Saturday 5 December 2015


Wednesday 14 October 2015

Night Diving... A Divemaster's Challenge!!!

The biggest challenge of my Divemaster course was undoubtedly the night dive. 

As part of the Divemaster course, one of the requirements is to gain experience of a night dive, in the event that one day; I may need to guide one. For many this would seem very exciting and alluring, at the thought of diving into the unknown and to see the creatures that come out at night in a whole different light. 

Yet for me, I was a nervous wreck, filled with anxiety at the thought of descending into darkness.  This may seem unnatural behaviour as being a UK diver who is used to horrendous visibility and the volatile silty bottoms of Stoney Cove, night dives should be easy in comparison!

So the day had finally arrived! Everyone was relaxing at the dive shop eating chips and curry, talking about the day's dives and events while the sun was setting in the background. In reflection, this was quite calming, as the presence of the others made the run up to the dive a lot more bearable. I felt great comfort in the fact I was surrounded by awesome people and was going to be diving with the people whom I trusted the most.

Although I had dived Green bay so many times during my DM training, at night it seemed completely different as the typical scene changes. The fish and other creatures that are most active during the day retire and the nocturnal ones come out to play! Although I felt terrified, I was comforted by the fact that this was a site I knew well and had dived many many times before.

Once we had kitted up, we headed into the water.  Dropping down into the water, the first thing I noticed is that your vision narrows to only what is lit by your torch.  Yet when you look up, the reflection of the moon and stars and the lights from nearby hotels and restaurants can be seen through the surface of the water, which was really cool to see!  

It took a while for my eyes to adjust and for me to mentally get used to my surroundings. I had Shelley right next to me the entire way round, with the rest of the group in front and Pete leading the dive. 

A lot of my fears I had psychologically built up in my head, yet in reality, it wasn’t as bad as I had envisaged. Although it is pitch black, you can see your buddies dive light and know exactly where they are at all times, which for an anxious state of mind was very calming! 

Along the way, we saw a Lionfish and octopus swimming out in the open, a sea horse, shrimps and other really cool little creatures, which instantly took my mind off of the fact I was diving in darkness.  Towards the end of the dive, I was beginning to get used to night diving and I was shown possibly the coolest thing. We shielded our lights and waved around our hands, by doing this, we were able to see bioluminescent phytoplankton glowing in the water around me, emitting swirls of blue and green and yellow that had me captivated.  The process behind this is a chemical reaction called Chemiluminescence, where a creature produces light within their bodies! Although I wasn’t a fan of Night diving in the beginning, this certainly made the whole experience worthwhile! 

I really can see why some people find diving at night so appealing, I’m so pleased to say that I did it as the thought of a night dive filled me with dread, so I felt so proud of myself knowing I had overcome my biggest challenge and that a lot of my worries were purely psychological.

So the old saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” became that what didn’t kill me, did make me a better divemaster! 

Wednesday 30 September 2015

That's a Moray!!

Often seen here on most Scuba Dives here in Cyprus, the Moray Eel is a great spot with a bad rap.

Yellow  moray eel in cyprus

Well, it is no wonder with those big teeth, is it? However, the moray is pretty content to hang out in rocky holes and crevices, minding his own business.

The reason for his menacing look is actually a result of his small gills. To compensate for this, he must continuously open and close his mouth, maintaining a flow of water which aids respiration but shows off those big sharp teeth!!

As carnivores, Morays are usually the dominant predators, feeding on a diet of fish, molluscs and crustaceans. They have notoriously bad eyesight but more than make up for it with their great sense of smell. 

Lurking in their holes and crevices, Moray Eels are able to ambush their prey, thrusting out of the hiding place to snatch a bite. They actually have 2 sets of Jaws but the second is only used for grabbing and dragging prey down into and through their digstive system.

The Moray Eel does have some predators though and these include: large grouper, barracuda and even other Morays.

There are over 200 species of Moray Eels and they can vary greatly in size and colour but all are easily identifiable by the snake like shape of their bodies. Scuba Divers can usually find them worldwide in warm and temperate waters.

The parasites on their bodies usually make them pretty popular with cleaner shrimp!

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Give up my Apeks Regulators? Why would I do that?

When I first started diving in 2004, I was told by my instructor that the first piece of equipment I should buy is a set of Regulators. It is life support equipment and, if I have my own and look after them, I will never need to worry about the quality of rental regs, which, let's face it, can be of dubious condition sometimes!

