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Sea of Cortez
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September 30 - October 7, 2018
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October 20-27, 2018
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October 27-
November 3, 2018
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November 17-24, 2018
Yap, Micronesia
Manta Rays &
Stone Money

December 22-29, 2018
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of the Pacific

December 30, 2018 - January 6, 2019
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January 21 -
February 9, 2019
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February 16-23, 2019
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For Men Only
March 16-23, 2019
Fiji Liveaboard
LGBT South Pacific
March 23 -
April 2, 2019
Cuba Scuba!
Gardens of the Queen Liveaboard
May 4-11, 2019
Belize Liveaboard
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May 25 - June 1, 2019
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June 30 - July 7, 2019
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July 8-15, 2019
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Trip Tales
Undersea Expeditions
Calling All Divers

-By Roland de Beque
Undersea's First Adventure: 'CABO SAN LUCAS February 1992'  
Men Only Trip 

-By Robert Daniel
'Fiji Discovered'    
- by Will
Women Only Trip 
-By: Randi Hepner
Diving Paradise. Undersea Explores Micronesia  
-By Will Green
'New Year's Galapagos Trip'
- By Martin Dyer
Tobago Exploratory Trip
October, 2003

Undersea Expeditions Calling All Divers

By Roland de Beque

Imagine a world far removed from the rigors of city Dom; a place filled with exotic life forms and unearthly plant life. In this world you are not restrained by the physical laws of nature. There is no gravity keeping your feet on the ground. In fact, you could say there is no ground at all.

Undersea Expeditions can take you into this world, even if you have never before donned scuba gear.

"I find diving mesmerizing and calming," says Chris Winkle, an avid diver who would like to see more lesbians and gays take up the sport. "You realize that there is an undersea world that you are not aware of. It's awesome…the marine life…the coral!"

An aspect of diving that Winkle finds particularly exhilarating is the fact that there is an extra dimension involved. Divers, when properly weighted and balanced, can propel themselves up and down, as well as forward and backward. "There is definitely a 'high' involved. Diving is a lot like meditation," Winkle explains.

Winkle, a Connecticut native, formulated the idea of a gay and lesbian scuba club almost two years ago while living in San Jose.

Divers of all skill levels and ages are welcomed. For those with no prior experience, two PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) instructors who will offer lessons in diving certification. "All you need is a desire to dive," Winkle adds.

Contrary to what you might think, learning to dive doesn't require you to mortgage the house. Mask, fins and a snorkel cost around $200; air tanks, weights and diving suit can be rented for a reasonable price. Winkle points out that diving is less expensive than snow skiing. "Boat diving is what adds to the cost. But anyone can go out to the ocean and just start diving."

Certification requires a classroom training session, two swimming pool dives, and 4 open-water dives, one-on-one with the instructor at a depth of 30 feet.

For the more adventurous, Undersea Expeditions has a slate of gateways that reads like a travel agents dream, including Papua New Guinea, Belize, Palau and Tahiti. For more information contact Undersea Expeditions at 800-669-0310.

Cozumel Trip March, 2001
Undersea Expeditions, Inc.

By Robert Daniel

Although Undersea Expeditions has been offering Gay & Lesbian dive trips to exotic destinations since 1991, this Cozumel trip was Undersea Expedition's first ever promotion of a "For Men Only" dive-trip and occurred March 10-17, 2001 at the Scuba Club Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico. You can bet your newest Speedo that it won't be the last either! (Undersea has hosted several "For Women Only" trips quite successfully in the past and will continue to do so in the future.) For me, a frequent trip leader as well as customer of Undersea Expeditions, this was my first land-based trip in many years, and it proved to be one of the most relaxing and enjoyable vacations I have ever had. Having never been to Cozumel before, it was a diving revelation, and a destination that Undersea will definitely return to again soon.

Undersea Expeditions chose Scuba Club Cozumel, a private, gated diving resort, because it caters strictly to divers and it had successfully hosted two of the previous "For Women Only" Expeditions. The resort provided the Undersea group a comfortable venue for a memorable week of diving adventures as well as providing a full meal package. The food consistently met our expectations in quality and quantity, with a specialty of the local Yucatan Style cuisine offered at dinner, usually freshly caught seafood. The Wahoo was excellent, always one of my favorites when freshly caught. The kitchen will take special dietary food orders with advance arrangements.

