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South African Dive Bonanza (2)

AdventurePosted by Jean Dar Mon, April 24, 2017 22:29:15

Two months to go!

Today its exactly two months left to my 2017 South African Dive Bonanza project sets sail. I will take part in the Sardine Run of South Africa during the last week in June, and I so look forward to it! Only some fifteen years ago, this spectacular underwater event was unheard of, and still today all the factors contributing to the Sardine Run are unknown.

The Sardine Run takes place along the East Coast of South Africa, in the warmer Indian Ocean. However, the cooler waters of the Atlantic Ocean plays a huge part in the origins of the annual Sardine Run.

Surely I have to keep an eye on the sharks that most certainly will turn up in numbers, but the most unsuspected injuries could be delivered by the gigantic whales that are feeding on the sardines, or by colliding with dophins or ganetts plunging into the water as living missiles.

- The full itinerary will be posted here when all arrangements are made!

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South African Dive Bonanza (1)

AdventurePosted by Jean Dar Sat, April 01, 2017 14:12:33

The Sardine Run of South Africa

Holidays are granted for three weeks in June - July by my employers at S:t Görans Hospital here in Stockholm, Sweden, and international flight reservations are made! I have also paid for three weeks of spectacular diving including the Sardine Run. My fast moving and affordable South African Dive Bonanza project will set sail in less than three months from today.

As the first week will have passed on, and under, the waves of Eastern Cape Province of South Africa trying to get as close as possible to the Sardine Run action, some Rescue Diver practice, Deep Diving and Wreck Diving will be launched out of Simon' Town, Western Cape Province. A wetsuit will need to be purchased for the South African winter dives, and domestic flights and accomodation are still to be arranged.

The video below should feed you fascination for the South African Sardine Run.

As I've written on the project page on

"From late May to late July each year, the sardines arrive along the South African East Coast. Schools of sharks, such as the bronze whaler, dusky and blacktip shark, follow the shimmering path of prey, feasting on the fish. Marine mammals and game fish follow in hot pursuit. Cape fur seals, humpback and minke whales, and thousands of dolphins are joined by shoals of shad, garrick and geelbek as they dive, snap and feed on what appears to be an unlimited supply of sardines. Cape gannets, cormorants, terns and gulls all dive-bomb the sardines in an aerial assaul. And with me diving in the midst of this, I will take part in one of nature's greatest events! This project is scheduled for June - July 2017."

The second leg of this project will be the rescue diver practice, deep diving and wreck diving out of Simon's Town along the western shores of False Bay, also famous for its great white sharks. The Western Cape region is also well-known for all of its numerous shipwrecks. This region holds the smallest complete floral kingdom in the world and this diversity is mirrored underwater with the unique positioning of the peninsula at the junction of two major ocean currents. False Bay has been recognised as a biodiversity hotspot due to the numbers of endemic animals living in these waters.

- South Africa's Sardine Run, deep diving & wreck diving awaits me!

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Diving in Chuuk Lagoon II

AdventurePosted by Jean Dar Thu, January 19, 2017 13:37:45

My four last wreck dives in Chuuk Lagoon

This post will conclude my six week long Philippines & Micronesia project. I intended to see the Taal Volcano as I've been in Manila since Monday morning, but my large diving bag did not arrive with my flight from Chuuk via Guam. So instead of taking photos of Taal Volcano, I've spent three days waiting for all my diving gear and clothes to arrive at my hotel. Guam airport is not a favourite of mine due to several reasons and that's where my diving bag went missing.

My photo above from 13 January 2017, pictures me inside the Japanese Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" bomber. This aircraft was designed in 1939 for the Imperial Japanese Navy and was quite successful during the early part of the war, mostly due to its speed, long range and good carrying capacity. However, their unprotected fuel tanks proved to be their greatest weakness, and even leading to death of famous Admiral Yamamoto ambushed while aboard one flying out of New Caledonia on 18 April 1943.

This particular Mitsubishi G4M failed to make the runway at Eten island and crashed into the sea, where it now lies upright at 18m. The propellers were still spinning when it hit the water, and are found some 50m in front of the rest of the aircraft. There is a large entrance where the cockpit used to be, but one can also enter the fuselage through the waist gun ports on both sides. This is an interesting dive that will use less than half a tank of air.

