Before anybody makes any comments, yes I have stolen the “Dummies guide to….” title from John Wiley & Sons, Inc but maybe in the future I actually find the time to write a full Dummies guide on this topic but until then I think the title for this article is very appropriate!

 

As professional divers we can have a tendency to get a bit carried away when we are writing articles or giving descriptions of the type of diving that we are so passionate about. The end result is that the reader / audience gets bombarded by terminology, jargon, slang and other code words which leaves them confused and exhausted. The aim of this article was to write a short article in basic diving language that not only the existing diver can understand but also to enable even the “diver to be” to have a basic insight into the topic of side mount diving.

 

 Introducing Side mount diving.

 If you are a keen scuba diver or have an interest in the area no doubt you may find you spend some of your free time reading the latest scuba magazines, browsing the scuba diving websites, looking at various scuba diving facebook groups. Does that sound familiar? If yes, you may have noticed that over the last two years the term “Side mount” has been popping its head up more and more frequently. Now, not everybody understands what “Side mount” is, let alone to want to try it, so let us here at Tekstreme Diving try to explain what it is all about and to let you know how you can give it a go.

 

What actually is Side mount diving?

It can be as simple as stating…

 “Side mount is an scuba diving equipment configuration in which a diver is able to wear a tank on each side of his body instead of on his / her back”

Historically, side mount diving actually finds it origins from more extreme divers who wanted to explore the inner parts of cave and cavern systems. What they were finding is that with the normal scuba tanks attached to their back it made their overall size very large and cumbersome and it ultimately prevented them from moving through smaller spaces and penetrating deep into cave systems. So, they found a way to move the tanks from their backs to the sides of their bodies where they could easily detach them and swim though the smaller spaces with the tanks in front of their body.

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Now the big question why has it moved over to mainstream diving?

The side mount configuration has tremendous adaptability and its many other advantages have been embraced by the recreational scuba diver of various different experience levels. Along with the advances in equipment development and production by leading manufactures side mount has become much more mainstream that you would realise. A few of the key features of side mount diving include:

 

-       Less back strain

-       Easier movements top side

-       More manoeuvrability in the water

-       Redundant gas supply

-       Increased gas supply for longer dives

-       Ability to extend no decompression dives

 

 

Where do the tanks go?

Side mount tanks lie parallel to the body, below the shoulders and alongside the hips. The diver has two separate and redundant sources of gas and will breathe first from one tank and then the other, switching back and forth between two independent regulators on airflex hoses throughout the dive. The clips on the bottom of the tanks are attached just below the hip, and the top of the tank is secured by a bungee system, which allows the tanks to sit alongside the body comfortably.

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What about safety?

Whether diving a wreck, cave or open sea reef, everybody has recognized the safety and benefits of side mount diving. A side mount configuration gives a diver easier access to tank valves in an emergency; to be able to make gas shut downs or switch to a different breathing supply. Side mount configuration also makes it easier when divers need to swap in and out extra tanks in the situation of a low on gas or out of gas situation. The position of the tanks also gives the diver’s head greater range of motion for enhanced vision and comfort. With all the tanks being alongside the body rather than behind the body the diver can see all of their equipment easily.

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Is it heavy?

Not at all, actually the complete opposite. One major advantage for side mount enthusiasts is simply the management of what can be a heavy load. It’s easy to see the appeal of a system that allows for the placement of tanks in the water, allowing him / her to enter the water in nothing more than a basic harness system. The tanks then clip in, but with the weight burden significantly reduced through buoyancy in the water. Of course, when the dive is done the process is easily reversed, allowing divers to exit the water with the same ease, simply passing their tanks out and then climbing out with just the harness still in place. Older divers, divers with pre existing back, knee, joint issues, and petite women are a few of the dive demographics increasingly embracing side mount diving for these very reasons.

 

Does it increase my dive time?

For divers who previously have felt that their dive times have been restricted by their higher breathing rates the bonus of side mount diving is massive. Of course by carrying two cylinders you have double the volume of gas that you would normally carry! Rather than having to dive with a larger, heavier 15 litre tank, now you can carry two 12 litre cylinders which you can put on in the water. No more heavy loads to carry, but loads of extra diving time gained!

 

Where can I try it out?

Like all forms of specialized diving, divers should seek training to learn about side mount diving. Both recreational and technical certification agencies now offer side mount training, making it easier to find an instructor and a dive centre that can offer such courses. More and more side mount divers are seen on boats and at dive sites; ask their opinion on why they choose to side mount and what safety features are critical to the dive environment. There’s a wealth of information out there just waiting for you to ask the questions.

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So how long will it take to be a side mount diver?

It will likely take a few dives to balance the rig just right and to make the operation intuitive. Divers who want to get started in diving with side mount should take a structured course. Proper training will include removing a bottle underwater and swimming while pushing the tank in front of the body, donning tanks while floating at the surface, air sharing, gas management and deploying a surface marker. Working with an instructor will help the diver configure the finer parts of the rig, set up the tanks properly and make sure the trim is correct in-water. Courses are typically run over two days. How about make it as a combination with learning how to dive nitrox then you will really reap the benefits. Before you plan your diving holiday get in contact with your preferred diving center to check of they have the availability of side mount courses (not all dive centres can currently offer these side mount courses)

 

So lets have a go at cutting through some of the jargon….

