So finally on dry land and I am back in the office where I find some time to reflect and evaluate upon the “exploration trip” that my colleague Shaun and myself had recently undertaken.

I use the term “exploration” for lack of better terminology, but I feel an explanation is in order as “exploration” also is not really the correct word!   The term “Exploration” would suggest to the reader that we were finding new dive locations, new reef systems, when simply this was not the case. We were in fact visiting very well know reef areas but the “exploration” part was specific to the depth that we were diving and the area of the reef we were diving.

 Emperor Asmaa

During my very first years working in Egypt I had the pleasure and opportunity to visit most dive locations within the Egyptian side of the Red Sea, from as far north as the straights of Tiran down the southern reef systems of Elba which lie on the Sudanese border and everything and anything in between. These were the days where as a safari guide you were not “fixed” to any single route, you were moved around from boat to boat, route to route each week. What this created was a generation of safari guides which a huge expanse of diving knowledge and experience of the entire Red Sea. Sometimes I miss those days, now however, I don’t think the husband would be so happy with me being out at sea for 6 weeks each time!

Anyway, I am becoming side tracked….

So, I found myself back in the southern area of the Red Sea, of which the purpose of the trip was to “explore” each of the dive sites between the depths of 40m – 80m. Currently, there are no companies who offer specific technical diving trips to this area, OK, there are a few boats where they could cater for the odd deco dive but nobody is looking specifically at these dives sites though the eyes of the diver who would like to go that bit deeper. We had to find out why. Is it because there is nothing of interest below 40m in this area? Is it because the potential stronger currents pose a safety hazard to divers during decompression? Or is it lack of knowledge of the area? Or is there simply no demand. We at Tekstreme Diving wanted to try and answer these questions….

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The reef systems in the southern Red Sea are absolutely stunning in the shallow water and believe me this continues though to depth, actually, I would say even better in terms of quality of coral growth. As an example, the size and abundance of the Gorgonia fan corals that we were witnessing between 50m – 85m were mind-blowing. You need to trust me when I say it was like diving untouched reefs, reefs where no diver’s fin had accidentally clipped the coral and snapped off an entire branch, no damaged hard corals about from natural processes, this is what we were experiencing. It was amazing. You can see that not many divers are visiting these depths and the currents provide such a rich supply of nutrients that the soft corals especially can flourish.

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A particularly favourite of mine is a narrow tower of a reef, the local turn for it would be a “Habili”. This particular Habili looks like nothing on the surface but is simply one the reefs which is the most rich in life, its an aquarium for all creatures great and small. This cone shaped reef gets wider as you get deeper and provides marine life, colour and excitement all the way down to around 75m. We actually spent most of our dive at 50m watching as grey reef sharks smoothly cruised in and out unfazed by us as we were still and quiet. The world of having no bubbles on a rebreather comes into its own and the pelagics come closer to check us out. There is a potential for much current on these reefs but as these reef systems rise all he way to the surface you will always have a reference to swim alongside as you fulfil your decompression obligations. Plus, we will always have zodiacs to support us from the surface so if any divers find themselves away from the reef they will always be tracked and collected.

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Within the southern area there are also some wrecks. One in particular is sat at a maximum depth of 50m, this wreck attracts a huge array of marine life and has a great atmosphere. It’s at a nice depth to enjoy a longer bottom time having a scrape around and exploring the wreck in its entirety. There is also another more historic wreck, which is not greater in depth than 30m, but makes a great afternoon dive. Do dive it well it would still require some decompression due to its size so for sure a great feature of the area.

There is talk of another larger wreck within this approximate area but deeper which we aim to do a more specific search for on our next trip to this area. I am always a bit dubious when it comes to listening to tales of sunken wrecks as most of the time it turns out to be nothing, but when I have now had information from a few different sources all talking about a similar location, it certainly gets my attention.