My photo above is from 13 January 2017. The Japanese Kawanishi H8K "Emily" flying boat was known for its long range and nicknamed the "Flying Porcupine" because it was very difficult to shoot down, as it had self-sealing fuel tanks and internal fire extinguishers. With a 38m wingspan, this is the largest aircraft wreck in Chuuk Lagoon. The four 1850 horsepower Mitsubishi Kasei engines are all still on the aircraft, and a swim beneath the aircrafts wing is recommended! There are plenty of details to look at on the aircraft and close by on the seafloor.

This particular aircraft was bringing back the Japanese Commanding Officer of the Fourth Fleet, his Chief of Staff and other senior Japanese Naval Officers from a meeting in Palau. Fighter aircrafts from the US navy intercepted this Kawanishi H8K "Emily" flying boat, attacking it repeatedly. The pilot still managed to escape the enemy and return to Truk Lagoon, although while trying to land the damaged aircraft the pilot lost control and it crashed and sank. The pilot, Admiral and Chief of Staff survived.

Yamagiri Maru was built during 1938 by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries as a passenger and cargo carrier for the Yamashita Kisen Line, and was launched on 3 May 1939. In September 1941 the Imperial Japanese Navy took control of her and converted her to a military transport for moving special cargo, and she served transporting war material between the Solomon Islands and the Caroline Islands until she was hit with two torpedoes from USS Drum in 1943. The repair can still be seen on the port side of hold number two.

My photo above from 14 January 2017, pictures the huge 46cm shells found on Yamagiri Maru for world's largest naval guns fitted on world's largest battleships: Yamato and her sister ship Musashi. The Yamagiri Maru was sunk by dive bombers from the carriers USS Yorktown and Bunker Hill. They reported several hits and left a huge hole portside amidships that took her down quickly, killing most of her crew. One engineer's skull and body were driven by the blasts into a storeroom's screens and can be seen there still today. Yamagiri Maru lies on her port side at a depth of 30m.

My last dive in Chuuk Lagoon was the large Kiyosumi Maru, as she lies on her port side on the seafloor at 35m. I had some bad luck with my main camera as it shut down at the start of this dive, leaving me with a lot less footage of this wreck than intended. Half way into the dive I noticed it and switched on my second camera, and managed to get some footage of Kiyosumi Maru. This was of course disappointing to say the least, but I did get some pictures of her totally devastated superstructure, personal items and sake bottles. My photo above from the Kiyosumi Maru on 14 January 2017.

She was laid down in 1933 at the Kawasaki Dockyard as a passenger-cargo vessel for the Kokusai Kisen Kaisha company, launched on 30 June 1934, and named on 5 October the same year. The Japanese navy took control of her in September 1941 and converted here into an armed merchant cruiser, fitting her with 150mm guns, torpedo tubes and anti-aircraft guns. During the Battle of Midway she acted as a troop carrier. On 3 November 1943 she was damaged in an air raid, on 1 January 1944 she was hit by three torpedoes from a submarine and towed to Truk Lagoon. Kiyosumi Maru was sunk by US dive bombers on 18 February 1944 in Operation Hailstone, while still undergoing repairs.

My photo from Chuuk Lagoon above is from 13 January 2017. Here's an idea that will save time and money: Combine the three aircraft wrecks as they are quite close to each other. Start to freedive the Mitsubishi A6M "Zero" that lies upside down (see previous post), then move on to the Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" and do a tank dive, as with the large four engine Kawanishi H8K "Emily" flying boat last.

That's exactly what I did and found it being quite pleasant covering three aircrafts in one single afternoon that way. The reason for this approach is simply that freediving is more physically demanding than tank dives, and should therefor be the first dive. A single tank is needed between the Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" and the Kawanishi H8K "Emily", spending some 15-20 minutes on each one of them should be enough.

- In six hours I'll be on my way to Stockholm, Sweden, via Beijing, China.

