December 17th, 2014 Comments off

You’ve probably seen those amazingly crisp, quality videos of underwater footage online and dreamed of reproducing something similar. Unfortunately, in the past, underwater cameras were either expensive or produced disappointing results.

GoPro has emerged as the travel-friendly, full HD, convenient and relatively affordable option for recreational action shooting. Like any new tech device, there is a learning curve, as well as additional bits and pieces to acquire before the user can maximize its function.

Equipping the GoPro for best shooting conditions, and any camera for that matter, is done with accessories and knowing how to use them. With these tips you’ll be bringing your dive memories to HD life in no time.

 

 

Holding the Camera

Tripod adapter – The piece that allows the camera to be secured to your mount of choice, whether it be a perch or a leash.

Leash – Consisting of a wrist strap with a cable and screw for attaching the tripod & camera, a leash makes sure the camera is secure and does it in a way that doesn’t constrain you from taking photos or from any movement, which is key.

Mount – Floating hand grip with adjustable wrist strap – benefits of a mount: more stable than hand-held filming with potential for more angles. Longer, telescopic poles allow even greater angles and to get close to those fish and hiding creatures in the cracks. Another advantage is being able to take action selfies, group shots and just below the surface shots from the boat deck (in case a pod of dolphins approaches).

Deck – for ideal stability, decks are best. When considering which one to buy, lighting and where a video light would be fastened is a consideration. A V-shaped deck will allow you to set the unit down, which is a bonus.

 

Clearest Most Colourful Results

Filters & Lighting
As the light fades at deeper depths, so do the vibrant colours. To bring out the natural vibrancy of the flora and fauna of the deep, lack of light can be substituted by dive torches and/or filters. Red filters can combat the loss of those tones underwater. Those blue-green underwater photos can be made more colorful with the use of a filter. If you are hesitant to splurge on all that equipment at once, a red filter may do the trick in balancing the colours of you photos and video. Though the ideal combination would be a torch plus the filter.
Beware that not all filters are made to the same quality standards. Cheaper ones will likely yield mediocre results. One recommended filter is the SRP.

As for artificial lighting, some say that the GoPro is a camera the works best with more light. Unlike a short photo flash, video lights provide continuous illumination of the scene that you are filming, like an underwater flashlight that can attach to your equipment.

Close-ups are made outstanding with the appropriate light, and wide frame scenes are contrasted best with filters that bring out colourful fish on a beautiful blue background.

 

Avoiding disappointment

A Clear View
While it takes more battery power, using the camera’s LCD screen is an indispensable feature for underwater filming. It’s next to impossible to get an identical experience a second time; you don’t want that manta to be out of frame, or that turtle to be a blurry mess. By using the screen you can frame your subjects, ensure proper lighting, and keep spots off of the lens that could ruin your shot. Since battery power is used up more quickly, you’ll want to have backup power.

To keep the lens clean you can also use a type of Lens Pen that is a dual brush and eraser that properly cleans the area from spots and particles that could ruin your images.

 

 

Maintain Power
Spare batteries – With multiple dives per day and so much to see, having spare batteries is essential.
External charger – To make sure you always have batteries that are charged and ready to go, and especially when you’re using multiple batteries, an external charger is a must-have.

 

Made to Dive

The new GoPro versions, from 3 and on, have been released with a housing rated for 40 meters. This is ideal for recreational divers. For those who want to take it deeper on a regular basis, a separate housing is available for 60-meter depths. These newer cameras also allow for great wide-angle shooting, which is ideal for the underwater environment and capturing the infamous pelagic.

 

The standard GoPros from the Hero 3+, and on, provide a great starter for your underwater filming. To take your footage to the next level, it will be beneficial to build up a kit of accessories, including mounts, lights and filters.

Now it’s time to put your videography skills into practice. Check out this awesome deal for the liveaboard Theia’s Best of Maldives itinerary – Click here for more info

 
December 12th, 2014 Comments off

Both the underwater flora and fauna of the Maldives are a sight to see. The fauna though, both large and small, are the real stars of the show. Certain species stick to a limited area but most others are found throughout numerous dive sites across the archipelago.

Coral reefs are found at many depths, fringing the islands and creating vibrant habitat for diverse fish, crustaceans, sharks and many others. These reefs, made of tiny fauna themselves, are the backbone of oceanic life in the region.

Where the coral reefs begin to drop off into the sea is one place where a diver can soak in the most densely populated marine life. Depending on the depth, and when the visibility is clear, parts of the reef may be lit by the sun. The more light, the more vibrant colours can be seen.

reef life Jon Connell 600x407 Diving for Mega and Mini Fauna in the Maldives

Colourful flora and fauna of the Maldives. Photo: Jon Connell

 

Fantastic Fauna

One of the most famous regional creatures that divers are most keen on spotting are whale sharks. As the largest fish species in the world, many of them call the Maldives’ Baa Atoll home. Normally individuals are spotted and the area depends on the time of year, and where the currents have brought in their food source.

Certain types of turtles and sharks also have their particular spots, but most other fauna aren’t so picky.

At the drop offs of coral reefs and where there are descent currents are where divers will find gray reef sharks and white tip sharks. Sharks generally have a ferocious appearance and reputation, but these sharks are somewhat friendly and curious. When they are annoyed, they show obvious hints that they’ve had enough attention. Some signs to leave sharks alone include, when gray sharks tend to droop their pectoral fins slightly, taking on a hunched posture, and also exaggerating their side to side swimming movements. It’s rare to witness this because most divers practice common sense and do not go out of their way to annoy sharks, they just let them be. The welcoming nature of the coral reef is astounding; even with divers intruding, marine life seems to go on as usual providing wonderful displays of nature.

 

 

Deeper down the reef, hiding in holes and crevices, are the moray eels. Divers often spot them with their heads sticking out of their holes with their enormous mouths gaping, showing their razor sharp teeth. While this looks somewhat threatening, in actual fact the eel is intending no harm; eels breath in this way with their mouths open. They can, however, become aggressively territorial if their privacy is overly invaded.

