Saturday, November 19, 2011

New and Improved Divermaiden.com!

I want to invite everyone who follows my blog to join me at my redesigned website! Now my blog, image galleries and trip reports are all at the same address. I've added some new galleries and trip reports and am working on adding more.


Visit me at Divermaiden.com!

Hope to see you there!

Kathy

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Non-diver? Don’t worry, Bonaire has lots of fun non-diving activities!

We really enjoyed beautiful Lac Bai!
In 2008 Randy and I went to Bonaire with another couple, one of whom wasn’t a diver. This is a pretty common situation where a dive group or couple has a member that isn’t a diver or maybe isn’t as avid a diver as the rest. Sometimes that person may be happy sitting by the pool or the beach reading a book but not always. Because we had a non-diver in our group on that trip we ended up doing a lot of non-dive related land-based activities. Bonaire is a small island. It takes less than one day to drive all the way around Bonaire. But there are a surprising amount of non-diving activities for such a small island. This blog features some of the fun land-based activities on Bonaire.

Washington Slagbai Park is a fun half-day jaunt. There are two one-way routes through the park, the longest of which takes three to five hours to go all the way around. If you go remember to pack a lunch and plenty of water, there are no stores once you are past the entrance. We enjoyed seeing and trying to photograph birds and also got some great photographs of iguanas, and the blue tailed lizards that are all over the island. At Slagbai beach we got out and put our feet in the water to cool off. You can dive here; there is a protected bay with a sandy beach entrance.

An iguana in Washington Slagbai Park.
Lighthouse aficionados will love Bonaire as there are many old and new lighthouses, some with keeper's buildings, along the coast. Many of the lighthouses are no longer used and are slowly being worn down by nature and the ocean. I couldn’t find a lot of information on the lighthouses we found on Bonaire but some of them are really picturesque and worth a drive to see.

This old lighthouse and keepers building are being worn
away by the ocean on the wild side of Bonaire.
Another great adventure is to explore the caves on the island. Some have stalactites and stalagmites and some are “wet” where you snorkel through ancient underground lakes. In some of the caves there are Indian pictographs, ancient drawings on the walls and roofs of the caves. Explore the smaller caves yourself or go with one of the companies on Bonaire that offer a more adventurous exploration using ladders to go deep into the caves.

One of the shallow caves we found and explored.
Bird watchers will love Bonaire! As mentioned earlier, in Washington Slagbai Park we saw many birds including Caracara, parakeets, hummingbirds, Bananaquits, Yellow Warblers, and the very occasional Troupial. One of the most famous birds of Bonaire are the pink Flamingos. These can be seen at several areas around Bonaire including Washington Slagbai Park and Goto Meer, an inland saltwater lake. Favorite birds on Bonaire include the colorful Caribbean Parakeets and Yellow-shouldered Parrots. They look similar, but the parrots are larger. There is a wonderful website called Birds of Bonaire (www.bonairebirds.com) with lots of information on the birds you can see on the island.
Pink Flamingos are a definite site
to see on Bonaire!
Bonaire has been a major supplier of salt for hundreds of years. Salt production continues today and you can see the mountains of salt from miles away! At one time slave labor was used to produce the salt. The slaves lived in tiny white and red-washed huts placed along the shore. Some are still there and you can go look at them and go inside them. The government also built four obelisks, each a different color to signal ships where to pick up their cargo of salt. Three obelisks are still standing and can be seen today.

Pack a lunch and take a drive out to Lac Bai. It is a beautiful place to eat a picnic lunch under the Mangroves looking out over the blue, blue water. At Sorobon, at Lac, you can go windsurfing or just watch the colorful windsurfers out on the bay. On the way out to the bay there are places to rent kayaks to paddle through the mangroves where it is cool and the shorebirds fish along the water edge.
Shorebirds at Lac Bai.
The Butterfly Farm is an interesting place to visit. The butterflies are from around the world but come from a South American nature protection program where they are bred for captivity with profits going to help preserve the rainforest habitat of the butterflies.

There are many land-based activities on Bonaire that we didn’t do. You can rent a motor boat and cruise to Klein Bonaire for a picnic or go fishing. Go sailing, dirt biking or visit the donkey sanctuary. All these land-based activities will keep the non-divers in your group happy and even hard core divers enjoy the occasional above water activity once in a while, so check out the non-diving activities on Bonaire next time you’re there!