I listened well and went out to buy myself a brand new shiny set of Apeks ATX 100s. Now, over the last 11 years and a few thousand dives, I have needed to replace the valve body once and a couple of hoses but, as promised, I looked after them and had them serviced regularly and they have served me well. So, why would I even consider changing them?


 As Halcyon Dealers for Cyprus, Scuba Tech have lots of Halcyon Dive Equipment in Store for sale and in the dive school itself. All our instructors and Divemasters use Halcyon wings of one kind or another and even the divers that come diving with us regularly are converting after trying the set up.

However, we had never tried the regulators and decided that, to know what we are talking about when people ask for advice, we should definitely dive these regs and see how they are. So, Peter asked me to try the Single tank set up for my recreational diving while he set about diving the same regulators in Twin tank configuration.

We have the Halcyon H50-d first stage with Halo second stage and the Aura as alternate.

The Halcyon H50-d is a balanced, environmentally sealed first stage, giving better performance for cold water. Although this won't be a factor here in Cyprus, this will be a useful feature when I am back in the UK.

The first thing I noticed about this set up was the weight. They are so light, I needed to add an extra kilo to my pouches to accommodate for them. This will make a nice feature for when we travel.

As a girl that has always liked to work a little bit for the breath, the ease of breathing on these regulators is outstanding. Very little effort is required to open the downstream valve and release the breathing gas. When using my Apeks regulators I have always needed the second stages to be quite tight, requiring a strong suck to release the breath, otherwise it felt like I was getting too much air and always on the edge of free-flow. The Halcyon regulators do not feel like this though, you just get sufficient air with very little breathing resistance, even at depth.

The only downside to this came when teaching PADI Open Water Courses and the free flow regulator skill. I finished the demonstration with a very, very cold mouth!!

The Halo second stage is usually used as the primary demand valve and has an Adjustable Inhalation Control to fine tune air delivery and, while the Apeks do have the adjuster also, I have never really been able to tell much difference between the different settings. The Halo adjuster makes a big difference, to make it suitable for all.

Primarily used as the back up second stage, the Aura doesn't have the Adjustable Inhalation Control but both second stages have an Air Control Vane, which is similar to the Venturi switch on the Apeks. Switch it Halcyon on entry to prevent free flows and switch to dive mode on the dive itself.

In honesty, even when teaching the Open Water skills, I found it very difficult to make either second stage free flow. When teaching the regulator orientation when out of the mouth, I had to resort to the old trick of pushing the purge button to make it free flow, as it just wouldn't do it on its own.

Finally, I think the Comfort Mouthpieces deserve a mention, as these were the biggest surprise to me. I didn't think I would get on with these mouthpieces as they are MASSIVE! It did take a couple attempts and a bit of wiggling to even put it in my mouth the first time but once in, they are extremely comfortable.

With my Apeks long hose configuration, I always felt like the mouthpiece was being dragged out of my mouth when I turned my head in certain directions, to the extent that I had to fit a swivel adaptor to make it more comfortable. I haven't had this problem at all with the Halcyon set up and can only surmise it is a result of the hose routing and mouthpiece itself.

Over the years I have tried a number of different regulators, just to see the differences in breathing etc, but I have always gone back to my Apeks. I didn't think I would ever change them but having used the Halcyon ones over the last month, I think I am converted.

Saturday 25 July 2015

Awful to Awesome in just a few dives!

Over the past few months, we have had an increasing number of emails from people who are interested in Scuba Diving but rather than taking the easy route with a simple entry/exit dive site with a bottom underneath you at all times, these enquiries are for Zenobia Diving for non-divers.

We do occasionally have scuba divers with an Open Water Certification (just passed) who ask to dive the Zenobia and while diving the top of the wreck is, technically, within the Open Water Diver Limits, below are the reasons we do not offer the wreck dives for this level of diver.

1. The Zenobia is a big, deep dive

The Zenobia sits in 42m of water. That is a long way down for people with no or limited experience in the water. With little experience, it can be difficult to maintain the buoyancy required to stay within safe limits and, for non divers, you are reliant on a good, vigilant instructor to keep you safe.

2. You miss all the good stuff

Most of the attractions that make Diving the Zenobia the amazing dive it is, are found between 22 and 35m deep. This means that, as a non diver or an Open Water Diver, you will miss most of these things.

The Bridge? 25m minimum! Canteen Swim through? 27m for the entrance! If you cannot see the main points of attraction on a dive, ask yourself, is it really worthwhile?

3. Confidence and Comfort make a better experience.

There are countless divers that we have taken onto the Zenobia wreck over the years that have previously dived it with friends or other dive centres when they were relatively new divers. While they say they enjoyed those dives, they also admit that they missed a lot of stuff on the wreck because they were so focused on the act of actually diving.

