December 27, 2011

My 2011 in diving

Basically I'm satisfied because at least some dives. Certainly in the beginning of the year I dreamed of trips to new, exotic places but nowadays I have much more plans than travels. I would like to spend a few weeks in the Caribbean for a long time but sadly we simply couldn't afford even Dominican Republic. I learned a lot about the country, the best resorts, the most exciting dive sites and- I stayed home.

Later we went to the usual Adriatic round trip. But I had an unusual experience: we were invited to a week long liveaboard trip to the Kamelija yacht. We had the chance to dive places where I hadn't been before because they are far from the mainland. I had to realize how much exciting spots can be in Croatia with abundant sea life. I had many dives in different islands and I know what to expect. I know it's really special to see purple and yellow gorgonians at 25 meters depth. To find huge scorpionfish and crabs. Morays are very rare too. And on this liveaboard trip I saw all of these in a single spot- in a cavern there wasn't one but two morays! The Kamelija was one of the best boats I've been to, not too large with all the important facilities and a fantastic cook. I really loved it.

In the summer we organized a special underwater photography trip the Egyptian Red Sea. We rented the whole Cassiopeia boat, a lot of photographers joined us and we made a shootout competition for them. Most of the Egyptian liveaboard routes go to the offshore reefs while we stayed close to shore. We had different plans. We looked for shallow but spectacular places which are safe for more than a dozen photographers. We had an awesome trip, our friends took a lot of great pics, so next year hopefully we can organize a similar trip again.

Late summer I've been to Croatia again but this time as an ordinary tourist. It was a great experience to dive the Adriatic when its water is much warmer. I didn't miss my drysuit, it was nice to dive without any assignments. I tried to make some photos and enjoyed diving in itself. I loved that experience. In the last few years the Croatian trips meant not only enjoyment but work as well. I needed these trips to feel the beauty of Adriatic diving again. It's funny to go back the same old place and realize how lucky am I when I can spend so much time there.

And... That's all, folks. I had some nice dives and because of the actual crisis I don't have too much plans for 2012. Adriatic, again, Red Sea, again, a visit to Brussels and Nemo33- for the third time. I don't dream about the Caribbean or Asia. If I can go I will if I can't I won't. Life is simple as diving: you know the rules and you have to decide "what, where and how" within your boundaries. Even a fairly typical year can bring a bunch of surprises if you really try to look for them. That is why I am satisfied with my 2011.

How about you?

December 23, 2011

Scuba Christmas

Last weekend our friends in Dorog invited us to the underwater Christmas celebration. They had a nice a tree and an UW camera which they used for the live coverage of the event. As usual the cold water wasn't inviting for most of the guest, the majority of us stayed in the surface. It was nice to see some old diver friends again and greet the brave ones (especially the man who dived in wetsuit in 5 degrees cold!) who submerged.



December 12, 2011

Ray: A Life Underwater

Nowadays this is my favorite short documentary. Ray Ives, the 75 years old diver really interesting person and the mood of the film is simply fascinating. I think the makers deserve mentioning their names:
Produced and Directed by Amanda Bluglass
Editor and Director of Photography: Danny Cooke
Dive photography: Neil Hope
Sound track: Tony Higgins

December 9, 2011

A special kind of fish soup

When yesterday I wrote about fish food and some exciting fish soups I realized I dived a place where I encountered living fish soup. It happened in Gran Canaria of Canary Islands. As we descended to the Pasito Blanco it seemed the bottom is flowing and moving but when we swam closer I saw thousands of fish. It was one of my most incredible diving experiences! It's a protected area so those fish won't be cooked hopefully. I don't care if I had to eat something else but has the chance to see this shoal of fish someday again...


December 8, 2011

Fish out of water

To fish or not to fish: that is the question. Sometimes as a I diver I think about my eating habits. I read a lot about destructive fishing methods and whenever I order seafood in a restaurant I feel guilty. On the other hand I like fish food...

I remember some dive trips in Egypt where the local crew caught fish: a tuna or a grouper. They chose an environment friendly way of fishing with a single hook, they had the fish and didn't destroy the coral reefs as the bottom trawlers. My first fresh tuna steak on a Egyptian boat was a stunning experience, I ate only canned tuna before which was in a totally different league. Later I tasted fresh groupers and cuttlefish too and seeing how it was caught made the dinner more delicious.

Anyway I can't resist seafood in restaurants. In Hungary certainly I prefer local freshwater food, I know a great place not far from Budapest where they make only trout. The owner, a friend of us is a really nice guy and his roasted trout is awesome! In some restaurants I like to taste Hungarian style fisherman's soup called "halászlé" from catfish.

Whenever I travel to abroad I like to try new foods. There are place where simply do it better: in Madeira we always had delicious meals. They make my absolute favorite fish soup in that small island but the swordfish steaks with banana (filetes de espada com banana) is a special dish too. I like the Canary Islands' fish soup (caldo de pescado) which I had in several places around the archipelago. In Graciosa island we had the daily menu in a small restaurant in the harbor with tasty fish soup and a glass of awful wine. I usually prefer beer or water, the local wines' quality can be a positive or more likely negative surprise. I avoid those frustrating experiences by choosing a pint of lager...

I do the same in Croatia where I tasted many fish food. One of the "classics" is the stuffed cuttlefish (punjene lignje), but they make it differently in every restaurant. It's exciting to cut it and see if there's cheese, ham, rice or something else inside the cuttlefish.

Sadly you rarely know if you have local fresh fish or imported one. When the crew catch you know it's really fresh but there were another memorable moments during our trips. We had a flat tire in Tenerife in a small fishing village. We decided to have a meal and in the restaurant there was a huge fridge with the fresh local fish: we chose one and they made it in the roast in the opened kitchen. It helped to forget our car problems very soon! This year we spent a wonderful week in a liveaboard boat in Croatia. On the last day I saw the captain as he cleaned some fish near the boat. He revealed his fisherman father caught them in the morning and the cook made one of my best Croatian meals.

Many nice moments, many good food... I hope someday they'll use sustainable fishing methods everywhere in the world and I'll have the chance to see fish under water and on my plate as well.

December 6, 2011

The birth of an independent traveler

Some people use to travel with agencies, while another ones like to organize everything for themselves. I like to do everything on my own but as all of us, as a beginner diver I joined groups. After some disappointments I decided to be my own travel agent. Here is the story of becoming an independent traveler.

When I was a newbie diver there were two possibilities: travel with a big agency who couldn't help at all in diving so I had to organize that on location or join a dive instructor who organized trips for smaller groups. Nowadays there is a third option, the handful of travel agencies specialized in dive tourism- there are only a few in Hungary, most of them were independent instructors in the past who made a professional company. In my country the way as the instructors did organizing was quite illegal, but we didn't have too much choice.

So with my about 10 dives I joined a man who offered a 4 days long to trip to Croatia. We discussed all the details. He suggested me to travel with a couple in their car. I decided to stay in a camping and eat the food I bring- I didn't have too much money in those years. We arrived after 10 hours driving and I realized there weren't booked accommodations. For me it wasn't a problem because I knew I had to sleep in the camping. Or at least I prepared for that: the instructor came back in 2 hours and he said "I booked a room for you as well!" I felt a kick from my pocket, my wallet sent me a message: "Say NO, you can't afford that!" But the instructor said it was cheap and much better than the camping, OK... Later he said to the group he ordered meal for all of us for 3 days, it's so cheap and delicious. I asked kindly how cheap was it but he didn't tell. I later found the price list and I knew I had to live on a tight budget somehow. I needed money for the accommodation, the food so I didn't have enough on diving. I was in Croatia, prepared for diving without too much money to spend on diving.