For more information on Bonaire and non-dive related activities on Bonaire try these websites:

http://www.tourismbonaire.com
http://www.outdoorbonaire.com/caving.html
http://www.diving-bonaire.com/bonaire-caves.html
http://www.bonairebirds.com
http://www.infobonaire.com
http://www.bonaire-travelguide.com/history/

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Monterey Shootout, Green Water and Second Place(s)


The two images above are my second place winners.
This is going to be a photo blog featuring a few images from the recent Monterey Shootout which I participated in. It was really fun although the diving was not the greatest. The film festival Saturday night was excellent with presentations by top underwater photographers and videographers most presentations featuring big animals; whales, sharks, manta rays. So cool!

I’ve included a few images to show how green the water was, particularly at the metridian fields where we were trying to shoot wide-angle. And there was quite a bit of surf which is kind of unusual for the sites that we went to. But we still went in, swimming out through the surfers at Wharf II to the dive site. Under Wharf II the conditions were surgy and dark with variable visibility (1-5 feet maybe). My mask kept flooding and Randy forgot his weight harness. Randy took some images at the surface and I held my mask tight to my face and went down for an approximately 23 minute dive. It was worth it!

 


 These two are images that I entered that did not place. The little fish I think could have been  good but I needed to change my angle or light it differently so it didn’t merge into the background as much.


I won second place in Advanced Macro Traditional and second place in Advanced Macro Unrestricted! Woohoo! I was eleventh in points and won an Aquatica housing for the Sony NEX 5 camera. I’m really excited because I had so much trouble with arm and shoulder strain on our Komodo trip and now will have the chance to try out a smaller system! I’m going to rent first and try it out underwater to make sure I really want to trade my Nikon D300 (which I love) for the Sony NEX 5. But it was so exciting to have placed in such a tough competition especially with the trouble I had with my mask flooding and the surge and swimming out through the surf.

I hope you enjoy these images from my Monterey Shootout weekend!





While swimming in on the surface from the metridium fields I had some fun with kelp and self-portraits. Another small fish that was cute but I didn’t think had a chance to win so didn’t enter it.


One of the surfers at our dive site.  ;-)

Randy in the green water at the metridium fields.







Thursday, August 25, 2011

Monterey dive ends in a burst of bubbles!

The day started out so nicely. It was the NCUPS quarterly dive at Wharf II and there were about twelve of us participating including spotters (required by the harbormaster when diving under the wharf). It was foggy as usual as we were suiting up to dive and there was almost no surf as we entered the water and swam out to the dive site.
A personable crab peaks out of the rubble under Wharf II.
I descended to the bottom with my dive buddies and we swam along the wall looking for photo subjects. There were lots of crabs and some small fish hiding in the cracks. After a few minutes I swam out through the pilings, buddies following along, looking in the red bryozoa for fringehead blennies, octopi, nudibranchs etc. I found more crabs and a shrimp on a strawberry anemone.
Shrimp on strawberry anemone.
After a stop on the sandy bottom to photograph another crab I suddenly heard a “pop” and bubbles started swirling madly around my face. “What the…!” I thought. Realizing that the swivel fitting on the second stage of my regulator had blown I switched to my backup and ascended to the surface. I inflated my buoyancy control device (BCD) and drysuit and the air stopped after a minute or two. My BCD wasn’t holding as much air as I would have liked but we were floating.  
About that time I almost got ran over by a kayaker, who then offered to help so I gave her my camera (must save the camera ;) and she towed me to the beach where Randy came into the water to help and make sure I was ok.

Asilomar Beach before the sunset and the bonfires began.

Hotdogs roasting by the bonfire.
It was way more exciting of a dive than I had planned. My second stage fell off the regulator while I was being towed to the beach but Susan found it on the bottom later as she was swimming in. I didn’t get to do much scouting for the upcoming Monterey Shootout which was disappointing. But the NCUPS beach bonfire that night was a lot of fun. Luckily when the regulator blew I was only at a depth of 13 feet, I didn’t get hurt, my regulator is being fixed and I’ll be back in the water on Sunday at Point Lobos.


