The Red Coats are Coming…The Red Coats are Coming…

With the upcoming Lionfish Hunt is taking place on Friday November the 17th I thought I’d do a blog entry about the invasive & pesky but beautiful lionfish!

 

 HELP DO YOUR PART CONTROLLING LIONFISH IN ROATAN 

There is a lionfish invasion in Roatan, and you can help take part in this battle. Lionfish are an invasive species that have become common in some parts of the Caribbean. As predators, these fish compete with or consume many other species of fish in the Caribbean, and have no natural enemies to control their numbers.

Lionfish are native to the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The fish have made their way into familiar waters in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and other parts of the Atlantic Ocean as far north as North Carolina by hitching rides on freighters, or being released by aquarium owners.

Most recent update of the lionfish invasion map from Pam Schofield PhD and Amy Benson MS of USGS as of April 24, 2017.

Lionfish Sightings

In the Caribbean, lionfish threaten the native fish and the natural environment as they compete with local organisms for a limited number of resources in an already biologically depleted coastal zone.

AS LIONFISH INCREASE IN NUMBER, THE POPULATION OF LOCAL FISH WILL DECREASE

The lionfish, a highly venomous and spiny ocean-dweller, lives up to its name as a hunter and devourer, chowing down on all types of small fish and organisms across the Caribbean. Lionfish eat almost every kind of fish that can be found in the Caribbean. This means that as the lionfish population increases, the population of native fish will continue to decline.

Lionfish Spines Defined

Lionfish have no known natural predators in the Caribbean, leaving the job of limiting their growth solely to human interference. So what can you, as a Caribbean traveler, do to help defeat this ravenous, reef-destroying menace? It’s simple: you can hunt them, and you can eat them.

HUNTING LIONFISH ON YOUR OWN

There are plenty of sites that will tell you to hunt lionfish on your own. If you do decide to hunt lionfish, there are a few things to keep in mind:

1) LIONFISH ARE VENOMOUS

For starters, lionfish are highly venomous. The fish are not poisonous (it’s safe to eat them), but, you run the risk of being injected with toxins if you are pricked by one of their spikes. Be sure to stay away from lionfish spines. If you don’t know how to handle lionfish safely, then don’t hunt them.

Me after my 6th Lionfish stick

2) LIONFISH “WON’T TAKE THE BAIT”

Second, the lionfish cannot be reeled in like a typical gamefish–they simply won’t take the bait. Instead, the best way to hunt a lionfish is by diving down and spearing them.

Hawaiian Sling Type Lionfish Spear
Zookeeper – Lionfish Containment Units

 

3) MAKE SURE SPEARFISHING IS ALLOWED

With spearfishing, lionfish are very easy to stalk and capture, especially when they are swimming in shallow waters. However, be warned: allot of locales in the Caribbean ban spearfishing. If you do go this route, be absolutely sure spearfishing is allowed. If you’re going to spear thing about using a Zookeeper as well!

REPORT YOUR SIGHTINGS OF LIONFISH

Please report all sightings of the invasive lionfish directly to the following link provided by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), which is helping coordinate efforts to eradicate the lionfish and other invasive species in the Caribbean: This is the easiest way these “red dots” can be placed on the map of the Caribbean, and a stronger strategy for reducing lionfish numbers can be created.

 

So if you’re here and want to help clean up the reef come find us at Ocean Connections. We do bi-monthly trips to the south side in search of these critters but we also do daily trips all over the north side. Here’s a neat video a friend of mine shot while here in Roatan. Enjoy!

 

 !!Recipes!! 

Fried Whole Lionfish

Lionfish Ceviche

Lionfish Fritters

REEF Lionfish Cookbook

Let us know if you tried them and what you think.

Who’s who in the zoo…Choosing the right dive op for you.

