Category Archives: Travel by Scuba

Club Med Ixtapa Pacific

club med ixtapa

Club Med Ixtapa Pacific

Barb recently got back from travels in Mexico, where she stayed at Club Med Ixtapa Pacific for six days. Named as one of the world’s best family resorts by Trip Advisor, Ixtapa is an all-inclusive resort with glorious sandy beaches, the second largest coral reef in the world, and fun family activities like sailing and scuba diving. The resort offers kids’ clubs especially geared to specific age groups. It’s perfect for a family reunion, and our agents have booked a number of multigenerational trips to the Club Meds in the past. Located on the Riviera Maya, ancient Mayan ruins are just a short distance away, ready for your little explorers.

Club Med Ixtapa Pacific is located about 30-40 minutes from Zihuantanejo Airport, resting on a quiet, protected beach perfect for swimming. I’m told this area almost always has great weather due to their location close to the mountains, however it was more humid than I expected.  The resort is well laid out, with capacity for up to 800 guests, but spread out enough that it never feels overflowing when totally full. We had an Oceanview club room, which was very comfortable. — Barb B.

Restaurants

Keep the kids happy with 3-4 restaurants to choose from. The elegant Encanto enchants with its five themed lounges–the mirror room, mask room, indoor garden, aquarium and stargazing lounge. Head to the Miramar for all-day, laidback fare on an oceanfront terrace. The Luna Azul sparkles at dinnertime with delicious local Mexican cuisine, overlooking the beach and coconut palms. The kids will be able to show off their culinary talents at Sirena, where children ages 2-10 can be their own chef!

Club Med has two restaurants that stagger their opening times so that one can eat pretty much any time during the day and evening.  There is a “dress code” in the evening, these are more like theme nights – there is an optional color code for clothing, I’d say less than half of the guests followed the dress code, other than that dress for all meals is very casual, just no bathing suits!  There is nightly entertainment put on by the staff (GO’s), one night they had a trapeze show.  One night the kids of the resort performed, the kids are dressed in costumes and different age groups come and perform dances, it was so cute! — Barb B.

Activities

A stay at any Club Med includes dozens of fun sports, activities, and sports schools with excellent instructors. Brush up on your sailing skills, perfect your archery technique, or monkey around at the Flying Trapeze School. There’s also mini golf, table tennis, SUP–or if you want to try something a bit more challenging, book a special instructor for deep sea fishing, snuba, scuba or flyboarding.

Kids’ Clubs

Club Med Ixtapa is home to kids’ clubs of varying ages, including the Baby Club Med (4-23 months), Petit Club Med (2-3 years old), Mini Club Med (4-10 years old). Teens (11-17 years old) can enjoy an exclusive Juniors’ Club Med outdoor recreation area – no unsupervised adults allowed! For newborns, Club Med provides free baby-care materials and equipment, foods, and a special playground just for the little ones–plus baby-sitting on demand.

This resort is very focused on families and kids, with lots of children’s activities for kids of all ages.  The kids club is included in the cost of your stay, except for kids under 3, where there is a fee. There are activities for adults all day long too, the schedule is posted daily (like on a cruise ship), activities range from gentle 1 hour walk, water aerobics, tennis, canoeing, standup paddle boarding. They also offer, trapeze, Zumba and salsa lessons!  There is also a spa and 3 swimming pools. There is no pressure to participate or not participate in any of the activities.

The resort also has a great setup for family rooms – they have 2 room units which can accommodate parents, up to 3 kids plus a crib.  Each family with a little child has a stroller at their disposal during their stay. Their suites are located in a separate building with their own front desk and beach area.

— Barb B.

One can purchase excursions through Club Med – we went to a Turtle Hatchery, and helped release baby turtles back into the water, it was fun!  Ixtapa has a bicycle path, which goes along a lot of the town area, one can rent bicycles and they offer bicycle tours. Ixtapa is the modern resort area, with many high rise beachfront resorts, many are all-inclusive, and golf course.  Zihuantanejo is the old town, with a nice town square, good for local shopping and culture, located close to the beach, a pier, and a lovely old church. — Barb B.

Why book with Willamette Intl Travel?

Many of our agents have stayed at Club Meds and can give you firsthand tips and honest feedback. We have access to deals and perks through our connections with Club Med, and can arrange a whole package for you and your family to stay at a Club Med – with airfare, transportation, activities – so you don’t have to stress about any of it.

