27 February 2006

Pretoria Sub Aqua Website

Check it out! PSA has a newly revamped website at www.pretoriasubaqua.co.za . Comments are welcome!
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Pretoria Sub Aqua Website

24 February 2006

Dive South Africa to present workshop at Dive Ireland 2006

From great whites on the West coast to the sardine run on the East coast, South Africa is not to be missed for diving. Dive South Africa will be flying in just for the weekend to give a flavour of what's on offer!

Dive South Africa will be presenting the workshop in the 'Birch Room' at 13:35 on Saturday 25th February 2006 and again at 13:45 on Sunday 26th February 2006.

About Dive South Africa
Dive South Africa is a family owned business specialising in scuba diving safaris and holidays to Southern Africa and Mozambique.

Owners, Reon and Karin Coetzee, have lived and dived in South Africa and Mozambique for all of our lives and know the dive sites, charters, lodges, sharks, wrecks and reefs like the back of our hands - always safe, and always conserving the reefs and animals.

"We are not fancy people; just ordinary divers with a passion for our country and customers. Our local knowledge ensures that your safaris are safe, fun and memorable".

"As a recognized BSAC dive safari operator we make use of local BSAC, PADI, NAUI, CMAS and SSI recognized dive charters and resorts in South Africa and Mozambique".

"As members of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa and South African Tourism we are bound by the professional ethics and standards of the organizations.

We conduct our business in an eco-friendly way, and contribute to nature conservation and community upliftment in word and in deed. As such we are members of several organizations of which the Shark Trust, The Endangered Wildlife Trust and The East Coast Fish Watch are the most notable.

You are welcome to visit them at www.divesouthafrica.co.za

About Dive Ireland 2006
The first ever all-Ireland dive conference due to take place in Belfast on the 25/26 February 2006.

Venue: Ramada Hotel, Shaw's Bridge, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Tickets are just £6 for the full weekend when bought online!

The aim of this 2-day conference is to bring together divers from all diving agencies (CFT, BSAC, PADI, SAA, TDI, IANTD) to promote scuba diving in Ireland as a sport for everyone, irrespective of qualification or geographical location.

The conference aims to provide a list of high profile speakers and practical workshops that will cater for a diverse range of diver interests such as photography; wreck diving; overseas diving; mixed gas and technical diving.

Present at the conference, together for the first time, will be two of the largest recreational diver training agencies in Ireland - the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) and the Irish Underwater Council (CFT). Also present will be NIFSAC (Northern Ireland Federation of Sub-Aqua Clubs) who are the governing body of the sport in Northern Ireland.

The BSAC and CFT will use the conference as a platform to update and inform their members about recent developments, including technical and training changes, in their respective organisations and any impact these may have on their local branches. CFT will also host their annual conference and delegate meetings while BSAC will host their first regional meeting with the newly appointed regional coach. In addition a trade area will provide opportunities for purchasing that must-have new equipment or checking out the top holiday destinations.

Such an event, involving divers from all corners of Ireland, will serve to raise awareness about diving as a sport in Ireland and inject a much needed boost of publicity into the area.

An evening social event should ensure that this 2-day conference is one not to be missed!!

*Tickets purchased on the door are £10.

Visit Dive Ireland 2006 on-line at www.diveirelandshow.com

Source: Dive South Africa
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Dive South Africa to present workshop at Dive Ireland 2006

Important new materials released by Technical Diving International

TDI announces all new Advanced Wreck Student Manual and support materials.

Topsham Maine Technical Diving International (TDI) released new teaching and training materials today for its popular Advanced Wreck Diver Course. These materials include a newly designed student manual, knowledge review, instructor guide and PowerPoint® presentation conforming to the agency’s new training materials guidelines and presenting the most up-to-date information available to technical divers.

TDI's Advanced Wreck program provides students with the training and hands-on experience to competently conduct advanced wreck dives. The program includes penetration skills and introduces participants to the proper techniques, equipment requirements and hazards of conducting complex wreck dives. The new-look student manual is lavishly illustrated with diagrams and photographs presenting these techniques in a straight-forward, thorough way. The manual is perfect-bound and contains 112 pages.

This release of TDI's Advanced Wreck materials includes a new PowerPoint® presentation which was designed to assist instructors in delivering the course content in a structured, uniform manner and to help students comprehend fully the complex topics covered in the program.

"TDI Advanced Wreck materials are available for immediate shipment" stated David Burroughs VP of Sales and Marketing. He went on to say "This is another in the series of TDI manuals being rewritten and reworked for release during 2006".

To purchase the Advanced Wreck Materials email worldhq@tdisdi.com, call 1 207 729-4201 or contact your regional office.

For more information on TDI visit: www.tdisdi.com

Source: www.divenewswire.com
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Important new materials released by Technical Diving International

Egypt promotes Red Sea causeway!

Egypt is promoting a $3 billion causeway across the Red Sea linking Sharm el-Sheikh resort with Saudi Arabia's northwestern Duba port in the wake of another ferry tragedy.

The causeway or bridge would begin north of Sharm and cross the Straits of Tiran.

The project was first made public two years ago when the Egyptian transport minister at the time said the two countries were planning to establish a causeway across the Red Sea to facilitate transportation of pilgrims, tourists and cargo. The minister added that the project would cost $3 billion and its implementation would depend on technical studies.

The building work involved would spell danger for reefs already under pressure from hotel building on the Sinai coast. The reefs around Tiran Island are currently the most pristine in this part of the Red Sea.

Source: www.bsactravelclub.co.uk/news
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Egypt promotes Red Sea causeway!

Visit BSAC World at LIDS 2006!

LIDS 2006 will, for the second year, feature BSAC World. You can find out everything you want about the BSAC and have the total BSAC Experience!

There will be a main BSAC stand where you can meet BSAC HQ staff from every department. Membership staff will be there to answer any Branch queries and can renew your membership or join up new members while you wait. The Diver Resources Team will be available to tell you all about the latest Skill Development Courses and what is going on in diving. Why not book on one of our SDCs while you are at the show? The BSAC Mailshop will have all the latest BSAC merchandise, including the increasingly popular Seamanship for Divers book.

Branch Marketing
If your Branch is keen to increase its membership, attract new divers and learn any Marketing tips, the BSAC Marketing Team will be at the show. If you have any success stories, we'd love to hear them so bring them along and tell us all about what you are doing in your Branch.

Project Neptune
Why not take the opportunity to find out all about Project Neptune? Chris Horan the Project Manager will be on hand to answer any questions you may have about the installation of the new system and what it means for you and your Branch.

BSAC Coaches
Some of our BSAC Coaches will be at the show to speak to you. The Coaching Scheme is there to help you and your Branch, so please do take the time to visit the Coaches and speak to them. They are always happy to visit your Branches and take the time to help sort out any training problems you may be experiencing.

Try A Rebreather Dive
Alongside the BSAC stand, BSAC World will feature the Rebreather pool. Once you have experienced a Rebreather dive you can talk to one of our Technical Rebreather Advisors who will be on the BSAC Stand and discuss how you can progress Rebreather diving with the BSAC.

Why not bring a friend?
The BSAC will also be actively encouraging divers who have trained with other agencies to go diving with the BSAC and experience the unique friendly, social Branches of the BSAC. Why not bring along a friend to find out about the BSAC?

Advance tickets are only £7.50! Call 020 8977 9878 by 27th March or visit www.diveshows.co.uk to book your space. We are looking forward to seeing you there!

Source: BSAC
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Visit BSAC World at LIDS 2006!

Landslides hit popular dive destination

Torrential rain has triggered floods and landslides around the popular dive destination of Manado in Indonesia. Rescue officials said at least 26 people were killed by falling mud in the North Sulawesi provincial capital on Wednesday.

According to latest reports, parts of the city were flooded in up to a 1m of water following torrential downpours. Hundreds have been left homeless and dozens injured after waters swept away houses, schools and bridges.

The Meteorological and Geophysical Agency said the current rainfall was more than double the average for this time of year.

Manado is one of the most popular diving destinations in Indonesia because of the rich diversity of marine life in its waters. Two particularly celebrated diving areas off Manado include the Bunaken National Marine Park and the Lembeh Straits.

It is not yet clear how much damage the landslides have caused. Last month, around 130 people were also killed by landslides on the nearby island of Java.

Source: www.divemagazine.co.uk
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Landslides hit popular dive destination

Peter Benchley - The man who loved sharks

Peter Benchley, who died at age 65, was the very model of a pulp writer. The grandson of Robert Benchley, the humorist and Algonquin troubadour, and the son of Nathaniel Benchley, the novelist, Peter had one truly inspired idea that he proceeded to pound into the ground for nearly three decades.

The idea, of course, was Jaws, which spent more than 40 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list when it was published in 1974. A year later it served as a rough outline for the Steven Spielberg film that became the highest-grossing movie in history and rang in the era of the summer blockbuster. On the occasion of Benchley's death, it feels like an apt moment to survey Jaws in its pre-evolutionary state—to re-read the novel and discover what made its dark heart tick.

Jaws is a pulp collage—a how-to guide to writing airport literature. Start with heavy-handed symbolism: The seaside town the shark will terrorize is called Amity. Next add ungainly metaphor: "The past—like a bird long locked in a cage and suddenly released—was flying at her, swirling around her head, showering her with longing."

Finally, throw in a charmingly awkward lovemaking scene: A couple "thrashed with urgent ardor on the cold sand." The novel opens with that ardor, and after its climax, the still-naked woman slips into the ocean, becoming an opening course for the shark circling below. At first, the shark takes a rather leisurely approach to its meal. It moves slowly beneath her, as if surveying a chandelier. Then its jaws close on her right foot, snapping it off at the bone. The woman screams once, then is pulled below. Game on.