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Moving a little bit further north there are some reefs that sit on the edge of a deep-water trench with walls dropping vertically down depths. These reefs are fed by a stong consistent currents that suppy the goodness for the corals to flourish. It’s on these reefs as you descend through the depth ranges the types and colours of corals here is changing quite dramatically. The colours of the soft corals are not restricted to the shallow waters they can be found through 50, 60, and 70m. Whip corals, black corals and Gorgonians’ in substantial volumes and sizes can be found at depth. Some of these reefs over the years have taken their toll on safari boats and the wrecks that are left behind may not have an exciting history but, what you find is that over time they have created a mini ecosystem and they attract a wide variety of marine life around the outside and inside. For sure it makes a nice feature of the dive.

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Of course we can’t be visiting the southern area without a stop at Elphinestone reef. This particular site needs no further exploration from us, this is one dive site that is already included in some of our other existing technical safari trips, but I include it here for those who have never had the opportunity to dive the reef. This finger long reef has dramatic plunging walls to the east and west, with plateaus on the north and south. You can dive to 100m all the way around this reef if you wanted to! Typically, we dive the northern plateau to any depth between 40 – 100m with eyes peeled with the to aim to find either Grey Reef sharks off the tip of the plateau or Hammerhead sharks. Its an area that gets a great current feed and so very nutrient rich. The colours of soft corals across the plateau are some of the best to be found in this area. As an alternative dive to the north, the reef has provided for us a natural landscape feature in the shape of an archway. Running directly under the southern plateau, this natural feature allows you pass from one side of the reef to the other. You can swim through this archway anywhere between 48m – 60m. It is also on this southern side of the reef where you have chance to find the Oceanic White Tip reef sharks patrolling the shallow waters.

Summary

As much as we have had a great week of diving and the exploration of the area at depth has begun there is a great deal more for us to do and hopefully more wrecks and natural features to be found. With the information that we now have, we have put together an itinerary for next year that will return to the sites that we have just visited but will also build in more time for further exploration. This means, for the divers on trip next year, will be just like us and exploring these areas for the first time. Is there a demand for this type of diving, this type of exploration, I absolutely believe the answer is yes.

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“Exploration is really the essence of human spirit”

Frank Boreman

Trip Details

Dates = 14/08/16 – 21/08/16

Vessel = Emperor Asmaa

Price = 999 euros

Contact info@tekstremediving.com for details on the trip and how to reserve your place.

Cat Braun

Tekstreme Techical Diving

Picture the scene….It’s summer time, you have been working hard all year and waiting for your holiday to finally arrive where you can escape the chores of day by day life and spend one week in one of the best locations in the world for scuba diving. Yes, you are in the Red Sea. You have chosen to join one of the most popular safari routes that will take you to visit the famous Daedalus Reef to experience the schooling hammerheads.

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The dive guides have got you up at the crack of dawn to be in the water first to get to see these amazing pelagics. You are hanging at 30m alongside the east wall of Daedalus reef, the current is mild, the water is warm, and then out of the blue you see a shadow, as you sit patiently the shadow comes into focus and you see the outlined of something big, could it be, are you going to be lucky, is it one, is it 10, yes yes yes there they are. The majestic Hammerhead sharks moving in synchronisation as a group cruising up and down the reef. You cant take enough pictures to capture the moment, this adrenaline experience yet calming experience is hard to match up with anything else on this planet….and then….beep beep beep…..computer tells you that you have no decompression time left and you must leave to get to shallower waters! Damn damn damn!!!

Hammerhead Shark

Gutted comes to mind, you have plenty of gas but that bit of technology on your wrist is a reminder of one of the limitations of scuba diving, the No-decompression times. But does that have to be the case? No it does not. How about having some extra training to teach you how to plan a dive with some decompression to allow you just that little bit of extra time. That would be awesome would it not? You can do this training in your own existing equipment, that’s right, there is no requirement for any different equipment. You can continue to dive in your trusted comfortable BCD with your own reliable regulator and those pink fins that you have, these are also just fine. With just a few extra pieces you are all set to make your first decompression dives in a planned, safe manner.

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You will learn the basics about dive planning and managing your gas volumes. You will learn about how to use the richer eanx gases in the shallow waters to manage your decompression. You will learn how to change gases in the water to optimise your dive and keep you in the water looking at those sharks longer than everyone else! Now that sounds good right?