The instructor promised boat dives- they were expensive as boat diving is pricier everywhere in the world. We knew the prices, the plans, the possible locations- and we had to drive to a bay where we made shore dives for the same price. The way as he led the dive was terrible, he sent the divers to the surface one by one, I remember a girl who wasn't even certified, she had about 3 dives under her belt when after reaching 60 bars she had to make a controlled ascent from 30 meters, followed by a long surface swim. It was far from safe practice... By the way on the next day the group really sailed on a boat- without me. I simply didn't have enough money and I was shy to ask from the other guys. I was on the shore when they left the harbor waving to me and because it was a daytrip I had just enough time to think about this situation. It wasn't my mistake at all. But on the other hand I felt if I should be more careful next time.

A few months later I traveled with another instructor to Croatia again. This time the apartments where we stayed were miles away from the sea, in a village without a pub or a shop, and my room was the kitchen of an apartment in the basement. The diving was OK but I knew if I would had organized that trip it had been much better. Or if it would had been as worse as that the only one to blame have been me. Since than I always look for offers on air fare, try to find discounts on diving and accommodation, book our own rental car and so on. All of the trips were much better than those terrible Croatian excursions. And when somebody join me I never want to cheat or book an useless expensive extra service to make money. I still remember the moment when I realized I spent my hard earned money on a dive trip where I had to stay out of the water instead of being under. I try to do my best when organize trips: I hope nobody collects disappointments but nice memories.

December 4, 2011

A big smile

I took this photo 10 years ago. A decade! I like this happy smile. It's a "I'm happy after successful certification dive" smile, and not a "I survived a 30 minutes torture in a murky lake" relief. Or it was "hopefully next time I can dive in nice warm seawater" cheer? I don't know if she is still diving nowadays but I guess she isn't. Sometimes it happens.

I was a beginner when I shot this photo and I'm still diving. After more than 400 dives I can ask myself what changed. My country, Hungary joined the European Union 3 years later. There weren't wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We didn't expect world economical crisis. I even used a traditional analog photo camera in 2001 and before I saw the picture I had to make it developed...

And in diving? In those years a travel to Croatia was a dive trip of my dreams. Egypt seemed so exotic, so attracting, so distant, so expensive for me who just finished the studies and started to work. Only a minority of divers were able to afford an Asian trip so we hadn't ever thought about that. In those years all of us had to use a weight belt because there weren't integrated BC-s. Most of the divers I knew didn't use computer just followed the leader who had one. It was common to make a really deep dive just after certification, inexperienced divers made to 40+ depth regularly. We usually rented the equipment which was old, simple and heavily worn but we didn't care about this. We went to nearby quarries often and we were happy when we found a place where the visibility was more than 1-2 meters.

And on the photos we smiled as this lady. It was because of the happiness, the relief or the hope? Maybe all of them.

December 1, 2011

Disclaimer

Should this text appear in every Open Water Diver book's first page? "After certification you can be saddened for 47-50 weeks per year."

(I found this in a ScubaBoard post, great idea.)

The most beautiful ray

No, not the manta ray for me. The most special ray I ever encountered is the wonderful butterfly ray.

I saw the first one near Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. I caught sight of a wide animal in the depth which swam smoothly away. I asked the DM who said it was a common butterfly ray. Later I saw more of them in Gran Canaria. They slept in the daytime but after we went too close they swam away with an unbeatable elegance. It simply glided a few inches above the bottom with a marble-like pattern skin. I know the huge manta is a wonder in itself, but the butterfly ray is different, it's so incredible, so special. There Canary Islands are like a ray sanctuary, I saw here devil rays, eagle rays, common skates and those wonderful animals I mentioned above. I can't get tired of them...


November 28, 2011

A thousand and up

I noticed the number of visits reached 1000 recently. I know it's a very small leap for mankind in 3 months... But it's exactly 1000 more visits than a non-existent blog has. I feel the progress and I like it. I regularly use to check the statistics and I'm happy to see visits from distant countries.

So I try to do my best. I rely on the patience and forgiveness of my readers who encounter my English. I learn from every single entry, I try to make as less mistake as I can. In Hungarian I'd be able to write a short blog entry in 15 minutes but in English it takes much more time. Even so I enjoy blogging. I write about my favorite hobby, scuba diving, I can share experiences, adventures, thoughts. I hope there are visitors who find interesting videos, nice photos here or get some information about destinations or wrecks. I encourage everybody to comment: I need feedback about my mistakes and I'd happy to read your thoughts about my entries, adventures or blog design.

Thanks for joining me on this virtual trip to the underwater world!

November 26, 2011

Wreck treks: Tien Hsing

This small wreck isn't famous at all, nobody travels to the Egyptian Red Sea to do some dives at the Tien Hsing. Most of the divers don't know its name, they mention Tienstin or simply call it "the wreck of the Abu Galawa". Me too and I like this.

First of all the history lesson: the Tien Hsing was built in China in 1935 and hit the Abu Galawa reef in 1943. The 35 meters long tugboat's position is special: it starts from the surface and the stern reaches the bottom at 17 meters. The dive site is popular because the divers can't find too much shallow wrecks in the Marsa Alam area.

Basically it's a simple small boat which would look a typical, isn't too exciting watercraft if it would be mooring in a harbor. Under water it became an underwater oasis with splendid life. There are small rooms with glassfish, holes with morays, groupers, pipefish. The divers need to be careful in specific places as in every wreck but it's a nice dive spot even if you never penetrate. There isn't strong currents and it's quite protected, sometimes the liveaboard boats spend the night here and the divers can observe how the wreck's fauna change in the dark. In the ray of light the coral covered wreck becomes a mysterious underwater object with hunting lionfish or sleeping parrotfish.

The article continued here

November 23, 2011

November 22, 2011

Cairo blues

The Tahrir Square, again.

A year ago all the news channels of the world showed exciting pictures: the revolutions of the Arab world could change the life in Northern Africa and in the Middle East. First the Tunisian president fell, later the Egyptian president resigned, Libya's Muammar Gaddafi is dead. There are fights in Yemen, Bahrein and Syria.

For me the greatest surprise was the anger which resulted Egypt's Hosni Mubarak resignation. He ruled his country for decades and we, who visit Egypt regularly, saw his portraits everywhere. In this moment it's hard to decide if he was a cruel dictator or a president who worked for his country's peace and prosperity. As a traveler I appreciated his efforts to maintain peace with Israel and let the tourists visit many of the country's above and under water wonders.

For us it was a cheap world class destination but I confess I didn't think too much about its government. I don't like to talk about politics even in my home country, why should I discuss those affairs in a foreign place where I just dive and relax? But the local people did. And somehow they were able to change the situation. Sadly they aren't happy now, because they aren't satisfied with the new military councils plans. The general elections come but nobody knows if they will postpone presidential elections or not. Those people on the Tahrir Square don't want to see another dictator in the country. The news channels show pictures of fights from Cairo again and I don't know what will happen there in a week, a month, a year...

I think we can't really understand this country which has so long history from the ancient pharaohs. Egypt is a huge country but majority of the land is desert. Imagine an England where only the greater London area is inhabited! Too much people live in the Valley of Nile and many of them poor. They don't feel they are benefiting of the millions of foreigners who arrive to their country and spend a lot of money. They want changes. But nobody knows how to change to keep the income from the tourism and give more of that to the people.

We who traveled there regularly are worrying and waiting. I understand the Egyptians but wouldn't be happy to lose a favorite destination because of emerging aggression and impatience. Sadly I can't do anything. The Egyptian people had to decide and I respect their choice. I wish a better future for them, for the country and for us as well.

November 19, 2011

A pool dive

We spent two hours in a nearby water theme park. This place is certainly more popular amongst children or families than divers. As everywhere in the world the scuba diving is one of the ordinary water-related activities in Hungary too. There is a small dive center, where divers can rent tanks, weights, basic equipments and sometimes they organize try dives. There aren't too much pools in Budapest where they allow diving, this theme park became popular really fast. The divers like it because the water is warm, clear and there are shallow and deep pools as well.