Being so new to diving is akin to new drivers. Until everything becomes comfortable and motor memory, it can be quite a lot to manage, so a lot of attention is paid to the basics and you don't have as much capacity to enjoy the actual site. With experience and confidence, it is a completely different dive.

We all know it is inherent in human nature to want to push that bit further. This is how great discoveries are made but when it comes to Scuba Diving, there is no great rush.

The Zenobia wreck will still be there when you have 20 dives under your belt and an Advanced Open Water/ Sports Diver certification in your hand. These wreck Dives can go from awful to mediocre to awesome in just a few dives so, take your time and save your cash until you can do it properly

Wednesday 8 July 2015

Try Dives in Cyprus with Scuba Tech Diving Centre

Hi all,

On Thursday 2 July 2015, I experienced one of the best afternoon's of my life, when I finally decided to go on a Try Dive with Scuba Tech Diving Centre, in Protaras, Cyprus.

My husband (Grant) and I have travelled to many wonderful countries over the last eleven years and, as a diver with nearly 400 dives, he has tried in vain to persuade me to learn to dive.  However, I have always resisted, until now.

I started off my Try Dive with a comprehensive theory lesson, giving me an overall view of general
health and safety, equipment that I would be using and definite do's and do not's whilst on the dive.  This lesson gave me confidence that I would be shown how to work the equipment I would be wearing before getting in the water and that I would be closely supervised throughout.

Shelley Patient (Instructor), Dawn Bailey (Dive Master), Lucy Corbett (Dive Master in Training) of Scuba Tech Diving Centre and, of course Grant, who is also a Rescue Diver, accompanied me on the dive; therefore, I felt that I was in great hands.

Now for the dive, which we did at Green Bay, the location being just a short drive from the dive centre, and which has a maximum depth of 10 metres.

Well what can I say! It was awesome.  The detailed explanation and thorough checks before I even entered the water, to the instructions on how to use the equipment in waist high water, made me feel comfortable as we set off on my adventure into the sea.

Shelley was brilliant, never taking her eyes off me, making sure that I was at ease, and always close to hand to help me adjust my buoyancy and regularly check that I was happy with my mask and ear pressure.

Once I was comfortable in shallow water (3 metres), Shelley took me to Fish Rock, where I was amazed by the variety of fish, then, I was taken gradually deeper, where I saw the statues and the gnome. I was even privileged to see a turtle and a moray eel.

Best of all I survived to tell my tale.

Dawn kindly took great pictures to remind me of my wonderful experience and I have shared some of these as part of this blog.

So, the million dollar question, will I do it again?  It is a big YES from me, and will be booking my Open Water Course with Scuba Tech Diving Centre as soon as possible.  As you can imagine, Grant is over the moon.

Thursday 18 June 2015

Avoiding Diving Burn Out.. the fun way!

We wrote an article earlier this year with regards to Burn Out and how to avoid it as Divers and Diving professionals.

So, not one to disregard our own advice, time and money came together a week ago to enable us to get in some fun dives that we haven't done before.

Where did we go Diving?

A rare opportunity emerged to allow us to head up to Northern Cyprus and dive the very tip of the Island around the Karpaz Peninsula.

For the first dive, we were heading for a deep cave but our guide changed her mind. With the lack of current around the tip (which is usually blasted as the whole Med turns around this point) we headed for the "Secret Rock" dive site. 

The maximum depth of this dive was 32metres with a huge rock nestled in between a couple others reaching up to a minimum depth of 14metres. There were a couple nice wall areas and a few grouper hanging around but the highlight of the dive was 2 big triggerfish that happy enough to swim around us until I produced the camera. At that point they promptly swam away! 

I'll be honest for the 6 hour round trip, we weren't convinced by this site. It was lovely to do something different but the second dive site certainly did not disappoint.

At the end of the Karpaz peninsula, there are about 5 little islands, which are protected areas for the birds. Humans are not allowed to set foot on them but from the sea, they look like lovely rocky outcrops.

We dived at the final island off the Cyprus coast and found the Karpaz wreck, which we are pretty sure is actually 2 or 3 wrecks all together.  There is no definitive history for these wrecks but we were informed that they sank around the time of the 1974 invasion and the circumstances are suspicious.

The first wreck we came across was pretty much intact with the distinctive hull expected of a wreck. there are a few openings that we were able to get inside and explore and the visibility was crystal clear with still no current in the area!

