Diving bLog

Month of the Sharks

Posted 20 October 2011

To KNOW is to LOVE is to PROTECT!

We KNOW that sharks are massively reduced, some endagered and always more almost extinct through over-fishing as either undwanted by-catch with inadequate fishing techniques and worst but not least: targeted fishing for their fins!

We KNOW that sharks reproduce very slow because of long the long time to reach sexual maturity, long gestation, little off-spring and less regular breeding. This makes them particularly vulnerable to the massive war engaged against them!

We KNOW that sharks are essential for the balance in the Ocean as top predator on most food-chains and feeding on many different species, sharks keep the Oceans healthy by removing the sick, injured and diseased animals.

We LOVE to dive with them, watching them glide gracefully through the water, letting this unforgettable thrill run through our veins! It's hard to imagine a more intense, yet only visual interaction with any other top predator without anything between! We can't let this experience become a memory for future generations.

Now start to PROTECT by signing the following Project AWARE petition, PROTECT by signing other petitions, PROTECT by subscribing to newsletters of Project AWARE and other organisations like Mision Tiburon, Pretoma. And most important, PROTECT by spreading the work! Invite your friends to sign and follow shark causes and to invite their friends to do the same!

Project AWARE Shark Petition

Swimming with Dolphins

Posted 29 September 2011

Wow, yes, this sounds fantastic, a dream come true!

It started with a trip to the Bats, an excursion that we are asked to do regularly because of the good chance to dive with the impressive Bull-Sharks! A chance, not a guarantee...

Well, and what had to happen some day, did happen: we did not see a single shark for the first time this year since April! Of course that was a deception as much for the divers who so badly wanted to see them as for the guides who so badly wanted to show the sharks to the divers...

Wondering about the reasons of their absence like water temperature and visibility, day-time, weather conditions and possible migrational movements, the boat was gently moving into an enormous, really huge group of Pantropical Spotted Dolphins. Hundreds of them who immediately approached the boat and escorted us by the dozens, criss-crossing and jumping all around the boat! Scared of an impact with so many of them, we stopped the boat and just let them continue circling around us... an experience too tempting to resist! We give it a try and slide gently in the water with fins, mask and...cameras!

Before sharing this with you, remember to not have that much expectations, just enjoy what you have, that's the costarrican Pura Vida and the Summer-Salt way of exploring the Gulf of Papagayo where you will never be deceived ;-D!

Now join us with the Dolphins!

Happy Divers in Turtle-Season!

Posted 18 September 2011

Every year I forget what makes visitor-numbers to Costa Rica drop drastically during the Rainy-Season. And then I remember that it's the word "Rainy", not the amount of rain actually falling in Guanacaste during it's daily tropical showers (that's something nobody knows about), no, it's just the word "Rainy".

There is a wide-spread missunderstanding of this term: there is always rain in any tropical country around the world even if it's not "rainy"-season! In Costa Rica we call the 2 seasons Winter and Summer. Imagine if in temperate countries nobody would go ski anymore only because this is done in the freezing-cold and snowy season, a pretty "scary" idea to me ;-D! The climatic caracteristics of a season are exactly what makes you do something you can't do in another season.

Besides that there is very little rainfall in Guanacaste even during the rainy-season, there are many reasons to visit Costa Rica exactly during this period of the year:

World famous sea-turtle "arribadas" (mass-arrivings of nesting turtles) can be observed along the coast of Guanacaste's Nicoya Peninsula. A fantastic experience not only to observe the exhausting efforts of turtles that land on the beach, dig their nest in the sand, lay their eggs and then crawl back to the sea where many more are waiting for their tour. It's also an impressive example of human interaction with these prehistoric animals who's eggs are harvested by the local communities under strict control and in exchange prodect and accompany the hatching turtle-babies on their short but dangerous race from the nest into the ocean from where they will come back many years later to lay their own eggs. As shocking as this sometimes might appear, statistics over years show, that there are many more baby turtles surviving their predators (sun, dogs, vultures, ect.) on their first moments after their birth.

"I would like to sea the Jungle!" or "Take us to the Rain-Forest!" are request that I hear quite often. Why is nobody scared away of a Rain-Forest but only from Rainy-Season? This is actually the best time to experience the lushest, densest and greenest forests and to actually understand why they are the way they are because of the rain.

Rain is life and we enjoy both! So there is no reason for us to stop diving during this season, especially since the diving conditions in Guanacaste are not influenced by the rain as there are no big river run-offs along the North-Pacific coast of Costa Rica! Come see the Rain-Forest, say hello to the sea-turtles and have some fun on a boat trip with Summer-Salt!

For more real-time and up-dated information as well as low-season specials follow us on Twitter and join us on Facebook! See you there, Pura Vida!

