On my Big Animals trips, it's the locals who make the difference in our journey. Observing Cubanos' colorful, robust and up beat tempo overshadows the limitations I've observed imposed on their lives. They live in a city and countryside that is basically "frozen in time". There is a fifty-year "time warp".
San Crist?bal de la Habana or Havana, Cuba's capital city is only a short ninety miles from Florida. Having visited the island country four times, I have fallen in love with its beauty, culture, and now its scuba diving. Yes, I would rate Havana as a city comparable to Paris, Rome, Oslo, London and even Shanghai.
Travel to Cuba is now permissible for US citizens through cultural exchange programs sanctioned by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control, which in the first phase of my journey gave me the freedom to interact in the daily activities of the Cuban community, experiencing their architecture, history, art, culture, and the music of daily life in and around Havana.
In the second phase of the trip, I visited the Gardens of the Queen to witness first hand the efforts being taken to preserve and protect a marine ecosystem that is unique to the southern coast of Cuba. "Jardines de la Reina" was declared a Marine Park in 1996. By limiting t...
Killer Times with Killer Whales
Join us on one of the most exciting of our Big Animal Expeditions in one of the world's most beautiful locations.
During Norway's frigid winter, its majestic Arctic coastline and stunning fjords attract voluminous schools of herring, which in turn attract pods of Orcas. After determining the direction baitfish are being chased by resident Orcas, we will pursue these magnificent mammals until we can slip silently into the water for close up views and photographs of these magnificent mammals satiating their huge appetites.
The trip is greater enhanced by the pod's social behavior. Not unlike the humpback whales unique "bubbling" feeding technique, Orcas display an activity called "carouseling". Swimming under schools of herring, they exhale volumes of air bubbles to separate herring schools. Separated and carried helplessly towards the surface, smaller bait balls make easy pickings for hungry pods.
An activity witnessed by only a handful of snorkelers allows you the privilege to view the whale during its unique feeding behavior. Quietly, two of us at a time will slip into the water to observe the pod feeding. While we are snorkeling and free-diving, Orcas, curious by nature, will amaze us with very cl...
The trip is a bit long but my wife Agnese and me we got used.
And so, after 26 hours flying from Milan to Cebu, we have to drive three hours to reach the Sampaguita Resort in Moal Boal. We arrive at 8pm and after a tasty dinner and a couple of mojitos we go to the room for a good night's sleep. The next day, an employee comes to wake us up because... It's already time for lunch! When we get out from our bungalow we immediately appreciate the sunshine, the garden, the palm trees and the view of the sea.
We realize now that we will spend the holiday in very relaxing and enjoyable place. The resort is very simple and basic but the great thing is that after a couple of days you feel to be at home.
The bar's terrace restaurant is very cozy and is situated directly on the reef.
After lunch we bring our diving equipment to the diving center, and then we check and fit all our cameras in their housings: two housing for dslr cameras, one for a compact one, six strobes, four cameras, cables, batteries, arms, glasses...about seventy pounds of stuff! Of course we know that most of our dives will be dedicated to macro photography. Once everything is settled we go for a dive to test all our equipment.
We can do unlimited dives on local reefs, and every day we'll mak...
We can't say HONDURAS is unknown to scuba divers. Roatan is known and so is Utila, both of them dive locations that do attract scuba divers, mostly from the US, and do provide plenty of dive centers and all the dive logistics, keen divers do expect.
And then there are the CAYOS COCHINOS, a group of small islands just between the mainland of Honduras and Roatan. Cochinos Cays are a group of two small islands (15°58'18.99"N86°28'31.34"W) (Cayo Menor and Cayo Grande) and 13 more small coral cays situated 30 kilometres (19mi) northeast of La Ceiba on the northern shores of Honduras.
The Cayos are part of the Bay Islands (Islas de la Bahía ), some people still like to call them Hog Islands, referring to the famous pirate Henry Morgan who ( this it what the legends tells ) "planted" hogs on these cays so he and his pirate fellows would have meat on their return trips. Around 100 people (Garifuna people) are living on those islands, and yes, scuba-diving is possible! "The Cayos Cochinos reefs are the least disturbed ecosystem in the Bay Islands. The waters around this collection of coral cays are a marine biologist's dream: protected by the government, off-limits to commercial divers and fishermen, and busy with creatures that ...
This is the sixth part of our special articles about Thecnical Diving. Read also [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] After our last course the wrecks of a.o. Malta and Croatia have been our playground, building experience and confidence until the dives worked like clockwork, letting us fully enjoy the beauty of the places we dived. Wreck's like the Um el Faroud, HMS Hellespont, HMS St Angelo, SS Vis and SS Kalliopi...if you don't know these and ever get the chance, go dive. Every single one of them is worth multiple dives. If you need information on excellent diving centres that make your diving great, just contact us.
