Countdown to Tank’s Travels boorish traveller of 2016 award

IMG_2264-2Where has the year gone? Can’t believe it’s getting near time to award Tank’s Travels boorish traveller of the year award for 2016.

We have some terrific contestants this year.

Who could forget the horrid people I had the misfortunate of encountering in gorgeous Palau.

Or Darrell, the Alberta drunk who tortured us with his barbarianism on a trip to Cuba.

I’ll be reposting the contestants stories in the next few weeks so you can become reacquainted with them.

The winner will be announced just before new years.

Enjoy.

PS: here’s last year’s winner. A potty-mouthed scuba diver in Cozumel.

 

 

 

 

Are cave #divers thrill-seeking nutcases?

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This is me in a cave in Palau. That’s a fake smile. I’m hating every minute of this. This one had air pockets and breathable air. I still wanted out.

Thrill seekers, yes. Adventurers, yes. Nutcases? Um, who am I to say?!

I don’t get the appeal of cave diving. Scares the hell out of me. I imagine there will be an earthquake, the exit will be sealed shut by boulders and I won’t be able to get out. I’ll drown when my air runs out.

In an effort to try to understand the cave diving-loving mindset, I read with interest the BBC article this week about the Finnish cave divers in Norway who retrieved the bodies of their two friends.

I once dove with an obsessive cave diver. His wife dove caves too. They were parents of a toddler. They never dove together, at least not in caves. In case one died, the other would raise the child. And, one would hope, give up cave diving.

Wow. You gotta really love cave diving to make that agreement.

So, you know where you won’t find me. I am planning, however, to dive cenotes (caverns) near Playa Del Carmen in August. An overhead environment, in some spots, but a bit different from a dark cave with one way in and out. You can always see natural light in cenotes, usually to the upper left or right of you. Will probably give up cenote diving after this, since I’m not completely comfortable.

Cave diving is dangerous. Don’t get me started on the people who dive the Andrea Doria shipwreck and others on the east coast of the USA. Not that they aren’t well trained and experienced. Responsible divers get a lot of training before they enter overhead environments. They take precautions. They test and retest their gear. They cut dives short when they get twitchy. Still, when those ‘perfect storms’ occur, some of them die.

As weird as it sounds, I’m interested in the way divers kill themselves. So that I don’t repeat their mistakes. Here are a few of the more interesting stories.

  • Dave Shaw (A Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific pilot who died in a cave system in South Africa while trying to retrieve the body of a man who had died a decade earlier. Filmed his death.)
  • Chris and Chrissy Rouse (father and son who died wreck diving in the Atlantic. China fever.)
  • Doc Deep died in August 2015 attempting a world record. Not worth dying for IMHO. Not cave diving.

So, why did I pay to dive Chandelier Cave in Palau? When I knew cave diving made me anxious? Because it was a tourist attraction everyone told me couldn’t be missed. There was no requirement for cave diving certification, so I thought it would be okay. Mostly, because I’m an idiot.

Here are some more pics. Amazing to see and never to be repeated!

 

The end of Palau’s Jellyfish Lake?

 

20160316-20160316-IMG_6197-4As one epic natural disaster takes place in wildfire-ravaged Fort McMurray, Alberta, another one is being faced on the Micronesian island of Palau. Where I visited in late March. Where I snorkled at Jellyfish Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Where the jellyfish have now practically disappeared.

Frankly, I was disappointed by the visit. I’d seen photos of a lake teeming with jellyfish. Twas not what I saw.

We needed to swim for about 10 minutes before we arrived at a section of the lake where jellyfish could be found. When we got there, I couldn’t help but wonder if this is all there was. Yes, there were jellyfish, but not in the quantity I was expecting. It appears the numbers have dropped again since I was there – roughly six weeks ago.

We arrived early in the morning. Four of us had the lake to ourselves. When we left, dozens of tourists were arriving for what would be hundreds of snokeller visits that day.

Scientists are blaming the phenomenon on global warming for the drought and high temperatures Palauans have endured of late.

Read this. It’s a terrible situation.

I hope other dive shops will follow suit and cease their lake visits, at least for the time being. Each individual visit brings roughly $100 USD into the local economy in permit and transportation fees. It’s a blow for the economy for sure. But, this tourism-dependent island will be worse off in the long run, methinks, if the jellyfish stocks aren’t given time to rebound.

Micro-where? Off to Palau

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“I’m off to Micronesia to dive.” Blank stare.

Palau“. Nothing.

To be fair, I didn’t know where Palau was either. Until a few years ago, when Brian, a wonderful divemaster in Roatan, Honduras, told me the best diving he had ever done was in Palau. (That means something because the diving in Roatan is pretty amazing too!).

This is how Palau got added to the list of must-do dive sites.

Yup, it’s kinda in the middle of nowhere. As well, it’s a bugger to get to. My travel route is: Vancouver – Seoul – Korror, Palau. The return journey adds another leg: Korror – Seoul – Beijing – Vancouver. Many hours on planes and layovers, and many time zones. Palau is 17 hours ahead of Vancouver.

I’m flying on Aeroplan miles on Air Canada and Asiana. The cash price would have been around $2,000. Yikes. Not in the budget.

Biggest downside is that US currency is used in Palau. Ouch. Bloody ouch. The Canadian dollar was higher when I booked the trip ten months ago. Currency is one reason I’ve had to scale back on travel this year.

Like all of my dive vacations, this one is being done on the cheap. Basic motel accommodation, hitting grocery stores instead of restaurants and no souvenirs.

Greatest grouper ever

Brian the divemaster and our friendly Grouper friend in Roatan, Honduras in 2014

I’ll dive for eight days and take in Jellyfish Lake as a snorkeling adventure.

I leave Saturday. Can’t wait to show off the pictures.