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Savedra Beach And Community Cleanup In Moalboal, Philippines

 

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

What I love about traveling is when I get to be involved in the community where I visit. I had the chance to join a beach cleanup while I was diving in Moalboal. Savedra Dive Center was organizing the cleanup with the local kids and invited me to take pictures and join in on the fun!

Moalboal Diving Town

Moalboal is a small peninsula located on the southwest coast of Cebu Island. This little diving town brings people from all over the world to swim their famous sardine run. The sardines are just 100 meters (328 feet) off the Panagsama house reef. You can see the sardines year round, which makes Moalboal a great place to visit any time of year. I dove with the sardines three times and snorkeled with them once. I went out early morning, just me and my snorkel gear, which was my favorite time swimming with them.

 Savedra Community Cleanup

Savedra Dive Center organized the cleanup to bring awareness and education to the local children and teach them about litter and how it hurts sea life and the environment they live in. Saverdra’s instructors went to Basdiot Elementary School to give a talk about litter and see how many kids would be interested in participating in the cleanup. By the end of the talk, there were more kids that wanted to do the cleanup than there were teachers to supervise! The kids were really excited about the prizes, which included scuba courses and snorkeling equipment to the kids who collected the most trash.

Volunteers were made up of ninety-five students from grade five, along with twelve teachers and fifteen members of Savedra staff. Both the faculty and Savedra staff pitched in to make the day a success. We started at 8:00 am, the teachers organized the students into ten groups, and each student was given a large rice bag to collect trash. Each group was designated to head to one of four beach and community locations. After getting their trash bags, and bags of snacks to take with them, the kids were off to collect trash! And I was off on the back of a motorbike, I had a personal driver for the day!

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

The Final Tally!

The kids really got into it by picking up everything from glass to paper to metal in order to clean up the streets and beach areas. By 2:00 pm the kids were back at the school with their bags filled to the brim. In total, the kids collected 917 Kilograms (2000+ Pounds!) of trash!

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra also does regular reef cleanups with their divers. But, for this small town, the community cleanup is an excellent way to bring locals and expats together. It’s something that benefits everyone in the community. The kids enjoyed it, and I loved being a part of it!

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World




Should You Swim With The Whale Sharks In Oslob?

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World.

Swimming with whale sharks, a divers dream, but there is a lot of controversy about swimming with the whale sharks in Oslob. Many divers refuse to swim with them in Oslob because they feel the conditions are unfair. I originally wasn’t going to go. I didn’t want to condone the behavior. I changed my mind after talking to some local and expat dive shops and hearing their take. I decided to check it out and experience it myself and try to keep an open mind while I was there.

Shark Finning In The Philippines

Before this tiny town became a popular area to swim with the whale sharks, they were being harvested and their fins sold for income. Shark finning is illegal in the Philippines now, but it wasn’t for some time, and the whale shark populations were dwindling. The act of shark finning is when a fisherman catches a shark then slices of its fins and drops the rest of the body, alive, into the water to die. The sharks aren’t used for their full body meat, just the fins. Shark Fin Soup is very popular in Asia and the fins fetch a high dollar ticket when exported out. Many chefs, like Gordon Ramsey, have promoted not putting fins in shark fin soup. The fins don’t have a taste and have just become this commodity that has drove demand over the years.

How Swimming With Whale Wharks In Oslob Started

Local fishermen use shrimp as bait to catch fish, and the whale sharks were drawn to the shrimp and stuck around the boats. A local dive shop owner encouraged the fishermen not to fin them. He said to bring them into the bay by feeding them krill where they could share them with the community and tourists alike. The small town of Oslob went from not being able to send their children to school and living in shacks with no bathrooms to now where children have education, and families live in homes with plumbing and electric. If it weren’t for the sharks, this small town would still be struggling.

A foreign dive shop owner, from the UK, talked to me about not supporting them for years, in an effort to do their part in helping to put an end to it. He realized that divers were just going to other shops when his shop refused to go. His shop now offers dive trips to Oslob again, but his staff gives a thorough briefing along with educating his guests about the whale sharks and Oslob’s history with them.

My Experience Snorkeling With Whale Sharks In Oslob

My first impression upon arriving was that it wasn’t so bad, organization wise. Once there you are ushered to get your ticket (snorkeling is 1000 pesos and diving is 1500 Pesos). You then head off to another area to listen to a briefing on the do’s and don’ts of swimming with the whale sharks. I like that they have a briefing, but not everyone attends nor does everyone listen to what they are saying. The briefer did hit all the major points: stay at least 6m away from the whale sharks, don’t use sunscreen, and no swimming off from the boat to chase after them.

