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BW Businessworld

Jive And Dive

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Ahoy! you landlubbers! it is time to leave terra firma and venture forth into the oceans of the world to find the ultimate adventure on the ‘live aboard' experience. A ‘live aboard' is a dedicated diving yacht based in exotic diving locations such as the Maldives, Thailand, the Red Sea, Malaysia and Indonesia. Lacadives and Orca dive clubs are now organising bookings and dive trips to some of the most exotic diving locations for certified divers for an adventure of their lives. Just get your sea legs together because the boat can get a little rocky.

Learn to travel light with not more than 5 kg of personal baggage and 10 kg of equipment such as regulators, BCDs (buoyancy control devices or jackets), fins, masks and snorkels. Most dive boats only provide tanks and tank fills along with weights and weight belts. The boats offer comfortable accommodation to the divers on a twin-sharing room basis and most of the time the rooms are air-conditioned. Most boats have attached bathrooms, but some have bathrooms that have to be shared by two or three cabins. Depending on the price you pay, the size of the cabin and quality of food varies. But the food is usually very good. What all dive boats offer is a minimum of three dives a day and sometimes more. The trips can vary from five days to seven days, and because the boats don't touch shore for that duration, they can go to remote diving spots that land-based divers cannot reach.

TAKING THE PLUNGE: One of the divers jumping off the ‘live aboard' yacht (Photographs: Hughes vitry of ‘Blue Water Diving' in Mauritius)Because of the pristine nature of the diving spots and the time of the year that you go there, you are guaranteed sightings of huge ocean-going migratory pelagics — manta rays in droves, whale sharks, hammerheads, eagle rays, immaculate, untouched coral pillars, and banks rising from unknown depths full of reef fish. These fish have grown to spectacular sizes because they have not been fished or dynamited, and are usually heavily protected by their respective governments. On a recent trip to the Maldives, some of my friends were the privileged spectators to a great plankton upwelling on the reef of the island of Hanifaruh Bay, which had massive congregations of fish with 30 or 40 manta rays in formations, wheeling, feeding and cart-wheeling. You can only see such an incredible display sometimes on National Geographic. Swimming majestically into the circus of this dance of life came a 30-ft whale shark, majestic, gentle, awe inspiring. Swimming through this amazing collection of gentle giants from the deep were schooling jacks, fusiliers of all hues and colours, and a myriad reef fish. The diving at this time of the year, which is actually off season in India because of the monsoon, is just spectacular off the ‘live aboards' in the Maldives as they come under a monsoon shelter area.

My recent trip with our diving family — my two younger sons and my instructor wife — to the Red Sea was equally spectacular. The waters were warm, blue and clear. The dive boat, manned efficiently by an experienced crew, turned over dives rapidly like cooking flapjacks. We had an enormous and talented Egyptian chef who turned out the most amazing meals every single day of the trip. And since most of the group was French speaking, I was reduced to sign language, though the kids and my wife honed up on their speaking French, as they learnt it in school. We usually go to Kadmat for our family holidays. However, this year because of the IB (International Baccalaureate) course that my children were doing in school, their holidays began after the diving season in India closed. So we decided to take the kids on their first ‘live aboard' experience as all of them are certified divers.

TAKING THE PLUNGE: One of the divers jumping off the ‘live aboard' yacht (top); Prahlad Kakar with a lion fish in the Red Sea (Photographs: Hughes vitry of ‘Blue Water Diving' in Mauritius)The dive boat was a wooden 100-ft yacht with accommodation for 16 people and a fabulous lounge. We got amazingly good rates thanks to our diving instructor Hughes Vitry of ‘Blue Water Diving' in Mauritius, who had put the trip together. It was truly a memorable family diving holiday. So all you people who don't dive and want to take part in this great adventure in the oceans, please apply both to Lacadives and Orca Dive Club to initiate — in an affordable manner — pool training exercises enroute to your open water certification to open up the  experience of a lifetime in discovering the secrets of the ocean. Happy diving!

The author is managing director of Genesis Films

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 04-10-2010)