I know there are those who think I've dropped off the face of the earth, or maybe more appropriately, disappeared beneath the crystal blue waters of the Pacific ocean surrounding Saipan, to only occasionally surface for air and food. The latter isn't very far from the truth, I'm already approaching 200 dives for the year, and it's only the middle of April! Every week, I seem to pick up several new students so that now I've got a waiting list that stretches out over the next couple of months. I'm still taking students on a first come, first serve basis, so the first one to book some time for dives or lessons gets that slot. Suren is one of my latest students and has provided one of my biggest challenges so far. She is Mongolian and is in the process of learning English. She can speak some English and understand a fair amount and can read it fairly well, but when it comes to sitting down and reading the PADI Open Water manual, that was a little more than she was ready for. So I worked with her every afternoon for the better part of two weeks, going over all the chapters, looking up words in her English-Mongolian electronic translator and making sure she understood everything. I wasn't sure if I would be able to adequately teach her everything in the book, but she got it all, and aced the exams when we were finished with it. I don't think this quite qualifies as a Mongolian dive instructor, but it does mean that if you have a student who really wants to learn, and an instructor who really wants to teach, it can be done! I also have an assortment of students of other nationalities that I have lined up to teach in the coming weeks, so life is never boring.
In addition to all the students, I seem to be getting more and more requests to just take people out diving that are just here visiting. Some of them come to me from recommendations, some find my blog or my Smugmug picture site, and some of them just heard me talking about diving on the radio. I've taken some Coast Guard personnel lately, some policemen and firemen here training our local police and firemen, and a reporter and his cameraman from NBC. Ian Williams was here to do a story on the Marianas Marine Monument and wanted to do some diving as a part of the story. Thanks to Angelo, another of my Advanced students lately, I was picked as the Divemaster for the day and the one who got to take Ian and Kyle to several of our dive sites. Mike Tripp, another dive buddy of mine was hired for the day to do some filming of the dives. We started out our day with an early morning Grotto dive, always a good way to start any day! There was a big brown stingray just sitting on the bottom outside of hole #1 that we got to get right up to, and hopefully Mike got some amazing video footage of. We also got to see a green sea turtle and the usual assortment of fish. The sun was shining brightly and lit up the water perfectly.
I never get tired of seeing the huge Gregorian fan coral that guards some of the caves outside the Grotto. I think Ian and Kyle were properly impressed with the grandeur of the Grotto, Ian kept saying how it was an intense experience. Next we went and got on the Aquajet boat and Scott Eck took us down to Naftan point for our second dive of the day. Before we even left on the boat, there was a group of about 15 spotted eagle rays that came right up to the boat sitting at the dock. We looked down and there they were as though to greet us and welcome us to an awesome day of diving. I was a bit surprised as we headed down to Naftan, that Kyle had the TV camera tightly focused on my face as we were headed out, and then Ian came over and did an impromptu interview me on the side of the boat. I didn't realize I was going to be interviewed as well, I thought I was just the dive guide for the day. After our dive at Naftan as we surfaced, Ian wanted to go over next to the boat and do an interview while we were still in the water with our gear still on. So Kyle was shooting looking down on us, it was all pretty strange for me being on the other side of an interview.
The next stop on our dive tour was Ice Cream, we were going to visit the spotted eagle rays. Visibility wasn't that great when I got in the water, but fortunately that didn't seem to matter to the spotted eagle rays. There were over a dozen of them swimming back and forth and doing acrobatics for us when we got there. I took Ian and Kyle to the top of Ice Cream to just watch them swim in front of us, but evidently Mike thought I was in his way for filming, so motioned for me to get out of his way twice. I decided I don't really like being in an underwater video, and having to worry about cameras and film angles. I'm more into taking divers to see spectacular sites and letting them just enjoy them. Oh well, live and learn.The spotted eagle rays put on quite a show for us that day and Kyle got in the water to enjoy them as well. Everything was coming together to give these guys a picture perfect day of diving and they said later that it ranked as one of their best days of diving ever.When we got to the shipwreck, the great diving luck continued as we had some of the best visibility I've ever seen there. Conditions were awesome and the shots were coming out crystal clear. Above is a picture of Ian just floating over the shipwreck. Kyle dove on the wreck with us again and seemed to really enjoy himself as well. For me the highlight of this dive was finding a Tiger Cowrie that had taken on the rust color of the wreck, giving it an amazing golden glow.I have only seen a couple other shells that took on a different color as a result of their surroundings like this, but none as remarkable or beautiful as this one. The shell was live and was happily nestled in the sand. I waved over John Starmer, a marine biologist who was with us on the dive to show him, and he seemed as impressed with it as I was. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day. We don't really know yet how much of the interviews or footage they will use in the finished story on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, but the story is supposed to air sometime during the week of April 20th. Needless to say, Axe Murderer Tours may be on the verge of a little bit of national publicity. Not too bad for a dive operation that started out as a joke.