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Hi All:

Does anybody recently dived in Port El Kantaoui, Tunisia? I have found a couple of dive centers in the area, but no info about my OWD certificate. I mean, do they admit OWD, or any other PADI certs?.

Any suggestions about diving centers in that area will be highly appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

Luis
 

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The Artist formerly known as 'Kirky'
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Hiya capitanH.

Dived out of PEK a couple of years ago. Only one dive centre based at the end of the harbour `Centre de Plongee` a CMAS outfit that also said they did PADI.

I`ll try and dig out a trip report I did.

TAKE YOUR OWN KIT !!!! - theirs was crap/leaky/no octopus !!!

Tank fills were about 170bar and the diving was OK-ish - well it was diving.

It was also cheap. The night dive was in the middle of a 12m shipping lane !!!!!

I`ll try and dig out the report
 

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The Artist formerly known as 'Kirky'
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Here it is, tongue in cheek but very true.........

A Tunisian tale.......
by Kirky
Date: 2001-10-08
Location: Other
 
Port el kantaoui is not a primary destination. This story highlights some of those things you dont learn on the PADI courses
A Tunisian tale;..


The family holiday this year was to Tunisia; Port el Kantoui (PEK), to be exact. Hot sun, sandy beaches and relaxation. Like most divers, I did a trawl of the net `just in case there were any diving opportunities` - well, I`ve just made Divemaster so it seemed right I should get a dive !

Nothing of value from Divernet, Rodales etc so I posted a question and waited. I got one reply from the Tunisian Tourist board who sent a list of dive operators; Yahooooo; there was one in PEK. So I emailed them and (eventually) got a response, CMAS level 1/2/3 courses and `adventure dives` - Yahoooo ! !

So, in went my regs, shorty, computer, camera, dive log and card; suddenly hand luggage felt a bit more than 5kg. Never mind, I`ll blag it. Amazingly, for the first time, my hand luggage was not manually searched at Manchester airport; maybe the nice security folk are starting to recognise dive kit under X-ray.

After a 5 hour flight delay, 4 hour flight and 1 hour transfer we eventually arrived; diving was the last thing on my mind. After a day or 2 aclimatising, my dive feet were starting to get itchy. Thank God my wife, liz, is a sun goddess and very dive tolerant. So, off to the marina I went in search of `Centre de Plongee`. Eventually found it at the end (isnt it always) of the marina, so in I go, downstairs is kit store and issue, upstairs is the reception.

`Bonjour monsieur`, the dolly says. `Err; hello, do you speakee eengleesh` I ask. `Oui` is the response.`I want to dive`, I say thinking that I will have asked for the `you have come to the right place then sir` answer

£15 a dive including kit or 6 dives for £65, (thats cheap, I thought) so I booked 2 dives for the next day one at 08.30 and one at 10.30.

`Are you qualified` ? ? she says
`Yes, Divemaster`, I respond with pride, `do you want to see my log book or card` ? ?
`Non, is OK`, she says.

A little light sparks inside my head, why no confirmation of experience, no medical disclaimers, no liability releases; just `see you tomorrow`.

`Are your boats well equipped` ? ? I ask. `Oui`
`Is there oxygen on board` ? ?. `I think so`, she responds. Hmm;sounds a bit iffy.

I decide to hang around outside the dive centre thinking its the Tunisian way. Then I got talking to a guy from southern England. `Whats it like` ? ? I ask. `Ah- well its a bit different` he responds with that knowing look that makes you think `Oh-Oh`

Ah well I thought, I`m reasonably confident and very safety conscious, I`ve got my own regs and wont feel phased if I decide to duck out of a dive. At the dock, the diveboat was returning. It was a reasonable size, about 12 divers on board and looked fairly organised. On hearing a Scottish lilt, I sidle up to the guy. `How was it` ? I ask.
` !*@*# ! shocking` ,was the response, `no idea about safety, a wee bit different` - again with that knowing look.

A pit starts to open up in my stomach, butterflies start to get loose

As many divers will testify, faced with a choice of yet more days idling by the pool, or the chance of a dive, I made my descision. Yes, you guessed right, I chose the dive ! !

The info gained helped me prepare mentally, more focus on safety, dont assume anything, max depth 20m, own regs, fairly confident and loads of good quality training  plus the `duck out` option. lets dive ! !

I turn up at 0800 for the 0830 dive, check in (`Hi, I`m John`) and get my kit.I`m issued with pool fins, Scubapro BCD (the rest I bought myself) Weights are on the boat. There are 4 divers in total, great, cosy. The `Instructeure Internationale` sidles up and asks my qualifications and experience. `When you last dive ` ? he says, `2 weeks ago in the Albert dock; oh, and I am a DM`. `OK` he says and sidles away.

