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Scuba Diving

Monday, March 03, 2014

A Four Seasons Cruise in the Maldives

In my last blog, I mentioned how the new Emirates non-stop from Boston to Dubai will save New Englanders six hours of travel time if they wanted to continue onward to the nearby Maldives. I don’t think many people realize that Four Seasons Resorts operates a 129-foot three-deck catamaran in the Maldives called the Four Seasons Explorer. 22 lucky guests can opt for the three-night cruise northern cruise or four night southern cruise. Since the Maldives is known as one of the top dive sites in the world, it’s no surprise that the Four Seasons Explorer has a PADI Five-Star Dive Centre on-board. You can also simply relax with spa treatments, sea kayaking jaunts, beach picnics, and remote island excursions. Best yet, the cruise connects two of the Four Seasons Resorts in the Maldives, Kuda Huraa and Landaa Giraavaru. Combine all three and you get 7 to 10 days of luxury pampering on a memorable beach vacation. For avid scuba divers and honeymooners, this is hard to top! 



Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/03/14 at 11:00 AM
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Friday, February 07, 2014

My Top 5 Places to Scuba Dive, Heron Island, Australia

Looking forward to seeing an ockie (octopus) in the bommie (coral head)? Then Heron Island, on the Great Barrier’s southern reef, is the place for you, mate. You might also dive with giant sea turtles that come ashore to lay their eggs between late October and March, or with humpback whales that skirt the island from June through October. Heron Island Resort, the island’s lone accommodation, has room for 250 nature lovers. The Point Suites offer unobstructed views of the harbor and bay. Part resort, part wildlife sanctuary, the island is large enough for couples to follow their own trail to a nesting spot among the white herons.  


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/07/14 at 11:00 AM
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Thursday, February 06, 2014

My Top 5 Places to Scuba Dive, Rangiroa, French Polynesia

When the words “requin, requin” (French for shark) are shouted in Rangiroa, swimmers here do not run to shore fearing for their lives. On the contrary, most of the snorkelers and divers who come to this oval-shaped coral atoll in the Tuamotus stay in the water to relish a face-to-face encounter with one of these mesmerizing creatures. Grey reef, white- and black-tipped, lemon sharks, and hammerheads peer at divers in the renowned Tiputa Pass, a 60-foot deep channel that connects the island’s lagoon with the open sea. It was here that I dove down 40 feet only to be surrounded by at least 20 hammerheads in a matter of minutes. I guess they didn’t find me tasty. The perfect place to recover after your snorkeling adventure with Jaws is the Kia Ora Village, Rangiroa’s premier hotel. If you’re looking for that Robinson Crusoe experience, retreat to Kia Ora Sauvage, a small island about an hour away by boat from the main hotel. The island has just five basic bungalows and two cooks who prepare all the meals.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/06/14 at 11:00 AM
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Wednesday, February 05, 2014

My Top 5 Places to Scuba Dive, Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos

The Turks & Caicos are an archipelago of eight islands and forty relatively flat limestone and coral cays, some of which are little more than dusty specks in the aquamarine waters. The relative anonymity of these islands stem from their location. They are south of the Bahamas, yet not part of the Bahamas; north of the Caribbean, yet not technically part of the Caribbean. Indeed, the Turks & Caicos are a British Crown Colony whose 15,000 inhabitants or Belongers, as locals like to call themselves, slip through the pages of most guidebooks. This is especially true of Grand Turk, a sleepy 6-mile long island where you stroll past the Victorian homes on Front Street in a matter of minutes. Nestled amongst the homes are a handful of inconspicuous hotels, restaurants, dive shops, and government offices that seem to add to the British charm. 

Underwater, Grand Turk is home to the Wall, where without warning the reef plummets to a mind-boggling 7,000 feet to mark the edge of the Turks Island Passage. On the rim of this great blue abyss, it’s not uncommon to see humpback whales migrating in winter, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles swimming gracefully, and herds of spotted eagle rays, with wingspans upward of eight feet, their thick black tails churning behind. Researching a scuba diving story for Islands magazine, I was 45 feet below the surface with excellent light and visibility, when suddenly it turned to darkness. I looked up and spotted six massive eagle rays swimming above me, one of the highlights of my scuba diving life. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/05/14 at 11:00 AM
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Tuesday, February 04, 2014

My Top 5 Places to Scuba Dive, Rarotonga, The Cook Islands

You can get your scuba diving certification at the neighborhood indoor pool over the course of 3 months or you can do it in the South Pacific over the course of three days. Cook Island Divers is where I learned to scuba dive and it resulted in one of my first travel stories back in 1991. Perhaps I’m feeling nostalgic, but it’s hard not to praise Greg Wilson, one of the finest instructors in the business. It also don’t hurt that the surrounding ocean offers visibility over 100 feet and water temperatures in the 75 to 85 degree range. If you’re thinking about obtaining your scuba diving certification, this would be my top choice. Then continue onward to the pristine waters of Aitutaki, Taveuni’s Rainbow Reef, and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Stay at the Sunset Resort, where you can recline on the beach.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/04/14 at 11:00 AM
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Monday, February 03, 2014

My Top 5 Places to Scuba Dive, Taveuni, Fiji

To get my mind off the cold in Boston and another snowstorm headed our way on Wednesday, I’m going to discuss my favorite places to scuba dive this week. I first dove off Taveuni, Fiji, on the way to the Great Barrier Reef after recently being certified in the Cook Islands. It would end up being far more memorable than any of my dives on the Great Barrier Reef. It’s not just the multi-colored coral they dub the Rainbow Reef or the myriad of neon-colored fish that provide divers with a kaleidoscopic view of the sea. No, it’s the big boys like white-tip sharks, sea turtles, and manta rays that make you feel like Jacques Cousteau. No wonder Jacques’ son, Jean-Michel, has his own resort in nearby Savusavu. He’s no fool. 

