low temperature and increasing water pressure.

Water is an excellent conductor of heat, hence the need for wetsuits to keep the body warm even in tropical seas. Low temperature stimulates the peripheral blood vessels to constrict, just as they do in your hands and feet on a cold day. This survival mechanism reduces the surface area available for heat loss and shifts blood to the core, keeping the more important organs, i.e., the heart kidneys and brain, perfused with blood.

From our first dives we are all taught how pressure increases with depth. Perhaps you have noticed how your weight belt suddenly gets loose the deeper you dive? This is the effect of the water pressure compressing us from all directions. In the same way this pressure also compresses the veins in our arms and legs. Veins have a relatively thin muscular wall when compared to arteries, making them more easily collapsible. When they collapse, the blood they carry gets pushed to the body’s core.

Both mechanisms result in the redistribution of blood from the peripheries to the larger veins in the chest. Thus, more blood is being delivered to the heart, specifically the right atrium, which is the receiving chamber for blood to the heart. With more blood being delivered, the muscular wall stretches. Baroreceptors (pressure receptors) detect this increase in blood pressure, which in turn, triggers the release of Atrial Natriuretic Peptide (ANP). One of the net effects of this powerful vasodilator (blood vessel relaxant) is water loss. It has been shown that effects of its release can still be felt up to 12 hours after diving.

If there is more blood supplying the heart, it follows that a larger volume is also going to the other organs, notably the kidneys, which are the filters that produce urine. If there is more blood flow through the kidneys, there is more urine produced.

The intricacies of these mechanisms are quite complicated and there is still a lot more work to be done in the area of dive-medicine research, but here we’ve explained the basics and highlighted the most important point: diving dehydrates us.

So the takeaway from all of this is to remember to keep well hydrated when diving and don’t let the urge to pee put you off drinking plenty of water. If the urge hits on your dive (and it will), you’ve got our permission to go with it. However, if the urge to pee persists long after you’ve surfaced, or symptoms such as burning and stinging when you go appear, this could signify a water infection and you should seek medical advice.

Half the World's Marine Life Has Been Lost

Posted by Ericka Villa on Fri, Nov 06, 2015 @ 05:15 PM

By Thomas Gronfeldt

In the recent Living Blue Planet Report on the state of the world’s oceans, the World Wide Fund (WWF) has reached the alarming conclusion that as much as 52 percent of all marine animal life has been lost in the past 40 years. And many species, primarily the most popular for human consumption, are even worse off. The fishing of sharks and rays has gone up threefold since the 1950s, and more than half of all of reef corals have been lost in the past 30 years. Losing corals and reefs will further push these already diminished marine life populations beyond the brink of extinction, as many of these animals depend on the reefs for habitat and food.

The WWF publishes a “state of the oceans” report every two years, and although the current one was published in 2015, the organization felt that they “needed to amplify the warning siren for the ocean this year, because the situation is urgent and the moment to act is at hand.”

In the introduction to the report, Marco Lambertini, the director general for WWF International, urges the worldwide community to heed the warning that action is needed, and needed now.

“The picture is now clearer than ever: humanity is collectively mismanaging the ocean to the brink of collapse,” he said.

“Considering the ocean’s vital role in our economies and its essential contribution to food security — particularly for poor, coastal communities — that’s simply unacceptable.

When we look at the fish species most directly tied to human well-being — the fish that constitute up to 60 percent of protein intake in coastal countries, supporting millions of small-scale fishers as well as a global multibillion-dollar industry — we see populations in a nosedive. The habitats they depend on, such as coral reefs, mangroves and seagrasses, are equally threatened.”

The main culprits behind this dismal situation are entirely of human creation: overfishing, loss of habitats due to human construction, mining, pollution and global warming.

However, the report isn’t all doom and gloom. There are choices to made, and solutions at hand. They fall into five categories:

  1. Preserve natural capital by creating protected marine areas and restoring damaged eco-systems.
  2. Produce better by ensuring sustainable fishing practices and sustainable ocean-based tourism.
  3. Consume more wisely by selecting sustainable seafood sources and traveling in a sustainable manner when near or on oceans.
  4. Redirect financial flows to support the actions above.
  5. Equitable resource governance by ensuring good ocean governance and empowerment of local communities that depend on oceans for food.

The report is, as the WWF calls it, an urgent call to action, for governments, local communities, and for individual citizens, as many of its proposals can be adhered to on an individual level. As scuba divers and ocean advocates, it’s up to us to lead the charge before it’s too late.