At the 2-metre depth mark divers will notice they are in the habitat of triggerfish, trevallies, barracudas, cornetfish, fusiliers, and large groupers. Listing all of the fish that you see in one dive would certainly be a challenge, but may be a fun one to attempt.

The most widespread fauna that is often mistaken for a “flora” are the corals. Forming the overhangs and natural terraces that provide shelter for the rest of the marine life, corals themselves are equally interesting. During night dives are when divers are best positioned to see coral polyps come outside their outer layer, when they are reaching out for food.

Even tucked within caves, coral grows, and there an adventurous diver can find small fish, like squirrel fish, that swim in groups as they explore the unreachable nooks of the reef.

 

nibbling hawksbill turtle Tchami 600x400 Diving for Mega and Mini Fauna in the Maldives

Nibbling hawksbill turtle. Photo: Tchami

 

Diving the reefs

Being distracted by the energy and excitement of the reef is easy to do. Divers have many things to keep in mind though to ensure their safety and the safety of their dive buddy. The pull of currents is one element of the marine environment to understand and respect. Generally, your dive instructor will talk about that day’s current conditions before the dive and advise the best way to see the reef safely.

It’s also tempting to move around while diving, checking out many different areas of the reef. On the other hand, divers that can keep calm and still for a time, just might experience the wonders coming to them. Movement tends to keep some creatures hidden, so when you stop moving the creatures may decide that you are part of the environment. When they become comfortable, the turtles, fish and all the other go back to their normal routines – nibbling at coral, interacting with each other and maybe even approaching the quiet diver. With slow, smooth movements, the most intimate scenes can unfold before your eyes.

Sounds great right? Come join the crew and guests of the Emperor Atoll liveaboard for some great diving. Their January and February Sharktastic Cruises are now available for super special pricesFind out more here

 
December 5th, 2014 Comments off

On first glance the Maldives is no less than awe-inspiring, with its pure white sandy beaches, blue-green lagoons and awesome sense of seclusion. Beyond what the photos show, the islands of the Maldives do boast some impressive facts that will take your admiration for these islands even deeper.

 

Water country
With close to 1200 islands making up the Maldives nation, one might think that there is lots of land to go around. In fact, land makes up less than 1% of the country’s surface area, with its tiny islands scattered in the Indian Ocean, north to south over the equator.

 

water islands Shazwan 600x450 11 Facts to Supercharge Scuba Diving in the Maldives

Water, water everywhere! Photo: Shazwan, Flickr

 

Swimming with sharks
Contrary to popular, uninformed belief, there are many species of shark that are quite harmless to humans.
In the Maldives it is common place to dive among reef sharks, nurse sharks, and even hammerheads.

 

Currents
Drift diving and channel diving are two of the most interesting forms of diving in the Maldives, thanks to the currents passing through. Stronger currents call for stronger scuba skills, so some dive sites are limited to advanced divers for that reason.

Currents, and their changing with the monsoon seasons, also bring pelagic species where the plankton and other food sources are swept in.

 

Unfathomable isolation
Highly touristic and known for diving, yet only a small percentage of the Maldives islands are inhabited. Tourists reach only a very limited percentage of the Maldives’ atolls.  At 430 kilometers from the India mainland, at the closest points, seclusion is an understatement for describing the atmosphere of the Maldives. When travel by boat is just too far, sea planes and domestic flights are used to access remote areas of the archipelago.

 

The Cousteau Legacy
The legacy of the great marine explorer, Jacques Cousteau, lives on through his grandson in the Maldives. The initiatives by Fabien Cousteau aim to involve local communities in marine conservation, including his Plant A Fish initiative in the Maldives.

 

Objects may appear closer
Light refraction under water magnifies what you see. A magnified object can appear 25% closer than actuality in the waters of the Maldives.

 

Small islands, big creatures
The largest fish in the Maldives is the whale shark, at around 9.5 metres in length and weighing around 9 tonnes.  They are a main attraction for Maldives divers and snorkelers alike.

 

whale shark Gilda 600x450 11 Facts to Supercharge Scuba Diving in the Maldives

Tiny diver beside massive Maldives’ whale shark. Photo: Gilda, Flickr

 

Sound all around
If you have ever found it tough determine where certain sounds are coming from underwater, don’t worry – it’s not your ears playing tricks on you. Sound actually travels faster in water than in air so it’s harder to determine a sounds origin.

 

Lack of colour
Great photographers have some tricks up their sleeves to bring out the colours of marine life. Being able to capture such multicolour beauty at certain depths is actually challenging because the environment doesn’t naturally appear that way – the deeper one goes the less colour we can see.

When diving things may not seem so colourful once depths of 20 metres or so are reached. That’s due to loss of light as a diver descends further into the water. As the light dissipates, the first colour to go is red, then yellow and the last remaining is blue. The loss of two of the primary colours, red and yellow, can make your photos seem unicolor without a few adjustments.

One way to combat this is to use a red filter on your camera. Or, when multiple filters are used the camera can be adjusted for the lighting conditions at any depth.

 

Protection
The biodiversity and uniqueness of particular areas of the Maldives have been given special designation. Hanifaru Bay and … are protected from heavy scuba and boat traffic, as they are home to manta rays and many other diverse species, and their wonderous natural habits like feeding frenzies and cleaning stations.

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) are two organizaitons that recognize the characteristics of the Maldives as having global significance.

Baa Atoll has been designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve along with the Galapagos Islands and other large scale natural environments of significance around the world. IUCN has indicated many Marine Protected areas around the Maldives where human activity is under some restrictions in the interst of protecting the surrounding environment.

 

 

Unique dive sites
Broken Rock of South Ari Atoll is aptly named for the canyon formed from the broken rock, creating a 2-part thila or pinnacle dive site. Another top site that is world-renowned is Fotteyo Kandu, a channel dive where many fish and sharks congregate. In the early mornings divers can descent to catch a glimpse of hammerhead sharks. On the other hand, a different kind of dive is the British Loyalty, the Maldives’ biggest wreck. Sitting pretty, covered with coral formations at 33m, this wreck is about 140 metres long and has been a site to behold since the 1940s.