The shark will strike four more times, but Jaws' most pitched battle takes place on land. It's between local police chief Martin Brody and Matt Hooper, a visiting ichthyologist smitten with Brody's wife—the two men who (wouldn't you know it?) must make common cause to fight off the predator. For Benchley, their conflict is a microcosm of life in Amity: the salt-of-the-earth locals, the "real people," versus the blithe summer visitors, who come in their Lacoste shirts to spend money and get laid. Benchley has nothing but contempt for the latter group. "These were not Aquarians," he writes. "They uttered none of the platitudes of peace or pollution, or justice or revolt.

Privilege had been bred into them with genetic certainty." Growing more jaded, he continues, "They had no body odor. When they sweated, the girls smelled faintly of perfume; the boys simply smelled clean. None of which is to say that they were either stupid or evil." (Jaws is nothing if not a 1970s guilt-trip.) During the book's final pages, the shark will claim two more victims: the oversexed Hooper and then, appropriately enough, the old seaman Quint, a kind of Ahab knock-off who is allowed a Melville-like death.

Academics have bravely tried to pin all kinds of meaning on Jaws. (My favorite theory, found in a Web search, ventures that the shark is the embodiment of the vagina dentata myth). But the moral (and morality) of Jaws seems pretty straightforward: The preppies are gonna get it. They've been sitting out the 1970s, Benchley is saying, practicing free love on Long Island when they should have been marching with protesters in Harlem. ("Nothing touched them—not race riots … not police corruption.") The shark—like a thousand horror villains before and after—is nature's revenge for their carefree debauchery, their unwillingness to get with the program of equality and universalism. "People who are sexual outside of marriage get punished," says Stefan Fleischer, a professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo who teaches Benchley's novel. "And if it's society as a whole that has loose morals, it'll get eaten up by a shark."

It's an appropriately wicked conceit, and it might have worked better if Benchley had a sense of humor. But there's hardly a flicker of comedy in Jaws. The Associated Press reported this week that Benchley's initial 100-page book draft was filled with puns. His editor, Thomas Congdon, wrote in the margins "NO JOKES," and when Benchley returned the book it was a merciless, headlong affair. Steven Spielberg, who had a keen sense of humor, was appalled at how unrelenting it all was, how Benchley's character sketches bordered on misanthropy. When Spielberg read Benchley's film script, "he rooted for the shark," Peter Biskind reports in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. Universal enlisted script doctors, and the film's humor—the macho one-upmanship that develops between the men on the Orca; lines like, "You're gonna need a bigger boat"—feel like the work of Hollywood rewrite men, not the author.*

What makes Jaws the novel worth pausing over? It's the author's scientific affection for his titular great white. Benchley might have had no time for humans—his puritanical views on sex are the stuff of pure pulp—but he loved sharks. He was a lifelong enthusiast of sea life; he got the idea for Jaws after writing a series of oceangoing magazine articles. Whether because of his amateur scientific interest, or just the dizzying amount of detail he inserted into the book, the appearance of the shark in Jaws allows Benchley to unplug his pulp impulses while remaining firmly in the realm of plausible horror. Benchley gives the shark no supernatural powers, nor a fierce native intelligence. Even at its most gruesome, the shark remains a simple fish—"a dumb garbage bucket," Quint calls it—and a sum of its biological impulses.

A hundred yards offshore, the fish sensed a change in the sea's rhythm. It did not see the woman, nor yet did it smell her. Running within the length of its body were a series of thin canals, filled with mucus and dotted with nerve endings, and these nerves detected vibrations and signaled the brain. The fish turned toward shore.

The fish turned toward shore. It may be a dull passage, but in the middle of an ocean of pulp, it's an arresting one. The shark—all leathery and dead-eyed—is such a bewildering creature that it can't be shoehorned into genre conventions, can't be reduced to stereotype. Benchley and Jaws established sharks as an all-too-ordinary menace. Benchley, a committed conservationist, later expressed his dismay for having created a worldwide shark-frenzy. It was his greatest literary achievement.

Addendum, Feb. 20, 2006: Thanks to readers for pointing out that the line "You're gonna need a bigger boat" was ad-libbed by actor Roy Scheider—not, as I implied, inserted by re-write men. The point about Benchley's negligible sense of humor stands.

Source: www.slate.com
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Peter Benchley - The man who loved sharks

Australia: Researchers tag grey nurse sharks - to protect the endangered species

Researchers are tracking two grey nurse sharks in the waters off south east Queensland in a bid to protect the endangered species.

The researchers believe a fishing exclusion zone around where the sharks live is already helping the species and hope tracking data will aid protection measures.

Sea World's head of marine sciences Trevor Long said two female sharks - up to three metres long - were tagged in the past fortnight to monitor their movement in and around Wolf Rock off Double Island Point.

Wolf Rock is a rocky formation of volcanic pinnacles popular for scuba divers and home to a variety of marine life, including the endangered grey nurse shark.

In 2003, the Queensland Government established an exclusion zone banning recreational fishing in parts of Wolf Rock because sharks were dying after biting on fishing hooks.

"The idea of the tracking is to prove how the sharks utilise the rocks and to determine that they don't go further than half a nautical mile away from the rock," Mr Long said today.

"The exclusion zone will protect the grey nurse but will allow fishermen to come in and fish on the extremities (of Wolf Rock) without endangering the sharks.

"There has been some opposition to the exclusion zones, but I think people are more comfortable with it if they know there's good science and reasoning behind it."

Mr Long said from observations while diving off Wolf Rock this week, it appeared the exclusion zone was working.

"We normally see a lot of hooks in the mouths of the sharks where they've bitten on the fishermen's lines and ended up dying from it," said Mr Long, who said there were only about 500 grey nurses left on the east coast of Australia.

"It's interesting to note lately that none of the grey nurses - and it's the largest congregation of sharks I've seen up there in 35 years - had any hooks in them.

"That's saying the exclusion zone is working. Not only that, there's an abundance of marine life thriving in the area."

Mr Long believes more fishing exclusion zones are needed along the New South Wales and Queensland coasts to help protect marine life.

Source: www.heraldsun.news.com.au
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Australia: Researchers tag grey nurse sharks - to protect the endangered species

Sharks' future in doubt as they shun ocean depths

Fears for the future of the world's sharks have been raised by research which suggests their territory is smaller than previously thought.

Experts at Aberdeen University have discovered the highly-adapted predator does not go below about 9,000ft.

This means there is unlikely to be any unknown species in the deep ocean abysses and that fishing fleets are already exploiting the last populations left on the planet.

The average sea depth is more than 12,000ft, so the research suggests about 70 per cent of the ocean depths are free of sharks.

Professor Monty Priede, of Aberdeen University, wrote a paper for the Royal Society, along with colleagues from England, Norway, the United States and Germany, which is published today.

He told The Scotsman: "The deepest recorded shark was a humble thing called a Portuguese dogfish. The deepest specimen was caught off the south-west coast of Ireland.

"This species is now considered to be severely reduced and endangered - we have almost exterminated the world's deepest shark before we knew it was the world's deepest shark."

One theory for the sharks' preference for staying within 9,000ft of the surface is that there is too much competition for food from other fish, such as grenadiers.

Source: news.scotsman.com
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Sharks' future in doubt as they shun ocean depths

Shark attacks down in 2005 but up over long term

Worldwide shark-attack numbers fell in 2005 for the fifth year in a row.

Last year 58 confirmed "unprovoked" shark attacks occurred in natural ocean habitat, according to a report from the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), an organization based at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

That's down from 78 in 2000 and 65 in 2004.

Incidents in which the animals are provoked—such as during shark-feeding operations, in aquariums, or when fishers try to remove sharks from a net—aren't counted in ISAF's annual survey.

Four people were killed in unprovoked attacks last year, down from seven in 2004 and a bit below the 2001-to-2005 five-year average of 4.4 per year.

Last year's deaths included two in Australian waters, one in Florida, and one from the South Pacific island of Vanuatu.

Shark-attack fatality rates continue to drop decade by decade as improving medical treatments help boost the odds of survival in the rare event of an attack.

Long-Term Trend: More Attacks
Despite the media frenzy they spawn, unprovoked shark attacks are so rare that annual trends must be viewed with a grain of salt. The ISAF believes that decade-by-decade comparisons give a more accurate picture of trends.

Unprovoked attacks became more frequent with each decade of the 20th century. The first decade of the 21st century will likely continue that trend.

Yet those rising numbers don't likely represent any change in shark behavior.

Most shark specialists agree that the big-picture rise in attack numbers has more to do with humans than with sharks—namely the steadily increasing numbers of people living near and frolicking in the world's coastal waters.

In fact, fisheries data reveal that many shark populations are declining at serious rates or holding at lower than historic levels. The sharks' decline could be one of several factors in the recent dip in attacks.

"The decline in shark populations has occurred for a decade or two, but it may be that it has reached a critical level in [terms of] influencing the number of attacks," said George Burgess, director of ISAF.

"In certain geographic areas the decline is very severe. In other places, less so," he said.

"The areas that are overfished most quickly and easily are nearest shore. So, as a result, in many areas the population of larger sharks is very low in the near-shore areas where most people enter the water."

Burgess adds that falling shark populations could be just one of several factors influencing attack frequency.

Other shark specialists say that population numbers play a minimal role.

"I think it's a dangerous thing to try to correlate shark population numbers with attack statistics, because much more than the number of the sharks in the water goes into the resulting number of attacks," said Bob Hueter, director of the Mote Marine Laboratory's Center for Shark Research in Sarasota, Florida.