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The training I am talking about can be found in the SSI Extended Range Nitrox Course. It can be training from a land based resort or on a safari trip. It’s specifically aimed at those divers who would like to extend their diving just a bit more than the recreational limits. It’s not about depth, in fact its only a 40m course, but more importantly its about time. By having some training in the basics of decompression diving it opens up so many more dive sites around the world. The demand for this type of diving is growly hugely as world wide travel rapidly expands and more dive sites within the 30 – 40m range are available. Its not deep, its not dark and its certainly not dangerous, its simply extending your current diving, that’s realdiving.

If you would like more information on the SSI Extended Range Nitrox program you can head to:

http://tekstremediving.com/ssi-courses.php

or email me directly

info@tekstremediving.com

Cat Braun

Tekstreme Manager

When the European summertime comes to an end and Christmas would be fast approaching take a final chance to escape to the warmer waters of the Red Sea for some scuba diving action.

In November 2015, Emperor Divers will be offering back to back trips to visit the northern wrecks and reefs of the Red Sea and have very kindly offered Tekstreme the opportunity to invite trained decompression divers to join the boat. Tekstreme will provide a guide for divers wishing to enjoy a safari trip made up of non-deco dives and deco dives.

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These trips are also the perfect opportunity for divers onboard the boat who currently do not have any decompression qualification to take the first level decompression course and maximize their times diving on some of the most amazing wrecks that the area has on offer. The SSI Extended Range Nitrox (SSI XR Nitrox) course enables you to continue to use your current scuba diving equipment whilst you learn the basics of decompression diving. You will be trained to dive to 40m utilizing eanx gases up to pure oxygen for decompression. You can do home study for the short course before hand, at your convenience, leaving the most enjoyable part of the course, the diving, to when you are on the boat with us.

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The Safari route

The Wrecks and reefs trip is the best of both worlds, where you visit famous wrecks in the northern Red Sea along with some stunning reef diving. This trip is not about depth, but it’s about having the time to explore the wrecks and reefs in all their glory within the 30 – 45m range.

Abu Nuhas has four well-known wrecks: Ghiannis D, Carnatic, Chrisoula and Kimon M. All wrecks offering spectacular dives and plenty of fish life, and how about to try diving all four wrecks in one dive!

Night dives can be superb as Gubal Island offers protected anchoring for the night. A small wreck at 8-10 metres makes for a spectacular night dive with lionfish, scorpion fish and its resident giant moray eel as well as the wreck of the Ulysses.

The wreck of the Rosalie Moller is a perfect example of where having some decompression training can transform a dive. Imagine not being stuck to having only 20 minutes on the wreck before decompression but to be trained to happily have 40 minutes instead! Now we are talking! Next onto the Kingston lying at Shag Rock; the Carina lying close to Sha’ab Ali and the Dunraven at Beacon Rock in Ras Mohamed National Park.

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Last but not least lets not forget the most famous wreck in the Red Sea, the Thistlegorm, at Sha’ab Ali.

The SS Thistlegorm was sunk in 1941 after being bombed by the German Luftwaffe while on a mission to deliver a cargo of ammunition and other war materials to the British troops in North Africa. The Rosalie Moller, carrying a cargo of coal, suffered the same fate just two days later. Many divers have yet to explore the wreck and the surrounding debris field in all its glory again because the computer says “no”! This does not have to be the way. During your SSI XR training you will learn how to combine the best eanx gas for deeper exploration, in combination with an efficient decompression gas to enable you to be the first in the water and for sure the last out the water!

Whilst in Ras Mohamed, you may have the chance to do a dive at Shark Reef; a sheer wall falling into the blue. From here the boat heads back towards Hurghada.

In between wreck dives you will also visit the reefs of the Straits of Gubal, Gulf of Suez and those to the north of Hurghada. A variety of deep walls and hard coral gardens with an abundance of reef fish make them well worth a visit.

All wrecks are subject to divers’ experience and weather conditions.

 

The Dates

November 20th – 27th 2015

November 27th – 4th December 2015

The Price

As a special winter deal Emperor Divers are offering either of these trips above for 899 euros.

