Identify and Share Your Aquatic Adventures.

Return to Cozumel

Cozumel By Steve Rosenberg

Located about 12 miles off the northeast coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, Cozumel is probably the most well-known dive destination in North America. It is a small island, approximately 32 miles long and 9 miles wide, with its highest point only 45 feet above sea level. Cancun, on the mainland is about 30 miles northwest of Cozumel. The reefs of Cozumel are part of one of the largest barrier reefs in the world, the Belizean reef, that extends south from the tip of Isla Mujeres 174 miles to the Bay of Honduras.There is an international airport that connects with several gateway cities from the U.S. and there are also high-speed ferries that connect Cozumel with playa Del Carmen on the mainland which makes it very easy to get there.

Palancar CavesCozumel 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.

In June of 2011,I returned to Cozumel with my friend and dive buddy , John Fifer, to complete a project for a new marine life identification website, ReefID. As a base of operations we selected Scuba Club Cozumel, an all-inclusive dive resort located right on the water about a mile south of San Miguel. Our goals on this trip were to obtain Scuba Club Above Watersome new images for the marine life identifier, demo the SeaLife 1200 point and shoot underwater camera, and to present a few formal and informal photography seminars to a small group of divers which included both avid underwater photographers and divers new to photography. SCUBA Club Cozumel, which caters to divers, was a perfect resort to host our project because it offers literally everything we needed. It has an on-site dive shop, its own fleet of fast dive boats, seminar facilities, a wonderful restaurant and a friendly and professional staff. Originally built in 1976 and continually being updated, the resort has been my favorite place to stay in Cozumel for over 30 years.

Paradise ReefI 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.

With some awesome photography opportunities, the entire group was able to get some Villa Blanca Wallfascinating and beautiful images throughout the course of our one-week visit. The combination of clear water and cooperative and beautiful subjects allowed members of our group to get exceptional photographs with DSLRs, as well as SeaLife's point and shoot cameras. We look forward to returning to SCUBA Club Cozumel with another group in 2012 for a week of fun and photography.To see more images of what you can see in Cozumel, please visit:


Scuba Club Cozumel's Profile Page

 

Diving Lembeh Straits

WonderpusBy Steve Rosenberg

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.

Kasawari Images

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.TurkeyfishHowever, “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.

Pygmy seahorseMany 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.

 

ReefID Exposed

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. reef id fishes 6 6Dive 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.

reef id fishes 2 21ReefID 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.
Last year, I participated in a fish survey with REEF (An active organization of divers and marine enthusiast committed to ocean conservation).

reefIt 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
• Survey forms
• Convenient web site to upload data

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.


On this day however, conditions were good yet, I noticed a lack in the abundance of fish I so fondly remember.  No ling Cod, no cabazon, no schools of black or blue rock fish, this was a first.  I wondered to myself if maybe, I was focusing too hard on the survey and not looking for things the way I normally would.  After careful deliberation, I determined, this was not the case.  I was counting fish, of course I was looking for fish.  They simply were not there like I remember. 
I then began to think back at some of my other California dives and came to the same conclusion, there is simply not as much sea life as there was 20 years ago when I began diving.


The one thing I had great appreciation for, was the attitudes and drive the team at REEF had.  Everyone came up from their dive excited to share what they saw with one another no matter how many or few fish were sited.  Every dive has its own set of data that is collected and amassed to be utilized in REEF's effort to promote ocean conservation by recording and studying fish population trends around the world.


These surveys and the people behind them are what is going to help keep our oceans in the best health it can be through data collection and education.  I am very happy to have met my friends at REEF and will continue to dive with them and support their efforts to conserve one of the world's most valuable resources. 

For more information on REEF and how you can play a part, visit their website at:  www.REEF.org