I use to go directly to the deeper pool: in 4 meters depth it's much more fun to practice, it's better to shoot test photos, and so on. This time I met two friends who tried their new equipments before a liveaboard trip in Egypt. It was a good idea: one of them tried a borrowed DIR-system wing which seemed way too big for her, but it can be modified. The regulator leaked, the o-ring of the pressure gauge could be the sinner. Luckily she has a week to make it repaired.

For me it was one of the typical pool practice dives, I refreshed some basic skills and attached a new harness to my travel wing. And I made my usual underwater panorama photos: the clear water let me to shoot them. Nothing special happened but it was nice to be under water for a while. After the session we had a nice discussion, the divers easily find the common topics. I needed this relaxing Saturday pool dive simply because I'm tired and I don't know when can I travel somewhere...

November 16, 2011

What's in a profile?

I never missed the download feature from my dive computer. My Suuntos weren't downloadable and I didn't buy download cable to my Oceanic. But when I bought a Sub Gear XP10 and I read the manual I noticed I can download the profiles by IrDA. This infrared communication adapter is cheap and some older laptops have a built-in one. As I kept my old-school computers I found one which had this.

Since then I use to download my dives regularly. I add the additional information to the dive log software but I confess I still haven't found the reasons why do I really need this feature. This entry won't answer this question but at least I found a place where I can use them: this blog. I'd like to insert two dive profiles and tell about them. The first one shows a fairly typical dive in the Adriatic: it's quite deep. I don't dive for the computer but I'm proud to see this profile: not too much bottom time, gradual ascending, aren't any too fast swims up or down.... It's OK.

What this profile tell us about the Adriatic? Because of the industrial fishing in the shallow areas there are much less fish. The cat sharks and the lobsters live below 30 meters, the purple or yellow sea fans as well. Most of the divers plan to go deep in the beginning to find something special. The slow ascending is not only safer but let us to light into the holes and find the hiding animals. Many of these dives are wall dives so everybody has to be careful and maintain the neutral buoyancy. Because of the maximum depth I like to spend more time in the shallows, not only the 3 minutes long safety stop. The dive boat won't abandon us, the divers slowly get out of the water to the RIB, so instead of waiting in the surface I like to stay between 3-5 meters. Have a look at the temperature chart: in the summer close to the surface you'd think a shorty is enough but it drops very fast. At the deepest point it was as low as 15 Celsius degrees- those who like it hot wouldn't enjoy diving.

The other profile would be familiar for those who often dive in tropical seas. This was a dive in the Egyptian Red Sea where water temperature difference wasn't an issue. But I use to wear a thin overall even in warm water because we spend more time in the bottom: this dive was more than 70 minutes long. I prefer those dive sites where the reef starts at the surface, even the safety stop is fun in the coral garden. Instead of going up and down often I use to spend more time at specific points. For a few minutes I'm just watching the fish, trying to find critters. If I take my camera I try to shoot some photos. I don't need to hurry, in this depth I don't use much air. There are dozens of these shallow places in Egypt where you don't fight against the current, you can easily navigate back to the boat while you're wondering the splendid underwater world. Maybe these spots won't appear in the Top 10 guides but for me it can be the dive of my life - at least until it lasts.

I take my time. I don't swim too much: there is life everywhere, the Red Sea is beautiful. If it's possible I don't join the dive guides but dive with my buddy. I really love this relaxing way of being under water. I never miss offshore reefs where the chance of shark encounters are higher. If an animal wants to meet it'll find me and pose for a photo. That is why this is dive profile is much less exciting. I can download it to show and explain but I think the profiles don't tell too much about our favorite dives...

November 13, 2011

The deepest

Belgium is famous of its charming towns (for example Liege, Bruges, Leuven), good beers (my favorites: Hoegarden, Bellevue kriek, Duvel, Leffe) and political chaos. The capital is the administrative center of the European Union and it is a fairly typical place in the country. First of all, it has a French (Bruxelles) and Flemish (Brussels) name but dozens of other nations has representatives here: the EU officials came from the 27 member countries and there are many immigrants. The city with its historical buildings is always full of tourists and there are districts which more similar to an Egyptian town than a European with Arabic shops and restaurants. A long weekend in Bruxelles offers mixed adventures for the traveler except diving- at least most of the visitors don't think about diving in such a landlocked town.

But they make a mistake when skip the googling of "dive" and "Bruxelles" words. One of the suburbs hides a dull grey building where they made the deepest recreational diving pool. The Nemo33 is 33 meters deep and its water is around 30 Celsius degrees warm. You may think to travel to a distant country and do a pool dive there isn't a good idea but in my opinion it's a nice program. Everything is well organized: the price of a dive is 22 euros and the full kit hire (except computer) is included. You can bring your mask and computer, and choose a BC, a regulator, a pair of fins from the selection of the Nemo33. There are plenty of them in every size. What to do in the pool? There are deeper and shallower parts, you can swim around, touch the bottom at 33 meters, practice, anything you'd do in a pool. However it's more exciting, I felt the depth more than in open water. This part is narrow, the surface seems only a small circle if you glance above. I didn't spend too much time in the bottom. The descending and ascending near the long ladder was like a long meditation. After the dive we use to have a good meal in the restaurant of the Nemo33- the food is awesome. There are windows in the pool where you can watch the divers while you are eating or having a beer.

The article continued here


November 12, 2011

News 44-45/2011

I confess I'm disappointed when I read news about wreck looters, and sadly they're everywhere: even in Finland.

Many people dislike the idea of artificial reefs. I don't know if it's a good way to reduce the stress on coral reefs or we just create an underwater backyard. Recently the Vandenberg wreck won a conservation award.

I wish I had the chance to travel to Queensland to see the annual coral spawning. Sadly I can't do it but many tourists can, this year a lot of them arrives to the Great Barrier Reef to see it.


I regularly join underwater cleanup days, great to see how much garbage we bring to the surface- and disappointing to realize the people dumped them into the water. And many other divers join conservation project around the world! It was very interesting to read an article about scuba diving priests of the Philippines who works for the sea.

Michael K. Williams says no to the chumming: the actor liked the diving with great whites but the the way of attracting them.

November 10, 2011

Happiness

It's all about floating. You don't even have to move just stay somewhere between the surface and the seabed. When you're near a 700 meters deep wall in the big blue you feel how small are you. There are several other divers but basically you're alone with your dive equipment. But your perfect, timeless freedom lasts only for an hour. And anything can happen. Sometimes a predator appears. Or the current drags you to the unknown. A diver is so vulnerable: limited air supply, inefficient moves. We need even a mask to see what's around us. We shouldn't go there. Being under water is dangerous and frightening and crazy. It's simply unbelievable.

Being under water is happiness.


November 9, 2011

My grey-blue suit

I was so proud with my first wetsuit! It was a thick 7 mm Sporasub. I bought it in Italy because it was an outlet product, a real bargain. In those years the Farmer John and hooded jacket combination was outdated but I was really happy with it. There was the 5 mm version as well but I thought someday I'd dive in cold waters so chose the thick one. When I tried I didn't know how tight should it be. I felt I moved like the Robocop.

A few weeks later I had the chance to use it under water. It was comfortable and warm. When I was a beginner I dived ice cold Austrian lakes and the warm Red Sea either in that suit. However I realized it's necessary to have more kind of suits. Later I bought a 5 mm overall, a shorty, a drysuit... And I used the good old grey and blue Sporasub less and less. It was still in my closet but I decided to sell it.

