The 5 Best Scuba Diving Tips

Scuba Diving 2

You have completed your diving course and you have booked your ticket to one of the premier destinations from a vacation packages brochure.  You are so excited you cannot sit still, with thoughts of cruising through crystal blue waters, surrounded by brightly coloured tropical fishes, and possibly a sand shark or two.

But, you’re nervous. And, so you should be.  Swimming under water, never mind breathing under water, is as natural to humans as walking on land is to a whale.  We are not meant to be able to be one with our sea friends, yet, many do.

To ease your understandable worries, you need to be prepared.  Your course has given you the basics, and you should repeat those rules over and over in your head, until they are part of you like breathing (above the water, that is).

But, we have a few tips for you that will have you entering the water with confidence and coming out the other side in one piece. Okay, that was a bad joke!  No, really, you paid a lot of money to learn to scuba dive and get to that island holiday; so best you make the most of it.

  1. Equipment Savvy

You may have all the skill under the sun, but if your equipment fails you under the water, you will be in serious trouble.  From your wetsuit to your tank, from your goggles to your flippers, you want to know that, when you’re 20 feet under, you can rely on your equipment.  You don’t necessarily have to spend all your savings, but you also don’t want to be replacing gear over and over again.   There is something to be said for quality when it comes to scuba diving equipment.

  1. Safety First

Much like a skydiver will check his equipment before blasting off out of the plane, so should you be doing the same before blasting into the water.  Check for possibly-tearing belts, broken buckles, odd smelling air from your tank, if your air gauge is acting out in any weird way, and that you have enough air in your tank.

Besides your equipment safety, check the weather conditions, the sea conditions, and that you are feeling good yourself for a dive.  Most diving accidents are because of bad weather conditions, and divers not paying attention to this. There are many online weather sites as well as apps that will give you a few days and even hours ahead as to what the sea and outside conditions will be up to.

If you are not feeling 100%, like you have a cold, are tired, or even if you have muscle aches from previous sport activities, it is best not to go out and dive, unless you are quite experienced.  Rather spend the day relaxing in your comfortable manor house. As being under the water is unnatural for us humans, it is best to not put the body under too much extra strain.

  1. Never Dive Alone

No matter whether you have scoured the seas many a time, or you are a real newbie, it is always best to dive with at least 5 other divers, and to ensure that at least one of you have many dive hours behind you. If that’s you, great, but then prep your fellow divers, to make sure they are aware of the basic safety rules, as well as whether they are all in good shape.  Diving with the locals from where your vacation packages deal got you, is always a good call.  They will know the ins and outs of the terrain, where the sharks hide, and what areas are no-go’s.

  1. Communication is Key

As you are in a world where you cannot use your voice, it is ultimately important to learn to communicate in another way.  And, that other way is via hand signals. There are very specific hand signals that divers are taught in the beginning, and some even go as far as learning deaf hand signals, so they can have more than a cursory conversation.  They can talk about the sea life around them, as well as the vegetation.

Another way in which some divers chat to each other is via a slate board.  If the visibility is good, then this can prove to be a great way to get your message across, especially if you are not good with hand signals, or are a real beginner.

Besides being able to communicate with your diving companions, you need to be constantly checking in on each other, and making sure that everything is okay.  They will do the same with you.  A simple thumbs-up can put their mind at rest, and then everyone can enjoy their dive.

  1. Keep Calm and Keep Diving

Again, as being under the water is a foreign habitat for us, it is very easy to get into a panic, and fast.  The sight of a fin, or a black “something” passing across your visible periphery, can have you set into a flat spin.

And panic + water = disaster!

As you may be diving in close proximity to the others, there are chances you could kick their regulator out of their mouths, or sucker punch someone in the face or gut, simply because you panicked.

The most important part of feeling like you are going to lose it, is to focus in on your breathing.  Never, ever, stop breathing.  In fact, try to keep your breathing quite deep and slow, much like you would if you were having a panic attack outside of the water.

If you are in a situation where you feel less than comfortable, other than the obvious out-of-comfort-zone feel from being in the deep blue sea, then notify your dive master, or fellow divers.  It is best to listen to your gut and end the dive there and then.  There will always be other dives.

Scuba diving is a great sport and there are many magnificent dive sites around the world.  Being fit and confident is an important factor to taking on the world of diving, so adhere to general water safety rules, and remember to have fun.