 

A = Air flex hose

Light and extremely flexible, Airflex hoses carry an average lifespan that is 3 x longer than standard rubber hoses. Built with durability in mind, Airflex hoses are designed with excellent protection against abrasion, damage caused by UV rays and gear pinches. Their kink-resistant design means you can tie the Airflex hose into a knot and still have continuous air flow. Burst pressure is several times that of traditional rubber hoses and our Airflex hoses are suitable for use with any gas mixture.

B = Bungee

Shock cord that can be used for multiple functions in the scuba diving world. Found in side mount diving for attachment of the tank valve to the harness. Comes in various lengths and thicknesses.

C = Cave

A cave is defined as “A large hole that is formed by natural processes in the side of a cliff or hill or under the ground”

D = D – Ring

There are many different types of attachment rings on the market that the diver can attach to their harness to make tank attachment easy. Typically they are called D rings. The D-ring is the best way to create an attachment point on soft webbing. D-rings are available in various sizes and with differing angles. Made of marine grade 316 stainless steel they will last in fresh and salt water environment

E = Enriched Air Nitrox

Enriched Air Nitrox refers to any gas mixture composed of nitrogen and oxygen; this includes normal air which is approximately 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and 1% other gases. However, in scuba diving, nitrox is normally differentiated and handled differently from air. The most common use of nitrox mixtures containing higher than normal levels of oxygen is in scuba, where the reduced percentage of nitrogen is advantageous in reducing nitrogen uptake in the body’s tissues and so extending the possible dive time, and/or reducing the risk of decompression sickness

 

F = Flexibility

The side mount diving approach offers divers significant benefits to the flexibility of their approach. Unlike back-mounted doubles, acquiring and transporting side mount suitable cylinders is often much more convenient and accessible. Side mount diving configuration allows the travelling diver to conduct technical and/or overhead environment dives without having to source traditional back-mounted twin cylinders.

H = Hybrid Harness

Specialised side mount harnesses are available ‘off-the-shelf’ commercially. Some of these are designed specifically for side mounting only, but others are ‘hybrid’ designs, enabling the diver to swap between side mount and back-mounted cylinders, as needed.

N = No Decompression time

A no-decompression limit (NDL) is a time limit. No-decompression limits vary from dive to dive. A diver who stays underwater longer than the no-decompression limit for his dive can not ascend directly to the surface, but must pause periodically as he ascends to avoid a high risk of decompression sickness. A diver should never exceed a no-decompression limit without specialised training in decompression procedures.

P = Pressure gauge

To monitor breathing gas pressure in the diving cylinder, a diving regulator usually has a high pressure hose leading to a contents gauge (also called pressure gauge). The contents gauge is a pressure gauge measuring the gas pressure in the diving cylinder so the diver knows how much gas remains in the cylinder. It is also known as submersible pressure gauge or SPG. Typically in side mount configuration the pressure gauge is attached to a short, typically 6 inch hose.

R = Rig

The term given to the total set up of side mount equipment. To be exact it can be defined as “a device or piece of equipment designed for a particular purpose”

S = Streamline

Side mount diving configuration places the cylinders under the diver’s armpits, in line with their body. This decreases water resistance (improving air consumption and reducing fatigue) whilst also allowing the diver to pass through smaller restrictions than would otherwise be possible in back-mounted cylinders. The flexibility to remove tanks, and propel them in front, allows the diver to pass through very small passages and holes when penetration diving – being limited only by the size of their bodies and exposure protection

T = Trim

Underwater trim is the diver’s attitude in the water, in terms of balance and alignment with the direction of motion. Accurately controlled trim reduces swimming effort, as it reduces the sectional area of the diver passing through the water.

W = Wing

An inflatable buoyancy bladder known as a wing, that is fixed between the backplate and the diver. Wings come in various sizes with varying lift volumes. Types of include the Hollis SMS 50, or the Dive Rite Nomad

 

To summarise….

 

So hopefully in this short article we have managed to give you the reader a better understanding of what side mount diving is all about. It is not just for the hard core technical deep cave divers, quite the contrary, it is readily available and can be of great benefit to the diver beginning his / her scuba adventures. You don’t need fancy mix gas computers or the most expensive fins or to wear all black equipment, no, you simply need to have an interest in a different style of diving, enthusiasm and an open mind to learn. The world of side mount diving is out there for everybody.

 

If you would like to join one of our recreational safaris where we will be running side mount courses simply drop us an email to info@tekstremediving.com

The safari dates with current availability this year are:

 15th August – 21st August 2014

10th October – 16th October 2014

 

There will be a maximum of 6 students per trip so email us early to secure your place.

