Deciding it was time to go back to Mexico and do some cave diving, I picked Tulum as the place I was going to stay. It's nearer the best cenotes for diving and it's much smaller than Playa Del Carmen, which I've seen get bigger and bigger over the years. Next I had to decide who I was going to dive with. I picked Eric "Budgie" Burgess who I used to know when he ran the Aqua Hotel and dive centre out of Portland many years ago. So I contacted him and he said he could pick me up from the airport and arrange some accommodation for me
The easiest way to get to Grand Cayman from the UK is with BA. The flight touched down in Nassau on both legs, though you don't get off the plane. There's a full change of crew and the cleaners come onboard, so the turn around is not that quick, but at least there are no baggage or immigration hassles.
BA had a sale on, and flights to Madeira were £85, so I booked hand luggage only planning to hire kit and do one or two dives on the Saturday of a long weekend. I'd booked with Divepoint Madeira to go boat diving. They're in the Pestana Hotel Madeira Carlton which is a bit of a walk from downtown Funchal. We sorted out the kit and some 5mm wetsuits. Then we had to descend into the harbour, which did have a good ladder and rails down the steps and then swim the short distance out to the boat.
A rainy February day with winds blowing F6-7 south westerly is not most people's idea of a good day to go diving. The direction is a problem for a lot of sites in the south, but not parts of Falmouth where the shoreline faces west. So we headed off to Gyllyngvase Beach. Onstreet parking was free and unsurprisingly there were plenty of spaces.
During a long weekend to Tarragona, in Spain, I decided I should try to get a dive in so I contacted Ody Sea in Torredembarra. It's only 10 minutes on the train from Tarragona and then a walk to the marina. They've got their own cafe if you want breakfast before the dive or lunch after. I hired all the equipment and then I went out on one of their two RIBs to a site called Chaparo.
Most people in the UK dive in a drysuit. I did my AOW in an ill fitting wetsuit in Cornwall in May many years ago and can still remember the water pouring down the neck where it didn't fit very well. Since then my dives have all been mostly dry apart from when my zip started leaking badly.
Someone on a boat last year was telling me about how he had dived a tunnel near Lulworth Cove and he had video to prove it. So after the first dive on the Aeolian Skye this weekend, we went to look for it as a second dive. We were on a boat, but you could probably do it from shore and we were dropped near the west corner at the entrance to Lulworth Cove. We descended then came to the foot of the cliff in about 5m. Swimming westwards, eventually we found ourselves in a gully with the cliff on the right, and a ridge of rock going up to about 2m on the left.
On New Year's Eve 2016, I made my second trip to the Philippines. I flew direct from London Heathrow to Manila and then transferred onto a flight to Cebu. It was relatively painless as the terminals were adjacent to one another, both flights being with Philippines airlines. The other terminals are the other side of the runway and getting there involves catching a taxi which has to drive all the way round the airport on congested roads.
Just before Xmas, I went for a short break to Lanzarote and did 4 dives while I was there. It was good viz and there were lots of fish including some large barracuda. I also saw a couple of sea horses which was good. As I was on a hand baggage only flight and equipment hire was €40 for the 2 days, I decided not to take my own kit. Normally, I dive with a long hose and a wing, so a traditional regulator set up and a jacket BCD is a bit of a novelty for me. It wasn't too bad though, but the big difference I did notice was fins.
My previous experience of the Domincan Republic had been a week in an all inclusive hotel in the north with very average food and drinks of a dubious provenance served in plastic cups.This time, I booked a flight to Punta Cana with British Airways and a room in an apartment in Bavaro with booking.com. The taxi from the airport cost US$30, which seemed a little on the high side.