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Black Belt Divers Blog

A day without diving is like a day without sunshine!

  • Gozo Technical Diving trimix dive at Inland Sea Gozo

  • Toronto Star Features Jill Heinerth in Insight

    Toronto Star Foreign Affairs Reporter Marina Jimenez interviewed Jill Heinerth about her lie as a cave explorer. The feature spanned three pages in the Sunday Star.

    Download a PDF here: TorStarInsight

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  • Underwater Video Tips

    2016VideoCoverFRONTAs a Contributing Editor for DIVER Magazine in Canada, I write a regular column called “Final Cut.” In the column I share advice on making underwater videos. If you haven’t had a chance to check out DIVER, they have compiled many of my articles here. And if you enjoy them, please subscribe to DIVER or buy my book: The Scuba Divers Guide to Underwater Video. You can also buy the book in Kindle format. If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, it is free!

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  • Dugongs - reincarnation of women


    diving with dugons


    These mythical marine mammals graze regularly right here in the wide seagrass beds of Bunaken Marine Park. They are amazing creatures that will definitely surprise you if encountered on a dive or snorkeling trip. Any diver will get confused for a moment at the first sight and wonder what is that giant, somehow familiar but odd-looking, creature. The first time I saw a dugong during a safety stop at Fukui for a second I thought it was a tiger shark. And the moment it swam by us and looked at us, a big smile got on our faces and we realized it’s a dugong! A bit later I remembered that I was holding onto a camera and finally managed to push on the record button for some evidence.

    Dugong has a dolphin-like tail, small eyes with limited vision, good hearing, paddle-like fore limbs, nostrils on top of the head and two teats behind each flipper. They grow up to 3 meters in length, weigh up to 400 kg and can live for 70 years. They swim mostly in shallow water feeding on seagrass beds and can hold their breath only for about 6 minutes at the time.

    When you go snorkeling past the seagrass bed on the way to our amazing house reef, you can see white lines in the seagrass. These are dugong tracks, they dig up the whole plant with their large horseshoe-shaped mouth, shake the sand off and eat the grass. The best time to see dugongs here in Bunaken is around full moon or new moon in late afternoon when the tide is the highest. Many of our guests have seen them while diving or snorkeling on our house reef or at the seagrass bed.


    snorkeling with dugong


    Traditionally dugongs have had different meanings for different communities. For example in Malaysia and Philippines dugongs are called “lady of the sea”, in Kenya “queen of the sea” where they use them for food, medicine and decorations. In India they make dugong oil and in Japan they make carvings from their ribs. Southern Chinese call them ‘the miraculous fish”, but still regard it as bringing bad luck if you catch them, same as in the Philippines where they use parts of them to scare away bad spirits. Australian Aboriginals regard them as part of their aboriginality and in Papua New Guinea dugongs are a symbol of strength. In Thailand their tears are used as a love potion… and finally here in Indonesia they believe dugongs are reincarnations of women, so ladies, don’t get offended if someone calls you a dugong when you jump in for a swim from the boat!!

    Even though in English dugongs are called ‘sea cows’ they are not related to cows but rather to elephants. Their closest relatives in the sea are manatees, the heart-shape tailed Atlantic cousins, and together they form the order ‘Sirenia’.


    sea cow dugong


    Dugongs are facing some problems too, their biggest threat being, unfortunately, humans. They are hunted for their meat and oil, and entanglement in fishing nets, vessel strikes and oil spills are very harmful for them. Disappearance of sea grass beds caused by reclamation, sewage, detergents, hyper saline water, waste products, mining etc. means a loss of their habitat.

    Dugongs are slow in reproduction as they reach sexual maturity only at the age of 8-18 years and females give birth only few times during their lifespan to a single calf at the time. Parental care lasts for 2-7 years. Newborns start to feed on sea grass after birth, but nursing lasts up to 18 months. We have been extremely lucky to have spotted dugong mothers with their babies many times on our house reef right in front of Living Colours!

    Text by Annika Hartell



  • Cave Diving France/Spain Tour 2016

    As a passionate cave diver and traveller I have to admit that there is nothing like combining both passions.  Just thinking about going to a different part of the world to do what I love the most makes my day. I´m sure many of the readers can relate to this when planning holidays. There is […]

    The post Cave Diving France/Spain Tour 2016 appeared first on Mexico Cave Diving & Cave Training - ProTec Blog.