But...an increase in bottom time in the range we were diving and ? to be honest ? the longing of the deeper wrecks eventually made us decide to go the final mile. We spend many an evening discussing with whom we would like to take the Tech-2 class and ? more important ? were we would like to dive.
Decision was made and...
Finally you have to grab all your diving gear together for a final check and see if it fits the bag and meets the luggage restrictions.
Malta, here we come...6 course days ahead and some additional days for fun diving ? hopefully in the Tech-2 range (75m) - the beautiful Maltese wr...
The island of Marettimo is part of the Egadi archipelago, located at the western end of Sicily, in front of Trapani. The archipelago consist also of Favignana (the largest and better known island), Levanzo and the smaller islands of Formica and Maraone. The whole territory is a protected marine area. We are talking of the largest protected marine area in the Mediterranean! Marettimo is the furthest from Sicily, the most westerly one, right in the middle of the Sicily's channel, with more protected territory: the wildest! It is an island of the past times, where nature reigns unspoiled. Remained off the pace of modern life, it is isolated, remote and enchanted. There's a small town on the East side and then end of the concrete. There are no roads outside the village nor cars, but only a mule track passable by the jeep of the Punta Libeccio lighthouse's keeper, on the Southwest side of the island. Trails sometimes arduous traverse a good part of the island and allow us to explore the interior and the mountain... Yes, but on feet or by mule maybe! That's the way it discloses: "A Mountain above the sea". The top of Pizzo Falcone reaches 686 m. There's a lot of greenery, especially in the spring: it is the classic Mediterranean scrub, with all its perfumes. It is rich ...
Sheikh Coast : a diving center UWP friendly
In recent years, I have visited Sharm several times. It has always been my favorite destination since 1993.
Its proximity and abundance of underwater life have always made it, to my eyes, a place of incomparable quality/price ratio.
My approach to underwater photography has started in 2011 and since then I realized that, talking about logistics, my needs have progressively changed.
Comparing with friends sharing the same passion, the emerging common thought was that in Sharm you could hardly find the ideal conditions to meet the needs of the "annoying" category represented by underwater photographers.
The organization of the diving centers, the "traffic" of boats at the diving sites and the sites themselves, were not the best for photography. Then I learned from some friends that recently, at the Sheikh Coast Diving Center (inside the Domina Coral Bay of Sharm El Sheikh), is growing a pole increasingly attentive to the needs of fans of underwater photography, under the influence of Pierpaolo Peluso, the diving center responsible for sales and marketing, as well as guide and underwater photographer. Hence, after that in recent years my diving and photographic destinations have been especially Maldive...
April 2015: Finally, after months of waiting, the time has come to make the TOP journey we were longing for.
We left Italy, via Madrid and Miami, and arrived in San Jos?. The next day, from the port of Punta Arenas, on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, we boarded the Okeanos Aggressor, a boat 36 meters long, capable of 10 cabins for 20 guests in addition to the crew. Exquisitely greeted by the captain, his deputy and the crew, after a welcome aperitif and a crew and boat introduction, we finally left towards the Isla Del Coco.
During the 36 hours sailing needed to cover the 300 nautical miles, we met the other guests. Surprisingly, on board there's a group of seven Italians including us, while the others come from various Countries, including the US, Canada, France, Switzerland, Mexico, and even Israel. Expectations about the holiday grew during the crossing, since one of our Italian fellow travelers is a regular visitor of Cocos (this will be his fourth cruise, the last in 2011), and showed us videos and photos of his previous trips.
Isla Del Coco, considered one of the best diving destinations in the world for encounters with hammerhead sharks and other pelagic fish such as manta rays, whale, gray, tiger and Galapagos sharks, i...
Popular Dive Sites around Tioman Island Tiger Reef
As far as I'm concerned, this is the most beautiful dive site in Tioman without a doubt. This submerged underwater pinnacle, situated between Pulau Labas and Pulau Sepoi, begins at 12 m deep and slides down to deeper than 40 m, embracing small boulders & caves covered with colorful soft coral and underwater swim-through formations in between, which makes perfect for wide-angle photography. The rock formation is simply amazing because everything is covered in soft coral, hard corals, sea whips, crinoids, sea fans and barrel sponges. The coral life here is relatively well-preserved because this site is rarely dived. Strong currents often bring schools of yellow snappers, fusiliers, barracudas, jacks, turtles and sharks whilst colorful tropical reef fish such as angelfish, butterfly fish, emperor angelfish and parrot fish, etc.often wander carelessly through diversely shaped sea fans & barrel sponge corals at the deepest part. At 45-48m deep, there is also a weirdly shaped sponge coral area, looking like a kind of sculpture museum, which is the best theme park that I've ever visited. Bahara Rock / Bahara Light House
Locally knwon as Tokong Bahara, this is my second favorite dive site on ...