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Diving in Chuuk Lagoon Part I

AdventurePosted by Jean Dar Tue, January 17, 2017 16:02:49

Chuuk Lagoon - World's premier wreck diving location

During World War II, Truk lagoon (today Chuuk Lagoon) was host to Japan's Imperial Fleet, which was left destroyed in the wake of Operation Hailstone 16-18 February 1944, often called Japan's Pearl Harbor. Today, hundreds of Japanese aircraft and other military machines remain at the bottom of the lagoon, making it the world's best wreck dive location, with some seventy wreck diving sites in and around the lagoon.

In 1969, William A. Brown and oceanographer Jacques Cousteau and his team explored Truk Lagoon. Following Cousteau's 1971 television documentary about the lagoon and its ghostly remains, the place became a scuba diving paradise, drawing wreck diving enthusiasts from around the world to see its numerous, virtually intact sunken ships. The shipwrecks and remains are sometimes referred to as the "Ghost Fleet of Truk Lagoon".

My photo above from 12 January 2017, shows the still fully readable name on Heian Maru in both Japanese and Latin letters. This ship was built in 1930 as a large passenger cargo liner, and her maiden voyage was from Hong Kong to Seattle. While on a routine voyage in August 1941, she was abruptly recalled to Japan. Upon her return, the Japanese Navy converted the ship for use as a submarine tender.

Heian Maru is the largest ship in Truk Lagoon with a length of 155m. She was sunk on the second day of Operation Hailstone, as a torpedo struck her amidships and because of damage already sustained during the earlier raids, the Heian Maru sank quickly. She lies on her port side and her cargo contains many of the deadly efficient Japanese Long Lance Torpedoes, and submarine periscopes. Many artifacts can be found throughout this wreck.

My photo above from 12 January 2017 pictures one of the three Mitsubishi A6M Reisen "Zero" fighter planes found in the Fujikawa Maru, that was built in 1938 by the Mitsubishi Company as a passenger and cargo carrier. The Japanese Navy took possession of her in December 1940 and converted the ship to an aircraft ferry. The conversion included a compliment of old six inch guns on her bow and stern from the Russo-Japanese War.

Just prior to Operation Hailstone, Fujikawa Maru arrived in Truk and off loaded thirty Nakajima B6N Tenzan "Jill" bombers onto Eten Airfield. These aircraft had been disassembled for shipment and were unable to help defend Truk and were destroyed on the ground. Today this ship has an abundance of colorful soft and hard corals. The Times named Fujikawa Maru as one of the top 10 wreck dives in the world, and Aquaviews ranked her as the fourth best wreck dive in the world!

My photo above from 13 January 2017, shows the operating table with some human bones on it, in the Shinkoku Maru that was built in 1939. Her first voyages were to carry oil from the United States to Japan, prior to the embargo. The Japanese Navy converted her to a fleet oiler and Shinkoku's most noteworthy mission was her participation in the Pearl Harbor attack as part of Admiral Nagumo's strike force. She is a large ship with a length of 152m.

In August 1942, she was torpedoed and damaged by an American submarine. She was at anchor in Truk Lagoon at the time of Operation Hailstone, and survived two days of attacks and two aerial torpedo hits before she finally sank. The bow gun of the Shinkoku Maru is heavily encrusted with colorful coral, and this wreck should be a wonderful night dive as the soft corals and hydroids are quite beautiful.

One of the most famous features of the Kensho Maru is her machine room, that can be seen in my photo above from 13 January 2017. She was built in 1938 and the Japanese Navy took control of the ship when the war began, shuttling supplies between Japan and the Marshall Islands. Eventually she was retrofitted with a deck gun and augmented with a Naval Gun Crew and Medical Staff for transporting the wounded.

Just prior to the Operation Hailstone attacks, Kensho Maru was in Kwajalein Atoll delivering supplies when she was bombed by American carrier aircraft and took a hit to her engine room. Unable to get underway, she was towed to Truk by the Momokawa Maru. Both ships were in Truk Lagoon when the attacks began and both were sunk. The Kensho Maru was struck by at least one bomb and an aerial torpedo, she sits upright with a slight list to port.

Operation Hailstone launched on 16-18 February 1944, as US Navy carrier aircraft conducted a surprise attack against Japanese ships anchored in Truk Lagoon (today Chuuk Lagoon), dropping 400 tons of bombs and torpedo. In total, forty ships were sunk and thousands of Japanese died. The airplanes shot down over Truk Lagoon were numerous and mainly Japanese, as they had lost their best pilots during the course of war by 1944.