This price includes:

Airport transfers

7 nights accommodation

Marine park fees

Fuel Surcharges

All food and soft drinks on the boat

Technical dive guide

This price does not include:

Technical diving supplies:

Twin set hire or CCR tank hire = 60 euros for the week

2 x Deco tank hire / bailout tank hire = 30 euros for the week

CCR oxygen gas fills = 5 euros per fill / top up

Eanx gases up to 39% = 5 euros per fill / top up

Eanx gases between 40% – 79% = 8 euros

Eanx gases 80% – 100% = 12 euros

Sofnolime = 11 euros per kg

Notes

Please note that this trip is not a specific technical safari. It is a traditional wrecks and reefs safari with the option to make some decompression dives or join the entry level SSI XR nitrox course with one of the Tekstreme team. Tekstreme will guarantee their normal high level of service with regards to:

Custom gas mixtures to 200bar

Technical guide(s) available for all dives

Safety procedures and dive awareness

Detailed dive site briefings from a decompression perspective

Emergency oxygen and additional emergency drop down gases

There are no minimum requirements in terms of how many divers would like to make decompression dives. One of our guides will be there even if there is only one person who would like to make decompression dives! There does not get better service than that!

Contact us for reservations or more information.

Cat Braun

Tekstreme Manager

info@tekstremediving.com

Tekstreme Wings

MALTA 2016

May 7th – 14th

Price = £600

 

The Maltese Islands’ clear blue Mediterranean sea is ideal for scuba diving. All three islands offer some unique diving experiences with an abundance of reefs, caves and wrecks that make diving here some of the most interesting in the Mediterranean. The calmness and clarity of the sea makes for excellent visibility whilst the risk of encountering dangerous fish is extremely low, creating the ultimate conditions for scuba diving. For the more experienced divers, there are plenty of challenging dives to choose from.

Price Includes:

  • 7 nights self catering accommodation in shared villas with equipment storage
  • Transfers to and from the airport
  • 5 days diving
  • Transfers to and from Dive locations
  • All ferry costs
  • 12 litre Twin set hire or CCR tank hire
  • 1 decompression tank
  • Technical guides

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This trip is aimed at diving some of the most popular wrecks and reefs of Malta and Gozo to with all dives between depths of 30 – 55m. It is preferably that divers should hold a certification to enable them to dive to 50m on either air or limited trimix. Lower certifications of certifications are also welcome and courses to achieve the higher levels are available during the trip.

For the shallower dives (30 – 40m) there will be planned two dives per day. For the deeper dives up to 55m it is planned for 1 dive a day. This makes for a minimum 8 dive trip. The dives are subject to weather conditions but hopefully will include the following: P31 patrol boat, Rosie Tug Boat, El Faroud, MV Karwela, MV Xlendi, HMS Stubborn and the Blue Hole to name a few.

Nitrox, Helium and extra Deco cylinders are available but not included in the overall price. All extras are to be paid directly to the Dive centre at the end of the trip.

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 Flights are available quite inexpensive from most major UK airports.

 Email to info@tekstremediving.com for more information.

Did you know, that one of the most common questions that I get asked when guests are enquiring to me about Tekstreme and wanting to do some diving with us is, “Are Tekstreme located in other countries?” To date, I have had to reply that the answer is no.

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Tekstreme have, since establishment, concentrated their time offering technical services throughout Egypt. As a technical company we are one of the largest in Egypt with operations, through the facilities of Emperor Divers, in Sharm El Shiekh, El Gouna and Marsa Alam plus offering multiple specific technical safaris throughout the year. I guess personally for me, before taking Tekstreme to other destinations I want to be sure that we have the right attitude, approach, business plan, commitment, audience and of course the desire. Right now I believe we can easily tick all of those boxes. However, these things are not to be rushed. Much research needs to be done on destinations, availability, profitability, demand etc etc. We see in our industry too many technical operations opening up around the world yet one year later they close their doors. As a reputable technical diving company we need to ensure that if we take on such a project outside of Egypt that our customers can be assured that we will be there to stay.

