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Gus_Smedstad

Member Since 10 Oct 2007
Offline Last Active Apr 04 2010 10:42 AM
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Topics I've Started

Komodo or Sulawesi liveaboards?

17 March 2010 - 12:21 AM

I've been looking at possible dive trips to Bali, Komodo, or Sulawesi. I'm particularly focused on macro photography, though I have a 10-22mm lens and dome as well. I want a trip where I'm doing 4 dives a day typically, so I've been looking at live aboards, since the shore operations I've seen all seem to assume 2-3 dives per day at most.

Boats like the Paradise Dancer are attractive, but I'm suffering from a bit of sticker shock from the price. $430 per night! I can afford that, but I'm seeing prices from boats like the MY Liburan or the MV Tarata at more like $200 per night covering the same region. On the other hand, I'm having a hard time finding trip reports from the less expensive vessels.

Things I'm looking for in a live-aboard:

* Camera friendly (i.e. work tables, soak tanks)

* Photography-friendly diving. I've been with operations where the dive master herds the group around, which can be a problem if I'm taking time with a particular photograph. A few reports I've read from the region indicate some boats are pretty rigid. I'm aware that a good guide can be important for spotting the smaller critters, though.

* Nitrox. Not an absolute requirement.

* Reasonably organized and pleasant crew. Again, I've read a couple of negative trip reports about specific dive operations.

- Gus

Bonaire 6/28-7/4

07 July 2009 - 09:03 AM

Flickr set is here

A few images (click for link to larger versions):

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I had one very nasty scare this trip. On Bonaire, you want to take your car keys with you. I used a Pak-Pak dive wallet for this purpose, which worked fine... until I came up from a night dive and found that the BCD flap was open and there was no dive wallet in it. Car keys, room key, house keys, all presumably at the bottom of the ocean somewhere. Nothing on the beach or near the pickup truck, which wasn't a surprise.

However, after I'd given up and resigned myself to a very difficult night, I noticed a slight bulge in the front of my wet suit at the rib level. When gearing up, with the wetsuit half-on, I'd tucked the wallet into the wetsuit, prior to transferring it to the BCD. And obviously forgotten it. I'd finished zipping up the wet suit with the wallet still in it. Which was probably a safer place for it than a Velcro-closed BCD pocket.

- Gus

Inexpensive dive locations

03 May 2009 - 01:09 AM

Steve has suggested that now isn't a particularly good time to dive in Mexico, not directly because of the flu, but because of the effects on dive operators, restaurants, etc.

What are my alternatives? I chose Cozumel because I haven't been there, the airfare is reasonable from Boston, and prices aren't too high. I've done a lot of live aboard diving, but the $2000-$2500 per person plus airfare that most seem to want now is more than I'm comfortable spending right now.

I've got about 90 dives at this point, but much more limited experience (1 trip) with photography. Like most here, I've been thoroughly bitten by the photography bug, and thus photography is my prime concern. Which means, among other things, I'd prefer operations where get a dive briefing and go in pairs where you want at your own pace, rather than being tied to a group with the dive master.

Assuming 7 nights / 5 diving days, what's doable for $3,000 or less for two people, including airfare? Cozumel looked like $600 airfare (including those new baggage fees), $600 or so for food and lodging, and about $1000 for diving. Preferably at least 3 dives / day. I've done 5 dives / day on the live-aboards, though my wife has a bit less stamina than that. At 2 dives / day I tend to find myself bored for the rest of the day.

- Gus

Cozumel photography?

02 May 2009 - 05:14 PM

At this point I have about 90 dives and 1 photo trip under my belt, that trip being to Kona, Hawaii. I'd like to take some more photos, but for all-to-common reasons, I'm looking at something a bit cheaper this time. Cozumel came up.

However, while it's a lot cheaper than the live-aboards we're used to (Aggressor, Aqua Cat) and the airfare is reasonable (about $600 when you consider luggage fees), I gather it's mostly drift diving. Drift diving isn't that big a deal... if you're not lugging around a 40D DSLR housing and two strobes, and trying to get up close for a macro shot.

I'm also wondering about standard diving procedures for the area. Some places want everyone to tag behind the dive master in a group. Which makes it difficult to go at your own pace for photography.

We've had recommendations for the Occidental Grand Cozumel or the Iberostar, which I gather are at the southern tip of the island. They seem pricey, but on the other hand I'm not sure what you're really getting from some of the places that advertise $700 / person for 7 nights / 5 days of diving.

- Gus