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Thought I'd share this with you all. I'm in touch with Dennis on regular basis and he's top knotch at helping out divers going to South Africa who need the correct, no-BS advise. A guy called Paul prompted this response, hope it's of use:


"Tuesday, 17 February 2004

Dear Team,

You’ll be excited to know that I’ve been at it again, as someone made the mistake of starting to talk to me (chuckle). By now you’ll be familiar with my propensity to go on a bit, but in any case here’s my comments on diving Protea Banks, in response to a specific query I received lately from a guy I’ve been helping compile a trip out to South Africa (Paul’s a BSAC Dive Leader). If anyone’s got any further suggestions or contradictions to my opinions, I’d be glad to hear them for inclusion in subsequent conversations. Or if anyone’s got any personal experiences or recommendations for Protea Banks, I’d be interested to hear them too.

kind regards to all,

Dennis




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From: dennisguichardarchitecture [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: 10 February 2004 09:44
To: 'Paul Morris'
Subject: RE: Protea Banks

Tuesday, 10 February 2004

Paul,

Thanks for your reply, I was just thinking about you over the weekend wondering how you were getting on with your plans, so I’m glad to get your email. No need for any thanks, divers are divers and I’m sure you’ve done many a good turn for others yourself, so consider it part of the circle of the magic of diving.

African Dive Adventures have been operating on Protea for many many years now, out of Margate on the KwaZulu Natal south coast, and used to be run by a guy by the name Trevor Krull. There are not too many operations on Protea to tell the truth, and ADA are probably 1 of only 3 or so. Trevor sold ADA a little while ago and moved up to Mozambique to run a dive operation there. After some bouts of malaria and plagued by the floods of recent years, Trevor has moved back to Protea and runs an operation called African Odyssea, and this is my operator of choice in this instance (check out their website and contact info at  www.africanodyssea.co.za). Phone and book locally though as a day trip diver, and pretend you are a local diver and you’ll benefit I’m sure from local dive prices.

Although ADA may well provide superb service in running the operation they bought, I am hesitant to recommend an operation I am not familiar with for some good reasons. This southern coastline is an extremely high energy coastline and receives some awesome sea conditions due to the currents that run along here out near the edge of the deep continental shelf where Protea Banks is, and the strong winds that pick up very quickly indeed from the south east every morning. Protea is very definitely an advanced diver dive site, not due to the shark activity by any means, but rather because of the sea conditions that may present on any day. In fact it’s these strong ocean currents, reef topography, and location on the continental shelf that actually bring all the game fish in and inter alia provide the theatre for all the shark action.

The launches as everywhere along this coast go out in the summer months at 6.30am, 8.30am, and 10.30am, and you always need to be on the beach an hour before the dive to get your dive brief and to get your kit ready for the dive. The launch is very exciting indeed here, especially if a large ground swell is sweeping in from the deep ocean, as is more often than not the case, and the trip out in the rib can result in a few stories that will serve you well in the pub for many years to come. Again depending on the sea conditions on any day, the swells can get quite sizable which can be off-putting for the less experienced diver, I think is the kindest way to put it. This may result in the kitting-up process being quite interesting sometimes! Following that the procedure is to backward roll off the rib with all air out of your BC jacket, so that you don’t sit on the surface splashing around in shark infested waters. The concept is to get into the water and under the surface as fast as possible and start quickly fining down towards the bottom. Once you are below the surface, you are almost guaranteed to be safe with the sharks. The danger zone is always being on the surface! The sharks here have associated boat activity with an easy meal, due to the fishing activity that has gone on here for many decades, and as such as soon as the boats arrive at the site, and you make one huge big splash as you backward roll, the sharks frequently come swimming up from the bottom to see what is going on. It can be quite daunting seeing a huge 4m zambezi (or three) swimming up to greet you, but it is most safe and not something to panic about.

