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How to pick a dive computer

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HOW TO PICK A DIVE COMPUTER – A BUYER’S GUIDE

By: Vandit Kalia (Vinnie)

One recurring theme that you may have noticed in my articles – and if you do any course with me – is my tendency to get on a soapbox and talk about divers taking ownership of their own safety by engaging their brains.     That is the windmill I have chosen to joust against, and, for better or worse, will continue to do so.

But a fundamental requirement to taking ownership of your own safety is having all the information needed in order to do – information drives decision-making, after all.     What information are we talking about ?   Dive time, depth, no deco time and air left at minimum – direction and air consumption rate as nice-to-have extras.       This is the information you need in order to make an informed decision about your dive, and you get this information from a dive computer.

I really cannot stress this enough – if you are diving, you really should own your own dive computer.   And no, I don’t say this because we sell dive computers.   We make a few thousand rupees on each sale.  It is hardly the sort of stuff that is going to let me retire to a tropical island.

Now, many people – especially those used to diving in tropical locations – will be used to having the DM lead the dive, and often, the DM also has the dive computer and manages the dive profile for everyone.      Let’s face it – ideal or not, this system works and thousands of people dive daily following this approach.   But there is a reason this is not ideal and is not recommended:  when it works well, it works well.   But if something goes wrong, it compounds the dangers.     What if you get separated from the group?   What if you end up going a little deeper during each dive, for multiple dives?     Most importantly, this habituates the diver into doing “trust me” dives, and prevents them from engaging their brain on each dive – this significantly hampers their development as a diver because if a problem happens, they have not developed the judgement or critical thinking skills or discipline needed to solve the problem.

That is why I push dive computer ownership more aggressively than, say, doing a Specialty Course with us (which earns us more).   It is one of the best investments you can make in controlling your own safety and eliminating variables which can add complexity to a problem.

So the next question (and one of the most common ones I get asked over email or Whatsapp) becomes – what dive computer should I get ?   There is a bewildering array of dive computers out there in the market, ranging from under twenty thousand rupees to well over one lakh (a few hundred dollars to well over fifteen hundred).

The purpose of this article is to demystify dive computers and give you the information you need to pick the dive computer that works very best for your budget and preferences.

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THE FUNDAMENTALS:  NO-DECO INFO & DIVE COMPUTER ALGORITHMS

The main reason you get a dive computer is to know how much no-deco time you have left – everything else can be figured out through some combination of a dive watch, depth gauge, SPG and/or compass.       So it stands to reason that this should be the most important thing, right?     Well, yes and no.

Yes, it is indeed the most important thing.    However, the good news is that virtually all dive algorithms being used today are robust/reliable enough to provide safe information to most divers.     Let’s talk about that in a little more detail.

As you guys may remember from your Open Water course, the decompression model is basically an empirical curve that is fitted onto existing data about safe/unsafe dive profiles.  It is essentially a probability curve which predicts the risk of getting DCS for a dive to a given depth/time.     The No Deco Limit is basically a point along the probability curve where the risk of DCS is deemed to be very low.

The most popular – and industry standard –  decompression model is the one you learned about in the Open Water course:  it was created by John Haldane and refined further by Dr Albert Buhlmann, into its current iteration, the ZHL16 – most computers today use a variant of this model, with some tweaking done as per each company’s preferences.     Another popular model is the RGBM model, developed by Dr Bruce Weinke, which focused not just on the traditional tissue absorption model but also on controlling the build-up of silent bubbles.      In addition to that, several other brands have added more significant tweaks, by trying to factor in things like age, heart rate, etc and using those to adjust the No Deco Time.

While a detailed comparison of the various models is outside the scope of this article, and the arguments of the pros/cons often resemble holy wars when it comes to the fervor of the participants on each side, it is worth noting that at the recreational level, either of these models is perfectly capable of keeping you safe.        Yes, that is correct – from a safety point of view, there is no evidence that indicates that one model is better than the other for recreational diving.

What does vary between dive computers is how conservative or progressive they are.     On a weeklong dive holiday, you might find that 2 dive computers often diverge by as much as 5-10 minutes when it comes to no-deco time.      At this point, I can hear you going “wait a minute – how can 2 dive computers be so different?   Which one is correct?”

Remember – there is no correct answer.   These are just models using probability curves and taking into account multiple factors to arrive at a single number – what you see as being a higher or lower number is merely a function of which factor has been given more or less weight.         All these models keep you safe – they just do it differently.     So “which is correct” is the wrong question to ask.

A more appropriate question is – which one is better for me:  more conservative or more progressive.

As a general philosophy for diving, we can all agree that “more conservative is better”.   But as with everything in life, you reach a point of diminishing returns.    That’s why we don’t wear helmets when we drive, or elbow/knee pads when we walk, for example.    So if we are on an expensive dive holiday to a dream destination, do we necessarily want a dive computer which cuts out dive time short by 10-15 minutes on each time?

In my experience, experienced divers often have a good idea of which algorithm has worked well for them and are also aware of any personal risk factors that may apply – they would be better off with a more progressive option, as this would let them build in additional safety margins if needed, and give them more bottom time otherwise.   On the other hand, beginner divers may still be developing their diving discipline/awareness, and so may benefit from a more conservative dive computer, which gives them a margin for error (which, to be clear, is not something you rely on!).      Also remember – you can add conservatism to a more progressive dive computer via its settings, but you cannot make a conservative dive computer more progressive.

So my recommendation is that if you think you have the discipline and awareness to add your own safety margins when applicable (eg, if you are tired, been in a strong current, etc), then a progressive dive computer would be fine for you.   If you are a diver who is at greater risk of DCS (age, weight or other factors), or want the comfort of added safety margins, then a more conservative option would be better for you.

FEATURES OF A DIVE COMPUTER

So if a cheap dive computer keeps you just as safe as a more expensive dive computer, why is there a price difference? The answer is simple – due to features. Some features are virtually essential and greatly enhance the utility of a dive computer (and make it less likely that you will outgrow it). Others are convenient and nice-to-have. And yet others are a matter of personal preference.

So here is a list of popular features and some details about them, which you can use to determine whether or not you want them.

Nitrox:

In this day and age, you should not buy a dive computer that does not have Nitrox mode.    Even if you are not Nitrox certified now, you may choose to get Nitrox certified later (and there are very good reasons for doing so:  namely, extended bottom times) – and having a dive computer that allows you to dive with nitrox will help.  Dive computer manufacturers realize that – it is very hard to find a computer that does not have Nitrox.      Do look into how easy it is to set the nitrox, and whether there is an easy way to check what mix you are diving with.      Failure to set the mix correctly (or forgetting to switch back to air later) are very common mistakes, and the easier it is to set/see your nitrox mix, the less likely you are to make this mistake.

Ascent / depth / time alarms:

I cannot think of a single computer that does not have them.   What does change is how loud those alarms are.   So if they matter to you, look into whether or not you can hear them (or feel them, if there is a vibrate mode).