Hueter cites the example of the blacktip shark, which is responsible for many nonfatal bites on swimmers in Florida's waters.

"By all scientific assessments that population has been recovering over the last four or five years," he said.

"There's no reason to believe that their numbers are less at this point in time than they were five years ago. These animals were responsible for so many of the [Florida attacks] recorded every year, yet the numbers of recorded instances are dropping."

"In my mind it's due less to the size of shark populations than it is related to what people do," Hueter continued.

"Through the years one thing that has stood out clearly in terms of trends is that increasing human populations have put more people in the water."

ISAF's Burgess agrees that human behavior is perhaps the key factor.

The decrease in attacks could be due to fewer people in the water last year. Beachgoers are influenced by many variables that limit the number of beach days in a given season.

Tropical storms hammered Florida and other southeastern U.S. states in 2004 and 2005, reducing the number of people in the surf. Economic conditions may have also played a role, not to mention a drop in tourism in the post-9/11 era.

"In areas such as Florida there have been noticeable reductions in tourism, and that means less people entering the water," Burgess said.

"There have been low-contact years between sharks and humans in Florida, and that's reflected [in the data]."

Florida is a shark-attack hotbed, with huge importance for global shark-attack data. Trends in the Sunshine State are likely to significantly affect global statistics.

Beachgoers may also be getting smarter about when and where they enter the water, experts say.

"I think the work that people have done since 2001 to get the word out about the realities of shark attack and the guidelines of when and where to swim is paying off," said Mote's Hueter. (See "Shark Attack Tips.")

"Avoid the time periods [near] dawn and dusk, when sharks feed," Burgess added. "Don't swim near fishers or bait, or if you see sharks."

"If people followed these guidelines, we could probably cut down shark attacks by half," he said. That change would be welcome, but won't do much to change a person's chances of being attacked, Burgess says. "That's from an infinitesimal chance [of being attacked] to half of an infinitesimal chance."

North America Site of Most Shark Attacks
A closer look at the data reveals that 64 percent of 2005's attacks occurred in North American waters—continuing a trend of recent years.

U.S waters, including Hawaii, saw 38 attacks. Australia had ten and South Africa four. The Bahamas, Fiji, Mexico, South Korea, St. Martin, and Vanuatu each reported a single unprovoked attack.

Florida remained the top U.S. shark-attack spot, with 18 attacks last year. Additional U.S. incidents occurred in South Carolina (five), Texas (four), Hawaii (four), California (three), North Carolina (two), New Jersey (one), and Oregon (one).

Some activities, such as surfing and windsurfing, place humans at greater risk of attack. The popularity of such water sports may partially account for the increasing attack frequency seen over the past century. In days gone by, seaside recreation was commonly limited to wading.

In 2005 surfers and windsurfers were involved in 54 percent of the attacks in which victims' activities at the time of attack are known.

Swimmers and waders accounted for only 37 percent, though many more people swim or wade than surf or windsurf. Divers and snorkelers were involved in just 7 percent of the incidents.

Related Article:
World shark attacks dipped in 2005

Source: news.nationalgeographic.com
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Shark attacks down in 2005 but up over long term

21 February 2006

Pretoria Sub Aqua Club Day

The Pretoria Sub-Aqua Club for Scuba Divers, Spear Fishermen and Underwater Hockey Players is hosting a fun Club day at their clubhouse at the Tjaart van Vuuren Swimming Pool in Pretoria on Saturday 25 February 2006 at 14:00.

Please confirm attendance. More information about the club activities can be found on the PSA blog: Pretoria Sub-Aqua Club
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Pretoria Sub Aqua Club Day

Visit Ponta Mamoli in Mozambique with Monty Halls

Cross north over the border of South Africa into Mozambique and there is a point where the road ends and the adventure begins.

The smooth ribbon of baking-hot, black tarmac gives way almost immediately to a sand track, a physical representation of the yawning financial gulf between the two countries. On the South African side your exit routine is completed in an air-conditioned office and recorded on a shiny computer. A short walk takes you through the border, where your entry visa to Mozambique is stamped in a wooden hut by a man wielding a rubber stamp beneath a creaking ceiling fan.

As you drive along the first few miles of sand track, it is worth reflecting that only a few years ago this stretch of road would have been a very dangerous place indeed. For decades Mozambique was a truly troubled country, wreaked by a civil war that destroyed communities and laid waste the nation’s industries. Finally, in the early Nineties the madness stopped, and now there is a sense of optimism in the air as tourists return to one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the world.

As I revved my way past alarmed-looking residents of the huts that lined the route, hoping to beat the setting sun to my destination, I saw ahead of me a majestic dune rolling to a wide sweep of beach. The sun was hovering just above the crest, showing the first hint of the deep red of a classic African sunset. This was too good an opportunity to miss, and I pulled the vehicle over, reaching for my camera.

Walking a little way off the track, I stood and watched the lower edge of the sun sinking into the dune, being absorbed by the horizon. So overwhelmed was I by the visual signals I was receiving, that, unfortunately, I was choosing to ignore the powerful nasal ones that were arriving with increasing potency. It was only when I dragged my gaze away from the spectacle of the sunset that I looked down and became aware of alarmingly large amounts of toilet paper on the ground around me. I was standing in the midst of a huge communal toilet – in flip-flops!

In the fading light I attempted to ‘Riverdance’ my way out of trouble, skipping my way back to the vehicle. My flip-flops were gingerly removed and draped over the aerial, and the rest of the drive completed with my head sticking out of the side window, driving with one hand and trying not to think about anything below shin level.

I arrived at the camp at the resort at Ponta Mamoli in complete darkness, to be greeted by a small man carrying a lantern. There are times for protocol, and times to walk wordlessly past someone and dunk your feet in the sea – I decided this was a time for the latter, and emerged considerably later to let him lead me to my chalet above the beach, where I crashed into bed.

I was woken by the sun streaming through the shutters, and the unmistakable sound of big surf crashing on an open beach. I stepped out of my villa, and before me lay a broad, white beach, stretching far into the distance to the north and ending in a cupped bay, topped by a green headland a few hundred yards to the south.

This stretch of coastline south of Maputo is the most convenient from which to access Mozambique directly from South Africa, and I had been assured that it was one of the busier regions of the country in terms of visitors from the south. The real wilderness was said to be in the far north of the country – but for now this would do me very nicely. The beach was broad and wild, and a glance at a map the previous day had shown me that it stretched more than 60 miles from where I was standing. Huge rollers raised their glassy shoulders as they charged at the beach – set after set running parallel to the beach as far as the eye could see. No footprints broke the clear line of the sandy foreshore, and as I inhaled, I could smell salt and heat and earth – it was like opening a bottle marked ‘Africa’ and taking a huge breath.

I was on a mission to dive with the local bass, thumping great monsters which have a presence that is all their own. Bass in this part of the world could not be more of a contrast to bass off the coast of the UK. The difference between the two pretty much personifies the difference between England and Africa. Our bass is a silver bar that reaches a couple of feet in length – respectable enough, and a fine sight for those lucky enough to see one. The African version is the size of a small hatchback, with an eye like a baseball and a mouth like the lid of a wheelie bin. By whatever name it is known, all I knew was that I wanted to see one – a big one, close up, today!

An hour later I was thundering over the clear blue water behind the surf line, hanging onto the lines strung along the hull of Ponta Mamoli’s splendid RIB. There seems to be a simple theory to the RIBs out here – take a medium-sized boat and put a rather large engine on it, enough to hurtle it through big surf like a rubber dart. Then put another big engine alongside the first one for good measure and good fun. I don’t care who you are or how seriously you take your diving, as you skim over the tops of clear Indian Ocean waves, with the outboards bellowing and the sun on your back, if you don’t end up smiling like an idiot then you don’t have a soul.

The RIB slowed a short distance from the headland and we swiftly kitted up and rolled into the warm water, led by Ponta Mamoli dive centre manager Kevin Collins. The characteristic of the reefs in this region seems to be low areas of coral interspersed with overhangs, small craters and caves. This is an uninterrupted stretch of coastline and as such, the currents can really barrel a diver along, creating quite a ride as the water undulates down into hollow and up over ridge. After enjoying this roller coaster for a few minutes, Kevin indicated that we should drop towards the sea floor, leading by example as he banked towards a low ridge of coral and tucked in behind it.

Following suit, I found myself lying on a flat, sandy area with the reef stretching away on either side, with the main coral head in front of me. What was also directly in front of me was one of the largest lionfish I have ever seen – eighteen inches of bristling fins. Moving back a few inches, I saw the fish relax slightly, its fins moving back into the ‘just passing the time of day’ position, as opposed to the ‘one more inch pal and you’re going to have a very emotional afternoon’ position.

Kevin tapped me on the shoulder and pointed up at what I thought was a small freighter passing overhead. The freighter then turned towards me, opened its mouth, and revealed itself to be a massive bass!

Whenever confronted by a large animal in the wild, the modern man in us all thrills at the encounter – such events being something of increasing rarity nowadays. The primaeval man then leans forward and taps us on the shoulder with a knotty club, and politely asks us if this thing can eat us, and if so, should we both run?

Obviously the prospect of being bitten by a huge bass is remote to say the least, but nonetheless this is a top predator on the reef – something a great many divers forget when they pet and feed big groupers around the world. The bass was now hovering in front of me, inspecting me in stereo vision, and presenting me with a lower lip the size of a car tyre that stopped about three inches from my own. A slight gape revealed hundreds of serrated rows of tiny backward-facing teeth, a fiendishly fine piece of design meaning that anything inhaled into that cavernous maw will not get out. Kevin had told me stories of divers trying to feed bass who had the skin stripped off their unwary hands. The great fish sculled slowly backwards, and drifted along the coral ridge, occasionally circling back to me for another quick once-over.