 

Cat Braun 

Tekstreme Diving Manager

Way down in the middle of the Red Sea you will find an Island called Rocky Island. Situated on the surrounding reef lies quietly the wreck of the Maiden. This particular wreck is probably the least dived in the Red Sea due to its depth and remote location; beginning at 90 metres and going to a maximum of around 125m. Tekstreme will be running another expedition to go and dive this wreck next summer time. There are not many divers that can say that they have been and visited this wreck, it certainly is one for the log book! (if you even have a log book!). The trip only has a few remaining places left so contact us soon if you would like to join. We only put a maximum of 16 technical divers on board for your comfort so don’t miss out….

The Wreck

Built by W Hamilton & Co (Glasgow), the Maiden was launched in March 1902 and officially described as Steel Screw Steamer. A very large ship for her day, She was 152.4m (500 feet!) long, 17.7m wide and had a draught of 10m. The Maiden was owned and operated by T & J Brocklebank who were much respected throughout the world and something of a legend in Liverpool. The Maiden had been used exclusively on the Eastern Trade routes, operating between European Ports and India. It was in 1923 that a navigational error resulted in the ship hitting the south side of the Rocky island.

Basic Information – 18/09/15 – 25/09/2015

  • Port of Departure = Marsa Alam
  • Port of Return = Marsa Alam
  • Boat = Emperor Elite
  • Level of technical diver = Advanced Trimix diver CCR or OC
  • Courses Available = Trimix CCR and OC on request
  • Number of dives = minimum 7 / maximum 8
  • Number of technical divers = 16 divers
  • Recreational divers welcome upon request (subject to conditions)

Included in the price

  • 7 nights accommodation
  • Airport transfers
  • Marine Park Fees
  • Fuel surcharges
  • All food and soft drinks on board
  • Wine with evening dinner
  • Twin set hire
  • CCR tank hire
  • 2 x Decompression tank(s) hire with rigging
  • 2 x Bailout tank(s) hire with rigging
  • Twin set air gas fills
  • CCR oxygen fills
  • CCR air fills
  • Emergency Surface marker buoy hire

Wreck Dives

  • Zealot @ Daedalus
  • Maiden @ Rocky Island

 

Reef Dives

  • Daedalus Reef
  • Elphinestone

 

(Please note dive sites are subject change due to weather conditions and level of technical divers on board. Please also note that night dives are not permitted at Daedalus reef or Rocky Island)

 

Itinerary:

Day 1

Dive 1 – Local check out dive around Marsa Alam

Dive 2 – Elphinestone Reef Archway

 

Overnight travel to Daedalus Reef

 

Day 2

Dive 1 – Wreck of the Zealot

Dive 2 – Wreck of Zealot or Reef

 

Overnight travel to Rocky island

 

Day 3

Dive 1 – Wreck of Maidan

 

Day 4

Dive 1 – Wreck of Maidan

 

Day 5

Dive 1 – Wreck of Maidan

 

Day 6

Dive 1 – Elphinestone reef

Dive 1 – Local dive Marsa Alam

Email us to place your booking tekstreme@emperordivers.com.

The trip price is only 1318 euros per person.

Truly magnificent….that is how we can sum up our most recent northern technical safari!

Armed with a boat full of open and closed divers of all levels we set sail to go and explore the wrecks and reefs of the northern Red Sea. All the guests arrived on board the platinum boat Emperor Elite, our home for the week, on the Friday night. After a couple of hours of completing paperwork, setting up equipment and getting familiar with the boat, it was time for a sleep before we left the port the following morning. (I actually managed to find time to sneak away to watch Wales demolish France in the six nations rugby game! So for me it was already a great start to the week!)

The first reef we headed to was within the Hurghada region at a site called Gota Abu Ramada. This shallow reef provided the perfect location to check that all equipment was working correctly, make sure the weighting of the divers was fine and generally get back into the swing of things. After lunch we then began our journey towards the north, stopping off at the island of Umm Gammar to give the divers their first decompression dive. For most divers the planned maximum depth was between 40 – 50m with run times of anyway between 1hr – 1hr 30mins.

The plan for the following day was to visit the grandiose wreck of the Rosalie Muller. This second world wreck which lies in a maximum depth of 45m is a personal favourite of mine. The visibility in this area is typically less than on outside reefs which instead of being a negative point actually makes this dive more atmospheric and appealing. The bonus of this relative shallow depth is the huge bottom times that can be achieved to explore the wreck. As we were at the location all day the divers we able to make two long deco dives in the wreck, under the wreck, over the wreck, on the sides of the wreck, you can confidently say no part of the wreck was left unexplored!