Legible Display:

The benefits of a display that is easy to read, even in poor conditions, should be obvious to everyone.    Sometimes, this can take the form of a backlight – other computers have active LED displays which are much brighter.     However, legibility goes beyond just that.     Is it easy to understand what all the elements in the display mean – this is especially true when you go into accidental decompression, when you are faced with a display that you may not have seen before:  can you clearly identify that you are now in decompression?   Are all the numbers clearly labelled and can you tell what they mean?

Battery Life and Charging:

One of the banes of old dive computers used to be the need to send the entire computer to the shop to have the battery changed.     And imagine the feeling of being 2 days into a week-long dive holiday and having your computer battery die!    We have seen this happen with quite a few divers who have come to dive with us, and I have had it happen to me when traveling.   So I firmly believe that any computer that you use today should be one with either a rechargeable battery or a user-replaceable one.    Rechargeables are easier, but rely on a proprietary connector.    User-replaceables require you to have a spare battery of the appropriate type.     So there is a tradeoff.

The other element here is battery life.    Some dive computers have great, colorful displays but may last only a couple of days.    Others go up to 40-50 dives.   Yet others can go a few hundred dives.     Typically, the brighter/more colorful the display, the shorter the battery life.   And rechargeable dive computers (usually but not always) tend to have shorter battery lives than those using AA batteries.       Which one you go with is a matter of personal preference.

Planning Mode:

Most computers have some kind of a planning mode, which lets you figure out how much bottom time you have at various depths, which is important for dive planning. The most basic dive computers only give you the allowed bottom time if you were to dive immediately. Other dive computers let you add on additional surface time and calculate the allowed bottom time in such cases. This is very handy for dives where you plan to go to a specific depth, as it lets you figure out how much surface interval you need.

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Screen showing the Shearwater Perdix in planning mode.   You can also increase the surface interval and see how that affects the NDL

Ergonomics:

How easy is it to change the settings on your computer – such as nitrox percentage, depth alarm, personal conservative factor, etc? How easy is it to scroll between displays when diving? With enough practice, you can get used to pretty much any device, of course – but what if you pick up the computer after a gap of 5-6 months and then, while on a dive boat, realize you need to change a particular setting? Will you remember what to do?
One of the most common questions I get asked on a dive boat is “hey Vinnie, how do i set the nitrox on this thing”, as someone hands me an unfamiliar dive computer. The easier it is to remember, the less likely you are to mess it up.

Deco diving / Tech Features:

All computers will handle accidental decompression – ie, if you accidentally exceed NDLs. However, not all computers react the same way afterwards. Some computers are designed for decompression diving – eg, Suuntos, Shearwater and more. If you go into deco, they tell you want to do and happily keep purring afterwards because their standard algorithm is compatible with decompression diving. Others are not: while they will give you the info you need to complete your accidental deco, they will get more conservative later because their algorithms are not designed for decompression diving.

In addition, some dive computers designed for tech diving will allow you to switch between different gas mixes.   Yet others are capable of working with trimix.      Typically, only higher-end dive computers have these features.   Are they need for recreational diving?    Not at all.  But if you plan to get into tech diving, then getting a computer with these features ensures you won’t outgrow the computer.

Digital Compass:

One of the least-developed skills among recreational divers – especially in tropical reefs – is navigation. That reason is obvious: most of the time, you are following your DM, who handles the navigation for you, and so you don’t get a chance to practice. Having a compass is useful as it lets you work on your navigational skills at all times – and of course, if you and your buddy plan to dive without a guide (or you get separated from the guide), the compass becomes an essential part of your toolkit.

You can get an external compass and mount it on your console or clip it to your BCD, or you can get a dive computer with a built-in digital compass. I have a strong preference for the last option – neater and always there when you need it. This is a very under-rated but nice-to-have feature.

Air Integration:

If you had asked me a few years ago what I thought of air integration, I would have said “not for me”. Then I got the Shearwater and have been using its air integration feature, and am getting sold as to its benefits. It’s really convenient to be able to see all your information, including air, in one go. But one very nice benefit is that it also lets you see your air consumption rate on the fly – so if you are breathing a little faster for some reason, you will see that and can adjust your breathing rate accordingly. Eg, my breathing rate often goes up when I am taking photos, as I use my lungs and legs to compensate for currents while I try to get a precise composition – sometimes, my gauge has provided a very useful reminder that I am being too inefficient and that perhaps I should try a different method to stay in position.

Higher-end models even let you add multiple transmitters – so for example, you can see not just your air but also that of your buddy (or air of 2 different tanks, if you are diving sidemount or have deco bottles with you).

Essential? Of course not. But definitely very nice to have. When I use my other dive computer, which lacks air integration, I definitely miss it.

Form Factor:

Some dive computers are large and chunky. Others are more wrist-watch sized, not much larger than a regular watch. And this does matter. A larger dive computer will have a more legible display. But it is also one extra thing to pack and carry, and also something you will have to take off/put on every time you get in and out of a wetsuit. By contrast, a wrist-watch sized dive computer is something you just put on and forget – no risk of it falling while on the dive boat, no risk of forgetting it in your hotel room on the morning of the dive, etc.

Heck, you can just wear it every day as your regular watch – so if an unexpected dive opportunity comes up, you are good to go (I used to do that with my old Suunto dive computer – and it came handy when I was traveling through Africa for 4 months, and got some unexpected opportunities to go diving). I personally have a very strong preference for wrist-watch sized dive computers (and am considering switching my personal Shearwater from a Perdix to a Teric for this very reason). But larger displays are also nice, especially for older eyes. So think about what matters more to you.

Materials, Straps & Colors:

Dive computers can be made of polycarbonate or have a steel (or even titanium) case – metal cases look nicer and may be preferable if you want to wear the dive computer as a watch.    That said, polycarbonate is very robust and has good shock absorption properties, so don’t rule it out as being “lower quality”.

Straps can be of rubber, metal, elastic or fabric – the last two are often one-piece and so add a degree of reliability in case you lose a spring bar where the strap attaches.

And of course, choice of colors varies by model/brand.

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Form factors  compared:   Shearwater Perdix, Suunto D9Tx, Garmin Descent and a Doxa 1200T dive watch

Freediving/gauge modes:

This is also something that comes standard with virtually all dive computers have these days.    Gauge mode is great if you want to use your dive computer as a bottom timer (eg, as a timer backup to a different computer) – it switches off deco calculations and just gives you depth/time.   Freediving mode, as the name implies, is used for freediving/skindiving/apnea, and tracks dive duration, average depth, recovery times, etc.

Personal / altitude adjustments:

Virtually all computers let you adjust for altitude by changing a setting.    They also let you adjust how conservative the model is – in most computers, you can make the computer more conservative, although some let you tweak in either direction:  make it more or less conservative.    Typically, these are just pre-cooked settings, but some high-end computers like Shearwater actually let you precisely adjust the gradient factors, so that you can customize the dive computer precisely.

Digital Logs:

Some dive computers allow you to download your dive info into the brand’s app via a cable. Others do it wirelessly. Yet others have a full ecosystem built around uploading, geo-tagging and sharing your dives with other divers. I havent logged my dives for over 20 years and if I did, I would use paper – but I know many people prefer digital logs. If so, wireless transfer may be something to consider.