These big bass are one of the truly dominant predators on these reefs, and Kevin had told me stories of watching them bulldoze into a pack of feeding sharks to snatch tidbits, confident that their bulk and brawn would win over speed and stealth. This was reflected very much in the confidence of this magnificent animal as I swam alongside, its shadow passing over the reef below, master of its own watery domain.

The sun was once again dipping low over the dunes behind Ponta Mamoli as we raced back towards the beach, and the lights of the lodge glowed as another day on this great, wild strip of coastline drew to a close. Should you want to step off the beaten track, experience a heady mix of tranquillity on dry land and exhilarating diving offshore, then Ponta Mamoli should certainly be the next entry in your logbook.

By Monty Halls

Source: www.divemagazine.co.uk
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Visit Ponta Mamoli in Mozambique with Monty Halls

Why do you love South Africa?

I know this is not scuba related but since I live in South Africa, I thought I might share this with the world. Why are South Africans so patriotic? What makes them so passionate about their country? Why do the hairs on the back of their neck stand up?

It's a simple question, yet everyone has their own answer, and all for very different reasons.

Some people have a sense of freedom that was missing for a long time, some people simply like the scenery, whilst others feel that it's a sense of home that you just can't replace with another.

Some people are more political and enjoy the new democracy, some people love it because of the business opportunity, and others just like the lifestyle which they know is unique.

It's an interesting question, and we'd really appreciate it if you'd share your reason with us.

Click here to tell us why you love South Africa?

Here are the comments already posted: http://www.ilovesouthafrica.org/2006/02/06/why-do-you-love-south-africa

Source: Gareth Knight - I love South Africa
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Why do you love South Africa?

Scuba diving in Mauritius

Scuba diving in MauritiusWith its lush vegetation, sandy coastline, and coral-circled lagoons, Mauritius might as well be a purpose-made luxury holiday destination. But does that necessarily make it a divers’ holiday of a lifetime?

Purely in terms of its diving, the Mauritius experience is enjoyable rather than spectacular. But marry the sub-tropical marine scene with the sumptuous allure of the islands and the presence of gold standard hotels, and you have a genuinely unique package.

The republic lies 855km to the east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean and is comprised of the largest island in the group, Mauritius, and includes the Agalega Islands, St Brandon and Rodrigues; these islands, along with the French island of Réunion, form the Mascarenhas Archipelago (or Mascarene Islands). Mauritius is 1,865 square km in area with 330km of coastline almost entirely surrounded by coral reefs. It is these coral reefs that have made Mauritius such an interesting prospect from a diver's point of view, there's a lot of good diving to be had, from sinister caverns visited by sharks, to high energy drifts accompanied by giant trevallies and eagle rays.

British holidaymakers have traditionally thought of Mauritius as an exotic destination out of the reach of most budgets. However, an increase in the number of hotels around the island, combined with regular flights has made it a more accessible destination.

Divers rgularly report big pelagics around Mautitius, and the marien scene is defined by different currents to the ones that fuel the Maldives. If you think you know the Indian Ocean, underwater Mauritius will hold many surprises for you.

The distance from the UK, it's exotic flora and fauna – particularly underwater – and some of the best holiday hotels in the world mean that this remains a place where you can truly have the trip of a lifetime.

Belle Mare Plage
Sited on a sandy beach on the eastern side of Mauritius, the resort of Belle Mare Plage offers excellent accommodation and an interesting mix of diving. Most visitors come to take advantage of the beautiful beach and two world-class golf courses, as well as fitting in some watersports, including diving.

The Legend and Links golf courses (designed by the voice of golf Peter Alliss) are the pride of the resort, with snooker table greens and intimidating water features. Even if golf is not your bag, you'll be tempted to hit a few balls during your surface interval.

There are 235 rooms and 20 villas, each with its own private pool. If you feel like really busting your budget, then a villa (available in two or three-bedroomed versions) is the thing to go for. They come with your own villa master to look after all your needs, from taking your breakfast order to organising one of the resort buggies to come and collect you. These are at the top-end of holiday accommodation. While it takes a couple a days to get used to being waited on, you'll find that by the time you get home you'll struggle to find your way to your fridge – "Where's my Champagne?"

A dizzying range of treatments is available at the spa, from reflexology to ylang ylang massage. The prospect of donning a paper thong might not appeal to all, but the end result is well worth savouring. You feel like liquid ready to be poured into a comfy chair to watch the sunset.

There are several restaurants offering something for every palate, from buffet-style sushi to European and Thai, all with a touch of Mauritian flair thrown in.

While the resort is undoubtedly luxurious, for some, its large scale might be off-putting, in which case plump for the more intimate Le Prince Maurice.

Le Prince Maurice
As you step into the lobby of the Le Prince Maurice, the view is quite simply breathtaking. Standing there in plane-rumpled clothing, there's a tendency to think "I'm not worthy", but this soon gives way to a gleeful "Yes! I've arrived!"

Opened in 1988, the hotel was designed by a Mauritian architect with no expense spared. There are 89 suites, but you would be forgiven for thinking there are far fewer, given the number of empty sun loungers by the infinity pool, which sits between the beach and the lobby and is flanked on either side by the restaurant and bar.

If watersports are your thing, then you'll be well catered for. There is a dedicated watersports centre on the beach, providing windsurfing, Hobie cat sailing, waterskiing, Laser boats, kayaks and glass-bottomed boat trips. Diving is available from the centre at Belle Mare Plage, the centre will send a boat to collect you from the pier at Le Prince Maurice and then it's a ten-minute boat ride to the centre.

As with the Belle Mare Plage, golf is available to guests at both the Legends and Links courses. The beach itself is long and wide, opening out on to a sheltered lagoon which is good for watersports; and with the hotel's propensity for weddings – it hosts 60 weddings a year – you will often see photographs being taken of happy couples down on the beach or perhaps a candlelit dinner for two laid out at the water's edge.

As well as a modern gym and spa, the hotel offers a number of massage treatments in double rooms where couples can receive the benefit of two masseuses each – the ultimate in stress relief.

The food is a fusion of Indian, French and modern European, with some touches of Africa thrown in. The Barachois is a floating restaurant on five barges that specialises in seafood. Sited above a fish reserve, the serene atmosphere is only broken by the occasional plop of a fish in the water or the pop of a Champagne cork as another couple toast their good fortune to be here.

There's little to criticize – younger visitors might feel that the resort is little too quiet and the service (which is a lesson in discretion) too polished, in which case I'd recommend they visit the Belle Mare Plage. However, if you're looking for excellent service, stunning beaches, excellent food and drink then Le Prince Maurice could be your trip of a lifetime.

Belle Mare Plage

Villa package:
Prices from £1,495 per person for seven nights, based on six adults sharing a three-bedroom pool villa on a bed-and-breakfast basis, including return flights with British Airways. Based on travel between 1 May to 14 July 2006.

Standard package: From £1,380 per person for seven nights, based on two adults sharing a "prestige' room on a half-board basis including return flights with British Airways. Based on travel between 1 May to 14 July 2006.

Le Prince Maurice

Standard room package: Prices from £1,840 per person for seven nights – two adults sharing a "junior suite" on a bed-and-breakfast basis, including return flights with British Airways.Travel between 1 May to 14 July 2006.

Princely Suite package (pictured above) Prices from £10,800 per person for seven nights based on two adults sharing a "princely suite" on a bed-and-breakfast basis, including return flights with British Airways. Based on travel between 1 May to 14 July 2006.

To upgrade to BA Club World costs £1770 return or £900 one-way.
To book, phone Aspire on 0845 345 9096, www.aspireholidays.co.uk

For more information about the diving on Mauritius, email Blues Diving on bluesdiving@intnet.mu or see the website www.bluesdiving.net


The Blues Diving Centre, run by the irrepressible French-Mauritian Jean Michel Langlois, services both the Belle Mare Plage and Le Prince Maurice. Diving is available all around the island, but Blues tends to concentrate on sites near the hotels on the east coast. The centre is serviced by two semi-rigid inflatable boats and most of the diving takes place within a few minutes" boat ride of the centre. However, trips further afield can be arranged and night dives are available when weather permits.

The coastline is characterised by a fringing reef a few hundred metres out to sea. Within the boundary of the reef, the water is calm, with excellent training spots for novices. Once you get close to and beyond the reef, the water gets a bit choppier, but as most sites are within ten minutes' Zodiac ride from the resort, it's not too uncomfortable.

Visibility is mixed, on our dives averaging 15 to 20m, perfectly adequate, although not up to Red Sea standards. The same could be said of the reefs, which are rocky in parts and coral growth can be patchy. However, the existing coral is healthy, with mature table corals, fans and plenty of anemones.

Many of the reefs have small gullies, with sandy bottoms full of nooks and crannies. The Castle site drops to a maximum depth of 23m and consists of lots of these small gullies, where we saw soldierfish, angelfish and butterflyfish, as well as some large grouper.

However, what really stood out were the nudibranchs, which were a wonderful variety of colours, so much so I was tempted to think that Jean Michel – who paints underwater scenes while underwater – might have flicked a few with his paintbrush! In addition, there were trumpetfish, striped goatfish, blennies, parrotfish, and bird wrasse. We also saw large triton and cowrie molluscs.