All along the seabed, you will find scattered debris and the depth is a paltry 16 metres giving plenty of ambient light to see everything by. We spent an hour roaming and investigating around pieces of metal and trying to work out what had happened (we still have no idea).

All in all we had a very long and tiring day but it was absolutely Epic. The whole team had a great time and that was thanks in part to some lovely egg butties.

Big thanks to our Dive Guide for the day though. Marion of Mephisto Diving, you helped keep our scuba passion alive with a great day out and about Scuba Diving in Cyprus.

Friday 5 June 2015

World Environment Day

The UN has declared that every year on the 5th June, we will celebrate World Environment Day.

Created in 1972, World Environment Day is a means to highlight the issues facing our environment and raise awareness amongst the general population. Like the Olympics, it is hosted by a different City in a different country and this year, it is Italy's turn to host the events.

Each year has a theme and this year that is Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care!

With our Mediterranean neighbours hosting along with this year's theme, it brings forward thoughts of the plights of our oceans. There is so much reliance on the Oceans, to both make money and for survival, that it is really unsustainable to keep so much pressure on its resources from so many different places.

Besides sustaining life and supporting a whole underwater ecosystem, our oceans provide food (around 90 billion kgs of fish and shellfish are caught every year) and a means of transport for goods and people travelling. We mine our oceans for minerals such as; salt, copper, iron and nickel and, of course, we drill them for oil.

So, it is important that we look after them!

We need to manage our fishing and make it sustainable. Know which fish species are at risk and don't eat them because a lack of demand means the supply is no longer viable. Trawling and Dredging, gill nets and drift nets not only damage and destroy underwater habitats, they are responsible for over 27 billion tonnes of wasted fish and by-catch a year.

Don't Litter!

Sounds easy enough but when you are out on your relaxing cruise boat or even lying on the beach, be sure to put your empty cans, food wrappers and cigarette ends in the bin or in a bag to be taken away and disposed of later. Many a time, we finish a dive with 4 or 5 beer cans in our pockets that have been blown off the day boats as they cruise by, so a little care can go a long way.

This one goes out in particular to the Scuba Divers out there. Get your buoyancy right and watch where you put your hands and your fins in the water. Although here in Cyprus, it is mostly rock and sand, you don't know what little creatures and critters are hiding nearby and you can do untold damage to the life underwater just by being careless.

In the last 50 years, the world population has more than doubled from 3.3 billion to over 7 billion in 2015 so the impact made per person adds up to devastating proportions. It isn't just the Oceans but our forests, woodlands and animal life too. We need to be a bit more discerning with our actions to try to limit the damage and make a conscious effort to give back where we can.

As Mahatma Gandhi said...

"The Earth Provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed."


Friday 15 May 2015

Lion Fish in Cyprus? What's the harm?

It isn't something we expected to see but we have heard stories about their presence in Cyprus for a few years now. With striking colours and impressive fans of projecting spines, why shouldn't we be excited about the Lionfish in Cyprus.

What are they and Where did they come from?

Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific region, which is actually quite a vast area.

They are instantly recognisable with their brown or maroon and white stripes, which cover the head and body while their long pectoral fins and dorsal spines fan out. Do not be fooled though because those spines can pack a  punch with a very potent venom

Thought to be nocturnal hunters, a lionfish will move slowly but steadily through the water and preys on small fish, invertebrates and mollusks in large amounts. They can be very territorial and cantankerous, as any underwater photographer trying to photograph a Lionfish face will tell you!

So, what is the problem with them in Cyprus?

Since Lionfish are not native to Cyprus waters, they are an invasive species. They are known to be aggressively invasive and can decimate fish stocks of an area very quickly.

Introduce them to an area like the Mediterranean and the already dwindling fish life is at grave risk.

There is, however, a glimmer of hope. There is a belief that groupers are a natural predator of the Lionfish and we do have plenty of those here in Cyprus. So maybe, if we allowed the groupers to thrive, there would be less concern over the Lionfish invasion, since it has a predator in the area.

Alternatively, there was a scheme introduced in the Atlantic when it was deemed Lionfish had invaded around the coast of the USA by NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

"Lionfish for Food" was set up in 2010 to encourage consumption of Lionfish. Fishermen and Divers are encouraged to actively hunt Lionfish and then consume them in the hope that it would control the invasive population while helping to reduce the strain on overfished species like Grouper.

However, before you pull out your filleting knife, be aware that the Lionfish has to be prepared in the proper way to make it safe to eat. So, do your research before you try something new!