Northwest of Taveuni, Matangi is one of the many small offshore islands with a limited amount of bures (thatched huts), perfect for romance, not so great for writers traveling solo. I was hired by Bride’s Magazine to write a story on the resort and ended up on Matagi with four other couples, all celebrating their honeymoon! At dinner, I remember trying to act comfortable while everyone around me was kissing, wrapped arm-in-arm, feeding each other. I begged them to please get me off the island within 24 hours or I’d be dangling from a noose from that Treehouse Suite. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/03/14 at 11:00 AM
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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Adventures in the Florida Keys, Snorkeling Grecian Rocks in Key Largo

Escaping the snow of the northeast, I’m hiding out in the Florida Keys this week. My first stop is always Captain Slate’s Atlantis Dive Center just over the bridge in Key Largo. In operation since 1978, Slate is the premier snorkel and dive operator in the region. In 2004, he received the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame Award for his early work on diver and boater safety. Slate took a group of eight of us 7 miles out to sea to Grecian Rocks, a coral reef located in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Surrounded by aquamarine waters, the vibrant reef is easily one of the premiere snorkeling spots in America. Before we snorkeled, Slate took advantage of his glass bottom boat to show us the Christ of the Abyss statue, a 9-foot tall bronze statue attached to a concrete base and placed in 25 feet of water back in 1965. Then we were off the boat watching a stingray swim gracefully above the sand. Purple fan coral way swaying with the current attracting barracudas, while I spotted a very cool midnight parrotfish with her neon blue lips poking at the brain coral. Visibility was outstanding and all was bliss for the next hour. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/17/13 at 11:00 AM
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Monday, February 25, 2013

Snorkeling Aruba’s Boca Catalina

Just returned from a weeklong vacation with 12 members of my family in Aruba. Blue skies every day, temperatures in the upper 80s, and that consistent tradewinds cooling things down on the fine white sandy beach. While there, we had the option to go on a snorkeling cruise for $60 per person. Then we realized we could rent a 12-seat van for $125 a day and snorkeling equipment for $15 per person, reducing the price in half and giving us the freedom to see the other sites around the island. Most of those snorkeling cruises head to Boca Catalina Beach, easily accessible by car on the northwestern tip of Aruba. Take the turn-off to the California Lighthouse and you’ll see a small parking lot on your left. Grab your snorkeling gear and plunge into the Caribbean Sea. Swim around the rocks and you’ll soon be surrounded by the neon-colored fish and a healthy dose of brain coral. Remember that the sun is hot in Aruba, so I always snorkel with a light T-shirt on, and bring a second shirt to stay dry on land. I learned my lesson snorkeling for an hour at Fiji’s Natadola Beach, only to return to shore looking as red as a lobster. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/25/13 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, December 06, 2012

My Rap on Yap

Writing about Palau yesterday reminded me of a story I once wrote for Continental’s inflight magazine on “8 Great Places You’ve Never Heard Of.” The main body of the story was on Yap. Smack dab in the middle of Micronesia, between Palau and Guam, Yap is known only to World War II history buffs and scuba enthusiasts. Large numbers of manta rays live in the crystalline 83-degree water offshore. Anchor at the edge of the M’il Channel and these graceful creatures will soon be hovering above your head, stretching up to 12 feet from wing to wing.

What those oxygen-tank junkies fail to notice is that terra firma is just as intriguing as the sea. The 12,000 or so Yapese still use stone money; massive disks with circles through the middle are littered about the island, leaning up against thatched huts. The islanders are also fond of chewing betel nut. Toddlers to grandmothers spit out the red juice, making the roads look like scenes from a gory thriller. For visitors, sliced papaya and coconut is a tastier alternative. 
Stone paths weave through jungles of hibiscus, wild taro, and bamboo. If you’re fortunate, you’ll be able to catch a traditional Yapese dance, where locals use bamboo sticks as a form of storytelling. Masks and other hand-carved objects created from hibiscus, coral limestone, and, yes, the spines of manta rays are on display at the Ethnic Art Institute of Micronesia. Ultimately, it is nature that beckons. Whether scuba diving or guiding a kayak through the lush mangrove forest to view fairy terns, this exotic locale nestled deep in the Pacific will leave you enchanted. Just keep it a secret.  

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/06/12 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Saving the Sharks of Palau

Palau is one of those locales, like Fiji and the Red Sea, discussed only in clandestine conversations between avid scuba divers. To reach it, you have to travel five hours from the West Coast to Hawaii, another seven hours to Guam and yet another 90 minutes to this cluster of 200 sparsely populated islands, which Jacques Cousteau called the best scuba diving site in the world. From your home base on the capital isle of Koror, head to the Big Drop-Off, considered the best wall dive on Earth. It starts in knee-deep water and then abruptly plummets almost 1,500 feet into an abyss. Nearly as mind-boggling is Blue Corner, a large coral cavity where three ocean currents meet. Hunker down and watch schools of tuna, white-tip sharks and 3-foot-tall giant clams (where’s the melted butter when you need it?). Those white-tip sharks are protected, along with hammerheads, leopard sharks, and more than 130 other species fighting extinction in the Pacific Ocean now that Palau has created the world’s first shark sanctuary. The country has banned shark fishing on more than 237,000 square miles of ocean, so divers can expect more up close views of those pearly whites. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/05/12 at 01:00 PM
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about us
photo of Steve Jermanok
Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk. is an Austin-Lehman Adventure's Top 125 Best Travel Blog Semi-Finalist

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