August 30, 2011

Waltzing with sharks

It happened during a trip to the very south of Egyptian Red Sea. I was invited to the Andromeda liveaboard and our organizer said we would reach even the Abu Fendera area. Somewhere near the St. John's we saw the first turtle, then came the first shark- a typical reef shark which didn't come closer than 20 meters and swam away very soon. As we suspected, they were afraid of us. The Abu Fendera was a little bit disappointing but the weather was even worse. Huge waves- it's OK in the Red Sea. But raining? We were shocked. No, it's not true as we only glanced to the dive platform and the clouds and tried to hold firmly the bed because our boat danced like a fool on the angry sea.

It was more frightening than dangerous so we luckily arrived back to the St John's. After some awesome dives we anchored near a small reef where we saw dolphins, a manta ray, a lot of fish. While we were finishing our dive we spotted some familiar silhouettes under the boat. Sharks! A group of oceanic whitetip sharks circled around us. These sharks are really reckless, we made some nice shots. We decided to stay in the shallow, very close to the dive boat during the second dive and hoped to see the sharks again. Well, we did. An hour long floating in the big blue amongst a half dozen (less? more?) sharks. They came close. I mean really close- they touched the photographers' strobes! They swam near, above, below us, disappeared somewhere and in a few seconds the same or another shark headed to us again. It wasn't an experience for the weak hearted divers. We were insane enough to stay with them. It was an extraordinary, amazing dive. But certainly we knew it's a little bit dangerous. So when I felt something grabbed my leg firmly I turned back faster than an acrobat. Luckily I saw only a laughing dive buddy, he was the only predator this time. As usual, he made the best photos but all of us were able to the some really spectacular shots. For me this dive brought an award in video snapshot category in the Beneath The Sea competition.

The article continued here.

August 29, 2011

Wreck treks: Zenobia

Wreck treks: Zenobia

Would you dive a truck wreck? And how about a few dozen trucks- on the deck of a ferry boat?

The wreck of the Zenobia is really extraordinary. If I think about that ship I always wonder on the incredible story of its sinking during the maiden voyage, the incredible dimensions (its length was 178 meters!), the incredible shipment (there are still many of the loaded trucks), the incredible location (only a few minutes from Larnaca). If you look for the 'perfect wreck' you get it when you dive Zenobia.

The article continued here.

August 28, 2011

The first question

There are many essential things in the exciting science of diving. But somehow the people usually remember only one thing before their open water course. There are some common mistakes (e.g. pure oxygen in the tank instead of compressed air), some typical but useless questions ('How long can you stay under water with a single tank?') and the one which seems so exciting for many beginners: 'Can someone really pee in the wetsuit?' I think my instructor heard it a hundred times so he just smiled: 'Yes, you can- but you shouldn't, especially during the pool practice!'

After a few years in diving I smile too but on the other hand I can think about the importance of this issue. To pee or not to pee? Sounds like a philosophical problem: you can do it- but would you be able to do it? Well, when I was a beginner I joined an organized trip in Tunisia. We went to a small wreck, the water was warm, everything was nice but after 30 minutes I felt the uncomfortable urging at my hip too. When we were about to finish I hesitated what to do. I didn't pee in my suit, but sadly we hadn't back fast to the shore and dive boat was too small, there wasn't a toilet. At last the skipper started the engines but I knew it would take 20-25 minutes to reach the harbor. Even worse, the dive center was in a garage where nobody built toilet. So I made the fastest checkout in my life and started to run to my hotel. To be in the cozy toilet of the room was one of the memorable moments of our holiday. So I learnt sometimes in diving the question is not about possibilities but needs...

August 27, 2011

Fun, fun, fun

Everybody knows PADI's "Diving is Fun" motto but how can we show it to somebody who isn't a diver? Well, one of my friends made a really nice, lively video of a liveaboard trip to the Egyptian Red Sea. He's a brilliant camera operator and editor, but even better, he was able to make his buddies to be crazy and insane under and above water in the second part. I envy this guy who can make so entertaining videos, but instead of being sad because I'm not that talented I'm proud to have such friends like him. Watch this awesome short movie and feel the atmosphere of a great week long dive trip in the wonderful, warm Red Sea!

