SCUBA DIVING


HISTORY:


Scuba diving is a sport that had its humble beginnings in ancient times. In early Greece and Rome, people used to swim or dive while holding their breath or by using makeshift breathing apparatuses like hollow plant stems. This was commonly practiced during combat or while gathering food and materials from the ocean.

One of the first stories of underwater breathing dates back all the way to 500BC, when a Greek solider supposedly dived off of a ship and used a hollow reed to breath underwater for hours.

A couple centuries later, the philosopher Aristotle reported that Alexander the Great found a way to hide underwater while the siege of Tyre was taking place. Apparently, Alexander the Great was able to stay underwater by using a barrel as his very own diving bell!

We have come a long way since then. Underwater diving evolved from simple freediving or skin diving to the more sophisticated form that we know today thanks to contributions from many great minds throughout the centuries. Modern scuba diving is built on thousands of years’ worth of innovations in underwater technology, not to mention all of the physiological research on the effects of underwater pressure on the human body and the efforts to create standardized training programs for amateur divers.

For the first nine months of our lives, we humans exist in an aquatic environment very similar to seawater. If an infant is submerged underwater, it instinctively holds its breath for up to 40 seconds while making swimming motions, although we seem to lose this ability as we get older and commence walking. Awakening these reflexes is one of the most important elements of freediving, thus giving humans better abilities to survive at great depths.

The history of scuba diving is closely linked with the history of scuba equipment. By the turn of the twentieth century, two basic architectures for underwater breathing apparatus had been pioneered; open-circuit surface supplied equipment where the diver's exhaled gas is vented directly into the water and closed-circuit breathing apparatus where the diver's carbon dioxide is filtered from the exhaled breathing gas, which is then recirculated, and more gas added to replenish the oxygen content. Closed circuit equipment was more easily adapted to scuba in the absence of reliable, portable and economical high pressure gas storage vessels.

By the mid-twentieth century, high pressure cylinders were available and two systems for scuba had emerged: open-circuit scuba, where the diver's exhaled breath is vented directly into the water and closed-circuit scuba, where the carbon dioxide is removed from the diver's exhaled breath which has oxygen added and is recirculated. These are called rebreathers.

In 1942, during the German occupation of France, Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Émile Gagnan designed the first successful and safe open-circuit scuba, known as the Aqua-Lung. Their system combined an improved demand regulator with high-pressure air tanks. This was patented in 1945.

 


VIDEOS:


PELAGIC ENCOUNTERS

Blue O Two, Pelagic Encounters. MV Blue Voyager, Maldives Liveaboard


MANTA NIGHT DIVE

MV Blue Voyager, Blue O Two, Maldives.


SHARK FEEDING FRENZY

MV Blue Voyager, Blue O Two, Maldives.


WHALE SHARKS

Whales Sharks, Philippines, Cebu, Oslob.


MOALBOALS TURTLES

All about Turtles, Philippines, Cebu, Moalboal.


SARDINE DIVE

Diving with sardines, Philippines, Cebu, Moalboal.


 CHANNEL DIVING MALDIVES

CHANNEL DIVING IN THE MALDIVES FROM A LIVEABOARD

 

What is Channel Diving?

Channels are usually formed as gaps or breaks in the atoll, forming entrances and exits to the inside eco system. Diving in them is best with a medium strong incoming current from the East. The current strongly affects the quality and nature of the dive. Often with a strong outgoing current there is less fish life and the dive becomes more challenging.

The beauty of channel diving is the amount of fish life in general, but particularly the fact that pelagic life rides the current, waiting to hunt smaller fish that slip from their schools. The mix of pelagic life and reef life creates an interesting mix of sights and behaviours.

Crossing the channel

A small to medium incoming current is ideal for crossing the channel; the oceanic current pushes you along the outside drop off from one corner to the next. It is important to be further away from the reef and below the lip of the channel floor to avoid being swept into the channel. Often this means that you have to be at 35-40 meters deep - staying shallower would mean not being able to cross the channel. If the current is not too strong, you will see a lot of marine life hanging on the edge of the channel. They do this because they breathe the water being pushed through their gills, and with the current passing through them, they don’t have to swim.

Hooking on to one of the corners

This is usually done when the current is medium to strong. Drift along the outside wall until you reach one of the corners, hook in with a reef hook, and observe the marine life activity around you.