The Rise of The UFC

The Rise of The UFC has been a meteoric one ... photo by CC user Kevlar on wikimedia commons (public domain)

Have you seen a fight recently? If you have, there’s an excellent chance it was an Ultimate Fighting Championship event, and not boxing.

The UFC makes for great odds and endless action for sports betting, so it’s easy to see why it is so popular. However, how has it gotten to where it is today? This post will chronicle the rise of the UFC, from being a supposed one-off fighting tournament on PPV, to the sports juggernaut it is in the present…

The early days

Billed in its infancy as a “war of the worlds” of marital arts by founding fathers Art Davie and Rorion Gracie, The Ultimate Fighting Championship (as it was known then) started out as an (almost) no-holds barred tournament of fighters from around the globe.

Any and all fighting styles were welcome, and very little was restricted within the confines of the Octagon (save for biting and eye gouging). There were no weight classes, and fights were decided solely by submission or TKO.

The initial pay per view did extremely well for such a new concept, drawing in over 86,000 buys in 1993. The creation of a sport was never Art’s and Rorion’s intent, but the novel concept of clashing styles and the brutality of combat had sports fans hooked, and pleading for more.

Government-led backlash leads to the adoption of rules

With public awareness slowly building of this exciting but incredibly violent sport, it was only a matter of time before people, citizen’s groups and politicians opposed to the latter development took notice. In 1999, Senator John McCain petitioned all 50 states to ban the UFC from competing in their jurisdictions; 36 complied with his wishes, putting the popular but fledgling sport in a bind.

Though there was a great deal of resistance to it, rules that would get the Ultimate Fighting Championship back on the bill throughout the USA began to emerge. Fish-hooking was banned, as was kicking the head of downed fighters, among other reforms.

Dana White joins with the Fertittas to buy the UFC

While they had gotten back on the map throughout most of the country in the year 2000, the economic damage done had them teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Recognizing the value of the UFC brand, casino magnates Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta joined with business partner Dana White swept to purchase the company. With tie-ins to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and plenty of advertising and marketing muscle at their disposal, they revived a sport on the edge of collapse, helping it resume its upward trajectory.

A reality TV show began the upward ascent of UFC to where it is today

For all their efforts up to 2005 though, growth remained stubbornly linear. At this time, reality TV shows were a hot trend that was shifting viewers away from sitcoms and toward shows based on the lives of real people. Lorenzo and Frank began to put together a show that would take advantage of this sea change in TV viewing habits, and later that year, the first season of The Ultimate Fighter aired on Spike TV.

Casual fans came to know the combatants, who were fighting for a six-figure contract to star in the UFC, as human beings, and not just as mere pugilists. Viewership numbers of PPV’s from that point on began to hockey stick, going from 300,000 buys in 2005, to 1.7 million for UFC 100 in 2009.

Save big on massage treatments with Groupon

There’s nothing quite like a nice massage at the end of the day to soothe those aches and pains. No matter if you’ve been hard at it at work, or slaving around the house doing chores all day, you’ll surely agree that spending an hour or two being pampered afterwards is pure bliss.

If only massages were cheap enough that we could enjoy them every day! Well, you might not be so lucky, but we can certainly help you to find such services at huge discounts. Just check out these special offers on Groupon’s health and beauty pages and you’ll be amazed how cheap it can be. This listing for massage in Boston is a great example of the promotions on offer.

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Groupon’s deal-a-day discounts are back!

Groupon wants to show that it can still make a fortune out of its deal-a-day coupon business model, and to that end it’s changing the way it offers up its discount vouchers. Nowadays, Groupon is all about combining business listings with its promotional vouchers, and it looks to be a great move for consumers.

When you visit Groupon next time, not only will you be able to search for detailed business listings for whatever service it is you need, but you’ll also be able to take advantage of some great promotions and discounts too. So go save some money, check out this Burger Burger listing in NYC to see what we mean.

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Beyond theme parks: Local Orlando highlights

Orlando is best known for its proliferation of theme parks, but this large city has delights that go far beyond cartoon characters and thrill rides. Locals love the city for more than its pixie dust. These popular destinations highlight a lesser-known side of Orlando that is well worth a visit.

