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Ali D’s Diving Travels!

“Into the Ocean went a world more fantastic than any imagination could inspire...” Join me on my ocean travels in 2020!
Jan 2020 - Shark School Bahamas
Mar 2020- Invasive Lionfish Speciality - volunteering in Belize
April 2020 - Florida Keys Road Trip
April 2020 - IDC & IE Bristol
May 2020 - Philippines
May 2020 - RAID Freediving course
July 2020 - White Shark cage diving Guadalupe
Aug 2020 - Shark Squad Liveaboard French Polynesia
Sep 2020 - Wrecks & Reefs Liveaboard Hurghada

Diary Entries

Monday, 16 March 2020

Location: Placencia , Belize

16th to the 20th March Tom Owens Caye

Back at the Hokey Pokey Water taxi dock for our Monday morning pickup. The shock was that no new volunteers arrived - all 7 had cancelled presumably because of the Coronavirus outbreak. This meant only 5 of us from the previous week returned to the island - the smallest group they’d ever had to take out. Our journey out was smooth by comparison to the previous week and this time both Jimbo and Rex were there to greet us. As there were so few of us the three girls - myself, Fabiene and Marion claimed the three upstairs rooms in the main building living in real luxury with a bathroom a piece! However it was no messing around this week with orientations - within 20 mins of arriving the bell rang and we were in the water diving within 15 minutes! Two dives that first afternoon we slept well that night. However day two brought my first mishap. Trying to fillet a Lionfish after our first dive my hand slipped and I knocked against the spines of the fish lying next to it! Venom in the finger! Got straight to the kitchen and put it in the hot water - tablets for swelling and pain. After two hours immersion my hand looked dead crinkly but I’d effectively avoided major swelling. It hurt but I think the fact the fish was dead and we dealt with it immediately meant the venom didn’t travel far in my system. Made me appreciate the value of having stayed calm the day before when one escaped from my spear and shot round the back of my head. Mordy signalled breathe out and descend and I knew by his eyes don’t question it. A head sting would have been serious particularly on a dive when you’d need to get back to land for treatment.

Day three saw four dives - three day followed by a night dive. On the night dive my inflator stuck on the BCD and before I could vent or disconnect I’m puffed up like a Mitchelin man at the surface - thankfully only from 5 metres. Finished the dive by orally inflating and headed for a well earned shower - only to slip and fall on the tiled floor! Cut my foot on the wall and bent back my toes - unable to put any weight on the big toe. Swollen by morning but put on the boot and went diving only to be confronted by heavy bruising/more swelling when I took the boot off later. We’d stayed out for two dives so potentially the pressure of the water and the boot had brought it all out.

Whilst on our surface interval that day we stopped off at a fisherman’s island - real eye opener! Covered in rubbish. We did a bit of a beach clean (we couldn’t remove everything - there was too much) and removed some nets that would have ultimately become ghost nets had they gone back in the water. There were garden chairs, bottles, hard hats - all coming from Honduras. It just shows that the message still needs to get out there and that with all the education that’s been done we still have so much to learn.

Final dive Friday morning and head back in to Placencia for a well earned weekend break.

Saturday, 14 March 2020

Location: Placencia , Belize

First weekend back on the mainland and back to the Paradise resort hotel - it was good to have a hot shower! Saturday was a chill day - joined Andrea at Sailfin hotel in their Infinity pool for cocktails. Sunday went on an excursion to the Cockscombe Jaguar Reserve. Spent time swimming in the waterfall (in my bra and pants as no one told me to take a swimsuit) and then river tubing! Fantastic day with two American couples from Seattle with our guide Oz ( who was fantastic!). Evenings were spent with our volunteering crew - looking forward to heading back out on Monday with a bunch of newbies!

Monday, 09 March 2020

Location: Tom Owens Caye, Belize

9th to 13th March Volunteering Tom Owens Caye Week 1

Got dropped off at the Hokey Pokey water taxi dock at around 9am ready to leave for Tom Owens Caye with the Reef CI team at 9.30. Needn’t have been so early! Belizan time! We didn’t leave till 10am. Basically the ride out the Caye is about an hour - but conditions were appalling! So choppy we were all soaked to the skin! One of the boats lost it’s engine cover mid journey so we had to transfer passengers before it turned back. It was a real relief to finally arrive at the island to be greeted by Jimbo the dog!