Wreck treks: Lina

Lina - Photo by Karoly Szabo
The Lina is one of the famous wrecks of the Croatian Adriatic and probably the most praised in the Kvarner area. I had the chance to dive it this spring after our friend invited us to his boat to visit. It took a longer boatride from Krk town where we stayed to the other side of Cres island. The 70 meters long Lina was built in 1879, and sank in 1914.

You'll find a lot of information about the Lina but I confess my dive wasn't that spectacular. First of all, the visibility can be quite bad here, we measured only 10 meters and our friend who dives the wreck more often said it's rarely much better. The diver simply unable to see the huge body entirely. The best view is at the shallowest part of the Lina, the impressive bow stands upright so most of the good shots were taken here.

When we left the harbour we saw some dolphins, and the route was quite relaxing on the calm sea. If you're lucky the dive boat will anchor directly above the wreck. We were near the wall which meant we needed a short surface swim but at least we finished our dive below the boat. Just before submerging one of our buddies had some problems, she was a bit frightened after the briefing so he joined the dive leader and we followed. In the foggy water we descended fast, we couldn't see clearly the surface and the wreck neither. At 25 meters we arrived to the bow, made a last check and started to swim deeper- the propeller was at 55 meters but none of our group went there. I realized some of the parts of the boat but I don't remember too much details. At 36 meters I showed I didn't want to go deeper as there seemed only shadows of the stern while the water temperature was only 13-14 Celsius degrees. I don't want to lie, I didn't feel too comfortable. At one point we turned back, ascended to the bow again and now I had the chance to see the famous view. We swam to the slightly sloping wall where we needed to make our deco stops.

I confess I don't have any special memories of the wreck but enjoyed much more the second part of the dive. I saw many small inhabitants of the Adriatic, we tried to shake hands with an octopus and played hide-and-seek with a cuttlefish. Don't miss this wall after diving at the Lina, most likely you will have to stop for a few minutes after the deep wreck dive. Much more fun to look around here than to hang on a rope. So maybe the Lina is the most famous wreck in the Kvarner but for me it's not a special dive spot unless we do a long safety stop in the shallows. In my opinion the wreck is too deep for the ordinary diver (especially for beginners) and the bad visibility doesn't make it too spectacular.

August 26, 2011


The underwater navigation is a mysterious segment of science. I read stories about disorientation even from diving instructors while other divers always find the way back to the boat regardless of their certification. I try to master my navigation skills from my first open water dive after certificaton.

After I got my card I hadn't dived for a while. When I joined a dive club's weekend trip to a nearby freshwater lake I was the one who hadn't a car so getting there was an expedition in itself. I met my buddy who was as inexperienced as me and my equipment which was as imperfect as my skills. Luckily I didn't have to worry about depth or dive time as I didn't get any instruments- my buddy neither. I won't ever know how long and how deep was that dive but hopefully we didn't brake any decompression rules as the maximum depth of the lake was about 10 meters.

Navigation wasn't a problem too without compass. Our 'plan' was spend under water some time. We descended into the murky water, tried not to lose each other. Luckily we didn't but we did lose the trail. As beginners we swam a lot, too much, and didn't check our position. When we were low on air we ascended. Our air consumption was high so the distance from the shore wasn't more than 4-500 meters. Our surface swim was long. Too long. I had enough time to think about preparations. The lack of our knowledge and the missing briefing from the experienced members of the dive club resulted a boring but not dangerous swim. I was a beginner but somehow I felt it isn't the right way of diving. Certainly long swims would keep me fit but in the open sea the distance could be 20-40 kilometers which sounds a high impact workout. Sunburn, dehydration, fatigue- if somebody doesn't pick him up the drifted diver can be very skinny in 24 hours.

There aren't any serious conclusions. We learn by experience and the lesson to learn for me was avoid too much swim under and above water as well. Better to keep an eye on the compass or the terrain than being lost for 5 minutes- or forever.

August 25, 2011

Dive! Try?

Recently in Croatia I saw some people who were really newcomers of the underwater world. As their instructor prepared them for the very first intro dive I saw their excitement. Maybe some of them will be certified divers someday and will enjoy diving as I do.

