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No doubt you are a member of DAN or have heard divers sing their praises. For some, it may come to a surprise when I tell you this: your DAN membership does not cover you or your medical expenses incurred for SCUBA diving related accidents.

Those membership dues you’ve been dutifully paying every year, or right before that big bucket list trip to dive with Whale Sharks in the remote regions of The Galapagos, have merely given you the opportunity to “access” their Dive Accident Insurance and your membership only covers medical evacuation. That’s not to say you have been throwing money away. Your membership also includes assistance with their TravelAssist service, (SCUBA diver support hotline), a subscription to Alert Diver Magazine, (interesting articles for those who enjoy learning more about the science behind this amazing sport) and access to online safety seminars. However, further action (AKA more money) must be taken for your medical expenses to be covered for more than just transporting you to treatment.  Depending on how severe the accident and quality of care available, you are looking at a potential out of pocket expense in the tens of thousands of dollars, if not more. Now unless you struck it rich while finding lost treasure on an undiscovered wreck dive, I’m guessing those medical expenses would sink you.

Knowing this information, how many divers have been flying under the radar with just the membership status? With more and more dive resorts and liveaboards requiring dive accident coverage, it’s a surprise this information isn’t more commonly known.

However, the word is spreading and showing up without the required coverage could keep you out of the water until a proper policy is obtained and proven.

A client of ours recently fell victim to this misunderstanding and was looking at spending the weekend topside until an agent from DAN could be contacted the following Monday (they do not have agents available on the weekend). As you can imagine, it was not a blissful start to the long-awaited holiday. Moreover, the resort failed to communicate this requirement to the client and agent. If more resorts start to go this route and fail to mention this until check-in, this will not be the last we hear of this type of scenario. Luckily, this diver went online and purchased the additional coverage, but what happens in the more remote regions where internet many not be as accessible?

DAN has also now partnered with Travel Guard and extended their products to include trip insurance. What appears like a convenient “one stop shop” created further confusion for another diver when a representative of Travel Guard claimed dive medivac was included in the trip insurance policy and they did not need the dive accident coverage. This is not true. You still need a dive accident policy to cover you for a SCUBA related injury, even if you go through DAN for trip insurance.

To be clear, our point here is not to disparage DAN. We have the upmost respect for the research and advances they have made in the diving industry. Advances that wouldn’t be possible without the funding from its loyal members, so your dollar is being put to good use.  Our goal is to make sure our divers are informed of the potential pitfalls from not fully understanding the coverage they are buying and the kinks they need to work out with the addition of Travel Guard.

In the end, we encourage you to do your homework, read the fine print, compare the competition, but mostly, make sure you are truly covered for diving incidences. We hope you never need to use it but you will be glad it is there if you do. Safe diving everyone!

Safety Warnings about possible fire hazard. Please read

Safety Warnings about possible fire hazard. Please read-

Safety Warnings about possible fire hazard. Please read-

Check with your airlines if flying with new Mac Book Pro. Emirates has also put out warnings. Once 1 does it, all airlines will most likely. Call your airline directly if you have questions about this. We have not been informed what they are looking for in way of upgraded batteries.

Important Announcement From Garuda Airlines Indonesia

We need to make all of our guests aware of an important announcement by Garuda Airlines which may be relevant to you effective immediately.

MAC BOOK PRO (Retina 15-inch) are now prohibited from being taken on-board any Garuda Indonesia flights. Please see official announcement below for specific information.

If you do have this laptop (purchased between the stated dates) we would suggest that to avoid having it confiscated you leave it at home and you bring a large external hard drive plus plenty of SD memory storage cards. We can back up your photos for you using a computer on-board.

We appreciate that this is not ideal as you will not be able to do any photo editing on-board but it is a situation out of our control….

GARUDA INDONESIA PROHIBITED PASSENGERS BRING LAPTOP MACBOOK PRO (15-INCH) INTO AIRCRAFT FOR SAFETY

Tangerang, August 29, 2019 – In connection with the policy of withdrawal of MacBook Pro (Retina 15-Inch) products by Apple, the national airline of Garuda Indonesia issued a ban for passengers to bring the product into the aircraft both in the cabin, luggage and cargo services as a form of anticipation and safety management on Garuda Indonesia flight services.

The policy is in line with regulations issued by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) as well as regulations from the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations (Special Provisions A154) related to a ban on carrying MacBook Pro (Retina 15-Inch) following the discovery of problems with laptop batteries in Apple products. which has the potential to cause interference with aspects of aviation safety.

The ban on carrying MacBook devices is intended for certain series (serial numbers) that were sold in the period September 2015 and February 2017. For more information on detailed product specifications that are prohibited from entering the aircraft, please visit https://support.apple.com/15-inch-macbook-pro-battery-recall

Garuda Indonesia will continue to coordinate with regulators and other stakeholders to follow up on the ban on carrying the laptop device until further development.

PT. GARUDA INDONESIA (PERSERO) TBK
VP CORPORATE SECRETARY
M. IKHSAN ROSAN

Trip report, 2019 trip to Cocos Island

Trip report, 2019 trip to Cocos Island

Article and Images by Erwin Poliakoff

I just finished a wonderful trip to Cocos Island off the coast of Costa Rica on the Argo liveaboard. It was excellent diving, and a very well-run dive operation. I recommend it highly. The trip was chartered by Ultimate Dive Travel, and I use them frequently to arrange my diving trips. Ken Scarbrough asked me to write up a brief summary of the trip; I am happy to do so. I have been very happy using Ultimate Dive Travel to arrange our trips, both for their recommendations of good diving locations, and for their service. That is the end of the advertising section of this write up.