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Filed under Club Med, Family Travel, Mexico, Travel by Scuba, Travel by Sport, Travel by Taste

Diving In Iceland

Welcome to Iceland! Today we’re returning to the land of fire and ice brought to you by our own foreign correspondent in Iceland, Wailana.

Last summer she joined a fantastic group for an unforgettable experience snorkeling between tectonic plates. Established in 1997, Dive.is offers safe, fun snorkel and dive days not far from Reykjavik and also off the coast of Iceland. The most famous trip is through Silfra Fissure in Thingvellir, a crack in the Earth where you can swim between two continental plates.

If you are a PADI-certified diver, you can join fellow divers on a day dive in the fissure. The tour includes two dives, each of about 30-40 minutes, at a depth of 18 meters. Optional add-ons include an afternoon of spelunking or the Golden Circle.

Otherwise, you can sign up for the snorkel tour. Even in summer, the fissure tends to be quite cold, but you’re fitted with high quality equipment and the best dry suit in the business. You can easily let yourself go, floating through the twisting fissure in pristine waters and the vivacious colors of this underwater realm. The fissure widens into a large lagoon area, where sand collects at the bottom. Wailana recommends keeping your hands laying flat on your back, above the water to be warmed by the sun (if there is any!). End your chilly day with a cup of hot chocolate and cookies.

Looking for something a bit more Advanced? In Akureyri, you can sign up for the dive tour in Strytan and its underwater volcanic cones. Swim in 79C water and feed the local wolf fish. In June, divers can even boil Guillemot eggs at 24 meters depth!

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Filed under Europe, Iceland, Travel by Scuba

Scuba Diving off O’ahu

Last Week WIT Agent Wailana plopped beneath the waves off O’ahu shores and had a chance to scuba dive! Check out her photos in the slideshow below:

(Can’t see the photos? Try using a different browser, like Firefox.)

Interested in exploring the blue underworld in Hawaii? Call Willamette Intl Travel to book your vacation today! Our agents have been visiting the islands of Aloha for decades and we would love to share our insider tips on the best beaches, resorts and activities, with you and your family. Call 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com to find out more.

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Filed under Hawaii, North America, Our Travel Agents, Travel by Scuba, USA

Top Ten Destinations for Diving

photo by Paul Toogood

Did you know that today is World Oceans Day? Officially recognized by the United Nations in 2008, The Ocean Project and the World Ocean Network have celebrated by promoting ecological awareness, community involvement, sustainable seafood events, and other ways to honor the world’s oceans.

Here at WIT, we are celebrating by taking a look at some of the best places to scuba dive around the world!

Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world, Paradise Reef, a series of interconnecting reefs full of shellfish, crustaceans, and colorful fish. It is also the site of “The Abyss,” a 3000-foot vertical drop that descends into darkness. Lucky divers can catch a sight of the Splendid Toad Fish, endemic to the region.

When to Go: September to May

What to See: orange ball anemones, file-fish, sea turtles, octopi, French angel, shipwrecks, file fish, trunkfish, stonefish, moray eels

Cayman Islands

The three Cayman Islands are great locales to dive around—there’s great visibility, very little runoff from the land, and ample amounts of Caribbean fish and invertebrates. Scuba diving is fantastic all year long on the leeward side of the Grand Cayman, where the waters are protected from wind and waves.

When to Go: All year round, water temperatures range from 80F in winter to 86F in summer.

What to See: Stingray City (a series of shallow sandbars with dozens of rays), Kittiwake Wreck, shallow reefs.

Tahiti

With temperatures between 79F and 84F in summer and visibility down to 120 feet, Tahiti is a great diving destination for the novice and seasoned expert alike. The island is known for its large marine life: from manta rays with meter-long wing spans, to Napoleon fish reaching over 35 kg. There are also several excellent training facilities to get your CMAS and PADI certifications.

When to Go: Year round.

What to See: gray shark, reef shark, sleeper shark, barracudas, dolphins, turtles, humpback whales (July-October), shipwrecks.

Galapagos, Ecuador

The Galapagos Islands boast a marine life as diverse and wondrous as the one on land. The waters are rich in phytoplankton, casting them a deep green shade. But do make sure you are with experienced divers—those currents are not to be trifled with!

When to Go: February to April

What to See: whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, silky sharks, Galapagos sharks, white tip reef sharks, eagle rays, dolphins, sea turtles, sea lions, fur seals, creole wrasse, seahorses, batfish, frogfish—and out of the water, marine iguanas and penguins!