Other Features:

Some dive computers use a heart rate belt and factor in your heart rate when calculating your decompression info. That’s pretty slick, I have to say. Does it make you materially safer? I cannot say. Other computers combine activity tracking (steps, heart rate, etc) and are basically smartwatches + dive computers rolled into one. Are any of these essential for diving? No. Are they cool as heck? Oh yes. Should you get them? Depends on your budget and preference.

SUMMARY

In general, there are 3 price points for most dive computers.

At the entry level, you get the standard features:  nitrox, freediving, gauge, alarms and algorithm modes (eg, standard, conservative, more conservative).    These are sufficient for most recreational diving.      Typical pricing for computers in this range is Rs 25,000 – Rs 35,000, more or less.

In the middle range, you get extra features like digital compass, air integration and more premium materials – this is a range from Rs 35,000 – Rs 50,000 or so, approximately.

At the high-end, you get no-holds-barred devices, with a lot of neat extras, like customizable/upgradeable algorithms, ability to handle trimix, ability to handle multiple air transmitters and so on.     Prices for these can run to over a lakh.

What should you get?     The answer is – it depends on your budget and preferences.   The entry-level is where the value lies.    That said, if budget allows, the mid-range lets you get computers which, while not essential, add a fair bit of convenience to your diving.    And of course, the high-end gets you amazing devices that do pretty much (except spot hammerheads).

Hopefully, this article gives you enough information to help you reach a decision.    Feel free to drop us an email at sales@diveindia.com if you have any questions and we would be happy to help you out.    Oh, and we do carry dive computers in all these ranges – Mares, Aqualung, Deep Blu, Scubapro, Shearwater and Garmin – at very competitive prices (hint, hint!).

Deepblu Cosmiq+ Dive Computer Review

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Review: DeepBlu Cosmiq+ Dive Computer

Reviewed by:   Vandit Kalia (Vinnie)
Date of review: May 2020

The Deepblu Cosmiq+ is an entry-level dive computer and one of the more interesting units I have had a chance to try out of late.

Headquartered in Taiwan, Deepblu positions itself primarily as a community and marketplace for divers first, and gear manufacturer second.   So it is not surprising that their dive computer also emphasizes this community aspect, and also relies heavily on a smart phone for controlling and uploading, eschewing the desktop-based apps of the traditional manufacturers.

Read on for a hands-on review of its pros and cons, as well to find out whether it makes our recommended kit list.

THE BASICS

The Deepblu Cosmiq+ dive computer is an oversized, entry-level model designed to be easy to read and easy to use.   It came packaged in a nice hard case, inside of which you find the computer and 2 straps that match the accent color of the computer.

The Deepblu Cosmiq+ comes in a nice, sturdy case.

You have a choice of accent colors when you buy the computer – the one I got was pink (my wife claims that it is lilac or maybe lavender, but I don’t believe in those colors.    Pink it is), and so the 2 matching straps were in pink:  one in a solid color and the other with a camouflage pattern.      Yes, you read that correctly – a pink camouflage pattern.

I have pink sneakers, pink slacks and pink shirts (and no, I don’t wear them all at once), so I am a sucker for pink.    And once I got past the ridiculousness of the concept of pink camouflage (make up your mind, bro – do you want to be seen or not?), I had to admit that the color actually looked quite funky – and it also matches with a few BCD and masks that we sell, so there is that.

The straps are NATO-style pass through straps and are super sturdy – there is near-zero chance of this computer coming off accidentally, no matter what you do.   And they will last a lot longer than rubber straps too, which can become brittle with age.

Inside the box are the computer and 2 heavy duty fabric straps.

The case itself is a nice sturdy unit and packs the computer safely and securely.     Now, unlike a watch-sized computer which you can just wear when you travel, oversized computers typically get carried in your carry-on bag.    Many people prefer to use a padded box for carrying their dive computer – while you can use this box for that purpose, it is a little too big for carry-on (and you shouldn’t be checking in your dive computer).     Compare that to the Shearwater, which comes in a really compact case that is perfect for the computer and a couple of spare AA batteries.

But then, you can buy 3 of these computers for the price of a Shearwater, so it is not a perfect comparison.   And in any case, given carry-on weight restrictions, I personally don’t really use any boxes.   I just toss my Shearwater into a pocket in my bag and leave it there – it is sturdy enough and I haven’t had any issues.     Given that this computer also has a hard plastic case, I wouldn’t expect any issues with it either.   Wrap it in a sock or T-shirt, if you must or stick a screen protector on the display.

The Cosmiq+ case vs the Shearwater case.

FEATURES

As mentioned, the Deepblue Cosmiq+ is an entry-level computer designed for recreational divers.   So obviously, you don’t get tech features like use of gas mixes containing more than 40% O2 or the ability to switch gas mixes.   You also miss out on some nice-to-have premium features such as air-integration & built-in compass – but that is to be expected at this price range (you typically will need to spend Rs 10,000 – 15,000 more to get those features).

What the computer does have are the essentials, as to be expected from even entry-level dive computers these days:   ability to use nitrox mixes up to 40%, a gauge mode and a free diving mode.     It has the usual full set of alarms – depth, time, deco, ascent rate, MOD/PPo2 violation, CNS O2 Clock limit and more.    And it packs all of this in a lovely, oversized display with a lot of contrast and which is very easy to read.

ALGORITHM

The Deepblu Cosmiq+ uses a Buhlman variant as its algorithm – the industry standard which has been around for decades.   Does it have fancy features like heart-rate related adjustments, or RGBM and such?    No.     But the Buhlman algorithm has withstood the test of time and proven itself to be safe and reliable – and as far as I know, the human body hasn’t changed significantly over the past 30 years.

As someone who once used to geek out on the latest decompression algorithms, I have realized that for recreational diving, this plays a very minimal role in safety – different algorithms may produce numbers that vary, but in the real world, as long as you follow sensible diving practices, any algorithm in a mainstream dive computer is more than capable of keeping you safe.

To provide additional flexibility in terms of matching the algorithm to your personal preferences, you can adjust the algorithm on the Cosmiq+ to be normal, conservative or progressive.

The normal implementation of the Buhlman on the Cosmiq+ is quite conservative to begin with, compared to both my Shearwater and my Suunto D9Tx (set at 50% RGBM).   At 24m, the Suunto gives me 29 minutes of bottom time, the Shearwater gives 26 min and the Cosmiq+ gives 24 min.   At 30m, the difference is even more stark – 18 min for the Suunto, 17 for the Shearwater and 14 for the Cosmiq+.

The Cosmiq+, compared to my personal dive computers – the Shearwater Perdix and Suunto D9Tx

On subsequent dives, the gap to the Suunto narrows, as the Suunto’s RGBM algorithm tends to be more conservative compared to Buhlman.      But it is still on the conservative end of the scale – although not as excessively so as something like the Suunto Zoop.

That isn’t a bad thing –  for beginner divers, having slightly more room for error isn’t a bad thing.    And as you gain experience, improve your diving discipline and also gain familiarity with diving algorithms, you now have the option of using the progressive option – I did not have a chance to test it too extensively, but from the few dives I did on it, it seems to be a “sensible” degree of progressiveness that should work for most experienced divers.

