Scientists have just discovered a glow in the dark sea turtle.

Scientists have just discovered a glow in the dark sea turtle.

This isn’t just a catchy headline.

A team of researchers on a night dive in the Solomon Islands came across a hawksbill sea turtle glowing like a neon sign, and documented the first ever case of biofluorescence in a reptile.

Biofluor-what-now?

Biofluorescence is when an organism absorbs one colour and then reflects it as a completely different colour. Biofluorescence is not to be confused with bioluminescence, where organisms are capable of producing their own light, usually through a chemical reaction. To put it simply, biofluorescent animals can change the colour of existing light, and bioluminescent animals can create their own light.

Seeing bioluminescence underwater is one of the most breathtaking things you can see night diving. Many small organisms are bioluminesent, and put on a spectacular show for night divers. There is few things more surreal than switching your dive torch off and watching the thousands of tiny fluorescent lights dance around you.

Marine Biologist David Gruber, was in the Solomon Islands to film bioluminescence displayed by coral and small reef sharks. You can imagine his surprise when a hawksbill turtle came swimming into view, glowing a distinct red and green (if you don’t believe us check out the video from National Geographic below!) Until this moment, biofluorescence had never before been seen in any reptile, let alone a sea turtle. The divers swam alongside the brightly glowing animal, filming it using a camera fitted with a yellow filter designed to pick up on fluorescent animals within the frame.

Gruber explained that the red glow on the turtle’s shell may be from algae growth, but that the yellow and green was emitted from the turtle. Animals normally use biofluorescence as a defence mechanism or as a form of communication, but exactly why these mysterious and critically endangered sea turtles glow is a question that is now waiting to be answered.

Want to dive in the Solomon Islands? The Bilikiki liveaboard is one of the best live aboards in the area, and visits the main 3 island groups of Florida Island, Russel Island and Marovo Lagoon which boast and array of incredible and diverse dive sites.

The one site you need to dive on the Great Barrier Reef.

The one site you need to dive on the Great Barrier Reef.
The stunning Great Barrier Reef can be seen from space.
The stunning Great Barrier Reef can be seen from space.

The Great Barrier Reef stretches for thousands of kilometers, and there are over 2, 900 individual reefs that make up this Australian icon. Ideally, we’d all love to dive every last one of those reefs, but for obvious reasons this an option that’s not going to happen anytime soon. When you’re planning your diving live aboard trip to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, it’s important you know which particular part of this area you want to dive. One site that is an absolute must is the Cod Hole in the Ribbon Reefs.

The Ribbon Reefs are ten reefs (that are literally numbered 1 to 10 instead of individual names) that offer divers a wide variety of different sites. There are sheer drop-offs that stretch down hundred of metres, and shallow coral gardens that look like something out of an underwater version of Alice in Wonderland. That’s the great thing about diving the Great Barrier Reef,  the varying topography and marine life mean that there is a dive to suit every level of experience and every diver’s interest.

The Cod Hole is located on the northern end of Ribbon Reef #10, and is a dive with a max depth of around 20 metres, making it perfect for every level of diver. Like the name suggests, it’s where you can dive with potato cod the same size as you. Surrounded by warm, tropical water amongst a coral garden the reef makes the most beautiful backdrop to have such a close interaction with these huge friendly fish. These fish have been fed for the past 20 years. Now, dive operators will only allow Divemasters to feed this enormous fish so that they are not over-fed.  Watching a 150 kg cod use it’s thick lips to suck up the provided food just half a metre from your face is a phenomenal experience. As you continue on your dive, you’ll feel as if someones watching you the whole time as the potato cods follow you around, swimming right up to your face. The intricately patterned Maori Wrasse is also a regular visitor to this site, and you’ll have the chance to see giant clams, sea turtles, feather sea stars and a whole host of brightly coloured reef fish.

Located around 110 km’s off the Ribbon Reefs, Osprey Reef is another must visit dive site located in the Great Barrier Reef. Both the Ribbon Reefs and Osprey Reefs have great visibility in comparison to sites closer to the Queensland coastline, as they are further away from run off from cities and agriculture. Here, the plunging drop offs and walls plus the abundance of life makes the diving a thrilling  and unforgettable experience.  Huge schools of trevally and a variety of shark species can be spotted amongst the reef, and diving here is a budding underwater photographers dream.

As with most remote dive locations, the best way to get there is on an all inclusive diving live aboard. Australia is a destination with so much to see and do, both above and below the water. If you want to dive these amazing outer reef sites operators such as Spirit of Freedom and Mike Ball’s Spoilsport offer 4 and 5 night trips that visit the Cod hole and Ribbon Reefs. These luxury live aboards also offer longer trips that will see you spending 8 nights out on the stunning Great Barrier Reef.