Fiji

The Fiji archipelago is encircled by a huge reef, making shallow lagoons and a plethora of amazing scuba sites. Diving is a major attraction here, with a visibility of 130 feet deep, and warm waters from 77F in winter and 86F in summer.

When to Go: Year Round.

What to See: Astrolabe Reef, Bega Lagoon, Rainbow Reef

photo by Paul Toogood

Bali, South Pacific

The incredible diving in Bali is due to the island’s currents and its rich marine life—with a list of over 600 coral species and 3000 reef fish species. The Indonesian Throughflow is a flow of water that exits from the Indonesian archipelago into the Indian Ocean, carrying organic nutrients, plankton, and larvae that provide a healthy diet for the area’s fish and mollusks.

When to Go: April to November

What to See: Big Bumphead parrotfish, ghost pipefish, cometfish, anemonefish, morays, ribbon eels, octopi, mola-mola, or the ocean sunfish. Tulamben Wall—its purple gorgonian sea fan that stretches over 2 meters in diameter.

Cocos and Malpelo Islands, Costa Rica and Colombia

The Caribbean is home to some incredible samples of sealife. Nowhere else in the world can divers swim with such a plethora of sharks and large fish. Cocos Island has around 20 dive sites, with both shallow to steep options available. Malpelo Island’s main attraction is the scalloped hammerhead shark, which can swim in schools of up to 300 sharks.

When to Go: September to March

What to See: hammerheads, silk sharks, Galapagos shark, whale shark

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

At 2,600 km, this gigantic coral reef system is the largest in the world. It runs along the Queensland coast of Australia, and is composed of around 2,900 reefs and 900 islands. Due to its size, it offers scuba challenges for both amateurs and professionals, and is home to a great diversity of sealife—sharks, dolphins, or a saltwater crocodile if you’re really fortunate!

When to Go: August to January

What to See: tiger sharks, whale sharks, pufferfish, angelfish, surgeonfish, hawkfish, 360 species of hard corals, sea snakes, 6 types of sea turtles, giant groupers, Caribbeam reef shark, nurse shark, saltwater crocodile (rare), humpback whales, dolphins, dugongs.

Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Jacques Cousteau called this sea “The World’s Great Aquarium” due to its biodiversity. This is a great destination for North Americans due to its proximity and size. Also known as the Gulf of California, this strip of water separates the Baja California Peninsula from the Mexican mainland, and shares a coastline of around 2,500 miles.

When to Go: June to November

What to See: marlin, dorado, sea lions, whales, hammerhead sharks, barracudas, shipwrecks, devil rays, cow-nose ray, mola-molas, amber jacks, goatfish, turtles, moray eels, pufferfish, porcupine fish, flute fish, scorpionfish, lobsters, seahorses.

Vanuatu

Vanuatu in the South Pacific is a diver’s paradise—with a vast collection of caves, lava towers, coral mazes, grottoes and wrecks. A chain of 83 tropical islands, it’s a great spot to witness some great underwater sights—including the must-see SS “President Coolidge,” at 22,000 tons, the largest wreck dive in the world.

When to Go: April to October

What to See: SS “President Coolidge,” swordfish, marlins, barracuda, dolphins, unique starfish, dugongs, and Million Dollar Point (a stockpile of equipment dumped by the U.S. military).

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How to be a responsible, eco-friendly diver

  1. Maintain proper buoyancy: greater weight increases drag on your body, increasing the risk of damaging the reef or disturbing the floor
  2. Never touch a creature: touching can remove protective layers of oil or skin and possibly damage the animal. Watch out for the more delicate living coral.
  3. Be aware of your dimensions: Pay attention to what is around you and where you are going—divers operate in terms of front and back, sideways, and up and down. Make sure you keep aware of your surroundings.
  4. Secure your gear: firmly attaching your gear keeps it from banging around or potentially falling.
  5. Leave no trace: don’t leave anything, don’t take anything. Minimize your carbon diver’s footprint, and keep the reef intact.

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Willamette International Travel has worked with a variety of diving companies who tailor their services around your needs. We have sent clients on day excursions, shoretrips and multiday LiveAboard experiences alike in destinations such as Australia, Bahamas, Fiji, Christmas Island, Mexico, Hawaii, Egypt, and more!

Thinking about incorporating diving into your trip abroad? Ask us about some great scuba opportunities! Email our in-house certified diver at pamd@wittravel.com or call us at 503.224.0180.

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Filed under Features, Travel by Scuba