Chilling out underwater

February 9, 2012 • 1:12 pm

If this lovely underwater video—”Dakuwaga’s Garden,” filmed in Fiji and Tonga—doesn’t make you relax, you’ve had too much coffee.

Although I’m not a strong swimmer, I love snorkeling and floating amidst schools of colorful tropical fish.  I’d love to scuba dive but haven’t. This film makes me want to even more.

As a bonus, the video tells you what species appear (click “CC” if you can’t see them), though as a biologist I regret that they don’t give the Latin binomials.  Enjoy, and do enlarge to full screen for maximum fun.

26 thoughts on “Chilling out underwater

  1. Awesome video. And here I am stuck at work, looking out the window on a 45 degree F rainy winter day. Oh well.

    You absolutely should try scuba diving. I have done a fair amount in both the Caribbean and the Pacific. If you are not a strong swimmer I would recommend the island of Bonaire. World class diving with very mild conditions, most reefs usually within a hundred meters of shore. That’s where I took all three of my kids to certify when they got to be old enough.

    1. I second Bonaire, for the ease of access and the similar profiles at most of the divesites. It has an advantage over Cozumel of being largely out of the hurricane belt.

      Despite that, it was hit by a monster storm in the not so distant past (maybe 8 -10 years ago?) that devastated much of the shallow reef system (in the 20-30′ range). It had the effect of knocking out the homes of much of the bitty fish, leaving them out in the open (and thus easier to actually see as you swim around). I’m partial to Capt. Don’s Habitat there, with their dive lockers, 24-hr tank access, reef out in the backyard. When I was last there, Capt Don was retiring from direct supervision of the place, so I don’t know what has changed. About 20 years ago, it was the norm to simply rent a vehicle and put tanks in there, and drive to the dive spot of your choice (marked by painted yellow rocks on the roadside), and simply shore dive. Best dive freedom I’ve ever experienced.

      I do know that crime has risen there, and so it does pay to research defensive methods. It seems like many rental break-ins occur, perhaps with rental agencies in cahoots with the perpetrators. And I haven’t been back in 10 years, and much had changed (condo development) between 20 and 10 years ago.

      By contrast, I’m very close to a few people who were nearly killed in Cozumel by unscrupulous Mexican dive operators, taking novices down to the Palancar, an advanced “drift dive”, and outfitting them with rather shoddy equipment. There is good stuff in Cozumel though.

      Another great place I’ve been to to shore dive off the back of the resort is Sunset House, Grand Cayman. For smaller getaways, there’s Sam McCoy’s on Little Cayman (bugs are a big problem; bring “Skin-so-Soft”) or Salt Cay in the Turks. Mostly bathtub conditions in all those places I’ve mentioned.

    2. I have only scuba dived at Lady Elliot Island on the Great Barrier Reef. Beautiful and wonderful thing to do.

      Jerry, like Darth Dog, I recommend it. It is a way of seeing the underwater world in all its variety and stupendous colour and takes your breathe away:-) as it were.

      Do it soon.

  2. Scuba is utterly different than swimming. I’ve seen excellent divers who are only adequate swimmers. Everything about the mechanics of the activity are different.

    I’ve been diving for 20 years, and I highly encourage you try it out; utterly beautiful and peaceful.

  3. That’s Dakuwaqa, with a Q. In Fijian, q is pronounced ngg as in finger.

    Another trap: d is pronounced nd and b is pronounced mb – or rather d, b and g are prenasalised.

    So “Dakuwaqa” is pronounced (roughly) ndah-ku-wahng-gah.

    (The other trap of written Fijian is that C is pronounced “th” – unvoiced as in “thin”, not “this” – Cakabau=thakambau.)

  4. Don’t waste any more time. Learn to SCUBA this month. You will be so glad you did. It’s the greatest thing in the world. There’s nothing else like it. Really, I’m not kidding – find a class, make time, and just do it. Then plan a trip to Cozumel or the Cayman Islands – not too far away, warm water, decent reefs. You have no idea what you’re missing.

  5. I started learning to dive but had to give it up because I couldn’t get the pressure in my ears to equalise, probably due to lots of ear infections as a kid, don’t really know. I was very sad. Have been snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef though which was absolutely fabulous.

  6. I have a lot of friends who SCUBA, some have done so professionally, but I haven’t ever learned. I have the suspicion it’d make me super claustrophobic, but I’m willing to give it a shot. I do like snorkeling though.

    Whenever I see a nature documentary with people diving in underwater caves though? That’s awful, basically the most nightmarish thing I can imagine. And I’m really not even much of a claustrophobe.

    1. McWaffle, I’ve heard the ‘claustrophobic; fear before; I suppose there are a few people who experience that (particularly in cold water where the gear can be massive), but warm water diving is the exact opposite; a feeling of freedom and flight. I’ve felt few things more peaceful and free than a really great night dive.