The first dive is to a `wreck`, about 10 minutes voyage. We start to kit up. The first thing I notice is that I am the only one in a shorty; Pah, soft warm water divers. On closer inspection I notice the wetsuits issued to the other divers are a tad old and well used (bleached/ripped). I got talking to an Australian guy who was `taking a break from diving the barrier reef`. Funny, he also had that knowing look in his eyes. `It beats rotting by a pool`, he says. I agreed and we started kitting up. I was glad I bought my own regs. The tanks were little dumpy things with 2 A-clamp connections. `Whats the spare connection for`, I ask the instructeur. `In case you want to fit octopus`, he responds. I look around and note that the reg sets issued by the operater did not have spare air regs just a primary ! !. Tha Aussie fits his to the tank and opens up the supply. A gentle hiss is heard from his one and only regulator. Despite a couple of hefty bangs by the instructeur, the reg continues to hiss. The Aussie demands another set so the instructeur swops his with him. A Dutch guy is struggling with a leaking HP hose on his issued set. Another instructeur swops his. All around the boat, gentle hisses are heard but accepted as minor.

Next we are issued with weight belts `6kg please`, I ask, `non 3kg is Ok`, is the response. We debate this for a couple of minutes and agree that he will carry 3kg extra just in case. The weight belts are issued. Old and battered is an understatement  the lead was so battered it was impossible to adjust the weight positioning ! !. Oh well, at least I could tighten it, and it did have a metal clasp as opposed to some distinctly dodgy looking plastic ones.

Final kit up, air on; 170 bar; oh well, better than nothing. Then I found out why I didnt need as much weight, the tank was a dumpy 12 litre and felt like it was made of lead itself ! No BCD clips for console or secondary

I mentally buddy up with a Dutchman

Entry was interesting; either climb up on boat ledge and giant stride (not good as the boat was rocking) or back summersault off the ledge. I`ve never done this before from a 2 metre height; this was `interesting`. Holding all my bits, off I went. When I surfaced I thought `well at least I got in OK`.

Next we swim to the anchor line and start to descend. At about 4m my left ear would not equalise, so up I went as per training. This is where I learnt a nice trick. The instructeur made me snort seawater into my nose and then blow out the offending material. Guess what; perfect, it worked a treat !

So, down to 17m to a typical meditteranean vista, flat, gray, the odd rock and good vis to 20m Water temp 28 degrees; ahhhhh, this is the life.

I note the air bubbles streaming from the dutchmans pull dump mechanism. I also note my buoyancy control is a bit rough, not its usual steadiness.

The `wreck` was the remains of something on the sand; an old gunboat that over the years has sunk into the sand, the remnants being `on the bottom`. It was OK, different and fish life much more profuse than Turkey. Other than that, `it was a dive`. Anyway, a while later I signal the instructeur that I have 50bar left so I`m off. `NON`, was the gesticulated response, `You have to see the ships steering wheel`. Hmm..Ok, a couple more minutes. I see the steering column. Now I`m down to 20 bar and cursing myself. I signal `low on air` and start to ascend. The Instructeur is having none of it and stuffs his pull dump/back up reg in my mouth. Then he signals `carry on`. I am not a happy bunny so I continue to ascend, dragging him with me.At 10m he signals `down` ! !. Now its my turn to signal, I drop his reg and pop mine back in. I still manage a safety stop and surface with 10 bar; hoping it would be enough to keep me afloat. Others start to appear.

Actually, I quite enjoyed the dive, and the fact that my training helped me through some iffy practices.

So, how do we get back on the boat ?; the rusty ladder was lowered, we got up it one by one.

Back on the boat there was a feeling of exhillaration, not because the dive was great, I think it was because we all got through it. Time to de-kit. I wondered why the BCD they gave me weighed more after the dive, until that is, I shook it and heard the seawater sloshing inside. Upending it, I released the dump and about 2 litres of seawater flooded the deck. `oh`, says the dutchman - `you had a leak on your pull dump`. I told him the same and everyone looked at each other with that `knowing look`.

Interesting ? ?; definitely, you dont learn to deal with these types of operators through PADI training. You learn quick though, taking comfort in the training you were given and the confidence you gain. I would not promote this operator for trainees ! ! ! We return to the marina.

`You out again` says the Aussie. `Yes, 1030`, I respond. We agree to buddy up.

The tanks are hauled off for a refill. 1030 becomes 1100. By the way, Tunisian time always seems to be 30-40 minutes after the time they say.

So off we go again for the `caves` dive. We set up our kit, I turn on my air; 130bar; aaarrrgh ! ! I say `Non`, I like my air and plenty of it thank you very much. I get a replacement; 190 bar;WOW, luxury ! I keep the same BCD (better the devil you know). The Aussie remarks that his tank has no O-ring. Like Paul Daniels, the instructeur digs in his pocket and pulls one (O-ring, that is) out. It pops out again and the Aussie is starting to lose self control. The instructeur appears with a knife; oh no, possible international incident ! With relief, he uses it to dig out half a ton of crud from the O-ring well. `Good now`, shouts the instructeur, as the O-ring fits neatly and properly.

The 3 german trainees on board who joined us for the dive start to look apprehensive.