Thursday 30 April 2015

Scuba Divers- 5 ways to improve air consumption

In Scuba Diving, there seems to be just two competitions between divers. These are Depth..."you went to 20 metres? Ha ha! I got 20.1!"

The other is Air Consumption. At the end of the dive, you see divers sneakily checking other diver's gauges to see who came back with the most air because it seems to be readily believed that if you breathe less, you must be a better diver!

Common sense will tell you that this is simply not true and, if you are basing your ability as a diver on the amount of gas you come back with at the end of a dive, you probably want to have a look at yourself and re-assess. Comfort and ability are factors that contribute to breathing rates but, let's face it... if you are a 6 foot lump of muscle you are going to use more air than the 5 foot nothing waif you are buddied with.

However, there are some factors that affect our breathing rates and how fast we burn through a cylinder of air, which we can have some control over and if you want to extend your dive times, here are our 5 tips for doing so.

1. Improve your Fitness

When we do anything that raises our heart rate, we increase our Basal Metabolic Rate (the amount of energy used at complete rest). Whether we are walking, swimming, in the gym or Scuba Diving, more energy is required by our bodies to complete these tasks.

To produce this energy, your body has to metabolise Oxygen, which is harvested in the lungs from every breath we take. So, when we are doing anything physical, we breathe more in order to provide the body with more oxygen to keep up with the demand. 

A person who is unfit may find that the exercise required for Scuba Diving can leave them breathing quite heavily as the body works to pump enough Oxygen-rich blood to the muscles that need it.

Breathing Rate = higher than it needs to be!

A higher level of fitness in a diver, allows the whole process to be more efficient by allowing more Oxygen Rich blood to be pumped with each heartbeat. This efficiency means the diver can achieve the same level of Oxygen reaching the muscles needing it, with a much lower breathing rate.

Improve your general fitness to reduce your breathing rate.

2. Weighting and Trim

Both come under the same heading because, much of the time, one will affect the other.

The biggest cause of high gas consumption we see is Over Weighting. Let's look at how this works...

Consider your local swimming pool. What uses more energy is said pool... swimming through the water or trying to run through the water?

Of course, trying to run through waist deep water will be more energy consuming because you are trying to move a larger surface area against all that resistance in water. This is why we want to be as streamlined as possible when we scuba dive. We are reducing the surface area moving against the water resistance so we are hydro-dynamic.

When we are overweighted, it affects our streamlining in 2 ways. Firstly, it tends to pull down the lower half of our bodies, meaning we are in more of a running position than swimming. This increases resistance and makes it more difficult to move, requiring more energy and heavier breathing.

Secondly, with too much weight, we need to compensate by adding more air to the buoyancy control device. This makes us bigger in the water than we need to be, increasing resistance and requiring more energy and heavier breathing.

See our blog all about Weighting for more information

3. Use the Correct Dive Equipment for the Dive

Prior to going diving, asses the kind of dive you will be making and select the appropriate dive gear for that dive.

For example, if you are diving a wreck known to have strong currents, don't think your pool fins are going to be much use. You want proper open water fins with a good rigid blade that will give you the most efficient fin stroke. More efficiency makes the finning easier and will help to maintain a lower breathing rate.

Another example comes down to temperature. If you get cold easily, there is no point diving in 18 degrees in a 3mm wetsuit. Invest in the exposure suit you need to stay warm underwater. Feeling cold will leave your body trying to generate heat from other sources such as shivering, which requires more energy and will affect your gas consumption.

The final dive kit tip doesn't really affect breathing rate but can alter the amount of gas you use from your cylinder. I am talking about the condition of your diving equipment. Make sure your equipment is in good working order and any leaks have been fixed, o-rings changed and regulators (especially alternates) are not wasting your gas by slowly leaking it out into the water.

4. Improve your Diving Skills

When we first learn to dive, we do tend to use more air and this is because we are busy concentrating on things like our buoyancy and holding a stop or not bouncing along the bottom.

Buoyancy is one of the most important skills you will have as a diver and it is important to make sure it is perfected to the point where you don't have to think about it anymore. You are neutral and in control at all times and you can even multi-task without losing it. 

Once you don't have to spend so much energy concentrating on basics, you will find your breathing rate does decrease.

This leads me on to number 5...

5. Relax and Chill Out

There is nothing more likely to help start your dive the wrong way than stress and anxiety. When we Scuba dive, we need to be relaxed and prepared and this comes from all the previous 4 points but you can start the preparations before you even get in the water.