Deck of Rosalie Muller

Deck of Rosalie Muller

After we left the Rosalie Muller we made the crossing over to the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula to sleep for the night before heading up to the straights of Tiran early in the morning. The first dive we had planned there was to dive the wreck of the Lara. This particular dive does require the wind strength to be lower due to the wrecks location on the north side of Jackson reef, which is the uppermost of the four reefs that make up the straights of Tiran. Upon arrival we were pleased to see that the weather conditions were good and we managed to take the zodiacs and drop directly onto the wreck. The wreck itself has split into a few sections as it came to its final resting place. With a maximum depth of around 80m it makes for an interesting dive to move from piece to piece getting progressively shallower. Jackson reef itself is a stunner. The amount of soft and hard corals growing on the walls makes for a dive in itself, how blessed are we that we get to dive wreck and reef in one.

Stern of the Lara

Stern of the Lara

The plan for the following morning was to visit the very well known Thomas Canyon. I don’t know anybody that has done this dive and said that they did not enjoy it. The topography is simply amazing. This narrow canyon that can be entered from as shallow as 43m slowly and steadily drops down to around 90m. There are natural arches formed by large boulders which make for some fantastic pictures and visual features. You are protected from the current completely once you are inside the canyon and so it makes for an effortless swim though. Upon exiting the canyon, the current was heading from south to north and was running quite well, for sure we do not swim into this current but instead, we get to fly along the reef enjoying this current all the way until the northern tip. The faces of all the guests when they came out of this dive is a perfect picture. Happy divers.

Inside the Thomas Canyon

Inside the Thomas Canyon

On this trip we were lucky to have a trained Hyperbaric doctor on board. Dr Mattjin Buwalda kindly offered to give an evening presentation on decompression sickness, treatments, preventions and general theory. This was very well received by all the guests and is always good knowledge to have and be up to date with the latest information. We hope to make Mattjin a regular feature of our trips to give his invaluable information to guests on our trips to come.

DCS Presentation

DCS Presentation

By now had reached the half way point of the week and began our journey travelling down to the south. Before sunset we stopped off at the wreck of the Dunraven located at Beacon Rock for some divers to make a second dive. It also gave myself and Chris an opportunity to try our Bonex scooters! We managed to dive from the boat, to the wreck and back again in under 40mins! (and of course wave at everybody on our way by!)

The following morning marked our last dive in the Sinai region, and what better dive to finish with but Shark and Yolanda Reef at Ras Mohammed. The surface conditions were flat like a lake and with a mild current a good dive was had by all. Most divers made a slightly shallower dive here, between 40 – 50m as they were saving their energy for the challenge of Abu Nuhas! Can they manage to do all four wrecks in one hit?!

The reef of Abu Nuhas has been the devil for many a boat captain over the years and the end result us that we have four large wrecks all on the north side of the reef just waiting for technical divers to come and try to dive all of them in one go. With the guests that were on the boat it was a given that they would try this challenge and for sure they would conquer! (I think they will all admit that they were quite tired at the end!) But, a great achievement nonetheless.

Structure of Ghiannis D

Structure of Ghiannis D

Our final dive of the week was to dive the deep wreck of the Gulf Fleet which lies off the side of the reef Shaabrugh Umm Gammar. At a maximum depth of 105m it would be a great dive to finish the week. Unfortunately the wind conditions had picked up substantially which made the dive unsafe to do. The current was mild but due to the location of the wreck it was unsafe to try and get divers in the water at that location. There were many disappointed faces, but for sure all divers appreciate that safety is first, and the wreck will be there for years to come. We did manage to still dive the wreck of the Colona V slightly further down the reef in more sheltered water so overall still a nice end to the diving week.

This week was a first for me to try my hand at videography. Please bare in mind I had never ever even used a video camera on land so the small clips produced are for sure from an amateur, but hopefully it will give you an idea of some of the sites that we visited. You can check out the videos by heading to:

 

Back in port there was only one thing left to do, go out into town to celebrate, remissness and look back over our amazing week. In the newly opened South Beach bar in the centre of town the drinks were flowing, the live music was excellent and the dancing skills of the guests was interesting (think we should all stick to diving!)

Final night out

Final night out

Many, many thanks to all the guests on board our trip for providing a great relaxed atmosphere and for sure a week to remember.

Our next technical safari is in June to go and visit the breath taking sites of the Brother Islands. Wrecks, reefs and sharks all in one trip, certainly one not to miss. If you would like to join us on this trip, you can get in contact we us at info@tekstremediving.com and we can provide you with all the details.

Cat Braun – Technical Manager

Part One – Port Ghalib (Marsa Alam)Port Ghalib

Since 2002, the Port Ghalib International Marina has been a crowning feature in the community. With space to accommodate up to 1,000 yachts, it makes for a stunning harbour display. The award-winning International Marina is fully staffed with Harbour Master, Customs and Immigration office for traveling ships, as well as fully equipped repair and fueling facilities.
As Egypt’s first private seaport, the marina is upheld to international standards by UK based marina company Camper and Nicholson, who have acted as the marina’s operator consultants since 1999.

The half a mile peninsula features multiple venues for dining, entertainment, boutique shopping, cultural expeditions into both antique and modern art, facilities for outdoor activities and a lively night life.