 

On top of all of these great features, the Maldives offers a wide range of liveaboards that let you experience it all. Divers can even mix in a bit of luxury with their dive discovery by hopping aboard one of the spa-dive boats – ScubaSpa Ying or ScubaSpaYang. Check out ScubaSpa Yang’s opening offer here.

 
November 26th, 2014 Comments off

Raa and Baa atolls are a scuba diving destination pair, like Ying and Yang. The two regions actually cover the north and south areas of the administratively named, Maalhosmadulu Atoll. Raa is north Maalhosmadulu, and Baa covers the south. For diving they are more commonly referred to by their Raa and Baa (easier to pronounce) names.

Get to know some of the great dive sights within:

 

manta on reef KAZ2.0 600x450 Match Ying and Yang in North Atolls of Raa and Baa

Manta rays love Baa Atoll and you will too! Photo: KAZ2.0

Baa Atoll

Angafaru
This is a marine protected area due to its marine biodiversity. Known for appearances including hawksbill turtles, sea cucumbers, clams and groupers. A shark nursery and a manta cleaning station are also found in the area.

Nelivaru Thila
Rated among the top dive sites of the Maldives and globally, this is a place where turtles like to go. There is lots to see on the north side of this shallow, long thila made interesting with small caves and canyons. Not to mention of course the fauna attractions like snapper, tuna, turtles, scorpion fish and manta rays. Suitable for all levels of divers.

Dhigali Thila
Another world top dive site, Dhigali Haa is made up of one main deep pinnacle and two smaller ones to the site’s western edge. The thila’s top is lively with creatures that enjoy the current, such as anthias, dottybacks and abasslets. The shape is sloped on one side of the pinnacle with drop offs on the other 3 sides forming rock piles, a run through and canyon.

Down along the site, as you descend, playful unicornfish may come to enjoy the diver bubbles. Divers can see the food chain at work with jacks, blue-dash fusiliers and trevallies feeding on smaller bait fish, and observe the calmer scribbled filefish, yellow-lined snapper and small fans in other areas. A native species of snail is also found here, the Maldivian sponge snail.

 

 

Eydafushi Local Island
As the capitol of Baa Atoll, this is an inhabited island of around 2000 people. It’s a great place to see the daily life of Maldivians. Out on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, life is a bit more laid back here than a typical mainland town.

Dhonfanu Thila
Dhonfanu Thila is a reef that boasts lively fish aggregations like the broad-striped fusiliers and moon fusiliers that continuously seem to pour over the edges of the reef. The mind boggling topography is densely packed with all sorts of fish from parrotfish and angelfish to starry rabbit fish and unicorn fish among hundreds of others – quite the menagerie! No surprise that this diverse spot is near Hanifaru Bay.

The shelter provided by the overhangs is an attraction for masses of soldierfish and yellow-lined snapper. The presence of so many fish brings with them cleaning wrasses too, who help a fish and, in doing so, find a meal.

Diving Dhonfanu usually involves using the current to sweep you in at the point of the reef after dropping before reaching the thila. The pinnacle shape comes into a point facing the current. A narrow swim-through takes divers from 25 meters to 18 meters while brushing past bushes of black coral.

 

Raa Atoll

Beryian Kuda Thila
This is about a 20 minute dive starting at about 12m and reaching down to 35 meters. Next to Bodu Thila, this site is layered with overhangs and exciting marine life.

Kinolhas House reef
Off Kinolhas local island, this site has a channel on its outer side.

Kottefaru Thila
Awesome for anemones and its canyons, this site is a great 35-minute dive. Rainy season brings manta rays here too.

Kuroshigiri Canyon
A top site in the area, this site is teeming with life and interesting topography. Overhangs and multiple small thilas are a joy for marine life, and therefore for divers as well. Soft corals make for beautiful scenery in the backdrop.

Rainbow Caves and Maafaru Caves are on the west side of the atoll near the south. The mystery of caves is enough to intrigue any diver. These ones are definitely worth exploration.

 

 

Fenfushi Giri
From just 2-3 meters down to 30 meters, this dive site is a popular choice for its easy diving and crowded marine life. The dive is about 45 minutes of delight. Video above.

Fares Canyon
A remote dive site used as a lookout point for mantas in December and May. The shallow sandy bottom of the channel is home to many bottom dwellers. Some interesting coral ridges rise several feet from the bottom, forming a very impressive canyon. Schools of snappers inhabit the area and several large green turtles calmly peruse the reef! The outside edge is a cleaning station for manta rays and the majestic napoleon.

Maavaru Caves
This awesome dive site can be appreciated better when the currents reach their peak. Soft corals sit on a magnificent cliff in full bloom, ready for passing plankton. A large barrier provides shelter from strong currents where other sites would be very difficult dive with the same conditions. Its ideal for photography opportunities.

You can uncover on your own the beauty of sites like Fasmendhoo and The Labirynth, so as not to ruin the surprise.

 

You will discover these sites, and more, on one fantastic liveaboard tour. That’s the North Tour by the new ScubaSpa Yang, sister ship of the established ScubaSpa Ying. Or, if you’re a shark enthusiast, check out the special price now on for Emperor Atoll’s Sharkastic Cruises here.

 
November 20th, 2014 Comments off

How can you become dehydrated while surrounded by water? Any scuba diver or sea-loving person will tell you its not only plausible, but relatively common. Avoiding the risks under the conditions of a tropical Maldivian holiday are an important consideration for anyone planning to do water sports in the Maldives.

 

so much water and diver neville wootton How To Avoid Dehydration while Diving the Maldives

All that water, so little body hydration. Photo: Neville Wootton

 

Water’s disappearing act
Without us knowing or realizing it, both immersion in and exposure to salt water draws out our body’s needed moisture. Combined with heat and sun exposure (and overexposure), Maldives’ divers are put at great risk of dehydration.

Setting up the dive gear in hot conditions leads to sweating. Then, to make matters worse, the dive suit makes it difficult to tell when sweating is occuring underwater and above.

*One tip is to minimize the time spent in the suit before getting in the water.

Once in the water, a diver breathes compressed air that contains little to no humidity, which strips water loss from the body. Then, the frequent urination that is caused by various underwater factors leads the body to lose additional fluids.

