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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Feeding Nurse Shark Annihilates!

Most divers that come to Saba are good divers, however we occasionally get GREAT divers at Saba Deep. Great divers are those that are interested in the small things, can spend an hour... or more... at the base of the mooring line scanning and hunting for critters, and end the dive flipping through identification books exhilarated by what they saw. Terence and Doris Zahner are Great divers and on this dive we had a visitor that hung out for nearly the entire 97min dive! Thanks for such an amazing Saba experience!

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Lionfish are Telling the Truth!

Recent studies on Lionfish (Pterois volitans and Pterois miles) suggest their numbers to be increasing exponentially, climbing up the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, and now found in depths over 800ft! There is no doubt that these beautiful species are invading an ecosystem that they flourish in. Unfortunately, the lionfish have no known predator in the Caribbean and are regrettably doing very well, thriving actually. No one can be confident in their accusations of who is responsible or how these non-native foes entered the Caribbean and began rapidly spreading, however most fingers are being pointed at, like most ecological disasters... humans (aquarists, fish collectors, etc).  And similar to the introduction of the mongoose in Hawaii, the bees in California, and so many other harmful interventions, scientists are again looking for a solution to our Pterois outbreak.

This is old news, and while on a dive on the island of Saba (Lesser Antillies) the other morning, I found myself in awe of their beauty. "That's a good lookin' animal, It's no wonder they are wanted for the aquarium trade." I had (have) no desire to kill them, introduce a predator, or otherwise try and eradicate them from their new home, we put them here! Lets not screw it up any farther!

Synapses firing, it dawned on me that the lionfish population is much like the human's. Growing out-of-control, the ecosystem is suffering because of their rising numbers, and it is taking over niches that were once filled by other unsuspecting species. Yea, that sounds about right! Native Americans, Leopards, Rhinos, Gorillas, and just about every resource in our oceans (except lionfish maybe). They are not dying off because of a natural cycle. The only reason the endangered species list is growing daily is because we are taking over their niches, eating their foods, living in their homes,and killing their fecund. Unlike the lionfish, humans don't have an excuse, we have the internet. We KNOW what is happening and yet we let uneducated hippies drive a market of Non-GMOs and small inefficient organic farms. A big step for a little stepper, I know. Lionfish were brought from the Indo-Pacific to the Caribbean and are now being persecuted for their superior characteristics. It's too bad we feel the need to kill them and not let Nature take its course. Nature will ALWAYS find prevail, and humans, more often than not, will try to fix what we do not fully understand, and fail.

On a positive note, at least we introduced an absolutely stunning species to our waters!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Saba Island - Diving's Best Kept Secret

Saba is a 5 sq. mile rock camouflaged among the Lesser Antillies of the Caribbean chain. Owned and ruled by the Netherlands, this Dutch island has a history of pirates, a road that, even with today's technologies, seems impossibly steep, and hiking that rivals some of the top rain forest treks around. The diving... the diving however is so incredibly pristine and abundant that the rain forest can't even compare! Deep pinnacles reaching from thousands of feet, walls that take right-angles from the shore and plunder into a deep blue, and reefs that grow like weeds across every suitable substrate flowing in the ever-changing tides and currents. People from all around the world remind us on daily that Saba is the worlds best diving. Comments that would typically be taken lightly if from a new diver or a non-traveler; but Saba is a place for the experienced, well dove, and well traveled individuals. Not on the average travelers schedule, and only a short ferry or flight away from the Caribbean hub - St. Maarten, you will not find Saba in the dive magazines. Saba holds fast to its name, "the unspoiled queen" of the Caribbean.
Thank you for your support


Friday, January 31, 2014

The Caribbean Gym - Saba

There isn't much on Saba, so naturally Kayleigh and I were worried there might not be a gym! To our surprise, there are actually 3 gyms! One at Shearwater Resort, One at the Medical School, and another in Windward Side open to the public.The Windward Side Gym is in no great shape, but for two people who love Crossfit, it works! Even the radio worked for the first 3 months... Using chalk to keep your hands dry isn't necessary anymore because of the amount of rust on the bars; who knew rust was so absorbent!?

A video of the 4 smilin' faces that greet us at the gym every afternoon:

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Guide to the Na Pali Coast Kalalau Trail

Permits, Time of Year, Duration, Transportation, Places to Camp, Things to See, Packing List

About the Hike
Starting at Ke’e Beach, the Kalalau Trail, winds and weaves, hugging the Na Pali coastline, ascending peaks and descending into valleys (total elevation gain/loss: 5,000ft). 22 miles round trip (not including any side-exploration) this little heaven-on-earth was lifted from a magical storybook and placed on the Island of Kauai. A hiker’s paradise, campsites that will blow you away, and a place to free your mind, are only a few things the Na Pali Coast Trail has to offer.

-        Anyone hiking past Hankoa Valley (6 miles in) and camping must possess a valid permit.  Permits are about $20 per person per day. 

Availability- The amount of people allowed on the trail at any one time is limited to a small number.  Permits often sell out and during busy times can sell out up to a year in advance.  Get your permits early to ensure you will be able to visit Kalalau.

Purchasing- online via the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources OnlineReservation System here OR walk in:
-Honolulu DLNR office on Oahu (1151 Punchbowl #310, Phone: (808) 587-0300, Fax: (808) 587-0311)
-Lihui State Parks Office on Kauai (3060 Eiwa Street, Suite 306, Phone: (808) 274-3444, Fax: (808) 274-3448

Without Permits
-         First, I am  firm believer in paying the park fees as it goes to keep this little piece of heaven beautiful and I have done so each visit; HOWEVER, it can be very tough to secure permits in time (sometimes you are required to jump through nonsensical hoops). Park Rangers are supposed to fly in and check at random to make sure everyone has a permit. Of the 4 times I’ve hiked to Kalalau I have NEVER even seen a ranger. Not to mention the large group of people living back in the valley that don’t have permits.