Get to the Dive Centre early. Make sure you have plenty of time to get all your diving equipment
together so you can make sure everything is there and nothing is forgotten. If anything is broken or not where it should be, you will have time to remedy the fact without stress.

Plan your dive yourself or at least take an active part in it! Knowing what is going to happen on your dives will help you to relax and is a lot less stressful than relying blindly on someone else. It is comforting to know exactly where you are on a dive and thereby, where you are in relation to gas remaining, safety stops etc. Don't be afraid to ask questions about the dive if someone else is guiding. You will get much more out of your dives this way.

On the dive itself, swim slowly and pace yourself so you can conserve energy and breathing gas.

It is what it is!

These are tips to help reduce your breathing rate underwater but, at the end of the day, you breathe
what you breathe and the gas is there to be used. If your guide says s/he needs to turn the dive when someone gets to 100 bar and that someone is you then you must let the guide know. It is much worse to be the one running out of air underwater than to tell the truth and turn the dive. Your guide will appreciate it and so will the other divers in the group.

Never lie about how much air you have left underwater, you are putting both yourself and your buddy at risk. 

Finally, never Skip Breathe. This is one of the worst things you can do for your health and actually makes you breathe more heavily in the long run... at worst you can end up with a Pneumothorax (popped lung) or dead!

So relax, improve your competence and confidence in the water by practicing your dive skills and being correctly weighted with decent, working equipment and try to stay reasonably fit for diving and you will see an improvement. 

Thursday 2 April 2015

Back to Basics- Mask Clearing

Ask a group of divers which is the one skill they could live without and the answer, 9 times out of 10, will be Mask Clearing!

Water around the nose, bubbles up your cheeks and salt getting in your eyes, it is one skill that nobody enjoys.

Although most divers don't even realise it, they probably clear their mask 20 times per dive. Little bits of water creep in when we smile at the fishes or we haven't quite shaved well enough and all in all, there are no problems whatsoever but ask a diver to formally clear a mask and the outcome can be quite different. The thought of completing the skill sends the mind into overdrive and it can take a bit of time to build up the nerve to purposefully let water in.

Mask clearing is however, one of the basic skills to master and the only way to get comfortable with it is to practice, practice, practice! You have to de-sensitise your mind to the water around your nostrils and become confident in the fact that you don't have to breathe it in.

How can I get Confident Clearing the Mask?

I would say the first step to getting used to this feeling can be done while at the surface. While standing in waist deep water, put your regulator in and bend forward, putting your face in the water without the mask on. Take some breaths through your mouth and acclimatise.

Once you are comfortable, you can progress to completing the skill underwater. Start with baby steps, just let a little water in first and clear that by pushing on the top of the frame of your mask while looking up and blowing out through your nose. If you struggle to blow out through your nose with the regulator in, try placing your tongue against the roof of your mouth and then blow.

Move on to full mask floods and Mask removal/ replace when you are happy.

Try opening your eyes and you will find the salt water stings less if you let it wash over the eye rather than fighting to keep the eyes closed. Obviously, if you are wearing lenses, this is a no-no. If you have lenses, keep your eyes shut so you don't dislodge or lose them.

You can start to get comfortable with the skill while kneeling or lying on the bottom but just remember that there are many dive sites around the world where there is no bottom or the bottom is sensitive, such as coral reefs etc. You will not be able to kneel or lie on the bottom to complete the skill at these sites, so you have to make sure you are confident to complete the skill mid-water. Again, the key is practice!

Common Mask Problems causing Leaks

There will always be a little water in the bottom of your mask. This is just the nature of the beast but if you find your mask is leaking excessively, it may be that you are breathing out through your nose rather than your mouth. This breaks the seal and allows water to come into the mask... really irritating.

Another possibility is that you have the mask too tight. The skirt will not sit flat on the face and you get creases and little channels appearing where the skin is squashed together that allow water to get in. Your mask doesn't need to be too tight, the water pressure will hold it in place. Plus a mask that is tightened too much will lead to that lovely red ring all around the face that shows the world where you have been all day.

Sometimes your mask will only leak on holidays or special occasions and you cannot understand why. Think about what you are putting on your face. Have you used sunscreen or moisturiser? Believe it or not, this can affect whether your mask leaks or not!

It is very easy for divers to build up the difficulty of mask clearing in their own heads and a skill that is fundamental to diving suddenly becomes a mountainous task that causes panic and distress. It doesn't have to be that way. Take it slow, make baby steps and become confident and competent in your own ability. Then, there will be nothing to stop you!

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Scuba Diving: A Burning Passion or Burned Out?