Our advice for picking the best scuba diving shop
So, you’ve just arrived in paradise or maybe you’re about to jet off to a new destination. You can’t wait to get underwater, but you don’t want to take the plunge with just anyone. In most scuba diving destinations, the streets and beach fronts are littered with an overwhelming number of dive centers, offering day trips and courses, but how do you choose? Although it is tempting to just pick the first one you stumble across, there are a few important things that you might want to consider.
Check out their Social Media
Ask around for recommendations
Check out the equipment you'll be using.
Make sure you ask the right questions.
Are you taking a course or need a refresher?
You get what you pay for.
When should you move on to the next dive centre?
Final OK.

Here at Ocean Connections, we are committed to providing professional, enjoyable and economical diving for everyone, regardless of age, ability or experience. As a PADI & SSI Dive Center we put your safety first and on keeping our standards high. We are all about making our customers happy and helping them create life long memories.

Our highly experienced instructors will work with you to make sure that you are comfortable, happy and confident in the water. With no more than 4 divers per instructor we guarantee that you are well looked after. Our instructors and Divemasters are always sharing their wisdom with our customers, helping to teach all courses from Discover Scuba up to Divemaster

As well as top notch staff, equipment and standards, Ocean Connections provides a laid back and comfortable environment to spend time in. The dive shop has lockers to store valuables, fresh water showers and a place to change. There is a spacious area out front as well as the shaded palapa where you can relax, enjoy a coffee pre dive or a beer post dive, whilst chatting with your new dive buddies about the best underwater finds of the day!

We hope these tips have given you a bit more confidence in making an informed decision when choosing the best dive shop. What do you look for in a dive center? Do you have good or bad experiences with choosing a dive center? It would be great to hear what has worked for you! Let us know in the comments below.

Why do we want to learn to scuba dive?

It’s a very good question!

 

There are a lot of reasons. Here are just a few…

It may just be something to mark off your bucket list. I know many former students and travelers I’ve met over the years that have an unconscious need to get underwater. They don’t know why or what drives them but the need is tangible and they are driven. For me it’s a connection with the water/sea. I’ve always been a water baby as far back as I can remember. I have fond memories of my Dad opening the pool in early May in Canada and competing with my brother to be the first one in the pool. It was always mind numbingly cold but I had to be the first one in! For me the creatures under the sea possess the ability to hypnotize and cast a spell on me that makes me forget about everything and anything going on in my life. Everything fades away and I’m in my happy place.

For others, it’s an ideal reason to travel and see new places. Meet new and like minded people, or even find love. Not everyone who dives is able to dive in their own backyard. I was one of the fortunate who was able to. I lived on Vancouver Island in Canada for a while and dived there quite often. Voted Best Cold Water Diving in the World by Jacques Cousteau. For those who aren’t able the need exists for them to travel to new places and dive new sites. Once they’ve found that little gem, where all the boxes are ticked they tend to return time and time again. Once one has learned to dive, everything is consumed by scuba diving. All future vacations will have the caveat “Is there diving?” For no other reason the ocean covers 71 percent of the earth’s surface. If your goal is to “see the world” then you’ll need to learn to scuba dive.

The Father Of Scuba Jacques Cousteau

!!ESCAPE!! There are no cell phone calls, text messages, Skype interviews, conference calls or emails to distract you underwater. Your attention is focused on your breathing, buoyancy and what you see through your mask.

Relive the vast amount of history that lies beneath the sea. Think just for a second about all the history that lies beneath the waves. From the highly publisized discovery of the Titanic to the World War II invasion at Normandy. You can explore wrecks that date back as far as you can imagine. I was extremely fortunate, and honestly it’s probably what sank the proverbial hook for me was that I did my very first open water dives in a place called Tobermory, Ontario in Canada. Tobermory has more accessible shipwrecks per capita than any other dive location in Canada. Most of the wrecks lie within recreation depth limits and are very well preserved due to the cold, fresh water. As for Roatan we have numerous wrecks that can be explored while you’re visiting. The Odyssey and the Prince Albert are spectacular examples!