And obviously, if personal or other conditions warrant, you can set the computer to be even more conservative.  So very sensibly done.

Lastly, this computer is not designed for decompression diving, and going into deco will punish you fairly heavily, in terms of bottom time for the next dive.     Which is fair – you should not be doing decompression dives if you are not trained for it, and if you are trained for it, you should know better than to use a recreational computer for that purpose.

SIDE NOTE ON CONSERVATIVE / PROGRESSIVE COMPUTERS

On one hand, we can all agree that more conservative is always better – atleast as a general philosophy and approach to diving.   On the other hand, if you have spent good money going on a diving holiday, do you really want to cut each dive short by 10-15 min because your computer is less conservative?    So which is better?

To start with, keep in mind that there is no “correct” number.     The No Deco Limit isnt a hard line, but a probability curve, and algorithms are basically a mathematical model fitted to simulate the probability curve of getting DCS for a vast and varied population of people.     So each number is, to some degree, an arbitrary cut-off point on the probability curve which is deemed “safe enough” for most people, with an additional safety margin added on.

Experienced divers often have a good idea of which algorithm has worked well for them and may choose a more progressive option because they are disciplined enough not to need a lot of additional safety margins:   they build it in themselves.    Such divers typically also tend to be more aware of conditions that may increase their pre-disposition to DCS and so know to be more conservative if those conditions apply, and so are able to handle this well.    In other words, they also keep their brain engaged while using the computer.

On the other hand, beginner divers may still be developing their diving discipline and awareness of NDL, depth and air.     They may also not have the best buoyancy and be going up and down a little.   In such cases, a more conservative computer may be a better option, as it gives them a little more margin for error (which, to be very clear, is NOT something that you ever plan to rely on!).

Gun to head, if you force me to pick an option, I will pick a more progressive computer, as you can always make them more conservative by tweaking their settings.    That said, if you are a diver who is at a greater risk of DCS (age, weight, other factors), or if you feel that you would benefit from a greater safety net, or if you are more risk averse, then yes, a more conservative option might be better for you.

BATTERY

The next key feature that I think is important is a rechargeable or user replaceable battery.     I am happy to say that the Cosmiq+ comes with a rechargeable battery – it comes with a USB cable with a magnetic charger on one end, which snaps to attach to 2 contact points on the underside of the body.

The magnetic charger and the contact points on the Cosmiq+

However, the battery life of the computer needs improvement – I tested it in Raja Ampat, where we were doing 3-4 dives a day, and it did not always last 2 days.    I’d estimate the battery life at around 6-7 hours or so from a full charge (which I never got – I will talk about that further down).      To be safe, I would recommend charging it every day if doing 3 or more dives, and definitely every 2 days.

Is that ideal?   Depends on what you like.   My Shearwater uses a AA battery and gets well over 30-35 hours of battery life with the air transmitter connected.    And if I have an issue, a AA battery is one of the easiest things to find.     On the other hand, this makes for a large form factor and the spare battery is still one extra thing to carry (and make sure it is fully charged) – whereas with the Deepblu Cosmiq+ all you need is its USB charging cable and a USB output, and you are good to go.    But you do have to charge it regularly.      Personally, I am not used to  charging my computer regularly, and having had this reinforced for 30 years, I have a “get off my lawn” moment at the idea of needing to do so – even though I, like almost everyone else, have other devices that I do charge daily without complaint.  Go figure.  Whether this is an issue for you is a personal choice.

The magnetic charger attached to the Cosmiq+ body – this is not a very secure connection

And speaking of charging:  my other issue with battery life is related to the reliability of the magnetic connector of the charging cable – in my experience, this was not very robust and was dislodged a bit more easily than I would have preferred:  sometimes, the very act of putting down the computer after attaching the charger to it would cause the connection to become loose.     On more than one occasion, I woke up in the morning to find that the charging cable had come loose at some point and the device had not charged properly.   Luckily, this was my backup unit, but if this was my main unit and I woke up with an uncharged dive computer and 3 dives to go in Raja Ampat, I would have been very upset!

To be fair, once I became aware that the connector was a little finicky and easily dislodged, I started taking extra care in how i put the dive computer down after attaching the cable and did not have any problems afterwards.    But for someone like me, who isn’t really good with being so fastidious with things like charging cables, this is something I would prefer to avoid entirely.

Reading the specs, the battery life is supposed to be 8 hours – a fair bit more than the 5-6 hours I got out of it – and I wonder if my woes had something to do with the connector woes.   Also, to be fair, you can reduce the brightness of the screen (it is VERY bright by default – cutting it in half will not affect legibility and significantly increase battery life).

But be that as it may, this is definitely an area where the Deepblu Cosmiq+ could be improved.

USING THE COMPUTER

Due to some last minute issues, I only had 3 hours to pack my dive gear and my camera system before leaving for a Diveindia Outbound trip to Raja Ampat – in that hectic rush, I completely forgot to read the Cosmiq+ user manual before leaving.   I chucked the computer and cable into my bag, and carried on packing.

At breakfast on the morning of the first day of diving, I was doing what I always tell people not to do – trying to figure out a new computer.   Luckily, it was surprisingly easy to do:  the computer has 2 buttons and remarkably easy-to-understand interface:   pushing one button changes between modes (and icons at the top of the screen tell you what mode you are in), pushing the other button lets you make some changes.   About the only changes I wanted to make were the nitrox setting and it took me perhaps 2-3 minutes before I figured it out.   That’s a win.

The computer turns on automatically in the water and the display is very bright and legible.     Not only that, it is very sensibly marked and it is very easy to see all your dive information – depth, time, NDL, MOD and more.  There are visual indicators to indicate how much NDL and CNS O2 Clock you have left, and also alarms if you go up too fast.    The safety stop countdown is also easy to read.

One of the biggest challenges with many computers is that the deco screen can be quite confusing to divers who inadvertently end up exceeding their NDLs.    I personally know of atleast 2 cases  where divers did not realize that they had gone into deco, and continued diving, assuming that their deco time was their NDL (and oblivious to the fact that this number was increasing).    As you can guess, that could have been very, very dangerous.

Not so with the Cosmiq+.    I did end up putting the Cosmiq+ into deco on one dive, because I was using my Shearwater for the dive profile and just using this unit for comparison.         There was absolutely no mistaking the information – the computer clearly told you that you were in deco, by how many minutes you had exceeded your limit, how much deco you had to do and what depth you should ascend to (and all this info was clearly labelled and displayed in a manner that made it nearly impossible to confuse with the regular display screen).

Overall, the additional screen size of the oversized computer has been put to very good use here and information is displayed cleanly and with proper labelling  – unlike many manufacturers, who use the same screen logic on small and larger computers, just with bigger fonts.

Mantas on Manta Ridge, Raja Ampat (Dampier Strait)

THE DEEP BLU APP

And now we come to what sets this computer apart from the rest:  the DeepBlu App, available on Android and iOS.