This is the fifth part of our special articles about Thecnical Diving. Read also [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] As you may have read in the previous issue, all members of Team Pitch Blue managed to pass the brutal T1 course. Amazingly enough, the whole team stayed together after that and we did a lot of diving together. In fact, since then we have been joined by Cees (nicknamed Case / father of team-member Jeroen), Richard (nicknamed UMM) and Thomas (nicknamed TL). These divers were certified a year earlier, but unfortunately Case saw his team fall apart due to a combination of money and time constraints of his other team and UMM? just wants to dive as much as possible and is actually diving in two teams. Team member Thomas is also our technical support. If TL can't fix it...no one can. With his ridiculously heavy toolbox he more than once managed to save dives that otherwise would have been cancelled.
They were more than welcome in Team Pitch Blue and an additional benefit for us is that Case is a more than gifted underwater photographer. The pictures in these articles and all pictures on our Facebook page are of course taken by Case. They have joined us to keep practicing and we maintain our team dive skills every Sunday at Scuba Academie Vinkeveen. But they also plan t...
Usually the word we all love, diving, always gives us the idea of sea, sun, tropical temperatures and nobody would think to go in the middle of winter to Norway to enter the water with killer whales and humpback whales.
The journey is very difficult because, once you reach Oslo, it takes another two flights, with few frequencies, to get to Andenes, a small town on the tip of a fjord in the middle of the North Sea.
In January, the sunlight is very little, about 5 hours, and the sun rises just a few degrees above the horizon.
Nevertheless, I assure you that, except for the very cold and the dark that still creates a very special atmosphere, the emotions that you can experience in a trip of this kind are endless, both in the water and in the fantastic landscapes culminating with the opportunity of watching the amazing spectacle of the Northern Lights. The trip needs to be very well organized and nothing should be left to chance.
The apartments where to stay are very few and hotels and practically non-existent. You land at an airport having a small room where collecting your luggage and just one employee.
From there, you calmly exit to the square serving also as a small parking lot.
I traveled with
This is the fourth part of our special articles about Thecnical Diving. Read also [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] It's October 2012, 05:00 a.m. As quietly as possible I try to get out of my bed without waking my (then) pregnant wife. As all fathers know: waking up a pregnant woman is a very unwise thing to do, so I do my utmost best not to make too much noise. Happy that I made it out of the danger-zone I pick up pace and: WHAM! My left toe hits the blunt side of an open door in the dark. I am never at my best in the morning, but the surprise of the sudden pain in my sweet pinkie toe totally wakes me up. The monologue towards our dear Lord takes care of the sleeping wife... But it gets me a nice cup of coffee and a goodbye kiss. On my way I am! At 08:45 I arrived in a village near the German border. From here, my passenger Rob Vierwind accompanies me. Rob is in his final part of his 'Tec one instructor'- training and joins me on the 750 mile drive to Krnica Croatia. He has brought about half a dive shop with him: D-12's, D-18's, 80- and 40 cuft stages and scooters. The spacious bus that I borrowed from my company comes in very handy. The "Sopar bus" will proof to be the preferred transportation for Team Pitch Blue in the years to come.
Rob will teach our T1 course, but in turn wi...
Culver City, California - We are excited to announce the winners of the 5th Annual SoCal Shootout. With excellent conditions, our highest number of participants and overall great photographers this year we had an intense competition with some really fantastic entries. In the end, the best in show prize went to Brook Peterson with a stunning sea lion behavior shot. Ben Hofilena and Christopher Borel took first place in the Open Wide and Mirrorless Wide Angle categories respectively with colorful, fish filled photos from our local Oil Rigs. Our new categories for this year, Mirrorless Wide Angle and Mirrorless Macro were extremely successful with many entries showcasing the beauty of the California waters. In addition we continued to have a strong video competition with Todd Kortte taking first place in our edited video category with his stunning edit of bait-fish schooling among the oil rigs. Compact shooters continued to amaze with incredible kelp forest scenes from Compact Wide winner Ty Oliver, and Compact Macro winner Michal Ross. See below for the full list of winners, all winning photos can be found at : http://www.bluewaterphotostore.com/2015-socal-shootout-results The 5th Annual SoCal Shootout weekend took place September 18th-20th, ...
This is the second part of our special articles about Thecnical Diving. Read also [Part 1] The major misconception about technical diving is: Extensive and expensive equipment makes the difference between technical and recreational diving. We strongly feel this is not true. The real "technical" bit of technical diving is in the necessary skills and mindset. In fact, if you do not know how to deal with your equipment, you are actually adding risk instead of creating additional security.