The Wreck of The Odyssey in Roatan Honduras
The Wreck of The Odyssey in Roatan Honduras

Carrying tanks and gear helps you be better at everything! This is especially useful if you have friends who run marathons or go to the gym often. Diving is an activity and whether you know it or not you are burning calories doing something you enjoy! I’m always amazed at the fact that I can usually eat whatever I want and not worry about my weight when I’m diving a lot. It’s a healthier lifestyle all around. Initially a divers air consumption is rather poor. As we become more comfortable in the water and used to our environment, our gear and our individual limitations and abilities our air consumption tends to improve.  After certification you’ll understand the importance of making your air supply last. The trick is to breathe slowly and move deliberately. Good advice for the surface too.

#DoEverythingBetter

You really should learn to dive, don’t you think? Check out the Diving Courses page to get started.

Already a diver? Interested in Roatan? Join our community of divers at Ocean Connections

Are there other reasons we missed? Let us know in the comments.

#LearntoDive

It Doesn’t Rain Underwater…

Picture dated 1949 of scuba diver with an umbrella. In 1943, Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau invents, with Emile Gagnan, the first commercially successful open circuit type of Scuba diving equipment, the aqualung.

 

Residents of Roatan love rainy season for its ability to replenish, refresh and have an overall cleansing effect on the island and its inhabitants. The temperature drops slightly and the ground soaks in all that it can so that fresh tropical fruits and palm trees can grow throughout the remainder of the year

People who live and work on Roatan always regard it as being a lush, tropical, green Caribbean island full of amazing culture and great food. We all say that it’s the emerald of the Caribbean with its vibrant hues of green meeting the stunning aqua marines and blues of the Caribbean Sea. The reason for all of that stunning natural beauty is simply the rainy season.

Rain in the jungles of Roatan

Of course, as a tourist, you may not be quite as thrilled should your entire vacation become a soggy, waterlogged adventure. That’s understandable, but there is still plenty to do if it rains during your trip to Roatan!

Rainy season in Roatan is between October and January each year. The heaviest rainfalls occur during November and December, with more random western and northerly storms typically hitting the island in January and February. Winter is winter…we just get it a bit easier than you guys up north do!

So!?!?! Where’s the upside you ask??? Rainy season in Roatan is not like monsoon season. It does not rain every single day and the island doesn’t flood or get rain for months on end. There will be times when it rains like cats and dogs for a few days in a row, and there will be times when it doesn’t rain for a few days in a row. If you live here, you love the changes. If you’re visiting, you will likely see some rain, but likely some sun too! If you’re not a scuba diver yet, and you do run into lots of rainy weather, this is the perfect opportunity to learn to dive with us at Ocean Connections Water Sports! Above the surface, the rain will deter you from lounging on the beach. Below the surface, you’re wet anyway! Diving allows you to go deeper than the murky surface you might encounter while snorkeling in the rain.

Roatan is best known for its incredible SCUBA diving – and guess what? Unless a tropical storm has blown onto the island or the winds are raging from the west or the north, diving and snorkeling trips do go out every day at Ocean Connections Water Sports You can still dive because it doesn’t rain underwater!! While snorkelers will find their visibility decreased during heavy rain, divers get down below the fresh water that accumulates on the surface and can still enjoy amazing visibility.

Side Mount diver underwater while it rains

Not a diver and don’t want to try? That’s okay, too. There’s still plenty of shopping at our duty free shops, amazing culinary adventures in our numerous international restaurants like Pazzo and Ibagari, cafes like Bean Crazy, Chestnut or Café Escondido and bars Tita’s Pink Seahorse and Sundowners. There’s also a rum tour. At The Roatan Rum Company you can sample a wide variety of rums all in one place. For the more adventurous, you can test your adrenaline at Jungle Top Zipline or the very popular dune buggy excursion at West Bay Tours. For the more laid back you can always ride a horse through the jungle at Barrio Dorcas Ranch  Then there is good old relaxation. There’s nothing quite like a tropical rainstorm to make you sprawl out in the hammock on your covered patio and marvel at the smells of the jungle and the sounds of raindrops hitting the palm fronds. Enjoy the moment and let go of your stresses from home. At the very least, if it’s raining all day and you must stay indoors, you won’t get sunburned!

