Friday, September 30, 2005
PHOTO: Courtesy of http://www.travel-dive.com, an online resource for diving articles and discussion.
Today was an ideal day during my stay in Thailand which included -- going to the gym, breakfast by the pool, client work, purchasing some local oil paintings after I met the artist to discuss his work, and ending with a half day scuba diving trip at two dive sites known as 1.) Koh Kai Nui and 2.) Shark Point (although some dive staff called it "Fish Point" to make it sound friendlier I guess) which are located off the southeast coast of Phuket Town. More later on this below but I did spend some time with a leopard shark as my "dive buddy" on this trip!
The day itself was glorious with mostly clear skies on the way to the dive sites and a light, cool rain on our return boat trip that ended quickly. Overall the diving was impressive in terms of quantity and variety of fish plus the wide range of corals and fans. However visibility was rather limited to probably 20 feet due to rains this week. Between the two dives the dive boat provided us with water, sodas, pineapple slices, and watermelon slices which made for a refreshing lunch.
Overall the dive shop was professional, knowledgeable, and personable in term of staff but it was lacking in some basic dive practices such as their failure to provide any safety equipment briefing including where fire extinguishers, first aid kit, and life buoys are located on the boat AND their failure to verify divers had current dive certification cards (aka "C-cards") and recent dives logged in their log books. As it turned out these items were the least of my concerns because on the second dive of the day at "Shark Point" I became separated from my dive group when the Dive Master leading our three (3) diver group turned back to help one diver's husband (she stopped to watch the two of them) descend faster but since the Dive Master never indicated to me that he was dropping back and ascending I kept swimming forward by myself. Since visibility was probably 15 feet at the time it took just a few fin kicks until I was out of their field of vision and on my own!!
While I do have my PADI Dive Master certification let me give full credit to PADI's "Rescue Diver" course -- http://www.padi.com -- which a diver must take to progress on to Dive Master. Due to my Rescue Diver training I did not panic deciding to stop to try to find my fellow divers by looking around me but once that failed to produce any clues where the group was located I continued on with our planned dive path which was basically circling Shark Point. I kept moving around the point until I saw scuba exhaust buddles which I swam to and joined another group of divers who were on our dive boat. This experience reinforced for me what I have said for years in diving -- ALL divers should progress through Rescue Diver which would make the sport even safer than it is today.
As a Dive Master I used to teach the "Refresher Course" for already certified divers but sadly I would usually have at least one student in class who had no idea of how to do one or more of the basic scuba skills such as clearing your mask or recovering your regulator. The likely cause of such skill deficiencies is the resort area mindset of "train the divers enough to get them in the water..........." versus teaching the beginner certification course with the intensity that it requires.
My best advice to friends and readers is that if you plan to get certified in diving please complete all the classroom sessions and pool sessions in your home area and NOT while on vacation. Not only will you waste valuable vacation time sitting in class you simply will not receive the training every beginner diver needs and deserves.
See you in the water,