Salt water is not all to blame for diver dehydration – both sun and wind are culprits too. Natural wind and windy boat journeys speed up the skin’s already quick evaporation process in the warm weather. Wind also tricks the skin into thinking that it is cool while, in fact, sunburn may be setting in. Sunburns cause further fluids to be stripped from the body to deal with the sun damage.

Let’s not forget the most inconvenient fluid loss conditions – vomiting and diahorrea. Planning ahead for seasickness by having medication on hand is a good idea – especially if it’s your first time spending extended periods on a boat. Being careful to drink bottled water, since tap water in many tropical countries is not safe to drink, and taking care that the food you eat is well cooked should help avoid any food-related digestion issues.

 

 

Dehydration risks
Simply put, dehydration puts divers at risk of DCS. Less fluids in the blood means, thicker, slower movement of nutrients and gas exchange around the body. Scuba divers, especially, depend on gas exchange including nitrogen release, so for divers dehydration increases diving risks.

Lack of body hydration also affects the body in ways that are hard to put a finger on, like exhaustion, confusion and poor decision making that come from an overworked heart as its rate increases trying to compensate for slower blood movement. Not to mention the more obvious unpleasant symptoms like headaches, dizziness and dry mouth.

 

What to watch for
Signs of dehydration include darker than usual urine or a reduction in urine production. Cramping and a rapid heartbeat could be evidence that blood flow has been reduced to the muscles.

Dizziness, confusion, and fatigue could be most dangerous if they come on during your dive. Let your dive buddy know right away if you’re feeling off.

Any episodes of diahorrea and vomiting should be compensated with additional fluid intake and potentiallly electrolyte replacement drinks/tablets.

 

divers on dhoni in sun 600x344 How To Avoid Dehydration while Diving the Maldives

Slap on the sunscreen for those extended periods in the sun. Photo: Neville Wootton

 

Staying hydrated
Average recommended daily intake of water varies for individuals. The easiest way to calculate it is to multiply body weight in pounds by 0.5 (that’s 0.5 ounces of water for each pound of body weight). For a 150lb person the calculation would be 150 X 0.5oz. = 75oz. Then, 75/8 = about 9.5 glasses of water per day (8oz glasses). Extreme conditions, such as tropical, saltwater environments and sport call for more than the average, so fluid intake would increase from there.

The good news is, all of this “water” doesn’t have to come from plain water itself. Fruits, vegetables and non-caffeinated drinks all contribute to keeping the body hydrated and filled with the nutrients it needs. So don’t pass up that fruit and juice when it is passed around.

What you can pass up are caffeinated drinks, sodas and alcohol if you’re looking to keep hydration levels up.

Sports drinks or other types of electrolyte replacements can help replace major fluid loss in extreme conditions as well.

Further prevention methods include seeking shade when possible and using sunscreen and wind protection to minimize the effects of the tropical wind and sun.

 

By being cautious and keeping fluid intake up, your Maldives dive holiday will not be ruined by the effects of dehydration. Now that you know, get out down to the tropical islands of the Maldives. Try the new Far North dive itinerary from ScubaSpa! The sister boat to ScubaSpa Ying is here – Check out ScubaSpa Yang, here.

 
November 12th, 2014 Comments off

So you’re set on a scuba dive trip in the Maldives. Unless you’re a seasoned diver, and even if you already are, there are two techniques to master to get the most out of your short time in the tropical islands.

Proficiency in buoyancy and nitrox diving are two ways to make the most of every second under water. While buoyancy training should start from the beginning, beginner divers are not required to learn nitrox diving. Certification for nitrox is an add-on option available once a diver is comfortable with their Open Water Diver techniques.

While these skills are not Maldives-specific, they both help divers stay underwater longer, which is crucial when time is of the essence on week-long holiday.

Here’s how to make sure buoyancy and nitrox are working with you rather than against you.

 

 

Nitrox

Recreational diving has used nitrox enriched air for about 25 years, yet not everyone opts for nitrox diving. This can likely be attributed, in part, to the increased responsibilities and risks associated with this tool. With proper usage though, it’s a tool worth adding to your dive repertoire as the benefits make for a better dive experience all round. Extended dive times and reduced wait times between dives are the two major benefits.

Know the dangers
The delicate balance of life is at work all around us. When we breath, the percentage of oxygen in the air is perfectly suited to us. When we create artificial breathing environments, like for scuba diving, maintaining the oxygen balance is a matter of life and death. Nitrox diving is especially risky as the dangers of oxygen toxicity are very real.

Both the amount of oxygen and the time exposed need to be taken into account, as well as the atmospheric pressures at the depths you plan to go to. Being able to understand your required nitrogen mix is part of the training you receive during the nitrox certification.

Know the nitrox air tables
The nitrox mix is understood through a table and/or formula. The depth to which a diver can go is decided based on the oxygen percentage and pressure. Again, this is part of the nitrox training. A nitrox dive computer can also do these calculations.

 

nitrox diver Ryan Lackey e1415785478180 2 Essential Techniques for Awesome Diving in the Maldives

Nitrox Divers. Photo: Ryan Lackey

 

Debunk the myths
While nitrox has the amazing benefit of extending dive times and shortening wait times between dives, one thing it doesn’t do is allow divers to go deeper. This is a common misconception. Higher percentages of oxygen in “enriched air” used in nitrox tanks increases the risks of oxygen toxicity at shallower depths than with normal air. That’s why knowing the dangers and the maximum operating depth, found using the table/formula are so important.

Maximize your dive time
Within the right depths, nitrox can greatly extend a diver’s “no-decompression limit”, or dive time. Dive time limits can even be more than doubled at the right depth. One example is a dive at 60 feet using a nitrox mix (EAN) of 36 can be extended from the normal 50 minutes to 130 minutes.

Get your Mix Right
Enriched air tanks are typically made with EAN (enriched air nitrox) 32. This mix allows additional minutes to the dive. More advanced nitrox divers, however, may like to customize their mix to further extend dive times. Instead of seeing how deep they can go based on the given mix (EAN 32), they can turn it around and see what mix will be most effective for the depth that they want to go. For example, by using EAN 40 at 70 feet, they may be able to double their dive time, rather than just add 10 minutes.