Undersea hosted an exclusive afternoon cocktail party after the first day of diving, with great service and accommodations from this gay-friendly resort. The group proved to be a wonderful and engaging group of 23 men from all over the United States, along with one Canadian and even one Aussie thrown in. The group came from various backgrounds, locations, and age groups. Doctors, lawyers, scientists, architects, government officials, military, and private industry were all represented by this stellar group of individuals. Several of the divers had been on previous Undersea trips to Cozumel, and were returning to this diving mecca without having been diving since. Several new divers joined this group, having just finished their open water certifications (Like the day before!). Most of the group were seasoned, experienced divers who shared their experiences and skills with the new divers from the get-go. For Undersea Expeditions, over half of the group were repeat clients, several of whom I had met on previous dive trips with Undersea. It was great to be reunited with past dive buddies and to catch up on what's been going on with them.

Our diving program consisted of two tanks per day. Diving began after breakfast each morning, with the "Reef Diver" embarking and departing around 8:30 AM for the cruise to the dive sites, usually about 45 minutes to one hour cruising time. The entire dive group was accommodated aboard one vessel, the resort's power catamaran "Reef Diver", which featured a great crew consisting of three dive masters, two gear handlers, and one ship's captain. Our group of 23 divers was divided into three patrols to facilitate underwater crowd control and good diving practice. "Reef Diver" featured a partially covered and comfortable dive deck, dive gear shelves, and a dive entry/exit platform at the stern just above the water. The typical first dive of the day was always our deepest dive of the day, usually 80 feet, although one dive of 100 feet was performed midweek at Columbia Pinnacles. The typical second dive each day followed a safe profile with descent to 60 feet or less. The typical dive lasted 30-45 minutes or so, depending on each individual's air consumption and depth of the dive. Midweek, many of the group chose to take an optional twilight dive followed after the mandatory surface interval by a night dive. All divers reported a "thumbs up" for these two special dives. Aluminum 80's were standard fare with air fills consistently topping 3000 psi, although several of the group with appropriate dive credentials did take advantage of the available specialty Nitrox gas mix. Wind and waves occasionally hampered operations, but no dives were terminated due to weather or the sea state. The weather was near perfect the whole week of diving, with everyone glad to be away from the winter weather in the States. Water conditions were optimal, with most divers using a full tropical wetsuit or Polartec skin for protection from the 80 degree water and the corals. Underwater visibility was just incredible, the clearest water that I have seen outside of an aquarium.

For me, Cozumel lived up to its legendary effortless drift diving reputation with bountiful sea life and geography for viewing in its extraordinary Marine Park. Hard and soft corals, sponges deluxe, turtles, nurse sharks, spotted eagle rays, barracuda, cleaning stations, and skads of small tropical fish delighted my vision. Moray eels, large and small spiny lobsters, queen triggerfish, and parrotfish, were present to name a few more. Tunnels and caves and swim-throughs, usually lighted from above by sunlight through the eroded limestone reef, were featured on many of the dives, always an excitement for me! There were fantastic photographic opportunities if you could handle the camera, current, and not touching the reefs!

During the surface interval between dives, after stripping down from diving attire to minimalist swimwear, many worked on their tans and tan lines, others just worked on lines, as in chat lines. Getting suntan oil rubbed on your back is always helpful, especially from another man. Aboard "Reef Diver", relaxation was the first order of business after diving, with plentiful bottled water and juice drinks provided by the charter package. This group interacted more than any group I have ever been with, and I can say that they thoroughly enjoyed this Undersea Expeditions trip to the max.

Once the day's diving was concluded, finding a spot in the hammock structure after lunch got to be a race for position and availability, as the cooling breezes off the water made reading or napping an exceedingly comfortable pleasure, with the adjacent sunning areas in full view and handsomely occupied by bronzing men.

Most evenings after dinner, a leisurely stroll to town for shopping and then back to the resort for late entertainment afforded by one of the guests' patios, christened the Lido Deck for the week, where stories and adventures were swapped, sizes of underwater life compared, cigars smoked by those who do, and drinks of various concoction were available. There were no lies told, honest.

At the end of the week on our non-diving pre-flight day, several of the group decided to visit the rest of the island either by car or scooter rental. I chose to visit the San Gervasio ruins and to view the southeastern shore of the island. I was totally impressed with what has been revealed so far by removing the dense jungle growth which had enveloped these ruins. There are areas partially unearthed, and I suspect more ruins as yet discovered A separate trip to El Cedral provided only one accessible ruin, purported by a street vendor to be a fertility temple. There are more ruins at El Cedral, but they are accessible only by horseback, and the stable was closed when we got there. Island maps indicate other ruins as well. Next time. The southeastern shore of the island is relatively undeveloped, with beach restaurants and bars occurring every so often. The beaches feature both sand and rock, and the waves are wind waves, driven by off shore winds. It was rumored that a strong undertow exists out there, but I didn't take the chance to find out. Another next time.