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Once the briefing was over, I waited for my number to be called then headed out to the boats. The boats are regulated, and there weren’t more than 20 boats out at a time when I went. The boats were also all daisy chained up in a line, so there was some organized fashion with the boats, they’re not just a free for all in the Bay. Once chained up to your neighboring boat, you’re allowed to get in the water, staying next to the boat to wait for the whale sharks to pass you.

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Here’s where the mixed emotion comes in. There are a few smaller boats in the water with a single fisherman on each, and he is hand-feeding the whale sharks buckets of krill. There tends to be one whale shark per boat, and they just follow the boat up and down the path of the tourists, eating the krill. In my eyes, this is not really an authentic experience. The whale sharks aren’t concerned about anything other than getting fed by the fishermen. They’re basically pets without leashes following their owner.

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Why Feeding The Whale Sharks In Oslob Is Hurting Them

What I first noticed is none of the boats have propellers which are great, the whales won’t get chewed up by coming in contact with them, but what I witnessed is the whale sharks still had scrapes and cuts on them. The theory is because these sharks are used to being fed, they are going up to any boat once they are outside the bay thinking they’re going to be fed and are getting hit with the boat propellers.

Feeding the whale sharks is also breaking their migratory patterns. A local dive shop said that it’s the smaller whale sharks that stay in the bay and only for a few years then head off, but there’s not much data proving this.

Final Thoughts

I was surprised to see there were more local tourists here than foreign tourists. Since the whale shark tourism isn’t going away anytime soon, I feel it’s a great way for the local tourists to see what’s in their waters and learn how to protect them and why they’re so important. They are also supporting the locals, giving them a better life. For the foreigners, I felt like I was at Disneyland. Many were screaming like they were on a wild ride. You’re not offered fins unless you bring them. I was the only one on my boat with fins, which helped in getting underneath the manic tourists. Most of the people in the boat, once in the water, were kicking and screaming when the whale sharks got close, and some even kicked them. Not really my cup of tea.

I honestly only spent about 10 minutes in the water with them. Absorbing what was going on around me, I took a bunch of pictures, yelled at a few tourists on my boat who were getting too close and generally just freaking out, and then got out. I honestly don’t know if paying the extra money to dive with them would have been any different.

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

As a dive professional, I believe, this is not the way to see these beautiful creatures. When you see one of these beauties in the wild, it’s like you are given a gift. Going to a place like Oslob where you know you’re guaranteed to see them, it takes the thunder away from seeing them in their natural environment. This was my first time seeing them and now more than ever, I want to see them when it’s not a guarantee, but when one randomly shows up on one of my dives. That will be an experience of a lifetime and one to remember and cherish.

 

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World.

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Scuba Diving In Cebu, Philippines

 

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World.

I had two things on my agenda when I went to Cebu Island in the Philippines. Moalboal to dive the Sardine Run and Malapascua to swim with Thresher sharks! I loved the laidback town of Moalboal. I absolutely fell in love with the little diving town and the locals. I really felt a connection there. Malapascua has some incredible diving and is away from the hustle of Cebu Island. It was fun to hang out on bean bag chairs while watching the sunset on the beach. I dove at both places and neither disappointed!

Moalboal

I spent most of my time here. I was only planning eight days and winded up staying 13! I couldn’t get enough of the diving and fell in love with the locals. If my heart wasn’t set on seeing the thresher sharks, I would have stayed here the whole month I was in Cebu. While here, I dove ten times. While all the dive sites are good, there are two that you must do when you’re there.

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

House Reef – Sardine Run (3-65m – 100 m from beach)

My favorite dive out of all of them, even over the thresher sharks! This reef is right off the shore so you can take your snorkel gear and go anytime you’d like. I went early (6:30 am) one more and had them all to myself. It was the most magical time! Of course having a tank on your back lets you stay down a lot longer than a single breath, but there was something mystical about being out there with them by myself in that early morning.

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Pescador Island (55m+ –  15 minutes)

Pescador is another site that divers come for. The island is a short ride out and has a beautiful, healthy reef that’s full of color. If you’re a frogfish fan, you’re going to love this dive site. We spotted easily 4-5 on each dive.
Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Malapascua

Malapasuca is just a 35 minute boat ride from the top of Cebu Island. The island doesn’t have ATM’s or cars and you can walk the island in a couple hours. The island isn’t just for divers, it’s tailored to all tourists with its beaches lined with bars, dive shops and restaurants.  There are two popular dive sites here, Monad Shoal and Gato Island. Don’t miss diving at these two amazing sites!

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines -  Robyn Around The World..

Monad Shoal (26m+ – 20 mins)

Thresher Sharks!!! This is one of the only places in the world where they can be seen almost every morning. They are best seen at sunrise, so prepare to be up at 4:00 am to jump in the boat to get out there. The sharks are at about 24m so make sure you’re nitrox certified so you can get the longest bottom time with them. This is a show you don’t want to miss!

