Saturday, October 03, 2009

Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

Aquariums tend to serve a similar function to scuba divers, as porn movies to an aging Casanova. They remind you of things past, or provide ideas for future endeavors, but hardly match the real thing. That was, until today.

We visited the Churaumi Aquarium near Nago, Okinawa. A truly mind-blowing experience. The first time I found myself at an aquarium thinking: "I might spend the rest of the day here, and not get bored for a minute, nor cry over not diving today."

Yes, it has the large pools that other aquariums feature with turtles, humphead wrasses, etc. But then, there is the main pool. Ten meters deep, and about 25 meters by 25 wide. The main window is 8 meters high, and 22 meters wide, in one single pane. It's like watching Odyssey 2001 on a really large screen, only its for real.

Inside, the pool features three whale sharks of about 8 meters length, several large manta rays, schools of yellow fin tuna, eagle and cow rays, smaller sharks, and who knows what else. Absolutely mind-blowing. Like a lava lamp, there is always something going on, reconfiguring, and changing yet again. And you cannot stop watching.

The rest of the aquarium features sea turtles, dugongs, and a dolphin show (of which I don't quite approve). Still very nice, but nothing can compare with the main tank.

So anytime in Asia, make sure you make the trip.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hiking the Hunsrueck

Bernhard and I hiked the Hunsrück mountain range, in southern Germany. The hiking trail Saar-Hunsrück-Steig had been recommended to us by one of Bernhard's friends, head of the German hiking association, and professional hiking trail evaluator. (Funny profession, no?)

So, Wednesday morning 10am, we arived in Orscholz, at the famous Saarschleife. We both had about 12 kilos of luggage, fo rthe next 5 days, and were goign to stay at local inns. I had brought my Olymous SLR, but only a single and (as it turned out) broken lens. Bummer, so I was not going to take any pictures.

Anyhow, on the first day, we hiked the relatively short segment from Orscholz to Britten, just to get into the mood. The only inn in Britten was closed, so we continued another 3 km to a horse ranch with camping and a B&B facility. Things were basic, but cheap, very friendly, and exactly what we needed.

The next day, we hiked the two segments from Britten to Weiskirchen. After checking into the hotel, we immediatley left for the local spa. After trying the six saunas, the whirl pool and having had a couple of beers, we felt much better.

Friday was going to be a killer. Thritythree kilometers, from Weiskirchen to Hermeskeil. Run. Don't look left; don't look right; don't pause. Eventually we got there, and they had another firendly inn.

On Saturday, we wanted to hike the Erbeskopf the highest peak in the area. These two segments would have covered at least 37 km, and after the previous day, this looked a bit too long. hence, we took the bus to Nonnweiler, and saved the first 9 km. Hiking then was easy, total dream, very beautiful. At 6 pm, we decided to hitch-hike back to Weiskirchen. After about 30 minutes of waiting, we found a very freindly, although rather drunk, fellow to give us a ride. We arived jsut in time, to go for another hour of swimming in Weiskirchen.

On Sunday, our last day, we took the bus to Mettlach, and peacefully walked half the segment from Mettlach back to Orscholz.

Summary, the trip was a blast, weather a dream, and the landscape breathtaking. Anytime again.

Now, Bernhard managed to take some pictures with his mobile phone:

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Back to the Reserve

Today was Roger's birthday lunch in Carry-le-Rouet. Afterwards, we were to spent some time in the nearby marine reserve. Unfortunately, the waves of the previous day had disturbed the bay's warm top-layer, and water temperature had fallen to the lower 20s. Since none of us had any suit, this made for some FRESH snorkeling. Again, the water was full of fresh. Yet, we saw significantly fewer than two days before. First, the schools of Saupes were smaller. Second, the shallow area to the left, where we had seen Loups hiding in large groups of fish, were totally empty. Tons of fish had spent their Friday essentially sunbathing, but now had returned to other areas. Still, another incredible afternoon.


