It was during the first quarter of the year when I was contacted by Huw Singer. Huw is the owner of a new product range and business venture called Deco-Decals. He has created a set of “stickers” which are designed to be attached to a slate of some kind, most commonly a multi-page wrist slate, for writing your scuba diving decompression schedule upon for use in the water during a decompression dive. These “Decals”, as we more commonly call them, have apparently been made by instructors for instructors, and I have been sent a few freebies to try out and provide feedback on. Apologies here Huw for the delay in testing but busy times had got the better of me. Anyway, let the testing begin. With teaching aids like these its always difficult to please all instructors all the time, as between us in the professional industry we all teach in slightly different ways, which is why myself and a few colleagues set about to review this product with an open mind. The first thing that strikes you when you see these decals is the colors that have been used reflecting the severity of the decompression situation. i.e the main plan is green, the deeper and longer contingency plans are in orange and the lost deco gas and bailout contingency plans are in red. Now, here was where the first comment came in from one of my team who rightly stated “What is the point of having colors? As you go deeper you lose the color spectrum anyway”. In response to this comment I rightly agreed, but then I began thinking of the diving environments where visibility and general light is not quite as good as we have it in the Red Sea and the reality that divers in these other conditions would probably be using a torch and so the colors would be very obvious under direct torch light. The decals are very easy to remove from their backing sheet and fit perfectly onto a multi page wrist slate. Now, I don’t know if Huw has designed them in such a way, but you can write on these decals with a fine point permanent marker pen, which afterwards by the use of a form of acetone i,e alcohol swob or nail polish remover you can remove the writing! Of course I am 100% that Huw would prefer that you use new decals each time rather than reusing them by erasing the data and starting again, but for sure the environmental and economical friendly divers would opt for recycling and saving a few pennies!! Thus making one set of decals last a lot longer. Sorry Huw! The layout of the decals is generally fine and it is at this point where we must remember who they are aimed at, the trainee diver. You will see that there are limited compartments for writing deco depths in. Not including a bottom depth you only have the facility to have 9 different deco stops. Now, for trainee divers and pretty much most dives up to the 50m mark which you would undertake even as a qualified deco diver, this is more than fine, but for deeper depths it’s simply not enough compartments. This is why I stress at this point to remember who the decals are aimed at. On a personally note, I like my students to have a bit of space next to the run time to write their arrival times at certain depths as it helps them to master a correct ascent. With this format of decal it is not possible. A small sacrifice maybe, but something like this for me is important. My only other gripe, if I have to have one, is that the size of the time / run time compartment is slightly small so a very tidy, controlled writing hand is required in order for the info to be legible. For most entry level divers I can see that maybe this has the potential to become unreadable! Now the crunch. Cost. Of course we cannot ignore this as it will play a big factor in the divers / instructors choice to use the decals or not. Most instructors teaching in todays world will be using a form of duct tape, gaffer tape or equivalent tape with a regular marker pen. You can pick up a descent length roll of gaffer tape for around 5 – 7 euros. This tape also doubles up and can be used for cylinder markings, so multi useful, it can even be used to repair drysuit neck seals if necessary (I speak from experience!). OK, the tape is not really recyclable but if the cost is that much cheaper. Personally, I think that the decals look very professional but wonder how long it takes before one of the leading training agencies copies the idea, sticks their logo on them, and makes them mandatory for training in order for their instructors to be consistent with each other. Huw, I hope you have copyright. If anybody is interested in using these decals or trying them out you can head to www.deco-decals.com or email Huw directly at Info@deco-decals.com Happy deco diving Cat Braun Tekstreme Diving Manager / Owner
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.
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“Exploration is really the essence of human spirit”
Dates = 14/08/16 – 21/08/16
Vessel = Emperor Asmaa
Price = 999 euros
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details on the trip and how to reserve your place.
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.
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!!!
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.
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?
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:
or email me directly