Visit the NCUPS and Monterey Shootout websites for more information on the Northern California Underwater Photographic Society and the 2011 Monterey Shootout.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Destructive Blast Fishing Seen in Komodo National Park



Komodo National Park Coral Reef
One of the more famous dive sites in Komodo National Park is Cannibal Rock. Cannibal Rock is a pinnacle in a channel between Rinca island and a smaller island, Nusa Kode. The reef and marine life at this site are diverse and abundant and this site is considered by those who dive there as one of the best dive sites anywhere. Unfortunately that was not completely true in our case.
For our first dive at Cannibal Rock we entered up current and were gently swept to the rock as we descended. As we reached the rock we were shocked to see dead fish all over the reef. At first I did not realize what had happened. Our dive guide made explosion gestures and I realized that we were seeing the results of blast fishing. The fishermen use homemade bombs and explode them in the water. After the explosion the fish that did not float and get picked up by the fishermen were left to rot on the bottom. It was such a sad thing to see!
A few of the dead fish found on the reef at Cannibal Rock.

Blast fishing is not allowed in the marine park and is a highly destructive fishing practice. Not only the fish are affected but other marine animals and the reef can be severely damaged also. These highly destructive fishing practices are the strongest threat to the marine environment in the park. The park was established in 1980, initially to protect the Komodo dragon, but its charter expanded to include protection of both marine and terrestrial creatures. With the implementation of the weekly patrol program there has been an 80% decrease in blast fishing in the park but the park is huge and there are not enough resources to patrol the entire park all the time.
In addition to two-day once a week regular patrols the park authorities are working with other local authorities such as the navy and police to enforce regulations and preserve the marine environment. They also hope to involve local communities as their ears and eyes within the park. Our cruise operator was as upset as we were and reported the blast fishing to the park authorities but the fishermen were long gone even when we arrived.
Coleman Shrimp on Fire Urchin and Soft Coral
with Brittle Star at Cannibal Rock.

Most of the sites we dove in Komodo National Park were quite pristine and we saw and photographed huge schools of fish, sharks, turtles and manta rays. And even on our first dive at Cannibal Rock we were amazed by the beautiful marine life that we saw once we got over our initial shock from seeing the dead fish. And luckily we did not see damage to the reef itself. Our second dive at Cannibal Rock was on the back side of the rock and there were fewer dead fish and it was a beautiful dive site.

I left Cannibal Rock with a higher and more personal understanding of how terrible blast fishing is. Before I saw for myself I knew it was destructive but having seen this beautiful reef covered with dead fish made it very real. I plan on continuing to support efforts to end destructive fishing practices around the world including blast fishing and shark finning…I hope that you will too.

A few ocean conservation websites:
Sea Save Foundation
Coral Reef Alliance
Shark Savers
Ocean Conservancy



Friday, July 8, 2011

The Sacred Monkey Forest of Padangtegal

This isn’t a post about diving or photography so to speak; however, if you plan on diving in Bali or Komodo or any of the other wonderful dive sites that take you through Bali you probably will make a detour to Ubud (if not you should) and will get the opportunity to go to the Monkey Forest.

One of the elaborate and beautiful statues in the monkey forest.

The Sacred Monkey Forest of Padangtegal  
The Sacred Monkey Forest of Padangtegal is between Ubud and the resort we stayed at, Alam Indah. It is a sacred Balinese Hindu site where it is believed that the Bali Aga (original Balinese whose religion centered around animism and ancestor worship) may have lived. It is unknown when the first temple was built there, but it may have been as early as the mid 14th century. The structures seen currently are a mixture of old and new as they are made with soft volcanic rock which deteriorates quickly in the humidity. The temple and surrounding structures are quite beautiful and one could spend an afternoon exploring them and the river which runs through the forest.

Ficus trees are among those studied shown here near the ampitheatre and down by the river.


The Part Monkeys Play in Balinese Hinduism
Monkeys are both loathed and revered in Balinese Hinduism, as they have both positive and negative forces. The monkeys in the sacred Balinese Hindu temple sites like the Sacred Monkey Forest and Uluwatu are revered. One of the dances that we enjoyed at Uluwatu temple was the story of Ramayana, bride of Rama who is abducted by the evil king and rescued with the help of Sugriwa (King of the monkeys) and his monkey army. The negative nature of the monkeys is seen when they raid rice fields and snatch items from souvenir shops and tourists. Which we witnessed at Uluwatu when a monkey stole a tourist’s wallet right out of his pocket!

