Never Say Dry

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside Magazine, 1999 Annual Travel Guide

Never Say Dry

Just snorkel, surf, dive, sail, fish, paddle a kayak ...

Red Hill, Maui
On Maui all dive boats lead to Molokini crater, the underwater equivalent of Yosemite's Half Dome on a Saturday in July. So we had Ed Robinson's Diving Adventures — which has a rep for knowing great sites off the beaten reef — drop us,
The honking-big, Spectre-esque Arriva (rumored to be media-mogul Barry Diller's boat), with its acre of snout and stacks of decks sheathed in tinted glass, caused scant comment on the Staniel Cay Yacht Club docks beyond "I've seen bigger." Here in the Exumas, where the one-eyed yachtsman Largo matched wits with 007 in the movie Thunderball, it's the guys with the littlest boats who garner all the attention. I was impressed, anyway, when Dennis Henderson and his college-age son Aaron, looking exhilarated and sunburned, told me they'd motored the 230-plus miles from Miami in their 17-foot Boston Whaler. It was an icebreaker with seafaring locals everywhere, the Hendersons said: They'd all made similar crossings, in even smaller boats.
        — Bucky McMahon
instead, at a spot called Red Hill, south of Wailea on the leeward side of the island. We rolled in and found ourselves in about 40 feet of water, in a nice neighborhood of undulating volcanic outcroppings and arches draped with orange and purple coral polyps. We poked around, dutifully noted a snowflake eel, then suddenly, whoosh, the current kicked in.

An unplanned drift dive always perks me right up. Swimming gave way to flying. We sped around a large head of coral, only to startle an enormous, grim-lipped sea turtle. Sea-turtle behavior around divers is usually that of a 20-year-old hound dog disturbed during a nap, but this big old daddy was in the mood for company. He lifted off from the sandy bottom and started to swim alongside us. Two more joined up, and suddenly my dive buddy and I were a party of five. The turtles led the way, executing their ungainly four-flippered stroke in near unison, always slowing to allow us to catch up.

Near the end of the dive, we arrived at a cavern. As we approached the opening, the turtles veered up and away, one by one, and I was reminded of one of those space movies that star gentle aliens willing to escort you to the end of their neck of the universe, but no farther.

Call Ed Robinson's Diving Adventures at 800-635-1273 or 808-879-3584.
— Karen Karbo

Lennox Head, Australia
Numerous headlands pepper the North Coast of New South Wales, but none is more revered than Lennox Head. In addition to being a wave magnet, the orientation of this peninsula creates considerable likelihood of early offshore wind. "Lenny" is reputed for powerful point waves. Miscalculate the paddle out, and you'll get raked across barnacle-encrusted cobbles. Once out, be prepared for thick, board-snapping lips and a Maytag impact zone. But if you pay your dues, respect the locals' pecking order, and luck into a set wave, be prepared for a regular-foot's religious experience. Though Lennox breaks on both north and south swells, a juicy easterly brings out the point's magic. When the sand gets pushed in just right, the banks can make for a spiraling tube that relentlessly grinds and spits.

With the pace of a southern-hemisphere Mayberry, Lennox's savanna setting is backed by jungly rainforest. Tent campers can pitch their pups at the nearby Lake Ainsworth Caravan Park ($7-$12 per night; 011-61-2-66-87-7249). For those who prefer a roof, the Lennox Beach House Backpackers' Hostel (011-61-2-66-87-7636) has a boomerang reputation; people keep coming back. The hostel has three simply furnished double-occupancy rooms ($26 per night), nine dorm rooms that sleep four to six ($10 per person per night), and a communal kitchen (bring your own food). To get there, take the train from Sydney to Byron Bay, an offbeat town with a yesteryear Santa Cruz feel a mere 11 miles north of Lennox. Or you can do it like the Aussies — buy a beater station wagon, preferably a Holden, and move at a random, haphazard pace along the coast. You'll likely find the nectar.
— Mike Harrelson

Exuma Cays, Bahamas
From an angler's point of view, the Exuma Cays in the southern Bahamas are essentially more than a hundred miles of lunker-stocked ledges where the deepwater Exuma Sound upwells onto the vast, shallow Great Bahama Bank. Thermoclimes collide all along that fertile seam. Fish happen. Just outside of Elizabeth Harbor in Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, the most lackadaisical trolling will scare up dolphin, mackerel, or marlin; for tweedier tastes, bonefish abound on the lee-side flats. But as most of the underwater terrain is coral reef riddled with holes and tunnels like an old cheese, the most prolix, and certainly the most entrenched, indigene is the grouper.

