I am sitting here thinking about some of my most memorable scuba dives. It has been a while since I have been diving, and it is frustrating. I had plans to spend a part of this winter in Mexico. However, the high COVID rates pushed those plans aside, just like they did last year. Hopefully, things will improve and I can take a late spring trip instead. Completing my rescue diver course this year and getting my Master Diver rating is goal for this year. I decided to finally do that 2 years ago, only to have the lockdowns cancel my class as it started.
I want to reach the 1,000 dive mark as well, I am at 953. I became an SSI gold diver in March 2015, that is 500 dives. The 1,000 dive mark is not a big of a milestone for a dive professional, but for a normal recreational diver, it is something.
I have extensively traveled, covering many portions of the world. Tropical destinations are my favorite. Being upfront, Warm water diving is my choice. I have done a few cold water dives but did not enjoy them as much. I have visited and dived much of the Caribbean and Central America. Extensively traveled and dived in South East Asia including Thailand, Philippines, and Malaysia, with additional visits to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Singapore. I have enjoyed diving in two different portions of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Tropical USA destinations include Florida, Hawaii, and the destination where “America Starts Its Day”, Guam.
Many of my most memorable scuba dives were years ago. I still am in awe on many dives now, but these hold a special place in my dive memories. There are not ranked in order of favorite as that chances on the topic.
Dive Buddies and My Most Memorable Scuba Dives
I am going to start with this one because it is not only one of my most Memorable Scuba Dives but also likely my favorite dive story. When this happened I had only been diving for a few years and took a dive vacation for a week in the Florida Keys.
I stayed at a small hotel with a dive center on Ramrod Key. That is 27 miles (ca. 43 km) north of Key West. The location suited me as it was close enough to explore Key West and enjoy that place, while far enough away to be away from the crowds. The trip had me diving a few times in Key West as well as from where I stayed. This dive was out to the Looe Key Marine Sanctuary. Looe Key Sanctuary Preservation Area (SPA) is located approximately 5.5 nautical miles south of Ramrod Key.
The boat we went out on carried a number of divers and snorkelers. I am going to guess there were about 40 people in total but only ten of us were divers. As I was traveling alone, I was teamed up with another dive as my dive buddy. A basic rule is to always dive with a buddy. The purpose is to have someone near to assist if problems arise. This buddy was a new diver, and it was the first time he was diving after getting his certification. I had no problem with that, everyone has to start new. The dive site was comfortable for a new diver. However, as I will explain, he was a terrible dive buddy.
The 1st Dive
The diving was on a Spur and Grooves type reef about 25 to 30 feet deep. The best way to envision this type of reef layout is to place your hand flat on a table with the fingers spread. Your fingers represent the spurs and the space between the grooves.
The divers were in the water first, and my dive buddy and I went to the sandy bottom about 30 feet below. We swam the short distance to the reef and started to explore the top surface like the back of your hand. The visibility was great and soon we could see the snorkelers above us. About 5 minutes into the dive, my dive buddy headed towards the surface. He should have indicated to me if he had a problem before heading up, but he did not. I followed him to the surface to see what was wrong, the duties of a dive buddy.
When I got to the surface he was talking to two young ladies, who I found out were his wife and his sister. He told me nothing was wrong when I asked and said he was just pointing out some things to the girls. I reminded him that he should have indicated he was surfacing and it is not good to repeatedly go to the surface. After a few minutes, we continued the dive. About 10 minutes later he again returned to the surface, and I followed to see what was up. It was the same thing and again I told him it was not acceptable. The third and fourth times he did it, I stayed down and watched for his return.
The 2 nd dive
When we got back aboard, I went to the divemaster and explained what happened. Together, we went and talked to the diver. I made it clear that if he did it again, I would not follow him to the surface, and he would need to find me. The divemaster was not happy with my position but, said he understood it. The second dive was similar to the first but more on the ridge and grooves portion of the reef. My dive buddy and I started our dive on the sandy section going up a 15 to 20-foot wide channel between the coral. It took less than 10 minutes before the buddy was headed to the surface. I watched and made sure he reached the surface and nothing seemed wrong. I then continue my dive without him.
I continued up the channel about 50 yards till it ended at the reef, I turned around and headed back out. I reached the end of the reef, followed it to the next groove, and started up it. About halfway up the groove, I was joined. I had expected that my dive buddy had returned, but he did not. There was a new dive buddy. Swimming alongside me at my left shoulder, about 5 feet away, was a Caribbean reef shark. He seemed to be just slightly larger than I was so let’s say it was 5 and a half feet long. I did not stop swimming and while keeping one eye on him, continued up the channel. At the channel’s end, I very carefully turned around to start back. You can imagine my shock when the shark circled around and return to the position off my shoulder.
My new dive buddy and I did this 4 times. At the end of the last channel, he simply swam up to the reef leaving me behind. I was the center of attraction back on the dive boat as many people saw what happened.
