Monday, October 31, 2005

a day out on passions of paradise. my two mates are leaving today, but i chose to stay a little longer and go diving off this boat i saw launched down my way.

an early start and a few hours cruising to get to the reef where they have their mooring. day boats can be very squeezy, and this one was no exception. it's not a small boat, but once you put 90 people on it, it's a full boat. still, the talent is very nice. lots and lots of backpackers and other tourists. (like i'm any different). predominantely french tourists, with a few germans, poms, japanese and a young couple from norway.

our Kiwi divemaster was pretty good, relaxed the other two "certified divers" very well and they both had a nice dive. i'm not trying to be pompous or anything, but they were beginner level, and unfortunately i think that none of the dive accreditation organisations really drum in that, although they are certified to dive, they still are underwater babies and will need some help.

i'm meant to be buddied with this french dude, while the divemaster is buddied with this pommy girl who is showing obvious signs of stress. however, as often happens, people who know they are stressed, often are the least of your worries, it's those that don't think they are that can be a worry. in any case, french dude got the nursemaid treatment, whilst the pommy girl relaxed considerably as soon as she entered the water and used less air than the rest of us. she certainly used less than me, but i don't stress over that anyway, girls use less air than boys, that's normal, although i probably should feel a little guilty as she was swimming with her arms most of the time, then again, she wasn't stressed. relaxed = use less air.

anyway. after the divemaster worked out my experience he thought i wouldn't need a divemaster. rubbish i say. first dive here, diving here twice, i'd rather tag along with the experienced guide and take advantage of his local knowledge. anyway, i enjoyed myself and so did the others.

they did want us to put all our kit on and walk down the stairs at the back of the boat with our fins on. i begged them to let me put my fins on at the bottom. if it annoys you and gives a bad example then sure i'll change, but i really hate walking with fins on. we jump in to the lovely clear water, and straight away a big fat batfish is all around us. he's used to being fed, but you're not allowed to anymore, and he hasn't been told. some other fish i haven't seen before as well. then we swim through a gap in the reef, and swim around to the left, back to the boat. anemones with associated clown fish, some mackerel, nothing out in the deeper water but when i'm hanging back with pommy chick, our DM is trying to get us to catch up, he's found us a little black tipped reef shark. but typically it doesn't hang around, i see it as it buggers off, but don't get a chance for a photo.

big fat nudibranchs (i didn't realise it was a nudi, thought it was a coral of some sort!) coral trout, little nudis, clown fish, i missed seeing a hump headed maori wrasse (typical, drat!) but did see some big spanish mackerel.

our french mate needed to ascend first, then our dm came back, i went up next, needed to go to the toilet. pommy chick and dm last. he dehydrates on the way out he confided later (that's cheating!)

the second dive was the same as the first. Simon (DM) said when we get back to the boat we can stay under if we like, but i'm getting cold and needing a potty break so i go up first.

next we go to another reef. but i've had my two dives, found the bar, and i'm filling up on surprisingly cheap (for up here) beers. some of the others go for instructor led dives, including one dude with no legs. his instructor/guide was really good and looked after him very well. i watched and cringed as the rest of the loonies snorkelled around. some of these dudes have no idea. one dude nearly had a heart attack trying to swim/snorkel to the sandy reef about 200m away, others needed to hang onto a lifering. even in fresh water i (with no buoyancy) can snorkel face down and not sink if i keep moving, and in salt water, i can lie face down unmoving. but with no french skills, and not wanting to tread on any toes, plus had enough of the water this day, i just enjoyed the atmosphere at the back of the boat and dangled my feet.

unfortunately the snorkelling floats they had put all the floatation on your back, which lets you lie face forward, not so good for unrelaxed tourists. for a minute i thought i'd never seen anyone make snorkelling look so hard, but then i remembered a previous experience, and just thanked my lucky stars there weren't any more wierd people like that day.

the staff and crew of the boat were all friendly and helpful. if i was running their company, i'd be happy with this lot. they all went out of their way to help people, approaching them to make sure all was good and they were getting the most out of their day out. and these people will get almost no repeat business i reckon, how many of these people are going to come back? i reckon there's a lot of once only tourists here. sure word of mouth is good, but the tourist market up there is saturated. these people like to look after people. staff like this prevent problems and create goodwill.

we did a brief spinnaker run on the way back, but not enough wind, so they gave up and motored the rest of the way. i had a bit of a yack with the skipper. i thought it was a nice boat when they launched it, but it turns out that my local boatmaker hasn't given them the best support. if they'd paid more and shopped local, it would have cost them a lot less. they had a couple of issues and this local boatmaker just told them to bring the boat down and he'd fix it. HELLO, this boat is working every day except new years, when can they take a few weeks off to motor a few thousand km down for that?

but the day out was fantastic, i really enjoyed it. i'd travel with them again.

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