Selecting this “best mix” for the dive takes diving to a whole new level by extending dive times to their maximum.

 

diver buoyancy Martin Postma 450x600 2 Essential Techniques for Awesome Diving in the Maldives

Hands folded, a picture of perfect buoyancy. Photo: Martin Postma

Buoyancy

Hovering and using your buoyancy to move, rather than using your hands, will expend less energy and use less of your air, therefore giving your more dive time. Buoyancy is the skill to master from the get go, an essential for all divers.

Beef up on using your BCD
Hovering eye to eye with sought out marine creatures is made possible starting with your BCD (buoyancy control device). Proper understanding and usage of this most important piece of equipment will not only help you dive more smoothly, but also more safely. The cause of a number of dive accidents can be attributed to lack of understanding of BCD functioning.

From the dump valves to the inflator hose, knowing when and how to use them effectively makes a big difference, techniques which may depend on position and situation in the water. Ensuring a good fit is another important consideration to make buoyancy control a breeze.

Weight it right
Don’t get caught up in a common issue, over-weighting. In the beginning more weight may be used during training as instructors try to help divers learn the required skills more easily. However, experimenting with reducing weight to the minimum is important for efficient, controlled diving. This is where your log books will come in handy – by logging the weight you use plus your own weight you can be more accurate with your recordings (as our own weight can change affecting our future dive calculations).

Excessive air in the BCD is a cause of increased drag and other issues, but some think this extra air is needed to compensate for the additional weight. Reduce the weights to find a better balance.

Position yourself right
Body positioning has a big effect on buoyancy control and a good position can be thrown off by many factors, including fin alignment and weight spacing. By first getting to neutral buoyancy, then adjusting legs and weight spacing to keep horizontal, a good swimming position can be achieved.

Just breathe, hands free
In contrast to movement on land where all of our limbs work together for balance and movement, underwater it’s just the legs and lungs doing all the work. For ascents and descents, breathing changes a diver’s position in the water – take more air in to move up, get rid of air from the lungs to descend. Using the hands is the most ineffective way to control movement underwater – the legs are used for power and direction.

Train for Peak Performance
If you’re having trouble streamlining your technique or are keen to get it right, specialty certification courses are available to learn and practice the all-important skill of buoyancy.

 

Apply your buoyancy and nitrox abilities in a liveaboard tour. The dive-focused MV Orion offers “free nitrox”, a great choice for avid divers. Just 7 spaces remain for the MV Orion deal, get it before it’s gone – click here.

 
November 5th, 2014 Comments off

A photo can be an inspiration.  It can lead us to travel to far off places or, in the case of a scuba diver, to deep dark ocean regions.   This month we feature a professional diver who spent almost two years filming and photographing awe-inspiring underwater scenes in the Maldives.  Meet Christian Loader, and read his tips for Maldives photography and his favorite dive spots.

Christian Portfolio 20 600x398 Maldives Photographer of the Month   Christian Loader

This large Honeycomb Moray (Gymnothorax favagineus) could often be seen in a cavern on a reef in South Male Atoll, Maldives, and on this dive it took off across the reef searching for its next meal. As I swam with the current to keep up with it, I wanted to capture the undulating motion of the moray as it slithered around the rocky seabed. I opted for a slower shutter speed and small aperture to capture the motion, and powerful strobe-light which brought out the beautiful colour of the moray. Photo: Christian Loader

 

Exclusive Interview with Christian Loader, professional wildlife photographer and Maldives dive enthusiast:

 

Q1: What made you get into underwater photography and photography in general?

Christian: I always enjoyed taking photos years ago, just using a small compact camera. Just looking at dive magazines and watching nature documentaries, I knew that underwater photography and filming was something I really wanted to get into. When I left the UK in 2007 and became a diving instructor in Malaysia I started underwater photography using a compact camera, and very quickly wanted to concentrate entirely on underwater photography instead of teaching diving, and make a career out of it.

Every time I taught a diving course, teaching skills in the shallows, I wondered what photos I was missing out on elsewhere! When I joined Scubazoo in late 2007, I learnt underwater filming for the first time, and progressed with underwater photography and filming from then on, and in 2012, I turned my attention entirely to still photography.

 

Q2: How would you describe your style of photography and what you want to “say” with your photographs?

Christian: My style is varied, and I find it difficult to attribute myself with one particular style. I feel my macro photography can be quite complex, using specialised equipment and techniques, whereas the style of my wide-angle photography is often quite simple.

For the first few years that I was doing underwater photography I simply wanted to capture the ‘beauty’ of the diverse marine life big and small, and that is what I tried to convey in my images. More and more now though I try to tell a story with my images – whether it is simply about the behaviour or habitat of a certain animal, an interaction with people or other animals, or quite often images with a conservation theme or message that hits home to the viewer.

 

Q3: When did you first go to the Maldives and what attracted you to go there? Was photography a motivation or an afterthought?

Christian: I first came to the Maldives at the end of 2007. I had always dreamed of diving in such an exotic location, and very luckily my first job working for Scubazoo was a long-term position as an underwater videographer and photographer at a luxury resort in Baa Atoll. Underwater filming was the sole focus of my time in the Maldives, and I still can’t believe how lucky I was to be able to dive and film all day everyday there for nearly 2 years! I gradually got more and more hooked onto still photography, especially after moving to another resort in South Male Atoll for another year.

 

Christian Portfolio 4 450x600 Maldives Photographer of the Month   Christian Loader

Feeding formation of majestic manta rays at Hanifaru. Photo: Christian Loader

 

Q4: What are some of the challenges of underwater photography and how do you overcome them? What are some of the most challenging things you have photographed?

Christian: Lighting is one of the biggest challenges, and to overcome this I use 2 powerful strobes, and have a powerful spotting/focus light attached to my housing as well. The focus light, or an extra strobe can come in very useful for additional, creative ‘off camera’ lighting. In many shallow, sunlit conditions then using just natural sunlight can be the very best option, shooting in manual white balance mode, resulting in stunning, natural colours of the animal or reef for example.