I like Sharks
Another of my most memorable scuba dives was from Nassau to a destination called the Tongue of the Ocean (TOTO). TOTO is a trench 6,000 feet deep. Around it is a shallow reef. There are a few dive sites among the reef including some shipwrecks. Nutrient-rich waters from the deep feed the reefs, so they are healthy and have abundant marine life. Sharks are common on the reefs and along the wall. The edge of the reef provides wonderful wall dives. We did two dives just a short distance away from each other. We were directed to keep away from the drop-off on the first dive.
The first dive was wonderful, about 50 feet deep with more marine life than I had seen in one place up until then. There were large groupers as well as colorful reef fish. There were also many reef sharks. It was hard to keep track of how many there were. The sharks did not really pay much attention to the divers, just where casually swimming around.
During our surface interval, they moved to dive boat to another site about 10 minutes away. They told us the site was called Joe’s tug. We really did not have any dive buddies, were told just to keep an eye out for each other. Visibility was 100 feet or more. We dropped down to a coral reef about 50 feet deep and 100 feet from the wreck. Then we made out way to the wreck. I do not know if the sharks followed the boat or what, but there were many there. There were about 15 to 20 sharks.
I spent about half of the dive just watching the behavior and the grace of the sharks. The rest of the time was exploring the small wreck. I have included a small clip from that dive. Watch it to the end for a nice chuckle. One of the divers was a young lady who was on her first dive after being certified. In the clip you see her following her boyfriend into a hatch.
This dive was great and I still enjoy viewing the video. It is also good for my ego. Most of the divers were more advanced than me, but I think my trim and movements were much better. This was my first certified dive in the Caribbean and the first time I dove while taking a vacation on a cruise ship.
Subic Bay’s USS New York
Subic Bay in the Philippines is where I finally became a certified diver. The most popular dive site there is the USS New York (ACR-2) aka USS Rochester (CA-2). Most divers visiting Subic Bay have this high on their list of dive sites to do. Therefore, most dive days have a dive or two on this wreck. Of my first 50 dives just short of half were on this site. Over the years, I visited the site over 100 times. Remember I am not a dive guide, divemaster, or instructor.
The USS New York lies on her side in 100 feet of water. While visibility is not always good, there is seldom any current. The uppermost hull is between 50 and 60 feet, this makes it suitable for Open Water Divers. I did my first dive as an Open Water Diver on this site. Advanced Open Water Divers can drop a little deeper to explore the props and the 8-inch gun. Wreck divers have a few sections of this massive ship they can explore. A long passage along the mess deck is popular as well as one of the support rooms for the engines. Technical divers have even more to explore. The ship has settled into the mud of the bay, the depth inside the wreck is deeper than outside.
A group of Technical divers did a series of dives, mapping out the inside of the ship. I was not a part of that effort but was in the dive center as they were doing some planning. I was surprised when I found a set of videos on YouTube about the process and results. I was even more surprised to see that I was in their video, AKA the recreational divers
For the record, I would say that the Japanese Patrol Boat is my favorite wreck site in Subic Bay. It appears to had been a Japanese fishing boat transformed for military patrol duties. Simple to explore inside and out.
The Spanish Armed Transport San Quintin ex S/S Andes is my favorite shallow water dive, perfect for the second dive of the day.
The Concrete Ship Wreck of Subic Bay YON-146 is likely the least dive wreck in the bay. It should be the largest, however, it is located near the mouth of a river. Silt from the river has buried most of the wreck. Still, I find it a very interesting dive.
My Most Memorable Scuba Dives On A Liveaboard
I have been on two liveaboards to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The first was in the Whitsundays. I had a few nice dives, but overall that trip was a near disaster. It is a long story, that someday I will write up. The second was the Ribbon Reefs aboard Mike Ball’s Supersport. That trip was perfect.
The Supersport no longer sails having been replaced by the Spoilsport. However, the trip is still possible. It is a 7-day trip from Cairns along the Ribbon Reefs to Lizard Island and back. It is also possible to do it as a 3 or 4-day trip starting or ending at Lizard Island instead. We did it as a 4-day trip flying into Lizard Island and joining the liveaboard. There were 3 or 4 dives each day with the best diving I have ever done.
I recently came across a video from that trip and really enjoyed watching it. When I went back to make a clip for this page, I could not find it again. I am sure I will find it again and when I do, I will post a link.
Other Memorable Scuba Dives
It is difficult to just focus on a few as being the most memorable scuba dives. I will fondly remember the dives in Jamaica where a very sexy young lady asked everyone on the dive boat if anyone would object to her and her partner diving nude. Another memory is the first time I saw a giant clam that was larger than I am and my first night dive.
This photograph of a Bishop Cap Sea Urchin (Astropyga radiata) is very special to me. I was helping a new dive center get established. I found an interesting dive site just a few minutes from their shop. It was a shallow reef about 10 to 30 feet deep with patches of sand. There was a steep wall off to one side that dropped to about 60 feet. I named it Analou’s Wall.
This was a perfect training site. I was trailing along behind their first Open Water Diver class when I spotted the sea urchin. I had never seen one before and have never seen one since. Even went back to the site the next day and could not find it. The photograph is the only proof I saw it.
Many highlights of my life involve scuba diving. memorable scuba dives