Spotted Garden Eel

Posted by Ericka Villa on Fri, Nov 06, 2015 @ 05:02 PM

Seen often but very seldom do you see them this close let alone Photograph them. Those of you who have tried to get close  KNOW just how difficult and frustrating it is to get close.  Before they sink into their burrows.


By Ryan Photographic.  Heteroconger hassi Spotted garden eels, Kri Eco, Raja Ampat. Canon 40D, 60 mm macro and Ikelite Underwater Systems.

From far away, colonies of garden eels look like a field of swaying seagrass. Moving closer, the ‘seagrass’ often disappears. There may be hundreds and even thousands of eels living together in a colony.



By Ryan Photographic

Like a slim straw, spotted garden eels can be up to 16 inches (40 cm) long, although you may never see more than a quarter of their body. They get their name from all the tiny odd-shaped spots covering the body, including three large solid black spots of which only two are generally seen. Large yellow eyes make it easy for the spotted garden eel to spot its tiny food floating in the current.

Tightening its very muscular body to make itself rigid, a garden eel drives its pointy tail deep into the sandy sea floor. The skin in the tail contains a hard substance, so it isn’t hurt. Once the eel is deep enough, it wiggles its dorsal fin, pushing sand out of the hole. Slime from their skin cements the walls of their burrows, preventing cave-ins. Like many other reef animals, garden eels escape from predators by diving tail-first into reef-bottom burrows. When they’re not hiding, these fish sway in the current like blades of seagrass. Each eel lives in a single burrow, which they rarely ever leave.

Spotted Garden Eels live in colonies on the sand flats and slopes that border coral reefs at depths of 23 to 150 feet (7 to 45 m). Strong currents sweep through these areas, which have lots of sand, crushed coral and tiny mollusk shells. Spotted garden eels will also be found in areas densely populated with seagrass. Living among the seagrass blades makes it easy for these eels to blend in.

Hundreds of spotted garden eels will live together in a colony. The largest colonies, which can include over 1000 eels, are in areas where the current is quick and the sand is deep. The largest males live in the center of the colony, positioning themselves in the best areas to make a home and get food.

Spotted garden eels are found in the warm parts of the Pacific Ocean and the Red Sea.

Garden eels are sexually dimorphic, which means the males and the females look very different. The male’s jaw sticks out further than the females and they are much bigger.

Heading into mating season, males and females move their burrows closer together. Once a male picks a female to mate with, he defends her, keeping other males away. The male strikes at and even bites the head of any brave competitors.

After mating, garden eels release the fertilized eggs into the current—which means they are pelagic spawners. The eggs float in the epipelagic zone or the zone in the open ocean near the surface. Here the eggs hatch out and the larvae float along until they reach a certain size. After they are large enough, the young garden eels swim down and make a burrow of their own.


Garden Eels in Moalboal, Cebu Philippines.

The garden eels are currently at "copton point" which is the airplane wreck. There are about 15 garden eels beside the left wing of the plane. You have to keep your distance to see them come out of their hole. The closer you are the more they dive down in their hole. 

Tips For A Happy Dive

Posted by Ericka Villa on Mon, Nov 02, 2015 @ 02:58 PM

Briefings offer an idea of what to expect, but nothing in the water is absolute; this is a wild environment, and as such, there are no guarantees.

By Adam Straub

It’s happened to all of us. Instead of coming up from a dive smiling and chattering away with excitement, you occasionally surface muttering about the conditions or your buddy, wondering why you even bothered to go in the first place. You didn’t enjoy the dive; in fact you may have hated it. Here are some common issues that can detract from your dives, along with a few ways to overcome them.

Equipment Failure

Did you test your gear after you got it serviced? Technicians are human, and albeit rare, mistakes are sometimes made. Make sure you’ve put the equipment on and tested it before packing it up to help eliminate any nasty surprises.

There are other considerations as well. Did you follow your technician’s recommendations about cleaning and maintaining your gear? When he told you something needed replacement, did you continue to dive it or work on it yourself instead?

Another way to nip a potential problem in the bud goes all the way back to your OW training — do a proper buddy check before a dive. Stick close enough to your buddy that you can monitor their gear during the dive and look for potential weak points or excess clutter. Be on the lookout for anything that could cause a problem during the dive.

Unrealistic Expectations

The most important thing a diver can do to prevent false expectations is to attend the dive briefings. Stop fiddling with your camera; shut your mouth; pay attention and ask questions when the divemaster or instructor is done.

No one is going to be better prepared than the crew when it comes to putting the dive together. You may visit a site five times on a trip; your crew can’t even begin to count how many times they’ve been there in the last year.