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Gato Island (24m – 40 mins)

Gato Island is another famous dive site on the island. It’s a marine and sea snake sanctuary. I saw a few banded sea snakes on each of my dives. You can also see cuttlefish, scorpion fish, coral banded shrimp, nudibranchs, and plenty of reef sharks. I even saw my first big seahorse! I mean pigmys are cute and all, but I had a great time following a male around while he jumped from coral to coral.

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World.

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World.

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Scuba Diving In Phu Quoc, Vietnam

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Ah diving in Phu Quoc… When I came to work at a dive shop here, the manager warned me that it wasn’t world class diving. Coming from diving in Komodo National Park for six weeks, I was spoiled with large fish and healthy, colorful reefs. I did some research and found out it would be all shallow diving, and the visibility would be next to nothing, 6 meters on a good day.

To me, any day underwater is a good day, so I decided to take a chance and come to Phu Quoc to dive for four months.

First impressions: The diving wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The reef is nice, but there is bleaching happening here as there is all over the world. The water temperature is 29-30C (84-86F). The reef is shallow, most of the dive will be at 5 meters, but the reef fish are beautiful. You will see everything from small schools of fusilier and sergeant majors, nudibranch, giant hermit crabs, and even cuttlefish.

Unfortunately, there is nothing big in the water. No sharks or turtles to be seen. Phu Quoc is not marine protected, so it is way overfished. The locals only care about their next meal and not the environment. I often see locals spearfishing while I’m diving here and am constantly cutting out marine life from fishing lines and nets.

If you’re looking to get out and get wet for a day, it’s a beautiful day out. But if you’re expecting world class diving you’re going to be sorely disappointed.


PHU QUOC DIVING IN THE NORTH


Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Turtle Island

Turtle Island is by far my favorite place to dive. We usually dive on the north side for our first dive then move the boat to the south side for our second dive. Both are very different dives. The north side has nice baummies that you can swim around. The south side looks like a Smurf village where you can find anemone gardens and whip coral.

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Nail Island

Unfortunately, as of November 2016, this dive site is destroyed. Construction commenced to build a private hut on the island and with that builders destroyed the coral in the process. The visibility here has been 1-2 meters at best since with broken coral everywhere.

Nudibranch Garden

This shallow reef goes on for days. Sheltered from the wind, Nudibranch Garden is a great option to dive when Turtle Island has rough surface current.

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

 


PHU QUOC DIVING IN THE SOUTH


MPA (Marine Protected Area)

Despite the name of the dive site, the area is not marine protected. It does have some fun boulders to follow along and the topography is different than Turtle Island, but it’s still shallow diving. You may hit 12 meters while you’re here, but the bulk of your diving will be between 6-8 meters.

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Pineapple

Another popular site in the south, this L-shaped dive site is easy to navigate and is full of hard and soft coral. Again maximum depth you will get to here is about 12 meters.

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

U-Turn

This popular dive site is a sheltered area from the wind where you can have fun navigating through all the hard and soft coral and if you’re lucky to see the occasional cuttlefish.

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World


PHU QUOC DIVING: NORTH VERSUS SOUTH


Many people that come here thinking the South diving is the best diving because I believe Lonely Planet did a blurb on diving in Phu Quoc and made the South out to be great diving in Phu Quoc. It’s not; it’s the same as the North.

Personally, having spent three months diving here almost every day, I much prefer the North to the South and here’s why. The visibility has always been much better in the North than the South. I’m talking 2-4 meters in the South versus 6-8 meters in the North.

Yes, it’s true you can get deeper in the South. You can get to 30 meters of seeing all the sand you want. In reality, you will be at 8-12 meters for most of your dive in the South. Unless you’re doing an advanced deep dive course where you have to get to a place deeper than 18.1 meters, but you won’t see anything that deep except for a sandy bottom.

So is 12 meters better than 6 meters? Not in my opinion. The topography is a little different than the North, but neither is better than the other. It just takes longer to get South, 3 hours versus 1.5 hours to get to the North.

Still determined to dive in the South? The best time of year to dive the South is June through October. Want to dive the North? November through May is the best time to dive.




How To Dive And Interact With Manta Rays

Diving with Manta Rays - Robyn Around the World

Swimming with Manta Rays is a unique and magical experience. Manta’s are extremely intelligent and each has it’s own personality. Some are shy but most are curious. Here are some manta facts and how to have an amazing interaction with these beautiful fish.

Diving with Manta Rays - Robyn Around the World


MANTA RAY FACTS


Manta got its name from the Spanish word for “blanket” or “cloak.”