5 highlights of Scuba Diving on Roatan

This year it will be my 30th consecutive year of scuba diving. Teaching scuba diving has definitely been the highlight of that time and has become my passion. When I started dive the reefs of the Caribbean, I never knew where it would lead me. Currently in Roatan it is on its own time, things are unspoiled and it remains a natural paradise with crystal clear turquoise water and coral reef. The clear visibility, the colorful reefs and the fish population keeps surprising me over and over again, dive after dive.

Here are 5 things that Roatan diving has to offer.

  • Waking up with the turtles Book an early boat dive and persuade the Dive Master to take you to “Turtle Crossing Deep” or “SeaQuest Shallow” to drift along the north reef. This is a pretty much a “turtles guaranteed” dive. You will see Green Sea Turtles, Hawksbill Sea Turtles and around May to July, with a little luck you might see a Loggerhead Sea turtle. Although I have yet to see one. Try stopping and staying a bit further back as opposed to trying to get close for that good photo. It will go about its business and may even come up close to you. Please don’t chase the turtles or any other sea creatures as it creates very great deal of stress for them.
Hawksbill Sea Turtle
Hawksbill Sea Turtle
  • Nitrox diving course has many benefits. The course is really easy and you can often complete the theory at home before you arrive, do a simple written exam online then when you get here, do a simple practical demonstration and BINGO you’re certified! You will truly enjoy diving with Nitrox on Roatan. The number one benefit of using Nitrox is to safely extend your bottom time. By reducing the amount of nitrogen your body absorbs and by increasing the proportion of oxygen within your body, you reduce the risk of decompression sickness. After several days of multiple dives, you will feel less tired! Nitrox courses are available with us. Book online here or contact me at [email protected]

  • Coral spawning explained. This is really a true natural wonder. Coral Spawning happens only once a year around September and October on Roatan and is again a late night dive. Fortunately, it has become possible to predict the nights that spawning will occur. This allows us, underwater spectators, to be ready and waiting for the event to commence. It is really spectacular when thousands of eggs and sperm bundles of different species are simultaneously released. Corals spawn by releasing millions of packets of eggs and sperm cells that appear under water as massive white and pink clouds. These eggs and sperm cells slowly drift to the surface where fertilization occurs. Within a few weeks the larvae will settle on the ocean floor and begin the process of reef building. You need a bit of luck to witness this event on Roatan but it can be predicted. Ask for the dates or have a look for yourself here.
Coral Spawning
Coral Spawning

 

  • My absolute two favorite dive sites on Roatan. “Land Of The Giants”, an amazing section of reef on the north side of the island that gives you a true sense of how tiny we actually are. The underwater pinnacles are incredible and intimidating. The corals and topography of this area will astound you! My other favorite is “Mary’s Place”. A truly unique dive site that boasts a huge section of the reef that has partially separated from the main wall. You can enter the “crack” and swim along the crack encountering all sorts of critters and gorgeous corals. On both dives you will see super healthy reef systems, with abundant hard and soft corals. Big numbers of Dog Snapper and Barracuda are common in this area as well….Definitely keep an eye out to the blue for things like spotted eagle rays and curious reef sharks! Check out all the dive sites here at the Roatan Marine Parks site.
Spotted Eagle Ray
  • Night dive the spectacular Blue Channel. I love a good night dive generally, but there is something unique about Blue Channel. If you are a confident night diver, turning off your dive lights during the dive can be quite an amazing experience, just too good to be true. If the time is right and the conditions all line up correctly the bioluminescence and the string of pearls will delight you beyond anything imaginable. Go late, make sure there is no moon and that everyone else is gone. When you’ve reached the sand patch settle in, let your eyes adjust and let the light show begin. It will really amaze you.
Basket Star

Great Night Dive video

Rainy season, memories and Cayos Cochinos!!