La Passe de Belle Mare is a stunning dive only a short ride from the dive centre. The maximum depth is 17m. We dropped in at 3m and slowly moved through a number of boulders and gullies. Turning a corner, the current picked up dramatically and we were joined by a large number of huge jacks, dogtooth tuna and giant trevallies, which milled around us as an eagle ray glided past. Moving on, the dive became something of a rollercoaster as we bounced between rocks, one moment fighting the current, the next hovering in mid-water. Emperorfish, goatfish and unicornfish were all in attendance, but it is the abundance of large fish that make this dive a winner.

Another notable dive was Middle Rock, where I was stalked by a great barracuda while I floundered around at the surface trying to recover a rogue fin. Here we were joined by schools of yellow snapper and striped barracuda, as well as seeing jacks, emperor angelfish and a large eagle ray. We ended the dive watching a porcupinefish puffing itself up before moving off.

There is plenty of other diving to be had around the island, but the eastern side gives visitors a good taste of Mauritius diving as a whole and, combined with good food, accommodation and activities makes for the complete holiday experience.

KEY dives

La Passe de Belle Mare
Sharks, jacks and eagle rays all make an appearance at this current-fuelled site.

Sea Fan Forest
This forest of gorgonian fan corals is home to lots of parrotfish and is renowned for its abundant marine life and good visibility.

Lobster Canyon
Clown triggerfish, moray eels and, of course, lots of lobsters are among the highlights of this dive, where the interesting topography makes for arches and channels.


Mauritius is near to the Tropic of Capricorn and has a sub-tropical climate. Summer is from November to April, when air temperatures average 30ºC and water temperatures average 26–28ºC. Winter is from May to November when air temperatures can still be a pleasant 24ºC, dropping to 17ºC at night, with water temperatures averaging 22–25ºC. Cyclones can occur between January and March, bringing a lot of rain which soon clears. Good diving is available all year, but you are likely to see more eagle rays in summer.

Source: www.divemagazine.co.uk/news
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Scuba diving in Mauritius

A Look at the Giant Squid - Cannibals or Kinky?

Until now experts believed that Giant Squid were cannibalistic. This conclusion was based on the fact that they discovered pieces of other Giant Squid in the stomachs of specimens studied.

But a new report seems to shed a new and rather different light on the behavior of this mysterious deep sea creature...

New Zealand based marine biologist Steve O'Shea theorizes that instead of a food source, the pieces of fellow squid point to some rather unusual mating methods.

According to O'Shea when mating the female squid accidentally bites off pieces of her mate and then ingests them. "It's not intentional cannibalism, it's certainly inadvertent," O'Shea told the New Zealand press.

For the complete story visit: Giant Squid Mating Behavior

Source: www.divenews.com
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A Look at the Giant Squid - Cannibals or Kinky?

Food for thought - Don't miss breakfast before diving

Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? Well, according to evidence unearthed by doctors in the US, eating breakfast is the secret to staying healthy.

Firstly, US doctors believe skipping the first meal of the day increases the chances of becoming obese, developing diabetes or even having a heart attack.

Their study found that people who eat whole-grain cereals every morning are among those most likely to see the health benefits.

They found that people who ate breakfast every day were a third less likely to be obese compared to those who skipped the meal.

In addition, they were half as likely to have blood-sugar problems, which increase the risk of developing diabetes or having high cholesterol, which is a known risk factor for heart disease.

The researchers believe that eating first thing in the morning may help to stabilise blood sugar levels, which regulate appetite and energy.

They suggest people who eat breakfast are less likely to be hungry during the rest of the day and are, therefore, less likely to overeat.

Read more on this article at news.bbc.co.uk

How does this affect a scuba diver?
Based on these findings I would agree that not only is it healthy but it decreases the chances of experiencing seasickness during and between dives. I disovered this article by Kyle Leitch who experienced the same affects and thought I'd share it.

I learned to dive about six months before a club trip to Mallorca. I was with a good BSAC branch which took me open-water diving every week, and which meant I soon passed my ocean diver qualification. All our diving was done in the cold, low-visibility water of Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland.

When I heard the branch was organising a dive holiday to Mallorca, I jumped at the chance. To fully appreciate 35m-plus visibility and 27ºC water, I reckon you need to experience Strangford’s 2–3m visibility and 8ºC of water first.

The day after arriving in Mallorca, we were up at 7am. In the rush, I only managed to grab an extremely small bite for breakfast. On the two-mile journey to the dive site, however, I felt my stomach grumble from a lack of food. I began to regret missing breakfast.

The minibus pulled up outside the dive shop and we went in to get our kit. We then walked to the harbour. On the way down, my stomach had stopped growling and it was no longer painful. Nevertheless, I knew I needed to eat something – it was just that I couldn’t be bothered and I thought it might make me sick.

We jumped aboard the small hardboat and began to assemble our kit. The first dive site was called BMW, because it had two caves beside each other which resembled a BMW car grille. I couldn’t wait to jump into the water, but there was one problem: on the way out I began to feel seasick and the increasing movement of the boat was becoming unbearable. I got my kit on, however, and entrusted myself to the old theory that seasickness clears up as soon as a diver jumps into the water. To my amazement it worked, and we were all able to enjoy a colourful dive. It lasted 45 minutes and I saw lots of new creatures that I had never seen before.

Back on the boat, I suddenly felt a wave of seasickness. This time it was a lot worse. I was feeling the heat and couldn’t bring myself to eat anything. All I wanted to do was get back in the water, enjoy the dive and then get straight back onto dry land.

We swapped our used bottles for full ones and prepared for the next dive. The boat tossed and turned on the way to the next dive site, making the seasickness worse.

I managed to get my kit on and we did our buddy checks. I could hardly walk with the weight of the kit and seasickness combined; nevertheless, I inflated my jacket and jumped in. Once again, I was hoping that the sickness would clear up when I got into the water. It didn’t, but I made my descent anyway, expecting it to clear at any second. Every metre seemed to make my stomach tighten even more and become increasingly painful. Then my throat began to tighten and I couldn’t clear my ears. It grew tighter and tighter – I knew I had to get out.

At first I thought I was going to cough or splutter, but suddenly the absence of breakfast came back to haunt me and I vomited through my regulator. It was the strangest and most frightening thing that had ever happened to me. Visibility was suddenly reduced as the little amount of food I had eaten surrounded me in a cloud. It was as though I was back in Strangford Lough – I literally couldn’t see a thing. Luckily, my buddy and about four other divers from the group rushed over to help. Within minutes I was back on the boat, recovering.

It took only a couple of hours to recover. I bought some seasickness tablets and made sure I had a proper breakfast the rest of the time I was there. The diving went really well for the remaining six days of the holiday.

My advice to other divers is never to miss breakfast, and always have at least a small snack in between dives. I should have thought carefully before going on the second dive. I was lucky that I was not too deep and had a good group of divers around to help me.

Source: www.divemagazine.co.uk
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Food for thought - Don't miss breakfast before diving

Thousands of giant squid wash up on Chilean beach

Authorities began removing hundreds of tons of squid that washed up on a beach in southern Chile and were in a process of decomposing, police said Friday.

Since these sea creatures began arriving on the beach of the town of Tome Thursday night, police and local authorities estimate that a total of some 500 tons of the squid have washed ashore.

Known by the scientific name "Dosidicus gigas" or popularly as the Jumbo, or Humboldt, Squid - this type of mollusk is found in almost the entire Pacific coast and can grow to a size of between 50-140 centimeters (20-55 inches) and a weight of between 20-50 kilos (44-110 pounds).

The large number of squid on the beach initially provoked curiosity and surprise among tourists and residents of the area, but their presence became a growing nuisance, as the animals' remains rapidly decomposed in the summer heat. Local authorities organized cleaning crews, who used several trucks to remove the squid.

Although experts are unsure of why the squid washed up on the beach, it is believed that high water temperatures were the cause.

The regional health ministry has begun distributing notices to tourists and residents of the affected coastal areas, warning them not to consume the squid and dead fish that washed ashore.

"The consumption of these products, which have already begun decomposing, could cause food poisoning and outbreaks of gastroenteritis. For this region, people are warned not to consume any of these marine species," regional Health Ministry official Hugo Rojas said.

Source: www.mercopress.com
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Thousands of giant squid wash up on Chilean beach

Australia: Ningaloo reef may go 'World Heritage'

Western Australia is closer to asking for World Heritage protection for Ningaloo Reef, one of the world's most pristine marine environments.

The state government is consulting with the community to decide what boundaries of the world-renowned tourist destination will be nominated for inclusion on the world heritage list.

The process followed the release of an independent report, commissioned in June 2004, which nominated the North West Cape Ningaloo area, Environment Minister Mark McGowan said.

"The state government has identified Ningaloo Marine Park, Cape Range National Park and key areas of the North-West Cape next to the reef to be included in the nomination boundary and is seeking further input from stakeholders," Mr McGowan said.

"Ningaloo Reef is world renowned for its biological diversity, superlative beauty and outstanding geological values and it, along with Cape Range National Park, is one of the State's greatest nature-based tourism attractions," he said.

The reef is a habitat to more than 200 species of coral, 600 species of shellfish and other molluscs, 500 species of fish and several threatened species such as dugong and turtles.

It also is an important migratory path for humpback whales and important aggregation and feeding area for whale sharks.

World Heritage listing would help save the whale sharks by bringing their plight to international attention, Mr McGowan said.

The consultation phase would be an important step in determining what nomination boundary was proposed to the federal government before the end of the year, he said.

Source: news.ninemsn.com.au
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Australia: Ningaloo reef may go 'World Heritage'

South Africa: Poachers beat legal fishing - by millions

The perlemoen and Patagonian toothfish poached in South African waters and sold illegally in Asian markets are worth more than the country's entire legal fishing industry.

