Sunday, December 27, 2015

A new PADI Sidemount Diver & Instructor

After recently completing his IDC Staff Instructor Course with The Dive Academy Gavin wanted to continue his training and signed up to complete the Recreational Sidemount Diver Specialty Course.

Sidemount is a new way of diving where you use either one or two tanks attached to your side as opposed to having one tank placed on your back. There are many benefits to diving on Sidemount such as additional air when you dive on two tanks. You still only get to use two tanks over two dives the same as with diving with a BCD, but if you plan your Gas Management correctly (it's not difficult even Gavin managed it!) you get to use more of the 400 bar available (2 x 200 bar per tank). For people with back problems or other physical ailments that may effect them using a normal BCD, Sidemount could also be a real benefit as the weight of the tanks is no longer placed on your back but distributed along your side. Another huge benefit is that the harness required to dive with sidemounted tanks only weighs around 5 kilos so takes up much less of your baggage allowance when you are travelling than a conventional BCD. And lastly Sidemount Diving looks and is super cool and is a small introduction into technical diving for those that might be interested on extending your limits and experience further.

After a short session to go through the theory that Gavin had learned and to familiarise him with the new equipment he would be using we went to our purpose built for diving 3.5m deep swimming pool to practise with the new gear and to learn new ways to conduct some of the skills you learn when you become a diver such as what to do when you are out of air and general bouyancy skills. Your bouyancy is very different diving with the tanks on your side and even for experienced divers takes a bit of getting used to. The deep pool was perfect for practising and gave plenty of opportunity to perfect the skills.

The course was also a good for our Course Director Paul, who was teaching Gavin, as it gave him the opportunity to get familiar with the new Sidemount equipment we have recently bought and to work out the best configurations and placement of the various clips, straps and other things that are different from using a BCD. Both Paul and Gavin found that the placement of the crouch strap required for Sidemount systems was self explanatory!!

Next on to the open water dives where, under Paul's supervision, Gavin had to again conduct the few skills required to complete the course as well as taking the time to swim around and become familiar with the new equipment and techniques required for diving Sidemount. The first two dives were completed at Sail Rock which was perfect for Gavin to learn a new way of diving which he managed to do with no problems whatsoever and was very comfortable from the beginning. Second day, due to adverse weather, we went to Koh Ma which isn't somewhere we would usually go to complete courses but as it turned out it was perfect for Paul and Gavin to swim around and have a nice easy dive and still managed to find a few nice things to see. Today Gavin was diving on a single sidemounted tank to get familiar with the techniques for this too - Sidemount allows you to dive with both single and doouble tanks so it was good practise for Gavin to try both ways.

Then it was Gavin's turn to play at being Instructor and having already given a classroom presentation on using Sidemount he was ready to lead the way in open water. After a full briefing of the skills and how to use the equipment Gavin and Paul then completed a nice relaxed dive where Gavin now set Paul the task of completing the skills required and successfully spotted the (deliberate!!) mistakes Paul made while completing the skills.

As well as the many benefits of learning to dive on Sidemount it is a great course to both learn and to teach and both Paul and Gavin had a lot of fun during the course.

If you are a diver looking to try something different or are an instructor looking to add something new to your CV think about Sidemount and contact us at The Dive Academy and we can give you the information you need on one of PADI's newest and exciting specialty diver courses.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Jelly fish whilst diving

There has been some concern of late about jelly fish in and around the waters of Samui and the areas we dive at Koh Tao and Sail Rock.

Over the last few months there has been an increase in small jellyfish being seen as well as box jelly fish. The small jellies, whilst irritating and will provide a mild sting, they are not harmful to us. We just need to be mindful that we are diving in their ocean and by wearing exposure protection and looking all around us whilst we are diving, we should be able to avoid them. If there are too many for comfort, then a simple change of dive site is always an option.

Box Jellyfish however can provide a very painful sting and in some instances/species be fatal to humans and therefore should be avoided. There have been a couple of incidents around Samui where people have been swimming in the ocean at night, unaware of what might be under the water. You will find signs outside most hotels and along beaches now highlighting what to do and what to avoid whilst enjoying the sea as well as what you should do should you experience a sting.

We have been sighting the Box Jellyfish at a variety of dive sites now and at varying depths. Usually on their own, they can be spotted fairly easily with a rectangular shaped body with a transparent almost bluish tinge and long, yellowish tentacles and they move quite quickly as that is how they hunt their prey. Their main predator are turtles as they are immune to the sting, so without turtles around in our waters, we will always have these creatures.

So what should you do to avoid being stung:
- Wear exposure protection whilst diving & snorkeling. If necessary wear a long sleeve tshirt or rash vest under your wet suit and even tights! They may not look sexy but will help if you are worried.
- Be particularly careful when you are entering and exiting the water. As soon as you get in, use your mask to check the water below you
- When diving and swimming at the surface, preferably swim face down rather than on your back so you can see below you
- Continually look around you, to the left, right, up and below not just forward. This is good practice anyway and ensures you always know what is around you
- Ensure there is vinegar and lots of it to hand. Wash the affected area with salt water only and remove any tentacles with a gloved hand or tweezers and then apply vinegar to the area. On the boat we have spray guns loaded with vinegar which ensures the liquid can be applied to the affected area more adequately.

We are including this information in all our dive and snorkel briefings to ensure every customer is aware, just the same as we would for a Trigger fish! but feel free to ask us if you have any questions.

Not all jelly fish are stingers or something to be concerned about. Over the last few days we have had the pleasure of seeing Rhizostome jellyfish at a few dive sites. They have a solid consistency and have no tentacles. These jellies are actually edible and can be found dried and being sold in some parts of the world and butterfly fish and banner fish are a bit partial to them too! They're fantastic to watch and often have small fish swimming inside them. Us humans are also not sensitive to their sting!