Or not? Just after they finished I had a chat with one of those brave ladies who tried diving in the Adriatic. It wasn't her first intro experience and we discussed the differences. Equipment, dive group, length of the dive- maybe there aren't two identical discovery diving course in the world. I remember when my girlfriend attended an intro in Greece while I was diving. The boat was full of people, mainly beginners, they had the simpliest briefing what I've ever heard: 'Don't touch anything, keep breathing normally, if any problem occurs somebody will get you out of the water!' Five 'divers' went into the water in the same time, and divemaster trainees pushed them to the 2-3 meters depth. Everything was chaotic. The dive center knew the program wouldn't make too much people starting a course or even try another dive so they asked a lot money for the first intro dive and only a small extra for a second- majority of the guests didn't give another try after the first frightening diving experience.

A few months later we traveled to Tenerife. I organized my dive again, and my girlfriend wanted to make an intro. We finished the dive and then the instructor made her equipment, did a briefing, then went to dive. One qualified instructor with one beginner, slowly, calmly and their dive lasted for 50 minutes. It was the experience which helped my girlfriend to decide she really wanted to enroll an open water diver course. And when I talked to that girl in Croatia, we found out the intro experiences are so different. And the worst thing: an inexperienced guest simply don't know if her or his first dive is safe or a crazy and dangerous adventure. I asked this lady: did you see the certification card of your instructor? 'No, but he was definitely qualified.' I said I could only hope so. I was on a dive boat in Egypt where advanced divers with 25-30 logged dives made intros. If everything goes smoothly, their experience is enough. If something occurs they lack the knowledge to avoid the worst case scenario. But there are dive centers in the world who sell their programs but don't provide the proper crew or equipment.

I don't know the solution. It would be funny if a totally beginner would try to teach the correct way of discovery diving. But somehow we should try to take care of our friends or family members who want to do their first ever underwater breaths. So help them with advices, bring them to reliable dive centers and if we can, keep an eye on their first dive. If we choose well they can be divers in the future. But only those people will be our enthusiastic dive buddies who don't afraid of submerging after a terrible intro dive.

August 24, 2011

An old-new experience

I spent a few days in Croatia. I go there often but usually in the spring when I need a bulky drysuit. In August I used a simple wetsuit and enjoyed the warmth of the water during extended safety stops in the shallow. It was cold in the depth as usual, 16-17 Celsius degrees but the end of the dives was nicer than I expected. As a beginner I had summer trips to the Adriatic, but I forgot all the good things- until last week.

We saw the typical things when we did a shore dive or went to a wall. I especially like the style of diving in this small village in Pag island: the boat rides rarely longer than 10 minutes. Just meet short before the dive, fast equipment check, a brief ride on the waves and jump. Who else needs more? Oh yes, I have to mention the nice buddy, she was more important than all the above because let me dive in my own calm, lazy style and kindly posed as my underwater model. And after a few dives you can make some remarks in your logbook of caverns, reefs, sponges, octopus, cat shark egg, nudibranch and certainly the great buddy who I dived with for the first time but hopefully not for the last... I was really happy to see this kind of Croatian Adriatic again, I had awesome time with friends and felt the enjoyment of a typical holiday diver. Maybe I'm one of them- lucky me, am I right?

August 17, 2011

Is diving sexy?

If we think about the wet t-shirt scenes of Jacqueline Bisset in The Deep the answer is definitely yes.
After many dives with photo or video camera I realized there are some people (mainly women) who simply look better under water. (Ok it doesn't mean only sexy, they can look simply cool or charming.) I don't know the reason but it's not related to their surface look. Doesn't matter if they aren't so slim, doesn't matter the face (the mask and the reg cover a lot). The big eyes will look nice if I make a portrait but usually the models are not that close. And some of them swim and move a special, more natural way, they seem to feel so comfortable under water. They look cool in a wetsuit. They are the people who can wear pink or bright yellow mask and fins and they won't seem funny but stylish.

So diving does some of the lucky buddies better suit. But it's okay for the other ones too: they can make nicer photos or videos if this kind of diver appear in them.

August 16, 2011

And what about the Adriatic?