The perlemoen and Patagonian toothfish sold illegally in south-east Asia each year fetch at least R4,4-billion - compared with the R4,1bn annual value of our legal fishing industry.

These shocking figures were revealed in a paper by Shaheen Moolla of Feike, a company that advises on marine regulatory law and environmental management.

Up to 10 times the total allowable catch of perlemoen was being sold in Asia, at a conservative value of R1,8bn.

And while the total allowable catch for Patagonian tooth fish was just 450 tons, it was believed that an annual 32 000 tons valued at R2,6bn was sold in Asia.

Moolla called for the urgent introduction of pro-active measures to stop poaching, particularly closing trade loopholes to block illegal exports.

South African anti-poaching strategies mostly came into play after the resource had been taken out of the water, he said. This resulted in reduction of stocks and damage to the marine ecosystem.

"Although South African abalone quota holders can lawfully only export 237 tons, it is credibly believed that more than 10 times this amount is traded and consumed on south-east Asian markets," he said.

The 237-ton quota was down from 600 tons six years ago.

The collapse of the perlemoen fishery was largely because of what is known internationally as "IUU fishing" - illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

Sought-after Patagonian toothfish are caught off South African-owned Marion Island.

So IUU fishing in these two fisheries alone, where the combined total legal catch was just 687 tons, was worth more than the entire landed value of South Africa's commercial fisheries.

Moolla said that in 2004 Marine and Coastal Management had uncovered "massive" amounts of illegal fishing in the small pelagics (anchovy, pilchard) fishery.

"It is estimated that some 200 000 tons of pelagic fish - or one-third of the total allowable catch - was illegally harvested in one year alone."

IUU fishing affected almost every commercial fishery in South Africa, from traditional linefish to rock lobster and mussels, although on a smaller scale.

South Africa had substantial tools to combat poaching, including four new patrol vessels, modern monitoring systems which can plot the position of every fishing vessel in our waters, and good relationships with other organisations such as the police, Moolla said.

Closing trade loopholes was the key to successfully fighting IUU fishing, Moolla argued.

Perlemoen needed to be listed in terms of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), because any trade of any listed species required a permit and greater levels of regulation.

China had indicated a willingness to put a separate (non-Cites) permit system in place to regulate the import of perlemoen and any other South African fish into China and Hong Kong, and the Department of Environmental Affairs needed to engage the Chinese on this.

"What is required is a paper trail linking the exporter to the fishing boat that landed the fish," Moolla said.

Other proactive anti-poaching measures included expanding the "no-fishing" zones in marine protected areas along the coast.

Two long-planned marine protected areas had not yet been promulgated - including one around the Prince Edward group of islands, which would help protect collapsing Patagonian toothfish stocks.

The 2004/5 annual report of the Department of Environmental Affairs laid out a plan to prevent IUU fishing by the end of last year, and although a draft report was completed late in 2004, it has yet to be tabled in the cabinet or released for public comment.

Source: www.iol.co.za
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South Africa: Poachers beat legal fishing - by millions

17 February 2006

Mozambique: New diving resort opened by Seablue Scuba Safaris

A Brand new diving resort has been opened in Mozambique. It is situated south of Inhambane, in between Guinjata Bay and Paindane. You just have to follow the bright orange sign with the manta on it!

The chalets, five at present, are nestled in the dunes and surrounded by beautiful indigenous bush, each with a view of the sea and as secluded as possible. All the chalets are self-cater and have brand new amenities such as fridge, freezer, gas stove, crockery, cutlery and linen, electricity and hot water. The smallest chalet sleeps 4 to 6 people and the remaining chalets can accommodate up to 9 people.

The dive centre is a short walk away, clean and spacious with plenty of equipment for hire. Showers, clean toilets and large rinse tanks are provided to keep your equipment in top shape.

Seablue Scuba owns two 8m semi rigid boats which can take 16 divers although we prefer to dive smaller groups, especially when photographing. Bauer compressors take care of the air fills.

Our aim is to keep the resort peaceful and relaxing, free of irritating noise and to maximise your diving experience safely. We specialise in photographic dives and have some secret spots for unusual creatures. There is a computer on site so you can burn your pics to disc.

Fly-in packages are popular with the busy business executives who don't have time for the drive up. Direct flights from Nelspruit to Inhambane starting in April. Special packages on offer.

For more information please contact Ollie or Catherine on:
Tel/Fax: +27 13 7440357
Cell: +27 834473668 or +258 846448370
Email: seablue@telkomsa.net
Website: www.seabluescuba.com
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Mozambique: New diving resort opened by Seablue Scuba Safaris

DAN Research Newsletter February 2006

DAN releases their Safety Stop for February 2006

In this issue of the DAN Safety Stop:

* Jodi Hoppes Continues her studies in the UK
* Wiley writes about DAN Internship on the freediving website "Deeper Blue"
* Q&A: "I just found out I am pregnant. When do I have to stop diving?"

Additional Resources:

Source: www.diversalertnetwork.org
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DAN Research Newsletter February 2006

Australian wreck attracting record number of scuba divers

THE Sunshine Coast now has another tourism ace up its sleeve with the wreck of the former HMAS Brisbane attracting divers in record numbers.

Dive operators have reported significant boosts to their businesses since the ship was scuttled last July.

The prolific growth of the artificial reef around the wreck has taken everyone by surprise, attracting about 800 dives a month.

The wreck has found favour with international and interstate divers, with local operators reporting a huge increase in visitors heading to the Coast specifically to visit the ship.

Blue Water Dive employee and experienced dive instructor Rebecca Turner said she chose to look for work on the Sunshine Coast over more established dive destinations in north Queensland because of the HMAS Brisbane.

"I think where once you would get people from overseas who would fly into Brisbane and then head straight up to the Great Barrier Reef, now they're coming here first because it's a lot closer," she said.

"It's not as commercialised or sausage-factory-like down here either, and I think that's one of the big things going for it – divers can still get that personalised experience."

Mooloolaba's Scuba World employee Michael McKinnon said the wreck had been sunk in an ideal position that protected it from severe currents and tides, making it the ideal dive destination for experienced divers and those just starting out.

"We used to be going out most weekends and maybe once during the week if the weather conditions were right," he said.

"Over the summer we were going out six days a week.

"There are a few wrecks off Sydney but they're around 60 metres down and more for advanced divers.

"The Brisbane is a 20-minute trip from Mooloolaba and 27 metres down, so even people who have just done their course can still go down and at least hang around the deck level, which is about 18 metres down."

Sunreef Dive Centre co-owner Greg Riddell was also happy to report the boom in business had been "phenomenal".

He said he had taken a number of former crew members of the HMAS Brisbane on dives to visit their former ship and felt the wreck had finally delivered the underwater destination the local dive industry had needed.

"The corals and the colour on the Gneerings Shoals at the local reef was where most people used to go but there was no big icon like a cave or a sinkhole that draws divers to a location," he said.

"Just because you have a nice reef, it doesn't mean people will travel halfway round the world to see a coral, but they do come to see something like the Brisbane."

Source: www.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au
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Australian wreck attracting record number of scuba divers

7 deadly sins of scuba diving

DIVE Magazine asked their specialist writers to consider the conventions of modern diving and come up with a new set of seven deadly sins for 2006. This makes for very interesting reading.

The fundamental rules of diving – the ones that keep us alive underwater – are written in stone. But there are other rules that are too subtle for the course books – unwritten codes of consideration, good taste and common sense.

According to DIVE's writers, the new set of seven deadly sins for 2006 are:

1. Being a numpty
2. Bearing false witness
3. Ignoring advice
4. Breaking the dress code
5. Hyping the dive
6. Snoring for Britain
7. Worshipping false idols

This article is too long for this posting, so head over to www.divemagazine.co.uk
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7 deadly sins of scuba diving

DIVE contributors report back on best dives of 2005

What was your best dive of 2005? That was the question we put to DIVE's contributors, and they've reported back on a vintage year.

The Bestly Chamber, Yucatan, Mexico
The thought of dragging all the dive gear far into the jungle to photograph yet another cenote [water-filled sink hole] when there were perfectly good ones near the road wasn't really appealing, but Steve insisted. He'd found it the year before and kept telling me it was the most spectacularly decorated cenote in Mexico – a pretty radical claim, given the competition. After an hour's hike through the jungle being eaten alive, the muddy pool we arrived at didn't improve my mood.

Following my fellow divers, Robbie and Steve, into a tight underwater passage, the visibility soon turned to zero. After ten minutes we entered a bigger passage where the visibility reached 100m; and as the average depth was only 3m, we could see tree roots hanging from the ceiling. An hour later we still hadn't dropped below 5m and finally reached our destination, the Bestly Chamber. Without warning the unspectacular cave suddenly changed into a jaw-dropping wonderland of stalagmite formations, and a reluctantly undertaken dive became one of my best ever. Pristine white towers stretched as far as our lamps would reach. An hour photographing the chamber passed in minutes, and all too soon we turned for home.

To be able to see and photograph such pristine places is a rare privilege. Mexico is justifiably famous for its underwater caves but most suffer badly from the intrusion of divers. Hopefully the remoteness and obscure location of the Bestly Chamber will protect it from that fate, and those who do make it there will leave it as they find it.

Gavin Newman
Socorro Islands, Pacific Ocean
I was hovering in wild, blue water, darkness stretching away 5km beneath my fins. Next to me was a sheer rock face, swept by huge mid-ocean currents and battered by percussive swells as they smashed into the craggy volcanic pinnacle overhead.

