Jan

28


My trip to Papua New Guinea started with a week long stay at the land based resort Tufi.  This is a very remote destination with no real civilization nearby other than some small primitive local villages, but the diving is spectacular.  We saw lots of unusual creatures and plenty of healthy reefs and fish.  On one of our dive excursions we were accompanied to our dive site by a pod of dolphins, which made the day special.  Tufi Resort provides an opportunity for some cultural tourism as well as great diving.  During my trip I opted to spend a night and day in one of the local villages.  This was definitely a different experience from our quality of life in the US.  There was no electricity or running water in the guest house, which was really more of a thatch roofed hut.  I did have a foam pad on the bed which was considered a luxury.  Our host was nice, the food was good, in particular, the local pineapple was truly amazing.  We spent the next day hanging around the village and handing out toys and trinkets we had brought along to the local children, by days end I felt like the pied piper.After a week at Tufi Resort we caught a plane to Port Moresby and on to our boat the Golden Dawn.  We traveled overnight to a little known area called the Eastern Fields.  Capt. Craig is the only dive operator running trips to this remote destination, which is comprised of a large area of coral reefs between P.N.G. and Australia.  The remoteness and weather only allows for a few trips a year, so the reefs are largely untouched and pristine.  We began the week at a dive site called Manchuria, known for manta rays. 
Throughout the week we had wonderful experiences with beautiful sharks.  It was nice to see an area where they havent been fished into oblivion.  We saw them on almost every dive and I was even able to get close enough on one dive to have a 9 ft silvertip brush my camera rig while I was taking pictures of her.  She was very photo friendly to say the least.Another highlight of the trip was a site called Carl’s Ultimate, which was a thriving bommie with thousands of schooling fish and a few giant groupers known locally as potato cod. These guys were very friendly, even coming up and brushing up against divers as if to say, “Take my picture”.
All in all this was a very good vacation and I enjoyed many”once in a lifetime” experiences.  I highly reccomend this kind of dive travel if you have the chance.  If you are considering a dive trip to southeast Asia and the south Pacific, please stop by Gulf Coast Divers and talk with me about some of the trips I have made.  Perhaps I can help you to make a decision on where to go based on my experiences abroad.

Jan

26

Divers on the gulf coast seem to be conditioned for summer time diving. Warm salt water, it seems, is the only way to go. Cooler temperatures and the prevailing winter weather patterns that make the Gulf of Mexico a less than friendly place for diving means dive gear get pushed to the back of the closet in favor of other diversions like football, hunting, and the holiday season. The problem with that is sometimes the dive gear never makes it back out of the closet at the return of warm weather and, if it does, it takes awhile to brush the dust of the diving skills you honed the season before.

Just because the gulf is unavailable doesn’t mean you have to forget about diving and, in this part of the country, it doesn’t mean your only diving alternatives are expensive international trips or swimming pools. There are quite a few dive destinations on the gulf coast that are open year round and not subject to weather that makes the gulf a no go.

Vortex Springs in Ponce De Leon, Florida is the perfect winter dive destination and is one of my favorites.

Vortex Springs between dives

Vortex Springs

Vortex Springs is open for diving 364 days a year and is only about 2 hours and 15 minutes from the front door of Gulf Coast Divers shop. You can make a day trip, stay in a local motel or stay right at Vortex Springs. Vortex offers several large lodges, cabins, cottages and a campground if you want to stay on site.

The entry fee is $19.00 for each diver and $10.00 for non divers. You can also rent canoes or kayaks and there is even a motocross and ATV track, $20.00 per day, when you are ready for a break from diving.

Crystal clear waters of the springs provide excellent diving.  If you have the appropriate certifications you can gain access to the cave system at Vortex Springs. Without the proper cave diving certification you are limited to the artificial caves and other things in the spring as well as Blue Creek which leads out of the spring. The spring is also full of a variety of fresh water marine life. Carp, crappie, bass, eels, turtles and crawfish call the spring home and are quite used to divers. Bring a little offering for the fish and you can have a great time and get some great photos.

Keep in mind the springs are no secret. It seems divers from all over the country find their way there. Things can get a little crowded on some days. It pays to get there early or you can stay late to get the best visibility. Bad buoyancy control can cloud the water quickly but, since there is a constant outflow of clear fresh water from the spring, the visibility improves quickly when divers exercise good buoyancy control. Weekday dives provide the greatest possibility of encountering crystal clear water and unlimited visibility for all of your dives.

Make sure you dress appropriately for your dives. The water at Vortex Springs is a constant 68 degrees. In the summer it can feel a little cool. In the winter it can feel downright warm. You will see some guys in dry suits but for most, a good fitting full wetsuit (3 or 5 mil as you desire) and hood is enough. I’ve even seen divers making repeated dives in nothing more than a bathing suit. To each his own I guess.

If you get the chance visit Vortex Springs for an excellent day of diving.

Contact Info:

Vortex Springs
1517 Vortex Spring Ln.
Ponce De Leon,
Florida 32455

Phone: (800) 342 – 0640
Phone: (850) 836 – 4979

Gulf Coast Divers: (251) 342-2970

Jan

25

You early risers have been asking for a tank drop for awhile, so we listened.  We have constructed a secure after-hours tank drop.  You can stop by the store outside of business hours (9am-6pm) to leave tanks for service.  Call the store and leave a message with service requested.  When we open at 9 a.m.  We will unlock the locker and fill your tanks for later pick-up.  You must pre-register for this FREE service.  Your tanks should be ready for pick-up by lunctime for most services.  Call (251) 342-2970 or visit the store for more information.