If you’re on a budget, and want to do an even shorter trip than the ones offered on board Spirit of Freedom and Spoilsport, the ScubaPro vessels are 3 nights, meaning you can head out to see the reef and still have time on your trip to see what else Oz has to offer.

Been to the Cod Hole or Ribbon Reefs? We want to hear about it! Leave a comment for us below.

The big reason behind why the hammerhead shark has its hammer.

The big reason behind why the hammerhead shark has its hammer.

Sharks are one of the most feared animals on the planet. For most people, coming face to face with a shark is what nightmares are made of. For most scuba divers it’s the exact opposite. Sharks are the top predator in the ocean, and they keep our oceans healthy and thriving. If you’ve ever dived with sharks, you’d agree that they are a thing of beauty and grace and don’t deserve their vicious reputation (way to go Jaws movies!) In fact, statistically speaking, you’re more likely to win an Oscar than get eaten by a shark.

Of the 360 or so different species of shark, one of the most fascinating and strange-looking species of shark is the hammerhead. Hammerhead sharks possess one of the most bizarre looking head shapes in the animal kingdom. As the name suggests, this shark has a head literally shaped like a hammer, and it’s believed these sharks’ heads have evolved to enhance its hunting technique. Apart from the nine species of hammerhead, all other shark species are streamlined hunters, designed like slick underwater torpedo’s. So whats the point of this species giant head?

For a while there, some scientist were adamant that hammerhead sharks would have worse sight thanks to their anatomy. Research has shown that these sharks have incredible eyesight, and the strange positioning of their eyes allows them to see both above and below them at once. They can even see behind them as they swim by moving their heads from side to side. Along with their 360 degree vision, hammerhead sharks use their long rectangular noggin’ as storage space for their highly sensorized sensory organs.  A hammerheads favourite food is stingray, and rays like to rest hidden under a pile of sand. Hammerheads don’t only have amazing vision, but can detect fields of energy in the water created by their prey, using sensory organs called ampullae of Lorenzini. Their combination of eyesight and other senses we mere humans could only dream of make them an efficient and powerful predator. In addition to these more advanced adaptations, hammerhead sharks use their rectangular heads just like, well… a hammer. Once they’ve found their prey, they pin it down using their head and wallah, dinner is served!

For some reason, their bizarre looks make hammerheads one of the more-feared shark species. In reality, they are completely harmless and are fantastic and beautiful animals to scuba dive with.

Where can I dive with hammerheads?

Hammerhead sharks thrive in temperate and tropical waters globally, and can be spotted in huge groups migrating to cooler waters. While there are plenty of places you might see hammerheads, there are a few destinations that are renowned for their regular hammerhead shark sightings.

Cocos Islands, Costa Rica

Cocos Islands is a diving mecca, and the place to head to if you want to dive with hammerhead sharks and a plethora of other big sea life. Diving the Cocos Islands is where you can see hammerhead sharks in huge numbers, and is a remote untouched dive destination 550 kilometeres off the Costa Rican Coastline. Due to it’s remoteness, the only way to visit this destination is via a diving live aboard departing from Costa Rica.

The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Honestly, I feel like the Galapagos features in every ‘best place to see…’ themed article I’ve ever written (find out why it’s so special here). Another untouched and remote area, hammerheads are commonly seen here. At the favourite Wolf and Darwin Islands they can be spotted by the hundreds. These islands are a minimum of 14 hours from the mainland, so like the Cocos, The Galapagos Islands can only be visited by a dive live aboard.

The Bahamas

Bahamas is a shark hub. Consisting of 700 different islands, there are quite a few different destinations to see hammerhead sharks, all of them boasting crystal clear, deliciously warm water. Why not jump on the yacht ‘Carib Dancer’ for an 8 day shark-filled dive extravaganza?

Rasdhoo Atoll, The Maldives

The Maldives is a picture perfect escape, and the place to go to spend some quality time underwater with hammerhead sharks. The Rasdhoo Atoll is renowned for hammerheads in large groups, however you can frequently spot these sharks throughout the Maldives. The best way to dive the Maldives is onboard a live a board, and we’ve found some of the most luxurious live aboards in the Maldives for you.

Hammerheads are one of the most bizarre, intelligent and wonderful species to call the ocean home. Seeing them is something every diver needs to have ticked off on their bucket list at some point in their lifetime.