I checked the small tears and the worn-out parts. It wasn't in perfect condition but I thought it would be good for a beginner. So I posted an ad with a really low price. I got the first letter from an instructor who wanted to cut costs of the course with this old suit. I didn't sell it to him. Later a real beginner wrote to me and she became the new owner of the Sporasub suit. I sold many old stuffs for a few bucks for beginners since then. I know they don't have too much money to spend on a complete equipment because I didn't have neither. I hope that old-fashioned neoprene suit kept warm a keen diver who was able to enjoy being under water. Is it still in use nowadays? Maybe someday I'll meet down there with it and it's happy owner...

November 7, 2011

Remembering the first

After several lake dives I had the chance to do my first saltwater dive in 2001. I was quite excited and it's still a nice memory but the most important experience was to realize how different can be the reality from the expectations.

We traveled to Rhodes and saw many wonderful places above water but my main goal was to organize THE dive. I browsed some websites but they weren't too informative. We went to the harbor and booked the daytrip. The boat seemed quite large, we thought it would be very comfortable. Next day we arrived early and enjoyed sunbathing on the huge upper deck. In a few minutes more guests arrived. Later came another group. And again. The big boat became full of divers and first time intro makers soon, it wasn't easy to find a place amongst the dozens of tourists.

The boat ride was short. Later I discovered in those years in Rhodes there was only one bay where they allowed scuba diving. So there were another boats full of divers near Kalithea. The place of preparing looked like a dive equipment store, there were piles of tanks and fins, people walked around, divers jumped into the water while others came back. It meant we didn't have the chance to see too much animals in this crowded spot. But the water was nice warm, a shorty was enough so I tried to enjoy the first salt water dive. And it was really nice! There were shallow caverns, I tried to swim carefully, later we swam into a larger hole where we were able to surface.

Between the dives my girlfriend had her first intro dives. I just looked the chaotic way as they organized the first time scuba adventures of the tourists. It was really surprising to see this kind of operation. We certified divers got the briefing but there wasn't real buddy system, we simply followed the leader. We did the same during the second dive: I saw only "exciting" field of grass until the guide found an octopus, it the was the first one I've ever seen under water. Something to remember.

What else? Well, a traveling diver needs more information. It's essential to learn about the dive spots- in the whole island of Rhodes there was only one which resulted the daytrip was my first and last one during the holiday. Whatever the dive center's homepage says try to find reports from the past customers. A huge boat is nice but if it's overcrowded your trip will be anything but comfortable.

We always remember our "firsts": the first breath under water, the first saltwater dive, the first octopus and so on. The difference between our first experiences can be decisive. I liked the first dive in the sea, but I didn't like the way as the dive center worked. I think I was lucky: although there were problems basically I enjoyed being under water. I learned what do I want to do and how do I want to organize it. I drew a lesson from a single day. Fairly typical in the life of the beginner diver, am I right?

November 5, 2011

Autumn

A walk along the riverside of the Danube (Budapest)

November 3, 2011

An artificial buddy

And a forum topic, again. An excited diver shared his experience about his "malfunctioning" Suunto dive computer. He added some photos as well and the other readers suggested to check the manual: it was a simple deco stop. He didn't understand his own instrument's signals. If a diver is lucky he or she can miss the decompression stops because these modern computer doesn't allow diving on the real limits. But a guy mentioned a story where the dive master trainee ran out of the water showing the computer which became "crazy". Yes, she missed the deco stops. There are beginner divers who don't know much about their computers but a DM shouldn't be that lame. (It sounds like if you couldn't understand the signs of your buddy and instead of using your head you pull out her or him from the water...)

Sometimes it seems the only solution is simple: let the computer dive on his own while we humans would stay on the safe deck. Let's make it clear: the computer is a sophisticated instrument which helps us to dive safer. But it doesn't decide instead of us. If somebody ascends fast or misses a deco stop the computer will sign and it won't get the bends but the diver. In my opinion those agencies who don't teach using a dive computer even during the beginner course should change their approach. I kindly ask who saw any freshly certified diver to calculate with the dive tables? Since most of us prefer liveaboards and unlimited shore dive resorts all around the world using a traditional dive table is nonsense. In my opinion a dive course needs to educate about real life situations. If the instructor knows all of his students will buy a computer soon he should explain the basics of the computer diving. Some people responds there are "Diving with computer" courses but I confess I'm sick of "perfect giant stride", "mastering mask clearing" or similar useless certifications. A diver with an OW card should be able to dive in normal environments and use the essential equipments- safely!

Even better if he understands their working a bit. If they would learn a bit about the different algorithms they wouldn't prefer a dive computer because it's more liberal. I think all the computers are safe but there must be a reason why all of them started to become more conservative. It's easy to find out. Just look around on a dive a boat: older people or very young children, many overweighted and unfit women and men go under water regularly. The more conservative algorithm is the better. Maybe the bottom time at 30 meters will be 1 minute less? Who cares? If I check the air consumptions I see many divers shouldn't dive deeper than 15 meters with a single tank. I don't understand those who love liberal computers so much: why don't they dive without any instruments? They didn't use any in the past and they didn't get the bends regularly. For me safety can't be compared to a bit more bottom time. I'm old enough to find interesting things in shallow water. The proud smile of the divers who can surface minutes before me because of their liberal computers doesn't annoy me. Not our computers will need a treatment in the chamber but us. If we did the same profile my extra 2-3 minutes of decompression does matter whatever the other computers show!

The first dive computer, the Deco Brain changed the way we dive but it seems nowadays it doesn't only help us. The diver who has a computer but don't know how does it work won't enjoy the improved safety. Just remember the story above about the diver who jumped out the water skipping the decompression stop! Another common mistake is the blind faith: it's possible to do decompression dives with the computer, enjoying the more bottom time with the more liberal computer but don't forget, all manuals say sometimes the diver has the bends even if they follow the orders of the instrument. Not the computer should decide about the way you dive: be more conservative, be safe diver on your own. So treat your computer as a reliable buddy who you trust- not as a guiding light or a passport to push the limits.

November 2, 2011

Tangerine Dream

This German band released dozens of albums since its 1967 formation. The Tangerine Dream is the band which wrote many well known songs which later appeared in ads, movies, documentaries but only the minority of the people knew who is the performer. In this entry I collected some of  theirclassical and/or sea related works.









November 1, 2011

Interesting news from week 43/2011

An American diver was attacked in Australia, near Rottnest Island. The government made a controversial decision when let the fishermen to catch all the white sharks in the area. It seems there is a shark panic, two sightings was enough to talk about safety again.

The Japanese whalers suspended their hunt last year earlier than they planned. The Sea Shepherd celebrated the victory but it seems the Japanese don't give, they spend even more money on whale hunt.

A man found an underwater camera which traveled hundreds of miles in the sea. Now he try to find its owner- check out the photos which can help.

Sometimes we feel we know nearly all secrets which lie in the shallows but it seems divers find always new wrecks in different areas. In Panama they hope to find the remains of Francis Drake's ship, while a diver documented three wrecks in Lake Michigan.

In the Ukrainian Black Sea divers do real underwater art: they paint in the deep.

October 30, 2011

3D

When I was a beginner I wasn't able to see everything around me. I think it's usual to swim without realizing the third dimension: I just look to the left or right when I searched my buddy and forgot to look up or down. I think it's an important new skill when you start to move naturally in this real life 3D movie.

Sometimes it helps you to find the other divers faster or simply don't slip your notice a shark below or a manta above you. And sometimes it helps you to avoid dangerous situations. There is a really nice dive spot near Safaga in the Egyptian Red Sea, Tobya Arbaa. I like to dive here: the huge towers are covered with corals and many small fish lives around them. The night dive is spectacular as well. The only problem is the army of spiny lionfish. During daytime they don't move too fast but in the night these fierce predators join divers and follow their torches. Whenever they find a small prey in the ray of light they attack.