First task on arrival was island orientation. Tom Owens Caye is small but idyllic. Accommodation is shared and basic but with views of the Caribbean like that you don’t really mind. As a group we divided up into the newbies or Baby Seals as they christened themselves, and The Advanced! Baby Seals were basically doing their open water course. The advanced group was smaller - three of these were completing a a Rescue Course along with Lionfish specialities. One was taking Advanced Open Water and then me just along for the Lionfish Speciality.

Orientation dives done on day one, we settled into our routine for the week. 3 dives a day - 7am, 11am and 3pm (followed by a night dive on the Wednesday) covering Lionfish spearing, conch surveys, lobster surveys and fish ID. Through the course of the week we also had a lecture on each subject, coupled with learning to fillet and dissect Lionfish.

Lionfish are invasive to the Caribbean with no natural predators. A female Lionfish carries 2 egg sacks containing 15000 eggs each. She gives birth to mature Lionfish virtually every other week. Their voracious appetite coupled with overfishing is decimating the reef fish so removing the Lionfish through spearing is a vital activity. Fish fillets are sold to local restaurants and their tails for jewellery. Each day 10 are dissected with recorded results - size, weight, sex, stomach contents. I took part in all these activities (spearing, containment, filleting and dissecting) as part of my specialty.

Wednesday heralded the arrival of Rex - a friend for Jimbo, to be the second island dog. Jimbo’s response was to try to hump Rex at every opportunity which was really comical.

It was also on Wednesday that I came down with food poisoning! I was sick 7 times - diarrhoea at least 5! I spent a terrible night! However at about 3am Jimbo and Rex decided to play nurse and join me in bed! However you don’t really need two dogs in your bed when laid up like that!

As a result of I lost a whole day diving on the Thursday - managed back in the water Friday am! I was still suffering over the weekend back in Placencia feeling stupidly weak, but I finally got my act together again!

Fantastic week with a fantastic team. Five of us due to head back out on Monday for a second week with another set of new recruits, others heading home. All Baby Seals qualified as Open Water students - all in all awesome week!

Sunday, 08 March 2020

Location: Placencia , Belize

It’s rained virtually all day to day on and off - and when it comes down it hammers down! Borrowed one of the complimentary bicycles this morning and went back up to the airport to do a bit of spotting. Dry as I went, got soaked to the skin on the way back! Still in the high 70’s though! There’s a hotel near the airport owned by the director Francis Ford Coppola with its own private helipad. Apparently he doesn’t come that often but it shows what you can do if you’ve got the money. Most of the more exclusive hotels are near the airport - Placencia is more rustic and the hotels here are small and often consist of individual cabanas. Once I’d dried off I took the bike out again around Placencia however the saddle makes my bum sore so in the end I headed back to the hotel. Found a little restaurant nearby and sat on the terrace for some lunch - given the weather I had no choice but to drink rum punch and was very merry by 2pm. Just had my siesta while the kids had a birthday party in the hotel bar downstairs. Now it’s happy hour - do I fancy a rum and coke? I need to get up earlyish as I meet up with the team from Reef CI in the morning to head out to the island on the reef. Can’t wait to get in the water!

Saturday, 07 March 2020

Location: Placencia Village, Belize

Left the Black Orchid hotel this morning after a great sleep (like 10 hours) and even better breakfast (scrambled eggs, refried beans and diced spicy potatoes)! Back to Belize International airport for my flight down to Placencia. The plane was a 12 seater Cessna Caravan, so a bit of an experience! Awesome views over the jungle and coast. Was met at the airport by a driver from my hotel and was sitting eating quesadillas and drinking rum by lunch time. Had a walk around Placencia - it’s quiet but seems like there’s plenty of excursions on offer. Came back and sat by the beach with another rum doing some study for my IDC - hard life! - followed by a little siesta (and I’m not normally a sleep in the day person!). I had a family of turtles on my bed made out of towels - hotel is small like all of them around here and right on the beach. Will chill for the rest of the day and it’s pizza night later so I’ll certainly be tucking into one of those!