Church Street – For Action-Packed Evenings

Nestled in the heart of Orlando, the Church Street district is popular for its night life. Things really step up around the holidays where traffic is blocked off so parties for events like Halloween and New Year’s Eve can literally spill into the streets. Popular bars like Chillers, Big Belly, and Latitudes keep things exciting year-round with weekly events and drink specials that draw big crowds. Several downtown hotels like the Grand Bohemian Orlando, Autograph Collection are just minutes from this popular area.

Lake Eola Park – For Outdoor Entertainment

Photo by Ivory Rines via Trover.com

Lake Eola Park offers a refreshing patch of nature in downtown Orlando. The park is dominated by Lake Eola. The signature fountain in the middle is the icon of the City of Orlando. A 0.9-mile path circling the lake offers a popular spot to jog or stroll. The Walt Disney Amphitheater hosts live performances, and many downtown festivals take place in and around the park. Lake Eola’s best-known residents are the live swans that fill the park. Visitors can get a little swan-like themselves with paddle boat rentals on the water.

The Orlando Science Center – For Kid Friendly Fun

Visitors of all ages can enjoy the immersive entertainment available at the Orlando Science Center. Over four floors, guests find exhibits that showcase live animals, dinosaur skeletons, and Florida farms. Children can watch bees build a hive, excavate a dinosaur fossil, or pick and sort play oranges at the Orange Grove Factory.

Local parents often opt for a season pass so they can return again and again for the experiments and exploration that never get old. You can enjoy convenient access to the Science Center during a visit to Orlando with a stay at a nearby hotel like the Comfort Suites Downtown.

The Dr. Phillips Center – For Live Performances

The Dr. Phillips Center is a new collection of entertainment venues with theaters for every type of performance. The Walt Disney Theater seats over 2,700 people, while The Bob Carr Theater is only slightly smaller with a capacity of just over 2,500. Both are ideal for Broadway performances, concerts, and other big events. The Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater offers an intimate setting with just over 300 seats and a multi-purpose space that accommodates live entertainment as well as special events like banquets.

Check the center’s schedule before booking your flights to Orlando and you can adjust your stay to coincide with performances from the Orlando Ballet, Orlando Philharmonic, and others. The packed schedule includes concerts, plays, musicals, comedians, and more.

While Orlando’s theme parks offer plenty of entertainment, this city’s lesser-known side offers just as much to explore. Find out what locals already know about Orlando’s diverse draws and try visiting one of these highlights in one of America’s most popular cities.

South Africa: A Top Destination in 2015

The Garden Route is one of the most precious treasures in South Africa ... photo by CC user dlbezaire on Flickr

After hosting the World Cup successfully in 2010, South Africa’s profile has been elevated in the international travel media, which has been transitioning to a respected nation in the world after the trouble filled times that defined much of its 20th century.

Below, we profile several South Africa multi centre holiday ideas that will help you make your trip there as good as it ought to be.

Go on safari in Kruger National Park

One of the activities that South Africa is best known for are wildlife safaris, as they enable foreigners to see animals (like lions, rhinos and giraffes) in the wild that they have only ever seen within the bounds of their local zoo.

There is no better place in the entire country to see these majestic animals then in Kruger National Park, which has protected the massive mammals located located therein since 1898. In addition to the safari tours that are widely available, visitors can also observe a restored village from the Iron Age which sheds light on human life in Southern Africa many thousands of years ago.

Explore the many wonders of the Cape Peninsula

Many tours begin or end in the Cape Town area, and there many things to do within the city and in the rural areas that surround it.

Colorful neighborhoods, outstanding restaurants and views from high atop Table Mountain are all great side attractions to the major historical sight in the area, which is Robbin Island, which is where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for decades during the days of Apartheid.

Outside the city, there are many vineyards that produce some of the world’s best wines, and along the coast, lucky explorers can get to see penguins waddling along the beaches on the Cape Peninsula.

Discover the Garden Route

If you feel like going on a road trip after puttering around the Cape Peninsula, then perhaps driving the Garden Route should be a quest that you should undertake, as it is one of the places in this nation that make it such an outstanding destination.

Named for the abundant vegetation that grows due to plentiful rains throughout the year, this road takes you along a route that is sandwiched between mountains and the Southern Ocean, with plenty of hidden sandy coves to discover along the way.

Whale and dolphin watching tours are available in many of the towns and villages on the route, so be sure to take a day to discover South Africa’s marine wildlife.

