Geeky details

Here’s some more (some would say ‘too much’) information about the site:

About me

40-something English guy, just having a look around the planet while there’s still time.

I love the underwater world and spend a lot of time snorkelling.  Opinions about where is good/not-good for snorkelling are pretty subjective and sometimes skewed by vested interests.  So I thought I’d take some photos and put them on the interweb, so you can see for yourself.

FWIW, I am a BSAC trained scuba diver and am qualified PADI Divemaster.
I spend more time snorkelling than I do diving these days, partly for economic reasons, but also because most of the best stuff is in the first 10 metres.

About the photographs

All underwater photographs were taken by me while snorkelling/breath-hold skin diving. Pictures were generally taken in depths of 2-5 metres, using natural light.

It took a while to get used to using a camera underwater. I have found that the ‘trick’ is to get as close to subjects as possible.  Water absorbs light, and this starts at distances of less then 10 metres. Photos taken from the surface towards the bottom usually just end up looking like a blue-green mush.

I generally don’t use flash. Unless the water is completely crystal clear or you are using external strobes, it just lights up the silt in the water and creates hundreds of bright white dots right in front of whatever you are photographing.  You may have seen articles that tell you to always use flash when taking pictures underwater.  That’s fine if you have good, expensive, equipment (i.e. external strobes that send reflections off, away from the lens).  But if you have a cheapy underwater compact, then turn-off the flash and get-in as close as possible using natural light.

About the camera (s)

Most pictures here were taken with an Olympus Tough compact camera.   From November 2011 to August 2012 I had model TG610, but then it leaked and died (which, to be fair, may well have been my fault).  I replaced it in September 2012 with the newer model TG820.

I can’t say I’m a huge fan of either, the 610 took years to boot-up and both of them take what seems like forever to save a picture to disc.  Switching between standard and macro mode is a slow and fiddly process.  That said, I have gotten some decent pictures out of them, so maybe I shouldn’t complain.  Also, the Olympus TG-range seems to be the only underwater compact with a little tin cover for the lens, which is handy protection when you are scrambling out of the water over barnacle-covered rocks.

I have also taken a few pictures for this site using a borrowed Canon IXUS 220HS (in a housing) (Pulau Kapas, Malaysia) and a Fujifilm FinePixZ3WP (Serawa Island, Indonesia).  Kudos to the lenders.

About post-processing

The Olympus TG610 has (only) a preset white balance for underwater. It’s not great, so I have to adjust the colour levels (and sometimes the saturation) in Photoshop afterwards. Sorry if you think that’s cheating.

If there’s a lot of silt in the water or if I have lots of reflected crap in-shot because I had to use flash, I might occasionally do some touching-up to get rid of it.  Sorry if you think that’s cheating.

I do post-processing on my travelling Samsung NC10 Netbook. It’s not been colour calibrated and I think the display might be a bit flat.  If everything looks a bit garish on your computer, sorry about that, I will re-do the photos once I get back to an office and a proper screen.

About the narrative

This site is as much about identifying those places that are no-good as it is about finding the good spots.  I don’t want you to waste time and/or money travelling somewhere for the snorkelling, only to find out that it stinks.

If you own a resort somewhere and you advertise that the snorkelling is great when it isn’t, then I’m gonna bust your racket!  I make no apology for being negative about places which deserve negativity.

– – – – –

Each page is dated with the dates/seasons that I visited.  Of course, conditions change month to month with the seasons, so keep that in mind.

– – – – –

Options are subjective. What I think is good snorkelling might be different from what you think is good snorkelling.

If you haven’t done a lot of snorkelling before, you might love something that I say is distinctly average.  I have dived some pretty nice places (Australian Great Barrier reef; Southern Red Sea in Egypt, Meso-American Reef (Honduras, Belize,etc), as well as spots around South East Asia) and my standards are kinda high.  If I sound a little unimpressed by a particular spot, then have a good look at the photos to see whether you agree.  If I sound like a particular spot is a heap-of-crap, then you can trust me that it is, and it wasn’t worth wasting a photograph on.

My ideal snorkelling is a reef top at about 2m depth;  40metres wide and 1 km long, with at least 20 different species of colourful hardcorals, many of them finger/staghorn varieties.