The most challenging things I’ve ever photographed are probably Blue Whales in Sri Lanka – just being able to get in the water in the right spot to even just see one underwater is the biggest part of the challenge, because they are such shy animals. Underwater, as one passes below quickly, it’s like photographing a huge, blue submarine against a blue background, which is another big challenge.

The other most challenging thing I’ve photographed is the ‘sardine run’ in South Africa. The chaotic action, and tough conditions was something I was very unfamiliar with, having spent most of my diving life in the warm tropics!

 

Q5: Where are your favourite spots, above and below the surface, to take photographs in the Maldives? What makes them stand out?

Christian: One of my favourite areas for photography above and below the surface is around Baa Atoll – ‘Muthafushi Thila’ is one of the most colourful dive sites I’ve ever seen, with the most anemones too, and Muthafushi Island is a cliché picture-perfect uninhabited Maldivian island. The famous Hanifaru Bay on the right day with the right tide can result in a sight that has to be seen to be believed, with hundreds of Manta Rays feeding on plankton together in this small bay, and even a few Whale Sharks too if you’re lucky. In Baa Atoll, the island Kendhoo is my favourite spot for topside photography, with a significant historical importance as being the birthplace of Islam in the Maldives. The chain of islands next to Kendhoo offers one of the best aerial photos in the Maldives to be taken from a passing seaplane.

Male is a small, crowded, bustling city, and if you have a day to spare then there are some good photo opportunities to be had, especially around the fish market early in the morning.

South Ari Atoll has some of the best dive sites in the country, and one of my other favourite dive sites is ‘Kandooma Thila’ in South Male Atoll, where on the right tide you can be surrounded by Grey Reef Sharks at a ‘cleaning station’, and then finish the dive on the top of this large thila bursting with colour, schools of fish, resident Green Turtles, and passing Manta Rays.

 

 

Q6: What is it like to stay in the Maldives? Tell us about your average day when you’re there.

Christian: Working on the resorts and a liveaboard, I never got to enjoy Maldivian resorts as an actual guest, but it was like living and working in paradise! My typical day there would be an early start at 7am and get ready for the first dive of the morning, setting up my camera and underwater housing, then meeting guests on the dive boat and deciding which dive group I would be following and filming for the day. After the first dive we would come back to the resort for breakfast, and then a second morning dive followed. If I had got some decent footage from the morning dives I would spend the rest of my day in my office editing the guests dive videos, and then prepare a screening of the video for them in the bar in the evening after dinner, which was a great time to have a few drinks and chat with guests.

The video screenings were always popular, attracting others to come and watch and inspire new guests to come diving, especially when we were lucky and had dolphins, mantas, or whale sharks in the videos. Aside from the occasional staff party, or a long night in the bar socialising with guests, I usually got to bed early, tired out from all the fun in the sun!

 

Q7: What is one thing you wish you knew before you started taking photographs in the Maldives? Do you have any tips for visitors trying to capture their moments in the region?

Christian: If you’re a novice underwater photographer and shooting with a small compact camera, then definitely invest in a strobe and also a wide-angle attachment lens. The Maldives is known for its larger marine life such as mantas, sharks, and turtles, so a wide-angle lens is essential.

For visitors trying to capture moments underwater, don’t let the camera take over (or ruin!) your dive. At times, just sit back and enjoy nature’s show, rather than getting frustrated with camera settings etc.

 

Q8: What technology/software/camera gear do you use to capture and process your stunning tropical & underwater scenes?

Christian: I use a Nikon D800 DSLR camera with various macro and wide-angle lenses, inside a Nauticam underwater camera housing, and I use Inon strobes. For viewing and editing photos & videos I use a Macbook Pro, and for my photo editing I use Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.

 

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Giant jawfish, Malaysia scuba diving. Photo: Christian Loader

 

Q9: If your camera was to get stuck in one mode or setting, what one would you hope it would be?

Christian: Personally, I’d hope it was stuck in Manual mode, because then I would have complete control over all the settings! Manual mode is what most budding photographers should get comfortable with.

 

Q10: What projects do you have in the pipeline that we can look forward to seeing?

Christian: We’ve just completed our latest book “The Green Heart of Sabah”, being published in November 2014, and for this we’ve been shooting wildlife in the rainforests around Borneo for the last 3 months which has been very exciting and a real eye-opener for us, taking us out of the ocean and into the jungle!

 

Christian Loader profile pic 1 300 Maldives Photographer of the Month   Christian LoaderPhotographer Bio

Christian Loader (31) is a professional wildlife photographer from the UK, working for the renowned Scubazoo Images based in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, which specializes in underwater filming and photography.

Christian and his colleagues at Scubazoo have published their very own stunning coffee table books “Maldives – The Underwater Kingdom” in 2011, and most recently in 2014 “Sensational Seas of Sabah”, showcasing the magnificent marine life of these two exotic destinations with breathtaking underwater photography. Scubazoo’s latest book “The Green Heart of Sabah”, published in November 2014, explores the landscapes and wildlife of the lush rainforests of Borneo.

While shooting various projects around the world, Christian’s images have been published in, and graced the covers of a number of worldwide magazines and publications, and his images have also won several prestigious awards in international competitions.

You can find more of Christian’s work here:
www.scubazoo.com
https://500px.com/christianloader

 

Bring out the photographer in you!

If you’re looking for photo opportunities above and below the water surface, check out the latest deals from Maldives Dive Travel.  Recently released: couples will get great value from the Askani Couples Deal.  Check out this awesome deal here.

 

 
October 30th, 2014 Comments off

In this day and age there are challenges to finding true relaxation. With constant stimulation from uncountable distractions, it can be hard to really switch off, literally. Turning off the mobile phones and electronics can be like going through drug addiction withdrawal for some. What better place to “detox” than in the Maldives.

To really unwind, the stresses and distractions of the day to day need to be removed, while replacing them with other more invigorating activities and environments.