The App let you do a lot of things – log your dives (you can pair other brands as well), post your dive photos and see posts of other divers in a social-media-like setting, learn more about dive sites in various locations, stay in touch with your dive buddies, and join clubs/groups.    It also lets you change all the settings of your computer very easily.

The day after my first dive, I tried to set up the app.    Yes, I know normal people would do it before, especially given how the app is the ideal way to set up your computer, but I was in Raja Ampat, this was not my main computer and I got distracted, ok?

The  first thing it required me to do was create an account – I could link to my FB or use an email.   I went with the latter.     The app sent me a confirmation email with a code I was supposed to enter.  10 minutes later, I still hadn’t gotten the code.   So I gave it up and went outside to look at stingrays playing under my water bungalow’s balcony,.    He, Raja Ampat vs messing around with my phone?   Phone is gonna lose every single time.    Instead, I continued to set the nitrox mix directly on the computer – something I was able to do without RTFMing (which is good) or needing the app (also good).

After a few days, I remembered about the app and tried again.    This time, I was able to get the verification code and register properly.   Then I tried pairing the Cosmiq+ to my phone – and nothing happened.   After 3 attempts, I ended up hitting Google for answers: clear the DeepBlue app data and try again.   Ok – and hallelujah, this worked.    Pairing was easy and after this, consistent.

As mentioned earlier, the App is a combination of a social media platform for divers, review site, online dive log and controller for your dive computer.    It has 4 main sections:    DiscoverPlanet, Community and Menu.

The “Discover” section is like a mini Facebook/Instagram for divers, where you can share your photos/dive log and see details of other people’s dives.    The “Planet” section is a review/information section, where you can research dive sites, read and post ratings and reviews and get all sorts of dive-related info.

The “Discover” section

The “Planet” section

The “Community” section lets you follow various groups, such as dive clubs, groups belonging to various dive operators, etc.      In the interest of full disclosure, I did not spend too much time on these features.

Lastly, there is the “Menu” section.     This is where you can adjust the settings of your dive computer and wirelessly upload the dives from the Cosmiq+ dive computer to the app.   Then you have the option of sharing those dives as part of your own feed in the community section, or just keeping it private for your own viewing.

The “Community” section

Uploaded dive logs are found in the “Menu” section

The “Menu” section also lets you add buddies, see your dive log, edit app settings and, as mentioned earlier, set up your dive computer.       You can change units, salinity level, conservative factor, nitrox percentage, screen brightness and also set various alarms, all on the app.

This is a really smart idea – one of the biggest issues with computers that I see on dive trips is people not remembering how to set their computers and fumbling around before the dive, pushing buttons at random.     The app eliminates all that – switch on your phone, make the settings on the app and voila, your computer gets set automatically.

Of course, the downside is that you need to have your phone with you.    On many dive boats and liveaboard dive platforms, this may not be the case.       The good news is that most of the settings are not things that you would change on a dive to dive basis – mainly, only the nitrox mix.   And this can be done without a phone, if need be.

The “Menu” section also lets you adjust the various dive settings of the computer

Adjusting the settings is very easy and intuitive

SUMMARY

So in summary, would I recommend it?

The computer has a lot going for it – a bright and legible display, well-labelled information presented in an easy-to-understand format (one of the best I have seen in an entry-level computer and which mitigates one of the biggest failure points of dive computers:  user error) and easy to set up/sync via the app.      It was very easy to use and overall, a really nice dive computer.   And, of course, the fact that you can tweak the algorithm up or down to meet your preferences is a huge positive.

However, there are 2 downsides to the unit.

The first is a matter of personal preference – for me, I strongly prefer watch-sized computers.  My Shearwater Perdix is the first oversized dive computer I have used since 2001 and while I love it to bits, I am seriously contemplating selling it and getting a Teric mainly for the small form factor.   The reason for this is that it is easier to travel with the computer and also, easier to manage it on a dive boat before and after a dive.   Of course, on the flip side – the larger screen is also why the information is presented so clearly and legibly, so there’s the tradeoff for you.

The second is more significant, however:   the below-average battery life and connection system.      Are they deal breakers?    Absolutely not.     If you are careful with how you attach the charging cable, and are ok with doing so every day or two while on a dive trip, it is certainly something that can be managed.   It is, however, a potential – and foreseeable – problem if a diver is careless or forgetful.  From what I have seen, many divers do tend to be a little forgetful on holiday and all it takes is one such incident and you can potentially end up messing a day’s worth of diving.

So for that single reason, the Cosmiq+ does not make our Recommended Gear list– that selection is reserved for gear which we think is the best fit for most people, and can be recommended without any qualifiers.   To be honest, it is a bit of a shame as otherwise, I really do like this dive computer.    However, at this price point, the Cosmiq+ is competing with the Mares Smart and the Aqualung i200.   Both have a watch-sized form factor, sensible algorithms and while the display isn’t as sexy and you do need to read the manual to understand the settings, the battery life on both is significantly better and so there are fewer caveats about usage.

However, that is not to say that the Cosmiq+ doesn’t deserve consideration or is not competitive – the legible display, app-based settings and cloud-based dive logging  make it a refreshingly different alternative in a world of otherwise fairly similar entry-level computers.   If the battery issues are something that you can work around, it is definitely worth considering (and arguably outperforms the other options in its price range).

So yes, I would recommend it, but with the caveats described.

Reviewed by: Vandit Kalia (Vinnie), resident gear head of Diveindia.   This unit was provided as a demo for testing, and was returned after the test period was over.   As always, these reviews represent our honest opinions on the product in question – we are beholden to you, our divers, and not to manufacturers.

DIVEIndia has the DeepBlu Cosmiq+ available for sale at a very competitive price – if this computer fits your needs, please contact us for current pricing and to purchase.

UPDATE FROM THE MANUFACTURER

Apparently, the battery life issues were not just limited to me:  Cosmiq has recognized that and released a firmware update that improves the battery life, as well as a Gen 5 version with a larger internal memory for logging 200 dives, as opposed to 25.   Supposedly, there is also an upgraded charging cable as well.  If the battery life issues have been resolved, then yes, this computer makes it on to our Recommended Gear list.   We will update the review if and when we get a chance to try out the newer version.

How To Make Your Scuba Diving Holiday Go Smoothly

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How to Make Your Next Scuba Diving Holiday Go Smoothly

Scuba Diving Articles

It is the one thing we all dread the most – having a much-anticipated holiday not go as planned.     After the anticipation, use of valuable vacation time and the not-inconsiderable expensive involved in going on a dive holiday, we all want things to go smoothly.

And the good news is – so do most dive centers and other divers.    The people running the dive center got into the business primarily due to a love for the sport – and the other divers are in the same boat as you (literally and figuratively):  they want to have a great trip.

But often, small mistakes, minor miscommunications, cultural differences and varied expectations can cause stress on a diving trip.       But it is very easy to avoid them – and with just a little bit of care and attention, it is very easy to ensure that your trip goes smoothly.

Join Vinnie in this recording of his FB Live Session on how to ensure that your diving trip goes smoothly.