Friday, 06 March 2020

Location: Belize City, Belize

Today’s learn - Prices on menus are in Belize dollars, and it’s 2 Belize to 1 American dollar! Nearly paid double for my dinner thinking price was quoted in US! I must be tired!

Friday, 06 March 2020

Location: Belize City, Belize

Arrived in Belize City airport after a 2 hour flight - took nearly as long to get through immigration! After Miami yesterday and this today I’m so glad I did this over two days. One more short flight tomorrow before I reach my final destination of Placencia so a relatively early start - hope I get more sleep tonight. Staying tonight in a hotel outside Belize City near the airport called the Black Orchid. It’s quiet and authentic Belize which is nice after impersonal Miami - there are howler monkeys about and it’s right by the main river in Belize (mind the crocodiles!). Couple of rums in - need to eat shortly!

Friday, 06 March 2020

Location: Miami, USA

5am - been awake since 3am! On UK time so finally accepted I’m not sleeping and got the telly on! Already hear planes going overhead - think they’ve been going all night! Coronavirus on the news - 14 dead and 230 cases is US. It was interesting so see quite a few people even at Heathrow wearing masks yesterday. But it’s not stopping cruises - most of those on the plane appeared to be heading for the cruise ships. Now time for coffee!

Thursday, 05 March 2020

Location: Miami, USA

Flew Heathrow to Miami today - long 10 hour flight! But today’s big learn - don’t assume you know the VISA requirements for the States! As Belize was my final destination I’d thoroughly checked VISA requirements for there - just assumed for America you still filled in the form on the plane! Big mistake! Had to apply online for an ESTA at Heathrow and had a nervous 20 minute wait to see if it came through in time! Thankfully it did as was denied check in until it did. School girl error! Still at least this time I’ve definitely brought my driving licence!

Immigration at Miami is a nightmare - 2 hours to get through. Fingerprints, photographs, queue a mile long! Thankfully my hotel was only 10 minutes down the road. Chill out evening with a big veggie burger and rum and coke! People here very friendly - back to airport tomorrow for onward flight to Belize.

Friday, 28 February 2020

Location: Northampton, England

This time next week I’ll be on my way to Belize - all being well! So at the moment on countdown! After a girlie weekend with Jayne and Katie in Derbyshire eating and drinking far too much, I’ve been out buying walking shoes that will cope with hiking around Mayan ruins, and getting my currency. I’ve had to ensure I buy environmentally friendly toiletries too - reef safe sunscreen and phosphate free shampoo, rather than the usual off the shelf from Boots. As water is at a premium on the island I’m only allowed one quick shower a day, must turn off the water while shampooing, and use leave in conditioner. It’s funny because while I thought I was careful in what I brought in this department, this just shows me how uneducated I am. So this is a good learn. Started to lay some stuff out to pack - will start the packing in earnest at the weekend. It’s all started to feel a bit real now!

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Location: Northampton, UK

Jet lagged! Still on Bahamas time! When I should be sleeping I"m up - when I should be up I'm sleeping! However only three weeks to Belize so I'll soon be back in that time zone LOL!

So a lazy day playing with my videos - now I’m home it’s the first chance I’ve had to put some compilations together. Uploaded to Facebook, Instagram, my You Tube channel - I need to make more use of Twitter! One of my photos on the shark photography group on Facebook has made 230 likes so I'm really pleased about that. And I've done a lot of tagging and descriptions on You Tube too and have at least got into double figures with my subscriptions!

I'e also started my Instructor E-learning too! All busy busy! Madly I've signed up to do an IDC and IE after Belize so I need to get my stuff in order before I go. Lot's of stuff to organise!