Tekstreme Wings

Now don’t get too excited, this blog is not Tekstreme announcing a new location, not quite yet, but what we are doing in the meantime is to take Tekstreme “On Tour”. Beginning in 2016 we are going to be offering technical diving trips to multiple other locations outside of Egypt. This way, our customers who want to have the benefit of diving multiple locations, but staying with Tekstreme are going to be very happy. Tekstreme will be organising diving trips including accommodation in various European destinations to begin with, before expanding to worldwide destinations. We will only be using the facilities of highly reputable dive centres in each location who we know will maintain high standards that our customers demand. On each trip one of our highly trained technical team members will be there with our customers to ensure that our high standards are kept and of course to offer technical courses on each trip.

For each trip, we are keeping them quite exclusive, small groups only. We plan to take a maximum of around 8 – 10 divers on each trip. For us, it has always been about quality, not quantity and this philosophy will not change. We want to have a more intimate group of divers that we can care for on a personal level, rather than a conveyer belt of divers!

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For us, these are really exciting times and we cant wait to take kick start Tekstreme “The Tour”, we hope that we are going to see many of our technical diver friends come and join us and make this the best technical tour ever.

Cat Braun

Tekstreme Diving Manager

info@tekstremediving.com

Now things have settled down after Christmas and New Year, Tekstreme can formally introduce to you the newest member of the Tekstreme Team.
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Paul Thewissen started diving 15 years ago. He learnt to dive in his native homeland of Holland before heading out on a holiday to Mexico to put his newly learnt skills into practice. It was on this holiday that he had his first taste of tropical scuba diving and the hooks were in! He decided to continue his diving education whilst back in Holland earning the level of CMAS Dive leader. It was at this time he was going on regular holidays in Europe and Egypt to expand his diving experiences.
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Nine years ago he decided that he wanted to turn his hobby into his work, so he decided to head to Egypt for an extended holiday to see if he liked it.  As there was not so much demand for CMAS in a touristic resort he made his crossover to become a PADI Divemaster and was lucky enough to get a job offer after only 5 days of being in the country and he has been here ever since!

 

Paul finally made his instructor course and achieved the rating of Master Scuba Diver Trainer the following year.  It was also during this year that SSI had approached Emperor Divers and Tekstreme to represent their agency that Paul completed the crossover to become a SSI instructor.
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Paul says that he was always interested in trying some technical diving as through CMAS all those years ago he had already learned some decompression diving and enjoyed some of the more deeper dives, so whilst he was working for Emperor Divers he had the opportunity with Tekstreme to pursue this interest even more…and subsequently got hooked….again!!
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The future for Paul is very exciting and he plans to continue with his technical diving and look forward to many years of deep diving ahead.
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Paul is a great assist to Tekstreme and his position within the team will only get stronger as time goes on. Being fluent in Dutch (native tongue), English and German, Paul can increase the opportunities for divers of other nationalities who do not speak English to be able to come and train with Tekstreme. He is currently working towards his technical divemaster level and the instructor levels will not be far behind! He has already mastered the art of filling tanks and servicing regulators so needless to say he does not have much free time. But, whatever free time he has will be in the water diving, diving, diving.
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Tekstreme welcome Paul to the team and look forward to the future years together.

 
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Cat Braun

 

Tekstreme Manager

Can anybody explain to me where the last 4 months have gone as I cant! One minute I am teaching courses in 30 degrees water looking forward to the world cup football to begin and the next thing I know Christmas decorations are up and we need to use the heater at night time!

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The second part of the year for me has been quite exciting. I guess one of the things that stands out the most for me is to receive an email from technical instructor Paul Toomer requesting a meeting somewhere on the out skirts of London. As it happens I happened to be heading to UK and so agreed to meet him. All I knew was he wanted to try and sell me his new product some thing called “SSI TXR”. In all honesty I was not so excited about this, why would I be, its just another training agency looking to increase its numbers and how can they achieve that by trying to recruit Tekstreme who is one of the largest technical training companies in Egypt. Makes sense really! What I was not prepared for was to be shown the new materials that he had written. Now you may think what is so special about another technical diving manual? Well, it seems as though these people in SSI have recognised the digital era that we are in and designed manuals specifically for viewing on tablets, Ipads etc . My husband has taught me, and is continuing to teach me about the wonderful world of digital technology and so of course it immediately got my attention. The layout was clear, the text informative but not overbearing and the structure of the manual was progressive and an easy read. But lets face it, there is more to a training agency than just the manual, now for the important stuff… the courses.

