Posts Tagged ‘caribbean diving’

ImageSidemount scuba is simply an evolved approach to equipment configuration which was developed by cave divers needing precision buoyancy and the ability to dive in unusually tight conditions.  It employs innovation and discipline to produce an arrangement of scuba unlike any the typical diver is accustomed to.

Think of your Scuba back-mount system like a car which has a front mounted engine.  It’s there because that’s where everyone puts it and it’s easy.  It has it’s limitations, but works for 99% of applications.  Sidemount scuba is like mounting your engine in the middle of the car.  It’s more complicated and means having to move some other bits and pieces about to accommodate it, but you do it because it improves weight distribution, performance and manoeuvrability.  It’s also WAY cooler!

ImageI was introduced to Sidemount by Fernando Cañada, Steve Zoni, Steve Bogaerts and Suzy Phipps whilst living and diving in Central America.  This was in the days before the large training organisations recognised a growing trend and when equipment options were a little ‘limited’.  Steve Bogaerts went on to create the ‘Razor’ system to overcome this, and this is the setup I prefer to use.  Initially I was intrigued by the configuration.  I liked the idea of having two tanks with me and the setup looked much more easy to manage than manifold twin-sets (yes, I was also an air hog!) and would mean I could extend my bottom time beyond 40 minutes.  I liked the idea of narrowing your profile and being able to follow Fernando through some of those tighter swim-through’s.  However, I thought it all looked a little cumbersome and unwieldy.  Zoni and Bogaerts both convinced me to start and to stick with it and soon I would be a convert…..

ImageGetting started is hard!  Everything feels so wrong.  There are tanks in the way and it all feels cumbersome.  The harness is too tight and cuts into your neck/hips/crotch* (delete as applicable) and on top of that Bogaerts’ training programme has you practicing buoyancy skills in 3’ of water.  It took me about 5 dives to figure out which parts of the harness and ‘rig’ were the most uncomfortable and then to be able to adjust them to a better position.  Once you have your rig configured…. That’s it you’re hooked!  There is no going back.

On the course you’re taught precision buoyancy skills – holding a position in the water for extended periods of time and trying to get as close to the sand as possible whilst still remaining ‘afloat’ and neutrally buoyant.  Different ways of manoeuvring yourself in the water using both hands and feet, and of course how to deal with emergencies.  Once out in the open water with a comfortable setup you realize that your position in the water is different.  You carry less weight, and less around your hips.  This means you become more ‘feet up’ in the water.  You’re able to hold a stationary hover almost effortlessly and bend and twist around the reefs like never before.  You’ll soon realise that you have increased levels of stability, which is a real boon for the photographers amongst us.  Not only can you hold that hover without needing to ‘touch down’, you’ll also be able to comfortably get under those tight overhangs and catch that Nurse Shark image the others can only dream of.

ImageI’m a complete convert to Sidemount and now teach both the Bogaert’s and PADI Sidemount specialities.  I choose to dive this way almost anytime I’m diving and not teaching.  I am recognised as the only trained Sidemount instructor on the Island of Carriacou and teach all my courses with the same dedication, professionalism and fun as the guys taught me, using my copy of the Razor system.  This means that when you’re thinking of learning Sidemount you’ll be confident that you’re being taught by someone who knows what they’re doing and knows why they’re doing it.

On my rare days off, I can be seen dropping into the Ocean with a single Sidemount tank and bumbling around the cracks and holes around Jack Iron Point or Anse La Roche and trying to get some great photo or video for the shop.

If you want to find out more about diving on Carriacou, you can visit our website at

Or if you are interested in trying Sidemount or learning to dive Sidemount you can find more information at


Its April the 1st, and I’m sitting on the beach reflecting on the day that’s just past.  This is no April fool, but it has been a great Monday.