There are two species – The Oceanic Manta (M.birostris) and Reef Manta (M.alfredi)

The Oceanic Mantas are the largest with a wingspan of up to 7 meters where the smaller Reef Mantas are half the size.

They have the biggest brain to body ratio of all the fish in the sea.

They feed on plankton and eat roughly about 12% of their body weight which is about 27KG (60LBS) per week!

Mantas give birth to one pup at a time and have a gestation period of 12-13 months.

They love cleaning stations and will surround these stations to get cleaned for up to 8 hours a day. The fish clean their wounds

Mantas are identified by the markings on their belly which act like a fingerprint. Fun fact if you take a picture of the belly during your dive, you can send it into Manta Matcher, and if the Manta hasn’t been identified, you get to name the Manta!

Diving with Manta Rays - Robyn Around the World


MANTA RAY ETIQUETTE


Do not swim into the path of a manta ray – If they are approaching you, slow down to a stop and they will swim around you.

Deflate all the air out of your BCD and kneel on the sand, or use your reef hook to secure yourself to a rock if you’re in a current.

Do not chase Mantas – This will put them off and scare them away.

Respect their environment – We are just visitors in their home, treat it as such.

Don’t touch the Manta – Their skin has a mucous protection and touching them removes this film and exposes their skin to harmful infections. It is also illegal in marine protected environments, and you will be hit with a fine if reported.

Be patient – They will come to you and will swim over your head watching you with their eyes.

Learn more about Manta Rays and how you can help protect them by visiting Marine Megafauna and Manta Trust.




Diving In Komodo National Park

Diving Komodo National Park

I just spent six weeks doing my Divemaster in Komodo National Park. Komodo has by far been the best diving I’ve done to date. The coral is healthy, and the fish are spectacular. So what makes the diving so spectacular? Komodo National Park is in the Lintah Strait. So what does that mean? The straight is smack-dab right in-between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Both these currents are rushing into the straight and the water from these two mix and creates a nutrient rich environment for the marine life in the park. You can see everything from Macro to Mantas!

So let’s talk about the currents then. When people hear about Komodo the first thing they ask is “so how crazy are the currents?” No joke the currents can be psychotic as you will see in the video below. Because you have two different ocean currents flooding the area, you need to throw everything you learned in Tides 101 out the window.

In Komodo, things can change in a minute and without warning. This video was taken at Batu Bolong. The current changed while we were under which created strong back-eddies. The boat had to pull us up and get us out before the ship gets pulled into the current creating a spin. This video isn’t meant to scare you as the boatmen were highly trained in how to get everyone out safely, and we all got out safe. But it is there to show you how mental these conditions can be and how important it is to stick with your dive guide and listen to their directions, so you have a fun and safe dive.

Don’t be scared to come here as the Divemasters are mostly locals who have grown up in these waters and can see what a current is doing from the surface and the non-local staff is trained for months before they take customers out. There are many dive sites that are calmer than others, and the dive shops will assess which dive sites to go to based on the experience of the divers.

While I was there, I dove 19 of the dive sites, multiple times. Most of the diving is done in the central area of the park and depending on the season there are also great dive locations in the North and South. Because I was there during the changing season, I got to experience both ends of the park. Here is a list of my favorite along with some of the most popular, must not miss dive sites when you’re there!


KOMODO NATIONAL PARK – CENTRAL


Batu Bolong (Depth 5-30 meters)

Hands down, my favorite dive site! It’s a party down there! Batu Bolong is one of the dive sites where you need to watch the current. You can only dive right after a change and well before the next change in tide. The current splits behind the rock and creates down currents on the sides and a nice sheltered lee in the middle. You dive the lee side and zig-zag up the wall. There is so much going on down there! Literally hundreds of THOUSANDS of fish. There are so many fish that you will be swimming through them. On the wall is beautiful coral and out in the blue you can see reef sharks, trevally, and barracuda. This site is not to be missed!

Diving Komodo National Park

Manta Point (Depth 5-15 meters)

This drift dive is one of two dive sites where mantas come to play. You can see them breeding, cleaning, and eating at this dive site. The dive site isn’t’ very pretty as it’s made of coral rubble from the years of currents flowing in and out of the straight, but it’s a great place to see the Mantas. The current can get quite strong, so when you see a manta, your dive guide may use a reef hook for you to hold on to, so you’re not fighting against the current.

Diving Komodo National Park

Mawan (Depth 12-18 meters)

My favorite place to see mantas. The dive site is sloping sandy reef which allows for a magical interaction that you might not see at Manta Point. One of my best interactions was here. You can view it in the video below.

 

Siaba Besar (Depth 10-20 meters)

Are you a macro nut? This is the dive site for you! This famous muck dive is full of cool small things. Frogfish, hairy frogfish, devil scorpionfish, wonderpus, white v octopus, robust pipefish, ornate pipefish, nudibranch, flamboyant cuttlefish, dwarf lionfish.