I was on a quest to see the famous mantas of the Socorro Islands, a cluster of remote Pacific islands south of Baja California. Glancing around me, all I saw was the vast wall patrolled by the occasional silky shark, the sharks in turn being eyed warily by the rolling school of jacks that hung 50m off the rock face.

Suddenly I saw a darkening of the water beyond the jacks, the unmistakable silhouette of a big manta. Inclining one elegant wing-tip, it drifted towards me, neatly stalling only feet away to peer at me with genuine curiosity. Gently swaying the tips of my fins, I rose up to meet it – man and manta, eye-to-eye off a mighty oceanic rock face. For the next 40 minutes we pirouetted around one another, the manta enjoying the contact as much as the man. When finally I had to leave, the great ray accompanied me all the way to the surface, my final glimpse a flash of white belly as it turned back into the dark waters beneath it.

Monty Halls
SS Leopoldville, Normandy, France
The late Keith Morris [one of the UK's pioneering technical divers] called me about a place on an expedition to dive the protected wreck of the SS Leopoldville. After learning more about the ship's history and the expedition's aims, I seized the chance.

The tragedy of the Leopoldville was covered up for years, governments embarrassed by the needless deaths of so many of the American troops on board. She was carrying 2,200 GIs to Normandy on Christmas Eve, 1944, but the German submarine U-486 lay in wait only five miles outside Cherbourg. Although the ship took more than two hours to sink, shameful delays and errors in the rescue meant that more than 800 men died within sight of land.

Today, the Leopoldville is still a beautiful ship. The bow sweeps up majestically, the anchor chain still running from a hawse pipe and the wooden deck, and the gun and rows of portholes all make this a memorable dive. The damage from the explosion is a stark reminder of the ship's end.

At the request of survivors and relatives, our team raised an American flag on the wreck, and posted letters through a porthole. The simple ceremonies brought a human context to the gloomy decay of the shipwreck itself.

Guy Middleton
Fakarava Atoll, Tuamotus, French Polynesia
While not as well known as Rangiroa, Fakarava is one of the largest atolls in the Tuamotus Archipelago, French Polynesia – 56km across, with passes at the northern and southern ends.

We drifted with the incoming current and settled upon a coral rise at a depth of 25m in the wide pass at the southern end of Fakarava Atoll. The sun shone brightly through the clear water as far as 30m. Our bubble streams danced and dispersed as they ascended and were drawn into the lagoon. Through this curtain of bubbles they appeared: grey reef sharks, black-tip sharks, and white-tip reef sharks. Not a few, not dozens, but hundreds. The scent of blood from the fish carcasses carried by dive master Sebastien Bertaut preceded us as a calling card, and a-calling the sharks did come!

Three hundred-plus noses focused upon the source of the scent and ventured to investigate further. The sharks flowed as a fast-moving current in concentrated waves, as their hardwired competitive instinct triggered them to strive to outperform their rivals. Every shark for itself.

When dozens of fast-moving and highly agitated sharks are at arm's length distance, there is a frisson and an overwhelming sensation of awe, but no fear – sensory overload for even the most seasoned diver. A dive of a lifetime. We had orchestra seating at the predators' ballet and the performance lasted 30 heart-stopping, time-arresting minutes. As we made ready to leave, Seb offered a fish carcass up to some impatient and voracious grey reef sharks, who competed among themselves and reduced a 10kg snapper to fish flakes in a matter of seconds.

At a time when long-line fishing and shark finning threaten extinction for many species of sharks, it was obvious to all of us on that dive that we were seeing the best of the last. The shark action at South Fakarava on that day will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Douglas David Seifert
Giannis D wreck, Red Sea, Egypt
Like most of us, I don't get to dive as much as I'd like, but as a consolation I do get to think about diving every day. My favourite dives are inevitably the ones I have been anticipating most keenly. So, without a doubt, my top dive of 2005 was the wreck of the Giannis D in the northern Red Sea.

I try to do at least one Red Sea liveaboard trip every year but for three years running, poor weather, mechanical problems and even the European Championship had stopped me diving the Giannis. For those wondering, I should explain that it is hard to get a TV signal at Abu Nuhas. I and Egyptian crews are always reluctant to wander too far from coverage during major football tournaments! However, this year my luck changed. The Strait of Gubal was glassy smooth and we ended up diving the wreck direct from the rear platform of our liveaboard.

The Giannis D, a Greek-owned cargo ship that sank in 1983 after striking the Abu Nuhas reef, is a classic wreck. Although the ship is broken in half, the bow and stern sections are largely intact, and I feel it looks exactly as a non-diver would imagine a wreck to be. Perhaps what I enjoy most is that the Giannis D doesn't attract the crowds of bubble-blowers found on the Thistlegorm, so you still get that buzz of discovery, which for me is such an essential ingredient of wreck diving.

Alexander Mustard
Trawler wreck, Ras Banas, Egypt
It was a morning dive on the wreck of an unidentified trawler in southern Egypt – the wreck didn't have any guns or remarkable features and there weren't any big fish, but there was something very special about it that day.

Not many people know about the trawler, so we had it all to ourselves. Group leader Peter Collings located the wreck, but we had a long wait on the RIB because his buoy was blown off the site. It was a pleasure to finally drop into the water and follow the debris trail down to the wreck.

It lay upright on a slope of pure white sand that dropped away at a 45-degree angle. I swam down to the bow and gazed up at the skeletal structure, finely dusted with undisturbed sand and illuminated by the gentle light of an Egyptian morning. Floating just above the bottom at 50m, I watched my friends from the liveaboard MV Hurricane swimming along this peaceful scene with slow, graceful fin strokes.

The dive made me feel great. I didn't feel any noticeable narcosis on the bottom, but I'm sure it played a part in my perception and enjoyment of the scene, a placid contrast to the bucking sea above. The feeling of assurance and wellbeing stayed with me long after the dive, and I still recall it vividly as I write these words.

Simon Rogerson
Kelp forests, Catalina Island, California
It doesn't particularly matter where you pick your spot to dive around Catalina Island, the underwater marine life is just as good wherever you submerge. Admittedly, some reefs are more predictable for observing soup-fin and leopard sharks and other sites almost guarantee the giant black bass, but for me the bright-orange Garibaldifish take centre stage. They contrast superbly against the greens and blues of the clear Pacific waters and are complemented by the browns of the giant kelp. Very few marine environments support a plant that regularly grows to more than 30m in length.

Even more bizarre is that the giant kelp uses all of its extraordinary length not to spread out horizontally but to grow from the deep cool depths to the warm surface. This unique environment gives rise to a whole host of critters that adapt the kelp throngs for their home. These range from tiny bryozoa, through juvenile mackerel, to the palm-sized kelp bass. All are perfectly camouflaged to avoid detection. Then you have the strangest of them all, the iridescent Garibaldifish. It breaks all the rules. It positively advertises its presence. It's a feisty, fiery tempered fish, which makes it ideal for photography – rather than have to spend hours finding them, they quickly find you.

In a diver's relatively monochromatic world of blues, greens and greys, the bright-orange Garibaldifish has an almost hypnotic effect on any dive.

Charles Hood

Source: www.divemagazine.co.uk
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DIVE contributors report back on best dives of 2005

World shark attacks dipped in 2005

Assertive and even aggressive human behavior could explain why shark attacks worldwide dipped last year, continuing a five-year downward trend in close encounters with the oceanic predators, new University of Florida research suggests...

Greater safety precautions and in-your-face responses to confrontations with sharks went a long way in reducing the total number of attacks from 65 in 2004 to 58 in 2005 and fatalities from seven to four, said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File housed at UF’s Florida Museum of Natural History.

In contrast, there were 78 shark attacks — 11 of them fatal — in 2000, the all-time high record year for attacks since statistics were kept, he said.

There also were simply fewer sharks to attack people, a result of a decline in populations caused by overfishing of the carnivorous creature, which generally is slow to reproduce, Burgess said.

"It appears that humans are doing a better job of avoiding being bitten, and on the rare occasion where they actually meet up with a shark, are doing the right thing to save their lives," he said.

In one such case, a surfer bitten by a great white shark off the Oregon coast on Dec. 24 had the presence of mind to drive it away with a well-timed punch to the nose, he said.

"That gentleman did precisely what he should do under those circumstances," Burgess said. "A person who is under attack should act aggressively toward the shark and not follow the advice given to women who are having their purses snatched in New York City, which is to lie on the ground, play dead and give up the purse."

Despite the worldwide decline, the number of attacks in the United States rose slightly, from 30 in 2004 to 38 in 2005. But that is still considerably lower than the recorded high of 52 in 2000, he said.

The same pattern emerged in Florida, the U.S. shark attack capital, where the number of attacks increased from 12 to 18 but was still well below the 2000 record of 37, he said.

The 2004 numbers were the lowest in more than a decade, however, and were probably due to Florida's unusually active hurricane season, which kept people out of the water, he said.

In addition to last year's 38 U.S. attacks, Burgess tracked 10 in Australia, four in South Africa and one each in the Bahamas, St. Martin, Mexico, Fiji, Vanuatu and South Korea.

Compared with previous years, the number of attacks in Australia was relatively high last year and in 2004, when there were 12, prompting some people to call for the installation of nets to barricade sharks from beaches, Burgess said. But the per capita rate of shark attacks has not risen over the past century, with apparent increases coinciding with a rise in population and Australia's growing attraction to tourists in recent decades, he said.

The number of shark attacks at any particular time depends on a variety of factors, including oceanographic and meteorological conditions, abundance of prey items, and very important, the amount of time people spend in the water, he said.

