Monday, March 15, 2010

Diving dilemma

I like scuba diving, but prefer snorkelling. Scuba takes a lot of preparation and special equipment—and having dived in some superb locations and conditions, too many of my more recent scuba dives have been disappointing. Besides, Katharine is a good snorkeler, and it is much more fun doing something together.

P3150020We’d hoped to take a boat to snorkel at the Cham Islands near Hoi An, but a storm churned up the water. Fortunately, the dive operator in Hoi An told us the visibility would be disappointing, so we didn’t waste time or money.

The islands near Nha Trang were supposed to be even better, so we checked out several operators there and signed up to go out for a day trip with Rainbow Divers.

Our boat left the docks first, but as we anchored, a whole fleet of others were approaching. By the time we were in the water, a dozen or so dive boats had attached themselves to the few permanent anchors. It was quite apparent that this would not be the pristine location we’d hoped for.

P3150023We’d been fitted with wetsuits—hardly necessary in the warm water, but they kept the jellyfish from stinging and the sun from burning. We had a good time snorkelling, and the water was fairly clear with 8–10m visibility.

The trip was supposed to have dives at two different sites, but after a snack of fresh fruit, the boat was moved to the second site—only a hundred metres or so from the first! We were annoyed, because it meant we had to repeat much of our earlier exploration to get to new territory, so really didn’t see as much as we’d hoped.

But I was very glad we were not amongst the divers: not only was the bottom messed up from too many boats, but it was fairly featureless below 8–10m, with no sign of the ledges or underwater cliffs shown on the promotional material. The best coral and fish were in the 1–4m depths: well within our range, but all of the scuba divers were operating in the deeper water.

P3150025Where we went—Mun Island in the Hon Mun Marine Park—is a popular diving destination near a very popular resort city, so perhaps it isn’t surprising that an ad hoc dive trip would be less than stellar. However, it does reflect on both the operator and the region when expectations are not met.

P3150009Perhaps the local operators and the Hon Mun Marine Park managers should work out a different system to spread the boats around a bit more—or limit the number that can operate in a given area.

If I was still a serious scuba diver, I would do a lot more homework before signing on to a dive trip here.