UPDATE: For more information on South Africa and other destinations across Africa and around the world, be sure to check out http://www.travel-spots.co.uk/ for the hottest places to travel in 2017.

The Great Hike: Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park ... photo by CC user GuyFrancis on wikimedia

Americans love it, the world is simply mesmerized by it, welcome to Yosemite National Park. Not so long ago, two great free climbers managed to scale the full height of Yosemites El Cap or Dawn wall.

This feat is not something that happens overnight; in fact, the two free climbers, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson planned their ascent for many years. Judging by their sheer dedication, Yosemite is really something worth traveling for. For your next itinerary, make sure that you have your ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) Visa with you for a smooth travel experience when entering the USA.

There are not so many free climbers in the world, some are just casual indoor wall climbers, myself included. But given the chance, I would also do my best to summit the magnificent and scary Dawn Wall of Yosemite.

Nonetheless, you dont have to be a professional climber to fully experience Yosemite. Any dedicated backpacker can explore Yosemite in a whole new way without clinging to ropes and sticking your fingers on a little crack on the wall to inch up closer to the summit.

Backpackers have the tendency to pack up heavily and chances are that they fail to even reach half of the summit because of dead weight. The novel idea is to leave almost all of the heavy stuff behind and just bring your normal day climbing stuff.

The popular High Sierra Camp Hikes offer the best hiking on Yosemite with the emphasis on convenience. High Sierra Camps allow you to hike the best high country trails without carrying over 40 kilos of heavy camping materials.

There are 5 camps on a stunning 85 kilometer loop, each with their own amenities such as tent cabins, cots, blankets, even the trekker friendly chuck wagon that spits outs ready-to-eat meals.

To make your hike easily manageable, you can start at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge tracking the loop from behind; think about it like reading a book starting from the last page.

The advantage of this method is that it somehow gives an illusion that everything is off to an easy start. However, nothing is easy on Yosemite National Park. You really need to work it if you want to enjoy your hiking adventure.

Tracking the river also allows you to pass through fantastic meadows littered with wildflowers all the way to Glen Aulin camp, followed by May Lake just 13 kilometers ahead.

When you get to the Sunrise Camp, you start having sudden surges of adrenaline. Whilst youre tackling Sunrise Camp, you can be invigorated by the breathtaking view of the early sun rays that hit the ground at first light.

The colors are simply stunning and for the lack of words simply profound. The technical climb is at the Matthes Crest, strictly for professionals only or if you have a background for really challenging climbs.

If time is not on your side, you can proceed directly to Vernal Fall whilst passing through the Mist Trails. The scenery here is simply stunning; with the the tall plume exhibiting natural light shows doing most of the talking.

Yosemite hiking is not for the faint of heat but with sheer dedication, anybody can discover the great secrets of the national park.

Want to check out the best part of West Africa? Check out the best time to visit Côte d’Ivoire…

With most of this nation's beaches being located in the equatorial zone, any time is the best time to visit Côte d'Ivoire

Knowing the best time to visit Cote d’Ivoire will allow you to make the most out of your trip in this West African country. Known for its pristine beaches, tourist villages and safaris, Cote d’Ivoire (or Ivory Coast) is one of the region’s best tourist destinations.

But who wants to go to the beach on a rainy season? No one. So it’s best to do your homework and research the best time to visit Cote d’Ivoire to make your trip worthwhile and memorable. Here’s a little guide to the country’s climate:

Climate in each region. Cote d’Ivoire’s climate varies depending on the location. Along the coast, the climate is tropical, while the far north has a semi-arid climate. The south, on the other hand has an equatorial climate with rainy seasons during May to November.

Climate in general. Cote d’Ivoire generally has three seasons: Warm and Dry, which lasts from November to March, Hot and dry, from March to May, Hot and Wet from June to November.

Weatherwise, the best time to visit Cote d’Ivoire would be from November to March when the temperatures are quite bearable and the humidity is quite low compared to the rest of the year, except in the southern parts of the country where the humidity remains high but still quite bearable.

If you’re heading out to the south, on the other hand, it’s best to avoid the rainy season which falls on May to November if you don’t want to be stuck in the hotel the entire duration of your trip in Cote d’Ivoire.

But be warned: from January to early February, the sand-laden wind from the Sahara called the harmattan blows and covers everything in yellow dust. So it’s best to avoid visiting Cote d’Ivoire during this time, unless you plan to stay indoors for the entire duration of your trip in the country.