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Location: Northampton, UK

Travelled for nearly 20 hours to get back to Northampton! Flew from Rock Sound on Eleuthera late afternoon Monday and arrived in Nassau only to find that there were issues with the flight home. Due to the flight not being able to land in Grand Cayman (the flight picks up/drops off in Nassau) there would be no food on board and we were delayed by initially an hour. There were people stuck in Grand Cayman and those going there were off loaded in Nassau so at least I was in a better position than them. BA were late checking in and offering a free meal in Wendy’s Burger bar - but luckily I had invested in the lounge! So I sat in a comfy chair and stuffed my face while drinking double rum and cokes. We were an hour and a half late eventually taking off - same on landing. But the flight was half empty so I lay across three seats which was nice. However the turbulence was horrendous and went on for virtually all the flight! Couple with a traffic jam on the M1 and a coffee stop off at Toddington services I finally reached home! I suppose I need to get used to potential travel delays given the amount I’m going to be doing! You can make good plans but there’s often stuff out of your control that messes it all up!

Sunday, 09 February 2020

Location: Eleuthera , Bahamas

Final day - heading home tomorrow so just having a chill out day. My flight is not until late afternoon back to Nassau so packing can wait till the morning.

This has been a fantastic trip - not just Shark School but Nassau and the additional diving/exploring I’ve done in Eleuthera. I've met some fantastic people - it was a real pleasure sharing with Gisele, Nathalie and Valerie. I challenged my comfort zone by doing things I previously thought I wouldn't have done - thanks to Werner and Maurice because without them there's no way I'd have snorkelled with the Bull Sharks. The shallow water training and the close contact with the Reef Sharks was a really intense experience and it's going be really hard to top that - you simply don't get that close connection in any other way. Shark School is simply one of the best experiences I've had and it's not something that you do and leave. I think this is something I'll be pursuing going forwards.

It’s going to be really hard to return to the UK and leave the warm weather - roll on Belize in March! I think I've read that there are some resident Nurse Sharks on the reef in Belize - I do hope so because I definitely want to stay Sharkey!

Saturday, 08 February 2020

Location: Eleuthera , Bahamas

More diving today - same sites as Thursday. Reef sharks spectacular as usual but accompanied by a couple of Nurse Sharks particularly on the second site. Nurse Sharks can be really curious and come really close. I think a lot of people don't get excited by Nurse Sharks, but in the pecking order of sharks they're actually right up there. Generally however, everyone assumes they're pretty friendly and harmless. In fact their bite relies on suction and I've heard in many cases if bitten the shark has to be surgically removed. First dive was a wall and we dropped down to a depth of 40 m's - we were hoping for maybe a Hammerhead but nothing came along. The second dive today was particularly good - lovely shallow reef around 15 m's and the Nurse Shark was beautiful, very dreamy eyes! Fantastic dive to finish the holiday on.

Friday, 07 February 2020

Location: Eleuthera , Bahamas

Diving blown out today because of the wind - and I hear that back in the UK the wind is particularly bad too. Lazy day on the sun bed in the morning on the beach - got a bit sunburnt! In the afternoon we went for a it of snorkelling in the Marina with Bull and Nurse Sharks. We tried a different entry point and got down a ladder and stood knee deep while we put our fins on. A few feet away we noticed the drop off and three Bull Sharks waiting - bit of an eerie feeling! In the end we weren't that comfortable launching ourselves in there - we returned to our usual entry point on the pontoon on the marina where the water is slightly deeper. Immediately we were in we had Bull Sharks beneath us. They are amazing creatures even if they do set the heart pounding. I really look forward to doing more with Shark School because the next step would be diving with Bull's and Tigers - gives me food for thought for future holidays.

Thursday, 06 February 2020

Location: Eleuthera , Bahamas

Another chance to dive with sharks today - this is an extra to Shark School. Visited the new Shark sites - first the wall where we chummed for a time to try to get some bigger stuff in; then the shallow reef. On both sites Captain Anderson sent down the Shark Feeder 3000 - we got some absolutely spectacular views of reef sharks again. Nearly ended up with the feeder on my head at one point - I get really deaf wearing that 6mm hood but I'd be dead cold without it.

Visited Rock Sound in the afternoon and changed accommodation again! Busy busy!

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