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There are not so many different ways that technical courses can be done, ultimately you start off shallow and you end up deep. You start of with one tank and further down the line you end up with 6 tanks! What was a key factor for me was how can we as the instructor teach the course. This was what was enlightening. We “as the instructors” were actually allowed / given the opportunity to use our judgment and experience to enhance the teaching process. Ultimately there are a set of standards that the agency wants us to adhere to, but within those we had the scope to vary training depending on conditions and the level of students. Paul was very passionate about this range of technical courses and it was nice to spend time with a fellow instructor who is actively looking to continue to improve our industry.

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Moving forward a couple of months in the year was when we heard some strange news. SSI were being brought by Mares. This immediately concerned me. Since the meeting in London I had spent a lot of time with the guys from SSI helping to organise staff crossovers, creating SSI events to increase awareness of SSI recreational and technical courses, helping them out on the SSI stand at the dive show for a few examples. A lot of time and effort had gone into this partnership and then they simply sold themselves out! You can’t help but think that it is just for the money and now SSI wont care! No sooner had these rumours began that Karim Salah who is responsible for SSI recreational training in Egypt spoke to me to reassure that my concerns were not needed and that this move was going to a positive feature. This move by Mares and SSI is probably the most innovative and unique partnership in the diving industry. Towards the latter part of the year SSI and Mares announced that they would host meetings / events around Egypt to bring everybody up to speed. Once again I was dubious but attended the meeting to hear things as they say “from the horses mouth!”.

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Robert Stoss opened the meeting. Robert is one of the founders of SSI along with Guido Waetzig and admirably has a level of energy and passion that makes you want to listen and spend more time around him. For sure this guy is not done with the diving industry yet! By far the opposite, he is driving the digital revolution of training forward, helping us as the service provider be able to provide to our customers with greater ease. Secondly, we were introduced to Dusan Runjajic. Dusan, or Dusko as he is more well known is one of the top dogs within Mares and is a man with equal to, if not even more drive than Robert about his products and the new venture. An engineer by trade he has truly made his mark with Mares. Mares has become a worldwide leader in the manufacturing and distribution of state of the art diving equipment. The constant investment in innovation, patient research in the field of manufacturing materials and processes, combined with the expertise of the staff and professional approach gives Mares its leading position. Mares actually makes up part of the larger “Head” group. “Head” Company is a leading global manufacturer and marketer of branded sporting goods serving the skiing, tennis, swimming and diving markets.

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Dusko then outlined for us the relationship between Head, Mares and SSI. Now, normally through presentations like this I tend to switch off after a period of time, as you tend to hear the same things over and over about how good their product is above everybody elses. But this was not the case, I found myself 2 hours later still eagerly listening. These guys from Mares have actually designed a range of equipment for the dive centres to make our lives easier! The presentation was good and the recreational equipment is great but what about my greatest passion, tech diving, tech equipment?!

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I had some time in between this event in Egypt and the DEMA dive show in America to have a think about a few things. The passion, drive and energy from all these people that I had met at SSI and Mares was astounding and I only knew that I wanted to be more involved. It was a breath of fresh air to find in todays diving industry a group of people with similar future ideas not only about business (which of course is fundamental) but about moving the industry forward in unique ways. The product line by Mares currently does not have a well known reputation in the technical diving world but what I can say is that I personally and Tekstreme will be helping in whatever way we can to test new products and aid the development of Mares technical diving equipment. We will be continually teaching SSI technical courses to show case the new products as they emerge and to increase awareness of the brand in the technical arena.

All I can say is watch this space…..

Many thanks to Guido, Robert, Dusko, Adam, Karim, and Tarek for all of what they have done for us in 2014 and we really look forward to 2015.

Note 1 – Paul Toomer is no longer with SSI. His role in SSI has been taken over by Adam Wood who is a gifted and professional technical instructor and who has already shown his commitment and will continue to drive SSI TXR where Paul left off.

Note 2 – Part of my blog with the description of Head and Mares has come directly from their presentation! I don’t claim that these are my words :-)

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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