My photo above, from 13 January 2017, pictures a Japanese Mitsubishi A6M "Zero" fighter aircraft that was one of the victims of Operation Hailstone, as it was shot down shortly after taking off from the airfield, and has been laying upside down at 9 meters depth on the seafloor off Eten island ever since. This makes it a perfect freediving wreck, straightforward without any currents and at least I had hardly any waves at all.

- See the Jacques Cousteau 1971 documentary here:

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Diving in Tanapag Lagoon, Saipan

AdventurePosted by Jean Dar Sun, January 15, 2017 09:44:10

Diving in Tanapag Lagoon, Saipan

I went to Saipan, United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, for some easy diving and also some dives without an airtank. The obvious location was of course Tanapag Lagoon with its close proximity to Garapan, the main village on Saipan and my hotel there. I arrived in the evening of Saturday 7 January 2017, and had plans to arrange some diving the following day. I hadn't made any arrangements in advance which I usually do, and I lost a full day arranging and finally getting some diving under my belt in Saipan, through Masa Dive Saipan.

My photo above is from my first dive in Tanapag Lagoon on 10 January 2017. The Shoan Maru was a large Japanese freighter that was carrying Korean conscript soldiers as it was torpedoed by a US submarine west of Rota. The ship was damaged and towed to Saipan for extensive repairs, when it was attacked in an airstrike on 23 February 1944. The ship was either sunk in this airstrike or during the invasion of Saipan in June 1944. The Shoan Maru is badly broken up also as result from post World War II target practice and demolition exercises and lay on the seafloor at only 12 meters.

All my wreck diving photos are from 10 January 2017. My photo above pictures me freediving on the large Japanese Kawanishi H8K "Emily" flying boat. The wrecks in the relative shallow Tanapag Lagoon suffer harder blows from typhoons and wave action, than deeper laying wrecks. This "Emily" is quite broken up with parts from it found across the seafloor around the wing that once spanned 38 meters. Most of the fuselage is gone and a machinegun turret lays close by. This was a hard 12 meter deep freedive, me being cold after the Shoan Maru dive and also fighting the current, surf and rain.

My third and last dive in Saipan saw the rain stop and the sun come out, and the current and waves were also better at this wreck site. My photo above shows a Japanese Daihatsu Landing Craft laying on the seafloor at 11 meters depth in the middle of Tanapag lagoon. Conditions allowed me to have a few good passes at this wreck, getting some awesome footage, as seen above. In Saipan you will find the WWII Maritime Heritage Trail - Battle of Saipan, a collection of underwater heritage sites featuring Japanese and U.S. shipwrecks, assault vehicles, and aircraft wrecks from the Battle of Saipan June-July 1944.

Micronesia saw some of the fiercest and bloodiest battles in the Pacific theatre of war, and Saipan had its fair cut of the action which can be seen all over the island. My photo above is from 9 January 2017, picturing me inside the last Japanese Command Post in Saipan during World War II. This bunker is found on the north tip of Saipan along with a few big Japanese cannons, not far from both Suicide Cliff and Banzai Cliff. Towards the end of the Battle of Saipan in 1944, hundreds of Japanese civilians and soldiers jumped off these two cliffs to their deaths in the ocean and rocks below, to avoid being captured by US troops.

My photo above is not from Saipan at all. On the neighbouring island of Tinian you got this World War II airfield. Enola Gay took-off from here with the atom bomb "Little Boy" and annihilated Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. The second atom bomb "Fat Man" was also delivered by a B-29 from Tinian on 9 August 1945, erasing Nagasaki. This was the busiest airfield in the world back then. I took this photo on 7 January 2017, just before landing at Saipan's airport which itself got quite a few World War II bunkers.

- I'm writing this post from Chuuk Lagoon and will be leaving for Manila (via Guam) soon.

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Diving in Yap, Micronesia

AdventurePosted by Jean Dar Sun, January 08, 2017 14:09:02

Yap - Stone money islands

Yap lays northeast of Palau and is a quite a different place. The capital Colonia is really a village and not a big one either, with only one resort/hotel that can offer a complete accommodation, meal, diving and spa experience. This is the Manta Ray Bay Resort. I found it out by staying at another resort that couldn't deliver a complete package for me. Colonia is a sleepy, chilled-out and calm place with not more to offer than diving.

