I’ve been a professional underwater cinematographer for a while now. I’ve worked on several television shows, shot a lot of b-roll, and filmed my share of natural history documentaries. I’ve been a sound man, cameraman, grip, assistant, director, widget master, duct tape samurai, editor, and computer tech while on location. Most of the time you are left to your own devices. Anyone who has walked in these shoes knows that. Shooting underwater for a living seems glamorous to most and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a good time…most of the time. But then there are the tents, humidity, infections, mosquitoes, travel delays, lost luggage, broken gear, rain, missed deadlines, cranky producers, and talent…and by talent I mean the undersea critters that never take direction well. “Yes Mr. Cameraman, I would be happy to swim up to the camera, hit my focus mark, do my little dance, and then swim away”, said no fish. EVER!
Now we are on the road discovering great new diving destinations and locations for Deep Blue Adventures; this trip is going to be different; this trip will be bliss. What an opportunity to combine my shooting assignments and adventure travel without boundaries and limitations. We will go to amazing places on our schedule and stay as long as we like. As long as it takes to discover how to turn our adventure into a great diving adventure for you, Deep Blue Adventure’s clientele. Stacy and I are looking forward to answering all your future questions. But for now, there will be a peace about me. No yelling producers, nothing will break down… only comfortable beds, quiet rooms, verified reservations, and the all important internet access. Nothing to worry about. Hakuna Matata right?
Lucky for me, the first stop is Micronesia. A personal favorite of mine where old friends and new ones await. A place where the cultural history is on display and unchanged in everyday life. Some of the first diving I ever did was in Micronesia. So it holds a special place in me and it won’t let go. We will travel to Yap, Palau, and Chuuk.
Getting there is just a hop, skip, and a jump from LAX. One little hop to Honolulu, a skip over to Guam, and a jump over to Yap. Just 20 hours of sit back, relax, and enjoy the leg cramps…or Ambien. Now it really isn’t that bad and the payoff is huge. Its 6 hours to HNL, 7 to GUM, and 1.5 to YAP with a few hours layover at each place. Just enough time to stretch out and grab some breakfast-lunch-dinner at whatever crazy time your inner clock decides it is.
Travel Tip #21 – Hand the flight attendant your empty Nalgene bottle and ask for water. They will fill it up for you from their bottled water. Always smile and say “thank you.” Don’t ruin it for the rest of us.
There is another clever way to get there and that is to fly into Manila first. It can be a little less expensive or a lot less expensive depending if you use the tip below. This is also very useful if you want to do a long trip that includes Micronesia and the Philippines.
Cheap Tip #99 – Getting to Micronesia can be a $2,000 plane ticket. That can be $4,000 for a couple. If you want to visit both Palau and Yap or Chuuk and Yap or Palau then you can add another $1000 for the inter-island flights. Want to do it for half price or less? With a little planing it’s easy. Get a United Airlines Miles Plus Card. If you pick it up at a Chase bank and others, you get 50K in miles. Add your partner to the card for an extra 5K in miles. Now spend a few thousand in the next few months on the card with monthly expenses. You now have 60k miles. Now use those miles to book a round trip ticket to Palau with a stopover in Yap and an open jaw to Palau (or Chuuk) from Manila for 30K in miles per person. Buy your open jaw flight between the two islands for as little as 300.00 each. Now get a round trip ticket to Manila, Philippines for around 800.00. Always be sure to line up you mileage flights before booking your RT Manila flight. Added bonus: 1st bag is free with card for you and your partner. So if you heeded my first entry on packing light, you just saved another chunk of change. But it gets even better. By the time you are done flying, you will have 15,000 more miles each. The possible downside to all of this is a split ticket. Meaning you have two separate tickets to get to a destination. If something goes wrong on the first flight, it may mess up your remaining travel plans. Now what will you do with your $2000.00 in savings? How about contact Deep Blue Adventures for a getaway to Mexico to swim with Whale Sharks? I wear an XL T-shirt is case you are still wondering what to do.
After a champagne toast at 30,000 feet, we arrived in Yap on New Years Eve just after midnight. The festivities were still underway all around us. We got the passport stamp, received a welcome lei from a natively dressed and topless woman, grabbed our dive gear, and were met by our smiling hosts for the week. I know you just read that last line again…admit it.
So yes, most of the time, people are dressed in western style clothing but it takes a few times before you get used to the native look. You know you are in for a long look down a cultural road when this happens. Just don’t get caught staring.
Manta Ray Bay Resort and Spa (MRBR) runs a tight ship. Our dive gear was placed in one van and the rest of the group jumped on a second air conditioned van for the short ride to the resort. Cold face towels were given to us to wipe the 20 hour flight gunk from our eyes, wake us up, and reinvigorate. Iced bottled water was handed out. PERFECT! Arriving at the resort our dive gear was placed in the dive shop and our luggage whisked off to our room.
There was just enough time left in the New Years Eve celebration to dance to the music of the 2 piece band- complete with 80’s style synthesized drum beats and a keyboard worthy of a stage show from A Flock of Seagulls. Don’t get me wrong. It was a blast. Locals and expats alike were laughing and carrying on together…social lubrication provided by the Stone Money micro brew offered exclusively at MRBR. Seriously…how can we still be awake? One more dark beer please. It was so much fun that night and a great way to kick off our 6 month trip. Wait a minute…are they playing a reggae version of a Wham song? I’m in!
Next up: Diving in Yap if I can wake up early… But then again, if you started your morning by jumping in at Vertigo with camera in hand and ran into this like I did…it wouldn’t have been difficult for you to wake up either.
to be continued…