There seems to be fewer and fewer fish around these days, so I generally don’t expect very much in the way of fishlife.  If I’m raving about a place, it doesn’t necessarily mean it was filled with manta-rays and whalesharks – it probably wasn’t.  If there’s any fauna more interesting than a smattering of common reef fish, I will be sure and mention the fact.

Hopefully the photographs bring some objectivity to it.

– – – – –

I like to swim. I can happily spend eight hours a day snorkelling round an island and often do.  I go to these lengths mainly to ensure that I don’t miss unnoticed patches of good coral and to ensure I have the full picture when it comes to comparing different places.

If I’m swimming, I don’t always approach a spot from the same way you would if you were coming at it from the land.  I do usually return to the area overland to try and find the jungle track that leads down to the beach or whatever.  Usually, that is.  Occasionally, you might have to figure-out the overland part for yourself.

– – – –

I don’t necessarily recommend that you follow me on a four hour swim to find a nice patch of coral.

Where there are easier ways of getting there, I will try and point them out.

Also, see the section on safety.

– – – – –

There are no commercial interests on this site – it’s a labour of love.  If you want to give me some money, then send me an email and we’ll work something out 😉

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6 responses to “Geeky details

  1. Hi – just wanted to say thanks for a fantastic website. We are heading to Ko Lipe and the website could not have been more useful. Thank you so much. And if you ever get the funds, check out the Maldives. Horrendously expensive but the best snorkelling we have seen by a long way. Best of luck with your snorkelling adventures!

  2. Hi,
    someone from TripAdvisor has sent me link to your website and the only thing I can say is… WOW! I’m impressed! It’s such helpful source of information. I’ve been to some of the places you describe here and agree with all your comments regarding Koh Kradan or Koh Ngai. If you ever need some advice regarding Bonaire, Curacao, Mauritius or Yucatan, let me know…
    This August we’re heading to Komodo region in Indonesia, but as far as I see you haven’t been there yet. However, you made deep research of waters in Raja Ampat, where I’d like to go solo in January. Which part of it did you find the most exceptional? I’ll have only 5-6 days to stay there, so would like to choose wisely the accommodation in order to fulfill my snorkeling needs.
    Best regards from Poland!

    • Hi there. Thanks for the kind comment. I have been to the Komodo region, but I didn’t have an underwater camera, so I don’t have any pictures. Actually, I am going back there this year with a camera to fix that and it will eventually appear on this site, but not before your visit. Most of the snorkelling out of Labuanbajo has to be done from boat trips, there is not much ‘off the beach’ snorkelling.

      Pink Beach on Komodo is very nice, with lots of softcoral in the bay. I did do a page on Serayah island, though the resort has closed now. The other main popular stop is Kenawa island. I didn’t go there last time, but hope to this year. People say the reef is very good there, but the accommodation is grossly overpriced. There is no-doubt that there is some awesome coral in the Komodo area.

      Regarding Raja Ampat, of the places I saw, I would say that Kri is the best. Try and take a boat trip out to the South side.

      Have fun 🙂

      • Thanks for your quick reply 🙂

        I agree about Kri island. Your pictures of marine life around it look fantastic! I’ve been thinking about 7 nights there. Do you think it’s enough time to taste the best of this place? Unfortunately, I won’t have more time, as visit to Raja Ampat will be part of much longer trip.

        As regards Komodo, I’ll be there with my wife to celebrate our 20th anniversary. We’ll stay in Komodo Dive Resort. It’s very expensive but considering the circumstances, this expense is justified 😉
        At first I planned to stay at Kanawa but reviews forced me to changed my mind. However, we’ll go there for day trip.

        Have a nice trip to Komodo. I’m looking forward for your photos!

  3. Appreciative of your labour of love.

    I was at Coron Island in Philippines in early 2016, and found it interesting. Maybe you can consider giving the location a visit.

    I’m planning to get to Trang, Thailand soon.

    • Hi there, yes I’m off the Philippines in a few weeks and Coron is (loosely) on the list of places to call in at (actually, it’s on the “if you get the time” list). I was in El Nido in 2001, but most of the coral there was bleached out after the 1997 El Nino. Do you know of any specific good spots in Coron?

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