The foundation for these extra skills and mindset is a mayor part of our training called: "Intro to tech" or "Fundamentals". Both training courses are a basic program that anyone must complete before taking the next step towards technical diving. No matter what level you are or how many dives you already made. This way every diver knows that every one of his team members has the same procedures for every part of the dive. From the checks before setting up the equipment, the final pre-dive checks on the boat to the actual behaviour during an emergency. Shooting a buoy, the passive and active communication or gas-switch procedures, each team member will perform them in the same way. Therefore each team member will know what is coming and will easily see if somet...
The alarm rings at half past five. At six the boat of "Solo Buceo" diving awaits us on the back of the Sotavento Hotel in Cancun, where there is a channel connected with the open sea.
Still sleepy we enjoy the spectacle of the sun rising over the calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, while we circumnavigate the northern extremity of Isla Mujeres. After about an hour of navigation finally we reach this vast area of the sea in which a large number of whale sharks from all the Caribbean meet in the summer months due to the large presence of bonitos eggs that the currents concentrate here. Soon begin to appear the first dorsal fins that cut the smooth surface of the sea. There are many spaced a few tens of meters. We reduce the speed up to stop and while drifting reaches us under the boat one of these huge beasts, so already from the boat we can see the grey back with the unmistakable grating of vertical and horizontal streaks clearer alternating series of white spots.
Wasting no time, with great excitement and emotion we wear fins and mask, grab cameras and dive in these warm waters to meet these large, harmless sharks in their natural environment. Putting our head under the water we can see more than one with a single glance, so we start finning...
If you don't know by now, Anilao in the Philippines is one of the best places on the planet for underwater macro photography.
Just two and a half hours drive south of Manila, with over 400 dive resorts to choose from, it boils down to ease of access, dive guides and your budget.
This past April, we selected the Anilao Photo Hotel to host our Underwater Photo Workshop. Owned and operated by renowned Tim Ho, an advocate for point and shoot?no strobe underwater photography and boy if you haven't seen what he can do with an Olympus TG2, go have a look on Facebook Underwater Art! That little camera is enough to make most macro shooters turn in their SLR's. Of course learning how to get the maximum out of your camera is what Tim professes. Anilao is about the underwater photography. Eat, sleep and dive, upload?download, and get up and go do it again. Most of the dive guides at Anilao Photo Hotel have all won awards for their photography in the Anilao Photo contests. The Anilao Photo Hotel is a simple hotel offering 6 rooms with air conditioning and 6 without, serving typical Philippine fare. It is not fancy, but they do have a great layout, comfortable rooms, dedicated camera rinse tanks, an excellent dive platf...
A SMALL ISLAND FOR SMALL CREATURES Today, we visit a really tiny island: Cabilao. Cabilao is located at the west side of Bohol (Visayas, Philippines). 3.500 Inhabitants live there in 5 villages. The entire Island measures about 7,5 km2. And a beautiful reef surrounds it: A paradise for our tiniest creatures, a marvel in the ocean.
The entire island is a nature reserve and around the Island, there are two fish protection areas. Diving is most beautiful at north side. But there are other nice places, too. A special show at the house reef
Let's dive "Cambaquiz"! Located just in front of the Cabilao Beach Club, "Cambaquiz" is a split dive spot. Depending on the current you can dive one or the other. "Cambaquiz 1" is in the south of the corner, "Cambaquiz 2" in the north. There we go now.
Of course, in Cabilao you have mounted the macro gear. So it's not a surprise that the first creature we saw was a turtle. But no worries, the small creatures are waiting. The first dive was an easy dive but nevertheless we saw a lot: porcelain crab, a tiny juvenile scorpion fish, shrimps, blennies, spider crabs and much more. It was such a nice dive, that we decided to attach a night dive at the same spot.
We were diving only for a few minutes, when we spo...
I'm on board: Sachika Safari boat. I want to see "big stuff" and this is the perfect place... Life is like that: being in the right place at the right time. And this is the right boat...
It 'just after dawn and we are going to have the first dive.
6:15 am. A cup of tea and I'm ready to set my photographic equipment. The dhoni crew have already set up and checked the thanks, the jacket and all the underwater equipment. They are waiting for us.
Usually I have to assemble the equipment and check everything by myself but here I’m relieved of any task concerning diving stuff.
What are we going to discover today? Tree, four dives a day, feeling amazed and thrilled at any time.
Sharks, this morning!
So many elegant gray sharks and the harmless white tips sharks! Giacomo Ganda, the dive leader is a marine byologist, expert in maldivian dives. He tells us that there will be a lot of underwater current in this place. We will use hooks to latch on the rocks. It goes without saying: no currents, no sharks.
We go down quickly and suddendly we see grey sharks hunting near the passe. They are quiet, not concerned with us. We stop near a rock waiting for them to come nearer. Standing still, we admire their amazing...
48,592 photos online!
628 videos online!