Poor Thiery lacked fins.

Movies by Roger:

Friday, August 28, 2009

Marine Reserve in Carry-le-Rouet

When I landed in Marseilles at lunchtime, there was a big surprise: my luggage had not made it. Hence, we were not going to to spear fishing, as intended, since all my neoprene was still in Amsterdam. Instead, Christel's dad proposed to go to the marine reserve in Carry-le-Rouet. Situated in a protected bay, the water was going to be warm enough to allow extended snorkeling without a suit.

I had been to the reserve before, and knew about the abundance of fish. But what we saw was beyond our wildest imaginations. There were schools of Saupes comprised of several hundred specimens. Absolutely amazing. Also, we saw large Dorades, Loup du Mer, and others. Bravo, bravo, bravo. This little reserve provides a shameful reminder of what the Mediterranean would look like, if we had not fished it empty.



Roger and Saupes.

More Saupes.

Somewhere in here, was the Loup.

View Larger Map

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Indoor Scuba Center Siegburg

Today I attended the opening ceremony of the new indoor dive center in Siegburg. I first met owner and manager Manfred Narres at this year's Boot show, and have kept track of his project ever since. So today was the big day.

The dive center is part of a larger pool-complex, named Oktopus, comprised of several large pools, water slides, and indoor surfing. Also the complex includes a hotel. Although located in the same building, the three entities (pools, scuba and hotel) are operated by different firms.

The good news, Manfred's pool was ready. Although, the water was a bit fresh, since the central heating system was overloaded by simultaneously heating up the other pool as well. Also, I had learned that when the scuba pool was half-way full, the underwater-lights flooded. So they had to empty out 5 meters of water again, install new lights, and then fill it back up.

The evening itself was good fun. I met serveral of the new instructors, plus Robert and Ella Stoss, of Johnson Outdoors, plus Dirk Kuhlmann of Pressure Guard. Obviously, there was tons of food, and drink (from a neat computerized cocktail machine) and an entertainment program. Several dive clubs came to try out the pool, and even held an apnoe contest. All in all, and excellent start for Manfred and his crew.

The pool.

The shop.

The area between lobby and pools.

Manfred Narres, about to start his opening speech.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ferrari Books

Thanks to the scuba fair in the Hang Hau shopping mall, I extended my library by another two titles. "Macrolife" and "Reef Life", by photographer couple Andrea and Antonella Ferrari. Very, very very well done books. Most excellent. Most embarrassing to all other authors on the market: the photo credits. The reef life book has a full 30 pictures not taken by the authors; the other not one. this photo collection is a lifetime achievement.

Snorkeling at Dusk

At 18:30, Wing Lung Rd., low tide. Water cooled down a bit, visibility still good, but daylight fading. Tons of crabs out, very active. Large swarms of little silver fry, shooting around sardine-like. Unfortunately, no octopus. This would have been octopus paradise; they have to somewhere. I must go at night, and bring a torch.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Snorkeling In Wing Lung Rd.

Spent a good two hours snorkeling the bay below Wing Ling Road. Water was around 30 degrees; at 1.5 it got a bit more refreshing. First I followed the right shore to the big rock at the tip. Again, this was one of the more interesting areas. But given the limited visibility, it may be better to come back with scuba gear. The highlight however was a family of blennies, living directly on the rock. When threatened, they hide in empty barnacle shells, and only stick their heads out, to see if tings are safe again. very timid, with over-sized frog-like eyes, they were super cute. The entire right side of the little bay sports many more shellfish than Lung Ha Wan. Its like a town where nobody likes you, and as you walk down the street, doors are being closed. Similar, you snorkel down the right coast, and on every rock there are a half a dozne big oysters closing their shells. Equally, large snails were abundant. Later, I explored the left side of the bay. Coral-wise, this was one of the better spots in HK. Tons of it, in .5 to 1.5m of water, different types, healthy.