I flew into San Jose. Costa Rica a day early, and overnighted at the Marriott near the airport, a very nice hotel. I met up with Ken, and some of the other divers on our trip. The next morning, our group was loaded into a bus and taken to the port at Puntarenas. with a couple of stops on the way. It was about a 2.5 hour drive. We got on the Argo liveaboard, and it was very nicely laid out and well-maintained. The lounge area was comfortable and spacious, which was good, as it was a 36 hour ride to Cocos Island. The conditions of our boat ride to Cocos Island were mild, but I have heard that it can be rougher. My cabin was comfortable, and on the spacious side for a liveaboard. The food and service on the boat were great. We did three dives a day, which suited me fine. The water was warmer than I expected (81 F mostly), although there were some significant thermoclines that made a hood a good idea. We saw a lot of sharks, including schools of hammerheads. They were the highlight of the trip for me. I have also been on a trip to the Galapagos a few years ago, and I would say that the trip to Cocos Island was similar, insofar as the hammerheads were frequently sighted, and were the central attraction of the dives. Here is a picture of a hammerhead to give an impression of what we would typically see.

Typical view of a beautiful scalloped hammerhead shark at a cleaning station at Cocos Island.

This was not an atypical sighting. The dive guides instructed us carefully as to where they would position us, and how to wait. The point is that they really knew the behavior of the sharks well, and knew how to maximize the likelihood we would spot them, and up close. Typically, we would start our first couple of dives positioned at a cleaning station, where we would wait for the hammerheads to swim by to be cleaned by the angelfish and butterflyfish. The hammerheads were cooperative most of the time, and we would see them swim by. As usual, they were more shy than a photographer would like, but relatively cooperative. There were also several other types of sharks. There were too many white-tips to count. We also saw a  number of Galapagos sharks, and an occasional tiger shark. We also saw several whale sharks, which was a first for me.

Whale shark sighting from one of the Cocos Island dives. We saw several of these, which was a first for me and a couple of the other divers.

The schedule for the day was typically: 7am breakfast, 8 am first dive, 11am second dive, 1pm lunch, 3pm third dive. This made for a comfortable and relaxed schedule that worked well for me, and all of the guests on the boat. On most dives, the visibility was okay, but we were told it is typically better at Cocos Island. I would estimate we had about 60′ vis on most dives. I was pleased to see relatively attractive and healthy reefs (hard coral), and lots of fish life.

MV Sea Hunter

School of grunts at the Submerged Arch dive site, one of many islands and pinnacles surrounding Cocos Island.

In addition to the usual fish life, there were tons of peacock flounders on most dives. This was unusual and fun. Also, there were a lot of marble rays, which was very unusual in my experience. Everything about the trip made for a number of special memories. I want to make a point of complimenting the crew. I have been on several liveaboards in the past ten years, including two others in 2019. While all of the crews that have been good, the dive crew and the rest of the Argo crew made everything run perfectly, and they made the guests feel welcome and comfortable while working really hard.

MV Sea Hunter

Peacock flounder from a Cocos Island dive. These critters were everywhere.

In addition to the scuba diving, many of the guests also did the submarine ride that went to a depth of 1000 foot. It was ridiculously extravagant, but it was still a lot of fun, and a definite bucket list item. I think that about eight guests did this, and all were glad that they had done it.

After 7 days of diving, we headed back to Puntarenas. Some of the guests were able to get afternoon flights and headed home; about half of us, myself included, could not catch a flight late enough to get out easily, and overnighted before leaving the next day. It was the definition of an excellent trip for me in that I had a lot of fun, really enjoyed the diving, and felt sufficiently satisfied that I was ready to head home and start thinking about my next diving trip.

Erwin Poliakoff

How Scuba Diving Helps You Live Longer

The Health Benefits of Frequent Diving

Most non-divers may think that scuba is a relaxing, leisurely hobby. However, as divers, we understand that scuba diving is an adrenaline-boosting sport that requires experience and savvy. The general public may also be surprised to learn the different health benefits scuba divers gain from many hours under the waves.

Whether you have just started your certification process, or if you’re an experienced deep-sea explorer, diving provides numerous health advantages to divers of all skill levels:

Strength & Flexibility

As you swim through the water on your dive, your muscles work harder to propel your body through the water and currents. The resistance from the water and currents strengthen and lengthen your muscles to develop endurance and flexibility. Scuba also strengthens your core to provide better balance and posture, both underwater and on land.

Optimized Breathing

While underwater, it is imperative your breathing is slow, deep, and steady. This is essential when conserving and optimizing your air consumption. This deep breathing technique is excellent for lowering your heart rate, calming your mind, and staying focused. Additionally, optimized breathing reduces the risk of lung injury and mucus build-up, and it’s been known to help with existing conditions such as asthma.

Sunlight Exposure

It is crucial for the human body to be exposed to sunlight in order to create Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the rate of absorption of calcium, and helps the cells pass calcium to each other, resulting in strong and healthy bones. Being outside in the sun on the boat and under the water gives your body plenty of time to soak in that precious Vitamin D.