Further inland, discover a traditional Egyptian bazaar in the Khan, where history comes alive with the collection of perfumes, jewels and other treasures, creating an authentic experience of Egypt’s rich merchant culture.

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Port Ghalib is a waterfront premier integrated resort community situated on 18 kilometers of virgin shoreline. Located in the rising city of Marsa Allam, Port Ghalib is an investment that is already redefining the exotic coast of the Red Sea Riviera. The dazzling 8 million square meter master plan planned to contain a plethora of investment opportunities ranging from luxury beach front villas, elite golf estates, and superior Marina apartments to internationally renowned hospitals, schools, spas, water parks and international luxury hotel chains. With a variety of high-impact and low-impact land, water, and desert activities, Port Ghalib truly is A World of its Own.

 

Living up to the reputation of the marina the scuba diving options are also amazing. Lets have a look at some of the dive sites:

Torombi

Our furthest north site and one for good weather only, Torombi always gives a wilderness feel. Immaculate corals underwater, an undeveloped coastline view – and often you’ll be the only boat there! Usually a school of barracuda meets the divers under the boat in summer months and mesmerise with their movement. Moving around the pinnacles at the deeper part you will spot rays, Scorpionfish and Lionfish before ascending to the finger-like walls on the eastern side of the largest pinnacle. Here the colourful hard corals are host to thousands of small reef fish, and perhaps even a Hawksbill Turtle.

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Torfet Ali

Only 10 minutes north of Port Ghalib, the 5 sites of Torfet Ali all have deep, blue water and sections of steep drop-offs. While advanced divers will enjoy drifting along at depth, those who want to stay shallow will find sand shelves and reef tongues to explore. Whatever depth you are, keep an eye out in the blue.  Large tongues of coral form slopes and small canyons on this dive meaning the scenery is always changing. Expect large schools of fusiliers to accompany you as you explore the coral beds and the sand strips. Critters such as Whip Coral Gobies can be spotted here, but of course the shallows are packed with Butterflyfish, Angelfish and Goatfish.

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Marsa Mubarak

Our nearest and largest bay which provides a huge range of dive sites suitable for all levels of diver and snorkeller. If you would like to see the famous Dugong, you will have a good chance in this bay. A favourite for photographers due to the patient fish life, this site, named after the word ‘school’ due to it’s versatility for training course does not immediately ‘wow’ the diver like some of our others. However dive slowly and you will find stonefish, scorpionfish, pipefish, frogfish and crocodilefish living amongst the nooks and crannies. When you head around the corner, you are confronted with a set of pinnacles swarming with juvenile fish and their ever present predators, and even an anemone city. Quite often, this is the site people ask to dive again!

 

Halg Salmaan

Salmaan’s throat – a cut in the reef that doesn’t reach the shore – is a site that is relatively undived. 2 very different dive sites are available here, between them a lagoon that often welcomes pods of Spinner Dolphins.

 

Marsa Shouna (Shouni Kebir)

A favourite spot of liveaboards and daily boats alike, Shouna is one of those areas where you can have magic encounters. Littered in table corals of all shapes and sizes, pick your depth on the gradual slope and see what’s hiding beneath each one. Of course blue spot rays are abundant, but certain times of year bring in breeding guitar rays and other surprises. Cleaning stations up and down the reef serve the resident schools of snappers, batfish, goatfish and fusiliers. Crocodilefish, lionfish and scorpionfish lay in wait for the meals to come to them and the keen eye will spot more camouflaged critters on this site than any other. This is a dive you could do again and again…

 Tekstreme-88

Ras El Torfa

Good visibility and excellent corals are a safe bet as Ras El Torfa and there is always the chance to see turtles, rays and even sharks. Hawksbill turtles are regular visitors and there is a pinnacle infested with boxer shrimp for the macro lovers, but the coral is the star with beds of goniopora mixing it with huge salad corals. Exploring further south you could spot a turtle or two, but on the way back watch out at 9mt for one of the most picturesque pinnacles in this area, complete with a totally undamaged table coral that plays host to the secretive lemon coral goby. For advanced divers only, seeing the ‘big ball’ loom out of the distance at a depth of 25metre and going downwards is a memorable experience. On the outer edge of this unique coral formation the drop off extends below 50mt and you are right out in the blue, meaning big life encounters are possible.

 

Marsa Shouni Soraya

A very narrow bay an hour south of Port Ghalib, Shouni Soraya provides easy access to 3 very different dives. Cross the sand plateau on the south reef, keeping your eyes out for large rays as you do. You then hit a series of 3 large pinnacles out in the blue, smothered in the bicolour chromis fish – giving the site its name ‘half and half’. Barracuda and rays can surprise you on these pinnacles, before you cruise back along the south reef wall.

 

Marsa Morena

Our furthest site accessible locally, this idyllic palm tree lined bay is a beautiful place to moor up and dive in. Best explored at depth to start with, the overhangs and whip corals make nice scenery. Shallow up and explore the pinnacle in the centre of the laggon for loads of critters before drifting over the reef tongues and sand patches, enjoying the table corals scattered across them. On the way over you’ll go across a deep patch of seagrass where we often spot small green turtles and even from time to time Dennis, the dugong of Abu Dabab fame. On the way back you’ll do your safety stop on a 5mt sand plateau covered in soles, flounders and partner gobies.