Have any experience with hammerhead sharks you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!

What live aboard diving in the Cocos Islands is really like.

What live aboard diving in the Cocos Islands is really like.

It’s phenomenal. But you knew that right?

If you’ve dived in the Cocos Islands, you’d know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, let me fill you in.

Diving in the Cocos Islands is an adrenalin filled, crazily good underwater experience. This remote area is around 550 kms off the mainland of Costa Rica, which equates to 36 hours travel time and can only be done by boat. This is a great time to relax and unwind prior to launching into your next week or so of insanely awesome diving. The pinnacles rising from the sea that make up the Cocos Islands are surrounded by nutrient packed water, which attracts the huge amount of life that this dive destination is so famous for.

Cocos Islands is THE place for pelagics. I’m a sucker for big sea life. Give me sea turtles, mantas, sharks and other pelagic species over  small stuff any day. Muck diving is great, and I definitely have time for the little things in a divers life (pygmy seahorses, nudibranchs and frog fish instantly make me happy as soon as I see them) but nothing compares to the feeling you get when you see a large dark shape looming out of the blue and realise there is a 4 metre wide manta ray headed your way. For any lovers of big animals, Cocos Islands needs to be on your bucket list, and it should be right at the top.  Cocos Islands is where you can see schooling hammerheads, and sometimes these schools are so huge that all of a sudden it’s like someone switched the lights out as the sun gets blocked by the sheer number of sharks swimming overhead.

Cocos Islands is a protected marine park, and the island and surrounding waters are relatively untouched by human life, making it a diving haven. Cocos Islands offers a variety of different kinds of dives, and all levels of experience are catered for. From drift dives along steep walls teeming with life to blue water dives there is something for every diver. You can take things to the next thrill level by night diving in the Cocos. Imagine being surrounded by darkness, the only thing illuminating the water around you is the columns of light given off by your torches. Then you see multiple pairs of little green eyes coming out of the darkness as sharks surround you, feeding in the moonlight.

There are over 20 sites to visit in the Cocos Islands, and the fantastic thing is they are relatively close together, maximising your dive time and minimising your travel to each site. A firm favourite and a site that features on most live aboard itineraries is Bajo Alcyone. Here you’re likely to see hundreds of hammerheads and other pelagics as the swim along the submerged formations of the island.

The other great thing about Cocos Islands is there is no ‘season’. Diving is great year round. The rainy season (June to December) brings with it even more nutrients to the water, and in turn this attracts even more life to this diverse ecosystem. Dry season is when waters are calmer, and this is from December to May. It’s really up to you when you decide to visit this part of the world for a diving packed adventure!

Who to dive with?

Due to the remote nature of the Cocos Islands, the only way you can dive this location is on an overnight live aboard. These usually run for about ten days, and will take you to the best of the best sites this pristine area has on offer. Liveaboard.com offers the best price for Cocos Islands live aboards, and there is a trip to suit every budget.

7 reasons why Costa Rica diving is crazily good.

7 reasons why Costa Rica diving is crazily good.

Costa Rica is a land of colourful wilderness and wildlife, both above and below the water.  Costa Rica has one of the most diverse underwater ecosystems on the planet, and is heaven for any diver. We’ve listed the big reasons why Costa Rica needs to be your next dive trip destination below.

It is the most “biologically intense place on Earth”

The Poison Dart Frog is as pretty as it is deadly. Image by Paul Bratescu
The Poison Dart Frog is as pretty as it is deadly. Image by Paul Bratescu

Nat Geo once referred to Costa Rica as the “most biologically intense place on Earth.” The area is an explosion of natural life. While most divers are so attracted to Costa Rica for it’s variety marine life, there are some amazing sites to be seen above the water. Bird life that looks like it’s been coloured in with neon textas, sloths that love munching on hibiscus and a plethora of monkey species in lush tropical rainforest make Costa Rica as beautiful above water as it is below.

It’s a pelagic paradise

Got a soft spot for the big stuff? Me too. While I love the pure wackiness of some of the smaller marine life that calls the ocean home, nothing gets my blood pumping like a giant school of manta rays soaring past me or seeing an enormous hundred year old sea turtle fly through the water. Diving in Costa Rica is the perfect place to spend time with some of the ocean’s biggest inhabitants. Catalina and Bat Islands attract mantas, whale sharks, dolphins and sea turtles to name just a few. These islands are about 2 hours of the Gulf of Papagayo, so the best way to visit these underwater wonderlands is on a dive live aboard. Giant schools of rays and reef sharks can often be seen at Isla del Cano, along with enormous schools of fish.