Diving Komodo National Park

Siaba Kecil (Depth 15-30 meters)

Dubbed the Superman drift for a reason. Not for the faint of heart! This bad boy has been clocked at speeds as fast as 1 KM in 7 minutes! Your dive guide will assess the current before jumping in; the average speed is 12-15 minutes before ending in a lee section to catch your breath and hang out in a coral garden.

Diving Komodo National Park

Tatawa Besar (Depth 5-25 meters)

A nice drift dive that has two parts, soft coral area, and a hard coral area. This is a great place to see turtles as they feed on the hard coral.

Diving Komodo National Park

Wanilu (Depth 8-15 meters)

Another muck dive where you can find fun macro life, flounders, stingrays, and the rare and beautiful mandarin fish!

Diving Komodo National Park


KOMODO NATIONAL PARK – NORTH


The Cauldron – Shot Gun (Depth 5-30 meters)

This site is famous for its area called The Shotgun. The site is a bowl underwater that has been carved out after years of currents rushing through the small passage. The shotgun is a lip on the rim of the cauldron where the current runs through, you pop up over this lip and hook into a rock then let the water rush over you while you enjoy the show. Mantas, sharks, and you might even see a dugong!

Diving Komodo National Park
Castle Rock (Depth 5-30 meters)

The Beautiful submerged pinnacle that starts underwater at 4 meters deep. The water temperature is usually warmer than the central parts and visibility is usually great!

Diving Komodo National Park

Crystal Rock (Depth 5-30 meters)

Just like Castle Rock this rock is a pinnacle that just peeks out of the water during low tide. It is blanketed with beautiful soft and hard corals.

Diving Komodo National Park


KOMODO NATIONAL PARK – SOUTH


Pillarstein (Depth 5-30 meters)

Get ready for some fun swim troughs! This dive is all about the topography. It has many caves you can swim through at different depths. You do need to watch how hard the waves are crashing on the surface as there can be a good amount of surge underwater.

Divemaster Komodo National Park

3 Sisters (Depth 5-30 meters)

Named because of the three submerged pinnacles underwater that you can dive. You can do all three in one dive if the conditions are right as they are close to each other. With that said, this is one of the dive sites that needs to be done in perfect conditions.

Diving Komodo National Park

Pengah Kecil (Depth 5-25 meters)

This site is right up there with Batu Bolong. It has beautiful coral gardens flanked with marine life. You will witness schools of fish, turtles, eels, and sharks at this site.

Diving Komodo National Park




Completing My Divemaster In Komodo National Park


Divemaster Komodo National Park

When picking out places to do my Divemaster, one location came to mind. Komodo! Komodo is known for its crazy currents, yet beautiful dive sites. Completing my Divemaster here would not only ensure I would come out of the program a better diver, but I would also get to see some beautiful marine life while I was at it.

When picking out a dive shop, it’s important to check them out and their reputation before you commit to any course, be it Open Water or Instructor. I originally started my Divemaster with another shop on the Cook Islands and had to leave two months in because I wasn’t getting the best education. Hannah Logan from Eat Sleep Breathe Travel writes a great post on what to look for and how to pick a great dive shop. I completed my Divemaster with Scuba Junkie Komodo. Since I had done my Advanced Open Water Course with their shop in Borneo, Malaysia last year, I knew I’d be getting an excellent education at their new location in Komodo and that I did!

Divemaster Komodo National Park

Scuba Junkie offers two curriculums, a 4-week, and a 6-week program. I highly recommend the six weeks as I was just finding my pace going into week 4 and that extra two weeks really solidified everything together. The additional two weeks you will get more practice with guiding dives and shadow other Divemaster and Instructors on their dives. While I was there, I did 83 dives!

Here’s the breakdown of the dives I did: 23 Divemaster Course Requirements, 10 Practice Guides, and 50 Shadow Guiding. I dove almost every day and became a better diver having been allowed to practice so much in these conditions.

The course itself is broken down into different sections: Theory, Briefings, Course Assists, Assessments, Swim Tests, Scenarios, and Projects.

KNOWLEDGE REVIEWS

As part of the crew pack, you will get a small Divemaster manual that has nine chapters covering everything from Physics to Logistics. At the end of each chapter is a review knowledge section that you fill out. Once all the chapters are done you will go over the knowledge reviews with an instructor to talk about the answers and go over anything you may have gotten wrong.

WRITTEN EXAM

There is a two-part exam that is fifty questions each, all multiple choice. Don’t worry, as long as you’ve done the knowledge reviews and know chapter 9, you’ll do great! There is also an Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving that will help supplement Chapter 9 and is just an all-around great book about diving in general.