Stress Relief

Ask any diver and they’ll tell you how calming it feels to be under the water. This is due to an instinctual feeling of being back in your mother’s womb. This feeling of security, calmness, and well-being is extremely beneficial for your mental and physical health. When under the water, you’re able to see life from a whole new perspective and your everyday issues are left at the surface. Giving yourself this time to reflect and reset is one of the best health benefits diving provides.

Explore Under the Water with Ultimate Dive Travel

Reserve Your Scuba Diving Trip Today!

Now that you’ve seen some of the benefits of scuba diving, it’s time you booked your next adventure! Check out all of our diving destinations to find your next dive site before finding all of the latest dive specials for resorts and liveaboards all over the world.

To reserve your next trip, contact our diving travel experts today!

Six Essential Tips For International Travel Safety

Six Essential Tips For International Travel Safety

International travel can be fun and enlightening. Spending time immersed in other cultures and customs is an excellent way to get to know the world outside your comfort zone. Yet, with all the fun and adventure, traveling abroad can come with risks.

Ultimate Dive Travel works to mitigate these risks by not only helping you be proactive about your own safety but ensuring every resort we work with is secure and comfortable. We do not offer deals from every place on the globe for this reason. If we don’t feel comfortable, we know our clients will not either. A recent incident in Papua New Guinea, at a resort that UDT owner Ken Scarborough stayed at nearly five years ago while he flew all over the country, is a prime example of why Ultimate Dive Travel is cautious and how our clients benefit from our preliminary on-site inspections.

While we get to work recommending safe, enjoyable places for you to enjoy, keep a few key safety tips in mind to ensure you have a pleasant, uninterrupted vacation.

Make Copies of Important Documents

Prior to leaving, make a few copies of important documents, such as your passport and visa, and store them in each of your pieces of luggage. This way, if anything gets lost, you’ll still have copies of what you need. Also, email copies of everything to yourself so they are easily accessible from your smartphone if you get in a pinch.

Another thing to note: the US allows passports to be used up until their expiration date, but many countries do not follow this rule. Some countries will consider a passport invalid if they are within a six-month window of expiration. Prior to leaving, check to see when your passport will expire, and if the country you will be visiting will accept it.

Tell Family and Friends Your Plans

Ensure a family member or friend is aware of your travel plans by providing them with an itinerary. If possible, keep them informed of updates throughout the trip. Making someone aware of your intentions on an international journey will make locating you easier if anything should go wrong.

Know Your Hotel

When traveling, get to know those at the hotel. Talk to the staff or concierge to learn about areas to avoid when venturing out. Before you leave, grab a hotel business card to be sure you have the hotel’s phone number and address if needed. If there’s a significant language barrier or you have reason to believe there will be one, first ask if there will be an English-speaking person there to help you communicate. However, to respect the other culture, be sure to look up some basic courtesy and operational phrases that will get you where you need to go.

Leave Jewelry and Other Expensive Items at Home

A pretty universally known rule, but still a good reminder: leave valuable items such as expensive jewelry or electronics at home when traveling in unknown countries. Try your best to not draw attention to yourself. Flaunting money or expensive items can make you an easy target for thieves. When you leave your room, either bring critical items, like important travel documents, with you or put them in a safe and secure spot. It’s better to be overly cautious than stuck in a foreign country and having to jump through bureaucratic, costly hoops to get home safely.

Properly Vaccinate

Many countries require certain vaccinations prior to entering. Learn which vaccinations are needed, along with any other health concerns that may be an issue at your destination. Visit your local physician or health department to get vaccinated and have a proper physical prior to travel.

Separate Your Money and Credit Cards

Don’t keep all your money or credit cards in one place. Separate your funds in different bags and pockets to avoid losing all you have if something is taken. Utilizing a hotel safe is a great way to keep your money and personal belongings secure while you are out and about. While you are out, use a backpack or – hold onto your horses – a fanny pack to keep your money close.

Ultimate Dive Travel takes its customers’ safety very seriously. If a resort or liveaboard that we work with has encountered too many safety issues, we stop working with that resort or company to keep our guests out of harm’s way. We strive to make your experience the best possible. If you have specific questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact us.

4 Key Aspects of Resort and Liveaboard Inspections

4 Key Aspects of Resort and Liveaboard Inspections

Far too often, travel agents and agencies don’t do their homework. Failure to physically inspect and evaluate the quality of resorts is a crucial mistake that could cost companies customers. Travelers are not naive; there’s more information out there today than there ever was, thanks to the all-powerful internet review. Customers are just one click away from seemingly everything they need to know about the state of the resort, the kind of people who work there, and if it indeed lives up to expectations.

What could you tell them that they couldn’t already know? The only way to give travelers the valuable information they need to decide on a trip is your clear, personal testimony and recommendation.

Ultimate Dive Travel walks – or instead, journeys – a mile in your shoes. We visit and dive these locations ourselves to know the exact level of service and authenticity our customers will experience. We only partner with resorts that meet or exceed a specific set of criteria based on our years of working with customers and learning what is most important to them. What is non-negotiable for our travelers is non-negotiable for us. Frankly, that’s the way it should be.

Here are some aspects Ultimate Dive Travel makes a point to investigate before signing on with a resort or liveaboard provider.

Book your trip now!

1. Safety

The principal feature we grade resorts and liveaboards on is safety. Safety and security are imperative; guests should feel their surroundings, staff, and equipment protect them from potential harm and enhance their experience. You cannot ensure that a diving operation is meeting necessary safety standards without first visiting the location and giving it a test run. Ultimate Dive Travel assures every resort and liveaboard operates according to international standards and our own safety qualifiers as a travel company. Resorts and travel coordinators are required to notify guests of possible risks associated with their trip. Once guests agree and sign off, both parties have a duty to honor safety procedures.

