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Ao Nang, Thailand, 2016

Charlie Beardow, Dive Leader and Club Instructor

October 2016, Ao Nang Thailand.

For months before my trip, I researched many different dive companies in Thailand. I eventually finalised my location (with my sister’s recommendation) to Ao Nang rather than Phuket.

I decided to use Kon Tiki Dive Company, after reading many different reports and not being far from the hotel.  I emailed and reserved 4 days diving with up to 10 dives.

Upon arrival in Ao Nang, I went and registered with the dive company and completed all the paper work.

Next morning I was collected from the hotel and taken to a long boat for transfer to a larger dive boat. There were about 10 people diving with four guides. We had a major brief and introduction to the guides before being split into our smaller groups. Once in the small group we were given more detailed information on what we may see and procedures.

Day One went lovely, seeing all the fish and sea life. However, it was noticeable of a great amount of damaged corals. Once back aboard the boat we asked about the corals and informed that this was the result of the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004.

Day Two, We had new dive guides and new locations in the Bay of Thailand. Again, the dives were lovely and waters warm. One of the dives was next to a pinnacle of limestone that climbed out of the sea to about 100 feet with trees and other vegetation growing. Around the base, were many day boats with snorkelers swimming and splashing around. We jumped in and immediately dive onto an artificial reef.

Day Three, Only 1 dive today and my last in Thailand. The seas seemed a little rougher than the other days, and again another guide. 

I dive with a couple from the London region, the man had done about 100 dives but his wife was still relatively new to diving and was quite apprehensive about the sea state. The Guide takes the wife in as his buddy because of her apprehension and I dive with the husband. Once in the water the woman literally uses up all her air within 20 minutes because she is hyperventilating and a little panicky. She ends up next to me as we swim through a ball of fish. Whilst we are doing our safety stop, the woman is panicky so I hold her hand, stay with her until we surface, and get to the boat.

When I was trying to get onto the boat with the guide the captain decides to engage his boats propellers and move off, everyone shouts for him to stop and the guide and I eventually make it aboard. I am not happy with the sea state as it was 3 to 4 foot waves. I decide not to do anymore diving with the company and inform the lead dive guide of my decision.  Whilst they decide to do a second dive, I dismantle my kit and find that I had broken one of my BCD weight pocket pouch handles, so even if I had wanted to dive I would not have been able to ditch my weights if necessary. 

I never heard another word from Kon Tiki divers whilst in Ao Nang and when I eventually did hear from them, they claimed they tried talking to me on the boat. 

Moral of this story is, even if you do all the research into a dive company it may not turn out as you like.

Red Sea Liveaboard

January 2017

I’ve dived in Egypt many times over the last 15 years, exclusively from day boats in Sharm-el-Sheikh, but with the recent restrictions, getting to Sharm is far from straightforward at the moment. However, flights to Hurghada are readily available and as I’d never done a liveaboard before, I was rather excited at the prospect of a week aboard Bluefin.

My wife Anne and I, plus another couple of MAD Scuba Club members, Heath and Steve, arrived in Hurghada feeling a little worse for wear.  We had travelled over the Pennines to Manchester airport in the dark in a bit of a snow storm, waited in the snow for the Jet Parks bus and got rather cold. A few of us were still suffering from the after effects of a Christmas cold too, so not a good start to the holiday!  It was, of course, a little warmer in Egypt, but not as warm as we were expecting.  The temperature was in the low 20s during the day (cooler at night) and the sea breeze on the boat meant there was little chance for sun bathing and fleeces were very welcome.  It’s a good job we were there for the diving rather than the sun!

For those that have yet to try a liveaboard, I heartily recommend it.  It looks quite a bit more expensive than day boats initially, but when you consider that it’s an all-inclusive trip, the comparisons are a little more favourable. Note: there are some exceptions to the all-inclusive ticket, i.e. alcohol, but you shouldn’t be drinking that much on a diving holiday, liveaboard or not!

The food on the boat is nothing short of miraculous given the confined space the cooks have to work in. It’s plentiful and in my view, puts some top-notch hotels to shame. There are always at least 2 courses for every meal and snacks available in between. You won’t go hungry believe me!

The on-suite accommodation is good or great depending on how lucky you are with your cabin allocation. We had a one of the big doubles, which was fantastic, as good as many hotel rooms. We didn’t need the air-con at that time of year though!

So how does liveaboard compare? Everything is relative of course, but on a day boat it always feels a little bit of a rush – getting up and breakfasting at the hotel, catching the bus down to the jetty, travelling out to the first dive site in the hope that you get there before all the other boats, setting up your kit for every dive, including changing tanks and then the return journey back to port and your hotel, a quick shower and out to find something to eat, then start all over again tomorrow.

A liveaboard is an altogether more relaxed experience. You set up your kit once at the beginning of the week and that’s it. You use the same tank all week and it’s filled in situ between dives. Those choosing to roll out of bed for the optional pre-breakfast dive are woken with a cuppa and 30 minutes later you’re donning your kit for the first dive of the day. Including the night dive, there are 4 dives a day on offer, for all but the first and last day.

