Dive Buddies on a Liveaboard
All divers will know that diving without a buddy is really not something you do if you want to stay alive. In fact, when I am asked about diving rules, I say that the two most important are: dive with a buddy and breath out.
When I first started diving on liveaboards I went out with my buddy (son Ben) but for the last four I have been going out on my own. Hence there are two unknown items when I get on the boat: with whom will I buddy and with whom will I share a room?
On this trip, another solo diver (Tony Berk) heard I was un-buddied and so we agreed to try each other out.
He had far more experience than I but we both seemed to have the same approach to diving and realised after the check dive that we would be ok together.
Towards the end of the week, another of the group joined us (as a buddy team of three) because she was not happy with her buddy, who in any case, was always diving with one of the Dive Guides.
Sometimes your roommate naturally becomes your buddy but this was not the case on this trip because he had met someone at the airport and agreed to buddy-up.
Apart from when I was in the Maldives when my room mate / buddy was awful and the rest of the dive group took me under their wing to give me protection, I have never had any problems.
The Check Dive
Before the check dive, there was a general dive safety briefing covering dive safety, buddies, hand signal codes under water (gas pressures, dive problems, general buddy communication etc) and the dive guides hand signs for numerous varieties of under water life. The latter codes tend to vary a bit between dive guides and always cover more fish than I can remember.
This site shows some of the routine signals used although in my experience, they vary from guide to guide and buddy to buddy. If you are really desperate to learn more, then YouTube has a number of videos (which I cannot recommend) of people demonstrating them including:
Our dive cards were collected and carefully checked to ensure we were actually qualified to dive and also to use the free Nitrox on offer (if that was what we wanted). We then entered summaries of our diving experience on a general proforma (number of dives, last dive date, level of qualification etc) and this varied from 2000+ down to someone who said they had 60 dives. It turned out that this person had actually only 30 dives and had lied about his experience and our assessment of his performance was that he struggled throughout the trip because of the nature of the dive sites, the currents, the depths etc and consequently he monopolised one of the dive guides virtually every dive. The Brothers is marketed as suitable for experienced divers only with at least 50 dives and this really is a minimum requirement – it is not a dive site for inexperienced divers, the waters and sites are far too challenging. Hence there are no night dives out at The Brothers.
Although the trip was sold as visiting only The Brothers, we were asked to think about if that was the schedule we really wanted to stick to because it could be that we would soon dive everything at The Brothers and get bored with it. Three days at The Brothers followed by a day at Safarga and half a day closer to Hurghada was offered as an alternative – Safaga would mean diving the classic Salem Express which those who had been there before said could be worthwhile. It was agreed that a decision would be sought in a couple of days once we had seen The Brothers.
We were offered the opportunity of taking out local decompression chamber insurance for €7 - I have never been offered that before but it was explained to us that it was a way of financing the continued existence of the local chamber. Although my travel insurance covers a chamber, I chose to pay the €7 because it seemed a small price to pay for something which I hoped I would never need and if I did, they would not have to contact my travel insurers before putting me in the chamber. I know chambers are expensive – when I was diving in the Maldives, someone had to go into a chamber and the total experience cost her insurers $10,000 plus the inconvenience of missed flights and getting late back to work.
For ease of dive deck management, we were divided into three dive groups with the promise that the groups would be rotated in order each day to ensure that every group got its fair share of being first into the water. I can understand why this arrangement is used but by the end of the week, mutual agreement had ensured that we all ignored the “group system” even if the guides announced which groups were to go first. They seemed very keen to use it, we could not really be bothered.
It turned out that my buddy (we self chose
each other) had far more diving experience than I but a similar diving temperament (take it easy, do not fight currents and do not rush). Towards the end of the week we became a threesome when Pat also teamed up with us – another gentle take it easy diver.
The check dive was over very quickly (we
were both weighted correctly and our equipment worked) so we explored the reef.
The reef is popular with day boats and hence can get very crowded and the coral shows signs of damage from people walking on it. It is close to the shore and therefore snorkelers can walk / fin out and for reasons only known to themselves, then start walking over it to get to their preferred snorkelling point rather than fining across the top.
We were moored on roughly at the last red dot on the right. The dive was straight forward and simple, fining north east roughly to the beacon and then returning with a quick circle of the pillar to see the cavern.
The usual corals and fish were seen including Trigger Fish; shoals of Antheas; and many more.
hard lattice shell coral
hard coral gardens
shoal of banner fish
blue spotted ray
snapper (rear view!)
sea urchin shell
The water was just warm enough at 29C to wear a rash vest rather than a wet suit and hence 4kgs of weight was sufficient with a steel 15lt tank. Although there was little current at the start of the dive, it had started to build up towards the end.