It’s an underwater photographers dream

After becoming certified as an open water diver, it doesn’t take too long until your itching to capture everything you see underwater so you can show the folks above the surface how amazing the world beneath it really is. Costa Rica is great for budding photographers to the more experienced. The huge variety of resident marine life make a never-ending cast of subjects waiting to be snapped, and the good conditions make taking underwater photos a breeze.

You can explore some of the most untouched dive destinations in the world

Costa Rica diving is as off the beaten track as it gets. The top dive sites are hours away from mainland, and can only be accessed by overnight live aboard. This means pristine diving for you, along with being able to get away from reality and unwind while doing some of the greatest diving you’ll ever experience.

All the bucket list species call the Costa Rican oceans home

Sea turtles? Tick! Mantas? Tick. Hammerheads? You betcha. Whale sharks? If you’re extra lucky! Schools of pelagic fish that block the sun from their sheer size? Tick, tick, tick! Costa Rica is a marine life mecca, and in a single live aboard trip you’ll have the chance to cross off a big chunk of your marine species bucket list.

The dive season is year round

Unusually, some of the best diving is actually in the rainy season when the water is more nutrient rich, attracting more life to the area.  Diving in Costa Rica is excellent all year round, and different times of year attracts different life. One thing is for sure though, and that is your diving will be unforgettable no matter the time of year you visit.

Cocos Islands. Need we say more?

schooling hammerheads
Schooling hammerheads, a must-see when diving in Costa Rica

If you haven’t been to Costa Rica yet, you might recognise it from scenes in dino flick ‘Jurassic Park’. Truly a land before time, Cocos Islands  is home to an assortment of phenomenal marine life. Hammerheads can be seen by the hundreds here, along with a variety of other species of shark including tiger, Galapagos,  blacktip and silvertips. The island has 20 sites that boast incredible drift, deep and even blue water dives in close proximity to one another, making it best explored by live aboard. Bajo Alcyone is the site where your chances are of seeing schooling hammerheads and other pelagics are greatly increased, and this is a site on most live aboard itineraries.

Best way to explore Costa Rica

With-out a doubt, exploring the incredible diving that Costa Rica has on offer is best, and normally can only be done by overnight live aboard. Due to the remote locations of the dive sites where the marine life thrives and diving is ten out of ten, a live aboard is the only way to visit this stunning area. Liveaboard.com has the best selection of Costa Rican dive live aboards on offer at the best rate available. 

Why shark nets are the most indiscriminate killer of endangered marine life.

Why shark nets are the most indiscriminate killer of endangered marine life.

The first day of spring. Birds are tweeting, blossoms are blooming and it’s getting easier and easier to jump out of your cosy bed when your alarm rudely interrupts your dreams. But for marine life, there is a dark side to this season. In Australia, the first day of Spring marks the day that shark nets are placed back in coastal waters. Spring is the season normally associated with new life. For sharks, turtles, whales, sea lions and the myriad of creatures that are regularly entangled in these nets it can mean the exact opposite.

‘Shark nets’ are part of the Shark Meshing Program, an initiative first implemented in the early 1930s to make Australian oceans safer for beach-goers, but these nets are an ineffective and outdated method of protecting surfers and swimmers from possible shark attacks. We’ve listed the top reasons why below.

A hammerhead shark entangled in a shark net
A hammerhead shark entangled in a shark net

Nets don’t form a barrier from one end of a beach to the other.

How do you think shark nets work? In a recent survey done by the SEA LIFE Trust, the majority of respondents thought that a shark net formed a complete barrier from headland to headland. This is definitely not the case! Shark nets are only 150 metres long and are similar to the nets you’d find on a tennis court.  Iconic Bondi beach in Sydney is 1000 metres long– its shark net therefore covers a tiny 11% of its width.

Shark can swim above, over and around the nets

Shark nets are placed in water that is between ten and twelve metres deep. The shark net itself is only six metres high, allowing sharks and other marine animals to swim both over and underneath. In fact, most sharks and other marine animals are caught in nets when they are headed back OUT towards the open ocean!

We need sharks in our oceans

If you’re a diver, chances are you might already have a soft spot for sharks and know how important they are. Sharks are an apex predator, and removing such an important element of the food chain would be irretrievably detrimental to the oceanic ecosystem, with the potential to result in its total collapse. Humans are responsible for the death of one hundred million sharks globally every year. Sharks are responsible for five deaths annually – worldwide. Ninety percent of shark populations around the globe have been completely killed off. For a healthy ocean, an ocean rich in biodiversity, sharks are essential.