About Vinnie:
Vinnie is a fictional character created by the golden retrievers that secretly run DIVEIndia (and generated using CGI in this video). In the narrative, he is an experienced tech diver, long-standing instructor and keen underwater photographer. Carefully planted rumors lend credence to his existence – some people have been paid handsomely to claim that they have seen him and even dived with him.

Scuba Diving in the city

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Scuba Resources in your Home City

Scuba Diving in the city

If you are a beginner looking to try the sport, why not give it a go right at home?    No need to book an expensive holiday – try diving in a pool and see if you like it (be warned – you will!).   And after that, complete your theory sessions as well as skill development sessions in the city itself, as your convenience and without feeling rushed.    Then, when you go on a holiday, you can go straight into the ocean and not spend valuable vacation time in a classroom.

And the benefits don’t stop just with certification.    Diving does not have to be something you only do a couple of times a year on vacation. Stay involved with the sport, keep your skills fresh and continue to develop as a diver right in your home city…. Vinnie tells you how in the video below.

While this video was shot during the COVID lockdown, a lot of the benefits of staying involved with diving on a continual basis still apply – whether it is polishing your skills, trying equipment, doing some theory online or generally hanging out with fellow divers.

And yes, we almost always have something or the other going on with regarding to diver training @home as well, in our dive  centers in Delhi, Bombay, Bangalore and Chennai.   So do contact us if you have any questions or are interested.

About Vinnie:
Vinnie started to dive back in 1991 and spent the first decade of his diving existence exploring the shipwrecks of the cold frigid waters of the North Atlantic (including the Andrea Dorea, although he regretably was unable to get a plate from the wreck).    A trimix diver since the late 1990s, a scuba instructor since 2001 and a Course Director/Instructor Trainer, first with NAUI and then with SSI since 2008, he is India’s most experienced dive instructor and also founder of DIVEIndia.     He currently conducts training in DIVEIndia’s @Home centers in Bangalore and Chennai.

How To Prioritize What Scuba Gear To Buy?

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How to prioritize what scuba gear to buy?

What scuba gear to buy 1st

Article by:   Vinnie

One of the most common questions newly certified (or even moderately advanced) divers have is, what gear should I buy?      This is fuelled in no small part by the various certifying agencies and dive centers, all of whom have a vested interest in pushing sales of gear.   In fact, in a lot of places, divers are required to buy their own set of personal gear before they sign up for even their first certification course – and many places often push divers to buy a full set of dive gear before they have even gotten certified!

Now, don’t get me wrong – there are very good reasons to buy/own your dive equipment:  good fit, convenient features like integrated weight pockets that are usually not present on rental kit, lighter gear for easy traveling, consistency in buoyancy and trim, familiarity with gear (which can be critical in an emergency) and also pride of ownership (let’s face it – dive gear is cool).    And a lot of these benefits are not obvious until you have actually owned your own dive gear and realized how much better your dive experience is, as a result.   If money wasn’t an issue, I’d suggest everyone buy a full set of gear as well.

But sadly, money is an issue for most of us.    So the question becomes, how do you prioritize what to buy?      As with most things in life, there are no short and easy answers which apply to everyone.   But the purpose of this article is to give you the pros and cons of each piece of kit, so that you can decide for yourself.

A word of warning:  the video and the attached article are unabashedly subjective and opinionated.   My opinions.    I have been doing this long enough that I think my opinions have a very sound basis in reality, but there certainly are other sensible ways to look at this issue which may be different.      Also, this article is geared towards the typical tropical/vacation diver and also does not take into account any unique needs or specific requirements people may have.

MASK

Masks are the most commonly recommended item for people and with good reason.   An ill-fitting or easily-fogging rental mask can reduce the enjoyment of your dive.   As masks are fairly inexpensive and easy to carry, there is no real reason to not get a mask.    That said, the downsides of not having your own mask are fairly low as well –  fogging is relatively easy to fix, and most people generally are able to find a mask that fits their face fairly easily.     However, for those of you with prescription glasses who do not want to wear contacts, a prescription mask becomes a near-essential piece of kit.

Recommended for:   Everyone
Essential for:  People who struggle to get a good fit with regular mask, people who need a prescription fit

SNORKEL

Snorkels are great for snorkelling.    Or if you are doing long surf entries.     They are absolutely a menace around dive boats – having your face in the water, unable to see or hear anything, is not really a good idea around a boat that may be pitching in the water.      29 years of diving, 6000+ dives later, I have yet to have a single dive where I have gone “gee, I sure wish I had a snorkel with me”. But your mileage may vary – if you feel uncomfortable on the surface with your head upright, then yes, a snorkel does make it easier to breathe, especially in choppy seas.

Recommended for:   Those whose special dive conditions require a snorkel
Essential for:  Snorkelers

THERMAL PROTECTION

Most tropical water dive centers issue 3mm shorties to divers.    These are great for a moderate amount of warmth and some protection from stinging objects.      If you tend to get cold easily, you will need a 3mm wetsuit – and it is nice to have your own, to ensure you get a good fit.   Other pieces of kit that are nice to have are a full sleeved rashguard (sun protection, protection from small stingers in the water) or neoprene vests/jackets like the Mares Ultraskin / Sharkskin.      There are various bits of kit you can buy, which can let you dial in the perfect combination to cover your diving situations – eg, I own a 1mm lycra fullsuit, a 3mm neoprene wetsuit, a full sleeves fleece+neoprene jacket, a hooded vest and a separate hood (and this ignores my older cold water gear – a drysuit, 7mm suit, etc).        To get the most of this, it is  better to gain some experience and understand how prone you are to getting cold, what sort of conditions you will be diving in, etc and then make a purchase decision, however.

Recommended for:   Everyone, as they gain some experience and start to understand their own requirements
Essential for:  People diving regularly in colder water

FINS

Making people aware of the importance of fins has become a bit of a personal crusade of mine.     People obsess and agonize over what regulator to buy, for example, when you can pretty much pick any regulator in the market and get more-than-adequate performance.     But pick the wrong fins and you have ruined your dive.    Wrong fins make it harder to swim in challenging  conditions (read:  stronger currents) and can also ruin your trim by making your legs go up/down too much.

Recommended for:   Everyone
Essential for:  Those who struggle with currents or trim

BCD

Diving with the same BCD helps you dial in your trim more consistently, manipulating all the buttons and clips becomes a part of your muscle memory and you can customize your setup (storage of things like cutting tool, octopus, lift bag and reel) to be consistent every time.     And most importantly, you know where the emergency dump valves are located and how much modulation they (and the inflator) need.    The reason not to buy?    These are all mainly matters of comfort and convenience.   But don’t under-estimate the value of comfort and convenience:  this is one of those products where you will not really miss having your own, higher-end BCD until you actually own one – but once you own your own, you will not want to go back to a rental.

Recommended for:   Everyone, budget allowing;  underwater photographers, wreck divers, people who dive enough to justify the savings in gear rental
Essential for:  Cold water divers

REGULATOR

It is somewhat ironic that the most essential item in scuba, in terms of being safety-critical, is also the most reliable and relatively undifferentiated.   Yes, manufacturers all tout superior materials, better breathing rates, etc. etc. but in real world conditions, there is very little difference between regulators that you would notice without doing an A/B  comparison.      That said, for experienced divers, it is good to own your own reg so you can customize hose routing, gauges, etc as per your requirements.    Also, if saving weight is important for you, then having a travel-specific regulator can save you 500-1000gm over a normal regulator.    Lastly, having your own regulator means that you know its service history and it is less likely to have minor leaks and issues than a rental regulator.