In the Maldives, it can be really challenging to cross the channel in a strong current. Often the channel changes direction as you cross, and by the time you reach the opposite lip of the channel, the current starts working against you if done with an incoming current. It is possible to run into a washing machine style scenario that will have you kicking hard to get out. It is best to stay close to your dive guide and mimic him or her very closely.

Sharks and eagle rays are often gliding on the current at this point, as well as hunting and feeding on fusiliers. You get to observe all the action from the corners.

Things to be careful about

The converging currents can create washing machines of a sudden mix of upward and downward current. Often it is necessary to swim through this type of current for a stretch to get to the other side of the channel. To negate this, release your SMB and become negatively buoyed - essentially hanging off the SMB.

On channel dives, it is critical to bring SMBs, reef hooks, and ideally a nautilus life line or similar product, as there is a fair chance of being swept out into the blue.

MV Emperor Orion

MV Emperor Orion

Dive sites

dhoni

Channel

MV Emperor Orion

Dive liveaboard, 39 meter wooden hulled motor yacht operating high quality liveaboard diving cruises around the Maldives. Up to 24 divers can be comfortably accommodated on board. There is a range of cabins from Standard en-suite cabins to Executive suite, each having a TV and DVD player, with the higher priced cabins even enjoying bathtubs.

The MV Orion liveaboard is beautifully finished inside with wooden floors and paneling as well as high quality furnishings. 7 night trips depart from Male and from the time of collection at the airport you will be treated with top class  hospitality. With a crew of 18 you are almost guaranteed one on one service and for added convenience there are several European languages spoken on board.

Diving is conducted from a separate 20 meter dhoni where equipment and tanks are stored and filled with air or nitrox from the 2 compressors. This means no noisy tank filling on board the MV Orion. All divers are given personal tracking devices and carbon monoxide analysers for use during the trip for added safety. While there are many Maldive Islands liveaboards operating 7 night dive safaris from Male, few have the luxury and style of the Orion.


GREAT WHITE SHARKS

Gansbaai, South Africa.

Great White Sharks - South Africa

For the first time in almost two years, great white sharks have been spotted again in False Bay. In 2017 - 2018, their numbers reached an all time low, with great whites completely disappearing from South African research surveys for weeks and months at a time. While the reasons for their decline and disappearance remains unknown, it provides a truly unique opportunity to see what happens to an ocean ecosystem following a loss of an apex predator.

While a few sighting does not point to a comeback, it is a welcome sight. The situation is being monitored and researches will only be able to determine the significance, or the possible return of the great white sharks to False Bay, once more sharks are sighted over an extended period of time.

Only a few years ago, scientists estimated there were between 300 to 500 great white sharks in South Africa's False Bay. Now, they have almost disappeared. While local surfers might have relaxed, the absence of the apex predators is alarming to scientists, and the lucrative industries that rely on their presence.

 Local cage dive operator and wildlife photographer Chris Fallows says. "When the waters go quiet, both above and below the surface, and these predators are not there, it sounds huge alarm bells."

It is unclear what will happen to marine ecosystems if sharks are no longer there to keep them in check. Seal Island, a rocky outcrop in the middle of the False Bay, Cape Town, is home to a colony of over 64,000 Cape fur seals. It has always been a feeding ground to great whites, famous for their breaching of the surface to attack. Already, there have been changes in other shark species, such as the bronze whalers and sevengills who have become more prevalent at Seal Island. If it becomes a more long term knock-on effect, it is unpredictable what will happen.

As shark numbers dwindled, fingers were pointed toward a pair of roaming orcas, nicknamed Port and Starboard. Orcas are known for their specific way of attacking sharks by the pectoral fin and tearing them open to eat the nutritious and buoyant liver. There have been several sighting of Great White carcasses washed up onto the shore. A couple of orcas could do quite a lot of damage.

Chris Fallows, one of the first cage dive operators in False Bay, has been putting filmmakers, researchers and tourists into the water with sharks at Seal Island for almost 30 years. These days, the cage-dive industry attracts 80,000 tourists each year. But more recently, Mr Fallows has turned his attention to South Africa's demersal longline fishery, which he believes is responsible for some of the changes in shark populations.

Gansbaai

Located just 2 1/2 hours from Cape Town. These cage diving trips are generally offered throughout the year, however sightings in Gansbaai have been well below normal in the past few years, with sightings of these rare animals becoming unpredictable and sporadic.