PHYSIOLOGY & PHYSICS LECTURE

The physiology & physics lectures are not part of PADI’s core program, but something Scuba Junkie added in that I felt was important. These lectures are the fundamental principles of scuba diving. I guess they were part of the PADI program but were taken out years ago because you learn them in your Open Water Course. I’m glad I got to sit through them again, because honestly, I didn’t remember much of my OWD course, other that getting through it and being excited that I was able to dive!

BRIEFINGS

The three briefings you will do during your course are Skills Briefings, Dive Site Briefings, and Equipment Briefings. You will be practicing so many briefings it will make your head spin. With that said, I welcomed the briefings, because they are now ingrained in my head. Case in point, I did my first guide as a Divemaster at Koh Haa in Thailand, and since there were different shops on the boat, we each gave briefings to our customers individually. Because I gave so many dive briefings at Scuba Junkie (probably easily 30-40 of them), I felt confident when I was giving my first briefing to my customers. It might get monotonous doing site briefings every day, but don’t knock them if you’re going to work in the industry, this is the time to practice doing them, smooth out the kinks and get critiquing from your peers.

COURSE ASSISTS

During the course, you will get to help out instructors in supporting their Open Water Diver (OWD), Advanced Open Water Diver (AOWD), and Discover Scuba Diver (DSD) course. This means you are there to observe and help by setting up the SMB underwater, to carrying extra weights, and help with demonstrations.

ASSESMENTS

During the course you will graded on a scale of 1-5 on how well you perform each of the 24 Underwater Skills that are to be performed underwater. These skills will be practiced multiple times to get you up to demonstration quality.

You will be assessed in your Rescue Skills and go through Exercise 7. We did the assessment over two days to make sure we got it down. This is also the exercise you will do if you go for your instructor certificate, so it’s good to make sure you know this one cold.

Also not part of the PADI course, but was additional course Scuba Junkie made mandatory is a Peak Performance Buoyancy class. I’m not going to lie, before I took this class, I was decent in my buoyancy, but was still hesitant to get too close to the reef or small critters with fear of not having good enough buoyancy to stop me from crashing into them. During the course, we learned how to back-fin, helicopter turn, and control our buoyancy with our lungs while being given extra weight. After taking this class, I felt confidant getting in close to see macro life without hesitation or fear that I couldn’t control my buoyancy. This class was seriously a game changer and a pivot point in my diving.

SCENARIOS

You will be doing four scenarios while in the program; the first is a Deep Dive Scenario where you will go down to 40 meters (131 feet) while carrying an extra tank that you will switch and breathe out of right before your safety stop.

The second is a Search and Recovery Scenario where you will go through navigation skills, as you did in your AOWD course, then search for objects in the water.

The third is a Discover Scuba Dive (DSD) Scenario where you will perform all the steps of training a brand new student with one of your peers. You will start by briefing them on the three skills they will perform, talk about how to swim underwater, and the dive site, then you will take them underwater and take them through the skills and tour of the dive site. Here is where your instructor will give you problems underwater like they are your real student that you will have to solve.

The last is a Refresher Scenario where you will again pretend one of your peers is a certified OWD that hasn’t dived in a while and wants to refresh their skills. Depending on the shop this can be anywhere from 5 to all 24 skills if you’re doing the reactivate program. Basically, you will take them through a recovery, buoyancy, out of air, and mask clearing skills. You will brief them on how to do the skills ahead of time then take them underwater and show them how to perform them.

PROJECTS

There are two projects you will do as part of your Divemaster program. The first is a Mapping Project, where you will map a dive site from drawing out the contours and depths, to establishing routes with compass headings and kick cycles. This project was really fun. The other project is to create an Emergency Action Plan or EAP, which you also should have done in your Rescue course. This plan lists actions and steps that should be taken incase of an emergency from who to call, to phone scripts to what to do if an accident occurs.

SWIM TESTS

There are five swim tests you must pass with a score of 15 points. You will get a score of 1-5 points for each of the 5. If you are a strong swimmer, then you don’t need to worry. The first four tests are a 400-Meter Free Swim without the use of hands, 800-Meter Snorkel Swim without using your arms, 100-meter Tired Diver Tow, and 10-Minute Float with the last two minutes where your hands need to be above water.

STRESS TEST

Your final swim test is dubbed The Stress Test. Mind you not every shop does a stress test. The test itself is actually an Equipment Exchange where you exchange BCD, Mask, and Fins by buddy breathing (sharing one regulator). That in itself is pretty straightforward and easy, but then try it while you’re getting sand dumped on you, air blown in your face, BCDs being inflated, weight belts and tank straps being loosened all the while masks are being pulled off your head. That’s what makes it a stress test. You do this during your last days before you complete the program so that you’re ready for it. I had a lot of fun doing it and actually did it twice with two different DMT’s that were going through the program. And you know what I found? That after six weeks of diving in crazy currents and given so many different scenarios during my course, I don’t stress even when sand is being dumped on my head ☺

So there you have it! Are you ready to become a Divemaster? ☺ I promise, it will be the best time of your life!