It is a brand new season here in Cyprus and before the mayhem begins in earnest, we decided to have a little holiday and refresh in preparation for what is to come.

Since we are also celebrating our 5 year anniversary of being Scuba Tech, it seemed like a great time to get together with some good friends and get away... and what better way for Dive Centre owners in Cyprus and Cyprus Diving Instructors to relax but... Scuba Diving in Egypt!

How can you call it a holiday when you are still doing your jobs you may ask?

Ever heard the old adage, a change is as good as a break.? Well, it is true. We love Scuba Diving and although it is work, it is also a hobby for us and to remain this way over the 25 years I have been a Diver has taken some effort on my part.

Whatever you do, wherever you are, once you get complacent with something, you can easily get bored. This is particularly true if whatever you are doing is repetitive.

For example, I used to work at a diving centre where the bulk of business came from PADI Discover Scuba Diving. When I first started to work there I quite enjoyed the feeling of taking someone in the water for the first time. Seeing the smiles as they came out of the water and the achievement each new diver reached, especially those who initially struggled was a highlight. However, after 3 years of doing these experiences 2-3 times a day, every day, the sheen soon wore off.

We call it burn out!

So, how do we stop this from happening or re-find our enthusiasm if it already has?

For me, I wasn't sure where to go. Initially, I considered underwater videos and photography and did a few bits with that such as; underwater adverts and even some footage for the tv series "My Greek Kitchen". However, we soon realised that was more Shelley's forte!

Eventually, I found Technical Diving and, although I had always said I would never do it, it rekindled a spark for diving that hasn't left me since.

I attribute this to every day being different. Some days I guide qualified divers, some days I teach Technical Diving, sometimes I dive or teach the Rebreather and sometimes I am servicing Dive kit in the workshop. There are even times when I take beginners for Discover Scuba Diving Experiences and the satisfaction of taking a brand new diver in the water has returned.

To ensure the variety, it is definitely worth investing in your diving so you don't get burn out. If you find you are getting bored of the same old routine, it is time to shake it up a little bit.

There are many different aspects of diving you can look into. Try wreck diving or take an underwater camera with you and develop your photography skills. You could consider Technical Diving or a Rebreather Try Dive or, like us, just take a holiday and scuba dive in a different place, see different things and meet new people.

Variety is the Spice of Life!

Wednesday 4 February 2015

Shark Snogging... How not to do it!

Now, this blog is a little off-piste for us here at Scuba Tech but since it is February and the month of love, this fits in very nicely with the theme.

Have you ever snogged a shark?

Not many of us have because, despite the release of infographics (such as those on the left) telling us about the real nature of Sharks, many of us, especially those who grew up in the 70s, still have that image in our heads of Jaws opening his mouth and eternally chasing us for revenge.

Obviously, we know this is irrational and, as Scuba Divers, we will happily swim alongside; hammerheads, nurse sharks, nanny sharks and even whoop for joy down our regulators at the sight of a white tipped reef shark.

But, we were browsing you tube this is what happens when one diver takes his love of sharks too far

So I'll ask again.... Would you snog a shark?

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Finding your Path underwater- Navigation by view

So, at the end of last year (2014), we started a blog series with regards to underwater navigation. Essentially, the concern is that instructors are training Scuba Divers to go Scuba Diving with a similarly qualified diver but, with the very limited Navigational Skills training on the initial training courses, can we really say we have given them the tools they need to dive without a guide!

We began discussing Navigation techniques that divers (of all level) can employ to find their way around a dive site and previously talked about the use of an Underwater Compass. This week we will look at using Natural Navigation to find your way around a Dive Site.

Using Natural Navigation involves looking around to get markers that can be used to find your way out to the main attraction of a dive and then back to the starting point.

Sometimes, when scuba divers use tools such as the compass, they spend a lot of time focused on the tool and miss portions of the dive. The fact that divers are required to look around when using natural navigation, means it doesn't get in the way of enjoying your dive and you still get to enjoy your surroundings fully.

To illustrate this tool, let me use a local dive site in Cyprus, The Blue Hole, where the main attraction
is a small cave at 18m.

If I were giving divers a verbal map to navigate this dive site using natural navigation, it would begin on the surface where you can see 2 big rocks that stand up out of the water and you can see that they overlap underwater, creating a little pathway.

Once in the water, divers swim along this path, coming to a shallow rocky shelf that they would swim over to find a channel that runs parallel to the diver's direction of travel that is approximately 5 metres deep.

Follow this channel to the right and you will find a big rock that looks like the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars, behind which, is a little arch in the rock wall that we swim under.