Recommended for:   Those who value low weight, who want the peace of mind of knowing their regulator’s service history or experienced divers who like consistency in all aspects of their gear setup, people who dive enough to justify the savings in gear rental
Essential for:  Tech or cold water divers

COMPUTER

To me, a computer should be mandatory for diving.  When you have your own dive computer, you have all the information that you need to dive safely, and also to handle any emergency that may come up:  depth, time, no-deco info (or deco info), ascent rate and with high-end computers, compass/heading and air time remaining.      Relying on a dive guide’s computer or sharing a computer between buddies – both common practices – is a little better but over the course of a dive holiday, small variations in dive profile can add up to a significant difference.   Not to mention what happens if you are separated from your buddy:  that is a stressful event and being without a computer at that time only makes things worse.    Quite simply, as a diver, you are in charge of your own safety – and you cannot do that without a dive computer (don’t even mention tables).   Yes, you can rent dive computers on trips – but it is preferable to have your own computer, where you understand what the displays mean, how to adjust the settings, etc.  Dive computers are fairly cheap, starting at a little over Rs 20k for a computer –  there is no real reason not to own one.

Recommended for:   Everyone
Essential for:  Everyone

ACCESSORIES

There are plenty of useful accessories divers can own – SMBs, whistle, reels, a small cutting tool, a small dive light, reef hooks and pointer sticks.     Of these, I would say SMB/whistle are essential if you are boat diving;  cutting tools are handy if there is a risk of entanglement, reef hooks for hooking in during currents (if allowed by the dive center – this is a debatable practice, which is a separate discussion), etc.     A lot of these can also be rented as needed, so there is no great impetus to own these other than the convenience of always having them with you in case of an unexpected need.

Recommended for:   As needed
Essential for:  n/a

SUMMARY

So – what do you actually need?       Personally, I would suggest starting with the following 2 items as your initial purchase:  mask and computer.   These have the biggest and most immediate impact on comfort and safety.      Then, once you have gotten some experience, add a pair of suitable fins (based on having tried out various options) and appropriate thermal protection (rashguard, jacket, vest or full suit) – both of these are probably just as important, if not more, for comfort than a mask but you need some experience in order to make the right purchase here.   The regulator and BCD can come last – or you might find that you don’t dive enough to warrant purchasing these and are ok to rent – these definitely fall in the “nice to have” category (or the “will save money” category for frequent divers).

With all diving products, especially if you are starting out – nothing beats the advice of experienced professionals who can help you select the product that best fits YOUR needs, as opposed to what they have in stock.   As much as possible, do try out the product you are buying in the water, if you can – just because something works very well for others doesn’t mean it will for you.

Ultimately, there is only one question that matters:   will a particular piece of kit make diving more comfortable/enjoyable?         Anything that gets you diving more is a win – the sticker shock of the purchase goes away, but the memories of great dives stay with you forever.

How to Become a Better Scuba Diver

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How to Become a Better Scuba Diver

How to Become a Better Scuba Diver

A common misconception among divers is that learning to dive is where you acquire all the skills that you need to dive.   That is incorrect.    The certification course gives you enough skills in order to get you STARTED in the post.  It is only the beginning – becoming a better diver is a path on which each and every one of us are walking.

And while we would love to have you spend all your money with us, and do as many courses as possible with us, you don’t have to do so in order to improve.      In fact, for most divers, just continuing to develop the skills and concepts that they learned in the Open Water course is all that is needed in order to improve their scuba skills and comfort significantly.

In this recording of a Facebook live session shot during the COVID lockdown, Vinnie shares some practical, real-world tips on how to take ownership of your dive experience, and how you can do small things to continually improve your skills, both mental and physical.

About Vinnie:
Vinnie started to dive back in 1991 and spent the first decade of his diving existence exploring the shipwrecks of the cold frigid waters of the North Atlantic (including the Andrea Dorea, although he regretably was unable to get a plate from the wreck).    A trimix diver since the late 1990s, a scuba instructor since 2001 and a Course Director/Instructor Trainer, first with NAUI and then with SSI since 2008, he is India’s most experienced dive instructor and also founder of DIVEIndia.     He currently conducts training in DIVEIndia’s @Home centers in Bangalore and Chennai.

How to become a marine biologist – Tamanna Balachandran

Posted by | Andaman scuba diving course, Articles, PADI underwater naturalist, Scuba Diving Careers in India, Underwater Naturaliast Course | No Comments

How to become a marine biologist?

Essay by Tamanna Balachandran
How the marine ecology camp from last year influenced her and her decision to become a marine biologist.

The first time I experienced what the ocean had to offer was when I scuba dived, in the waters of Havelock. Then, I was a ten year old girl who had just fulfilled a life-long dream, mesmerised by the beauty of the underwater world I had gotten my first peek into.

When I returned five years later, a couple inches taller but with the same zeal for marine exploration, I decided to take part in the marine ecology camp. Over the course of the camp, I learnt more about the ocean I adored, from how corals were formed to figuring out how a particular fish hunts just by observing its features. I went on dives, guided by Chetana, where I was able to observe the subtlest interactions and behaviours, like the goby fish protecting the shrimp as the shrimp dug a safe home for the two of them, or parrot fish sleeping in mucus bubbles of their own making. The more I learnt, the more I felt like I understood. And I began to view the ocean no longer as a picture perfect fantasy world, but as a living breathing ecosystem held together by fragile, intricate relationships between its biotic and abiotic components. I realised that our ocean is straining to deal with the effects of our actions and it is our responsibility to fix what we’ve caused.

After the camp, I learnt and explored even more, and firmed my decision to play my role in marine conservation more actively. I attended wildlife conferences, heard from experts that had spent decades studying animals. And I decided to share my thoughts with the world; in August of 2019, I gave my first TED talk, titled “Bulldozing Our Oceans’ Integrity”. I shared my concerns about the effect that commercial fishing techniques like trawling were having on our oceans. Having decided a career path that will lead me to becoming a marine biologist, it is vital I continue learning and sharing my ideas but, also starting to take action for the cause. And so, this summer as well I’m returning to Havelock to intern in their marine conservation programme.

Photo credits Umeed Mistry

How to Plan A Trip to the Andaman Islands – Zero Waste and Ecologically Responsible

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5 Eco-friendly Ways to Travel In the Andamans

How to Plan A Trip to the Andaman Islands

Emerald hues!   Picture credit: Umeed Mistry

Coral reefs, beaches and islands in the Andamans are now world famous for being some of the most beautiful and quiet places to be in nature. There is this ‘wow untouched paradise’ notion associated with these islands; a sense of which you get when you are flying into the islands. Approximately 2000 sq.km coral reef surrounds these islands. And a majority of these islands are densely forested and uninhabited by people.