 

kicking back MattJP flickr 600x392 Find it hard to relax? Let the Maldives show you how

Kicking back island style. Photo: MattJP, Flickr

 

The Maldives offers so much in the way of relaxation it’s easy to get stressed about fitting it all in! Here’s how the Maldives will transport you into a world of calm:

Underwater live screensaver
Scuba divers know the silent underwater world presents a type of tranquil visual setting. Watching the schools of fish move in unison, turtles swim by and rays glide over will wash your cares away. Like immersing yourself in the most realistic screensaver, though much more breathtaking.

As long as sharks don’t phase you, then you can also watch them in awe without becoming nervous or uncomfortable.

 

Deserted islands
Above ground, relaxation potential is all around. One of the unique features of the Maldives is the number of uninhabited islands where you can feel a true island getaway. Being dropped off on a deserted island of white sand, surrounded by a blue-green lagoon, this is where relaxation comes naturally.

Sandbanks are deserted islands with little or no vegetation where you’ll have that ultimate feeling of seclusion. Then there are resort-owned deserted islands the are groomed and have facilities for more comfort, like toilets and sunbeds. A BBQ on a tropical island is an ideal way to finish off a day of diving in a laid back atmosphere.

 

Star gazing
Another exceptional experience visitors will enjoy in the Maldives is the sky full of stars. Of course, the sky is full of stars no matter where you are in the world, but only in secluded locations away from civilization can you truly see the sky at its best.

From an unlit boat deck or boat dock the skies of the Maldives really sparkle. Just taking that scene in is a good experience. To take it even further, a star gazing mobile app can show the constellations and guide your gazing in a meaningful way.

 


 
Dolphin watching
A pod of dolphins can pop up almost anytime as the dhoni cruises along. The moment they come into sight, people become fixated on watching them swim and waiting to see if the dolphins will pull off any impressive acrobatics. The impromptu experiences reminds us that the Maldives is just filled with awesome marine creatures.

 

Watch the island scenery from a jacuzzi
The jacuzzi is common feature of any good spa, fitness centre or wellness centre. It is the place people flock to unwind those tense muscles, which is perfect after a day of diving.

Many liveaboards now offer this spa luxury on their boats. The island scenes all around, combined with the massaging jacuzzi jets are a great way to loosen up.

Speaking of scenery, the daily sunsets will delight, whether you are in the Jacuzzi or not.  This flat nation makes for a massive panorama of color as that hot sun goes down.

 

Classes such as meditation, yoga and pilates
Waves lap in the sea and a warm sea breeze passes by, helping you dive deeper into that sense of calm while you take that yoga pose. Activities like meditation, yoga and pilates let participants focus on their mind and body, so detaching themselves from the stresses of the every day.

 

a hammock lagoon Ralph Flickr 600x450 Find it hard to relax? Let the Maldives show you how

Relaxation at a glance. Photo: Ralph, Flickr

 

Spa treatments
A no-brainer, the Maldives is known for spa resorts. The laid back atmosphere of the tropical islands lends itself easily to the similar spa environment. This concept of spas is actually a foreign introduction, rather than a traditional Maldivian practice.

What you might not know is that the spa experience is now also available aboard liveaboards and in combination with scuba diving packages. One spectacularly luxurious vessel, ScubaSpa Ying, offers the best of cruising the islands and getting the pampering of an island spa.

Packages on ScubaSpa cater to both spa and scuba enthusiasts, as well as those that want to combine the best of both of those worlds. Their boat also incorporates the other relaxing elements, like onboard jacuzzi, calming exercise classes, and an excursion for an island BBQ evening.

 

Feel the relaxation oozing from these islands. Now that you know all the ways to relax in the Maldives, it’s time to book your trip to tranquility. Right now your Maldivian detox is available at a 20% discount. Check out the deal on now for ScubaSpa Ying, here.

 
October 22nd, 2014 Comments off

Diving for the first time and diving for the first time in the Maldives call for some extra forethought and preparation.

Taking our bodies to depths under the sea puts our bodies in a vulnerable position; minimizing risk and maximizing glorious exploration is the goal we should aim for as new divers. Being a novice doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re doing. Certification should provide you with the skills and knowledge to dive safely and effectively.

 

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The fruits of learning to dive are worth it! Photo: Albena, Flickr

 

The reality is, on a 7 day trip there is no time for trial and error. To get off on the right foot and avoid some of the rookie mistakes, check out these first timer tips before you dive for a successful, enjoyable scuba diving experience in the Maldives:

 

Never go it alone in scuba – This is a golden rule in diving and is the reason why the buddy system exists. Buddy up at all times!

Don’t skimp on equipment – quality is safety. Cheapest won’t be best in all cases. Save on your dive package instead by picking up a great deal on our website. On now are deals for…
Do your research, check reviews and look for good value, good quality equipment.

Get a good start – For your first dives it’s best if possible to dive in good conditions – warm water with good visibility and relatively shallow points of interest. Building up your confidence and general scuba experience is important, focusing on your buoyancy control and breathing will prepare you for increasingly difficult dives in the future.

On that note, taking complex photography and lighting equipment on your first dives is not recommended. Focusing on the fundamentals first, is preferable.

Hydration – Alcohol causes dehydration and that’s the opposite of what you want for your body when scuba diving.

Don’t get lazy – Double checks of equipment by a buddy has been shown to save lives.

 

 

Suit up accordingly – Pick the right suit for your destination. For the Maldives, recommended dive suits are as follows:
3mm full-length suit – to protect your knees and elbows
5mm full-length suit – if you get cold easily and want maximum protection
You want temperature control as much as protection from the elements. Research and reviews will help you make the best choice. If your neoprene suit is too thin your dive could be very uncomfortable and not enjoyable. You should focus on the surroundings not your suit during your dive.

Regulate – don’t hold – your breath – Relaxed, slow, full inhalations and exhalations will use your air more efficiently and make you a better overall diver. Naturally, without our scuba training, holding our breath underwater is habit. It’s not good practice in scuba however.

Settling the sinuses – the deeper you go the more pressure on your sinuses. Every 3 feet or so you can equalize your sinuses to release that pinching feeling. By pinching and blowing through the sinuses the pressure is kept level and you can avoid the problems that come with descending too quickly.