The temple at Uluwatu and one of the dancers in the Ramayana.


A Little about Long-tailed Macaques
The monkeys in the sanctuary are long-tailed macaques. They are quite used to people walking among them and often will jump on people and take off with things they find interesting like sunglasses and hats. At the entrances to the Monkey Forest vendors sell bananas to feed the monkeys. We didn’t buy any preferring to photograph the monkeys without having them swarm all over us. Macaques live in troops which are like family groups with females staying with the same group throughout their life. Males migrate between troops but must be accepted by the troop’s females to join it. There were several mothers with infants which were very cute. The mother macaques were quite protective and would gather in their infants when anyone came close.

A troop of monkeys with the glowering matriarch and a mother holding her newborn close.


The Role of the Village of Padangtegal and Research in the Forest
But the Monkey Forest is more than a sacred site and sanctuary for monkeys it is also a part of everyday village life where festivals are regularly held and it is also an area of research. The Udayana University in Denpasar is studying the sacred trees of the forest of which there are 115 identified species. The monkeys also are part of an ongoing study conducted by the Balinese Macaque Project. The Sacred Monkey Forest is owned by the village of Padangtegal and members of the village serve on the governing council to protect the site, educate visitors, and oversee management and monitoring of the natural and cultural resources.

We enjoyed our walks through the monkey forest exploring the temple, forest and river, especially in the morning when there were fewer people about. You will too!

More information on the Sacred Monkey Forest of Padangtegal is available on the monkey forest website, http://www.monkeyforestubud.com/

Friday, July 1, 2011

Fond Memories of the California Beach Dive Photo Competition

 
Art and Patti help me up the beach when the competition
allowed beach diving only. It's nice to have friends.
Photo by Randy Herz.
 I went to the Monterey Shootout website to register for the competition today. Doing this brought up memories of the California Beach Dive Photo Competition (CBDPC) which has taken on the Monterey Shootout name. The original CBDPC was organized by the Northern California Underwater Photographic Society (NCUPS) which I belong to. I’ve been going to the CBDPC for over ten years as a participant and volunteer.

My favorite volunteer job was helping out in the kitchen at the Saturday night dinner and show. Working in the kitchen was a lot of work but there was a fair amount of wine involved …chopping onions and garlic was never so much fun! Unfortunately the dinner has been dropped from the schedule this year. There will be a film festival Saturday night though with some really great underwater photographers and videographers presenting!

Susan wields a mean electric knife!
 
Rick and I goof around.
Photo by Randy Herz.


I made some really wonderful friends over the years at the CBDPC. I think these are the memories I enjoy the most…memories of all the great people who participate. We had so much fun diving and shooting, joking around and helping each other out.  Old friends, new friends, we all came together to dive and shoot in Monterey and have a good time.

Chuck and Art know I'm in there somewhere!

Chris, one of the last users of film. Film, what's film?
 There was one year Randy had shoulder surgery and I dove with Rick in my very leaky drysuit. Due to some very poor hand signals Rick thought my inflator valve wasn’t working and spent several minutes working on the hose and valve, which is in an interesting place. I have fond memories of a bunch of us hanging out at Chris’s tiny house while she and Bev made a million deviled eggs! One of the first years with digital Randy and I had several divers with their laptops packed into our camper selecting images where it was dry and warm. And I remember a year where Randy, Sarah, Patti and I went all over Monterey looking for a good margarita. Last year I had pinched a nerve and couldn’t dive but I still went and enjoyed seeing everyone and helping out where I could. 

Chris is having fun!

Rick, Robbie and Mike select their images.

 This year’s event begins on Friday morning with a workshop for beginners at Backscatter and a cocktail party there later in the evening. Boat diving is allowed and diving and shooting starts Friday and continues into Saturday with all entries to be submitted by 7:30 p.m. The lineup for the Saturday night film festival is incredible with Steven Frink scheduled to present with several other excellent underwater photographers and videographers also on the schedule! On Sunday the fun continues with really great seminars by Steven Frink and Eric Cheng. Then the moment we all wait for…the awards ceremony! And as usual there are some great prizes…hey, I better start practicing!
See you at the Monterey Shootout!