Hello folks!

How is everyone out there?!

With rainy season upon us, there is a bit of a lull in tourist traffic here on Roatán. By calling it rainy season, it may seem a bit of a downer. But it’s not like it rains 24 hours a day for 6 weeks. The rain is somewhat predictable with it raining for 15-20 minutes in the early morning making everything fresh and clean. The thunder and lightening shows down here are pretty incredible too. It’s amazing how wonderful wild ginger blooms and fresh guava smell right after a good rain.

With this opportunity we’re not just lazing around waiting for the clouds to clear and the seas to calm. This down time is a perfect time to get lots of things done around the shop. Great time to do paint touch ups inside the shop, update the some of the gear, replace the deck out back, replace the lines on the boats and a whole bunch of other projects to keep us out of trouble.

This reminds me of a great dive I did while I lived in Cayos Cochinos, which is only an hour’s boat ride from here by the way, during rainy season a couple of years back. It was heavily overcast that morning but not raining…yet!! We get in the water and descend to about 90ft along a spectacular stretch of the north wall on Cayos Grande. The reef there is absolutely gorgeous and healthy. About 20 minutes into the dive I could hear something that sounded very similar to the static you’d hear from an improperly tuned radio or the static from a snowy channel on the television. Now I’ve spent thousands of hours underwater over the years and had everything from small horsepower speed boats to cruiseships and this sounded like nothing in between. It took a few minutes of scratching my head to figure out what the sound was. I motioned to the group I was leading and finally while I was rolled over and swimming on my back I happened to look up. The visibility was very good and I could see that a squall had rolled in a started dumping incredible amounts of rain on the reunion. It was amazing too think that rain was responsible for creating that much sound. It was a few minutes later that the entire area lit up like someone had fired a massive strobe from an underwater light. It was lightening. Absolutely incredible!!

We finished the dive and surfaced. It was glories and sunny with a few clouds in the distance. These are just a few of the reasons I love it down here.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cayos_Cochinos

If you’d like to know more about a trip to Cayos Cochinos you can email me at [email protected] or through the contact us link on this website.

Have a great day everyone!! Hope to see you soon!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Diving with marine creatures

Hey from the lovely and sunny Caribbean everyone!

 

Just got back from taking some divers out and had a neat (to me) experience but most likely a nerve wracking or even a possible panic situation for some not so seasoned divers.

I was driving with a Really nice couple from Arizona who own their own business and travel when the itch arises. Good divers, Tony advanced and Casey open water. Both are confident with good buoyancy.

The dive was great, some nice big lobsters, some really nice big schools of Creole wrasse, few dog snapper and the big green moray. For the most part the usual Caribbean suspects.

Unfortunately as of late, with the infringing pesky Lionfish becoming more and more prevalent in the waters, marine creature behavior is rapidly changing/evolving/adapting. However you what to categorize it. Something is changing.

Now, I’m no marine bio major or environmental science wizard, I’m just a diver who happens to notice stuff. All this aside I personally I believe the reason for the change is that more and more divers are killing the Lionfish which is great for the reef, the local businesses but more and more divers are feeding said Lionfish to the marine life. Specifically the eels. Now I feel the eels are learning and changing to associate divers with food.

Back to where I was going with this story. So we’re cruising along the edge of the reef at about 12-13m (40-45ft for the US readers) a larger green moray eel with a lovely set of bite marks on the latter third of its tail, presumably from the shape of the markings another moray, came down off the top of the reef and started swimming in our direction. Not overly nervous of these guys I got my divers attention and pointed out the moray for them. At that point in time the Morays attention was focused on me and me alone. The moray swam in my direction at a leisurely pace. Nothing to be too worried about. With a few seconds the moray was inside my comfort zone and with in a few more seconds inside my uncomfortable zone. I instinctively extended my spear not with the intention of hurting or killing it but just to give it something to swim into. Morays have very poor eye sight by the way. the moray swam directly into my spear then abruptly turned and swam back to the protection of the reef.