2. Functionality

The diving boats must pass specific quality guidelines for running a smooth and efficient diving operation. The boat has to be in good condition (quantified by current/past damage, repairs, engine function/warranty, etc.) with ample space for divers, their gear, and their camera equipment, including rinse tanks for underwater cameras. However, a larger vessel is not automatically more suitable for divers. There are smaller boats that optimize the space they have more practically than larger boats, while the reverse is also true. It depends on which boat’s square footage is more fitting to the type of excursions it hosts.

3. Dive Master Etiquette & Knowledge

When you’re venturing to foreign countries, things could get lost in translation if you’re not careful. We make sure the Dive Master speaks English well so divers can understand pre-dive briefings. Also, is he/she equipped with necessary medical knowledge in case of crises? Is there oxygen on board for emergencies? Does the crew know how to administer oxygen? We thankfully don’t encounter this feeling often, but if we felt the staff wasn’t prepared to take care of guests, we would not recommend that particular resort.

4. Amenities

Comfort is key. Comfort level is something that is noticeable the second a guest steps on board. The rooms at resorts or cabins on liveaboards must be clean: bedrooms, bathrooms, and any shared spaces. Moreover, the A/C and plumbing should be working correctly and hot water should be readily accessible for washing. These are essential needs that any individual would expect, but part of our job is to confirm their presence so you don’t find out the hard way later on.

What about other online travel companies?

As great as the internet is for companies to promote and conduct business, it provides a cop-out for companies to appear credible but hide under the guise of fancy websites or the sheer amount of options available. Having options is a luxury, but only when they’re good options. Most times, this massive database of resorts and fair prices is hiding something key: verified experience. How could a company sell something and preach its wonderfulness when none of its staff has been to the resort or on the liveaboard ever? It would actually be pretty amazing if some of these online companies traveled to even 5-10% of the hundreds of liveaboards or resorts on their websites.

BUT, HOW CAN YOU KNOW IF THEY’RE LEGIT AT FIRST GLANCE?

It’s a gamble unless you’re well-versed in some of these tactics. Luckily, we can set the record straight.

If you’re searching travel companies and find one that lists tons of places in every country, this should be a red flag that they have not visited the vast majority of these places. Do they prompt you to send your money overseas? You should not have to send your hard-earned money overseas to book a trip! Once your money leaves the country, you are now at the mercy of whoever is receiving it. In most cases, you’ll be paying up to 100 times the cost of your trip to fight or sue a company for its dishonesty!

It comes down to honesty and integrity. You want to work with a company that remains transparent and upholds quality at every touchpoint, no matter if you’re dealing with them in person, over the phone, or over email.

Ready to cut through the noise and work with an honest, experienced company that knows what you’re looking for?

Reserve your diving adventure with Ultimate Dive Travel today!

New Regulations on Smart Travel Bags Pose New Challenges

New Regulations on Smart Travel Bags Pose New Challenges

Smart devices are the way of today’s world. Now a part of daily existence, smart technology is embedded into nearly everything we use to make life easier. This includes travel luggage.

The latest craze in travel merchandise is smart carry-on luggage. The bags generally have USB ports to recharge phones and other smart devices. Some are also equipped with a weight scale to prevent overpacking, electronic locks, and GPS capabilities to track the bag’s location if it gets lost. Other smart bags are even motorized to be used as a scooter or to rove alongside their owners all the way to the gate. In addition to their mobility, these bags measure up to an ideal overhead bin size of 22 x 14 x 9 inches.

These are anticipated to be one of this holiday season’s most popular gifts. The luggage has obvious value for those who travel regularly for work or play, as no one likes those rushed runs swerving through crowds and dodging children on leashes (a topic for another day).

(source: Engadget)

However, the bags won’t do travelers much good if they can’t make it past airport security. Starting January 15, passengers checking these smart bags will have to remove their lithium-ion batteries (or power them down if traveling in the cabin). American, Delta, and Alaska Airlines are implementing this policy, with United Continental and Southwest soon to follow suit. CNN reports that these carriers comprise 80 percent of U.S. air traffic.

This regulation came about because of safety concerns. Airlines are worried about the potential fires the lithium batteries could start in flight that would go undetected. However, many of these bags’ batteries cannot be physically removed. Bluesmart, a smart bag manufacturer, says it’s compliant with present regulations and is still facing this new restriction. How do you remove an unremovable battery? The company said in a recent interview that it was “saddened” by the recent regulation changes and feel it’s a setback for technology that presents new hurdles to overcome in simplifying the way we travel.

These smart bags are not alone in facing regulations. The FAA proposed similar bans on laptops in checked baggage due to similar safety issues revolving around lithium batteries. Research to find a safer alternative continues, but nothing is available on the market yet.

For now, it looks like the sky does have limits for travelers. We understand the frustration. Buying a bag that makes air travel more of a hassle, when it’s supposed to do the opposite, is painfully ironic. But, to make the most of the situation, it may be best to hold off on use or purchase of these bags in favor of ole reliable luggage until a resolution is reached – one that will hopefully have fewer hiccups!

Contact Ultimate Dive for more knowledgeable travel advice and news!