Care for the Ocean

Posted 23 June 2011

Most people talk about what should be done to save the world´s oceans, our most important natural resource providing us with oxygen and food. If they die, we will, too!

The Festival del Oceano, held in Playas del Coco by a wide asociation of concerned organizations and businesses, has decided to give priority to action! Over 3 days, specialists have visited schools to inform the future generations about what is happening and how to change the course of things. Projections of scientific documentaries informed a widely interested community about the problems we are creating and who´s consequences we´ll have to face very soon if humans do not drastically change their behaviour.

All events suggested practical, understandable and easy to apply solutions for everybody to help make a difference: reduce pollution, consume less and spread the word!

A big Beach-Clean-Up ended the Festival: While kids were painting new trash-barrils for the village, volunteers cleaned the beach of Playas del Coco and divers seeked the ocean-bottom for trash. Disappointingly little garbage was collected compared to previous clean-ups, but this turned out to be good news! The several year efforts of education and sensibilisation has led to less pollution!

Thanks to all the participants and check-out the video of the event on youtube.com or some photos on facebook.com.

Pure Diving Adventures

Posted 04 June 2011

The busy Easter Week has passed and as every year, just when the diving conditions get better, we get into a calmer season until July...But there's no reason for us to take a break and this year we are leading innovation again and finally managed to realize what has so far been our greatest and purest diving adventure we can imagine in the Gulf of Papagayo:

It's been a project ever since we dive the Bat Islands. The dream has been just as strong to Brook, one of our faithful friends from our local diving community, who has launched the idea again. Thanks to her enthousiasm and to our comitment and openness for adventures, we finally spent our first diving-weekend camping out at the ranger station of the Bat Islands!

The diving was great as usual: Mantas, Bull-Sharks and great schools of fish! But this time we made the most of the adventure and explored some new spots presenting lots of marine life and perfectly suitable for divers without any experince! So in the future, for this over-night adventure there are most likely no experience restrictions anymore!

But the cool part was the camping at the ranger station of the Santa Rosa National Park, located on one of the Islans that is part of the famous Bat's, located in a perfectly sheltered bay with cristal clear water. Climbing on top of the highest point of the Island - about 100m above sea-level - lets you experience one of the most beautiful and serein sunsets you can imagine. Before falling asleep to the gentle sound of the waves and wind, the campfire just makes you wish that this will continue forever...

Well, just check out the pictures on facebook and if you want to be informed about other projects, offers and fun then profit to "like" the Summer-Salt Dive Center! And don't forget to inquire in case this adventure inspires you! We have different ways how to do this from a basic self organized to a luxury all-inclusive package.

Time flies and we dive!

Posted 05 April 2011

We haven't seen the last week of the year passing and Easter is already knocking on the door! Tha "Semana Santa" will be hot in every sense!

While ever hotter days with white-blazing skies in the after-noons announce the end of the dry season and everybody is waiting for the first rains to turn the landscapes turn green again, we are looking forward to warmer and clearer water with its seasonal changes in marine fauna to give us the so apreciated variety of diving in the Gulf of Papagayo that keeps us diving!

The Semana Santa (starting Saturday, April 16, through Monday, April 25 (Easter Monday), will be hot day and night with loads of Ticos making their pilgrimage to Playas del Coco, one of the most popular party-beaches during costarrican holidays! If you want to join this fun-week, make sure you get your accommodation now!

Here's still a little resume of what happened in 2011 until now:

Student Divers have kept us busy in in our comitment to teaching. Alberto and Joan have successfully finished their Dive Master Training, congratulations to both! They have done a great job and were challenged assisting more courses and doing many more dives than actually needed! Nevertheless John and Rachel have come back to us after 2 years, when we introduced them to diving with their Open Water Certification! Now they are heading for the Dive Master and have been joined by Isabelle to follow our philosophy of being in permanent teaching mode which profits students as much as certified divers!

Certified divers have been spoiled by some very exceptional conditions at the beginning of the year: If stronger winds - as every year - kept the visibility and water temperature somewhat lower, the Manta season literally stroke the coast during several weeks in February with Manta Rays not only at the off-shore Islands, but right here, just a few minutes boat ride away on our local dive sites where we were diving with them every day...At the same time there was an exceptional amount of Humpback-Whale sightings during the months of January through March to enhance many of our boat excursions in the Gulf of Papagayo!

Don't wait any longer! We live great adventures every day and would love to have you participate, get in touch today and find out what will be on!

Dive into November!

