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Diving at Blue Bay, Mauritius

Diving at Blue Bay in Mauritius gave us our first experience of scuba diving in strong currents with some tricky tunnels to navigate for good measure!

After our first dive in over a year and our appetites whetted, we were keen to get underwater again in Mauritius. Having moved from the north of the island to the quieter and relatively undeveloped area around Blue Bay in the south, we organised our second dive through our hotel. Continue reading

Turtles seen while diving at Trou aux Biches

Diving at Trou aux Biches, Mauritius

Diving at Trou aux Biches after a year’s break reminds us why we fell in love with scuba in the first place.  

We’ve arrived. In Mauritius. To hike and dive. For a month! What an absurd set of sentences for an ex-teacher and jobbing writer.

We’ve tooled together our month-long stay through a local contact and so here we are on the extraordinary island of Mauritius amid soaring volcanic mountains, yawning valleys and of course some of the best beaches in the world.

We waste no time in finding an idyllic stretch of coast at our first stop of Trou aux Biches. Continue reading

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21 best diving movies of all time

We take a look at the best diving movies of all time, from thrilling underwater epics to Hollywood blockbusters featuring incredible subaquatic scenes.

The underwater realm struggles to get a foothold in the glitz, glamour and special effects of the modern Hollywood blockbuster. Whether it’s the latest superhero reboot, science fiction thriller or historical epic drama, the effects-driven juggernaut that powers the modern film industry seems to continually overlook subaquatic cinema.

This may be because diving movies are more costly to film and tend to be more sink than swim. Far too many have been box office bellyflops receiving a rotten green splat as opposed to a fresh red rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Continue reading

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10 things to do in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

We explore the best things to do in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka’s historic port city that is once again beginning to flourish.

Trincomalee, or Trinco as it’s more commonly known, in northeastern Sri Lanka is a perfect spot in which to while away a few days on the beach. We ended our Sri Lankan odyssey in nearby Uppuveli on a powdery stretch by Trinco Blu.

Like us, most tourists will bypass Trincomalee for the neighbouring beaches of Uppuveli and Nilaveli – and who can blame them? The coast here is golden and palm-fringed with a mellow ambience making for a perfect place to unwind before heading home. Continue reading

10 newbie diving mistakes

At Atlas & Boots, we’ve dived in some incredible places, from Vanuatu and Samoa to Tonga and the Galápagos. Alas, it has been a whole year since our last dive and I fear making newbie diving mistakes the next time we head out.

I was a nervous first-time diver and I’m conscious of losing what confidence I built up after completing my PADI Open Water Diver course in Colombia. Sadly, there aren’t many opportunities to dive in London (especially in March) so I’m keen to brush up on my skills as soon as we head to Africa in August. Continue reading

PADI ReActivate: How to refresh your diving skills

I’m usually the weakest diver in the group. After nearly backing out of my first dive in Vanuatu and quitting the PADI Open Water Diver course altogether, I eventually certified in Colombia five months after my first attempt – and that wasn’t easy. I threw up into my regulator five metres down and then again back on the boat. By the time I got back to our room, I was so tired I fell asleep in my wet bikini and woke up two hours later in a daze. Continue reading

PADI Advanced Open Water Diver

10 reasons to do the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course

In February last year, we arrived in South America after six months island-hopping across the Pacific Ocean. I knew we’d be spending more time on dry land here than we had in  SamoaTonga and Vanuatu where I passed my  PADI Open Water Diver course. Nonetheless, I was keen to improve my diving skills as we were planning to visit the Galápagos Islands with its excellent range of  sea life.

We stopped on the Atlantic coast of Colombia for a few days so that Kia could complete her Open Water Diver course. Not wanting to sit around on the beach for three days I decided to complete the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course at the same time. It proved to be one of the best decisions of our trip. Many aspects of my diving improved dramatically, particularly my energy and air efficiency. Additionally, my confidence grew, as did my safety awareness. I discovered that with my new skills I could enjoy my time underwater even more. Continue reading

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11 surreal man-made dive sites

If you’ve ever dreamed of discovering the mysterious lost city of Atlantis, then these dive sites are sure to intrigue.