 

Sharm Abu Dabour

The housereef at our Moreen Beach Dive Centre. Known as one of the most beautiful shore dives in the region, stunning scenery and wonderful marine life combine for awesome diving days. Start from a shallow pool and follow a guideline underwater to twist you down to 4 metres through a coral canyon. Move into a shallow cavern and be awed at the light coming in from different angles around you. Exit the cavern at 7 metres and drop down the reef wall to depth. Follow the hard coral tongue down to your desired depth looking for turtles as you go. Look at every whip coral for gobies and shrimps, and keep an eye in the blue for bigger creatures. Shallow up and return back, either coming back through the cavern or doing a gentle stop in the lagoon. Large triggerfish can be found around here, and dolphins and eagle rays can make an appearance too.

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Sha’ab Abu Dabab

Accessible in less than 15 minutes by fast RIB from our Moreen Beach Dive Centre, these offshore sites have great visibility, fantastic marine life encounters, swim-thrus, pinnacles and even a small wreck. Sha’ab Abu Dabab 1, 2,3, 4, 5, 6 & 7 – Imaginatively numbered and not individually named, these rarely dived reefs leave a lot of room for exploration. Most have a deeper, East side facing into the waves and prevailing current and can be a place to drift dive and spot larger pelagic life. The West sides offer more protection, shallow slopes, pinnacles and swim-thrus. Every dive will be different and you’ll be very unlucky to see another dive group on your dive!

 

 

Elphinstoneoceanic

A world famous offshore reef, Elphinstone is the jewel in our crown. Sheer walls and sometimes currents at exhilarating speeds make this one for advanced divers only but it will be one you remember. Dive the east wall in the morning and the west in the afternoon to make the most of the sun, and light up the abundant soft corals. Anthias smother the walls and large gorgonian fans and black corals hide critters such as the infamous longnose hawkfish. Keep an eye out in the blue for resident schools of snapper, large barracuda and enormous Napoleon wrasse. The north and south plateaus drop to over 100 metre in depth but can be a place for very special encounters – manta rays, silvertip, tiger, grey reef and hammerhead sharks have all been seen here and cruising the shallows at the right time of year can be curious silky and oceanic whitetip sharks. Lying under the southern plateau at a depth of approximately 55 – 60m,  is a natural archway allowing divers to swim from one side of the reef to the other. An awe-inspiring image that will stick in the memory for a life time.

Brothers tec 2013-97

 

 

How to get to Port Ghalib….

 

We’ve arranged a new, affordable way for you to come and dive in Marsa Alam!

Whether you’re a regular Marsa-lover, or want to try this great diving destination for the first time, finding good value or convenient flights to Marsa Alam Airport, especially from the UK, can be difficult. Monarch have announced that they are operating 3 flights this summer to Hurghada from Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham. If you book soon you can get them at very reasonable prices. So how about a helping hand and a free ride? For all guests arriving in Hurghada on Fridays we will provide you with a free of charge transfer to and from Marsa Alam. But what if you can’t arrive on a Friday? Don’t worry we have a standard price of 25 Euro /£21 for a ‘round trip shared transfer’ Hurghada Airport – Marsa Alam Hotel – Hurghada Airport. Just book your Marsa Alam package and add the transfer – nice and simple.

If you would prefer to fly into Marsa Alam itself you can check out the flight options provided by Thomsons and Egypt Air. We can book your hotel for you and arrange for you to be collected form the airport.

Diving in Marsa Alam has just got a lot easier, so come and check it out with the Tekstreme Team

Cat Braun – Tekstreme Diving Manager

 

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So the dates have now been released and back by popular demand….

 

Tekstreme will be offering a fully equipped technical safari to include the Brother islands from the 6th June – 13th June 2014Image

The itinerary (weather dependant) should include:

 

Panarama Reef in Safaga

The stunning walls of Small Brother Island

The Wreck of the Numidia on Big Brother Island

The Wreck of the Aida on Big Brother Island

The Wreck of the Salam Express in Safaga

The Wreck of the Gulf Fleet in Hurghada

The Wreck of Colona V in Hurghada

 

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There will be only 16 places available, and these spaces are available for all levels of technical diver. Trimix certification is not  a requirement but would be of benfit. All levels of technical courses and Gas Blending courses can all be run on board.

The boat will be the Gold boat “Superior” from Emperor Divers. Check out http://www.emperordivers.com/liveaboards-fleet-superior.php for more details and specifications of the boat

For a more information on how to join our summer time technical safari contact me directly at tekstreme@emperordivers.com

The price for the trip is only 1172 euros.