    2. I’m PADI certified at the “rescue dive” level, with about 400 dives under the belt (still a novice by some folks’ standards). I have dove caverns (as opposed to caves) before (the difference being that there is always surface visible and nearly directly accessible – with minimal overhead obstruction).

      I think cave diving (which is its own specialty and requires much advanced training) is indeed one of the most deadly things one can do underwater. It requires a ridiculous amount of equipment as well. And when the safeguards fail, you get the additional bonus of being able to see precisely how long you have to live as you watch your pressure gauges sink down to 0.

  7. What a lot of spectacularly flashy fish! Is it reasonable to assume that most of them are also spectacularly poisonous or at least bad-tasting, or look like ones that are? (Do their predators see in color?) For plain stunning color combination, I think my favorite’s the coral grouper @ 2:28.

    1. I only saw a few things in the video that I immediately recognized as poisonous — lionfish & probably that sea snake (there are some Caribbean sea snakes that aren’t poisonous at all, and even the poisonous ones are docile). Filthy mouths in those morays, but they are also scaredy-cats.

      Most of the really trippy-looking things (parrotfish, angels, blennies, wrasses, triggerfish, seahorses) are quite poisonless. One of the things people learn in diver courses (esp the ecology-oriented tracks) is just how harmless most of it is. So much so that you can pretty easily learn the exceptions to the rule. (and how to behave around things like morays so that you don’t let your finger get mistaken for food – they have terrible vision)

  8. I like snorkeling better than SCUBA because it is less hassle. I talked with a scientist, many years ago, and do not recall his name, who was a non swimmer. Nevertheless, he used SCUBA to study recovery in the Bikini lagoon. He went down the anchor chain and crawled around on the bottom, then back up the anchor chain.

  9. While in Cozumel I did what they call an “introduction to scuba”. It’s a short lesson and then a shallow dive(50 ft. or less) and you just get the basics. It was a fantastic experience. I think it’s a great way to see if you would want to take it up.

    1. That seems to have worked for you, but I definitely don’t recommend these kinds of operations. First off, a 50ft dive is not a “shallow” dive, but rather of medium depth. I’d consider 30′ the max for “shallow”, which is usually the depth for a beginner course, after plenty of poolwork and coursework. Secondly, a short course (what is that, a single session? a couple, then hit the open ocean?) doesn’t seem to be enough time to learn about pressures, the tables, buoyancy turn-around, signaling, emergency procedures and the like.
      I recommend at least getting PADI certified (or NAUI) and getting to the point where the concepts and equipment familiarity are second-nature before hitting the open water.

      1. Agreed, I would not consider 50′ a shallow dive. It’s deep enough for a safety stop. I’ve found that many people who certify while on vacation are not people I would dive with until they’ve had further instruction, especially when wreck diving in Lake Michigan.

        1. I probably was in error about classifying 50 ft. as shallow but I had talked to others that had gone 80ft. deep on intros and I shuddered. The intro course amounted to an on shore class lasting 20-30 min. and then instructions in 10ft. which was followed by the deeper dive on a reef. I felt safe with the dive instructor and would do it again.

  10. I have a lot of friends who SCUBA, some have done so professionally, but I haven’t ever learned.

    I’m willing to give it a shot. I do like snorkeling though.

  11. Dr. C.: If you do decide to “take the plunge” with SCUBA diving, please:

    1. Get properly trained and certified
    2. Get plenty of practice in “safe” waters (pools, still fresh water, etc.) before venturing into the sea with its currents, large predators, entrapment “opportunities”, etc.)
    3. Always follow the rules (gear, bottom time, buddy up, redundant systems, decompression stops, etc.)
    4. Plan dives carefully and be prespared
    5. Invest in a really good dry- or wet-suit

    There are many ways to die when SCUBA diving. It can be done safely by amateurs; but it takes diligence.


    1. I second that, and add avoiding “cattle-car” operations – getting buddied with people you don’t know… diving with operations where there’s a language barrier, or who fill their tanks next to parking lots…

      And it may sound morbid, but I’d treat the whole endeavor like pilots treat flying. I wouldn’t fly with someone who didn’t read the NTSB bulletins, and I’d rather not dive with anyone who wasn’t well aware of the most common ways divers die. For many of us that means becoming a DAN member and reading up on their bulletins and taking many lessons to heart. Many cattle operations really downplay this stuff because it messes with their business.

  12. I’ve not dived Fiji, but it is on my list. In the Caribbean, Bonaire and Curacao are nice, but the barrier reef at Ambergris Caye, Belize is my favorite. Still haven’t made the Blue Hole due to weather conditions, but that is on my list as well. Certification is relatively easy and as far as SCUBA in Chicago, we have many good dive centers with training programs weather PADI, SSI or NAUI, along with some of the best wreck diving in Lake Michigan. Don’t let the water temp deter you, that’s what exposure suits are for. In Lake Michigan, cool water is clear water.
    Relax and don’t forget your towel.

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