I'm sure I will write many entries about diving in the Adriatic sea. My reason is simple: I know more about the places where I've already spent more time. I've been to Croatia and Slovenia for a dozen times (I confess I were invited to some dive centers as a journalist but I always will indicate this when mentioning those businesses) from north to south.

But first of all I have to tell I'm a bit surprised to see the growing interest in the diving possibilities of Adriatic- especially Croatia. As a Hungarian to travel to Croatia is a typical choice because our countries have common history and it's quite close to us. Most of the Central European divers do their first salt water dives in the Adriatic. The place where we first meet the magical underwater world- and the place with a fading glory after the next Red Sea or Asian dive trip. Let's make it clear: if you expect swimming in nice warm water amongst shoals of colorful fish and encountering big animals never plan a trip to Adriatic. The water is warmer only in the very shallow, even in a hot August day you'll feel the chill at 20-30 meters depth: 17-19 Celsius degrees. So whenever you travel here, a thick wetsuit is a must, but many seasoned Adriatic divers use drysuit whole year.

A short list of 'are' and 'aren't' things. There are many wrecks, from old amphora to airplane wrecks of the Yugoslav war era. The most famous wrecks are in the north at the Istrian peninsula where diving is expensive but not fun when a lot of divers make worse the bad visibility on a summer day. Other destination for the wreck enthusiasts is the island of Vis but the most interesting ones are suitable only for the technical divers. There are some beautiful caverns as well. There are many hiding animals in the holes or in the grass from the octopus to the seahorse. There aren't pelagic fish. It's highly unusual to see a shark, a tuna, a ray. There aren't colorful coral reefs but there are some spectacular walls covered by yellow and purple gorgonians and sponges. There are many dive centers but you can't expect too cheap dives.

So if you know the specific sites you want to visit or you plan a holiday to Croatia you can do some dives and I'm sure you'll enjoy them if you prepare. I promise I'll make a detailed report about some of my favorite places near the Adriatic to show why I like this sea- and why don't.

The Big 50

I was preparing for my first saltwater dive when I glanced to a dive log. There was a magical number: 50! 'She is very experienced, she has fifty dives!' I whispered to my girlfriend. I think I adored my new buddy. The dive goddess was an American lady in her thirties and I thought would I ever be an experienced diver with that much dives?

Since 2001, the start of my regular trips, I had many chance to dive with beginner divers. To feel their excitement when they ask how many dives I have can be satisfying. But on the other hand I've already met many divers who has much less dives but as good divers as me. You can ask what 'good diver' means to me. No, not those who dive to 70 meters with single tank of compressed air or swim faster than Michael Phelps but the divers with perfect buoyancy, low air consumption, careful moves and a sense of catching sight of the underwater life. Diving is a special competition where not the 'faster, stronger, deeper' rule apply. Maybe with 50 dives I wouldn't confess if I envy somebody regardless of her or his logged dives but as I become more experienced I'm quite happy to see those smart new divers. It's better to dive with them- you can say I'm selfish. Yes, I am. After many dives where other divers stirred up the silk or frightened away the hiding animals I appreciate the good dive buddies.

So the question became simplier. If I meet a new diver I'm not interested in 'how many' but 'how'. And I'm able to decide if I want to dive with them more even without asking them. The nice numbers in your logbook won't tell a word about this. And certainly my logbook is useless too- something to remember. For the buddies I should be a good diver but it's much easier to collect 50 dives than doing everything well on every single one.

August 15, 2011

An intro

As an english langauge dive blogger I'm quite inexperienced. But who cares? If I try to evoke my first dive in the pool I need to smile. Yes, I wasn't skilful at all. If I want to be honest I humbly confess I wasn't sure if I could make it.

And now? My logbook shows I would be able to write an exciting book about my dives. Practically I'm doing it now but in such a trendy way: I started this blog. Maybe after a dozen entries I can start mastering my english skills. I know they won't ever be perfect. It's impossible- after my many dives I know I can't swim or breath under water as the ordinary fish who were born under water. To write in a foreign langauge is very similar, but hopefully my readers will forgive my mistakes.

So please read, follow and comment me, I'm ready to take the plunge!