This price includes:

7 nights accommodation

Food and soft drinks on board

All Marine Park fees & Fuel surcharges

Transfers to and from the airport

Twin set hire or CCR tank hire

2 x Decompression / Bailout tanks

All Oxygen fills for CCR

Dont hesitate to book yourself and join us on some of the greatest tech dives in the Red Sea.

Cat & the Tekstreme Team

The M26 saga!

Posted: November 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

ImageSome time ago the bureaucrats in Brussels decided that some new regulations were needed regarding the transport of gases under pressure. They decided that each gas should have its own individual tank valve fitting, so that the wrong gas could never be put into a particular cylinder. There was already a DIN fitting for use with air cylinders (DIN being the German standards body), so they decided to stipulate an entirely different fitting for use with air mixes with a higher content of oxygen than normal – nitrox or oxygen.  They came up with the M26 valve thread, with a larger diameter than the now familiar DIN fitting.  This is the type of scuba cylinder valve that must be fitted to any new cylinder that is going to be used with any gas greater than 22% oxygen, this is a European directive that came into force in August 2008. These valves will match any regulator supplied in the European Union which has been designated for use with gas containing an oxygen content greater than 22%.

 

In simple terms if you buy a new set of regulators for nitrox use they will come with a M26 fitting and if you buy a new cylinder for nitrox use then it will come fitted with a M26 valve. It looks similar to the Din type of valve, just slightly bigger. The valve should have the information stamped or etched on the valve itself.

 

It is important for recreational scuba divers, technical divers and rebreather divers travelling outside of Europe who have these M26 regulators to recognize that this directive is purely within Europe. When you travel to other continents i.e Africa, Asia etc it is strongly advisable to check with the diving operator to ensure that either; there are tanks available with M26 threads or they can supply an adaptor. In many countries outside of Europe it is very difficult even, on some occasions not possible to purchase the specific M26 tanks or adaptors. If this is the case you will need to remember to take with you your own adaptor.

 

So remember if you have a M26 regulator check with your diving operator what the options are before you travel!

 

Cat Braun – Tekstreme Diving Manager

Maidan Expedition Diary

Posted: November 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

So finally summer time arrived and our long awaited expedition to explore the wreck of the Maidan could begin.

The mission of the trip was to comprehensively map the wreck of the SS Maidan. Built by W Hamilton & Co, the Maidan was launched in March 1902 and officially described as Steel Screw Steamer. A very large ship for her day, She was 152.4m long, 17.7m wide and had a draught of 10m. The Maidan was owned and operated by T & J Brocklebank and had been used exclusively on the Eastern Trade routes, operating between European Ports and India. It was in 1923 that a navigational error resulted in the ship hitting the south side of the Rocky Island towards the southern end of the Red Sea.Image

The wreck was discovered a few years ago but due to its depth and remote location it has not been dived so much and as a result there is not much information available for an accurate description of its current condition and layout. There were a few pictures available on the web with a brief description but nothing in more detail. Hence, our expedition.

This trip is quite a unique expedition and run fairly in-frequently due to the experience level of the divers required. The shallowest part of the wreck is at 83m going down to a maximum depth of around 125m. It goes without saying that the trip is only available for Advanced Trimix divers. Realistically when diving to these depths the trip it is more geared at the Closed circuit rebreather divers. Open circuit divers can dive the wreck, and we in fact had two open circuit trimix divers on board, but the limitations of the gas that you can carry which has a direct affect on the bottom time possible becomes very apparent as does the gas bill for helium!

As a secondary mission we also planned to make a pit stop at the reef of Daedalus Reef to dive the wreck of the Zealot. The Zealot was a “spar decked double skinned iron hull screw steamship”. Originally named the Helme Park at John Readhead and Company, UK, for William Wright, an owner of numerous other merchant vessels. The ship was launched on 30 January 1873 with a length of 73 metres. Propulsion was provided by a compound steam engine which generated 120 horse power delivered to a single screw for a top speed of 12 knots. It was on the Zealot’s final voyage heading towards Bombay that it was once again a navigational error that led to its demise in either 1876 or 1887 (the exact date is still unclear)

Our floating luxury hotel for the week was provided by Emperor Divers in the form of their platinum boat called Emperor Elite of which we boarded in Port Ghalib marina, Marsa Alam. The 38m long wooden safari boat provided a spacious dive deck area for the multiple large cylinders of oxygen and helium on board, lots of tubs of sofnolime, as well as a twin piston booster pump and blending panel for custom mixing all desired gases.Image

After a local check dive to make sure all equipment and CCR units were functioning correctly we headed further afield to make our first decompression dive at the well known Marsa Alam reef of Elphinestone. Tucked underneath the southern plateau there is a spectacular feature that we refer to as the “Arch way”. It is a passage that can take you underneath the plateau from east to west or vice versa. Due to the large size of this passage way it looks like a giant archway on approach. The current on the day was fairly mild and so it was a nice gentle swim through the arch, but please note the current in this area can be quite strong and sometimes the arch way may not be advisable!Image

Once all divers we back on board we began our journey to Daedalus Reef. The weather conditions were perfect and it made for calm sailing into the night.  Once the sun was up it was time to go and find the wreck and get the exact GPS coordinates so that all the divers could be dropped directly onto the wreck. The rough location of the wreck is no secret and not rocket science to figure it out when looking at the journey the ship was taking when it came to meet its end, however, to get the exact position takes a bit of experience and knowledge of the reef. Myself and Chris Armstrong were the ones to go to pin point the exact coordinates of the wreck. From my previous trips to the wreck and with a good current check in multiple places I managed to drop Chris into the water relatively close to the wreck and within 5 minutes he gave a pre agreed signal that he was now on the wreck. Perfect, with a handheld GPS with me in the zodiac we now had the exact coordinates ready to drop the divers.