Listen for words and phrases such as maybe, perhaps and most likely. These words mean you should have no expectations other than if you follow your guides they will give you the best dive possible. Briefings offer an idea of what to expect, but nothing in the water is absolute; this is a wild environment, and as such, there are no guarantees. Try not to set your heart on one particular marine encounter and instead focus on what each dive does offer.

Dive Ended Early

The No. 1 reason a dive ends early is because an individual runs low on air. The best way to  avoid becoming this person is to stay fit — walk, run, swim, hike, ride a bike, even a stationary bike. Your body will operate more efficiently if you’re in good shape. Don’t just sit at home for months before a trip and then get frustrated with everyone else because you have to come up early. Be part of your own solution. Also know that good air consumption comes with time and practice.

Good dive plans are essential when it comes to obtaining maximum time on a site. Current and surge or an uneven profile will deplete your air and force an early ascension. Also, keep an eye on your buddy so you don’t have to abort a dive because he or she went missing.

Dive-Buddy Issues

Diving with a buddy can be a great experience and enhance any trip, but the situation can also cause several problems that keep us from enjoying the experience. The biggest obstacle between buddies is communication.

Make sure you and your buddy are on the same page when you discuss your dive plan, as well as a contingency plan. Have a firm understanding of what you’ll do if one of you can’t equalize, if a piece of equipment or camera misbehaves, or if you can’t find each other.

Frustrated divers often complain because their dive buddy was going one way and they wanted to go the other. The easy solution is to share — let one person lead one dive, and the other lead the next. Take turns planning the dive and making decisions underwater.

If you and your regular dive buddy don’t have that kind of compatibility, it may be time to break up. Sometimes best friends or partners on land are simply incompatible underwater. It’s okay to dive with other people. If you and your dive buddy aren’t getting along, rather than force yourselves into a frustrating situation, take a break and spend a dive with someone else.

Tags: diving tips, scuba diving, dive resort cebu

Five Top Tips to Help You Create Brilliant Macro Photography

Posted by Ericka Villa on Mon, Nov 02, 2015 @ 02:36 PM

Professional underwater photographer Fiona Ayerst explains five easy ways to get the most out of your                   macro shots, for both compact camera users and DSLR users.


  1. Most compact cameras have a macro mode, designated by the flower symbol, which reconfigures the zoom                                    mechanism in the camera to allow closer focus. No additional items are needed to shoot macro with these cameras.                                    In fact, these cameras are wonderful for macro work because you can squeeze them (carefully, of course) into small                              spaces that massive DSLRs cannot venture.
  1. If your housing allows, it is a good idea to investigate and buy clip-on lenses or extension tubes to enable you to either                             get closer to your subject, or to get a larger reproduction of the critter you’re shooting.
  1. If you can’t afford strobes, use custom white-balancing to add some color back into your photos, and try to shoot in                                    clean and shallow locations. A red filter can really help if you are deeper than 26 feet (8 m) but shallower than 66 feet (20 m).
  1. If you can afford strobes, make sure you invest in good oscillating arms to give you full control over the light’s direction.
  1. Use manual settings on your camera. For a worst-case scenario (if you can’t access manual settings) use aperture or                              shutter priority. Program and Auto modes do not work underwater.

DSLR Cameras

  1. With a DSLR, I recommend you start with a 60mm macro lens and a suitable port. The short focal length of this lens                                   will afford you great depth of field. The 100 or 105mm is a great lens but harder to use due to its narrower angle, so                               switch to that when you are more advanced.
  1. If you have a crop-sensor camera and the old style FX 60mm lens then you get a crop factor and your focal length                                     is around 85mm,    which is perfect for even very tiny subjects.
  1. Invest in a good focus light that is not part of your strobes. I like to have one mounted to the hot-shoe on the top of my housing.
  1. Unless you are trying to achieve shallow depth of field, work at f-stops around 18 to 22. Remember that most strobes synch                  only up to 1/250th of a second.
  1. Try to learn the behavior of your subject and then depict this in your composition. For example, the long-nose hawkfish is a hungry, dart-like critter so portrait aspect shots using strong diagonal lines and opposing colors work well to describe its character.

World’s Best Big Animal Dives

Posted by Ericka Villa on Sat, Oct 17, 2015 @ 02:19 AM
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Whale Shark

Featured from Sport Diver Magazine:

Small critters are cool, but we’re betting that most of us became divers to see the big stuff. If you signed up to see sharks, whales and mantas, check out Sport Diver Magazine’s incredible collection of the world’s 36 best big-animal encounters.