Divemaster Komodo National Park




Maldives: Two Weeks In Paradise

Two Weeks In The Maldives - Robyn Around The World

I met my mom for two weeks in the Maldives. We wanted to visit 2 of the islands, and decided one in the north and one in the central part. The Maldives has 1200 islands stretching over 850 Km. With 200 inhabited it would take you almost three years to see them all if you just spent one day at each.

Maldives


HANIMAADHOO ISLAND


This was our first stop! We reached this newly opened Island (to tourists) after a 45-minute flight from Male. Up until November, this was only populated by locals. It now has one resort on the island that allows up to 100 visitors to visit per day. From a backpacker viewpoint, I loved this island. I liked how there was a resort on the island, but then the other half was inhabited by locals. If you wanted to get a feel for the locals and see the village you could take bikes and ride around in town. There’re a few shops and a couple of local restaurants serving up delicious Maldivian dishes for cheap ($1.50 a plate!). The resort was beautiful and even though it was buffet style for the meals, we had flavors of Maldivian dishes. Local women would come twice a week to teach the guests how to cook traditional dishes. Everything they cooked was so flavorful and not like anything I’ve tasted so far in my travels. One of the ladies invited me back to her home for a cooking class, which was actually just lunch, but she and her mom made me a huge spread and even gave me a bunch to take back to the resort. The Maldives is a strict Muslim country, and since this island has locals living in the village, there’s no alcohol allowed even at the resort. It wasn’t a big deal, but we found out our resort owned a decommissioned “floating bar” sailboat in the middle of the ocean where we could take a free speed boat out to watch the sunset and get a mojito. So we went to check it out, and it was incredible! The boat is beautiful and the sunset gorgeous. After a week here, we didn’t want to leave, the beach and water were so inviting!

Hanimaadho Island - Maldives

Hanimaadho Island - Maldives

Hanimaadho Island - Maldives

Hanimaadho Island - Maldives


KANDOOMA ISLAND


After our week up north and a flight back to Male, we jumped on another 45-minute ride down south but this time in the form of a private speedboat for just the two of us. The Holiday Inn Resort owns Kandooma Island, which is where we stayed for our second week. We got our room free for the week on points and were upgraded to a beachside villa. Score! A very different feel from the first resort, this was very westernized with only a couple Maldivian dishes and a rooftop bar. Our room had a private beach and balcony with a view of the ocean where we could snorkel, and we had a BBQ dinner out on the beach in front of our place one night where the chef came and cooked up our five-course meal right there for us. So many activities to do from water sports to scuba diving. I did one day of diving, and we both did a snorkel trip. The underwater world is just in such a sad state here as you’ll see in the next section.

Kandooma Island - Maldives

Kandooma Island - Maldives

Kandooma Island - Maldives

State of the Ocean

Being a diver, I was so excited to do a few days of diving, in the Maldives! When you look online, you see all these colorful pictures of the reef and fish, but this isn’t the full story. Once I saw how depressed the waters were, I only winded up doing two dives on Kandooma. The water temperatures are up to almost 90F. All the coral is bleached, and sea life is struggling to survive. Up north in Hanimaadhoo there were hundreds of blue triggerfish washed up on shore and floating lifeless in the water. We are seeing water warming all over the world, but witnessing this up-close hits home and is just heartbreaking. I feel for the sea-life and feel helpless on what I can do to help them as this is a world problem that needs to be addressed and another post for later…

Hanimaadho Island - Maldives

Kandooma Island - Maldives

Litter in Maldives

Trash is another issue. You don’t see it on the resort grounds, but outside the resort, in the villages and even at the airport, the streets and beaches are littered with trash. The villages don’t have the means to ship their garbage off the island so they just throw it on the ground and burn what they can. The resorts send their waste to one island that is dedicated to burning trash 24 hours a day. Plastic bottles, paper, tin, you name it they’ll burn it. So the pictures you see online are only half the story, and this part doesn’t get publicized as much.

Hanimaadho Island - Maldives

I have mixed emotions about the Maldives. Here you are in the middle of paradise and from afar it all looks gorgeous and pristine. But then you go to islands inhabited by villagers, and you see the way the locals live with all the trash. And don’t get me started on the state of the underwater world again. Out of the 26 atolls, there are two that aren’t nearly as affected as the rest with water warming, so I’m thinking after my divemaster, I’ll go back and do a week long liveaboard that goes to those atolls to document the difference.