Other intrepid guests went to the Yucatan mainland by regular and frequent ferry service from Playa del Carmen and visited oogling beaches and the Tulum ruins, and the river mouth waterpark @Xel-ha. One guest even flew to Chichen-itza on Saturday morning and still managed to catch the late afternoon flights back to US from Cozumel. As in all vacations, this one ended too soon, and leaving Cozumel after such a fun-filled week was hard…very hard. I am looking forward to my next Undersea Expeditions adventure, which I will take as soon as possible.

An Undersea Week: Women's Dive 1998

By: Randi Hepner

For months I had been anticipating the 3rd annual women's dive trip offered by Undersea Expeditions. More than 30 women from around North America (it was surprising and pleasing to see how large this group of women had grown) were heading south to an island close to the Yucatan, Cozumel. After diving the main objective was to relax and savor the company of women who love women in a tropical paradise.

Undersea Expeditions has been hosting exotic dive vacations for nine years, taking lesbians and gay men to dive sites from Key West to Roatan, from Egypt's Red Sea to Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Participants enjoy sightseeing and shopping excursions, sometimes staying at attractive beach resorts, often experiencing live-aboard dives on popular yachts. Dives explore coral reefs, caves and atolls with their exotic undersea life, allowing plenty of time for relaxing on beautiful beaches around the world.

Our accommodations, this trip, were at the "Scuba Club Cozumel," a lovely Spanish-style resort decorated with hand painted tiles throughout and frequented by only divers. Each room is different, all of them special, including beautiful bathrooms and showers. I had actually previously stayed previously at this hotel many times and was pleased that it was to be our home on this trip. Additionally, all meals were included.

The first day was spent greeting old friends from previous trips and making new acquaintances, a memorable part of any holiday. Once the rooms and boats were assigned, we did a check out dive in front of the hotel to ensure a successful boat dive the next day.

The next morning, fins were pulled on, BCDs (dive jackets) struggled onto, and air checked and rechecked. Mask defoggers were passed around, and then "listo," Spanish for "ready," was shouted. Our group flap slapped its way to the custom dive boats.

"Meet at the bottom with your buddy," the dive-master yells before backflopping out. I try my regulator one more time and stride out to find my buddy floating on the surface of the azure water, waiting for me. As we descend, I watch a black angel fish play in her hair the entire way down. I couldn't believe she didn't feel it. Oh for a camera!

Once below, delicate living coral in a rainbow of colors caught our attention. We viewed schools of neon-colored angelfish, several toadfish (indigenous only to Cozumel), groupers, barracuda, lobsters, and three stingrays, all cavorting in the deep. Cozumel offers unequalled wall dives, patch reefs and "swim throughs". The time flew. I ascended to fifteen feet for my safety stop, looking up at the small flying fish that had delighted us on the way out.
When we climbed back aboard our boat, staggering a little under the weight of our tanks, the entire group had huge smiles on their faces. For a short while no one spoke. Each woman was still in her own world, daydreaming about what she saw and felt, then chattering began: "Did you see that?" "What were you pointing at?" "What a sight!" "Wasn't it beautiful?" This was followed by the practical tasks of equipment maintenance and peeling off damp suits. By then, everyone was ready for some surface time. This was the first of five days and one night of rewarding diving.

After a day of superb diving our thoughts then turned to the evening and socializing with each other at Joe's Bar, drinking tropical punch (God knows what was in that drink!), swaying to the live Cuban music, retelling the events of the day and meeting new women friends. At dusk we were mesmerized by the incredible sunset, and later captivated by the romantic night sky filled with stars, particularly impressive to those of us from cities where we usually miss this splendid effect of Mother Nature.

In addition to the dives some of us were excited about excursions to Mayan ruins, while others looked forward to lazy afternoons around the hotel's pool or beach combing.

As I remember back through the week: the Welcome Cocktail Party, the afternoons spent exploring a sublime undersea kingdom, the awesome the sunsets, the socializing at Joe's, nights spent dancing into the wee hours, bargain hunting, the diving seemed almost secondary to the friendships we made. And on the last day, with phone numbers and e-mail addresses flying and unhappy farewells exchanged, I was sure that there was one thing on all our minds - where would we be going next year.