I knew it and kept a distance from the seabed because they usually swim under the divers. If you descend too much you find their spikes in dangerous vicinity of your body. This time a beginner diver joined the group who didn't know this. And he simply didn't look under himself. We saw about a dozen lionfish around him which calmly followed his torch. We swam about 2-3 meters higher and started a baffling action with our dive torches: with the rays tried to attract away from our beginner buddy. He didn't notice the danger until we told him what we saw on the surface. And this wasn't the only one occasion when I saw nasty situations which were easy to avoid or solve if the divers could have seen in 3D. A typical problem when the diver is descending or ascending heedlessly and kicks other divers' mask or lost his own. Whenever you go under water don't forget to check what's above or under you- it's very useful if you don't want to feel but to see lionfish' spikes.

October 29, 2011

No catfish, no cry

Sometimes you're simply unlucky or lamer. We planned a long weekend in Austria and our first destination was the Klopeinersee in Karnten. This small lake is very popular in the summer as it's warm but the visibility is only 3-5 meters usually.

We planned two dives here. We dived in two buddy teams. I saw some small fish but nothing special. On the surface my friends who dived the same route said they saw a few huge hiding catfish. My buddy and me were disappointed. Those fish had to be so close but we simply didn't find any. We went to the local dive shop and rented two torches. We swam slowly and looked into all the holes. Or at least we thought we did. My friends started to dive a few minutes earlier so we couldn't see them. And we couldn't see any catfish again. On the surface they just laughed on us as they found them again and to help us they made signs from scraps. We couldn't recognize them and we left the Klopeinersee without seeing any catfish.

I forgot these dives until I found a video taken in that lake and realized how large catfish live there. After watching it I felt the same disappointment but on the other hand I had to confess it can be quite frightening experience to meet a giant fish in this murky water. So maybe not those divers are unlucky who don't meet them but those who see any of these freshwater monsters.


October 26, 2011

Waves

I don't know who would buy a DVD with sounds of waves but it seems really relaxing...


October 25, 2011

Wreck treks: Salem Express

In the age of artificial reefs we sometimes think about all the wrecks as underwater playgrounds. We forget the tragedies and sorrows which hide beneath a sunken ship. Many of these are actually tombs where sailors, passengers, merchants died and there are those which were declared war graves and the diving is forbidden. Majority of the divers respect this and don't disturb the wrecks where dozens or hundreds of people died.

There is a wreck in Egypt which is controversial because its sinking was one of the worst tragedies in the maritime history. The Salem Express was a car and passenger ferry which collided to a reef not too far from the port of Safaga in 17th December of 1991. It sank in minutes. The official report said 470 people died there but many experts claim the passenger list wasn't credible, the loss of life was around 700- or more. It's still a mystery. It was simply too dangerous to recover all the bodies so the divers sealed some parts of the Salem Express with human remains. Many Egyptians think nobody should dive there. Whatever some people want the government didn't forbid visiting, as they let tourists visit tombs like the pyramids or the Valley of Kings.

Now the wreck of Salem Express is as recognized attraction as the pharaos' tombs. Those who stay in Safaga surely dive it and dive centers organize daytrips from Hurghada as well. Technically it's an easy dive. The 115 meters long wreck lies on her starboard side. The dive starts around 10 meters depth and the deepest point is only a bit more than 30. The visibility is usually good, most of the divers simply swim around, they see the bow, the bridge, the stern, the screw... It seems a perfect place for an easy and enjoyable wreck.

But somehow you feel the difference. It's an emotional experience. Even during the briefing when the guides ask everybody to respect the memory of the victims and don't take any items. I remember when one of the guides gave us some flowers to bring to this underwater cemetery. The glasses of the cabins are broken. There are the beds where families slept who didn't foresee the captain's tragic mistake. There are bags, suitcases, shoes. Only two decades passed since that night, the items look new. If you dive there you know and feel it's not a place to cheer up visitors like an artificial reef. Some leaders allow their guests to penetrate, some don't. There are spacious rooms and corridors with cars, a restaurant with tables still attached to the deck. And there are the bodies, somewhere deep inside the Salem Express behind steel plates.

However the Salem Express is popular amongst dive tourists. If you don't know its story everything seem peaceful and nice. But somebody, somewhere will tell you about this ship. You can dive here but you really have to respect this underwater graveyard. The sea what we love took the life of hundreds of children, women and men. See the wreck, the passengers' personal baggage, learn about their story and remember them.



More videos:
Divers scooter the Salem Express
Penetrating Salem Express

October 22, 2011

Habits

I browsed the ScubaBoard's forums when I saw somebody asked about wetsuit underwears. He wrote wearing speedos on the board is against the boat etiquettes. I still can't understand this but the American forum readers agreed.

I think I have to think about my boat deck clothing habits if someday I travel to  the Caribbean.

October 21, 2011

Guideology: Ellen

I had some of my most challenging shore dives in Gran Canaria. The Atlantic made our entries and exits like a wobbling and falling stunt from a silent era physical comedy. It was funny for those who watched the scene and humiliating for us. We learnt to adore the sea when we saw its wonders but after some fights against waves and currents we started to respect its strength too.

Some of the dive spots seemed rough for the first sight in Gran Canaria. And there were those which seemed safer and calmer. Our guides from the Dive Academy always took care of us because the situation could be changed faster than we expected. I remember a dive when the boss, the cheerful Ellen led us. The entry was a simple giant stride near Sardina del Norte but when we finished the dive we saw the low tide was coming and the lowest stair seemed a bit high for a comfortable getting out of the water. Ellen said 'Don't worry, I'll exit first' and she raised as easily as a ballet dancer. She stood near the water and with the tank on her back she pulled us one by one. She gave a hand whenever the divers crawled on the rocks while waves were assaulting them.


Sometimes when I see an awkward dive leader I think about our 'human elevator', Ellen. Anybody would be able to lead a dive in a tropical sea near a shallow coral garden where nothing occurs. But a real pro has to be able to solve all the problems. Sometimes they have to use their physical skills- if they have any. Ellen was simply fantastic. She helped us when we booked an accommodation. She found animals like angel shark for us under water. She pulled us from the sea. And anything she did we always saw the smile on her face... This must be a special skill too.

October 20, 2011

Sense of the moment

I'm biased towards Csaba and his works. I know him from the very beginning of his underwater photographer career and now, when he's a renowned artist with a lot of awards in his bookcase I'm proud to say he won some of them in our competitions. Since the first notable pictures what he took with a compact camera he always tried to find new ways in photography. I really like his above water works too but the dive photos are especially exciting for me. He has a sense to catch THAT moment to shoot a unique photo. I'm really lucky because we dived together for several times. I saw how did he make them and later I was the first who saw some of the remarkable photos. He is not only a praised photographer, but a buddy and friend of mine. As I said, I'm biased.... You'll understand if you browse his galleries. He's preparing for his next trip to Raja Ampat- hopefully he'll bring some great photos again.

Check out Csaba Tökölyi's works in the Flickr and 500px.


October 18, 2011

The reason unknown

Sometimes I really can't understand why we dive in certain lakes. The visibility is awful, there isn't too much life, and the lakeside is groaty.

For example there is a quarry a few kilometers to the south from Budapest near Csepel. You can reach it after driving few minutes on a dirt road. When I was a beginner I joined a group of divers and for my surprise I saw there aren't a toilet, a place to kit up, any necessary buildings. But there were trash: the people from the nearby houses brought the garbage to the shore or into the lake. I went under water and I couldn't understand why do I dive here, it's a waste of money and time. There were a friendly girl who finished her course and two ladies who made an intro dive. I still can't imagine if there was anything what they could call 'nice experience'. Above and under water this lake saddened me and I had no more illusions about diving in Hungary.

However I made one of my most memorable photos there. The lady who were getting dressed in the water which was covered with plastic bottles and bags became a symbol of the divers' holy foolishness for me.