One of the world’s rarest encounters, you’ve gotta have thick skin (or a great drysuit) to dive with beluga whales. The whales, which live only in Arctic and sub-Arctic waters, are protected from the cold temperatures by a thick layer of blubber. When the White Sea freezes over in winter, the paper-white mammals swim under the thick layers of ice, surfacing to breathe where the ice is cracked. With its flexible neck and supple body, a beluga can twist, turn and maneuver in confined spaces. Belugas are big and curious but not aggressive — mostly you’ll watch them play at underwater acrobatics, making you feel as if you’re the luckiest audience in the world (if not the coldest). — Franco Banfi

Image: premier.gov.ru

Image: premier.gov.ru

Fall in with a bucket of chum in virtually any temperate ocean, and you’ll likely attract a few “blue dogs,” but it’s tough to beat the cageless encounters you’ll have in Southern California. Perhaps it’s the quality of the light in sunny SoCal that makes the blue sharks’ flanks glow with such brilliance, or it might be the outstanding visibility that makes them appear more electric blue than their cousins overseas. Either way, you’ll love the experience of watching a shimmering blue shark snake its way toward you up the chum slick. Remember to hold your ground but not your breath as the slow-moving ocean wanderer comes in for a close pass, its midnight-blue eye fixed firmly on your gaze as it slowly swims past. — Andy Murch

Blue Shark

Gear up (in mask, snorkel and fins) as the crew strings two long ropes from the boat’s stern, hold on, float, and wait for the show to begin. At this spot on one of Australia’s Ribbon Reefs, minke whales gather to, well, do what we’re not exactly sure. It won’t matter as you gaze upon their sleek, aerodynamic bodies, 30 feet down, streamlined to perfection as they glide effortlessly in the water. As time passes, the large whales grow more comfortable with your presence, and they get close enough for eyeball-to-eyeball encounters that’ll leave you breathless. You’re guaranteed to feel a new consciousness and acknowledgment from each encounter with these magnificent mammals. — Vanessa Mignon


Greg Skomal / NOAA Fisheries Service

Greg Skomal / NOAA Fisheries Service

Basking sharks don’t just show up on just any snorkel trip — you have to go out searching for them. And the first sighting from the boat is always of that colossal dorsal fin. Basking sharks are already big — the second-largest fish in the sea — but their dorsal fins still seem oversize. Seeing this massive fish at the surface quickens the pulse and sharpens the senses. Time to get wet. The chilly, green, plankton-filled water reveals little. You look to the boat for guidance. They’re pointing behind you. You turn and spot that dorsal fin heading straight for you. You look underwater. Nothing. Above again and adjust your position to intercept the shark. You look underwater, and a huge mouth slowly materializes. Which is when you have to remind yourself that the 25-foot shark eats only plankton. It powers past like a locomotive and is gone. You close your eyes to replay the action. You want to do it again. — Alex Mustard

Cenotes are holes in the Yucatan limestone that connect underground rivers with the jungle above. Sunlight streams into each cenote, in turn bringing life to these freshwater ecosystems — amazing underwater gardens full of aquatic plants, turtles and various species of fish. And like any healthy ecosystem, there is a top predator to keep life in balance: the Morelet’s crocodile. Shy and elusive, it might take a while poking about the bushy edges of a cenote to find this small, slender croc, but when you have the opportunity to finally see one up close, you’ll be amazed that thousands of years of evolution has created this: the perfect hunter. — Javier Sandoval

Richard Ling

Image: Richard Ling


Potato cod are a bit like giant puppies. They love attention and a pat. (Though we don’t recommend doing so.) They don’t wag their tails, but they do hang around under the dive boat, soaking up attention at the famous Cod Hole on Ribbon Reef 10. These large fish aren’t afraid to throw their weight around during the regular cod feeds — they can move surprisingly fast and will do their best to get to the plastic container holding the food. but once the feed is over, they return to their placid state, happily posing for photographers and videographers. If you’re patient and wait for most of the dive group to disperse, you can even watch cleaner wrasse giving the cod a post-meal clean. Which, come to think of it, might make them seem a bit like giant cats. — Seanna Cronin

Some animals are extra cool because they’re less common — we’re looking at you, humpbacks — but manta rays, with a cool factor of infinity, are fairly widespread. Socorro, Galapagos and the Maldives are home to excellent encounters, but it’s the big Island of Hawaii, with a truly one-of-a-kind manta experience. Every night, boats from Kona gather in Garden Eel Cove. A powerful light box is placed 15 feet underwater; it attracts plankton which, in turn, bring in upwards of 40 mantas that scoop up the food only inches from your face. And while you know there are plenty of other mantas in the world, these personable rays — many of which return night after night — make it seem as if it’s a private encounter of your very own. — David Espinosa

Manta Ray in Kona

To read more World’s Best Big Animal Dives, visit SportDiver.com.