Follow bubble indicators – Moving upwards should be done carefully with your safety and the rules of ascent in mind. A general rule on moving towards the surface it to never swim faster than your bubbles. There are additional rules set for ascending and avoiding the bends to keep in mind from your training.

Pesky hair – Hair sneaking into your mask can cause leaks and be a real annoyance when it pokes you in the eyes. This includes beards guys! They can prevent your mask from sealing properly.

Happy on the horizontal – Unlike on land, movement underwater while scuba diving is about staying horizontal. Your head position is your steering wheel so standing up will lead you up – not good practice for a seasoned diver.

Hands free – Again, unlike on land, moving your hands is not part of balanced, efficient movement. Underwater, moving arms and hands can stir up debris, limit your visibility and even cause inefficient use of your air. To go up in scuba, good practice is to adjust the buoyancy compensator.

 

diver check mdt 600x449 Be a Scuba Novice, not a Rookie, in the Maldives

Depth, time and tank check.

 

Ask, don’t assume – Take advantage of your dive guide and instructors, even your fellow divers with more experience of diving and the region that you’re in. The more you can find out about the area and general diving experience, the better for you and the extent to which you can get the most out of your dive experience.

Buoyancy do-over – Any change to your equipment, including your suit, require a buoyancy test. Don’t for get to conduct the test to make sure all is adjusted appropriately.

Down low to up high – Going from marine depths to sky highs takes some adjustment time. Be sure to plan sufficient time between plane transfers or flights and your last dive. The amount of wait time depends on how deep the dive was but general advice states a wait time of 24 hours before flying.

 

Enjoy your dive trip knowing you’re prepared for safety and exploration. Take advantage of the deals from Maldives Dive Travel to get you there, like the Theia special offer now on, click here.

 
October 17th, 2014 Comments off

The goal of scuba diving is the enjoyment and discovery of the underwater world. To achieve this goal certain safety measures are put in place, as with a good safety plan divers can focus on fun rather than frantics. One of the key methods used in scuba diving is the buddy system. Through mutual safety this technique ensures the enjoyment of a scuba diving pair, making sure there’s always someone watching your back at all times.

 

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Dive buddies. Photo: David Thibodeaux

 

To have a good buddy is to be a good buddy. Leading by example you can make sure your buddy is as serious about safety as you are. Here are some of the best buddy behaviours to be a primo dive buddy:

Fail to plan, plan to fail
Pre-dive, it’s important to come up with a plan with your buddy that both of you will stick to. It should refer to the duration of the dive, the sites to visit, depth, safety stops and minimum air before heading to the exit point, as well as any other discussion points for your individual scuba habits or needs. Knowing the dive site features is imperative to making a plan. The plan will also be based around the pre-dive orientation given by the dive guide.

Double check your buddy’s equipment pre-dive
Another set of eyes over your equipment set-up is a good idea to make sure that everything is working properly. You and your buddy should do this pre-dive.

Give your buddy a hand with their equipment
Getting in and out of some scuba gear may be difficult to do alone, a buddy is there to assist. For any heavy equipment to be brought along during the dive, both parties should divide the load between them.

Be in tip top condition
Not being sick is as important for you as it is for your buddy. You’ll want as much energy as possible to dive and you’ll need to stay hydrated, so hangovers are a no-no too. Getting some energy from food a couple hours in advance and drinking plenty of water will give you what you need. Some people like to take sea sickness pills to build up their immunity but this will not be for everyone.

Maintain active communication
Clear lines of communication are important to always keep open with your buddy throughout the dive. This is done using hand signals. Communicate actively so that both parties are aware of the other’s status at all times.

Know the common hand signals
Following from above, to communicate you need to use and understand the hand signals used in diving. Some could be confusing to the un-trained, like the OK signal versus the “end the dive” signal. These essentials are taught in the open water diver course.

scuba end of dive signal Tyler Kieft 398x600 10 Ways to Be the Best Dive Buddy You Can Be in the Maldives

Scuba “End of Dive” signal. Photo: Tyler Kieft

 

Here some key signals to memorize and practice:

  • The most common to see in photos is the OK signal, in which the thumb and index finger create a circle and the other 3 fingers are extended. It can be used as both a question and an answer – if your buddy does this sign you should respond the same if you are indeed OK.
  • The thumbs up signal actually means to end the dive. The thumb points up toward the surface. When giving the thumbs up your buddy should respond with the same.
  • To signal a problem there is a two-part sign. First, a flattened hand is rotated side to side. Then, point using the index finger to the problem, whether it be in the water or on the body. One use of this is for an ear equalization problem.
  • At the surface, the problem signal is used to call for attention from a boat and is made by waving an arm over the head. It is basically like one would wave “hello”, so greeting in that manner while scuba diving is not good practice.

Close is comfort
Excitement could lead us to get overzealous with our exploration of the dive site, while forgetting our proximity to our dive buddy. Being aware of you buddy’s location and resisting the urge to wander off is the responsible thing to do. Always stay close to your buddy as you would be surprised at how easily we can lose sight of one another.

Stay within your comfort level
Your skill and training will have provided you with a certain level of comfort and ability. By going beyond that you put both yourself and your buddy at risk if you were to panic or get hurt. If you start to feel uncomfortable, even if that depth was part of the plan, don’t be afraid to communicate to your buddy that you have gone far enough for that dive. Get more comfortable from more training, not from taking more risk.

 

 

Respond effectively to emergencies
While full emergency response will be the work of the dive guide and team, you need to be prepared to help your dive buddy get out of sticky situations, both big and small. Entanglement, immobilization and injury can happen and you need to be ready to respond using your training.

Refrain from buddy breathing
Breathing from a single regulator is a skill that should be practiced before daring it in the deep. Don’t buddy breath unless both of you have practiced it before, as the common mistake for newbies is to forget about controlling buoyancy.

Liveaboard teams and dive guides provide another layer of safety protection as well. They will be there to help in the case of an emergency to support both you and your buddy.

Book a safety-focused, full-of-fun liveaboard trip with a team like that on MV Emperor Atoll. Right now the introductory deal on Emperor Atoll will make you drop everything and head to the Maldives. See the deal here.