Trip Insurance: Everything You Need To Know

Trip Insurance: Everything You Need To Know

You’ve booked your vacation, and the excitement is mounting. Your bags are nearly packed. The date is fast approaching. There’s just one thing left on your list: trip insurance. Trip insurance is one of those things you may not have considered or simply overlooked.

Trip insurance provides coverage for specific events that could happen prior to and during your trip within predetermined limits. Trip insurance – also referred to as ‘travel insurance’ – cannot prevent incidents, but it does address the financial impact of common issues. Policies can be purchased to cover your entire trip from the time you leave home until the time you return. Trip insurance is available for popular vacation and scuba diving destinations such as Cayman Brac, Little Cayman, Cozumel, Palau, and Belize.

Questions? Contact a Specialist

Travel insurance is frequently recommended due to potential health, safety, and financial risks whilst traveling. Nine times out of ten, you probably won’t have to use it. Nevertheless, it’s great peace of mind to have in your back pocket for when, despite your precautions, things go awry.

Although trip insurance is meant to protect you, there can be implications for those who do not take time to either thoroughly read through their policy or make sure they’re asking the right questions. We’re hoping to alleviate confusion or misunderstanding when deciding to purchase a policy by providing answers to some of the questions you should ask yourself before buying insurance for your trip.

Do you need it?

Travel insurance is always something you should consider, especially when traveling outside the country, as most other insurance will not cover you properly when you leave the United States. Ask yourself: can I afford to lose the financial investment I have made for this trip or to pay for potential losses out of pocket should something happen while on the trip?

Traveling to the Caribbean during hurricane season presents specific risks that can cause you to cancel your trip and significant damage to your destination, which is completely out of your control.

What’s in the fine print?

We’ve seen it time and time again: travelers are held liable for charges they weren’t expecting because they neglected to read and understand the fine print of their policy.

We understand the problems this can cause from having dealt with a variety of scenarios, such as the misfortune of a sinking boat, for example. In sorting out trip cancellation reimbursements in this case, the customers discovered certain restrictions and exclusions to what is covered and what is not in the fine print of their policy. Our team helped resolve the situation and spare everyone the headache of potential legal action for recourse. Needless to say, it’s an example of how proactive you should be to make sure you fully understand all the terms of your trip insurance policy.

Are you covered already?

One of the most important questions you should ask yourself is: do I already have coverage through my credit card or medical insurance plan? Some credit cards offer travel assistance and certain travel insurance benefits, but you’ll want to double check with your credit card company to be sure you understand exactly what’s included for coverage and how it pertains to your specific trip. Most health insurance plans do not provide coverage when you travel outside the country and may not be adequate for travel, so again you’ll want to check with your medical insurance provider to be sure.

Trip insurance generally provides a broad range of coverages for things that are not typically covered by other insurance when you travel outside the country. Do you have a pre-existing medical condition? BHTP will waive the pre-existing medical condition exclusion if the plan is purchased within 15 days of making the initial trip payment or deposit, and if the amount of coverage purchased equals the value of all prepaid non-refundable payments or deposits. Please see Description of Coverage for details. All insureds must be medically able to travel when insurance is purchased.

Are you confusing ‘insurance’ with a ‘waiver?’

There’s a difference. Insurance is something that provides protection against a possible eventuality. A waiver, on the other hand, is a document evidencing a person’s intentional relinquishing or abandoning of a known right, claim, or privilege.

You’ve probably heard of cancellation waivers. Cancellation waivers allow travelers “protection” because the resort agrees to waive its usual cancellation penalties if you must cancel for a “covered” reason. You may also have signed a waiver before a cruise or high-risk activity, like skydiving, in which you cannot hold the vendor liable for certain instances based on your own decision to partake.

Cancellation waivers are less expensive, but it’s overall less secure than purchasing trip insurance (depending on what is actually covered). General trip insurance covers all bases, so there shouldn’t be any doubt of what is covered and what is not.

Did you get it in writing?

Remember: nothing matters unless it’s in writing. Trip insurance is a contract, with both parties having to uphold certain obligations. Make sure you have a copy of your signed policy so you can make clear references for any claims and show your credibility.

Gangga Island Resort: The Premier Diving Spot

Gangga Island Resort: The Premier Diving Spot

Nestled in the heart of Indonesia is a resort that boasts some of the most spectacular beaches, specialized features, and unparalleled diving sites in the world – but odds are, you probably have no idea what it is.

The Gangga Island Resort & Spa in Indonesia is a hidden gem. The resort lies in the North Sulawesi province of Indonesia, south of the Philippines and southeast of Malaysia. It is a 20-minute boat ride from the province’s capital and largest city of Manado. The province is renowned for its volcanoes, nature sites, and diving parks, carefully protecting the rights of its diverse, nutrient-rich ecology. The “Gangga Island experience” exemplifies the excellence you’ll find in this unique community.

About The Gangga Island Resort

Although seasoned scuba divers benefit from its features, the Gangga Island Resort is not exclusively for experienced scuba divers. It doesn’t take an artist to appreciate a painting, and it certainly will not take a marine biologist to recognize the natural beauty and wonderment of the resort. One glance at the picturesque views of Gangga’s pure white sand beach and crystal clear waters will turn anyone on to island life.

Gangga Island dive resort

Overlooking these scenes from elegantly furnished and air-conditioned wooden bungalows only adds to its appeal. The Gangga Island Resort’s accommodations were built under the cooling shade of palm trees and surrounded by tropical gardens that lead onto the beach.