The sea conditions were flat like a lake and the currents were pleasantly mild which made entry, descent and diving along the wreck nice and easy. Even though the current was mild you will still find that where the current hits the reef there will be what we call a split. A split is where the current will hit an obstacle and then go in two directions around that obstacle, in that area you will find very little current but more importantly you will also find pelagic marine life. Traditional here the pelagics will be in the form of Hammerhead Sharks. The divers were not disappointed. At a depth of around 65m during the descent some of the divers were lucky enough to have a group of 4 hammerheads swimming by them. The divers who were already on the wreck were also pleased to also have Hammerhead sighting. The wreck of the Zealot is quite broken up due to its impact to the reef with a debris field covering a wide area, lots to explore. There has been confusion in the past about whether this wreck is in fact the Zealot or if it was a different wreck called the Daccar. The Daccar was a passenger ferry, the Zealot was a cargo ship. Upon diving the wreck the guests were swimming past parts of locomotive and railway tracks which would definitely not be typical of a passenger ferry, plus the ferry would have been considerably larger than what was dived. Once all divers were up and all pictures analysed, it was concluded that the wreck on the reef in this area is for sure the Zealot as other people have previously stated. This means the Daccar is still to be found! That’s a mission for the next trip!Image

After a overnight sail travelling down south we eventually arrived at Rocky Island. The weather conditions were still very favourable for us and we were the only boat at Rocky Island. Because of the depth of the wreck, the long decompression times that were going to be done and the fact we were going to be there for a few days we put a permanent shot line directly to the wreck from our boat. This made it easy for descent (no reason for anybody not to find the wreck!), but more importantly it gave the divers easy access to emergency gases if required. We staged various extra bailout gases on this shot line from 40m and shallower, so if anybody had an issue they knew where to get gas from easily. We also then hung a deco station from this shot line. This would provide the divers who wanted to decompress on the line a little bit of extra space. Hang bars were located at 12m, 9m and 6m to spread the divers out.Image

Over the next three days at Rocky island are mission was achieved. The divers had some awesome dives exploring all parts of the wreck. Most CCR divers we diving with very rich helium mixtures to offset the potential narcosis so that they could enjoy the wreck and remember it afterwards! Dive times were on average between 3 – 4 hours! Good job the trip was in the summer time to make use out of the warmer water temperatures, and the bonus of no drysuits so people could pee freely! A huge, huge thanks to John Rochester for taking pictures from all over the wreck and his magical computer skills to piece those pictures together to give what I believe is the first ever photo of the wreck almost in its entirety.Image

Sadly it was then time to leave Rocky Island, say goodbye to the Maidan for now and begin the journey back to the north. The weather conditions still held out and we have a very smooth sail back up to Elphinestone reef. A brief pit stop was made for the chef to produce a massive spread of food and BBQ for all the guests (don’t worry it was an electric BBQ not one with real flames) After everybody was fed and watered we continued the journey.

We arrived at Elphinestone early in the morning for our final dive to hopefully, see some more sharks before the trip ended. Ephinestone did not disappoint. After exploring the southern arch of Elphinestone on the first day of the trip we now headed to the northern plateau to see what we could find. There was a current running across the plateau on descent but as soon as we down alongside we had the shelter to then swim further up towards the north. After only a short period of time a couple of Hammerheads came to say hello followed by two grey reef sharks circling in and out. A great end to a great trip.

Back on land it was then time to head to WonderBar (The best European bar in Port Ghalib marina) and reminisce on the trip, share diving stories and discuss who’s CCR unit is the best! He he he

Tekstreme would love to thank John and Janet Rochester for their drive to make this trip happen and for the fantastic photos from the trip.  But of course we cannot forget Barry Woods, Chrissie Tyson, Dave Murphy, Dave Norton, Geoff Bridges, Shaun Fox, Norbert Miskolczi, Mel Ford and Ross Finlay for being a wonderful group of experienced divers to spend a week with. You are all more than welcome to come back and join us at any time.

Cat Braun – Tekstreme Technical Manager

 

The next big expedition being planned is a northern technical expedition to feature the wreck of the Yolanda in Ras Mohammed, and no we don’t mean to see the toilet seats!

 

The trip dates provisionally we are looking at is June 20th – 27th 2014.

Contact Tekstreme@emperordivers.com for more details.