Snow in the UK on April 1st 2013

Snow in the UK on April 1st 2013

The first thing that I reflect upon, being that I am originally from the UK, is that on this April 1st there is widespread snow at home.  Temperatures are sub-zero and all of my friends are asking ‘when is winter going to end?’.   In Carriacou, by contrast, the day had clear blue skies and a calm turquoise blue sea.  The temperature was a good 28 degrees centigrade and there was a cooling breeze blowing in from the North.  A typical day on this tiny Caribbean Island, and pretty damn perfect (if you ask me).

Although it was a public holiday today, we opened the dive shop as usual at 8am and started to prepare for today’s dives.  We had a booking from a small group of first year veterinary students from St George’s University in Grenada. The group was a mixture of fairly experienced Advanced Open Water divers and a couple of newly certified’s with only 4 dives to their names.  So this Monday morning started like many other Monday mornings….

With the boat loaded with tanks, equipment and divers we headed out.  Did I mention that the sea was calm and blue?  It was a short trip out of Hillsborough to one of my favourite dive sites – ‘Whirlpool’.  Now I didn’t name the dive site, else I would never have called it ‘Whirlpool’, but its one of my favourites because its like 4 dives in 1, and consistently very good.  As we moored up I gave the briefing and let our little group in for what we had planned….

John D Wacka @ Whirlpool

The dive commenced with a gentle decent onto the coral  garden and then dropping down the wall to 18 meters (60ft).  The wall was alive with marine life, lobsters, shrimps, schools of chub and chromis, creole wrasse and trumpet fish.  The soft coral swayed slowly in the current.  Its a pretty wall, vibrant with colours and protected from the strong northerly currents by Mabouya island.  The fish love it, which means the divers love it.

After a few minutes, from out of the blue, a gloomy shape starts to form.  At first just a dark flirtation, before it draws in more substance and structure.  As we get closer the shape morphs into one of the wrecks that lie off our shores.  The wreck here is the John D Wacka, a small tugboat which was deliberately sunk a an artificial reef in 1998.  It was badly beaten up by Hurricane Lennie in 1999 and now lies at 24m (75ft).  Its a great nursery for Sargeant Majors, small mouth grunts and tomtates, and is a wonderful experience for the newly certified divers (as we hover above it at 18m).

We leave the wreck and head back to the wall, making our way  swiftly to a shallower depth.  We continue to marvel in nature’s structures as we look at tall and broad hard coral towers, mini cities to a myriad of marine creatures.  Ahead there is a small sandy channel which I lead the group into.  I turn to see the look of amazement in the divers faces as we move into a large patch of volcanic bubbles.  These bubbles are what gives ‘whirlpool’ its name and change this dive from a nice one, to a great one!  The bubbles are a vent from the nearby Kick-em Jenny volcano, and give us the impression of diving through a champagne glass.  The sulphur rich bubbles attract Jacks and Mackerels which swim around us in a frenetic pattern, darting this way and that around us.


Spotted Eagle Ray @ Mabouya

With air getting low, we made the turn and started to head back towards the boat.  The return was quite a simple affair, keeping close to the huge boulders which make up the ‘Boulder Garden’ and skirting the sand channels.  We saw a lobster colony with perhaps 8 or 9 small lobsters crowding under a single rocky crag, trunk fish and a huge porcupine fish (staring at us as though in shocked bewilderment).  As we crested the final rise before hitting the mooring we witnessed the most beautiful sight of the morning.  Ahead, no more than 2m away, was a fully grown spotted eagle ray, gliding effortlessly down the channel.  It saw us approach and instead of fleeing into the blue it completed a hard banking maneuver to the left and wheeled around to pass us again.  Checking out the curious group with the bubbles.

Excitedly we returned to the boat with many ‘wow’s’ and ‘did you see’s?’ and a group of very enthralled divers.  Seeing the sights of the dive, but more importantly seeing the faces of the divers at the end is what makes this job the best one in the world and reminds me that I love my Monday mornings in this office!

If you’re interested in diving with us, or would like to learn to dive, come and check out our diving options at