The 2002 Women's Dive will take place November 9-16, in the Caribbean's diving Mecca, the Turks and Caicos Islands. Accommodations will be at the luxurious Osprey Beach Hotel. The cost - US$999 per person - includes 7 nights, 5 of days boat dives, daily breakfast and Welcome Cocktail Party. Reserve your space now, as this trip fills fast!

Undersea Expeditions is the Lesbian and Gay gateway to the diving world: Belize, the Turks and Caicos, Roatan, Egypt's Red Sea, Palau, Fiji, Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Bonaire, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, the Galapagos Islands, Mexico's Sea of Cortez and Cozumel, Cocos Island in Costa Rica, the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, and Bonaire in the Netherlands Antilles, are some of our favorites. Call 1-800-669-0310 or visit www.UnderseaX.com.

New Year's Galapagos Trip
By Martin Dyer

Undersea Expeditions offers festive holiday trips to exotic dive destinations each Thanksgiving and most New Years. The 2001-2002 trip to the Galapagos was one of the best!

Sixteen of us, all men, assembled under the cloudless sky and warm sun of the Galapagos Islands for a week of superb diving and adventure travel aboard Peter Hughes' new Sky Dancer. It was a fun and gregarious group of professional men of all ages from throughout the U.S. One diver who flew all the way from Paris added continental flavor to the group. Four doctors were in the group, so we didn't have to worry in case anybody became sick!

New Year's Eve the crew entertained us with a riotous skit and drag show…and then we all joined local custom. This involves torching a kerosene-drenched, full-figured papier-mâché doll, and floating it off the boat. Apparently burning effigies is meant to symbolize getting rid of the past and starting the year anew. We had the chance for a midnight New Year's night dive, but no one wanted to delay their partying until after 12 am.

The diving was awesome all week. We dived with hundreds of hammerheads and smaller numbers of white-tipped and Galapagos sharks. The sea lions barked and played with us. The penguins played keep-away with us. The sea turtles mated. There were sea horses, dolphin, barracuda, jacks, stone fish, green moray eels swimming free, and a full spectrum of colorful tropicals. There were parrot fish, large-banded blennies, trumpet and cornet fish, puffers and Moorish idols. And we were extremely lucky to see very two unique events - one day we saw whales spouting off in the distance, and on one remarkable dive we encountered a thirty foot whale shark! Truly awe-inspiring sights.

The dive operation ran very smoothly. We made 3-5 dives each day and there were 2 night dives. Fills were good and Nitrox was available. We dove off two zodiacs, each with a divemaster who guided us through caves and swim-throughs and remarkable underwater terrain. Water temperature was in the mid-70's in the south, and hit 80 degrees at Wolf and Darwin Islands. Visibility was very good. At the end of each dive we were greeted with warm towels, warm drinks, and freshly-baked cookies or snacks from the bountiful kitchen.

The Sky Dancer is by far the most comfortable and well-designed of the five liveaboards on which I have traveled. Everything is set up perfectly and the furnishings are attractive, well-designed and functional. Rooms on the upper deck have huge picture windows and allow twin beds to be mated to create a king sized bed for two. Rooms below have split twin beds. Each room has a private bath, shower, and plenty of hot water. There is a large, partially shaded and well-equipped sundeck above - a great spot for bare skin. One deck down there is another comfortable lounging area where thorough dive briefings were held. Below is the spacious dive deck with ample storage, a large camera table and dedicated charging facilities.

Further forward is the large interior lounge, where we watched dive videos and Ab Fab, where we played cards and board games and simply relaxed. Besides the great diving, I really enjoy meeting the groups of outstanding people that came on Undersea Expeditions trips. From doctors to university professors to Silicon Valley executives, a universally exceptional group of educated and fun people. A chance to relax, be ourselves, make new friends and future dive buddies.

As a regular customer of Undersea Expeditions, and a periodic tour leader, I am quick to say that the Galapagos present a dive destination second to none. I love diving in the Red Sea, Hawaii, Belize, the Caribbean, and Mexico. So far, the two best dive venues I have visited are the Galapagos and Papua New Guinea. In any case, the best people I have been diving with have been assembled by Undersea Expeditions. I'm eager for the next trip. Let's go diving!