October 16, 2011

A cave to remember

Somehow Greece isn't recognized as a real dive destination. Maybe some of the divers don't think it's possible to find good dive spots in the shores occupied by holidaymakers. Sometimes it's disappointing to join organized daytrips when you share the dive boat with dozens of intro divers. However some dive centers offer great service in my opinion. The most challenging thing is to choose the right one. Look for those dive centers which concentrate on real divers' needs. Read and ask about the dive spots in advance to find the most exciting ones.

I remember our trip to Corfu where we had some average or nice dives and a wonderful one. The reviews said the Paleokastritsa area is the best for diving so I booked an accommodation there. We made a good decision! We found a reliable dive center and had a nice time. The fantastic Himmesloch cavern (other dive centers call it as Hole of Ha) was one of the most spectacular caverns I ever dived in the Mediterranean. There is a huge hole at 10 meters depth where the divers swim into the cave and they soon reach the shimmering light curtain. The cave has a hole on the top and when the divers ascend they see the trees above. A really nice place suitable even for beginner divers. Another less known dive spot in Europe which absolutely worth visiting. (And we enjoyed the whole island of Corfu too, for me it was a trip of a lifetime to see the places which appear in Gerald Durrell's awesome books.)

When I thought about this place I browsed my old photos I took in Corfu in 2005. For my surprise there were some short videos too. The quality isn't that fantastic but I edited them into a short movie about this cavern and I'm sure every viewer will feel how nice is it.


October 14, 2011

Color me pink

I have many friends amongst divers. We often discuss diving related topics, like new equipments, exotic destinations, courses. A lady said recently after an intro to tech diving course her instructor declared: 'The divers' color is the black!' She told me whatever the big bold technical divers say she keeps her pink fins.

I approve of her decision. I feel I must support all those people who want to show their personality even on a dive boat. This lady has her own style, she prefers colors like pink. Why should she choose a black set of diving equipment just because somebody somewhere suggested this? I know many rules in diving which I found useful and important. The right color of your wetsuit or fins isn't one of these. I'm sure there are extra trained guys who would be able to tell a hundred reasons why to wear black all the time but I don't care about them.

Diving for me is the perfect recreational activity where everybody can find joy and excitement. And as everywhere, we feel much better if we are proud of our stuffs. Somehow the scuba equipment manufacturers seem to go back in time and black is the dominating color as it was 50 years ago. There was a short golden age of fancy colorful suits in the '80s. Some of them were funny, other ones are stylish- the divers had plenty of choice.

Now they can choose black-blue or greyish-black designs. Only the minority of the brands offer suits with small pink (shock! horror!), red, yellow or white color panels. I remember when we bought a wetsuit this spring to my girlfriend. We thought there is only one color design, the gray-black but I found the red-black ones in the manufacturer's website. In the shop they didn't have any of this style, they needed to order it from the factory! A tiny red panel on the upper body would make it impossible to sell for Hungarian diver ladies? I don't think so.

I'm the advocate of the diverse color pattern equipments. I don't think we should look like twins under water in our black suits and BC-s and yellow fins- I know what I'm talking about, whenever I browse my dive trip photos I find dozens of 'men in black'. Just have a glance at the picture below of a dive boat and count those wetsuits which primary color aren't black. I remember Henry Ford's words about the Model T: 'you can have it in any color as long as it is black'.

So I recommend at least special accessories. I even had a bright pink weight belt, a friend said Hello Kitty fans would fight for it. Some people thought I looked damned funny but when in a crowded dive boat they tried to find their weight belts amongst the similar ones I felt I didn't look laughable but they did. Hopefully my friend won't sell her pink fins and someday she can buy pink suit, hood or boots as well. We are not the same. We don't like the same colors. And the most important: we don't want to do the same dives. When I hear 'black is compulsory' from an instructor I worry about my beloved fun dives. Who knows if he tells next time I need to dive exactly the same way as he does? Color me pink but I vote for bright colors, exciting designs and everybody's unique approach, pace and style of diving.

Extreme Nature

I met the name of Bill Curtsinger a few years ago. I got a book with his photos and it soon became my favorite one. The Extreme Nature: Images from the World's Edge was a real surprise as it was full of photos taken under water in extraordinary places like Antarctica or Bikini Atoll. As you leaf through the book you'll see wrecks, special encounters with sharks, marine mammals, salmons and many much exciting moments shot by a great artist. Curtsinger is a photographer of the National Geographic and I'm very excited to see how dynamic and modern photos he took decades ago. His works are inspiring me to look for the new, unique angles and aspect whatever I do: taking photos, shooting movies, writing novels. Sadly I feel my works can't be compared to his but at least I know what is good and what isn't. Sometimes it helps more than anything else.

I recommend to check out Bill's website and the gallery of his above and under water images. And here is a link to the downloadable version of the embedded photo.

They came beneath the sea

During my many dive trips I learned a lot about different nations' diving habits. Maybe it sounds silly but in my opinion there are some differences based on cultural features. First of all I have to tell I met good and not that good divers from all of the nations. Doesn't matter where were you born you can be safe and skillful diver.

The 'Russian divers' phrase has an unpleasant taste on many boat. There are a lot of Russian tourists in Egypt and occasionally it's harder to treat them. Many of them don't care too much about protecting the coral reefs' animals. In my opinion the cause can be their background: they travel from their cold home country to exotic places like the Red Sea rarely. They want to do everything intensely. They enjoy all the parties in the night, they attend all the trips to Cairo or Luxor, they would buy anything from the souvenir shop and certainly they want to see everything under water. They want to go deeper and closer, they want to touch and feel everything. So I think the dive instructors should teach them the correct dive practices. The another problem is the language: most of them speak only Russian. When they don't join the conversations the reason is really simple: they can't understand a word. But they're basically friendly and nice people, I've already met many decent Russian guys on the boat- luckily I can speak a little of Russian which helps a lot. I hope in the future their attitude will change a bit because we surely will meet more and more Russian divers around the globe as they love being under water as we do.


October 13, 2011

The story behind a book cover

I met Winnie in Kalymnos. This Greek island is not that famous like Crete, Corfu or Santorini but it has the same azure sea on its shore. There aren't that much tourists but you won't miss any. As everywhere I go, I looked for diving possibilities and had the chance to join a nice lady from Hong Kong. She went to Kalymnos for climbing but as a certified diver wanted to see the underwater world of the Aegean sea too so she became my buddy. Because there aren't too much guests our dive group consisted of our guide from Finland, Winnie the diver from HK and me. I liked our small international group who dived together in Greece... I'm used to dive in much colder waters than the Aegean so I enjoyed my time here but she was freezing. I remember when she sat in the boat after the dive and tried to collect as much of the warming sunlight as she can.

Anyway we had some dives there. I brought my camera as usual and Winnie was my underwater model. She is one of those nice buddies who happily help when I take photos. The only payment I can give to them is the collection of the best pictures. Without them my work would be much harder and the result would be much less satisfying so I'm really grateful for every moment when somebody pose before the lens of my camera. After the trip I browse the photos to find the best ones. I post them to our website or to the Facebook, I share them with my buddies but I never know if I will use any someday. After our dives in Kalymnos I especially liked a photo where Winnie was in a cavern and only some light from above covered her figure and her bubbles. I knew I needed to modify the picture's contrast to make it more dramatic. However I sent the original one to her to show. I still like this photo although it's far from perfect.

A few years later I wrote my first novel. It was a special project for me, as I wasn't only the writer but the publisher and editor too. I organized the printing and I designed the book cover. It's a scuba diving crime story and when I thought about which picture to choose I realized the portrait of Winnie would be cool after extensive modifications. I made it and I asked her to kindly give me the permission to use it. She did it and after a few weeks I proudly held my first published book in my hands. My friends asked me who is the model in the cover and I surprised everyone when I said she is my buddy and my friend from Hong Kong. I think she was really proud to be on the cover. I'm still sad because she couldn't read the Hungarian language book. Maybe someday we will meet and dive together again and later I can tell the story of the novel. That's all in this photo: when I see it I call up its making. A dive in a charming island, a buddy and another story from my diving past to remember...