To find other places you can scuba dive with these amazing animals, check out the ScubaEarth Critter Finder.

Tags: sharks

Big Love for Tiny Critters

Posted by Ericka Villa on Sat, Oct 17, 2015 @ 02:05 AM

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Any diver can spot a whale shark or a giant manta ray passing by, but the reward of spotting miniature creatures can be just as satisfying. Come closer and take a look at the big love we have for these tiny critters.

Bobtail Squid

Bobtail Squid

Bobtail Squid are so good at camouflage that military scientists study them in hopes of replicating their stealth qualities. The bobtail squid buries itself during the day and hunts for food at night. This tiny critter has a symbiotic relationship with bioluminescent bacteria and a “light organ” helps it change color to match its surroundings. A mature bobtail squid grows to 30 mm / 1.2 inches.


Pygmy Seahorse

With a face like a horse and a tail that can grab onto things like a monkey, seahorses are really, of course, a fish. But, this fish has no scales and a poor ability to swim. In fact, the dwarf seahorse is the slowest moving fish in the world. Look for seahorses in temperate waters throughout the world. They prefer a habitat that offers protection like a coral reef or seagrass; pictured is a well-camouflaged pygmy seahorse.



Keep an eye out for the very tiny, intensely colored nudibranch. With 3,000 known species, these shell-less “slugs” have evolved to use their intense colors as a warning to predators, even taking on the colors of the prey they’ve gobbled up.


Harlequin Shrimp

There are many different species of shrimp that are even more interesting than the common pink shrimp. You can find Beige and Blue Harlequin shrimp (pictured) on sea stars, and Coleman shrimp on sea urchins. Cleaner shrimp eat the parasites away from other animals and ‘cleaning stations’ make fantastic observation spots for divers. Bumble Bee, Tiger, Crinoid are all beautiful species of shrimp you’d be lucky to spot on your next dive.


Juvenile Warty Frogfish

Young frogfish can be as small as a fingernail. Also known for their camouflage abilities, they often mimic their surroundings or their prey. A small frogfish looks like a little toy that oozes cuteness. Sometimes they look like a sponge; sometimes the orange and white warty frogfish (pictured) are confused for clownfish.



The biggest gobies are typically only 10 cm/4 inches long. Watch for these wee ones hiding in tiny crevices along the seabed. They look like they are standing at attention ready to salute on their teeny fins.

Want to know more about underwater life – big and small? Log onto the ScubaEarth CritterFinder to learn more.

Tags: scuba diving, critter

Travel Photography Tips for Beginners

Posted by Ericka Villa on Sat, Oct 17, 2015 @ 02:00 AM
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Guest Post by Contiki Vacations

If you’ve taken the PADI Digital Underwater Photographer specialty course, you may be a pro at snapping photos of your favorite dive spots, but what about for all your topside adventures? Sharpen your photography skills with these great tips for traveling shutterbugs.

It’s all about perspective. Try taking photos from different perspectives. Don’t always do what is expected. For example, when wanting to take a photo of something outside a window, instead of opening the window to get a clear view, try taking the photo from inside. Try immersing yourself in the country’s way of life instead of doing the expected touristy activities to achieve some unique photos and a great experience.

Lighting is key. Sometimes all a picture needs is good lighting. If you walk across something you want to take a photo of and you know it’ll still be there (for example, a building), try visiting it at different times of the day to see what lighting looks best. Lighting can change the whole look of a photo.

AV mode on. Stick your camera on Av mode if your camera has that function. This way you can easily change the most important settings like ISO, exposure and aperture. A higher ISO, larger aperture (lower in number) will make your shutter speed faster and the exposure controls how light or dark your photo will turn out.
Get to know your shutter speed. If you are trying to take photos whilst moving or in low light situations, make sure your shutter speed is fast enough so the picture isn’t one big blur. If you are taking a photo where you can balance your camera on a stable surface, try making your shutter speed slower for a nice effect. This looks particularly cool when used on lakes as it smooths out the surface of the water.


Post produce. Don’t forget to edit. Try messing around with “curves” in Photoshop or downloading a preset from the internet. Even underexposed or overexposed photos can be fixed by simply changing the brightness of a photo. Want to keep it simple? Snapseed, VSCO Cam and Afterlight all produce the most amazing Instagram worthy snaps.

For more photography and travel tips to make your next trip a memorable one, check out Contiki’s Six-Two blog.