Man was designed to walk on land, but these underwater worlds suggest an alternative reality. From historic cities that have crashed into the sea at the hands of nature to artificial scenes constructed beneath the sea, these surreal man-made dive sites are utterly fascinating. Continue reading

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Swimming with Galápagos penguins

I once asked Peter how often people have to take in their cats to be trimmed.
He looked at me, confused. “What do you mean?”
“To trim their fur. How often do you have to do it?”
“Erm, normal people don’t trim their cats.” He started to laugh, amused as ever by my lack of knowledge when it comes to nature  especially when as pedestrian as looking after a cat.

As a child growing up in Tower Hamlets, I never had any pets, never experienced wildlife outside of a zoo, never really developed an affinity for animals. Peter’s watched me cringe at over-affectionate dogs (how can you let them lick your face!?), shoo away the cutest of kittens (I don’t like them near my food!) and roll my eyes as a delicate finch sipped water from our breakfast jug on Santa Cruz. In short: I’m not an animal lover. Continue reading

Diving the Galápagos

Diving the Galápagos Islands

Having just completed my PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course, I was keen to put my new skills to the test. Diving in the Galápagos Islands seemed the perfect way to do this.

We were pretty much winging our trip to the Galápagos but we decided to pre-book our first hotel as well as our diving. In the spirit of the Galápagos, we decided to break our budget for our first stop, and so checked into the luxurious Royal Palm Hotel in the centre of Santa Cruz. It was nice to be away from bustling Puerto Ayora, cocooned within lush gardens with epic views across the island. The hotel grounds include a lava tunnel, extensive gardens and even a barn owl! There is also a gym, large pool, a tennis court and in-room hot tub(!) as well as complimentary bikes to explore the surrounding interior where giant tortoises roam freely in the fields. It was a great base for starting our Galápagos adventure. Continue reading

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How to pass the PADI Open Water Diver course

In theory, an expert diver should be writing this post. Logically, he or she could tell you what to expect, give you insider tips and prepare you for the challenge ahead. Of course, as a newly qualified diver, I have one advantage over the experts: I know first-hand just how hard it is for the nervous first-timer. I know what it’s like to almost back out of your first dive and to quit the course altogether. I also know how to get back on it.

Five months after my first attempt, I passed the PADI Open Water Diver course. Continue reading

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Swimming with humpback whales in Tonga

Swimming with humpback whales in Tonga was a truly humbling experience that very nearly didn’t happen for us! But luck was on our side that day.

It was late October, approaching the very end of Tonga’s whale watching season. We had been delayed in Samoa about a week longer than expected and arrived in Tonga just two days before the last day of the season. Desperate not to miss our opportunity to swim with whales, we hastily flew north to the Vava’u Islands, one of the best places to see the humpbacks. These majestic creatures migrate north from the Antarctic every summer to breed in warmer waters, heading back as soon as their young are strong enough for the journey. Continue reading

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Diving Juno Wreck with turtles in Samoa

Diving Juno Wreck with turtles in Samoa was a unique experience. Getting up close and personal to underwater wildlife like this is just incredible.

“You’ll either love it or find it extremely depressing,” reads the guidebook description of Satoalepai Turtle Sanctuary.

I’ve never been a huge fan of zoos and captive wild animals, so when I read about the chance to go diving Juno Wreck with turtles in Samoa at the sanctuary I decided to pass. Maybe I’d get a chance to see them in the wild… Continue reading

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Learning to dive, learning to quit

“Life’s too short for bad books,” a friend once told me. We had been swapping recommendations for a while and I was aghast that he had given up on The Kite Runner. “Keep at it,” I urged. “You’ll love it.”

He shrugged. “If I’m not enjoying a book within the first two chapters, that’s it.” He mimed throwing it away.

“I wish I could be more like you,” I had said. And I meant it. You see, I’m the type of person that will doggedly pursue a book or a task or a project that I’m not enjoying only so that I can finish it. Reading A Suitable Boy was the only thing entirely in my control that I ever gave up on – and it bugs me even today. Continue reading

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The first travel experience I nearly backed out of

I like to think of myself as a bit of an adrenaline junkie, but put me in water and all my bravado dissipates. As a child, I was not a strong swimmer. Fortnightly lessons for a year in primary school weren’t enough for me to find my fins. As an adult, I have improved marginally but I never stray far from the shore.

With this in mind, when Peter suggested booking our first dive, I agreed with hesitance. The idea put butterflies in my stomach – a rare feeling for someone who never gets nervous. As neither of us had dived before, we were warned that the deepest we could go was 12 metres. I looked 12 metres off into the distance – it would be deep enough for me. Continue reading