This is the important part (i.e. this is how it should be): The dives are run under the auspices of a VERY qualified and experienced local divemaster who knows the reef, who understands shark behaviourisms and how to run shark dives properly, and who has the awareness ability and empathy to manage a large dive group in testing conditions in which the water visibility may or may not be quite poor, and there’s a strong likelihood of strong currents running. You spend your dive following the divemaster very closely and following his/her instructions very closely without question whatever actions they instruct in order to manage the dive safely and enjoyably. The dives are always drift dives, and the DM carries a buoy line with a surface marker dragging on the surface which the rib then follows. In other words, the surface boat goes where the divemaster goes! You do NOT want to get lost or separated from your divemaster here, as it would mean an ascent without their guidance, and especially would result in you breaking the surface away from the rib, in surface conditions which may not be in your favour, and hoping that the skipper sees you in good time and comes to pick you up ASAP. As I mention, you do NOT want to spend any time sitting on the surface, where you are easy pickings for those with bigger teeth than yourself. It’s a case of welcome to the food chain, you are no longer the one at the top! (chuckle) As the divers in the group get down to their 50 bar limit, they ascend up the DM’s buoy line (i.e. with your hand firmly clasped around the buoy line so that you do not at any time become separated from it), do their safety stop if conditions warrant, and then ascend to the surface where the dive boat HAS TO BE right on the surface marker buoy so that you can de-kit and get onto the boat with immediate effect. Also you want to break the surface right next to the buoy line as this is where the boat is. You do not want to surface even 5 meters away as having to fin over to the dive boat just prolongs any time you are in that danger zone splashing around on the surface. Again, any time spent pissing about on the surface is asking for pure trouble, as you know these are waters teaming with zambezi, tiger, great white, hammerhead, you name it. Once everyone is back on the boat, you head back to shore, and it’s all over for another day.

The reason I highlight the dive procedure, is to emphasise my concerns with new operations in these diving environments. A safe enjoyable dive on Protea DEMANDS that you are lead by a very experienced and competent divemaster (and I do mean of a level that is of extra-ordinary competence, as you will meet when you’re out there – these are not boys who have just completed a PADI divemaster course 6 months after learning to dive!), and also a very competent and professional skipper who keeps the boat right on the surface marker buoy at all times ready for any diver who surfaces during the dive for what ever reason. To ensure all these parameters are in place, you as a customer need to ensure that you are dealing with seriously experienced people who are running the adventure for you. I’d for one not trust this to someone who’s new at the game, as this is not a place for mistakes. Take my word, divers have been lost here on Protea historically due to skippers not watching the surface properly, and Divemasters not managing their divers properly. Lost divers (which I always blame on Divemaster incompetence in these conditions) surfacing away from the boat in poor surface conditions, in shark infested waters, is not what we’d call an ideal day at the office.

I thus cannot emphasise this point enough (and this is as true of Protea Banks, as it is of any destination in South Africa or indeed the world): Book your dives with seriously competent locals who have years of local experience (although I admit this is a difficult one to sound out sometimes). When you get to your dive site evaluate the sea conditions to decide whether they look OK for you to go out diving in. Speak to any local Divemasters or Instructors you can find, i.e. guys taking their dive gear out of their cars at the site, to enquire their opinion of dive conditions etc. Ask the skippers and DM in advance what the dive conditions where like the day before, and what they expect the conditions to be like on the day itself. Any DM or skipper worth their salt will have a good instinct for the conditions before they take a dive group out to sea. Expect a GOOD pre-dive brief, in which the entire sequence of events should be explained to you, and the action you are likely to see on that dive. The dive brief is also your opportunity to feel out the guy who is going to lead your dive, and for you to use your experience to evaluate your perceived opinion on their level of competence. If you do not feel safe after the brief for any reason, I stress it is never too late to call the dive by developing an upset stomach or something suitable to get you out of the dive. Please do not get caught up into the usual travelling diver syndrome of ‘I’ve travelled all this distance, I have to do the dive’ type of thing.