Peaceful and relaxing quarters are only the beginning for Gangga holidaymakers, honeymooners, and diving enthusiasts. A saltwater swimming pool, Tuturuga Restaurant (featuring local cuisine), coconut bar, Pasung Spa, and a boutique are on-site for convenient luxury. The all-inclusive resort is made for tranquility. You never have to go far to be immersed in nature and indulge in something extraordinary. The Gangga Resort has the highest international standards of service and comfort, with a warm staff that is eager to meet your needs and show you the pride of the island.

Gangga Island dive resort

Scuba Diving At Gangga

Let’s get down to brass tacks: the Gangga Island Resort has premier scuba diving faculties for the most ambitious divers. The resort has access to over 30 world-class diving locations with rare species and immaculate reefs. It is known as an ideal starting point for diving the Bangka Archipelago, Bunaken National Marine Park, and Lembeh Strait.

Customized Scuba Features

The Gangga Island Resort does the most it can to optimize the time you spend diving and the time you spend not diving. It has a classroom and a meeting/reading room to prep for your dive or debrief post-dive. For marine photographers or aspiring gurus, there’s a library full of marine books and a photo room with working tables to continue honing your artistic abilities. With the amount of unusual yet cosmic-looking microorganisms in the area, this room is a marine photographer’s dream for editing and organizing your day or night dive shots. Lockers with charging outlets from 220-110 Volts are available for your professional cameras.

Gangga Island dive resort

Visitors can rent new or well-maintained equipment by Aqualung, along with access to Nitrox 32% free of charge and three well-aerated Coltri Compressors for safe air. The resort also makes sure to keep 12 & 15 Liter Aluminum tanks, plus valves and adaptors INT and DIN on hand. All the necessities to complete a dive to your standards are immediately within reach.

When Are The Best Times to Dive?

The particularly great thing about the location of the Gangga resort is its climate. North Sulawesi straddles the equator, and thus has a tropical, equatorial climate. This climate is divided into wet and dry seasons: the dry season is from July to October, and the wet season is from November to June. As expected, torrential rains are characteristic to the wet season. However, it’s not uncommon for wet season in the Gangga Island Resort to consist of brief downpours followed by extended periods of sunshine. This is unlike other parts of Asia that experience persistent rain the entire season. If you’re willing to risk minor rain spells in exchange for a tropical holiday this winter, the Gangga Resort is a great option.

Water temperature is also an important aspect of a good dive. The seas are also rougher because of the rain. Visibility is higher (up to 35 meters) when the water is cooler, typically from October to December.

Gangga Island dive resort

Marine Life

Of course, the “pièce de résistance” of the Gangga Island Resort is the diversity of its marine life.

Bangka Archipelago

The Bangka Archipelago, as we previously mentioned, is famous for its incredible muck diving. If you dive this site at night, the volcanic reefs are covered with soft corals, table corals, and sponges. Also habitual to this area are shrimps and lobsters, cuttlefish, octopus, and several species of scorpionfish, pipefish, and frogfish that are extremely fun to capture on film.

Bunaken National Marine Park

One of the most notable diving locations in the area accessible via Gangga Island Resort is Bunaken National Marine Park. Established in 1991, this is one of Indonesia’s first marine parks that has actively preserved the bountiful amount of wildlife that covers 20 diving locations.

Gangga Island dive resort

The park’s 20 diving locations range from shallow coral gardens to walls that at times drop to over 1000 meters. The area’s nutrient-rich waters and consistent currents are perfect for the over 300 species of coral and 1500 species of fish. Visibility is also high at 35-40 meters, supplying ample opportunity to catch critters up close. You can expect to see everything from large sea turtles, reef sharks, huge dogtooth tuna, pygmy seahorses, and every kind of macro life you can think of. You might even see a kind of “Rhinopias,” a fish in the scorpionfish family that uses its camouflage to disguise itself among the coral as protection from predators. Because they’re so difficult to spot, they’re considered the “Holy Grail” for photographers.

Beware of the “Overbooking Bait and Switch”

Overbooking Bait and Switch

Booking a trip has become a mindless action due to the power of the internet. No matter where you want to go, you’re one click away from your dream vacation. But what happens when the booking site cancels your plans without so much as an excuse of “overbooking?”

Most of us would be left infuriated, scratching our heads with confusion because, well, isn’t this why we booked online in the first place: to AVOID overbooking and cement our place as quickly as possible?

Many online booking customers have become victims of a classic ‘bait and switch,’ wherein their trip is booked, bags are packed, and with almost no notice, they’re informed that their reservation has been canceled because the hotel is overbooked. Moreover, no reimbursement is received, and if so it’s a downright insult compared to the initial investment. There is also no effort made to find paid customers new accommodations. What’s left? Customers are stranded while the booking site risks your future business and overall good rapport to make a quick buck.

We have all experienced a similar situation at some point. While technology has provided us with quicker, more efficient results, it’s also made companies far too comfortable being impersonal. Customers putting their trust (and hard earned money) in a service should warrant unparalleled assistance in return.

With over 23 years in the travel industry, I understand the level of trust you’re looking for in booking not just a trip, but an experience. Booking with Ultimate Dive will give you one-on-one, personal service with a real person that has your best interests at heart. This is how I’ve been able to put accountability as a priority for running Ultimate Dive and deliver successful, meaningful experiences for friends and family.