Posted 07 November 2010

After many of you have missed a beautiful but calm October ;-D, November has refreshed us with a couple of very rainy days that have affected many parts of the whole country. However, the diving remains great and at the Summer-Salt Dive Center we are welcoming several new members in the diving community in general and at the Dive Center in particular:

Sisinio has joined our team as an Instructor and before all, as one of the most experienced divers of the area. He has been diving in the Gulf of Papagayo and many other parts of Costa Rica including the Cocos Island since the late 80's! As the former manager of the biggest dive center in the area in Ocotal, Sisinio will bring in a lot of experience in all aspects of the diving to ever increase the services at the Summer-Salt Dive Center!

Matthieu from France has started his Dive Master Internship with us at the beginning of the month and is getting ahead quickly: after completion of his Rescue Diver Course and the Emergency First Response, Matthieu is now ready to assist our Instructors for the upcoming courses, making it easy for everybody with his language skills (French, English, German).

Liset form Costa Rica will join Matthieu with her DM internship starting this month! We are already looking forward to inforce the female side in our Dive Center!

Last week, Stéphane and Marc from our hometown in Switzerland have completed their Advanced Open Water Course with an excursion to the Catalinas and celebrated their certification with an additional trip to the Bats. On both days they've seen Manta Rays and of course the Bull Sharks at the Bats!

In parallel, Amanda from Canada has joined her boyfriend and successfully completed her Scuba-Diver Course. We're sure they will do many more dives together and soon become full Open Water Divers.

Today, Audrey from Canada will start her Open Water Course, while her father Michel will start his Advanced course, now that he has decided to live permanently in Playas del Coco becoming one of our local diving family members!

Why not joining all of them and start your dive course today! Teaching divers is our real passion and you are just one click away from your adventure of a life-time!

Bull Sharks

Posted 12 October 2010

The Bat Islands (Islas Murcielagos) were, are and will always be THE highlight for our experienced divers! Just yesterday a small group of divers have stood the experience again...

After an ugly month of September with wind, waves and low visibility, we were already afraid that the Bats season had ended for this year. But no! All of October has blessed us with nice, sunny weather and a calm sea with a nice breeze, so we went again on Monday, October 11th!

The dive site "Big Scare" has honoured its name from the beginning of the dive. Reasonable or not, whatever went through the diver's minds, they did come close, very close! But besides a shiver in the back and an increased heart-beat, nothing happened, just pure enjoyment all along the dive accompanied with several Manta sightings to enhance the experience!

Bull Sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) are known to be one of the most dangerous sharks in the world with similar oportunist behaviour like Tiger Sharks. They have a very wide menu, including fresh-water fish that they catch at river mouths or even hundreds of miles up fresh water streams. This indeed makes them to one of the most efficient predators in the Seas. Even if humans enter the size of their preys, they do not mean to neither hunt nor eat us!

Today it's very well known that one might get hurt or even killed by much weirder things like lightnings, coco nuts or your hair-dryer! Neverthless, never lose your respect to the sharks and follow the general rules for shark-diving:

  • Stay calm and enjoy! Sharks are very sensible animals and will know exactly how you feel, if you're comfortable, they are!
  • Do not approach or worse, try to touch them or have any other physical contact! Even if you'll probably just chase them away with such behaviour and lose the experience, they might change their mind and answer the threat with defense just as any other animal. Let them check you out instead, keeping the first rule in mind.
  • Do not feed sharks! It might change their behaviour and associate divers with food...There are many places where it can be guaranteed to see sharks without any need to attract them with feeding practices. Do you really have to prove how tough a guy you are?
  • Stay grouped with your bodies! Rather than a bunch of snacks, you will appear as a large, single organisme which is rather "frightening" the shark.
  • Keep an eye on the shark! Some people say they don't like to be watched straight at their face, however, make sure you know where it is / they are to adapt to their behaviour.
  • Know about their behaviour! Take some distance when a shark appears to be excited or agitated until it calms down. This expresses - but not only - by: quick, jerky movements; pectoral fins held stiffly downwards; abrupt change of swimming style; muscular tension and S-shaped body. Being charged (accellerated swim towards the diver) and being bumped into are imminent signs of an "attack" (defense). Sharks are supposed to behave just like divers with calm and slow, wide movements. If this is not the case, consider to end the dive. Surface as usual (slow with safety stop) and remain calm on the surface until you exit.
  • Avoid circumstances that can make a shark bite you! There are 3 reasons why a shark might actually attack a human: By mistake, by curiosity and by territorial behaviour or defense. As a diver you are unlikely to be miss-taken as a prey, you'll rather appear as a healthy fish (if you dive as you've learned it) that further more makes a rather scary noise with your bubbles (and which make you appear even bigger in the shark's perception of things). Surfers alike and swimmers are more likely to confuse a shark who might consider them as a turtle, a seal or a distressed animal. Divers can attract the attention of a shark (or scare him away, but don't take a chance on that) with unregular noises that they cannot identify such as klicking of a camera, flashlights, cracking pet bottles, free flowing regulator, shakers, unregular breathing and those provoked by jerky movments. Simply avoid these! The shark's behaviour will tell you when you get too close and when he gets stressed, keep in mind the previous rule and observe!
  • And last but not least, don't "pi" in your suit! Studies have shown that surfers who do, are more likely to be bit...well, whatever, just don't, remember that we'll have to clean them ;-D!
  • This is the real "last but not least": Remember that sharks accidentually kill a handfull of humans while humans kill around 100'000'000 (one hundred million) sharks a year, many of them "accidentually" because we are not smart enough to improve our fishing techniques but the majority for their fins (which are culinaryly tasteless and scientificly unhealthy for us). Knowing this statistic, how can we not stop this? Who's the bad guy here?