  • Explorer in Residence

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  • Sofnolime versus Spherasorb

    Finally some real data exists comparing the relative durations of Sofnolime 797 versus Spherasorb. Rosemary Lunn of The Underwater Marketing Company posted this to X-Ray Magazine describing recent scientific studies on sorb.

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  • Resilience and Integrity

    Phil Saye was a happy man in the summer of 2004. He had a new dive shop, just five weeks old and a great home on Grenada. He was living the dream. But like many people in the Caribbean, there is life before Hurricane Ivan and life after. Ivan formed in early September, reached Category 5 strength on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, and became the 10th most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded. There was catastrophic damage on Grenada when it pummeled on shore as a strong Category 3. From there it devastated Cayman, western Cuba and even Alabama. But by that time, Phil Saye had nothing. His shop Dive Grenada was a shell and his home was destroyed. He was in shock. With nothing left, he only knew that others needed help too. Phil immediately volunteered for the Red Cross and assisted in every way he could. He comforted others and helped local people rebuild their lives. But just when things could not get worse, he fell and broke his hip. His first thought was that he would get back on his feet quickly, but soon learned that the entire head of the femur had snapped. He needed a hip replacement. Defeated and scared, he returned to England where medical care and rehabilitation was his only job. A remarkable women in his life, Helen stepped in and soon Phil was mobile and optimistic again. It was a love affair with his wife Helen and a love affair with Grenada that helped him rebuild and re-establish Dive Grenada as it is today.

    So what has this got to do with diving? For me, everything. I dived with Phil on a Saturday, when his able staff could have easily given him a day off. Instead, he joined me on the boat for the sheer joy of diving. We went to the most trafficked site on the island, the Veronica L wreck and Happy Valley in the Marine Protection Area. I’m sure Phil has had more than hundreds of dives on these sites, but you could never wipe a grin off this man’s face. He loves his job. He loves his wife and he loves his team. That makes a day of diving something extraordinary.

    Phil realizes that his customers are excited to dive with him. He says he can’t quite figure out why. After all, he has such a great staff. But for me, it is a special something. It’s his smile. It’s the fresh ginger cake and granola bars that he made for everyone on the boat. It’s a joie de vivre that Phil spills all over the boat. A day at Dive Grenada is transformational scuba. It doesn’t matter where you dive, you will come back new.

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  • Don’t Mix Metric!

    What’s wrong with this valve? If you think it looks a little beat up, you should see the other guy. This metric valve was installed in an Imperial tank by a diver. The fill operator hooked it up for a fill without knowing about the “attempted service” by the unknowing diver. Fortunately, the fill operator had stepped out of the compressor area when the incorrect threads gave out and the valve launched out of the cylinder, stripping the threads along the way. Nearby, while eating my lunch, I heard the loud bang and hiss and was glad to note that it was not followed by pandemonium or screaming. Nobody was hurt. The valve took the fill whip with it and smashed out a light fixture creating a hole in the ceiling. This could have been a deadly accident. Consider this a reminder that you should never mix threads between Imperial and Metric tanks and valves. Better yet, leave your tank maintenance to a pro.

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  • Native Spirit Scuba Grenada

    Adrian Blackman had a lengthy career in the diving industry before he finally opened his own diving company Native Spirit Scuba Grenada. Located on Grand Anse Beach at the Radisson Resort, it is the first diving operation owned and operated by Grenadian native citizens. The vibe is relaxed and quality excellent. They take safety and preparation seriously and carefully prepare us for a fast drop to the Hema, a wreck that Adrian watched sink more than a decade ago. A member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, Blackman responded to the sinking and rescued the crew members from the ship. As they boarded his vessel, they heard a deafening crack. The ship broke in half on descent. Today it sits well offshore in the clear, current rich diversity of the Atlantic. Sharks hide in the lee of the wreck and large schools of fish constantly carpet the surroundings. A pair of eagle rays drifted over our heads as we descended quickly to the bottom.

    Our second stop was a beautiful reef site where I carefully observed Coral Reef Gardener Paulina seeking out and noting the tiny inhabitants of the reef. Her role, sponsored by an EU NGO, helps her develop and maintain a coral nursery and also monitor reef health and trends. Now 20 years old, she is seeking further education and a career involving marine biology. A confident and graceful diver, she is a joy to watch as she hovers effortlessly over little holes containing lobsters crabs and reef fish.

    Joe and I both enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of Native Spirit Scuba and truly appreciated hte expert boat handling and diving procedures.

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