Undersea's First Adventure:
CABO SAN LUCAS February 1992

By: Chris Winkle

Our group (all men) spent an awesome five days with Undersea Expeditions in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico over the President's Day weekend. It was sunny and hot every day with little wind, the flat Sea of Cortez contrasting with the mountains and dry Arizona-like landscape.

Our group stayed at the Plaza Las Glorias hotel, a new addition to Cabo and right on the harbor in the center of town. Modern and well-equipped, it provided easy access to the dive operators in town, as well as the many restaurants, shops and taco stands of Cabo.

Our first day of diving was at the Pinnacles, giant jutting rock formations at the tip of Baja California. We had excellent visibility (90 feet!) on our first dive, the Sandfalls, an underwater anomaly caused by a rift or crevasse in the ocean floor. During our surface interval, we watched migratory gray whales frolic and breach nearby. Our second dive was at a location called Seal Rock, where we dove with playful sea lions and spotted unusual, large parrotfish with "humps" above their beaks, found only in the Sea of Cortez.

Day two dawned partly overcast but calm as we set out for Gorda Banks, a spectacular underwater sea mount that rises from the sea floor 3000 feet below to a maximum height of 110 feet below the surface. Schools of manta rays and hammerheads, and even the occasional whale shark, are spotted at this dive site. This dive was for the experienced diver- five miles offshore in blue water.

Enroute we were thrilled to see nearly a dozen whales breaching, blowing and sounding. At one point our boat was surrounded by schools of dolphins. While suiting up we were treated to the sight of sea lions playfully tossing fish amongst themselves.

Alas, the Gorda Banks did not produce any large pelagics but did offer schools of red snapper and yellowtail, as well as unusual white and black coral gardens along a rocky bottom strewn with giant boulders.

On our last day we dove a ninety foot wall at Chileno Beach, about 8 miles north of Cabo. While visibility was only about 40-45 feet, we were fortunate enough to spot two manta rays, some giant grouper and a lobster, along with innumerable tropicals. Our guide dive, Alme, was both helpful and spirited, with an easy laugh and smile. On our second dive that day we spotted sea turtles and two different kinds of blowfish, as well as giant clams and huge queen angelfish.

Cabo is a compact town that has seen a boom in the last 4-5 years. (Editor's Note: You should see it now! Cancun on the Cortez!) Prices are generally reasonable but certainly not "cheap." It's an easy getaway for divers, only about 2 ½ hours by nonstop air from the Bay Area. Water temp was about 72 during our stay, with a significant thermocline on the deep dives. Visibility ranged from 35-90 feet. In fall, water temperatures can reach 88 degrees and visibility 150+ feet! That's when the hammerheads and whale sharks are usually found and the time we hope to go back! (Editor's Note: And we have gone back often, but to La Paz, still part of the "real" Mexico)

Fiji Discovered
by Will

I was secretly gloating that I had another week to go. Jered, Phil and I had elected to continue the trip for another week of vacation in Fiji. And what a week!!! The Garden Island Resort on the island of Taveuni, booked through Undersea Expeditions, was incredible.

There were hot showers (none the first week) and views of the ocean in all the rooms. There was live music at dinner. Dinner was your choice of such succulent offerings as lobster bisque, or coq au vin. The dive boat was a custom all aluminum boat you could ski behind (at least 35 knots); the dive shop took care of all of our equipment including washing it out everyday, setting it up, and taking it down. I just sashayed down with my stuff on the first day (Phil kept insisting that I sashay, but I still believe that I am much too butch for that), and sashayed back with it for packing on the last day. It didn't even smell-and after two weeks of continuous diving!! What service!!

And the diving! Sharks, lion fish, triggers, parrots, wrasses, eels. Fish were everywhere! Schools of yellow tails, and schools of L.B.F.s (Little Blue Fish) abounded. Several times visibility became disastrous as schools of fish swam by. We even saw a giant manta ray feeding just below the surface-what an awesome sight! The corals, especially the kaleidoscopic displays of soft corals were incredible.

There were also currents that could tear the mask off your face if you looked in the wrong direction. Divers during their safety stops reminded me of a used car lot with all the flags flying. But this time the flags were divers hanging desperately to the anchor line. The current also brought in nutrients which fed all the life, so it was a two edged sword. If the dive had strong currents, then the corals would be feeding.

One of the most interesting corals was found on the last day of diving. The location was called the Cabbage Patch. Here each hard coral formation was 10 to 15 feet high. It consisted of concentric sheets of very thin convoluted coral, sort of resembling flowers on steroids more than a cabbage patch. All over the surface were tiny feathers poking out through small holes. A fuzzy coral is a happy coral.