The Best Brazilian Art Museums for the Refined Culture Hound

These works from the Museu de Arte Sacra rank among the best Brazilian art museums

Brazilian art is rarely pre-Columbian in nature and mostly a reflection of Western art. Portugal colonized Brazil in the mid-16th century, a time when most of the country was still primitive and had no specific art form.

By the late 16th century, local artistry was born thanks to Western influences and it continues to evolve until this day. The best Brazilian art museums are great places to witness local art and how it has evolved.

Museu de Arte Sacra, Mariana

The museum has some of the best collections of sacred Brazilian art. It can be found in Mariana, a small town located right outside of Ouro Preto. Museu de Arte Sacra also has an impressive collection of gold and silver artwork which complement the colonial mansion where they’re displayed.

Museu de Oratoria

It is located behind the main square of Ouro Preto. Just as its name suggests, the museum boasts a collection of oratories or small altars kept by home owners so they can pray without having to visit a church.

Oratories of different colors and designs are displayed on the museum. Among them are those of Afro-Brazilian origin which, due to the influence of Candomblé religion, are decorated with shells and flowers.

Ouro Preto is one of Brazil’s best preserved colonial towns. Although you can’t fly directly there, Belo Horizonte is about 100 km away and plenty of airlines like the biggest in the country, TAM, fly there.

Monument to Latin America

The landmark is not your typical Brazilian art but represents it nonetheless. It was designed by Oscar Niemeyer, a famous Brazilian architect. The monument is a good example of modernist Brazilian art. You can find it in São Paulo.

Pinacoteca de Estado

Situated in São Paulo, the city has a massive collection of Brazilian art from the 19th and 20th centuries. Among them are the creations of Alfredo Ceschiatti who is known for his Brasilia sculptures.

Museu de Arte Sacra, Salvador

Not to be confused with Museu de Arte Sacra of Mariana, the museum has one of the country’s best collections of Catholic art. Included in these collections are oratorios, oil paintings, and silver work. The Catholic Brazilian art works are displayed at the monastery connected to Igreja de Santa Teresa, a building with architecture worth admiring.

The Best Switzerland Attractions To See On Your Holiday

The best Switzerland attractions are the ones that involve the mountains in its scenic backyard...

Switzerland has more than vast Alpine meadows, luscious chocolate, and elegant watches to offer. The country also has a wealth of different attractions for nature lovers, adventurers, history buffs, religious faithfuls, and other kinds of travelers. The best Switzerland attractions caters to a wide variety of interests which in turn attracts tourists both young and old alike.

The Benedictine Convent of Saint John Mustair is a must-see for the faithful. It is thought to have been founded by Charlemagne. The date at which it was built is unknown but the murals inside the convent date back to 800 AD. Stucco artwork and Romanesque frescoes may also be seen in its interiors and contributes to its overall charm. The convent’s façade is rather simple and is probably the reason why most tourists don’t include it in their itinerary.

If you love architecture and nature, one of the top reasons to visit Switzerland is Chateau de Chillon. It is strategically located on the eastern edge of Lake Geneva. The beautiful Chillon Castle sits on top of jagged mountains. The castle appears to be surrounded by calm waters from afar and looks like a scene straight out of a movie. The reason why it was isolated is because it served as a medieval fort and prison. Long-abandoned, Chateau de Chillon is now open for tours and for exploring its natural surroundings.

The town of Bellinzona is strictly a historical-only landmark in Switzerland protected by fortified walls. Within its walls are the Castelgrande, Montebello, and Sasso Corbaro castles. On the contrary, a strict nature-only attraction in the country is the Jungfrau-Aletsch Protected Area. It is a glacial area with about 35,000 hectares of frozen mountains. It is also home to Aletsch, the lengthiest glacier in the Alps which stretch 23 kilometers long. Hiking, trekking, and skiing opportunities are available to visitors of this nature reserve.

If you’re taking kids with you and if you want them to have fun, take a train that passes through Albula and Bernina. Some of the country’s most scenic landscapes are along these train routes. It’s an effortless way of showing your kids the best of Switzerland. Meanwhile, travelers who adore art should stop by the Fine Arts Museum where works of Picasso, Monet, and other famous painters are on display. Products of Expressionism, Pop Art, and other kinds of art are also on display at the Fine Arts Museum.