So, off we go again, 2 metre backflip and descend to 15m to the `caves`. Hmmm; flat sandy bottom, sea grass but no caves. We follow the instructeur. Soon a gap appears in the sea bed, about 2m wide and deep. We descend into it and enter one of the `caves`, a 5m long swim through, closing to about 1m wide. Ok, this is a bit better; wonder what the trainees are thinking as they follow us. So, on to the next `cave`, ahh, the second `cave` is the first but swum through from the other side; silly me, I should have known. We then finned around the sea bed for about 25 mins, found an octopus, clam, 4 groupers AND a starfish. Spectacular stuff when compared to Capernwray or the maldives (not)

After 50 minutes, we ascended, clambored aboard and de-kitted. The Aussies O-ring fell out and I emptied another 2 litres from my BCD. Everyone grinned, we had survived.

The 3 trainees were decidedly white and very quiet. I decided to forget my german language skills and thought of the race for the sunbeds. Naughty to say but I grinned a bit more ! !

Back at the marina we left the boat. A guy came up to me. `Whats it like` ? he asks. `Definitely interesting, and better that sunbathing by the pool` I responded. Some things you have to learn for yourself.

I admit to being a bit of a dive tart and expected a cushy, safe prim and proper set up. I have to say this is where my learning has really started. I logged the dives and got my log book stamped. As I`m about to leave, Rafael the instructeur shouts `Mr John, you want night dive;.. ?


The dive was scheduled for 1930, dusk. We met up on the boat. Err; no air or torches ; Rafael was late and he had the keys to the compressor room. At 2000 and in total darkness, we set off, now for me this would be very `interesting`, starting a night dive in pitch black. So we kitted up.

`You`, the instructor shouts at me, `no shorty, many jellyfish`. Hmm, Ok, I accept a spare wrecked full length 3mm wetsuit. Torches were distributed. `If torch battery run out, you swim very close to buddy`. Raised eyebrows from the 6 intrepid night divers, 4 of which were doing their first night dive. Suddenly my little pocket torch (bought just in case) had the importance of a lighthouse. No backups were issued and no tank strips.

So there we were, a night dive on `different caves`, one torch each (plus my pocket lighthouse), no spares ; interesting. I buddied with a brit who was even more shortsighted than me. `Keep an eye on me will you, I keep meaning to get prescription lenses in my mask` he says. Ok, I think, my buddy has one torch, bad eyesight, no secondary regulator and we are on a night dive. Hope my batteries hold out !

In we go, 2m backflips into the murky unknown. We all get down Ok in the pitch black to about 10m on the seabed.

Suddenly we hear a dull throbbing, engines, is our boat leaving ? Our instructeur signals all to lay down on the bottom ; fast !. A large boat passes 10m overhead, Jesus those engines are loud, so much for the diveboat being identified. We were diving in a shipping lane, at 10m with a diveboat that was not particularly lit up ! !

Phew, that done we proceeded with the dive.

It was great ! We swam thru long black swim thrus, a 10m long (and tight) tunnel, saw loads of bottom life. Then the batteries failed on the lady divers torch hubby grabs her close. As if by a miracle we find the anchorline ; no it isnt, its an anchor with loads of line. The instructeur picks up the line and ascends while we are told to stay down. It turns out that they had lost this anchor on a previous visit ! ! !

Jellyfish we did see, in fact 2 of them tried to get intimate with the only 2 exposed areas of my body – ankles and wrists I hoped they had plenty of vinegar back at base (no none on the boat)

The Dutchman starts to signal furiously with his torch to no response by the instructeur. He continues to signal. I get close and notice his tank band has come undone and his tank has slipped out. Dutifully I replace it and re-tighten the band. As we both signal Ok we are interupted by the instructeur who must have thought we had stopped for a chat. His very animated `get a bloody move on ` signals were responded to with some quaint anglo saxon ones !

Back at base we all have that `we survived` grin.

Perhaps it was delayed narcosis, or the lure of sunbathing by the pool, but I booked another 4 dives. Am I nuts ? maybe, but the experiences had added to my self confidence, and of course my `dive stories`

Would I recommend this operator ? well, yes and no. No if you expect frills, top professionals, top safety and organisation ; no to trainees, however, how would they know if this was good or bad ?

Yes, if you are an advanced diver with confidence and able to handle the odd challenge. Not for those who have just passed their OW at Stoney or Capernwray and had good professional instruction and organisation. Also take your own gear.

The dives themselves were ok, no currents, decent vis, bits to see and max depths of 18m but watch out for the dodgy dive practices and kit.

The dive leader and instructeurs were, in fairness, responsive and helpful. Perhaps it was just the `Tunisian way`.

You really do start learning AFTER you qualify
 

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Hey, Kirky, thanks a lot for your long and well-documented response :) I think I'm gonna try a dive with those people, what has been written about cowards ever? :)

I couldn't find their web (if they have got any...) neither their e-mail address, but it seems that you found it, will you please post it here for me? I would like to mail them before getting there, you know, just to make myself sure they are going to accept my PADI certifficate and that they have room for me one of those days...

Thanks again
 

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The Artist formerly known as 'Kirky'
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I`ve lost the email address - there is no website. Other details are: Port El Kantaoui. Club Sdanek, Tel: 00 216 3 246 374

I`ll do some more digging
 
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