What Time of Year to Visit
-        Winter Months – Winter offers a quiet and serene beach upon arrival, with at times, monstrous seas lapping against the shores… it is an amazing site. Northeast Trades dominate during the winter also bringing lots of rain to the island, be prepared. Rainbow country.
-        Summer Months – Summer is play-time for all the boaters, tourists, and beachcombers. Upon reaching Kalalau, boats will be moored up just offshore, picnics will be set up along the beach, and large sight-seeing vessels will be steaming close to shore, flashes ablaze.
-        Best Time!? – In my opinion, the winter months are better than the summer, because after hiking for 2 days you don’t want to stumble onto Kalalau beach noticing that you could have just rented a kayak and shortened the journey by a day and spared the soar ankles and cramped claves. Off-season, however, would be the best time of year. Late January to April OR September to early December. Any time will be a good time!

Duration of Trip
-        1 day – If you are a very fit 22 mile/day fast-packer and plan to go in –and-out in a single day, power to ya… it’s no walk in the woods however
-        1 night – made this mistake on my first journey. Crawled into camp late at night and crawled back to the trailhead late the next day with NO TIME to enjoy myself.
-        2 nights – not much better than the above
-        3 nights – now we’re talkin’! 3 is a minimum in my book. This gives you time to stop at the other valleys and enjoy time at the beach
-        5-7 nights – ideal amount of time to allow yourself to forget what time it is, lay around and do nothing for a day, hike into the valleys and be dumbfounded by the towering waterfalls, and simply enjoy life away from the hustle and bustle.

Transportation to Trailhead
-        Rental Car – depending on how long you plan to be hiking, a rental car may be your best option. It also allows you to go at your own pace and pick up any last essentials you may need along the way. Get the insurance, parking at the trailhead can lead to theft (I have not had a problem, although many have)
-        Shuttle – Although hardly appealing is the $230 roundtrip shuttle ticket that will pick you up from a hotel or the airport and bring you to the trailhead and pick you up at a predetermined time (NO CELL SERVICE AT TRAILHEAD). Maybe another reason the rental car is better. To reserve a shuttle pickup click here
-        Taxi – not much cheaper and scheduling a pick-up time is always a gamble.
-        Hitchhiking- Obviously the cheapest method, hitchhiking will get you from the airport to the trailhead…eventually. Who’s in a rush anyway, right!? Hitchhiking is prevalent and safe on Kauai. With big camping packs on your back, it is obvious to the locals where you are headed and they are often willing to get you as far as they are going. Plan to start early if this is your method of choice.

Last-Minute Supplies
-        Food - stop at Safeway along the way for any last minute items you need or forgot
-        Fuel – can’t fly with fuel, so pick it up at Kayak Kauai in Hanalei (4997 C Weke Road) Also, the place to rent kayaks, camping gear, etc.

Where to Camp
-        There are many place to camp off the beaten path, however my favorite spots are in Hanakoa Valley and just before Kalalau Beach, let me explain:
o   6 miles in: Hanakoa Valley- You will find a Bathroom building, just before a stream splitting the valley, on the right and lots of camping spots in the area... my favorite spot is just farther, across the stream. Start walking up hill a bit and on your left is a trail that brings you back to 3 other designated camp spots... A great location tucked away from the trail. If you camp here make sure you take the little path from these camp sites to the stream... pretty little waterfall and only 30 ft from fresh water. Follow the trail a few hundred feet up stream and there is a 6 ft waterfall that is…well… the best secluded shower you will ever take.... it's cold... but amazing... especially after a long days hike!
o   11miles in: Kalalau Valley - Immediately after crossing the stream in Kalalau, look for a small sign on your right that says "Cosmic Aloha (and something about not moving the rocks of the Heiau)" Go up this trail and halfway down the other side... you will see the small fire pit and a nice large grassy area... BEST CAMP SPOT ON EARTH!!! See photo. Otherwise, if that is taken, move farther down the main trail until you come parallel with the beach and there are a lot of good spots on either side of the trail.

Packing List (alter as necessary)
-        Pack (frame/lightweight)
-        Waterproof pack covers
-        Micro fiber towel
-        Sleeping bag (temperatures can be 60deg. At night)
-        Sleeping mat
-        Tent
-        Footprint
-        Water Pump filter
-         Purification iodine
-        Water bottle
-         Water reservoir (for pack)
-        Flashlight
-        Food
-        Matches &lighter
-         First aid kit
-         Knife/tool
-        Sunscreen
-        Sunglasses
-        Whistle / mirror
-        Insect repellant (a must!)
-        Shoes (lightweight)
-        Wool socks
-        Sweatshirt
-        Bathing suit
-        Underwear
-        Shorts
-        shirts
-        Rain jacket
-         Id
-        Credit card
-        Cash
-        Plastic bags
-        Permits
-        Stove (lightweight Jetboil or MSR stove)
-        Fuel (pick up at Kayak Kauai)
-        Plastic bowls
-        Toilet paper
-        Benadryl
-        Ibuprofen
-        Anti-diuretic
-        Camera
-        Batteries
-        Memory cards
-        Playing cards
-        Flip-flops /camp shoes
-        Soap Deodorant (enviro-friendly)
-        Toothbrush
-        Toothpaste
-        Contacts/glasses/solution
-        Cooking utensils
-        Duct tape
-        Trowel
-        Sponge
-        Garbage bags
-        Camelback (for side hikes into the valleys)

-        Zip ties (& duct tape you can fix anything)