We recently received a FaceBook message from a very happy customer to Ocean Leisure, who told us what a godsend the reef hook we had suggested was. He had called by on his way to the Sudan and equipped himself with all the underwater photography equipment he needed as well as a lot of new scuba diving equipment. As usual we asked him where he was going and on hearing that he was joining a member of the Cousteau family on a trip we suggested he took with him a reef hook.The water that forces itself over the deep water tongues of each reef in the Sudan can be forced to speed up just as the air over the top of an aircraft's wing has to increase its velocity resulting in often strong currents. Places like Sha'ab Rumi are famous for this phenomenon and that is what encourages the sharks. Requiem sharks need forward motion to force water through their gills in order to breathe. If they find a place with a strong current, they can relax in the flow letting the forces of nature do the work for them. It's not unique to the Sudan. Water forces its way into the channels of the Maldives, through the passes of the Tua Motos in French Polynesia and between the islands of Indonesia as tidal differences in the ocean affect the height of the water within the lagoons of atolls of the water levels in the minor seas to the north of the Indonesian archipelago. Among many other places, Palau has some powerful current points like that at Pelelui Cut and Blue Corner too. We should not forget the diver's flavour-of-the-year, the Dampier Strait in Raja Ampat, either. It can make scuba diving arduous but many divers think it's worth the effort. Why? Because once you have swum down and located yourself at the point on the reef wall where the action is to be found, you merely need to cling on and watch the show. Of course, clinging on to a coral reef is to be discouraged thanks to the damage it does. Even if you were able to cling on to bare rock as one can in the waters of Cocos or the Galapagos, you'd need a strong pair of leather gloves if your hands are not to be torn. Gloves more often used by sailors are appropriate. Neoprene diving gloves get ripped to pieces within a few dives. Better still, why not avoiding touching any surface altogether? That's where the reef hook comes into its own. You simply hook in to a suitable area of rocky substrate and allow yourself to be pushed back by the flow of water. The reef hook is at the end of a length of line that is hooked to a strong part of your BC such as a suitable stainless steel D-ring. A little bit of air added to the BC gives to enough buoyancy to fly like a kite above the reef and you hover there comfortably while you watch the sharks and other fishes putting on a show. When it comes to time to go, you simply pull yourself down the comfortably braided line and unhook, not forgetting to dump that buoyancy air from your BC before you are swept back into the channel behind you or into the lee of the reef. A reef hook is an inexpensive item of kit that is stowed in a BC pocket forgotten until you need it. If you are going anywhere that currents are featured, we certainly recommend it. If you've enjoyed reading these blogs, you will enjoy reading Amazing Diving Stories by the same author.
There is no doubt that a good pair of fins will enhance diving performance. The problem is deciding which are the most suitable fins for you. Assuming that you select a pair that fit you comfortably, fins can be conveniently divided into three types. The super-long fins beloved of free divers will propel the user a long way down below the surface with only a couple of kicks but would be very inconvenient to use for leisure snorkelling or for normal scuba diving. They’d just get in the way. Snorkellers want fins that are lightweight to carry and can be used in combination with bare feet or neoprene swimming socks. Many have a slipper integrated with the fin. There are also some open-heel fins with straps that can be used in this way. When it comes to scuba diving, most divers want to use fins in conjunction with neoprene boots. Ocean Leisure stocks nine or ten different types of these scuba diving fins in a price range from £50 to £187 per pair. So what’s the difference? They all work but some work better than others. If you were to try them all in the placid waters of a swimming pool, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference in their performance. However, if you are going somewhere subject to strong current such as the Dampier Strait in Raja Ampat or any of the islands of Indonesia where the tidal flow forces through between the Indian Ocean and the smaller seas to the north for example, there will be moments when you need to get you head down and go for it. It’s at such moments as this that you will find if the performance of fins you’ve got is wanting or not. There has been some confusion also about the efficacy of split-fins. This design was originally conceived by American Pete McCarthy and sold under license to various manufacturers. The first company to buy into the idea was Apollo in Japan. They made their fins from a heavy rubber compound and they were very effective but were never properly imported into the UK and they weighed a tonne. Other manufacturers bought into the idea but concentrated on making their fins as comfortable in the water as could be possible at the price of loss of propulsion. They were seductive until you really need to propel yourself forwards. This had the effect of destroying the split-fin concept and today you may still hear people insisting that split-fins are no good. This is simply not true. There are some very good split-fins and some that are not worth bag space. The Atomic split-fin is one of the most effective fins available and I have proved that with the side-by-side comparison tests of fins I made over the years for Diver Magazine. I used a specially built underwater speedometer to objectively compare different fin performances and whereas some split-fins were very disappointing, the Atomic fins were not. Atomic also makes a less expensive paddle-style fin, if you don’t believe me! Another fin that will be up to performing well when the chips are down is the Aquabionic Warp 1. The designers went back to the drawing board for this one and came up with a fin that actually alters its shape according to the load put on it. Like the Atomic split-fin it’s not cheap but it makes the most of any effort you put in. I was in Raja Ampat at a site called Mike’s Point with two young fit Germans. We turned a corner in the reef where we had the full force of the flow presented to us head-on. The two Germans never made it any further whereas I was able to get past this current-point and make it to a lee in the reef further on. Later, they said that they were impressed at the strength of my kicking but this old-age pensioner knew it was because the fins I was using made the most of my muscle power. If you are off to any place with high-voltage diving, whether it be the Galapagos, Cocos, Aldabra, the Maldives or any of the archipelagos further East, I really recommend you invest in a pair of fins that won’t let you down. The pain of the price is soon forgotten and all you are left with is how good they are.