Continue in the same direction of the arch, over a rocky bottom until you come to another channel with a sandy bottom and a bridge of rock crossing over it. Keep going over this and eventually you arrive at a precipice, where the depth drops.

You will also have seen a gradual increase in the depth of the bottom you have followed in the first part of this dive from around 5m to 10m.

At the precipice, it looks like a basin ahead of you full of sea grass. Drop down here and you will be at around 16 metres but to the left there is a large, flat rocky bottom that forms the side of the basin and rises up to about 13 metres and has 2 large cracks in the top.

The second crack is actually the entrance to a cave and you can drop down into this to 18m and swim through the cave to the sandy bottom.

So, as you can see, the markers that we use are fixed. There is no point using markers that can move such as; "10 minutes in you will see a big grouper"... that fish can swim away! We use big immovable rocks, tunnels, the bottom composition, depths etc. Things that remain constant day to day.

Equally, you can make use of natural phenomena, such as contours on a sandy bottom, which run parallel to shore, sun and shadows, prevailing current but your instructor or local Divers should be able to give you more information about what you can use in your area.

Don't be afraid to ask others what methods and markers they use to navigate local dive sites, we are a pretty friendly and helpful group for the most part and most divers will gladly help out.

Give it a try! Assuming you can see past the end of your nose, Natural Navigation is a great tool to use to find your way around on a dive.

Wednesday 7 January 2015

Fit to Dive?

Well, it is New Year and time for those dreaded New Year Resolutions that we all make and stick to for a week if we are strong willed, two to three hours if you are more like us!!

Everyone likes to start the New Year thinking of the next holidays and strolling around on the beach looking good in their Speedos (I don't wear them... it's a Metaphor!!)
So, the obvious step is to get fit and, as scuba divers, this is even more important because, although you do not have to be an Olympian to go Scuba Diving, you do need a basic level of fitness. 

It wasn't so long ago that Scuba Diving was seen as a dangerous sport that took you into dark, deep and dangerous places only for the likes of the SAS, Navy Seals and, of course, James Bond. 

However, these days it is a sport marketed as so easy peasy that 8 year old children and dear old Granny can partake.

While it is relatively easy and accessible, making it possible for practically anyone to try Scuba Diving these days, remember that it is also a sport that requires some level of health and stamina. The problem is that identifying the level required is pretty subjective.

So how do you know if you are fit enough?

Firstly, have a read of the self certification Medical Statement that all diving agencies provide. If you answer "yes" to any of the conditions listed on there, you should visit your doctor to see if you are fit to dive. If your doctor says you can go, or if you are already certified and haven't considered fitness in a while, your next concern is whether you are truly fit to dive.

Ask yourself where will I be diving? What kind of conditions will there be? Heading out to a resort like Cyprus and Scuba Diving will be very different from diving around the coast line of the UK. You don't need the same level of fitness here because it is unlikely you will be swimming in currents (or if you do, they are very mild) and the water is lovely and warm with good visibility. It is simply less stressful on the body when you dive in relaxed conditions.

Even in "easy" conditions, you should be physically prepared for the kind of diving you want to do plus have a little bit of extra in reserve for when Murphy and his law comes calling. Be honest about it because it isn't just yourself at risk if you are not fit enough for the diving you choose to do. Those who need to assist and/ or rescue you are put into danger also including; buddy, boat crew, dive guide etc.

As instructors, we are responsible for looking after all the students under our care. For us, it is even more important to stay fit and healthy but we are only tested for fitness when we take our Instructor exams. For me, that was over 10 years ago now and I think we can all agree, a lot can change in 10 years.
Even at this level, it is up to us, individually, to make sure we are fit to do the diving we want to do.
For our part, it means trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle and although it can be difficult in the summer when we are working full throttle, we try to exercise regularly and enjoy a balanced diet to ensure our bodies have the fuel they need for the hard work we do on a dive.

If you have to make New Year Resolutions, random goals like "I will get fit for Diving" is too vague. Give solid steps such as; "by the end of February I will be able to swim 200m without being out of breath" or "I will be able to walk a mile in 10 minutes", depending on your current fitness level and don't make the steps too large. You can start small and build up your stamina as you get fitter and can do it.

The moral of the story is...

Be it tropical diving, ice diving, technical diving or instructing, be honest with yourself about your ability and fitness for a dive. If you don't think you are fit enough, don't do it! Take a step back, some time and build up the fitness required. You will enjoy the dive much more and most importantly, it will be safer for yourself and everybody else diving with you!