Booking trips outside the country can give you little recourse and can make things harder to control when something goes wrong. International lawyers start around $800 per hour and the sky’s the limit from there. Always be safe and book your trips in the United States where you have control over your bookings

As a business owner, customer service expert, and person, I caution you to think twice before booking with an online source. If you’re looking for personal attention, speak with someone that cares. Contact us with any questions you may have or if you think Ultimate Dive could help you plan your next vacation.

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Liveaboard in Luxury in Indonesia on the Gaia Love Boat

Liveaboard in Luxury in Indonesia on the Gaia Love Boat

Liveaboard excursions are some of the most authentic experiences available to trained scuba divers. As the name implies, it’s a boat on which you can live for days or weeks at a time. Liveaboard diving trips encapsulate the ultimate escape. You’ll venture far offshore towards the horizon with just invited guests and crew as company. The extended stay gives us what we’re all in search of: time well spent. You’ll get a chance to truly immerse yourself in the culture and aquatic life.

WHY A LIVEABOARD?

Sights rarely seen by the public eye are at your fingertips, on your time. Liveaboards take you to remote diving sites for ultimate privacy and focus on the incredible wildlife. With all the necessary equipment and crew right in front of you, you’re able to take advantage of multiple dives per day at different times. Variances in sunlight and temperature will expose different kinds of species and their unique behaviors. You are but a bystander as they live freely before your eyes. It is one of the greatest expressions of untouched nature you’ll find.

When you return from your dives, you can enjoy meals featuring local specialties and relaxing amenities like hot tubs. We guarantee there’s not a sunrise or sunset like the ones you will wake up and fall asleep to while on board. You’ll see unobstructed views of skies bursting with colors as vibrant as the creatures below. There’s definitely nothing boring about living a boarding life.

WHERE CAN I GO ON A LIVEABOARD?

Ultimate Dive Travel has an exciting, new opportunity in store for divers aboard the Gaia Love Boat in Indonesia. The Gaia, meaning “Mother Earth,” represents a new breed of Indonesian liveaboards that are designed specifically for sailing and exploring the wonders of Earth. Ultimate Dive was the first American wholesaler to check out the liner in person. We were immediately impressed by the amount of detail that has gone into customizing the boat according to divers’ needs.

The 40-meter vessel breaks convention from the traditional wooden “pirate” sailing boats that every other liveaboard company in Indonesia uses. The Gaia is made of sturdy steel, which increases stability and creates smoother sailing. Its modern and contemporary design accommodates 20 guests in 11 ensuite rooms throughout the upper and lower deck. All six upper deck rooms also have an additional private balcony to soak in the sun and picturesque views.

When it comes time to diving, the Gaia is equipped with first-class amenities. There is a dedicated camera room for the preparation and maintenance of underwater camera equipment, plus a lounge with a premier entertainment center for relaxing in between dives. The dive deck off the rear of the boat can hold 20+ divers and houses 11 rinse tanks. Two 5.5 meter diving skiffs are always ready for divers to board easily and safely.

EXPLORING THE AQUATIC LIFE

As if this wasn’t enough to convince you, the amount of marine life you can see is astounding. Here are some of the species you could possibly run into:

Manta rays

Manta rays are some of the most anticipated species to see in the wild — and with good reason!

This massive form of ray is a far cry from the stingray, outside of their appearance. Manta rays can grow as large as 12 feet across and a wingspan of nearly 23 feet long. Mantas are quite literally the “social butterflies” of the ocean, living a pelagic life (in large groups) and traveling in cloud-like formations. If you end up seeing a long line of manta rays, you might be catching males in the act of trying to win a female’s heart. Mantas mate in a prolonged courting process, led by the female. Males are put to the test by essentially chasing the female in a “mating line.” The one that wins the race, wins her. Sometimes, animals are not so different from humans after all.

Nudibranchs

Nudibranchs are sea slugs known for their technicolor skin. They’re bottom-dwellers, so the only way to see them up close is to dive right down and meet them at their level. It’s odd to think that some of the most beautiful colors and patterns would appear on a lowly sea slug, but that is the beauty of nature in and of itself! Their distinct colors are actually indicative of their food — they literally are what they eat, which helps them camouflage against predators. They even keep some of the foul odors and poisons of their prey and secrete them as a defense against their predators.

Pygmy seahorses

Pygmy seahorses are the most recently identified type of seahorse; they weren’t even known until someone placed one in captivity and finally got a second glance. Like a pygmy horse on land, these are simply mini versions of the (already petite) normal-sized seahorse that grow just up to ¾ of an INCH. You can find these critters hanging onto reefs to steady themselves. Their size already makes it hard for them to travel far without getting swept up, so they attach to hosts like coral for survival. Spotting a group of these tiny animals makes for a great photo op.

Ghost pipefish

Ghost pipefish are the ocean’s masters of disguise. Known for their distinct, elongated snout, they are another kind of small fish with paper-thin fins that create optimal camouflage. There are multiple variations of pipefish in the seas, including solid colored and patterned. As infants, some are nearly translucent, which makes it even more thrilling of a sight.

Mandarin fish

This fish’s name comes from their strange coloration, which are akin to the robes of an Imperial Chinese Officer. They also echo the Chinese heritage with their body shape; their more prominent head and jutting fins resemble a Chinese dragon. Hues of blue, yellow, orange, purple, and green with swirly orange lines cover the fish. Their flamboyant outward appearance is a direct contradiction to their reclusive nature. They are occasionally squirming from reef to reef, so be sure to have your cameras ready!