Just how well dug-in we soon found out, after exhausting and unsuccessful tugs-of-war — like salvaging semi-trucks with a large rubber band. "The big ones bite just the same as the little ones — that's where they fool ya," guide Johnny Dey explained in his tobacco-y rasp, about five hours into a four-hour charter. "That's why you've got to know what you're doing to catch these fish! You got to hit 'em hard! You got to snatch them up before they hunker down in that hole! Come on now! You people are making me look bad."

Dey, a semiretired former wholesale florist from North Carolina, lay supine on the bow with a cigarette in his sun-block-slathered lips and a cool towel across his forehead — which did nothing to undermine his authority as a grouper guru. It was easy to imagine a squid-bloated jewfish resting in some coral grotto below in much the same attitude, a bit of broken leader-line protruding insouciantly from its lips like a toothpick.

Johnny Dey at Exuma Dive Center and Watersports, Ltd., 242-336-2390; Fish Rowe Charters (Captain Doug Rowe), 242-345-0074.
— Bucky McMahon

Adícora, Venezuela
Most windsurfers know the southern Caribbean as flatwater bliss, and rely on the islands of Aruba, Margarita, and Bonaire for outstanding speed and slalom sailing. But what about wavesailing? If miles of rolling surf just outside your door is what you're craving, then head to the town of Adícora on the east coast of Venezuela's wind-assaulted Peninsula de Paraguanß.

Aruba lies just 20 miles to the north, but surf-charged Adícora is worlds away, both on and off the water. The eminently sailable beach-break ranges from shoulder- to mast-high and is coupled with side onshore winds that almost always clock in at more than 20 knots from January to July. And unlike casino-choked Aruba, Adícora remains a traditional fishing village where little English is spoken and many of the town's businesses and residents are still awaiting phone lines. On the water, a dozen windsurfers out at once constitutes a crowd.

The town's prosperous days as a major port are attested to by the many Dutch Colonial-era buildings, but its new focus on windsurfing has given rise to a few modern centers that provide high-quality gear and rooms. Windsurfing Adícora (888-823-4267) is a casual oceanfront posada with equipment by Ezzy, North, HiFly, and Fiberspar. A simple room costs $35 per night, equipment $275 per week. The same Cerveza Polar that set you back $2.50 a can in Aruba will run you about 35 cents, and a bayside meal of fresh red snapper about $4. Avensa/Servivensa Airlines (800-428-3672) works in conjunction with major U.S. carriers to offer surprisingly low fares to nearby Punto Fijo from most U.S. cities. You'll find information on the net at
John DuQuette

British Virgin Islands
Accept the fact that when you first tell your annoyingly well-traveled friends of your plans to bareboat through the British Virgin Islands they will not be impressed. Granted, the BVI are the classic (okay, clich‰d) cruising grounds, thanks to the consistently fine weather, steady trade winds, azure waters, and easy, short-hop sailing. If you chart the standard course through the BVI — from Tortola's Cane Garden Bay to Virgin Gorda's Baths to Norman Island's Bight — you may find yourself resting bow-to-stern each evening with a fleet of other not-so-original sailors coming off the Sir Francis Drake Channel, sun-dumb and ready to party.

But cruising the BVI doesn't necessarily require you to become a reluctant member of a huge, rum-soaked flotilla. Head for little-visited anchorages like Savannah Bay on Virgin Gorda's north side — a gorgeous, empty cove with fine snorkeling — or Benures Bay on Norman Island's north coast, where the first boat in gets dibs on a choice, protected, corner spot.

Thirsty? Steer clear of overrun Foxy's bar in Jost Van Dyke's Great Harbor and sail just west to White Bay and the Soggy Dollar Bar, where patrons who have swum ashore from their boats hang their cash on lines to dry. Or consider making a careful run for unsung Anegada, a tile-flat island about 15 nautical miles north of Virgin Gorda that's generally off-limits to bareboaters because of the treacherous reefs surrounding it. Not sure you care to navigate those difficult waters yourself? Sign up with The Moorings to follow a captained lead boat from Virgin Gorda to Anegada. And when you show your friends your pictures we don't see any reason to mention that you were guided in.