Yap is one of four states in the Federate States of Micronesia, the other three are Chuuk (that I will be visiting shortly), Pohnpei and Kosrae. The different islands I have visited in the Philippines and Micronesia so far, have all been different from the others. And I'm not surprised considering the great distances between these islands. Yap is more traditional and perhaps conservative than all the rest in Micronesia. My first two photos are from 1 January, showing two traditional Yapese houses above and stone money below.

The stone money, also called Rai, is typically found in Yap. And while the monetary system of Yap appears to use these giant stones as tokens, it relies on an oral history of ownership. Being too large to move, buying an item with these stones is as easy as saying it no longer belongs to you. As long as the transaction is recorded in the oral history, it will be owned by the person you passed it on to, no physical movement of the stone is required. These Rai stones were quarried on several islands in Micronesia and transported to Yap.

On 2 January I had my first dive in Yap, captured in my photo above. This photo is from a dive site called Vertigo, a huge drop-off into deeper waters and incredible visibility that goes beyond 50 meters. Its easy to spot the approaching sharks with visibility as good as this, and there are three of them in my photo, but there were more than that present. The main difference between diving in Yap and Palau, is you don't have as many dive boats and divers as in Palau, resulting in a more relaxed and personal dive experience.

Another benefit is that accommodation is less pricey in Yap then neighbouring Palau, and the diving is at the same high level. My photo above is from 2 Janauary and pictures the unspoiled coral reef at Vertigo, with a black tip shark cruising the reef. I and my divemaster were the only two divers in the water at Vertigo when this photo was taken. It was really as relaxed and pleasant as the picture is. All in all, I saw three different spieces of sharks on this dive, Grey Reef Sharks, Black-tips and also a White-tip, and a lot of other fishes.

Yap offers equally spectacular diving as Palau, and without the crowds and also cheaper accommodation, about half of it in fact! You got the sharks, mantas, reefs with soft and hard corals, multitude of fishes to watch once you stick your head below the surface. Yap is as mentioned a sleepy place and the only this one can do here is dive, dive and dive some more. I also believe Manta Ray Bay is the best resort in Colonia, giving you most value for money.

- I'm currently in Saipan trying to organise some scuba and freediving.

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Diving in Palau, Micronesia

AdventurePosted by Jean Dar Fri, January 06, 2017 14:08:00

One of the absolute best dive locations in the world!

After spending another night in Cebu City, I was heading for Palau via Manila on 27 December 2016. A typhoon had just hit Luzon and bad weather followed for a couple of days, meaning my flight from Manila to Palau was delayed for four hours. As I finally got to Palau in the early hours of 28 December I was so tired that the first day had to be a rest day, and no diving or other activities were carried out. I did manage to arrange diving the following two days and made in total six dives at five locations in Palau.

I arranged my dives through the resort I was staying at, with a Chinese dive operator. The first plunge alone told me that Palau got some serious top end dive locations! My photo above is from that first dive, picturing me getting to the bottom of a blue hole called the Virgin Blue Hole on 29 December 2016. At a depth just shy of 30m at the very bottom of this blue hole, I and the rest made our way out through the exit which is at some 25m depth, while the entrance is clearly seen above me.

Small fishes, big fishes, sea turtles, spotted rays, hard and soft corals and a lot more is available in Palau. Various dive sites might often have different animals and corals depending on currents, depth etc. My photo of the Grey Reef Shark above is from my second dive in Palau at the famous Blue Corner. This location of the reef is famous for the amount of fishes found here, and got plenty of hard corals too. The current at Blue Corner was really strong when I took the photo above on 29 December 2016.

If Blue Corner is a must if you want to see Gray Reef Sharks up close, then the German Channel is a must if you want to see Manta Rays. Parts of the sea floor is sand here, so all you have to do is get down and wait for the Mantas to fly past you! The German Channel is a cleaning station where the Mantas come to get cleaned by smaller fishes, so its important to stay put on the sea floor and not disturb the cleaning fishes or Mantas, which may prevent the Mantas from coming there. My photo above is from 30 December 2016.

