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Diving a working oil rig in Southern California (Watch Video)

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

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Ever since Alex Mustard was a finalist in the Bird category of Wildlife Photographer of the year with a shot of a cormorant diving under an oil rig we have wanted to follow in his fin-steps and take a look at this unusual dive ourselves. So, when we decided to stay on in Southern California after our trip to photograph Great White Sharks off Guadalupe Island with Nautilus Liveaboards, this dive was at the very top of our list to organise.

We got in touch with Captain Kyaa from Sundiver International based in Long Beach to see if there might be an opportunity to dive one of the oil rigs and also the more famous dive destination of Catalina Island. Soon we had an exciting diving itinerary set up. We departed La Jolla and made the short drive north to Long Beach and checked into Hotel Maya, where we had a room with an outstanding view of the harbour and the Queen Mary.

Sundiver International have three boats and for our trip to dive the oil rig we were on the smallest of these with a small group of just six divers. There are three oil rigs that are close to shore and readily diveable in the right conditions. Permission must be sought in advance and the sea needs to be calm for boats to be able to approach the oil rig structure. We were going to dive the oil rig called Ellen and we had the perfect conditions to dive it!

As we did the short swim to the structure we could hear the noises of the workmen and machinery above us. It is an unusual dive to be allowed to dive a working oil rig and these structures do not exactly spring to mind when you try to think of places that would be home to an abundance of marine life, but as we dipped our heads under the surface we were amazed. Each leg of the structure was covered in life. Anemones and brittle stars covered the metal frame. Mussels formed huge clumps near the surface. Then something else caught out eyes…

A young Californian Sea Lion had decided to come and check us out. It darted past at incredible speed, not getting too close at first. Then as it grew braver, it twisted and turned in front of us, using the oil rig as its playground and showing off its amazing swimming skills. We were enchanted and spent the rest of the dive in the shallows trying to get a shot and some video footage of this special moment.

All too soon it was time to head off, but at least we had Catalina Island to look forward to!

  • For more information about Sundiver International visit their website by clicking here.
  • For more information about Long Beach visit the Official travel website by clicking here.
  • To visit the Hotel Maya website click here.

All images and text by Frogfish Photography

Equipment used:

  • Olympus OMD EM-1 MKII; Nauticam housing; INON Z240 strobes
  • Paralenz Dive Camera
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Blogs

Top 5 Party Guests: The Magic of Night Diving in Cozumel

American DTA Team

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A blog by Pro Dive International

*Header image: On the day of our planned night dive at the Allegro Cozumel, we had to reschedule, as any water activity during thunderstorms and lightning is considered dangerous. We still thought it was worth sharing this breathtaking spectacle with you.*


Have you ever gazed out at the open ocean at night wondering what happens down there as the sun disappears over the horizon and darkness sets in? If all marine life will be sleeping, or if there’s anything creeping along the reefs?

Here’s what really happens, including a list of our Top 5 Party Guests that make you want to add night diving in Cozumel to your bucket list.

Brief Overview

While the Caribbean Sea is not calming down at night due to the effectively constant trade-winds in the tropics that drive ocean wave trains and cause waves to break throughout day and night, a vibrant party under the sea is just about to begin, as huge basket stars unfurl their arms into the night, parrotfish create their mucus bubble beds, giant lobsters, king crabs and octopus prepare for hunt, and bioluminescence sparkles up the scene.

TOP 5 Party Guests

1. Basket Stars

These sea stars can only be observed in their true glory at night when they unfurl their many branched arms into the darkness to filter food from the water. Some reach nearly a meter in size! Shine your torch on them and watch them curl their huge arms back towards their mouths as they eat the small creatures attracted by your light.

The perfect party costume, do you agree?

Basket Star by Elizabeth Maleham @Pro Dive International

2. Cephalopods – Octopus & Squid

These fascinating creatures are rarely spotted during day dives, but at night you can see them out and about hunting the reef for their next meal. Watch as they move about changing colors and patterns in the blink of an eye! Below is a picture of an octopus spreading its body wide over the reef like a net to encircle its prey.

Did you know that octopuses were that colorful?

Octopus by Elizabeth Maleham @Pro Dive International

3. Crustaceans

Safely tucked away in the back of a crevice during the day, these creatures venture out under the cover of darkness to hunt. A fantastic opportunity to finally get a close-up look at all those king crabs and plenty of lobsters you have only seen as small eyes peering out from the back of a cave.

Up for a dance?

Crab by Elizabeth Maleham @Pro Dive International

4. Parrotfish

Many fish only half sleep, needing to be alert to the dangers 24/7, but parrot fish have evolved an ingenious warning system so they can get their eyes shut. As night draws in, they find a nook to rest in and start to create a mucus like a bubble encircling their whole bodies. They can rest safely in this for the entire night, but if anything disturbs this veil, they are off like a shot into the dark!