October 12, 2011

Vangelis

When I wrote about musics for diving I mostly meant those songs which we use to hear often in underwater documentaries. OK, there aren't the same ones in all of these but there are some typical popular styles. I think everything changed when many musicians started using synthesizers in the '70s. As in every kind of music there were some people who simply wrote better songs. The greek Vangelis is one of the most important artists of the pop music and I remember when I heard his masterpieces everywhere. There was the soundtrack of the Chariots of Fire and 1492 - Conquest of Paradise for example. I collected here some of his sea related songs I really like.





October 11, 2011

Guideology: Sambo

If somebody asks me about the dive leaders I tell easily who I like: the guides who let me enjoy the dive. I think there's everything in this simple description. She or he will lead me to the most interesting points of the site, show what he finds and cares about our safety. She or he know the dive group's limits, check the air, don't make us swimming against the current. And on the other hand I can look around on my own, I can stop to make photos and nobody pull my fin because the leader's goal is to swim as much as we can.

So maybe you think in the first entry of my guideology will be a detailed report about the work of the guide who I mentioned in the title. Well, not really. Sambo was one of the Egyptian dive guides who I met in the last ten years but I confess I don't remember too much. He did his job, I can't remember any special affairs but one: he showed my first shark in the Tiran straits. As every diver I remember my first shark although I saw it only for seconds. But it was definitely a shark. The predator who we were afraid in the past and who we started to love after we became divers. Sambo led us around the reef and suddenly he started to swim faster and we soon realized he wanted to show the exciting silhouette which disappeared when we swam closer. Later he found the shark again and that made us really happy.

There were dozens of dive pros who I remember much better. There were guides who did their best to make my holiday terrific. And there were people who led 'unforgettable' dives which were awful in many ways. But Sambo will be Mr Shark for me forever.

October 9, 2011

Send me an Angel

If I talk about sharks everybody imagine big, torpedo shaped fast predators with huge teeth. Some people maybe think about the large plankton feeding whale sharks or basking sharks. But only the minority knows about a quite flat shark which lay on the bottom covered in sand during daytime. The angel shark is a strange fish, and I'm one of the lucky divers who saw them in their natural habitat. If you find the hiding angel shark be careful and you can even touch it. These guys aren't too nervous, but as every predator, it can be dangerous if you attack or disturb it aggressively. Its swimming looks like wriggling.

The angel shark encounters were really special for me but most of the divers never meet any. Although it was common in Europe a few decades ago now it's officially critically endangered. I dived many places in the Mediterranean and haven't seen any but I know a European country where plenty of angel sharks live. This is a well kept secret of the Canary Islands which belong to Spain (and geographically to Africa): the eastern islands are famous about their angel sharks. For example in Lanzarote I dived in the night with a baby angel shark. But especially in Gran Canaria the northern dive spots like Sardina del Norte or Caleta Baja are recommended for those who want to see these unusual sharks. They live in the shallow, sandy bottom and it seems they only wait for the divers. First you see an angel shark shaped silhouette in the sand and when you swim closer you can see it's the shark itself. You can touch carefully its fins, see the eyes and try to make some photos. When it's covered the photos will be everything but spectacular. These animals looks much better on the moving pictures so I embed a film which I took a few years ago.

October 6, 2011

A hopeless lake


There is a lake very close to my home. I had my very first open dives here and it's just 10 minutes drive from me. It sounds I'm lucky, doesn't it? Well, if you remember my post about freshwater diving, I mentioned this place where the instructor needed to touch my face to check the mask removing.

The lake of Budakalasz (or Lupa Island lake) is a quarry. Although swimming is forbidden here many people use to spend summer days on its shore. There aren't toilets, showers, good roads, anything. Just water. By the way: plenty of water, this lake is deep, 6-7 meters, and as it's a normal quarry, there aren't shallow areas. Sometimes we hear sad news when not so good swimmers submerge in a second. No life guards, no ambulance, no visibility, no chance to survive...

When I arrived to this lake for the first time I prepared for my dive. I was excited on the surface and horrified under water. Is this the diving? Swimming in the water which similar to a thick soup, without seeing any fish? I know certification is not about fun diving but this place don't make you mad about the underwater wonders. The only wonder is when you surface and you aren't too far from the entry point.

I came back to this hopeless lake only once. A buddy and me joined an underwater cleanup here. I told her to hold strongly the big bag as this will be the 'lifeline'- we wouldn't see each other. We really didn't. I sometimes felt a pull on the bag, she found something and collected. Our dive was about 30 minutes long and although we barely used air from our tanks we didn't go back. There weren't animals under water but trash. The people from the nearby village brought many useless things to the lake. They knew nobody would see them here. To see the bags full of trash was really disappointing. To see the murky water was even worse. I don't feel I am lucky anymore because I live so close to that lake...

October 4, 2011

Wreck treks: HMS Maori

It happened seven decades ago. A Tribal-class destroyer was mooring in the Malta Grand Harbour when a German aircraft attacked and sank it. It's not too extraordinary to dive a boat's wreck which sank during the WW II but the HMS Maori was in the fleet which chased and sank the Bismarck in 1941. It was one of the boats which rescued the few survivors. The wreck was in the harbor of Valletta and blocked the traffic of the boats. They raised and scuttled it, later it was sank close to the shore.

The article continued here.

October 3, 2011

Paris under water

Paris Hilton is everywhere. Scuba divers thought being underwater isn't attract her as she doesn't able to share her wisdom with a regulator in her mouth. When I saw a series of photos in 2009 where she made an intro dive with his boyfriend (sorry, I can't remember his name and maybe even Paris wouldn't be able to call up) I confess it made cheer me up. Paris was the first person who felt important to wear stylish sunglasses when they were standing in the water before submerging. All of us know her typical smile and basically the scene seemed very typical too except she wore a scuba tank. There were some other photos when she tried to survive under water in 2-3 meters depth but I thought it's only a nice media event from the glamor girl. She's young, sexy, blond and rich, so she gave a try. She didn't have to take up scuba as a hobby and luckily scuba didn't need to take up Paris as a diving celebrity.

Later I saw some new photos from her newer scuba adventures. (I'm not sure if she appeared on them, the mask on the face of that lady covered too much.) When you browse the photos first you think about how did you find them? There are millions of websites which worth visiting, a diver visits pages about exotic destinations, resorts, dive centers and which do I remember? The one where I saw a photo of the celebrity member of our community, Miss Hilton.

I'm trying not to be too sarcastic. I remember what Tiger Woods said about scuba diving: 'The fish don't know who I am.' I imagine what Paris said: 'The people need to know I'm a diver.' Or something like that. Paris and her PR-team use our prejudice when they post those news and photos. What if she really likes diving? If she would be a nice travel companion on a liveaboard trip? Who knows? I think the Paris Hilton who we see in the magazines is not the same Paris when there aren't any cameras. She looks pretty while posing in her wetsuit. Her team knows most of the fans and readers don't know scuba diving isn't that extreme sport, even people in their sixties enjoy intro dives. So the fans feel Paris is special, extraordinary, wonderful and heroic and doesn't matter if all of the photos were taken during a single shallow dive.

We know some celebrities who really adore the ocean and its animals. And there is she who plays the role of the spoiled Hilton-girl. I'm not crazy, I don't say I feel sorrow for Paris who is quite successful in his special profession and doesn't lack my sympathy. (By the way I wish her many nice dives as everyone who share the same passion for underwater world.) I'm just thinking about my relationship with diving. I'm feeling lucky because I don't go under water to play a role for anybody else but to have a great time. Nothing more. And if I'm a celebrity or not I enjoy being under water because the fish don't know who I am neither. (The same apply for our Paris as well, so when she dives she is simply one of us- I love diving democracy.)