There is no conclusive evidence that proves shark nets actually work

People are afraid of the unknown, and the ocean and everything that calls it home continues to be a big unknown. More is known about space than the deepest depths of the ocean. What we do know however is that there is absolutely zero conclusive evidence that proves the shark nets are beneficial to swimmers. Sixty eight percent of shark attacks since 1930 have occurred on beaches with shark nets in place. In 2009, the Australian Department of Primary Industries stated that “the rate of shark attack has remained the same both before and after meshing commenced”. So, why do we keep doing it?

There is no way to ensure nets are only catching sharks.

For every one potentially dangerous species of shark caught in the nets, the number of non-target species such as sea turtles, dolphins, seals and rays is approximately twenty! Humpback whales migrate in Australian waters from September to November, and come close to shore to rest and protect their calves. The shark nets are in place during this time, and whales often become entangled in them.

There are other methods of protecting beaches, that don’t harm marine life

As technology advances, so too does the way we can protect people from potential shark attacks. Initiatives such as helicopter patrols, tagging and tracking sharks, and even shark-deterring wetsuits are being trialled to replace shark nets.The eco shark barrier is a solid barrier that marine life can’t get entangled in. Shark Spotters keep a watchful eye over surfers and swimmers, using flags and alarms to alert people of sharks in the area. At the end of the day, sharks call the ocean home and every time we enter the water we accept the risk that goes along with it.

For most people the word ‘shark’ instantly sends a shiver down their spine, and conjures up images of  bus-sized monstrous creatures with mouths full of razor sharp teeth, just waiting to gobble up an innocent beach goer. The role media has played in demonising one of the oceans most important animals has been pivotal to how people perceive sharks.

Until I started working as a scuba dive instructor a few years ago, I too shared this view on sharks. Now I virtually spend more time under the water than above it, and I know first hand that sharks are most definitely not the mindless killing machines that most people believe them to be. Sharks do not attack for the fun of it, and you are much more likely to be injured by a coconut or drink vending machine, even using a toaster is statistically more dangerous.

Diving with sharks is an incredible experience, and they are not an animal to be feared, but to be respected and protected. There are some amazing places to jump in the water with sharks.  Some of the best places to dive with these animals include Fiji or the Bahamas, where you can spot whale sharks, tiger sharks and reef sharks. The waters surrounding Costa Rica are renowned for seeing schools of hammerheads.

What do you think of shark culling and shark nets? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.

The innovative technology that’s saving sea turtles.

The innovative technology that’s saving sea turtles.

Drones are the craze that’s sweeping the photography world, and now they are not only being used to capture stills of wildlife, but to protect it.

Controversially used by the military and  increasingly so by professional photographers snapping awe-inspiring aerial footage of landscapes from above, they are now being deployed as an innovative method of conserving wildfire.

If you haven’t seen the kind of footage a well-piloted drone camera is capable of producing, check out this clip from underwater photographer and dive instructor, Tristan Gale. Tristan spent three and a half years diving on the Great Barrier Reef and during that time captured some incredible footage of the reef from a birds eye view.

Lian Pin Koh and Serge Wich, founders of ConservationDrones.org, originally started making drones to use to photograph Orangutangs while studying them in the dense rain forests of Sumatra.  Since then they have been used as an easy and relatively inexpensive way of tracking poachers in Africa, and researching whale movements from the sky. Not for profit marine organisation Sea Shepherd has even used them to monitor whaling vessels from afar.  Drones are well suited to aiding biologists and conservation groups as they can cover more ground than rangers on foot, simultaneously recording data and taking high quality images. As the technology behind this equipment continues to improve and the cost continues to go down, drones will become more regularly and widely used by environmental groups.

Scuba diving in Mexico is high up on any scuba divers bucket list, and has crystal clear water and is home to an abundance of marine life. Off the coast of Mexico drones will be deployed in the hopes of protecting nesting sea turtles and their eggs. Olive Ridley sea turtles return year after year to the beaches of Oaxaca to nest, and whilst the sale of meat and turtle products has been banned for the past twenty years, this illegal activity still goes on.

According to the the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection, poachers who ransack around 20 nests will come back with a haul of 2, 000 or so eggs, and these have hefty price tags attached, going for between $600 and $1000 pesos (up to $60 US per nest) on the black market.

Of every 1000 eggs that are laid by these critically endangered turtles, only one will actually make it to the open ocean and reach adulthood. The drones will be utilised to ensure illegal poaching of this sea turtle population doesn’t continue, and that this species can continue to survive.