My photo above is from 30 December 2016, picturing a Red Lionfish close to Blue Corner. Lionfish venomous dorsal spines are used purely for defense and when threatened, the fish often faces its attacker in an upside-down posture which brings its spines to bear. However, its sting is usually not fatal to humans. So keeping some distance to it while taking photos or filming is recommended. Palau is a fascinating place to go diving at, offering something for everyone, at a cost of course.

Palau ranks as one of the absolute top diving locations in the world. It has got plenty of spectacular diving possibilities, covering from large pelagics to World War II wrecks and land installation. The only down side is the price tag for visiting Palau, I payed US$ 1.300 for five nights accommodation alone. The diving, all food and transport was added to it, making it the most expensive five days on any of my trips! I'm glad I did go to Palau diving, but I'm not sure I'll do it again due to the costs involved.

- I went to Yap after Palau and am now in Guam, heading for Saipan tomorrow.

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Best of South Africa & Namibia (18)

AdventurePosted by Jean Dar Thu, December 31, 2015 22:44:58

Skydiving - Skeleton Coast - Spitzkoppe - Himba People

The Best of South Africa & Namibia travel project continues as planned, and only three days remains of the Namibian leg of it. Still to come after this Namibian tour ends, is my three days at the Kruger Park in South Africa, where I will be heading on 5 January.

Imagine watching the rollers of the Atlantic Ocean crash into the Namib desert from 3,300 meters, and also being able to see both Swakopmund and Walvis Bay at the same time. That's what I got to do skydiving two days ago, on 29 December, as seen on the photo above. Needless to say that it was awesome!

The Bushmen called it The Land God Made in Anger and the Portuguese knew it as The Gates of Hell. Ever since European navigators first discovered the Skeleton Coast, ships have wrecked on it's off-shore rocks, or run aground in the blinding fog. My photo above is from the southern strip of this infamous coast, on 30 December.

The Spitzkoppe in Namibia is also known as the Matterhorn of Namibia, and rises to 1,784m above sea level. This granite mountain is more than 120 million years old and there are several mythical stories about it and the men who tried to climb it in colonial days. My photo above pictures it when we are setting camp to the bottom right in it.

The Himba people are indigenous people with an estimated population of about 50,000 people living in Kaokoland, northern Namibia. I got to meet the Himba People today for an hour or so, and got to see how some of the villages are organized to be visited by foreigners and tourists.

- I figure my next post will be while I'm in Windhoek, before going to the Kruger Park in South Africa. And Happy New Year 2016!

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Best of South Africa & Namibia (16)

AdventurePosted by Jean Dar Tue, December 22, 2015 19:17:19

The Two Oceans Aquarium

Needless to say that my shoulder injury caused me a lot of disappointment, mainly because all of the planned scuba and freediving with blue, mako and sevengill sharks had to be cancelled, and me recuperating in Simon's Town instead.

However, today was the last day possible for a dive here in Cape Town, South Africa, since I will be going on a two week long camping tour to Namibia, starting tomorrow.

The Two Oceans Aquarium is located at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa. The aquarium was opened on 13 November 1995 and comprises seven exhibition galleries with large viewing windows. The enchantment of this particular aquarium is due to its location, where the Indian and Atlantic ocean meet.

The sharks in this aquarium are sand tiger sharks, also known as sand sharks, gray nurse sharks or spotted ragged-toothed sharks, and they have a deceivingly ferocious look, with a mouthful of sharp teeth that protrude in all directions, even when the mouth is shut. Despite this, they are a docile, non-aggressive species, known to attack humans only when bothered first.

The sand tiger shark is a large, coastal shark, occurring in most subtropical and warm temperate oceans, except for the eastern pacific. It produces only two large pups per litter, and as a result, annual rates of population increase are very low, greatly reducing its ability to sustain fishing pressure. Populations in several locations have been severely depleted by commercial fishing, spearfishing and protective beach meshing, requiring the introduction of specific management measures.

- I'll be starting the camping tour tomorrow from Cape Town, through Namibia and ending in Windhoek on 4 January 2016.

