7 Epic Surface Interval Adventures for Liveaboard Divers
Saltwater crocodiles are a popular subject for underwater photographers visiting Cuba.
Cuba’s Mangrove Eco-Adventures
There’s one photo op everyone who dives Cuba talks about: taking a selfie with a saltwater croc. During a week onboard All Star Avalon, you won’t want to miss out on this adrenaline-filled liveaboard excursion. In Jardines de la Reina (Gardens of the Queen) marine park, the crew ferries guests in 30-foot power boats through mangrove channels to find the reptiles.
“People are always nervous to get in at first,” says Kevin Purdy, president of All Star Liveaboards, of the chance to snorkel with this wild croc. “Some people do quick dips just to say they have done it,” he says. “Some want to do it again and again.”
From above, viewers can look out to where the wreck of the Rhone lays, with the Cuan Law anchored in the distance.
British Virgin Islands Goat Path Hike
Up until 2004 when the last resident passed, yearly rent to call Salt Island home was rumored to be a pound of salt paid to the queen. Today, the island is uninhabited, save for the goats that have made paths through the scrub of this hilly isle.
One of the best day trips during a week aboard Cuan Law, part of the All Star fleet, is spent on this island that feels preserved in time. You can make quick work of the paths the goats have laid, starting from the sandy shore that the Rhone crashed on, winding to the windward side overlooking small cliffs and jagged rock outcroppings.
Before heading back to the beach, wade through the salt pond that has been the center of the island’s history. “Depending on the time of year, the little lagoon can either be filled with water or dry with salt,” says Purdy.
An arched gate at historic Brimstone Hill Fortress in St. Thomas Middle Island Parish, St. Kitts
St. Kitts’ Brimstone Hill Fortress
One of the signature sights of St. Kitts is easily the Brimstone Hill Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site constructed starting in the late 1600s. Despite more than 20 hurricanes blowing past, the fortress is incredibly well preserved.
Today, the fortress offers one of the best vantage points of the island.
“It’s the Gibraltar of the Caribbean, so high on a hill,” says Clay McCardell, president of the Explorer Ventures Liveaboard Diving Fleet. “I’m a history buff, so it’s a highlight to imagine yourself here 400 years ago when the island was occupied by the British,” he says. After a self-guided tour of the fort, it’s on to the nearby Caribelle Batik. Ongoing demonstrations allow you to learn the art of wax and dye to create this island staple. The gift shop carries tablecloths, sarongs, shirts and more.
An endangered tarsier in Bohol Tarsier Sanctuary, Cebu, Philippines.
Philippines’ Tarsier Sanctuary and Chocolate Hills
Endemic to the Coral Triangle, the tarsier survives only in the jungles of Indonesia, the Philippines and a handful of small islands nearby. During an adventure aboard the Philippines Aggressor (Visayas Itinerary), it’s a treat when the yacht stops on the island of Cebu. The day trip starts with a land tour and a river cruise, followed by a visit to a preserve home to this mammal that measures only 4 to 6 inches long.
“They have huge eyes on these little primates, so out of proportion to their bodies,” says Wayne Brown, owner of the Aggressor Adventures liveaboard fleet. The day trip concludes with a trip to the Chocolate Hills, a range of conical-shaped mounds where guests can summit.
“As far as you can see are these huge mounds, and all the leaves are brown so they look like endless mounds of chocolate,” says Brown. “It’s a cool geographical feature I have never seen anywhere else.”
An unusual collection of golden jellyfish exists in a highly isolated marine lake in Raja Ampat, Indonesia.
Indonesia’s Jellyfish Lake
Kakaban Lake in the Derawan Islands is part of the Raja Ampat itinerary offered by two All Star’s yachts: Velocean and Aurora.
First comes the hike. Then comes the lagoon.
“Thousands of jellyfish just fill this lake–it’s unreal,” says Purdy of the four species of stingless jellies residing in the lake: the moon jellyfish–Aurelia aurita, the spotted jellyfish –Mastigias papua, the upside-down jellyfish–Cassiopeia ornata and the box jellyfish–Tripedalia cystophora.
His favorite time to visit is early morning when soft light streams in, making for a fantastic photo opportunity.
Galapagos sea lion on the rocky shore of North Seymour Island, Galapagos National Park, Ecuador.
Galapagos’ North Seymour Island
The film “Master and Commander” captures North Seymour island in all its glory: sandy beaches and a veritable moonscape of rocks, covered in a blanket of red sempervivum plants. Of course, the habitat is just the beginning.
The Galapagos Aggressor III, Humboldt Explorer and Tiburon Explorer all come to hike the island to encounter blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, both land and marine iguanas, sea lions and, if you are lucky, Galapagos hawks. “Around every corner, there is something new for the guide to point out,” says McCardell. “The guides know so much about the wildlife’s habits, rituals and whatever else you want to know.” Any given moment may include a marine iguana blowing salt out of its nose or a frigate bird inflating its red pouch in a mating display.
The hike concludes at a high point.
“When you walk to the top, you can see for miles,” says Brown.
The closest you’ll get to visiting Jurassic Park is in Cocos Island Marine Park, Costa Rica.
Cocos Island Hike Through Time
The hikes on this jungle island, said to be the inspiration for “Jurassic Park,” are not to be missed during a week aboard the Cocos Island Aggressor or Okeanos Aggressor II. For starters, there are more than 200 waterfalls tumbling down. Some accessible just a quick scramble from the beach and others require a more devoted walk. When time permits, the hike to the radio tower is one of the best ways to see the island, not only for the panoramic view, but also a peek into the past. Pirates traipsed through the island for centuries, allegedly hiding treasure and assuredly introducing more than 100 invasive species, including the pigs and deer that can be met when hiking. Of course, some guests choose to stay on the beach–and they have their reasons.
“Every couple months, we’d get someone who would come out and not dive–just kayak,” says Jay Roberts, operations manager with Aggressor Adventures.
“They’d spend all day exploring by kayak or by foot on the beaches. I had one guy who said, ‘I found it and I will be back!’ but I don’t know what came of that.”