This is happening more and more here in the Caribbean, come on down and experience it for yourself with us. www.ocean-connections.com. None the less this is not the first time this has happened and I’m sure it won’t be there last. Below is a video shot by good friends of mine Andrew and Katya that shows another moray getting really friendly. Enjoy!!

 

 

 

 

 

The amazing creature…cephalopods! 🐙🦑

Hey underwater enthusiasts. Blog entry Numéro Dos!!

I found a great video last night and wanted to share it with everyone.

The video I found last night involves one of my favorite critters of the sea, the cephalopod! I’ve had numerous encounters with these guys and have to say they are probably the most enjoyable and memorable creatures I have ever encountered underwater. They are mesmerizing and enchanting, stealthy and dominant. They are always on and ready to go, never playful or silly. They just seem serious and always on a mission.

Probably the most memorable of encounters was here in Roatán during a night dive at Blue Channel.  I was leading 3 novice divers on their first night dive in about 10m(30ft) of water. We were nearing our turn around point and for no apparent reason, I needed to take a slightly different route back to the boat. As we moved through the oily, inky blackness of the Caribbean Sea I noticed a large Caribbean octopus foraging for food on a small coral outcropping. As the octopus ever so elegantly moved behind the outcropping to avoid our lights,  a smaller octopus lunged out from behind it. The chase was on!! The larger of the two octopus was now in hot pursuit of the smaller one. When the smaller one realized it could not evade the larger one, the smaller one headed for the surface. At this point, our group had moved underneath the ascending octopus. Wanting to avoid the surface, the larger of the two octopus called off the chase and began to descend. Without moving or wanting to interfere our group stayed put. I happened to be directly underneath the octopus as it settled on my shoulder. Once there it wriggled down my arm towards my hand and then dropped off onto the seabed. Seeing these critters up close and personal is truly one of my most cherished memories.

 

Hopefully one day I can show you something very similar here at Ocean Connections. Enjoy the video!!

Seeing the ocean through alien eyes

Animals can see things we can't. A team of scientists takes a one-of-a-kind camera to the South Pacific to see the ocean as no human has before.

Posted by In The Deep on Friday, October 6, 2017

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Ocean Connections BOSS & Scuba Adventure Blog

First things First!
Like scuba there is a first time for everything. I’m very new to this whole blog adventure thing so please bear with me.

Well here we go! Good day, my name is Adam, I’m currently the Dive Operations Manager at Ocean Connections Water Sports here on the beautiful island of Roatán in the Bay Islands of Honduras.

Our goal and focus here at Ocean Connections Water Sports is to introduce as many people as possible to the wonder and beauty of the underwater world. We do this through a few mediums. Mainly the underwater scooters or Breathing Observation Submersible Scooter or the B.O.S.S. as we like to call it. The other mediums are through scuba diving and snorkeling.

As the Dive Operations Manager, I am responsible for the day to day operations of the scuba diving side of the house. Making sure the boat gets off on time, making sure our guests are well looked after and that everything is maintained and ready to go for another adventure under the sea. I’ll let Nikki the BOSS manager, fill you in on the scooters at a later date.

The B.O.S.S. Adventure

Our goal with this blog is to get you, the curious adventure seeker creature that you are, down here and get under the sea. We want you to make the kind of memories that will last a lifetime and will have you returning year after year for more warm sun, white sand beaches and some of the best diving the Caribbean has to offer. We plan on doing that by getting you excited about all of it. Every so often we’ll be posting stories, experiences, adventures and pictures/videos. So please stay tuned, check in often at www.ocean-connections.com and tell us all about your adventures in the comments below!

Take care

Adam J. Wise
Me diving the glorious sea mounts of Cayos Cochinos.