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Best of South Africa & Namibia (13)

AdventurePosted by Jean Dar Tue, December 15, 2015 19:46:46

Paragliding from Lion's Head

This was the first activity on this trip that was totally weather dependant. And at first it looked like a 50/50 chance to go paragliding today, being cloudy and with the wind direction changing all the time here in Cape Town, South Africa.

It took two full hours before the flight could take place, and not from Signal Hill as first planned, but from Lion's Head instead. During those two hours me and my pilot, Carlos from Venezuela, headed back and forth between Signal Hill and Lion's Head twice in order to get the right winds for paragliding over Cape Town.

The wind did cause some major problems for us first attempting a flight from Lion's Head. We actually crashed into trees and bushes just after start, when a powerful wind totally blew us out of control. Lion's Head is to the right in the background in my photo above.

Nevertheless, we were both fine with only minor scrapes and had managed to avoid injuries by not hitting some big rocks only some decimeters away. Carlos sorted out the chute and we got back up to the starting point again.

Once being airborn again, and staying that way, the flight was very enjoyable to say the least. At first we gained hight on the west side of Lion's Head and staying pretty close to the mountain wall here.

On the west side of Lion's Head is where the wind gets pressed upwards against the steep wall of Lion's Head. For a few minutes we stayed here gaining some serious altitude. My photo above shows what stunning views this flight included.

I have gone paragliding before, but I must say this was without a doubt the windiest and highest so far! Also, Carlos took me for a spin, actually several sharp turns over the Atlantic shoreline, as seen on my photo above.

Having both my GoPro cameras with me to this activity helped me get these photos and also a video of the entire flight. As it happened, the batteries is my GoPro 4 Silver had died, making me relying totally on my old GoPro 3+ for getting some footage at all.

Paragliding from either Lion's Head or Signal Hill is well worth the money spent, if you want a different and spectacular view of Cape Town and the Atlantic Ocean. The normal rate is ZAR 1150, which will provide you with spectacular footage and memories of your visit to the Cape.

- Tomorrow I hope to be going ziplining in the Hottentot Hollands Nature Reserve!

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Best of South Africa & Namibia (8)

AdventurePosted by Jean Dar Mon, December 07, 2015 22:47:09

Paragliding over Cape Town

Signal Hill is the back of Lion’s Head and is easy to spot from Cape Town, Seapoint or the Waterfront. This is from where I will be relaxing paragliding only a few days after arriving to Cape Town.

At 350m it is not terribly high but does offer excellent paragliding potential with the right winds. Signal Hill requires a NW or W wind ideally. Best winds are between 15-25 km/h. Tha landing is at the Seapoint promenade in front of the Winchester Mansions Hotel. Sunset flights are generally rewarded with a cold beer at Harveys bar afterwards.

Signal Hill is a prominent landmark from which the historic noon gun is fired, and forms the "lion’s body" for the adjacent Lion's Head mountaintop.

The hill rewards hikers with spectacular views across Table Bay harbour, the central city and the Atlantic Ocean. Many family-friendly picnic spots on Signal Hill are favoured by tourists and locals all year round.

Signal Hill is named for its original use: the practice of flying signal flags to communicate with nearby ships, and later for the daily firing of the famous Noon Gun.

- My next post will include the full itinerary for my Best of South Africa and Namibia project!

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Best of South Africa & Namibia (6)

AdventurePosted by Jean Dar Thu, December 03, 2015 22:05:32

Cape Canopy Tour zipline in the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve

Since I now will embark alone on my Best of South Africa & Namibia travel project, I have changed some locations of the activities and also thrown in some new ones, not originally included. One of these will be ziplining with Cape Canopy Tour in the beautiful Hottentots Hollands Nature Reserve.

The Hottentots Holland Nature reserve is not all about wonderful landscapes, it is also important for the conservation of mountain fynbos with approximately 1,300 species, including several rare and endemic plants. Small populations of grey rhebuck, klipspringer, common duiker and grysbok occur, and leopard frequent these mountains.

This zipline location lays some 1,5 hours southeast of Cape Town and from watching this video, it will be well worth the visit, especially on a hot sunny summer's day. This activity is in my itinerary on December 16.

The Best of South Africa & Namibia itinerary is now complete with the shark and wreck dives being highly weather dependant, as is paragliding over Cape Town and parachuting over the Namib desert. The full itinerary will be presented here at Ad Astra shortly.

