With Bunaken’s walls perfect for technical diving and training and Lembeh’s sandy slopes a photographer’s paradise, we’ve had a truly tech-tastic start to the year in Sulawesi, North Indonesia. Technical diving courses, CCR dives and technical fun dives including Trimix were all on the cards over the past few weeks.
Perfect for tech diving training
Bunaken is where our tech diving journey started at Two Fish, and whilst a lot of the teaching activity has moved to Amed, Bali, we still keep a tech centre there. This January and February, Two Fish Tech manager and TDI instructor trainer Yvonne travelled to Bunaken for not one but four technical courses, including TDI Extended Range, Trimix, Solo Diving and Gas Blender qualifications.
The walls and slopes of Bunaken Marine Park offer both – a great training ground for the initial dives of a course when much of the dive time is focused on practising and perfecting skills and spectacular dive sites for the deeper decompression dives towards the end of the course.
This time, we were joined by guests from Australia and the UK, diving a mix of technical Sidemount and twinsets.
Starting off in Sidemount
Tony joined us from Western Australia and brought his own technical Sidemount equipment for the TDI Extended Range and Normoxic Trimix course, which he followed up with the SDI Solo Diver qualification. Before starting on the course curriculum, we took a look at gear configuration. When diving Sidemount, every gear change makes a difference to the diver’s trim and buoyancy, but when going from steel to aluminium cylinders that change is much more significant.
At home in Australia, Tony dives steel tanks, so we spent some time moving and adding D-rings to the harness, reconfiguring bungees and discussing the buoyancy changes of aluminium tanks as well as practicing when to make adjustments. One of the most helpful tools in this respect is video footage that allows the diver to see their configuration rather than only feel it. And so we spent a couple of hours pouring over videos before readjusting the harness to hit the sweet spot.
Hard work pays off
Whilst this may sound a bit fiddly, this kind of hard work at the beginning of or even before a course pays off as the the diver is much more comfortable in the water when deco tanks are added and skills become more complex and challenging.
Having your equipment set up correctly and comfortably means you can concentrate on the dive itself – including running the dive plan, completing skills and drills plus looking at these stunning walls. What’s to see? Coral and sponges don’t simply end, they continue further than divers can see, even though the visibility can be 40 m +. Below 45 m is where we encounter pelagic species in their own habitat, meaning they stay longer rather than rushing through. In Bunaken, that often means seeing sharks, although this time our most spectacular encounters were with large tuna.
Tempting tech fun dives
With so much tech talk, former student and TDI diver Simon, who was in Bunaken on a recreational diving holiday, was tempted to join us for tech fun dives after Tony’s courses. Whilst the two only met on Bunaken, they became firm friends within days and were soon discussing much more than Sidemount setups.
The beauty of Bunaken Marine Park is that even in rainy season there are plenty of walls to be dived, and whilst recreational divers often ask why we would go deep if there is so much to see in the shallows, the answer is pretty simple: we get the best of both worlds. Stillness at depth and beautiful, colourful corals during our deco stops. Plus the clear head of diving Trimix. What’s not to like?
Back to teaching
After so much Sidemount diving it was time to change configurations into twinsets when Paul joined us. It had been quite a while since Paul last tech dived, so we spent a few days updating gear configuration, dive planning and hand signals to ensure clear underwater communications.
As this was also the first time Paul used manifolded twinsets rather than unmanifolded ones, we made sure to cover shutdown drills repeatedly and in great detail to make them become second nature. All of this laid the basis for deeper Extended Range dives.
And as if that wasn’t enough, afternoons were busy as well as Paul worked through his Trimix Gas Blender certification. What better practice than blending your own deco gas for the following day? Starting both from scratch with empty tanks as well as topping up leftovers using partial pressure blending, Paul soon got used to getting gases ready before finalising dive plans for the next day.
To top it all off, he got experience in creating a Trimix bank, making the best possible use of Helium leftovers from Tony’s dives as well as using a gas booster. And all this whilst preparing for theory exams – diving life can be busy!
Sounds busy? Don’t forget Lembeh!
With all of this going on, we were also supporting a CCR diver at our Lembeh centre. Sam had chosen to dive bubble-free to get as close to these, often tiny, creatures as possible and have time to take pictures and videos without ‘spooking’ them.
It’s one of the main arguments for CCR diving at ‘shallow’ depths – being able to record wildlife without standing out as an intruder in the underwater world. On this occasion, Sam had chosen to dive with an open circuit guide. That may seem counter-intuitive for a CCR diver, but if you’ve ever seen our eagle-eyed Lembeh guides at work you know their bubbles are well worth it.
We’re not standing still, that’s for sure! Next it’s back to Bali and Lombok, for a range of PADI TecRec courses followed by some tech diving and teaching fun in South Lombok. Can’t wait!
Contact Two Fish Tech
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