Return to Cozumel
By Steve Rosenberg
Cozumel is especially well known for its exceptional clear, hundred and 50 foot plus visibility and effortless drift diving. The island's lush reefs offer incredible drop-offs, pinnacles, and labyrinths of interconnecting caves and tunnels. In addition, there is a tremendous variety and abundance of marine life in the beautiful turquoise waters surrounding the island. There are approximately 30 well known dive sites scattered along the West coast of Cozumel between Maracaibo at the south tip of the island and the town of San Miguel. The Guiana current flows almost due north as it sweeps around Cozumel, producing currents of variable strength. These currents are almost always present and tend to run mostly from the South to the North.
I was concerned about the state of Cozumel's reefs since the devastation of hurricane Wilma in 2005. I had been diving in Cozumel since December of 2005 and when I hit the water I was hoping that I would see at least glimpses of the Cozumel of old. I was thrilled to see that the tapestries of color were present everywhere. The deep reefs, including the swim-throughs and tunnels, were clean and lavishly appointed with colorful sponges and corals. Schools of snapper and grunts, as well as pairs of large angelfish, filefish, cowfish, and spotted morays, were everywhere you looked on the medium deep and shallow reefs. Turtles and nurse sharks could also be found on most reefs, and were more than happy to pose for images. I was especially pleased to find many splendid toad fish, not only on Paradise reef, but also on several of the other shallow reefs. Even the shore dives at the resort offered a surprising abundance of marine life.
Diving Lembeh Straits
The Lembeh Straits have long been known as the Mecca of Muck Diving, home to an incredible variety of weird and wonderful creatures most of which cannot be found in any other environment. This area has attracted photographers from all over the globe, tempting them with the challenge of finding and capturing images of these exotic animals.
Just getting to Lembeh from the West Coast of the United States is a daunting task for most travelers. The arduous trek begins with a 12 to 13 hour flight from one of several gateway cities on the west coast across the Pacific Ocean. After a brief refueling stop, its six hours to Singapore for a six to 12 hour layover in an airport transit hotel. The final leg is a short three and a half hour flight to Manado International airport located in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, and a 90 minute drive to the resort.
Scuba diving in the Lembeh Straits is pretty easy diving. Most of the dive sites are very close by, only minutes away from your dock by boat. Because they are located between Northern Sulawesi and Lembeh Island, the conditions are calm and most of the sites are fairly shallow.However, “Muck Dive” photography in the Lembeh Straits poses a number of problems, even for the most experienced shooters. The bottom has a consistency of muddy, dark brownish sediment. The visibility is limited to start with, averaging only 25 feet on most dives. Regardless of how careful you are, even the slightest fin kicks or movements will stir up small clouds of silt that seem to hang in the water column. Because the light from your strobes reflects back from all of these particles, the result is not just backscatter, but the equivalent of blizzard conditions.
Many of the subjects lack contrast lines that are necessary for the autofocus mode to work reasonably well. Also, quite a few of your subjects have colors and patterns that blend in with the background, affording them great camouflage, but making them difficult to see, much less photograph. On the other hand, the colors of the subjects can often vary greatly from the dark background, so getting proper exposures can also be difficult because light and dark surfaces absorb light very differently and auto exposure features such as TTL like to read averages. To compound the problems, because you are shooting small critters, you will have to use macro lenses that generally have a very shallow depth of field.
To see more inhabitants of Lembe Straits check out the Kasawari Lembeh Resort profile page.
By making identification of our ocean inhabitants simple yet informative, everyone from the casual snorkeler on vacation to the advanced ocean adventurer will have a resource to get more out of their experiences. In a world where our oceans are changing at a rapid pace, it is vital that as many people as possible are engaged and making conscious efforts to understand what's out there.
At a presentation on the Bahamas Tiger Beach and Indonesia's Wakatobi Dive Resort, Contributing Editor Steve Rosenberg endorsed ReefID's concept as a useful resource to identify our ocean inhabitants. Dive N Trips, a local dive shop in Pleasanton California, conducts regular club meetings where everything from the hottest dive locations to chiropractic needs for divers are presented. Rosenberg, a long time friend of Dive N Trips Owner Operator Gene Battaglia, was asked to present some of his photos and experiences from two of his most recent adventures.
During this presentation, Rosenberg confirmed that by combining the work of both amateur and professional underwater photographers, a massive catalog could be built in a relatively short period of time. John Fifer, ReefID's Founder and Editor, also noted, that by combining this catalog with Reef ID's easy to use Identifier Engine, this information now becomes something everyone can use to learn from and enjoy.
ReefID facilitates this effort by providing its members with a way to be personally involved and recognized as a catalyst in the education and inspiration of new and existing ocean adventurers. The simplicity of the system draws individuals that would normally shy away from finding out more and inspires them to become advocates themselves.
Through photographic contributions of our ocean inhabitants from individuals like Steve Rosenberg as well as others with images that can help, ReefID will continue to inspire ocean adventurers and advocates for generations to come.
Where are all the Fish?
As a lifelong ocean adventurer and founder of ReefID, I feel it is important to participate in oceanographic research and conservation efforts either by getting out and being involved or donating in some way shape or form.
It had been quite some time since my research certification had been completed and it was not something I had been participating in regularly. The individuals at REEF were very knowledgeable, extremely experienced and were very efficient in providing someone with some rust or a complete beginner with the tools needed to get something useful out of their survey. Some of these items included:
• Classes on fish and invertebrate identification
We did two dives at one of California's natural treasures, Pt. Lobos State Park. I have lived in California all my life and have been diving this particular location for years. I remember bat rays, massive ling cod, schools of blue and black rock fish and the occasional leopard shark. Each and every dive at this location had always held the potential to be the best dive I'd ever had.
For more information on REEF and how you can play a part, visit their website at: www.REEF.org