The Moorings (800-535-7289) offers a large fleet of crewed and bareboat charter yachts (32- to 51-foot bareboats, $1,470-$6,440 per week; 50-foot crewed charters, $1,127-$2,216 per person per week for four or six people) from bases on Tortola and Virgin Gorda.
— Meg Lukens Noonan

Papua New Guinea
In Papua New Guinea there are painted men with bird quills through their noses who go to war more often than most of us go to ATM machines. And there are volcanoes that do more smoking than a roomful of tobacco-company lawyers. But neither of these quite compares, scuba divers will tell you, with discovering that your descent into PNG's clear tropical water is being studied with some interest by a pod of killer whales.

The base for killer whale, or orca, encounters is Walindi Plantation Resort at Kimbe Bay, on the outlying island of New Britain. Walindi, a collection of shore-side thatch-roofed bungalows in the midst of a palm plantation, is to PNG diving what Redmond, Washington, is to software. It is the country's best-known dive resort, and one of its most upscale. Which means only that the bar is not always out of your preferred beverage, and that the fans in the rooms usually work.

Other than diving, the main activity at Walindi is talking about diving. But if you bring a non-diving partner you can promise a swimming pool, shopping in Kimbe (about 30 minutes, once, should take care of it), and escorted visits to some of the downed WWII aircraft that are as common above the surface in PNG as they are below.

The orcas are far from an everyday occurrence, and their visits are unpredictable. But most days you're likely to find yourself surrounded by the kind of biological drama reminiscent of a busy day on the plains of Africa. Dolphins, rays, and sharks are almost always around, as well as barracuda in schools that can only be described as overcrowded.

Call 011-675-983-5441; fax 675-983-5638; E-mail [email protected]; doubles, $290, including all meals. Dives are extra, two for $115.
— Bob Payne

As we sluice across the surface of Great Oyster Bay, protected from the Tasman Sea by the wild Freycinet Peninsula on Tasmania's east coast, the water is like an opal that changes color with the sky. Sea kelp pulsate near the rocks, and shells the size of dinner plates are heaped in ancient middens along the coastline, where modern oyster farms sell freshly shucked samples.

A few curious wallabies watch us as we leave the white sands of Richardsons Beach and paddle our kayaks south past Honeymoon Bay, where the mighty pink-granite Hazards rise up to 1,591 feet. Confidence builds as we strike out for the cormorant colony on Refuge Island, about an hour away. A white-breasted sea eagle clocks our progress until we arrive at our campsite on the southern end of Hazards Beach in Freycinet National Park, our base for all further forays along the coast.

After a breakfast of blueberry pancakes on the beach, we paddle off to Cooks Beach, where more inquisitive wallabies gather to sniff out our sandwiches. Other creatures hiding out here include the wombat, the long-nosed potoroo, the eastern quoll, and the Tasmanian devil. Out on the water, bottlenose dolphins frolic; southern right whales cruise by between May and October.

Coastal Kayaks (011-61-3-6257-0500) in Coles Bay leads one- to five-day tours for $68-$503 per person.
— Nell Schofield

Los Roques, Venezuela
I'm snorkeling timidly along a coral reef just off Pirate Key in Los Roques, Venezuela, among a fish population that far outnumbers the islands' 900 human inhabitants. The brilliant yellow, blue, and green ones that dart in and out of the rock formations have my attention, but it is the silver ones with big teeth that make my heart nearly jump out of my blowhole.

Of course, less wimpy travelers will be instantly enamored with Los Roques. About a 40-minute flight due north from Caracas, the islands of Los Roques ("the rocks") comprise a spectacular archipelago of about 50 islands barely large enough to earn names. The entire island group (which also includes about 200 islets, sandbars, and coral reefs) is a national park protected by the Venezuelan government.

Base yourself on Gran Roque, the main island and the only one with lodging (camping is permitted on some of the others). You can stay in one of about a dozen serene posadas, Venezuela's answer to bed and breakfasts, and explore the bluffs, lagoons, and mangrove swamps of this two-mile-long (and only one mile wide) island. Check out the more than 80 species of birds, including pelicans, canaries, and flamingoes, or head underwater for a glimpse of parrot fish, barracuda, French angelfish, and dusky squirrel fish. Hire a catamaran "taxi" to explore the other islands — so deserted they make Gilligan's feel like a seething mass of humanity.

Alpiturismo arranges snorkeling and diving packages with lodging in one of Gran Roque's charming oceanside posadas; they can also set you up with sailboat charters and fresh- and saltwater fishing trips. Call 011-58-2-283-1733.
— Lance Gould

Copyright 1998, Outside magazine

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