October 2, 2011

Are there any musics for diving?

I know there isn't any answer of my question. However there are musics which makes me remember of my dive adventures, because filmmakers use them in their documentaries, or their mood is inspiring me. I try to embed some of my favorites from time to time, but this first music is here only because of its title: Dive in Your Life. Hope you like it!

October 1, 2011

It's fresh

I think there are a lot of people in the world who hasn't ever dived in fresh water. There are a lot of people who live as close to the sea as I to the local quarries. Many divers think freshwater diving is the ugly, disappointed stepbrother of ocean diving. They say it's a cheap but much worse substitute of the real diving for those who live far away from the warm tropical seashores. (It's a typical situation, by the way.) And there is a handful divers who deeply adore lakes, freshwater caves and never travel to exotic destinations.

The truth is somewhere in the middle. Yes, there are awful, murky lakes where you can be certified but it takes some time until you forgot the bad experience. I had my first open water dives in a nearby quarry, the visibility was 1-2 meters, and because we were absolute beginners it became worse in 2 minutes. My instructor couldn't see my face so he checked my mask removing by touching my face- if there wasn't a mask, I did it. Later I had dives in other lakes, some of them was better, some of them was boring and tiring. In a few dozen dives you learn the basics of the navigation and you'll be able to find the crabs and fish so normally every freshwater dive seems enjoyable.

But there are some differences. As I started exploring in the neighboring country I found the Austrian lakes much more exciting. The many fish of the Erlaufsee, the pikes of the Neufeldersee, the 40 meters visibility of the ice cold Grüner See was as stunning experience as a dive in the Hurghada area of Red Sea. I go to Austria because I love to dive there not because I don't have the chance to travel to Egypt. I'm proud to be the first amongst my friends who dived these waters on my own and shared my adventures. Since then many Hungarians visited those lakes which I reviewed in our website. There must be many more great freshwater dive spots in Europe (and even more in the World!) which worth visiting. I recommend to start exploring those lakes and rivers and find the hidden gems. I promise I'll write about my favorite ones in this blog too.

September 29, 2011

Happy freezing

It happened on a January morning. I checked my equipment and waited for my very first dive in the Red Sea. I wasn't a total beginner and I felt I'm experienced enough for a few dives in Sharm El-Sheikh. I knew I couldn't enjoy my dive if I was too nervous. And I wasn't. I asked a local dive center about the conditions, I read a lot about the animals, I was really excited when I thought about seeing my first clownfish or lionfish. I saw them so everything was there to make me happy. But I wasn't...

The reason is simple: the water was cold. When I asked a dive center before the trip they said the Red Sea is soooo warm all year the farmer john of my two pieces wetsuit would be more than enough. I believed them. It was my fault definitely. Whatever the local dive center says you need to check the conditions on your own. If I had read some detailed reports before I traveled I had known the water temperature is only 20 degrees in the winter in the northern Red Sea. I know it can't be compared to the frozen lakes of the Hungarian winter but it's far from shorty season. When you feel the cold water in your skin and in the first moment it takes your breath away you know it was a mistake again to trust someone but yourself. I was freezing during all the dive and it reduced a bit of my happiness what I felt after submerging the wonderful Red Sea.

So I rented an overall for the next dives. I didn't complain as I chose another dive center when I arrived to Sharm not the one which suggested me the single farmer john- they simple didn't seem reliable. And it made me really happy to dive with a company who had care much more about my comfort and in the rented wetsuit I had awesome dives in the Sharm area. As many other divers I fell in love with the Red Sea and I learnt the difference between warm and relatively warm...

September 27, 2011

A diver out of water

Even a liveaboard trip doesn't mean you spend 18 hours under water. And the usual diving holidays' two tank daytrips last only for a few hours. When you prepare to spend your free time on a dive trip you have some easy choices. If there is WiFi, you can surf the internet, but who's interested in the politics and economics when think about the next dive? Anyway, don't forget your computer as you can check your photos, you can ask expert advise why it's overexposed or blurry. A dive trip is a perfect place to practice and you'll learn a lot during a week if there are some more experienced photographers around. Surprisingly an expert is able to show the right way with a few words. I know sometimes we are too shy to show our photos but that is the way of mastering your skills. Everybody was a beginner...

Sometimes I'm surprised when someone complaining about the lack of the TV in the room or cabin. Scary but true: we can live without the loud, flashing box. (OK, I'd miss the really entertaining Arabic music channels in an Egyptian hotel, but that's only an exception.) If there is a DVD, you can watch movies. Or probably only one single movie for several times? I've been to trips where I became crazy after the replays. One of the memorable movies was The Guardian with Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher: they always had to stop because of the next dive and started from the beginning again 2 hours later. On my last liveaboard trip the hit was the Kill Bill. When I heard 'What should we watch? Kill Bill again?' for the third time I went to the upper deck. But in the upper deck we had to be careful because in July in Egypt was extremely hot for sunbathing...

So I spent many hours in my cabin with reading. I confess e-books changed my life. I used to read a lot in the past but since I have my small netbook I read even more. Later I bought a real e-book reader and I'm happy with it: it's lightweight, on its memory there is space for dozens of books and it works for weeks without charging. I love it!

Before you remind me I write a few words about the other people on the boat. Yes, you don't need any books, DVD-s, gadgets if you travel with friends. You hang in the bars in the evening or drink in the saloon of the boat. You discuss the dives and you hear nice, frightening or unbelievable stories from past trips. You make new friends, some of them you'll meet on future trips where you can share the same old stories. And there are the local dive masters who can tell you about the local conditions, myths and one in a lifetime encounters. The dives AND the people who you travel with can make your trip unforgettable so be open-minded and don't worry if there isn't a TV around- the real life is way more interesting than the reality shows.

September 25, 2011

A legend amongst us

A man from Austria who was the pioneer of skin diving and underwater exploring although he was born far from the oceans in 1919 in Vienna. Professor Hans Hass, a scientist, a filmmaker, an adventurer, one of the people who changed the way as we think about the sea, the sharks, the conservation. Maybe nowadays he is not a popular icon like Jacques-Yves Cousteau but he had as important role as the french explorer in the very first years.

The young Hans Hass started skin diving in 1937 in France, close to the place where Cousteau made his first dives. Hass knew he found what he was looking for and a year later he spent some weeks with freediving in the Adriatic. Based on his experiences he organized a trip to the Netherlands Antilles in 1939. This legendary skin diving expedition was one of the first occasions where the divers made scientific explorations and shot a lot of underwater movies and photos. Hass designed his underwater photography kit: "I needed to make photos because nobody believed what did I see". Practically he had to found out the best practices of research on location. Later he published an exciting book of this expedition. In 1940 his first movie was released. His movie from the Caribbean introduced the nearly unknown world of coral reefs. He made the first experiments to learn more about sharks' behavior and started to use Drager rebreathers under water.

After the WW II he had the chance to continue his underwater explorations on the board of a new research ship, the Xarifa. Hans Hass and his crew (which consisted the brave and pretty Lotte, his second wife, the first famous scuba diving lady) had exciting trips to the Red Sea, he was the first who dived the Sudanese waters. The Adventure in Red Sea won the grand prize in Venice in 1951. He made movies for TV about many of his trips like Diving to Adventure. Hans Hass was one of the first men who declared how vulnerable is the ecosystem of the world oceans, so he became a conservationist. Later he was worked in the field of economics and became a professor in Vienna. Dr Hans Hass still lives in the city. A few years ago I wanted to organize an interview but because of his health problems we couldn't met. Anyway, I'm still proud when I think about our short phone calls- I talked to a real pioneer of scuba diving...




Abenteuer im Rotten Meer (1) by ArcheoFilms