2010 Beach-Clean-Up

Posted 03 October 2010

Better late then never (the rain last week was rather disheartening), a bunch of local people joined Utopia Magazine, Mision Tiburon, Adicoco and Terra Nostra for this fun and successful Beach-Cleanup!

Enthousiastic children with their parents and other voluntiers have achieved an incredible result:

Distance covered: 3 km/2 miles of beach.
Amount of Trash bags: 87
General Trash: 60 bags
Reciclable Trash: 27 bags
Total weight of collected trash: 1194,4 kg/ 2400 lb
Duration: 6 hours
N˚ of voluntiers: 150

Compositon of the collected Trash:

Plastic PET: 46,2 kg/ 92 lb
Plastic HDPE: 22,7 kg/ 46 lb
Aluminum: 16,9 kg/34 lb
Glass: 79,8 kg/160 lb
Reciclable paper: 36,4 kg/73 lb
Non reciclable trash: 831 kg/1662 lb
Tires: 67,3 kg/135 lb
Metals: 37,1 kg/74 lb
Other materials: 12 kg/24 lb

This is a great success, although it would be nicer to have collected 0 kg/lb of trash because there was none...but the newly painted Garbage Bins will certainly help to make this better! Before all remember: RE-DUCE, RE-USE, RE-CICLE!

Of course the Summer-Salt Dive Center was also part of it lending hands, a vehicule, bags and refreshments for the kids. And we got inspired to offer to all of our future divers a 5$ discount on any excursion in exchange of filling a garbage-bag with beach-trash (pick-up your bag at the dive shop) to make this a year round activity!

However, just look at the pictures about cleaning the beach, planting trees and especially the kids painting new Trash-Barrils for the Beach in Playas del Coco or check the full picture gallery at Facebook, look up Summer-Salt Dive Center and become a friend!

Load of Beach TrashTrash Barrils

Painting KidsPlanting a Tree

5 Years Already!!

Posted 08 September 2010

Time has passed fast! On September 1st, 2005, Sandra and I started officially as the new owners of the Summer-Salt Dive Center!

5 years full of excitement, hard work, deceptions, enthousiasme and frustrations to reach a successful dream come true! And all this thanks to our employees, travel agencies and before all You, the divers and students who have EXPLORED and DISCOVERED, LEARNED and SHARED with us over these years!

Some 20 years ago a Costarican diver, Mario Vargas, started the adventure as one of the Pioneers of diving in the Gulf of Papagayo. He put a lot of energy into his passion without ever really making a living out of it due to a lack of tourism in the area. All which is left of his efforts is a great collection of filmed marine life, showing some species that you will hardly see these days anymore.

Mario sold the dive center some years ago to a young energetic French Instructor who continued to run the dive center on his own. Changings in the growing tourism branch with permits, restrictions and other official regulations as well as stricter immigration laws that he could not follow up with and finally forced him to abandon his project and leave Costa Rica.

The new owners, a Norvegian/Australian couple, continued with good intentions to get everything in order but struggled with ever lasting burocracie to get their permits. When their son was born, they decided to raise him back home and left a nice Dive Center with a new image and name that also had become a registered PADI Dive Resort!

It took yet another change to reach what the Summer-Salt Dive Center is today! When we came in, our main concern was to first bring all the legal work to an end. After about 6 months of backs and forewards of tons of papers, sticks in our wheels and stones in our way, we finally were aproved by the Costarrican Board of Tourism (ICT) and got our permit from the Ministery of Health to operate 100% legally.

From there, the last to intervene was YOU, the divers who have trusted our dive center, apreciated our service, shared our passion and helped us to gently grow over the years. Thanks to you, we have doubled our capacity - keeping our concept of a small family dive center - improved our infrasturcture with new compressors, rental gear, an additonal boat, and many other conveniences such as our new shop that we entered this year!

A great thanks to you all for this great 5 year experience! PURA VIDA ;-D!

Your team of the Summer-Salt Dive Center, Playas del Coco, Guanacaste, Costa Rica