THE SECRET SIDE OF THE CARIBBEAN: A FROGFISH PHOTOGRAPHY EXPEDITION
The wrecks, reefs and turtles of 'Statia' with Nick and Caroline
Dates: Tuesday 21st May - Friday 31st May 2013 (11 days)
Leader: Nick & Caroline Robertson Brown
Group Size Limit: 16 plus leaders
The Caribbean is by no means over-dived, over-visited and over-fished…if you know where to look! The Netherlands Antilles Island of Saint Eustatius (known affectionately by locals and lovers of the island as ‘Statia’) represents one of the Caribbean’s unspoiled gems, with easily some of the best diving in this part of the world. Also referred to as ‘Golden Rock’, a visit to Statia proves that life without Starbucks, Macdonalds and high rise hotels really does still exist!
Let Nick and Caroline show you their favourite spots in a destination they have spent a great many months. This tour will take in 10 nights on Statia, giving you plenty of opportunity to shoot above and below the waves, as this island is as picturesque on the surface as it is beneath.
The breadth and variation of sites easily available is, without doubt, the hugest attraction to divers and photographers. Though another big pull is, as defined by the local dive shop Scubaqua, ‘the one thing you probably won’t see is other groups of divers’.
This part of the Caribbean is renowned for its volcanic topography, providing pinnacles and walls stretching into the depths. Pelagics regularly visit sites such as Grand Canyon, where divers navigate between pinnacles encrusted with black corals; or Volcano Fingers, a deep, blue water dive culminating in beautiful corals and seahorses in the shallows.
Every dive destination on the planet seems to have a dive site names Aquarium, and Statia is no exception! The site is so named for the large number of colourful reef fish that swim in clouds here. If not too distracted you might look closely at the coral branches to find a seahorse or two. At Barracuda, you can expect to find quite a few of it’s namesake, as well as sleeping Nurse Sharks tucked under the various nooks and crannies. Another favourite site is Hangover, a varied site with coral gardens, colourful schooling reef fish and a series of fascinating overhangs. A relatively shallow site, you can explore there for a good length of time. Remember to keep checking the blue water for visiting reef sharks who enjoy this site as much as the divers seem to!
Statia offers visiting divers a look not only at unspoilt reef structures but a chance to explore ancient wrecks and artefacts. Over 300 ships are estimated to lie sunk in the harbour alone.
The wreckage of two trading ships which sank around 300 years ago are found at a depth of 18 metres on the dive site appropriately called Double Wreck. Although a large anchor is embedded in the seabed, little remains of the ships’ structures. The ballast stone carried by the ships, fused together in the shape of a boat, now lies in the middle of the sandy bottom. The real treasure is the abundant marine life found on the reef system created over and around the ballast stone, which shelters French Grunts, Black-bar Soldierfish, squirrelfish, turtles, stingrays, barracuda and goatfish. The very rare Fingerprint Cyphoma has been found on this site alongside the common Flamingo Tongue.
Previously a dumping ground for unwanted boats, Wreck City is a dive site not to be missed. The wreckage of a barge, a massive propeller and an intact tug has provided shelter for schools of Black-bar Soldierfish and a diverse range of other reef fish. Southern Stingrays are regularly found in the sand that covers the seabed.
Nick and Caroline have even gone so far as to label the wreck of the Chien Tong ‘the best night dive in the world’! This Taiwanese long-liner is now a ‘hotel’ for around 20 sleeping turtles each night as well as a complement of reef sharks and interested barracuda. The most famous wreck however, must be that of the Charlie Brown, which in a previous life laid cables and for a time sailed Maldivian waters. In 2003 the ship was sunk to form an artificial reef and now lies on its side with an intact superstructure. Divers can penetrate if they wish but those with a camera will be more interested by the schooling Horse-eye Jacks and the large barracuda that patrol the structure.
Both Nick and Caroline are regular Sport Diver columnists and Nick is an INON registered underwater photography instructor. They have developed their own underwater photography course - The Complete Underwater Photographer Award (CUPA). This incredibly flexible course can be adapted to almost any level of photography though mainly covers beginner and intermediate topics. Underwater photography is a field filled with a bewildering array of terms and problems and the beauty of the CUPA course is that it approaches this minefield using easy to digest chunks of information. The programme will take you from the very beginnings of understanding your camera, to the practical implications of taking photographs underwater.
A flexible approach means that whatever stage your photography is at, Nick and Caroline can review your work and quickly assess the areas that you need to improve. They strike a perfect balance between theory and practical experience, after all, there is no better way to improve your photography than by taking photographs!
Nick has been shortlisted for Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012 and also won the BSoUP / Diver Advanced Overseas competition with his image of dolphins attacking a bait ball in South Africa. Further accolades include a ‘Highly Commended’ in the National Geographic Photo Contest 2011. Caroline has a BSc in Biology and an MSc in Animal Behaviour and writes a monthly column in Sport Diver magazine on some aspect of marine life behaviour. Caroline will be on hand to give short talks and question and answer sessions on this to greater explain how knowledge of such behaviour can lead to better photographs. The couple are a very friendly and approachable pair with an infectionious zest for life, adventure, and of course, underwater photography!
Accommodation will be at The Old Gin House, a truly delightful, traditional Caribbean style plantation house building. 14 Garden View rooms, 2 Ocean View rooms and 2 one bedroom Suites are built across two levels. All bedrooms are furnished with large king size or two twin beds and colonial style furniture. Air conditioning and cable TV are available in all rooms. Ocean View rooms and Suites have a small fridge. At the end of the diving day, relax in the 250 year old bar with a local beer or a classic cocktail. A freshwater swimming pool is located in the courtyard.
Diving will be with Scubaqua Dive Centre, run by a team of enthusiastic Dutch expatriates who pride themselves on their personal and friendly service and unsurpassed knowledge of Statia’s dive sites. The dive centre is located about 200 metres from The Old Gin House.
Tuesday 21 May: Late morning arrival into St Maarten where we connect with an afternoon flight to St Eustatius. Transfer to The Old Gin House for 10 nights.
Wednesday 22 May – Thursday 30 May: Up to 15 dives in the waters of Saint Eustatius. (Additional dives and night dives can be booked locally but are not included in the tour cost).
Friday 31 May: Morning flight to St Maarten or extend your stay in the Caribbean!
HOLIDAY COMBINATIONS, STOP-OVERS AND ADDITIONAL ARRANGEMENTS: With some of the North-East Caribbean’s best dive spots within easy reach of Saint Eustatius, why not consider a visit to Saba or Dominica? Talk to us about the possibilities.