On days when great whites are not seen, another species of shark, the Copper shark has suddenly become a frequently Sighting in this area. The Copper shark, also called Bronze Whalers, can attain a length of over 3m. Their sleek body has a bronze-grey sheen dorsally with an off-white underside and is slightly arched above the gills.

Other wildlife species such as Cape Gannets, Cape Cormorants, African Penguins, whales, from July to November, and dolphins are also frequently seen.


DIVING MOALBOAL 

Diving Moalboal, Philippines, Cebu.


BAITED SHARK DIVE

Baited Shark Dive near Aliwal Shoal, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. Aliwal Dive Center.

Oceanic Blacktip sharks

Have a streamlined body with a fusiform shape and a long pointed snout, with relatively small eyes. The gill slits are long and there is no ridge between the dorsal fins. The distinguishing feature of this species is that they can have black tips or edges on their pectoral, dorsal, pelvic or caudal fins.

The Oceanic Blacktip shark around 2m in size, is a regular sighting. The Oceanic Blacktip shark is often seen above the water. It makes spinning leaps out of the water while attacking schools of fish. The majority of Oceanic Blacktip sharks are found in water less than 40m deep. They can however also penetrate short distances into fresh water. The Oceanic Blacktip shark is an extremely fast, energetic predator that is usually found in groups of varying sizes.

It has been assessed as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), on the basis of its low reproductive rate and high value to fisheries.


RAGGED TOOTH SHARK DIVE - ALIWAL SHOAL

Ragged Tooth Shark

Also known as the Sand Tiger Shark. Although rather frightening in appearance, this species is relatively placid and docile, only likely to make an attack if cornered or provoked. The Raggie has a stocky body and reaches a length of just over two metres, with the female being slightly larger than the male. They weigh between 90 and 160 kilograms when mature. The top of the body (the dorsal side) is a grey-bronze colour, while the underneath is a much lighter variation thereof. They also have a rather hunched appearance with a sharp, pointy nose or snout.

Aliwal Shoal

Aliwal Shoal, on the east coast of South Africa, is known worldwide as one of the best shark diving destinations on the planet, and much of that activity centres around one of our most famous dive sites, Raggies Cave. A natural hollow filled with sand and encircled on all sides by plateaued reef, the site’s most prominent feature is the deep overhang that dominates one side of the amphitheatre.

In winter, this overhang is one of the most popular aggregation points for visiting ragged-tooth sharks, who arrive on the South African eastern coastline in their hundreds to mate in the gullies and caverns of Aliwal Shoal. On a clear day, divers arriving at the site are able to see through 18 metres of translucent ocean to the reef below, a veiled promise of the wonders hidden beneath the hull. Upon descent, these secrets reveal themselves one by one, the golden streak of a trumpetfish moving leisurely over the reef, or the shimmer of a school of baitfish materialising out of the depths. A dark form silhouetted against the pale expanse of the site’s sand patch begins to take shape, the pointed snout, two sharp pectoral fins, and long, powerful tail of a ragged-tooth shark.

Maximum Depth: 18 metres

Minimum Qualification: Open Water Diver

At first, this shark suspended above the sand seems to be alone, but then, one more shark appears, then another and another. The cave is filled with them. They are magnificent, these sharks, with eyes like molten gold and liver-spotted skin that seems to refract the watery light. Their protruding, mismatched teeth are the stuff of Discovery Channel nightmares; and yet, they are docile, hanging motionlessly in the cave without showing any apparent interest in their unexpected visitors. In winter, you can  spend as long with the raggies as the current allows. In summer most of the sharks depart for warmer birthing grounds north of Aliwal Shoal.

Raggies Cave is also frequently inhabited by a large potato bass, its skin mottled with alternating patches of silver and charcoal. The sand patch, which is out of bounds to divers during shark season, becomes an ideal classroom for students seeking to master new dive skills; and the perfect treasure trove for those in search of sharks’ teeth.

The reef around the sand patch and the overhang is also teaming with life, from well camourflaged scorpionfish to luminous schools of lemon-yellow bannerfish. This is one of the best dive sites for spotting turtles, from the ponderous green turtle to the delicate hawksbill. The sand itself provides much sought after cover for round ribbon-tail and leopard rays. Many divers also make the acquaintance of a resident honeycomb moray that spends its days in a nearby cavern, being attended upon by candy-striped boxer shrimp.



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