Water // Water // Water – Diving // Sailing // Swimming
Helen’s passion her whole life has been the sea. When she’s not diving or taking photographs underwater, you can find Helen racing sailboats and spending as much time as possible at the shore swimming. Helen is an inspiration to the team at APPollo, she loves to explore and cares so deeply about others and the world we live in. She serves as a Board Member and former Board Chair of Reef Check Foundation, an incredible marine conservation foundation. Several times a year, she also leads underwater photography trips and workshops all around the world with Bluewater Photo Store, based in Los Angeles. Her images are truly phenomenal, I have added links to her work at the bottom of this article.
Here are some of her top tips on catching the best diving:
WHERE TO GO
Since travel for me is all about scuba diving, my favourite locations all centre on where the most underwater excitement can be found!
Cozumel and Baja peninsula, Mexico
If I had to pick one country to dive in for the rest of my life it would be Mexico. From coast to coast, Mexico has an amazing variety of dive destinations. To the East, in Cozumel, the currents sweep you past colourful reefs, and bull sharks lurk just off nearby Cancun. The Dives in Cozumel are my favourites. Local islands are hotspots for whale shark, manta and sailfish viewing. The hundreds of inland cenotes provide spectacular freshwater diving and further down the coast you can get up close and personal with large American crocodiles and even spot dugongs cruising past. To the West, the Baja peninsula gives access to the Sea of Cortez with its amazingly diverse array of marine creatures from playful sea lions to schooling rays and jacks and teh famous Sea of Cortez Sharks.
Guadalupe Island Shark Diving and Revillagigedos Islands, Pacific Coast
The Pacific coast offers exciting encounters with grey and humpback whales, striped marlin and blue and mako sharks. A boat trip from the north takes you to Guadalupe Island for cage diving with great whites and one from the south will bring you to the Revillagigedos Islands diving to play with giant manta rays and schooling hammerheads.
WHERE TO EAT / DRINK
My most memorable meals on the road have never really been in conventional settings - the lunch cooked on a camping stove by the captain’s wife on a Mekong river boat, the lion fish ceviche in the fisherman’s hut on Banco Chinchorro, the steak frites dinner made just for us, the only guests on the very unglamorous Oyster Island in Vanuatu, the simple buffets of small, local dive resorts in Asia… Four of the best would be:
Chez Pepe, Lebanon
We had a spectacular lunch overlooking the marina in Byblos, Lebanon called Chez Pepe. Beautiful views out over the Mediterranean and an easy walk from the local picturesque Roman ruins.
The Wine Cellar, Loreto
In Loreto, a fishing village in Baja California on the Sea of Cortez we kept returning to The Wine Cellar where we tried the whole menu and nothing disappointed, plus there were great cocktails and really friendly staff.
Dulce Romero, La Paz
Staying in Baja, California, we loved Dulce Romero in La Paz if you are on the lookout for Italian food in Mexico. A very unassuming little place easily walkable from the Malecon with fabulous pastas that I’m pretty sure are all home-made.
Manta Ray Bay, Yap
One hotel that is right up there on my list - Manta Ray Bay resort in Yap. Gorgeous little place on the water and the restaurant is actually an old boat with a micro-brewery!
Hidden gems are everywhere. For me they are the small, local hotels and the cafes where no tourists eat. I search out the family run, small establishments, often with a garden or a courtyard. No matter the price of the room, I am always disappointed with anywhere that calls itself a luxury resort and most are the same the world over. We just wander into wherever it looks like the locals are eating!
BEST TRAVEL / ‘TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN’ MOMENT
This is a tough choice! Being underwater with apex predators is always thrilling, so choosing between night diving in Fakarava, French Polynesia with hundreds of sharks in a feeding frenzy while trying to avoid being swept away in the strong current is right up there, as is being inches from the jaws of a big croc, hoping your camera rig would at least be his first mouthful. But I think top of the list has to be when I found myself in the freezing waters of northern Norway in January, in the middle of a pod of hunting orcas. On the surface I could see their fins all around me and under the water we locked eyes as they passed close by.
I’m getting pretty good at hiding my carry-on bags to avoid them being weighed as my underwater camera equipment weighs a ton! The best method so far has been having a travel companion look after them for me nearby during check in. So far so good…!!
FIRST TRIP AFTER LOCKDOWN
At the end of July I’m supposed to be heading to northern Canada to swim with belugas. I hear they are very inquisitive and of course there are only a few places they can be seen in the wild. If the border between the US and Canada is still closed at that time, I guess my first escape will be across the Pacific. I’ll be leading underwater photography workshops in Fiji and the Philippines later this year and diving in the Solomon Islands in between. I’m crossing my fins that all these trips can go ahead!
You can see more of Helen's pics on her website at www.HelenBrierley.com or on her instagram:
APPollo will be providing curated travel tips, guides and bitesize bespoke recommendations for you. Along with a handful of incredibly useful and beneficial tools to help you travel better and experience much more while away.
Subscribe now on the HOME PAGE to join the journey with us.