In addition, the Gaia Love Liveaboard cruises all of the top areas of Indonesia’s incredible coral triangle.  You will never get bored on these trips!

Five Unusual Sea Creatures You Will Find in Indonesia

Five Unusual Sea Creatures You Will Find in Indonesia

Avid travelers know there’s more to Indonesia than Bali. Indonesia is a set of islands that makes up just one nook of Asia-Pacific’s Coral Triangle: the waters that surround Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, and The Solomon Islands. Millions are retreating to Indonesia, however, to experience a culture that has perfected relaxation and personalized treatment unlike any other.

This area is not just resting on its corals. At the very heart of the ocean, the islands have world-renowned nurseries, muck diving, and rice paddies that evoke the true majesty of the seas. However, the real attraction is what lies underneath. Indonesia is generally accepted as the world’s marine life “Garden of Eden,” offering some of the rarest, most flamboyant fish oddities and premier resorts. This pairing has made Indonesia a luxurious hotspot for serious scuba divers looking to cross the world’s most unique experiences off their bucket list.

New species are also constantly being discovered, with nearly 1,200 reef fish and 600 coral species to date. Depending on where in Indonesia you decide to dive, you may come across some of these scarcely studied yet highly sought-after species.

Frogfish

Frogfish are some of the most coveted diving finds in Indonesia. As their name suggests, they do share some of the same qualities as their amphibious namesake, but are completely different all at once. Frogfish are common off the coasts of Bali and Lembeh (an island off the northeastern shores of Sulawesi), where Indonesian scuba travel is at its peak. They come in all varieties: hairy, warty, giant, painted, freckled, and more.

Frogfish spend most of their days immobile on the ocean floor, disguising themselves among colorful coral and stalking prey. When a desirable catch approaches, a frogfish lures fish in with antennae on its head with bait on the end, similar to an anglerfish. They spring into action just like their amphibious counterparts and use their elbow-like pectoral fins and back pelvic fins to lunge forward and “hop” across the ocean floor.

Psychedelic Frogfish

Psychedelic frogfish are a newer species that have only been discovered in the last seven years. These frogfish are distinctly colored in a tan and peach zebra pattern, with flat faces, forward-aligned eyes, and gaping mouth. They also have slightly different behavioral patterns than “regular” frogfish. Each time this fish pushes off a surface, it expels water from tiny gills to maneuver forward. You can see this spectacular fish on the coast of Ambon Island, where Ultimate Dive Travel can connect you with the Maluku Divers resort. This is the only resort on the island built specifically for divers and home to not only this kind frogfish, but the largest and most diverse collection of frogfish in Indonesia.

Yellow Boxfish

Yellow boxfish literally look like yellow boxes. They grow between 15-18” and have a three-dimensional shape that makes them one of the most uniquely structured fish in the sea. If you see a bright yellow boxfish with blue spots, it’s likely in its adolescence; their neon color and spots fade over time. They are very docile in nature, but when under stress or threatened, they release a deadly toxin so powerful that the yellow boxfish itself has been known to succumb to its own poison. Fish merely swimming by hardly stand a chance.  

Blue-Ringed Octopus

The Blue-Ringed Octopus is one of the most photogenic creatures of the deep. Photographers from all over the world flock to Indonesia to get even a glimpse at its beige skin illuminated by vivid blue spots. They are hard to spot, known to be shifty in shape and color. If you do see one, it’s likely that it’s one that has not mated yet. Both male and female Blue-Ringed Octopi die after reproduction: the male immediately after fertilization, and the female following a hunger strike to protect her eggs during maturation.

This is one of the most exciting finds in Indonesia, but it’s important to be wary. An expert diver is needed on this mission because although they are beautiful to look at, their bite is definitely worse than their bark. The Blue-Ringed Octopus is the only venomous species of octopus, and its venom is known to cause temporary (with treatment) asphyxiation, numbness, and paralysis in humans. Seeing one in its natural habitat is marvelous, but as with all sea animals, it’s important to remember that while diving, the sea is their domain; we are guests. Respecting their home is key to a full experience and staying safe.

Bali Sunfish (Mola Mola)

A sunfish doesn’t sound all that unusual, but this one is unusual in size. The Bali Sunfish (known also by its scientific name Mola Mola) is a behemoth version of the common saltwater fish found in the waters surrounding Bali. It grows to a whopping 14 feet vertically, 10 feet horizontally, and nearly 5,000 pounds, making it the world’s largest bony fish. Their massive size is in part enabled by the fact their back fins never fully grow. The fin folds into itself, allowing a gigantic creature to mature. Mola Mola’s colossus weight is balanced by two dorsal fins on its top and bottom directing its movement.

These fish are probably some of the most fun to see in the wild because of their temperament. Similar to manatees, the Bali Sunfish has a “dopey” nature and is friendly around humans, often just staring with its large eyes and, at the most, bopping them with its huge beak to say hello.

Harlequin Shrimp

The Harlequin Shrimp is as colorful as can be, but its appetite is no joke. These white-and-bright-blue-spotted shrimp are usually found in coral reefs, where their prey, starfish, usually linger. The crustacean’s diet solely depends on starfish legs. It expertly uses its claws to flip the starfish over so it cannot move, then eats the tubed feet and tissues until it reaches the center. Sometimes the starfish grows back another appendage, but only to have the Harlequin Shrimp resume its feast. Observing this exchange while diving is truly “wild,” and exhibits natural instinct in its purest form.