The Mechanics of Diving in Sabang
Trip Start Aug 30, 2009
244Trip End Dec 25, 2009
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Sabang has numerous dive shops. They all operate the same way because of the conditions of the sea here and the harbor. If you are renting your scuba gear from the dive shop, they take care of it for you. For me, this is the best option because I don't dive as much as I used to and the expense of buying my own gear isn’t worth it for the amount of diving that I do. And I am quite spoiled in that I like having someone else take care of my gear and clean it and put it away. But if you come with your own gear, you take care of it yourself. I’ll explain how the shops work as if we were all renting gear and not coming with our own.
When you arrive to go out for your dive, the dive shop men pull out your gear. If you are coming for numerous dives, they give you the same gear each time and then they know what gear to get out because it fits you and has been adjust to you. They set up the gear on a tank for you and then carry the tank out to the boat for you. Man that is the part I like best! Tanks and gear are heavy and I have been known to fall over with a tank on my bank and kick around like an upside down turtle.
You get the rest of your stuff ready, your weight belt (provided by them), your mask, fins and snorkel (almost everyone comes with their own mask fins and snorkel) and your camera and whatever else you feel you need on the boat. When the guys say, "Are you ready", it’s down the steps, across the short expanse of beach, and into the water. This is because the boats could be anywhere from 5 feet from the shore to 200 feet from the shore, depending on the tide. If you have to walk further out to the boat, you are walking on rocks and broken coral bits and sea grass. There are spiny sea urchins in this area but the water is very clear so you can see them and watch where you are walking.
My dive shop uses a traditional boat which has the bamboo outriggers on both sides. They also have ropes along the sides which are excellent for catching the boat when it comes for you after the dive. And they have a wooden ladder that angles into the boat and they always put that down for me because they know I am not going to be able to clamber up onto the boat easily without it. Other dive shops have just big open runabouts and I would not use a dive shop with this kind of boat. They aren’t as big so there isn’t as much room to get ready, they don’t have anything much to hang onto because there’s no pole down the middle above your head, and they only have a vertical aluminum ladder to get back into the boat. I’ve already broken 2 or 3 of these aluminum ladders and climbing into a boat vertically is a challenge.
So I’m happy with my boat. The men pole the boat out of the shallows and away from the outriggers of the other boats and then we are off to our dive site. The furthest dive site away takes ½ hour by boat. Most take between 5 to 10 minutes depending on seas and how many other boats are already out. I’ve never been in the boat longer than 15 minutes.
When you get close to the dive site, the men help you put on your gear. Again, I love this and it is harder for me to do this with arthritis now so anyone helping me is excellent. I always check to make sure my air is turned on before putting on my gear but they always check it too. I’ve watched and never have they not checked the air. I put air into my buoyancy compensator and check all the gauges and gear and regulators and put on my mask and grab my camera and cinch it around my wrist. (I have my fins on before putting on my gear). When the dive master feels we are in position, he says “ready” and back flip over the side into the water. Some days it’s a bit of a surprise when it’s cooler but on hot days it’s a relief to get into the water.
Dive master checks to make sure everyone is gathered and ok and gives the signal to descend. Then into an amazing world of blue and green and colorful fish and coral and wonders of all kinds.
The diving here is just great. I think I have been on maybe 10 of the different sites and there are some 28 or 29 dive sites around Sabang. Some of the sites are for Technical Divers only in that they are deep and you need special training and gear to go to them and a few are in current and I am not interested in doing those because I am not a good swimmer. I don’t even like drift dives. But the sites I have visited are magnificent and I love diving around here.
Finally, at the end of the dive, when the dive master signals it is time to leave OR when someone has reached the safety limit on their air, we ascend, stop for the suggested 3 minute safety stop around 5 meters, and then slowly pop up to the surface. In the meantime, the boat has been hanging around a little ways away from where we went into the water. Only a few of the dive sites actually have mooring where the boat ties up and waits in the exact same spot. It is experience that makes a good boat man, I’m sure, because they always see us almost as soon as a head breaks the surface and start coming for us. This is excellent because my husband and I came up in the Maldives once in a driving rain storm and the boat didn’t see us for quite some time and totally freaked me out. So the boat comes and we all swim together to get onto the correct side of the boat and grab the rope while we take off our gear. Some of the men will unload their gear while still in the water and some of the dive masters and people who have brought their own gear just climb into the boat fully loaded. I take my gear off in the water and pass it up over the side to a waiting boatman. It’s so much easier to climb out of the water with nothing hanging onto my back.
Once everyone is back in the boat, it’s back to the shore. I love this as well because most places you hang out in the boat and wait for the next dive. That means more tanks on the boat, less room, and nothing to do much for over an hour while you wait. Here it is into shore where you can go get something to eat or drink, fill in your logbook, rinse off with fresh water, go to the toilet, fend off the beach vendors, change your camera battery, play chess, whatever. Much, much better.
If you are diving again, you just leave your mask, fins, and snorkel and weight belt in the boat. The dive shop men unhook your tank and carry it in for you and then bring back a fresh one. Are we spoiled or what!!! Absolutely!!! Then maneuver the boat into the shore as close as they can depending on the tide and you go over the side or down the ladder and walk back into shore.
At the end of your diving day, you take in your mask, fins, and snorkel and weight belt and dunk everything into the fresh water tank for a good rinse, including your wet suit and camera housing and dive computer. They bring in the tank and gear and take care of rinsing it and putting it away for you. Wow, oh wow. I’m really not sure I would ever want to buy my gear because then I wouldn’t get all this wonderful service. I do love it so much to be so pampered.
There are dive shops that don’t do as much for you. I do not stay at those dive shops long. Why would I when I can have someone else do the work for me and I can just concentrate on enjoying my dive and looking at the wonders of the sea. It’s marvelous.
So in picking a dive shop, you need to look at these things:
What do they do for you? Take care of the gear, put it together, carry it back and forth, and clean it?
What kind of a boat do they have? Good room on it, good ladder, easy to get on and off?
Is their equipment in good condition (Incredibly important!!!)? If you can see immediately that hoses are looking worn, regulators are sticking, connections look iffy, get out of there and go to a different dive shop.
Are the dive shop men friendly and good and happy to see you and willing to do all this for you?
Do they go to the dive sites that you want? Are they willing to change to do the dive you want to do and think you are capable to doing?
How many dive masters are they sending with you for how many people? I think a good dive master can take care of 1-6 people. I think having 6 people is pushing the limit to what a good dive master can manage but I’ve had dive masters go out with 8 or 10 and I won’t do that again.
So that is the sequence of diving here in Sabang. Very good, very nice, very efficient, very pampered and very excellent diving.