- The countdown has already begun, and its now only eight days left until departure!

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Best of South Africa & Namibia (5)

AdventurePosted by Jean Dar Tue, December 01, 2015 22:16:08

Diving with sevengill sharks

A large-bodied and powerful species, the broadnose sevengill shark can be distinguished from most other sharks by the fact that it possesses seven conspicuous gill slits on each side of the head, whereas most sharks possess only five.

The overall colouration is typical of predatory sharks, with silver-grey or brownish upperparts that blend in with the dark marine waters when seen from above, and paler underparts helping to disguise the shark against the lighter surface waters when viewed from below.

Adults also have small black and white speckles on the body and fins, and the young may possess white trailing edges on the fins and a black stripe running along the caudal fin.

The broadnose sevengill shark is a powerful and versatile predator that takes a wide variety of prey, including marine mammals such as dolphins and seals, and fish including sharks, salmon, sturgeon and herring. It has also been known to feed upon shark egg cases, sea snails, and the dead bodies of mammals it find in the water, such as rats and humans. Interestingly, this species will sometimes hunt in groups, with the individual sharks working together to capture large, agile prey such as marine mammals.

While regarded as potentially dangerous to humans, attacks are very rare, usually only occurring when the shark is provoked. Although a formidable predator, the broadnose sevengill shark sometimes falls prey to larger sharks such as the great white, and has been known to be cannibalistic.

- I look forward diving with these sharks, as well as the blue and mako sharks, weather permitting of course.

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Best of South Africa & Namibia (4)

AdventurePosted by Jean Dar Sun, November 29, 2015 21:07:11

Scuba and freediving with blue and mako sharks

One of many highlights in my forthcoming travel project Best of South Africa and Namibia, will be scuba and freediving with blue and mako sharks off the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

The idea is to head out to open seas some 80km from land, and start freediving as soon as a couple of blue and mako sharks are spotted after chumming, then have a change to scuba gear and continue the amazing encounter with the sharks. All of this is of course depending on the weather on any given day.

In this video freediver Hanli Prinsloo is experiencing exactly what I intend to do, just watch the video and get inspired!

Blue sharks are considered to be dangerous and so people are warned to steer clear of them. They have been involved in numerous attacks on people and some of them have resulted in death due to the force of the jaws and teeth that this species of shark has. Humans are to blame for the significant drop in the number of blue sharks in out oceans. Millions of them are hunted each year, if such high numbers of them continue to be killed it won’t be long before they are endangered.

People are encouraged to watch out for the mako shark. While they don’t eat people or large animals they have been known to aggressively attack. They don’t like people in their environment as they view them as a threat. The numbers of mako sharks has dropped due to the high volume of hunting them for sport. They are also killed due to the aggressive nature they tend to have towards humans.

- I will try to combine this blue and mako shark dive with a second dive the same day, with sevengill sharks and sea lions. More about that dive in the my next post here at Ad Astra.

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The Ghosts of K2

AdventurePosted by Jean Dar Sun, December 07, 2014 23:49:11

Defining moments in climbing history V

K2 is the second highest mountain in the world at 8,611 m, and known as the "Savage Mountain" due to the extreme difficulty of ascent and the second highest fatality rate among the eight-thousanders. Its also called the "Mountaineers Mountain" as no large parties of paying clients are guided up to its summit.

One in every four people who have attempted K2's summit have died trying, and it is more difficult and hazardous to reach it from the Chinese side. K2 is therefor usually climbed from the Pakistani side. Unlike Annapurna (the mountain with the highest fatality-to-summit rate; 246 summits and 55 deaths) K2 has never been climbed during wintertime.

Its today been exactly one year since I had my climbing accident that put an end to any future climbing ambitions. My right shoulder recieved permanent injuries in that accident, and doctors in both Ecuador and Sweden have advised against further climbing. I will follow those recommendations since I also have injuries to my left knee from a climbing accident in 2007.

The Ghosts of K2 is the last of five films of some defining moments in climbing history here at Ad Astra. It is a BBC documentary which explores the history of climbing K2, from the early days to the summit with historical footage photographs & re-enactments.

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