International Travel

Ras Mohammad – A lesson in vertigo

Heights have never bothered me. I have peered over the edge of the tallest mountains and with a massive leap of faith jumped out of a perfectly healthy airplane without being bothered by the distance to the ground. Strange then that the first time I should experienced vertigo was underwater – at Ras Mohammed. By Peter Pinnock.

Reunion

By Johan Boshoff
Map illustration by Izelle Hickey

Diving on  A thousand encounters, a thousand landscapes, a thousand sensations and various dive sites… right in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Reunion is a French island that stands out from all the others. It’s an island where you can dive prestige reefs, walk in valleys full of waterfalls and visit an active volcano all in the space of one day.

ImageThe first time I heard about this island I thought it was too good to be true. Then Air Austral and Safpol Safaris introduced me to it, and I fell in love with the place immediately.

Reunion is an island that rises 3 069m straight out of the ocean and has thousands of valleys surrounding its active volcano. The entire island is covered in mountains and the waters provide some of the best dive sites the Indian Ocean has to offer. I simply had to do this article to let South Africans know what they are missing out on. And it’s right on our doorstep!

Rodrigues, Mourouk Ebony Hotel

By Fiona McIntosh

ImageIf you want all the trappings of a tropical island without the crowds, head for Rodrigues. The small mountainous island sits in the middle of an aquamarine lagoon twice its size – a water sport and diving paradise. Rodrigues’ more famous bigger sister island, Mauritius, lies 560km to the south-west and getting there is easy. The two islands are linked by several daily flights on Air Mauritius.

Scotland, Scapa Flow

By Fiona McIntosh

IT’S DARK, deep and dangerous. Every year an increasing number of hard core divers venture to the far north of Scotland to the tiny island of Orkney, to dive Scapa Flow, the world’s greatest cold water wreck site. And every year several push beyond their limits – the average fatality rate at Scapa is one a year and in 2004 four deaths were recorded in the short summer season.

The Flow is remote, cold and inhospitable. Its weather is extreme, the current rages and 10m is considered good vis. There’s one dive school where you can arrange a scuba guide (if you can convince them of your competence) or book a dive course. Otherwise if you and your buddy are feeling confident you can usually jump on a charter. If you’re still up for it, FIONA MCINTOSH outlines what you can expect. 

Seychelles

By Fiona McIntosh 

DIVING SEYCHELLLES

ImageDon’t believe everything you see in the media. Sensational accounts of coral bleaching have discouraged many a diver from visiting one of the indian ocean’s most beautiful dive locations. But, as fiona mcintosh discovered, seychelles is more than just a romantic paradise, it offers superb diving, great vis, warm waters and a host of land-based attractions. I’m a lucky git. In the last year I’ve dived throughout the southwestern Indian Ocean enjoying the exotic spice islands of Zanzibar, Pemba, Reunion, Seychelles and Mauritius, as well as the waters off the coasts of Kenya and Mozambique....

Seychelles Islands, Coral Strand Hotel, Beau Vallon, Mah

By Fiona McIntosh
Photos courtesy Coral Strand, Fiona McIntosh and Shaen Adey

Right on the wonderful golden crescent of Mahé’s famous Beau Vallon Beach, the Coral Strand Hotel has long been a favourite of divers and other holidaymakers seeking an affordable tropical island escape. And since its only 20 minutes from Seychelles International Airport and ten minutes from Victoria, the island’s quaint capital, the hotel is also popular with business visitors. And although it has recently enjoyed a facelift with the creation of a new business centre, an upgrade of rooms, a sprucing up of the main restaurant, pool bar and kitchens, it still remains excellent value.

ImageThe hotel comprises of 130 air-conditioned and newly refurbished rooms, most of which are sea facing and are grouped around the large swimming pool and gardens. The main dining area, the Island Trader, is right on the beach with a view to die for, yet there is also the external a-la-carte Le Bistro restaurant, while at Mahék, the Indian Gourmet Restaurant, diners can watch the chefs at work in the ‘show cooking’ kitchen.

Seychelles, The Hilton

By Johan Boshoff 

ImageThere are few places on earth that come close to the breathtaking natural beauty found in the Seychelles.

The Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa is situated on the beautiful island of Mahé and is a dream destination for many travelers. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. If this is true, then the view from your room in the five star resort is priceless. The rooms have a breathtaking view of the most popular beach in the Seychelles and guests can watch the sun disappear into the Indian Ocean in the afternoons.

Shark cage diving in the UK

Shark cage diving in the UK

 ‘Shark cage diving in Cornwall’ read the subject line of the email. It was one of those links that you think “Yeah right, good spoof”. By Fiona McIntosh Images by Richard Peirce and Fiona McIntosh

sharkcage4I followed the link anyway, and to my surprise there were pictures of a shark cage not dissimilar to the ones I’d seen on the boats at Gansbaai. Surely you don’t find White sharks in British waters was my next question to self. And no, of course you don’t (or at least you don’t see them). The sharks that punters sign up to see off Cornwall’s north coast are Basking sharks (the second largest shark species after Whale sharks, named Basking sharks because they’re often observed when feeding at the surface and appear to be basking in the warmer water there), and Blue sharks, which are lured to the boat in exactly the same way that the operators use back home.

Similan Islands

By Johan Boshoff
Underwater photos by Adriano Trapani

Did you know Thailand

The country's official name was Siam.
In 1949 the name Thailand was once again adopted.
Similan Islands is a group of islands in the Andaman Sea.
Thailand suffered significant damage from the tsunami in 2004.
The word Thai derived from the word Tai meaning ‘free’.
Similan comes from the Malay word simbilan, meaning ‘nine’.
Tropical sea horses can be seen in the Thai waters.

The best that the Kingdom of Thailand has to offer

ImageAfter the devestation of the tsunami which hit in December 2004, Thailand is again back in its rightful place as a top tourist destination. A highlight for divers is a small group of islands, named the Similan Islands, which are situated almost 90 kilometres from Phuket. Similan Islands is a diver’s paradise and allows one to experience one of the world’s top 10 dive destinations.

St Helena

By Fiona McIntosh

Diving St Helena, the World’s Most Remote Island.

ImageWhere on Earth is St Helena? Well that’s what I was wondering when I found myself spontaneously muzzled into running the world’s remotest marathon. But who cares when there’s a chance to don dive gear (in between the events of a running festival) and explore a scarcely mapped underworld.

Once on board the RMS St Helena (the Royal Mail ship and the only way to reach the island) I took time to discover that I was heading to 16 degrees south, 5 degrees west, in simple terms that’s some 2 293 kilometres off Walvis Bay on the Namibian coast. St Helena is in fact a small tropical island; 10km wide and 17km long. But it lies in the SE Trade Winds, plus is cooled by the Benguela current, so although in the tropics it enjoys a subtropical to temperate climate.