After every dive the crew are on-hand to assist in any way they can. They almost look annoyed if you try and do something for yourself – removing fins and gear and handing you a cup of hot chocolate as soon as you’re back on deck. Needless to say, that’s very welcome after a rather cool hour-long dive.  Perhaps I’m a bit of a wuss, but I’d recommend you pack a decent 5mm wetsuit for this time of year. The water temp was down to 22/23°C and my trusty 5mm is getting a little long in the tooth now and was barely adequate. I’ll certainly be taking another layer if I repeat this trip next year with the same suit.

We chose the Northern Wrecks and Reefs tour (www.blueotwo.com) and many of the dive sites will be familiar to those that have dived around Sharm before – Shark & Yolanda, Jackfish Alley, Thistlegorm, Dunraven.  Perhaps there wasn’t the abundance of life on some of the sites that I’m used to seeing later in the year, but it was January, so I guess that’s to be expected. It certainly beats 8 Acre Lake in January and I know, because I was in there the week before!

We did quite a few wrecks new to me such as the Dunraven and the Kingston (see below). None quite as impressive as the Thistlegorm, but I doubt there are many wrecks in the world that can match it.

The usual creatures were to be found without looking very hard. Blue-spotted rays and morays aplenty were on show, as were pyjama slugs.

The only thing I really missed was turtles. Other divers spotted one or two but I didn’t see a turtle all week. I don’t suppose we see that many later in the year, but this is the first diving holiday I’ve had there with none at all.

However, this was more than compensated for by the highlight of the week, a dive site called Dolphin House, which lived up to its name.

From a few minutes in, a mother and calf were buzzing one dive group after another throughout the rest of the dive. I was trying to take pictures of Anne and these pesky dolphins kept getting in the way!

It really was a most memorable end to the week and I will certainly be keeping my eye open for more liveaboard bargains in the future. If anyone is thinking of going and needs a buddy to take, stick me at the top of your list please!

New Year, new start – getting dive fit for 2017

There has been much said recently in the diving press about the importance to divers of ensuring they recognise the need to take responsibility for their fitness to dive.  Age does seem to be an emerging factor in relation to diving fatalities over recent years. Cumming and Watson (2016) in reviewing diving incidents in the UK in 2015 note, ‘Diver age and potential related health and fitness issues are still featuring and may be critical factors in this and recent years’ fatalities’. 

While diving includes a broad age range of people, the emergence of the sport over recent decades means that many divers are now reaching middle age and, therefore, are subject to the aging process as much as we all try and deny it.  As we age, we are naturally subject to wear and tear and for men from around the age of 45 years and women from around 55 years, it does appear that we are at a greater risk of the development in particular of coronary heart disease and its subsequent risk factors related to blood flow. 

It’s not all doom and gloom though, many people continue to dive into older age very safely. Older divers tend to take fewer risks and they tend to obey the rules.  And there are things we can do to ensure we dive safety as club members and dive buddies. These include having regular check-ups and taking advantage of screening tests that are now available from the age of 40 years from the NHS visit  http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/nhs-health-check/Pages/NHS-Health-Check.aspx  for more.   

As important is keeping fit through regular exercise thus ensuring your heart and general muscle strength are the best they can be. It is important to remember too, that chronological age can be markedly different from one’ s physiological age, the reason for this is often life-style based. One of my running friends was 75 years old last month, his current half marathon time is still better than mine has ever been! Younger divers too must take responsibility for their own health, well-being and fitness levels as much as older divers because we all rely upon one another when we are diving.  So, what can you do to ensure you are as fit as you can be as a diver for 2017?  Take up screening opportunities, manage your health conditions effectively with your medical practitioner, cut down on smoking, lose weight, try to build exercise into your life not just for the new year but throughout 2017 and beyond. 

Your club’s weekly pool session provides you with  a great opportunity to start to build regular exercise into your life when not scuba training.  So come on in buddies, the water is warm, start to get some decent lengths under your weight belt – I’ll see you in the pool in 2017.

Reference

Cumming, B.  & Watson, J.  (2016) National Diving Committee: Diving Incident Report 2016 British Sub Aqua Club.

Provided by Ruby Oates

Mansfield & District Scuba Diving Club

SAA Club Instructor Training

Congratulations to Elliott Kean on passing his SAA Club Instructor qualification today at the ScubaMAD clubhouse and Ashfield Leisure Centre pool. Elliott is one of our keen, Kean family, divers. Under the instruction and guidance of ScubaMAD’s Training Officer, Chris Kean (Dad), Elliott has progressed from joining the club as a diver trainee in 2011, to building up his experience in British quarries and seas and tropical waters of the Red Sea and Caribbean, developed to taking on more responsibilities as Dive Leader in 2014, to now starting on a path of teaching and assessing new divers in diving theory and diving skills in the safe confines of a swimming pool.

Elliott is (im)proving to be a strong asset to ScubaMAD. With his enthusiasm to increase his diving skills, he is in the process of training as SAA Rescue Diver and intends to progress to train and qualify as an SAA Open Water Instructor. With Elliott’s mature attitude and calm and patient manner, I’m certain he will become an excellent diving tutor and assessor. He will very likely attract more, younger prospective divers to the Club and will help maintain the philosophy of ScubaMad …to provide a safe introduction to diving in the company of like-minded people who give up their time to ensure the best possible training, with an emphasis on safety, in a friendly, sociable atmosphere.

Good luck Elliott, with your forthcoming Rescue Diver assessment and future diving skills training and development.

{From the website}