How did this sleepy guy make it into our Top 5?

Parrotfish in Cozumel by Guillermo Reta @Pro Dive International

5. Bioluminescence

For those not familiar with this natural phenomenon, bioluminescence is a chemical process which allows living creatures like plankton, tiny crustaceans, some fish, squid and algae to produce light in their body to either attract prey, confuse predators, or lure potential mates.

As the bioluminescent sea will glow when it’s disturbed by a breaking wave or a splash in the water at night, for most of our divers the best part is covering up the torches and waving our arms about disturbing the bioluminescence into sparkling blue points of light.

This makes the perfect party glitter!

Bioluminescence @Dreamstime


Already in a party mood? Pack your dive gear!

How to join the underwater party in Cozumel?

  1. Join Pro Dive International’s Cozumel Night Dives as a certified diver.
  2. Boost your skills and make your night dive one of the 5 Adventure Dives of the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course.
  3. Contact us for guidance.


Contact:

reservations@prodiveinternational.com

www.prodiveinternational.com/contact-us

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Blogs

Turtles of the Riviera Maya & Cozumel

American DTA Team

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A blog by Pro Dive International

Plenty of empty shells of recently hatched turtle eggs were spotted by our divers at Sabalos. They had been washed off shore onto the reef after the baby turtles had dug out of their nest at night and swam off into the sea.

The turtle nesting season on the Riviera Maya and in Cozumel happens between May and October, which means that you may be lucky to see some nests or even hatchlings during your stay with us.

Six out of the seven sea turtle species worldwide visit Mexico every year. We are lucky enough to get to see Green Turtles and Loggerhead Turtles regularly during our dives, as they are in search of food and a good clean.

The reefs and ecosystems here provide a great number of tasty snacks for a turtle, for example seagrass, sponges, crustaceans and many more. And while the turtles pass through the reef, they receive a top-notch cleaning service from many of the local fishes who feed on their parasites and algae growth.

6 Turtle Fun Facts

  1. Green turtles are so named because of their green colored fat caused by their rich diet of seagrass.
  2. Green Turtles are the largest hard-shell turtles in the world. The largest known green turtle weighed 395 kg/ 871 lbs, with a shell that measured more than 152 cm/ 5 ft.
  3. Loggerhead Turtles are so named for their massive broad muscular heads.
  4. Adult males are normally easy to distinguish from females because of their long tails visible extending past their shell.
  5. Female turtles normally return to the exact same location where they were born to lay their eggs.
  6. The sex of a baby turtle is determined by the temperature at which the egg is kept.

Turtles are regular visitors to many of our dive sites, but they are most commonly found at Tortuga – this dive site is even named turtle in Spanish! It’s located just off shore from our dive center at the Occidental Xcaret and easily accessible by boat from any of our Playa Del Carmen locations.

Moreover, for those of you who are not divers, we are lucky enough to have some extensive seagrass beds where green turtles love to hang out and eat, which is an easy snorkel off shore during one of our tours with a guide who is licensed to enter those protected areas.

Turtle Locations

Besides observing them underwater, you may be lucky to find some turtle nests in front of your resort on the Riviera Maya or in Cozumel. Hotel employees usually rope them off to ensure their protection.

Turtle conservation projects are a great alternative to learn more about their behaviors, importance for the marine environment, how you can help protect them, and to observe nests or turtles first hand:

Turtle Protection

Every sea turtle species on earth nests on Mexico’s beaches (save one that is only found in Australia). Consequently, Mexico is known as the sea turtle capital of the world and its turtle protection laws are so important on a global scale.

Current Mexican law classifies all sea turtle species as endangered.

Regulations

  • Turtles can’t be killed for their meat, skin, shell or eggs.
  • Native vegetation can’t be removed in nesting habitats, to stop erosion.
  • New regulations call for moving, changing or eliminating any light sources that illuminate a nesting beach, as baby turtles can become disoriented from finding their way to the ocean.
  • Vehicles can have a maximum weight of 300 kg on nesting beaches and only be used for patrolling and management of the nesting site.
  • Recently outlawed were turtle release events, as many places kept the hatchlings in confinement for several days until a sufficient number of participants had signed up for this activity. Upon release, they were too weak to handle the surf and avoid predators.

All of these and many more regulations help protect beaches, nests, female sea turtles, their eggs and hatchlings to make it a safer place for them.

How to start your Turtle Adventure

Let’s discover some turtles together during our dives! If you are not a diver, why not sign up for a PADI course; or join our Mexican Snorkeling Adventure at 15% OFF starting from Playa del Carmen or Tulum, if booked online until 16/09/21 & redeemed until Dec 22, 2021 with reference to this blog!

Contact:

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