Kandooma Island - Maldives


Expenses! What Does One Year Of Travel Cost?

expenses year one - Robyn Around the World

One question that always gets asked is how much does it cost to travel the world? In this post, I’m going to break down my first year of travel expenses. I’m not going to get down to the nitty-gritty, just the basics so you can get an idea of what things cost. I separated out my flights and scuba costs then broke the rest down into three categories. Meals, Accommodations, and Miscellaneous.

Miscellaneous is shopping, entertainment, postcards, gifts, SIM cards, etc. I didn’t break out SIM cards or transport but in general, I didn’t spend more than $20 a month on either, except for the Cook Islands, that place was just ridiculously expensive as you’ll see below.


INDONESIA


Indonesia was my first stop and by far my cheapest country to stay and play. My accommodation average is a little high because there were two nights where I spent $100 on housing. Even with the splurge, I was still right at $30 a day. Meals at the local warungs range from $0.75 – $1.10 for a dish with rice. Most of the temples are free to go in, and the ones that do charge are under $2.00.

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


THAILAND


I spent the most time here and had two months of free accommodation while doing the work exchange in Chiang Mai. I visited Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Koh Tao, Koh Samui, and Phuket. I spent a good chunk of the miscellaneous money on motorbike rentals (~$400 for six months) visiting and donating to elephant and Gibbon refuges. (~$350) Along with buying gifts and shipping them back to family (~$300) and the medical bill from my surgery is in there too (~$550). The rest is from buying clothes, toiletries, SIM cards, museums, and almost weekly massages ☺

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


LAOS


I was only here for ten days. Me and two friends took the slow boat from Thailand to Luang Prabang and visited the famous Kung Si waterfalls and walked the markets nightly. I bought quite a few gifts for family here and sent them back to the states. Food is cheap here too. My morning breakfast consisted of a lemon-ginger smoothie with a Nutella banana crepe for $1.50. There’s a significant French influence with a whole row of crepe, juice, and sandwich stands right on the main road. In the evening, there are many stalls that sell buffet style food where you can pile all you can on your plate for $1.

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


MALAYSIA


I spent most of my time in Penang. I love the art and food culture here so much that I went twice! Even with all my eating (3-4x a day!) I still didn’t spend that much on food. I averaged $13/day to eat like a king! Most plates cost $1-2. My most expensive meal was when I went to dim sum (6 times!). I would get 4-5 dishes for $4-5. Still a bargain!

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


AUSTRALIA


Surprisingly, I didn’t spend as much as I would have thought here. I stayed in a hostel right in the center of town and didn’t skimp on meals or seeing the sights. I saw a show at the Opera House, hired a car and spent the day touring Hunter Valley wine country (purchasing a couple of bottles while I was there) and visited a wildlife park.

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


NEW ZEALAND


New Zealand on the other hand, I spent more than I thought I would. All of the miscellaneous was devoted to Hobbit gifts and sending them home (postage is expensive here!). I also visited the Hobbit movie set and went black water rafting which was pricey, but worth every penny!

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


COOK ISLANDS


This island is EXPENSIVE! Although I got a good rate on my accommodation through the dive shop, most cheap accommodations here average $20-25 a night for a hostel and $30-40 for a private room. I cooked at home nearly every day. The cost you see below is from buying groceries. Vegetable prices were through the roof! It was cheaper to buy 2 pounds of chicken than it was to buy one small pineapple. Internet was ridiculous too. The island is all satellite, so 1GB of data cost $50. I spent $300 for two months of Internet! The cost of living in paradise…

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


SCUBA DIVING


So after breaking it down, I was surprised that I didn’t more on my new scuba hobby about to turn profession. I spent just under $2500 to do 83 dives in 5 countries and also completed four recreational certifications (Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water Diver, Emergency First Responder, Rescue Diver). Most people will spend that on one week of diving in an exotic location and only get 12-18 dives in.

Scuba Diving Cost - Robyn Around the World


FLIGHTS


I love Air Asia! My two biggest tickets were the flight from Seattle to Bali ($500) and my flight from Chiang Mai to Cook Islands ($800). The rest of the flights were between $30-$125 each. Air Asia is my go-to airline for flying around Southeast Asia.

Flight Cost - Robyn Around the World

Overall I spent a total of $18,450 which was $6,000 more than budget. Not bad considering I didn’t plan to pick up scuba diving along the way and stayed in mostly private rooms. Could I have done it cheaper? Absolutely, but I’m traveling to experience life in other countries, and when there were things I wanted to do that would give me an amazing experience (like black water rafting through caves), I did it. I could have also stayed in more hostels, but when I found places like the overwater bungalow for a month at a deep discount, I viewed it as a chance of a lifetime, and I wasn’t going to say no!


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