"We need to remember there have been huge changes in how humans use the water over the last 20 to 30 years," Burgess said. "When our parents and grandparents went into the water, they maybe wiggled their toes, or if they were very daring, jumped in and swam. People of our generation are surfing, diving, sail boarding, scuba diving, skin diving and engaging in all kinds of activities."

Of this year's four fatalities, two were in Australia, one in the Indo-Pacific island of Vanuatu and one in the United States. The U.S. attack occurred June 25 along Florida’s Gulf Coast, when 14-year-old Jamie Daigle was attacked by a bull shark while swimming off Sandestin. It was the state's first death from a shark attack in four years.

Two days later, also in the Florida Panhandle, 16-year-old Craig Hutto lost his right leg to a shark while fishing in waist-deep water off Cape San Blas.

Five of the state's 18 shark attacks last year occurred along Florida's Gulf Coast, which is a greater proportion to the Atlantic coast than previous years, Burgess said. "It's unusual to have only 13 attacks on the state's eastern coast," he said.

Elsewhere in the United States, five attacks occurred in South Carolina, four each in Texas and Hawaii, three in California, two in North Carolina and one each in New Jersey and Oregon.

Surfers were the most frequent victims, accounting for 29 incidents, followed by swimmers and waders, 20, and divers, four.

Source: www.divenews.com
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World shark attacks dipped in 2005

New Zealand: Diver's survival of 3 days in ocean defies all logic

While the country celebrates an extraordinary feat of survival, many experts are saying Robert Hewitt has defied all logic by surviving 75 hours adrift in Cook Strait.

Dive New Zealand magazine editor Dave Moran said Mr Hewitt's survival was the stuff of maritime legend.

"It's just a fantastic story and we're all intrigued as to how he managed it – he should not have lasted that long in the water."

Mr Moran said Mr Hewitt's navy training, seven-millimetre-thick navy wetsuit and supply of crayfish and kina would have helped him stay alive, as would his solid build. "Personal insulation helps. If he was a skinny bloke he wouldn't have had much of a chance against the cold.

"But in saying that, it's hard to imagine anyone lasting much longer than 36 hours floating out at sea," he said. "We all assumed he died on the bottom and if he was on the surface he would have been a long way away."

Mr Moran said Cook Strait was subject to strong currents and was considered one of the most changeable and ferocious passages of water in the world.

Helipro chief executive Rick Lucas said he was gobsmacked by Mr Hewitt's survival. "It's just incredible – I was out there on the Tuesday when the conditions were idyllic and we were looking down at schools of kahawhai and you could see the fish. If he was down there we would have seen him."

Mr Lucas joined the search on Monday. "I figured, given the conditions of the day, that he was . . . going to be somewhere between Kapiti Island and Mana Island and way out to sea."

Wellington police search and rescue spokesman Sergeant Bruce Johnston likened Mr Hewitt's ordeal to accounts of World War II pilots who crashed in the deserts of North Africa and walked for days to safety.

"It all comes down to the will to live," he said.

Mr Johnston said that in the days after Mr Hewitt went missing, calculations of tide and current flows put him in a region 30 nautical miles behind Kapiti Island, spanning down to Makara.

Mr Hewitt is thought to have drifted about 40 kilometres north, off the coast of Waikanae, till currents brought him back to near Mana Island, where he was rescued on Wednesday.

Mr Johnston said the search had covered more than 150 nautical square miles of ocean, from behind Kapiti Island down to Makara. Dive squads had scanned the seabed around Mana Island.

Choppy conditions probably caused aerial searchers to miss Mr Hewitt in the sea, he said. "With his black wetsuit they could have gone over the top of him and not seen him."

Related Articles: Scuba diver found alive against the odds - adrift for 3 days

Source: www.stuff.co.nz
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New Zealand: Diver's survival of 3 days in ocean defies all logic

For divers, sinkholes along Yucatan peninsula are popular spot

I thought I'd share with you a diver's perspective on diving the sinkholes along the Yucatan peninsula. I have not been there yet, but it sounds like paradise.

Taking in the surroundings more than 30 feet below the earth's surface, I was astounded at the stark, silent beauty of the Mayan underworld.

To my left were what appeared to be giant snow boulders; around the corner, an overturned scale model of a Roman city next to a full-sized, engraved stone column. Gleaming icicles dripped from the ceiling, and - whoa! There's a sculpture of the Madonna holding the baby Jesus.

No way this could be Hell, I thought happily, shining my light through the darkness. The icons are all wrong.

In fact, this place is about as close to heaven as you can get if you're a scuba diver - although it's rumored a similar environment might exist on Mars - but more on that later.

Maggie Martorell, Erika Hernandez, Victor Rosado and I were swimming in an underground river called Dos Ojos (two eyes) on the Caribbean coast of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula known as the Riviera Maya. To get there, we had to climb down a ladder through the narrow opening of a cenote, or sinkhole, and have our heavy scuba gear lowered to us on a rope. It sounds like a lot of effort, but the eye-popping sights in what the Mayas call tzonot, or 'sacred well', are worth the trouble.

Just gearing up on the wooden dive platform was a treat. We stood in the middle of a wide, water-filled limestone cave decorated with stalactites and stalagmites - limestone projections that extend from the ceiling and up from the floor. At our feet, the water was so clear that it appeared nearly invisible. We felt its coolness - 72 degrees - through our thick, neoprene wet suits when we got in.

The cenotes of the Riviera Maya, little-known to anyone outside cave-diving circles 10 years ago, attract thousands each year. What keeps them from becoming overrun is their numbers. Of the nearly 500 cenotes registered among the 100-mile coastline between Cancun and Felipe Carrillo Puerto, explorer Sam Meacham said nearly 150 underwater caves and cave systems covering 380 miles have been mapped and surveyed, including the ninth-longest cave on Earth - the 440,000-foot Ox Bel Ha (Three Paths of Water).

What riddles the Yucatan with sinkholes, according to explorer/dive operator Robbie Schmittner, is that in prehistoric times, it was a coral reef. After the last Ice Age 10,000 to 15,000 years ago, water levels dropped, leaving dry limestone caves. Rain, which contains carbonic acid, dissolved the limestone layers - some faster than others. Cave roofs and walls collapsed or eroded, leaving dripstone formations on floors and ceilings in subterranean rivers. The nature-made sculptures are nothing short of spectacular.

Unlike North Florida's network of underwater caves - which are often deeper than 300 feet and subject to the powerful flow of underground springs - the average depth of the Mexican cenotes is about 45 feet and little to no current. Hundreds of feet of caverns can be explored safely without straying out of sight of surface light, or making decompression stops.

Unlike the colorful reefs of nearby Cozumel, the cenotes do not offer much in the way of marine life. At the rims, you'll find a few catfish and cichlids, and back in the darker chambers, there are small, blind fish and crustaceans that have evolved to live off the water chemistry.

Bil Phillips, 51, a Canadian transplant and renowned cenote explorer, says it's possible similar creatures might exist in underwater caves on Mars.

"That's why I should be the one who gets to go to Mars and go diving," Phillips said.

The cenotes also are rich archaeological sites, yielding artifacts ranging from thousands-year-old human and animal bones to pottery shards.

Schmittner and Phillips guide divers into the 38-foot-deep Cenote de los Huesos (bones) in Tankah Park to see remains of ancient mastodons, tapir and deer.

"Kind of an underwater museum," Schmittner said.

Most cenote explorers appreciate the importance of the tunnels to the economy, culture, and environment of the Riviera Maya. But they fear that others - Mexicans and visitors - do not.

Meacham, 40, a native of Texas who has lived in the region for 12 years, worries that burgeoning development along the Caribbean coast could poison the cenotes that - however porous - make up the foundation of life in the region. He cites statistics to back up his contention:

  • Playa del Carmen, center of the Riviera Maya, has seen its population grow 500 percent since 1990. Tourist visits have risen from less than 400,000 annually in 1996 to 2.1 million in 2004.

  • Seventy percent of the drinking water for cities in Mexico comes from groundwater, yet many of the large resorts along the Riviera Maya use deep injection wells to dispose of sewage, threatening to contaminate the aquifer.

  • Future plans call for a new airport at Tulum, at the southern end of the Riviera Maya, sitting atop the region's largest concentration of underground rivers.

    Meacham is organizing a nonprofit educational foundation to get his message to residents, tourists and politicians.

    "We have to be extremely careful in our development plans, or we run the risk of killing the goose that laid the golden egg," he said. "If nobody teaches these [people] what's under there, we don't have a chance of saving it."

    If you go
    Advanced open-water scuba divers might be qualified to dive in Riviera Maya's cenotes in small, guided groups, although cavern certification is preferred. Guided dives cost about $100 per person for a one-tank dive. Some cenotes are suitable for snorkeling. Here is a partial list of dive operators:

    Xibalba Dive Center, Tulum; www.xibalbadivecenter.com.

    Yucatek Divers, Playa del Carmen; www.yucatek-divers.com.

    Go Cenotes, www.gocenotes.com

    Dive Aventuras, Puerto Aventuras, www.diveaventuras.com

    Hidden Worlds, Tulum, www.hiddenworlds.com

    For nondivers, Alltournative Off Track Adventures offers kayaking, rappelling, biking, hiking, zip-lining and tours of Mayan villages. Go to www.alltournative.com.

    For bonefishing and snorkeling in the Sian Ka'an biosphere, go to www.ragatours.info.

    For lodging in the Riviera Maya, go to www.rivieramaya.com.

    Source: www.mercurynews.com
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    For divers, sinkholes along Yucatan peninsula are popular spot