I took 12 rolls of film, mostly underwater. As the sun set over the pool and Jacuzzi, fresh drink in my hand, I had to admit that if this wasn't paradise, it was close to it!

Diving Paradise
Undersea Explores Micronesia

By: Will Green

I was saving my pennies for an exotic trip, one which would take me on an adventure so memorable that I would be talking about it for months. I wanted to go off the beaten path, on a road less traveled, even primitive. My aim was to scuba dive one of the world's most prolific reefs and witness some of the most complex ecological systems on earth.

There are very few gay diving experiences to truly exotic places in the world. It is definitely a niche market. From past experience I knew that Undersea Expeditions always provided top-notch tours, and this trip proved to be no exception. Our destination was Yap and Palau, two islands tucked into Micronesia, located just north of the equator.

Yap is one of the states of a country called the Federated States of Micronesia, while Palau is its own new country.

Yap was our first destination. It took me about 26 hours to get here from Phoenix. One of my fellow travelers came all the way from Trinidad, taking him over 32 hours. With time and date changes, we arrived not even sure what day it was!

At the Yap airport, we were greeted by several baggage handlers clad only in a bit of cloth wrapped around their loins, and were escorted to the Manta Ray Bay Hotel. Later we found out that this was suitable attire only for very young children and married men. Young men wore more modest attire.

Our hotel was arguably the best in all Yap. It was a little eccentric in its ability to provide hot water, air conditioning and electricity to all rooms at times, but the staff's hearts were in the right place. Our rooms were spacious and decorated with native art. The halls of the hotel were laden with photos of the wondrous sights at nearby reefs, and the ocean lapped peacefully just outside the lobby.

The dive operation was well-run. Freddy, the proprietor, was very accommodating, speaking in a soft Swiss-German accent. His boats were clean and punctual. Promptness, expected my most Westerners, is not always important in Yap's culture.

Although we were still feeling the effects of jet lag, all of us wanted to dive as soon as possible. That same afternoon, with only a shower and lunch, we experienced one of the most spectacular dives of our collective lives!

The Mantas

The reason divers come to Yap is the mantas, gentle, soaring creatures that have made the area world famous. We were overwhelmed by squadrons of these creatures, each weighing up to 1,500 pounds, with 20 foot wingspans. They flew (swam?) in formation on graceful wings. Freddy set us down between the rocks to witness these wonderful creatures and we were fascinated by the spectacle. I noticed that each of the mantas has its own unique pattern of spots on its underside. Back at the dive shop, a poster showed the patterns on several mantas, each with its own name. Little is known about these creatures, their breeding or migratory habits.

Sights On Yap

Back at the hotel, we were treated to what I believe to be one of the best delicacies I have ever tasted. Parrot fish sashimi. It was soft, succulent and incredibly delicious. Unfortunately the fried dishes available fell below our expectations. Our group was getting to know each other, most of us being from North America, with others from places as diverse as the Philippines and Trinidad. The youngest among us was 25, the oldest about 50. We all got along famously, a trait I have noted on scuba trips with Undersea Expeditions.

One of Yap's customs which surprises (shocks?) many tourists is the tradition of topless women. One afternoon, we stopped by their equivalent of a supermarket, checking out the local fare. Several of us rounded a corner, and right in front of us, a rather large lady was examining a can of pork and beans, her ample chest exposed for all to see. Coming from our western society it was a bit unnerving at first!

The people of Yap have some very unusual customs concerning nudity. While Yapese women are free to show us their attributes, men operate under different rules. Young males are always primly attired. One member of our group, wearing a Speedo swimming suit and a long T-shirt to his knees, was actually stopped by police on a walk in to town and requested to return to the hotel and put on more appropriate attire.

One free afternoon our group went on a cultural tour of the island. An extraordinary attraction is the local "stone money." These negotiable items are literally large round stones, some over 6 feet high with a hole in the middle, left in public areas around the island and never moved. They may be used to purchase land, or other commodities. Some of this currency is valued at US$ 35 per square inch. Only the ownership changes. There is only a finite number of this "cash" originally brought from Palau to Yap hundreds of years ago, so their perceived value among the locals is high. I remembered my Economics 101 class and discussions concerning Relative Value of Commodities. The bottom line was that value is a perception, not a fact. If the people of Yap believe these stones to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, then that is what they are worth.