I wish you good weather, and clean water, as all the concerns lessen proportionately. However I do know from growing up here that the conditions can turn very quickly and it can become an unforgiving piece of ocean. As we always teach, if there’s ANY doubt, there’s NO doubt! As I always testify: there are good divemasters, and there are crap divemasters. Unfortunately for most, it’s not till the going gets tough and things are going wrong that the differences become apparent. But you’d know this with your own experience and training. Please don’t get me wrong with diving Protea Banks, every single week hundreds of safe enjoyable dives are performed here. In fact ‘enjoyable’ is a little meek for the experience and memories you will carry for a lifetime after your adventure and sightings here. It’s truly an awesome blow your mind kind of dive experience. But I will forever testify that for this calibre of dive to deliver the goods it promises, in the safe professional enjoyable manner it demands, a serious competent capable machine needs to be performing behind the scenes for your benefit.

Also to be fair and honest, by my own standards I do expect a lot. I served with the training wing of the South African Special Forces, and also don’t mind saying I have trained some seriously competent Divemasters and Instructors myself to work this section of the coastline in KwaZulu Natal. I know what this ocean demands, and the level of service that these dive leaders need to achieve to aptly service both a local and international client base. I have no doubt that you will have a truly awesome holiday in South Africa, and look forward to hearing your dive report and views when you return. I hope none of my comments put you off at all, as that’s not the point at all. But just beware, this is Africa, and there ARE cowboys out there. Don’t get taken for a ride! Please read my comments in light of the levels of expectations I hold myself, and adjust them accordingly for your own interpretation.

Also with pleasure, I have burnt you a copy of my dive book CD-Rom, which I’ll put into the post for you in the next day or two. It’s a CD-Rom packed with about 400 pages of documents on every topic in diving academics you can care to think of. Included on the disk you’ll find a few photos of my own of some dive destinations worldwide I’ve been to, including Sodwana Bay, and you’ll find the video clip I promised (about 12 minutes long) showing diving on Aliwal Shoal. It’s a promo video I got off the dive operation I used to DM for, which includes shark diving, and also some footage of the famous sardine run. It’s an awesome clip to watch.

Oh, one other thing (chuckle): If your wife’s not a diver, it’s probably best not to let her read about the shark diving I’ve mentioned here, as she may not understand and you might not be allowed to go after this! he, he…

There: a short quick answer to your question (chuckle), hope that it is all of value. Have a tremendous holiday, I’m green with envy!

Kind regards,
Dennis

DENNIS GUICHARD

NAUI Instructor Trainer # 17044"
 

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Interesting stuff Bren.

l'm planning on going to South Africa over the xmas/new year period and plan to dive Protea Banks and pop down to Cape town for the cage diving.
Wifee thinks we're going to visit my son-in-law parents.  
 

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Oi, what are you inferring Angus??


I might have to demand another apology.  
 

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[b said:
Quote[/b] (diving dude @ Feb. 22 2004,23:17)]I might have to demand another apology.  
The demanded apology doesn't wash with me anymore.  There are far too many people being polite on this forum these days.
Where has the lack of manners and common decency gone?  

If the politeness carries on I might have to move back to DiverNet or uk.rec.scuba so that I can read people forcing their opinion upon others and beinging downright rude and obnoxious!  
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Protea Banks and Aliwal Shoal Video

Guys,

I've 'come into possession' of a top vid/CD of this neck of the woods. Any one wants a copy, shout up!

Cheers,
 

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I'm going back next Friday, so I'm hoping to come back with a new CD or two of my own.. hurrah!
 

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Hi Bren,

I'm getting married in January and very seriously trying to persuade my other half to honeymoon out there. If the offer of the CD is still there I would love a copy. Please let me know and I will PM my address.

Many thanks,

Ian

Bren Tierney said:
Guys,

I've 'come into possession' of a top vid/CD of this neck of the woods. Any one wants a copy, shout up!

Cheers,
 

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Bren Tierney said:
Guys,

I've 'come into possession' of a top vid/CD of this neck of the woods. Any one wants a copy, shout up!

Cheers,

Ahem... UP! ;) sounds good, can I have a copy please?
Cheers
Steve
 
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