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About twhi

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    Casio EX Z1000
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  1. Rather than rehashing replies to my previous post, I would like to offer some lessons that I learned from my experience. By way of introduction, I’m a diver first and photographer second. From the nature of most of the replies on this web board, it appears that most members here are the reverse. Obviously, I selected a trip that was not in line with my expectations. I should have done more homework. Out of the frustration that followed, I stumbled onto this forum and hastily posted my review with the desire that others not make my mistake. I could have stated thiings differently. I didn't. In the process, I insulted a number of people, including Deb. For that, I apologize. I have been on a number of liveaboards, most with lots of avid photographers. I used to be one of them. In light of these blunders, out of fairness to Deb and to inform all those photography-first divers out there as to what Deb's trips have to offer, I would like to offer that which I left unsaid. So here it goes: From my first-inquiry email until the last day on the boat, Deb was always there. She replied to every email promptly and clearly. When she knew she was going to be without Internet access, we were notified and given an alternate contact. As things progressed, she sent out updates. She researched airfares and offered hotel and resort recommendations. She cheerfully responded to all of my serious and non-serious email requests. Organization and management are her strong points and she has them in spades. I have considerable work experience as a manager and have spent a fair of time in developing countries. In looking at our trip with these challenges in mind, our trip was nearly flawless. For those of you with high end camera rigs, you will appreciate her attention to detail. The layout of the dive deck, camera table and rinse tanks are nearly perfect. She specifically recruits a cruise director and dive master for all of her trips and they are excellent at what they do. The dive briefings were appropriate and to the point. The process of getting dive ‘teams’ in the water that she has developed and refined was effortless to follow. And of course, the all-important dive tenders – good-natured, friendly and totally competent – I can't say enough about them. It is clear that Deb and I differ as to what constitutes a good dive site. But that is entirely subjective and could be debated forever. What is not at question for me is her integrity. She is responsible, reliable and competent at what she does. If you are a photographer-first kind of diver who appreciates all of the intangibles that high-level photography requires, I can assure that you will find it with CitySeahorse as long as Deb is in charge. Signing off. Sincerely, Tom
  2. Koh Tao Thailand like many dive destinations, is not exactly accessible. Eight to ten hours south of Bangkok by train to Chumphon then a 3 hour ferry hour puts you at the pier on the west side of the island. Most of the dive shops, restaurants and places to stay are in this area. I stayed at Ao Tanote for 4 days, another 20 minutes away. My beach front bungalow was clean, comfortable and basic - no AC, no TV, no phone, no Internet. But the price was right at 500 baht (about $17 US). Food was good, if you like Thai food. Diving was coordinated by the neighboring Black Tip Dive resort, a PADI operation with friendly staff. For diving, we had to travel back to the other side of the island to catch the boat. The diving was OK, but just OK. Plain and tame. The reef was reasonably healthy with a fair number and variety of fish. But the presence of other boats indicated that you certainly were not on the leading edge of frontier diving. Koh Tao is known for its numerous dive operations offering inexpensive courses for basic, open water and dive master certification. With little current or surge to speak of at least when I was there, the water was ideal for the novice or student diver. Avid divers however would likely be happier at Ranong or Phuket. -
  3. I recently spent five pleasant diving days at Gangga Island off Sulawesi, north of Manado. After being met at the airport, transport time to the resort was about one hour by AC minivan and 20 minutes by boat. Check in and briefing was pleasant and painless. My bungalow was spacious, clean and quiet. Staff was excellent. The beach was about 20 yards from my door. All meals were included. Breakfast was ample with eggs or omelets made to order, lots of fruits, juices, etc. Lunch and dinner offered multiple choices of starters, mains and desserts. A vegetarian option was always available. Both local Indonesian and Western dishes were well prepared. Diving was exceptionally well organized. Every evening before dinner, a dive master visited with you, explained the options for the next day and suggested the boat most suited to your preferences. Two or three boats went out every morning carrying 8 to 12 divers with no more than four divers per dive master. Groups were separated according to skill level or by photographer/non-photographer. All the usual safety procedures were followed. I never felt in danger or at risk. Gangga has a least 20 or 30 dive sites within 40 minutes boat ride from the resort. Full day trips to Lembeh or Bunaken are also offered once or twice a week. I did 11 dives, most of them excellent, with a wide variety of critters both deep and shallow. Although Gangga Island Resort might be considered somewhat upscale, I found it to be a very good value. Very appropriate for couples or honeymooners, I can also recommend it for the serious diver.
  4. Subject: Raja Ampat Cityseahorse Deb Fugitt Ondina I did an 11 day trip to Raja Ampat with Deb Fugitt CitySeahorse tours on the Ondina in November 08. This is a review I wish I'd read before I went. A lot has been written about Raja Ampat diving. Here's a few words about what it isn't: It isn't about good visibility. Average viz for us was 35-45 feet. The local guides told us this was typical. It isn't about big fish. We saw just a handful of sharks, a few mantas, napoleon wrasse, jacks, and few other pelagics. The boat: The Ondina is a safe, stable 100 ft vessel. Diving is done from two inflatable dinghies. The crew is excellent - friendly, competent and helpful. Cabins were basic but noisy and at least three of them had AC issues and one of them had problems with fumes and exhaust from gasoline or diesel. The food: The kitchen staff were delightful and the food was seriously lacking. Fried something for almost every lunch and dinner. Instant noodles appeared more than once or twice. Our airline meal on Silk Air economy class back to Singapore was gourmet in comparison. The diving: Most dive ops in my experience strive to offer a wide variety of sites. Not so with our charter. On most days, Deb Fugitt preferred to park the boat for the entire day at a mediocre reef and offered 'Open Deck' diving. No less than five of the eleven days were spent at ordinary, shallow dive sites: Two entire days (10 hours per day), were spent at The Passage - a site with 35 ft maximum depth and 25 to 30 foot visibility. One day (four dives) at a small village pier. Depth about 15 to 45 feet. Another entire day (10 hours) was spent diving in a mangrove area. Brown green water looking for critters amongst muddy tree roots, 25 to 30 ft viz and max depth about 40 feet. Get the picture? Not to mention the first afternoon spent on a checkout dive in Sorong harbor. For a capable live aboard with so much potential like the Ondina, I found this routine inexcusable. I translated 'open deck" to mean "lets save on our fuel costs". Yes, we did dive Cape Kri, Mike's Point and Kaleidoscope. They were great and I wanted more. A few friends and I repeatedly requested the lead dive master and cruise director for more sites like these but to no avail. The diving was clearly not about offering choices to the guests, it was all about Deb. So, in summary, if you are a passive, sedate, complacent or sheep-like diver, content with kneeling in 35 feet on a mundane, ordinary reef dive after dive for yet one more photo of Nemo, City Seahorse tours with Deb Fugitt is for you. However, if you are looking for world class, high voltage, or adventure diving, you might find it at Raja Ampat but its unlikely you will find it with Deb Fugitt's charters. Here are a few of your options: You have been warned. Raja Ampat and Triton Bay (Papua) Liveaboard Diving Cruises on the luxurious schooner The Seven Seas Main page Raja Ampat Cruises, Raja Ampat Diving Grand Komodo - Tours & Dives
  5. Jack's Dive Locker is good. I also like Dive Makai. Don't miss the manta night dive...!
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