Another afternoon activity was a demonstration of the local native dances, straight out of National Geographic. Women, joined of course by more modestly dressed men and boys, moved in a series of rather intricate steps with singing. Some dances involved the use of bamboo sticks which were brandished about their heads in a warlike fashion. I found these performances an amazing display, authentic as they were sincere. Hopefully, in future years, when Yap becomes more "Westernized" these dances will not disappear simply to placate the "sensibilities" of tourists and commercialism! The dancing is as unique as Yap itself.


As much as we enjoyed natural, somewhat quirky Yap, most of our vacation was on the island of Palau, a much more modern place. It has multi-storied buildings, a port, and a healthy tourist industry. We were met at the airport by a blow-dried blond guy, one of the land-based staff of our dive boat, the magnificent Peter Hughes Sun Dancer, our home for the next few days. Over 100 feet long, the boat has just about everything you could want in luxury: en suite bathrooms, full air conditioning, water making equipment, video editing and film development capabilities, an open bar plus a wonderful crew of eight and excellent food. That first evening we sat around telling fish stories and reminiscing about the wonderful places we had visited on other trips.

The next day, our first dive was a check out, where the crew evaluates the divers, assuring that we knew which end of the regulator to suck on, as well as having at least a passing acquaintance with our air pressure gauges. We viewed the extraordinary sight of copious quantities of giant clams strewn about the reef, up to four feet across, their mantels a myriad of beautiful colors.

The Blue Corner

Probably the most incredible dive of my life was at the Blue Corner, a reef offering everything a diver could expect. There were sharks, hundreds of them prowling the deep waters just beyond the reef, with perhaps a thousand barracuda swimming in large schools closer to the surface. We viewed schools of lesser fish: jacks, sweet lips, sturgeons, and tunas. The reef was awash in every color of the rainbow. Bright reds, oranges and yellows burst from the soft corals. The lighter hues of the hard corals included numerous specimens reaching 10 to 15 feet across. There must have been a thousand species of fish in the area.

One fish which particularly stood out was the Napoleon Wrasse, weighing about 500 pounds and being ten feet long. The frowning wrasse is a green carnivore with large protruding lips. Unlike most fish who flee divers, one wrasse was very friendly, looking for a handout. He would cruise by keeping a wary distance. It was comical, watching this huge fish, following our divers like a bizarre dog for a treat.

Wreck Diving

We embarked on an exploration of several wrecks in Palau. All the ships we dove were Japanese, and had been sunk during World War II. The first was the newly discovered Tatsu Maru, a 300 foot long freighter. Our group was only the second boat to ever explore the wreck since it sank in the 1940's. It was an awesome sight laying on its side in about 60 feet of water, a massive hole blown in its superstructure. Diving this wreck was definitely spooky. The sea had started an interesting colony of corals on the ship, claiming the vessel as her own.

Our last wreck dive was the Chovu Maru, another magnificent freighter, over 400 feet long. What made this dive eerie was that we dove at dawn. Five of our group braved the 5:30 am wake up call to don our wet suits. Frank, our dive master, had located the wreck earlier. We jumped overboard with flashlights in hand. Down we went, and suddenly out of the green murky water the wreck appeared. It was all around us. This ship had landed right side up, and out of the gloom, she was slowly revealing herself to be a glorious find.

I decided to descend into the bowels of the freight compartment. In the light of early dawn I went down a large hatch into the blackness, descending 110 feet. I could barely make out the steel hull on either side of me or the faint light from above marking the hatch where I entered. Noticing I had only about four minutes before I entered decompression diving, I rejoined my buddies, never to discover the contents in the hold- if there was anything.

Jellyfish Lake

Later in the week we dove Jellyfish Lake, famous for two kinds of jellyfish which are found no where else in the world. These creatures have adapted to the brackish water. They are unique in the animal kingdom in that they have no stinging cells.

The day was bright and clear. We had enjoyed a wonderful Sun Dancer breakfast and set out amongst the small islands dotting Palau. After a 30 minute boat ride, we stopped at an indentation in one of these islands. Leaving the boat, we discovered a small path leading up a hill. The jungle enclosed us until we reached a small pool among the mangroves leading to a lake in the distance. This lake appeared normal until we noticed a translucent brown jellyfish pulsating through the water. It was exquisite, its transparent top pulsing rhythmically, slowly propelling it through the water. Out in the middle of the lake it was not possible to swim a stroke without touching these lovely creatures. I felt them caress my body as I swam.

