Category Archives: Marine Protected Areas

Diving the Donations: Baja Sur and Hurricane Odile

Just a quick post while I’m thinking of the residents of Cabo, La Paz, and all of Baja Sur – who could surely use our help after the recent destruction by Hurricane Odile.

I was scheduled to travel for a second time to beautiful La Paz, MX, this coming weekend for a week of awesome diving with a group of friends – and of course with sea lions, large schools of fish, and a lot of hearty ‘small stuff’:


Sea lions, La Paz, MX 2012

A pretty hefty sea horse.  La Paz, 2012.

A pretty hefty sea horse. La Paz, 2012.


Swarmed. Big schools in the Sea of Cortez. La Paz, 2012

Sadly, those plans have changed due to the storm a couple of weeks back.  The Cabo airport is still closed, power is not fully restored, potable water is a problem in places, etc.  Selfishly, I’m very disappointed, of course, but have also been looking around the web for advice on how to help the folks who live there.  The short version: It comes down to the ease and versatility of the almighty dollar.  (Donating “stuff” is well-meaning, but rarely effective in the long run.)

I won’t be fortunate enough to spend my tourist dollars there, so I figure I’ll still send some of the green stuff by making donations to disaster relief efforts.

Now, I’m not “pushing” for these organizations, but after consulting a number of articles and organizations on-line, these two seem like pretty good options to me, so I just figured I’d pass along the info.  Here are two reputable sites that offer donation services:

The International Community Foundation programs in Baja Sur

The Mexican Red Cross via the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

And, if you ever get a chance to dive (and spend some dough) in the La Paz area, take it!
It’s a beautiful place with great diving conditions in the Sea of Cortez, and a ton of sea life you don’t see every day.  I really enjoyed my stay at Club Cantamar and had a lot of fun and wonderful dive masters from their Baja Dive Services.  Screen shot 2014-10-01 at 10.32.46 AM

Here’s to the people of Baja Sur – wishing them all a speedy recovery.

sea lions

Divine. La Paz, MX. 2012

Next up:  Great Whites in Guadalupe!


Diving the WCS and “Beneath the Sea”

This was a good week for Diving the Water Column.

First off, The SCUBA diving market show Beneath the Sea was in town, at the Meadowlands Expo Center in New Jersey.  I headed over on Sunday and met up with my good buddies from Ocean Horizons Scuba in Brooklyn, NY, to take a look around.

BTSIconDanDiveSafetyDayDivers Alert Network (DAN) kindly offered members discounted admission to BtS (thank you, DAN), and the show was jammed with dive travel information, dive gear to sample, and many other scuba-related products and services.

I was happy to speak to some reps from various companies I admire, from the wonderful DAN to enthusiastic and serious instructors from NAUI, product reps from Sherwood, Aqualung and Cressi, among others, and our awesome travel friends from Casa del Mar in Cozumel (see my previous post), Sam’s Tours in Palau (also mentioned here, previously), Palau Dive Adventures, and many others.

Oh, and the Sea Shepherds, too.  One out of three of their booth staff was friendly and informative when I stopped by…and I appreciated her conversation very much.  But then big news hit the very next day, too: congratulations to the Sea Shepherds for their part in the ongoing struggle toward the banning of Japanese whaling in the Antarctic!  Fantastic news.

Monday night, it was on to a sharp panel discussion from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in NYC, called “Saving the Last of the Wild: Protecting our Oceans.”  WCS

The event was short and focused on raising money from the various patrons in the audience, and the panel of speakers was really impressive: Caleb McClennen, Executive Director of the Global Marine Program for WCS; Alisa “Harley” Newton, Senior Pathologist for WCS Zoological Health Programs; and Tim McClanahan, a Senior Conservation Zoologist who runs the WCS Coral Reef Programs in Kenya.

Each gave a good talk on his/her specialty area, and tried hard to offer a fair amount of hope regarding what are generally very troubling topics: Ocean acidification, coral extinction risks, coral and sea star diseases, and fisheries management.

photo 3

WCS “Saving the Last of the Wild” panel (RS, 3/2014)

So…what’s the upshot from the week?  After browsing Beneath the Sea, and listening to the experts, I think it’s pretty much the same drill, at least for myself:

Keep at reducing our carbon footprints, try to contribute to organizations that fight for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and to lessen over fishing and by-catch waste, download (if you haven’t) – and actually USE – the very cool Seafood Watch app seafood watch appto avoid consuming endangered fish species, and for crying out loud, stop with the plastic bags and excess disposable plastic crap.


Oh, and…get scuba diving, ASAP, of course.   I know I’m counting the days.




Diving the Jelly Fish Lake – Palau

OK, now for a nice short one on Jellyfish Lake in beautiful Palau.  PALAU AERIAL commons

I’ve been lucky enough to go to diving in Palau twice, so far – thanks to Ocean Horizons Scuba here in Brooklyn and Sam’s Tours there in Koror.  Each time, I’ve visited this unique marine lake on Eil Malk, one of the Rock Islands that comprise the stunning island nation.

A visit to Palau really has to include a trip to Jellyfish Lake, where you can swim around, surrounded by thousands of golden jellyfish – all stingless (…or very close.  Read this article from the NWF for more in-depth science and busted myths behind these critters).  There are a few other species in the lake, but you likely wouldn’t notice – the golden jellies are the main show, and they. are. everywhere.


Jellyfish Lake Palau 2010 RS

Jellyfish Lake 2010 RS

Jellyfish Lake Palau 2010 RS

The photo ops are endless. Everyone comes away with a lot of cool pictures like these – just two of several that I took.

It is one of the coolest, freakiest dive sites, ever.  Though it’s not actually a “dive” spot – you’re permitted only to swim or snorkel, so the animals and habitat are not disrupted.

I think that’s why I got such a kick out of this new YouTube video that’s bouncing around the internet.  It shows some kind of camera-rigged drone, that flies above and then dives right down into the lake. Great footage, from a very cool perspective.  Check it out right here.

The video also captures the drone flying over the Sea Passion – coincidentally the same hotel we’ve stayed in – and across the small lagoon with the shallow WW2 wreck, and then over toward Sam’s Tours – a lovely and very nostalgic little route for me.  (Can’t wait to go back!)

Flag of Palau

Flag of Palau

Overall, it is really neat and well done – thanks to Andrea Esty.  Hope to meet you some day.

Reading about this drone business, I also found some interesting articles like this one, on the possibility of Palau using drone technology to patrol its vast, protected waters. It may help the country’s bold stance as general marine sanctuary (as of Feb. 2014!) and as the first declared shark sanctuary (since 2009!).

But that’s another post, for another day…

Until then – thanks, all!