Further into the lake there was another type of jellyfish, larger and more diaphanous, their gossamer tentacles glistening in the subtle currents. Perhaps most amazing was the fact that this place was unmarked and completely undeveloped. Had this lake been in most other parts of the world, there would have been parking lots, a visitor's center, rangers and a cordoned off area so no one could swim in it. Palau is off the beaten path for all but the most committed divers, so the lack of traffic has kept the area as pristine as when it was first discovered.

Crystal Cave

Our last dive was Crystal Cave. Cave diving is a specialty all its own requiring a certain amount of skill and a realization that should you have difficulties, there is only rock above you. Bobbing to the surface at a sign of trouble is not always an option. Our cave entrance was innocuous, located in a lagoon, with no way that anyone without prior knowledge would ever find it. Several staff of the Sun Dancer were along just in case of an emergency.

We followed the dive master out of the light, into a gaping hole in the side of the island. As the rock closed in above my head, the way was illuminated by the none-too-bright flashlights of the divers in front. We swam through the first long passage, widening into a vast room. There was evidence that this area had once been above water, stalagmites looming up from the bottom. We progressed to several additional "rooms" taking in the vast yet constricting water-filled temple. It was a sight to behold!

Back at the boat, it was time to prepare to leave our floating hotel. Several of us had vainly attempted to buy out the "boatique," assuring we would have all the right fashion attire. We said our farewells to the wonderful crew who made our stay comfortable and luxurious and our dives effortless.

The airport departure was a mix of good-byes and see-you-soons as we departed for our various destinations around the globe. As usual, on the flight home my thoughts turned to work, bills and relationships. Welcome to the real world! The fantasy had to end… until next time.

Tobago Exploratory Trip
October, 2003

Undersea Expeditions and Peter Hughes offer an extraordinary opportunity to be among the first to discover the wonders of diving in Tobago. One can experience both Atlantic and Caribbean diving on a single trip around the tropical island on the spacious yet cozy Wind Dancer, among the most comfortable boats in the Peter Hughes fleet. Wind Dancer moved to the still unspoiled and seldom-visited waters of Tobago in October of 2003.
I was lucky enough to join the inaugural trip.

We enjoyed warm water diving, with water temperatures in the mid-to-high 80’s, and fine visibility. We cruised through magnificently healthy and colorful coral reefs that carpeted the marine landscape. And cruise we did, because Tobago diving is exhilarating drift diving that carried us happily above the ocean floor.

Tobago may be known for hammerheads and other sharks, for manta rays and sea turtles, and even for the elusive whale shark, but on our trip we focused on the huge variety and number of colorful tropical fish that paraded through astounding coral-draped reefs and canyons. Among the guests on our trip were a number of dive and travel professionals who worked together to inventory a rainbow of more than 150 reef fish. There were barracudas and parrots, jacks and squirrels, French and queen and gray angel fish, porcupine fish, wrasses, chromis, blennies and groupers. The list is too long.

Wind Dancer, which can accommodate up to 18 divers, is indeed comfortable. The owner’s suite has a king-sized bed, a glass-stall shower, and its own TV. The other eight cabins, all with private baths, are equipped with double and single bunk beds, plenty of storage, and plenty of room to avoid any feeling of being cramped. Hot water and air-conditioning provided unlimited comfort.

The well appointed dining salon is set with tables for four at meal hour, yet still provides room to relax and visit during the day, at cocktail hour, or later to watch videos or listen to steel drum music from the Tobagan crew.

On top, the Lido Deck is amply furnished with truly comfortable chairs and lounges to enjoy both sun and shade, a great place to kick back between dives.

The dive deck is well arranged and uncrowded. There is plenty of room to store and don dive gear. The currents facilitate tender diving, so tanks, BC’s and regulators are stored, and the tanks refilled, on one of the two tenders.
Nitrox is available, and is gratis for annual repeat Peter Hughes clients.

All in all it’s a great way to do four to five dives a day, including night dives, as you circle the lushly vegetated island as yet unspoiled by the influx of large numbers of travelers.

There are a number of ways to get to Tobago. Check British West Indies Airlines (BWIA) out of east coast cities in the US. Many visitors fly through Miami and then Port of Spain, the capital of the nation of Trinidad and Tobago.

Undersea will be visiting Tobago in November, 2005 for its annual Thanksgiving “Pilgrimage.” Check the trip index page for details at http://www.underseax.com/gay-scuba-trips/tobago.html


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