The Andamans is a fairly remote island chain, nearly 1600 km away from Chennai but it is definitely a top tourist destination for people across the world. The remoteness coupled with the fact that well, these are islands, means that resources are limited and any waste that we generate goes nowhere!

top 5 Zero Water Ecologically Responsible Ways to Travel the Andaman Islands

Andaman Islands: The ‘untouched paraside’     Picture credit: Umeed Mistry

Waste management is currently unplanned here in the Andamans and this becomes a particularly big problem in Havelock which sees huge tourist turnover on a daily basis. Resorts need to call a truck to take garbage to a common unsegregated landfill. It is unclear how many resorts compost their organic waste (we do!). Many will simply incinerate their waste within their property or dig a hole in the beach outside their resort to bury the trash. Several people are trying to work with the administration to bring a waste management system in place but that will take time.

Platic dump in havelock - shahid dweep

Havelock’s trash solution is a burning landfill   Picture credit: Mahima Jaini

All of these factors make it all the more important for us to plan ecologically responsible holidays. Nothing short of ‘zero waste’!

DIVEIndia has been working in the Andamans for a long time now (16 yrs and counting) and we are still deeply in love with these islands. Here is a link to some of the ways we try to make our operation minimum impact: https://www.projectaware.org/updates/diveindia-what-we-are-doing-be-ecologically-responsible-dive-operation-andaman-islands

Now here are 5 ways in which you can plan and execute a zero waste ecologically responsibile holiday in the Andaman Islands. We always welcome recommendations from travellers so do feel free to give us feedback!

#1 RESORTS, RESTAURANTS AND DIVE CENTERS- DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFORE YOU COME!

There is plenty of information about resorts, restaurants and water sport operators available online, along with scores of reviews and limitless pictures! Be sure to support businesses that operate in an ecologically friendly manner.

This could include resorts and restaurants that make a concerted effort to AVOID single-use plastics, segregate their waste, compost their kitchen waste and DO NOT throw their trash in the sea. This even includes choosing dive and snorkelling boats that are careful not to throw their anchor on coral beds, shops that do not sell coral, shells, or similar prohibited items. Please choose restaurants that serve local and fresh seafood caught by local fishermen. Avoid places that sell shark-fin soup, or threatened animal meat. If possible, let the person know why they have lost your business and in the event of illegal items for sale, please inform the local authorities.

Air conditioning is a luxury on an island heavily dependent on the import of diesel, which is unsustainable and contributes significantly to warming. While it may be nice to have access to AC, we suggest reducing its use to only when absolutely needed, or even turning it on for an hour, instead of having it running all night. Besides, the sea breeze is the best AC!

#2 DON’T BRING DISPOSABLES, DON’T LEAVE BEHIND DISPOSABLES

It is a common practice for travellers to purchase disposable products before or on arrival that they will toss out at the end of their holiday before heading back home. Most often these products include toiletries – toothbrush, shampoo and soap sachets. Even if you throw these into your resort-provided dustbin, they will end up in a burning landfill or land up on the beach.

We recommend carrying reusable, travel-sized bottles topped up from your home supply of soaps, shampoos and other things that you can use one trip after another.

If you are in India:
Something like this: https://barenecessities.in/
Switch to a good bamboo brush, please: https://www.instagram.com/thegrassroute.co/?hl=en

#3 AVOID FASTFOOD, PARCELLING FOOD AND ORDERING IN

If you have travelled from mainland India or from across the globe to these islands, the last thing you want to be eating is packet chips and biscuits right? Why indulge in packet snacks and aerated drinks when there is plenty of amazing FRESH food and drink available? The Andamans is definitely a great destination for a food holiday, with delicious local cuisines, numerous restaurants and street food!

Top on our list of plastic trash collected from beaches are plastic bottles- coke, pepsi, water and others. The islands are known for fresh fruits, and fruit juice bars are everywhere- try those as mixers instead!

Last but not the least- please do not order-in food, or request for parcelling your meals. This results in unnecessary plastic and aluminium packing used for 15 minutes before it is on its way to the landfill. A majority of restaurants are walking distance from one another if you are feeling adventurous, and seconds away if you are the lazier kind and would rather rent a motorbike!

#4 BRING YOUR OWN METAL, CLOTH, REUSABLE ALTERNATIVES

Carry your own steel water bottle from home to avoid buying packaged drinking water during your holiday, starting right from the flight, in your hotel and to your flight back. In-flight attendants might seem surprised when you deny the complimentary plastic bottle but they will happily top up you water bottles. There are water filling stations available in the Port Blair airport and island ferry terminals. Hotels and most restaurants will provide you free filtered drinking water as well.

PLEASE carry your own cloth bags and reusable straws. Coconut water vendors and most restaurants still provide straws for fear of losing business. It is up to us as consumers to insist on NO STRAW while placing an order.

Look here for great non-plastic lifestyle alternatives: https://barenecessities.in/

#5 SAY NO TO SUNSCREEN

Say hi to natural oils (https://amzn.to/2ZvLVgy) instead!

We encourage people to avoid using sunscreen before a dive. Read this to understand what skin care products do to the marine life we go into the water to see: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/sunscreen-corals.html

Wear full sleeve rash guards and full length swimsuits instead (for UV protection) and carry a hat and sunglasses for your surface intervals. All our boats also have roofs to give you shade.

#6 PICK NO SHELLS, LEAVE NO BUTTS

Yes we said 5 ways, but here is a number 6! Sea critters use seashells to protect themselves, and use them as homes. Collecting certain seashells, coral (alive and dead) not only endangers these marine animals, but is illegal as per the Wildlife Protection Act of India, 1972.

Cigarette butts take up to 10 years to break down (plastic bottles take 450 years at least), they stick around, like sore thumbs, long after we are gone. Please toss them into dustbins.

Be sure to check our website for more articles on how to have a reduced-waste lifestyle in general!

The Andamans Islands- Our treasured paradise   Picture credit: Chetana Babburjung Purushotham

Our dream is to continue to dive and explore these beautiful emerald islands for as long as we can. Thank you for helping us keep the Andaman Islands happy, healthy, safe and clean. <3

The Role of the Instructor in Creating Responsible Divers

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Quick question:   when was the last time you were on a dive boat and saw everyone diving by the book?    Getting familiar with their gear beforehand, planning their dives independently of the instructor, discussing contingency plans with their buddy, doing a thorough buddy check, staying close enough to the buddy to intervene within a few seconds in case of an emergency, etc?
I cannot think of a single time that has happened – and I have been guilty of lapses here myself.
So why does this happen?   Is it because divers don’t know the buddy system?     Or the usefulness of planning the dive?     Or even the value of getting  familiar with your gear before getting in the water with?        Unlikely – this is covered quite extensively in the Open Water course and most divers are quite familiar with all of this.   So is it a deliberate decision to take on additional risks for no reason, then?    I think we can agree that this is not the case either.
Before we go any further, let me touch upon the 3 domains of learning:
– Cognitive:   basically knowledge – in the context of diving, these refer to what you learn from reading the books, watching the videos or via discussions with the instructor
– Psychomotor:  these are the physical skills – for diving, how to clear the mask, how to achieve neutral buoyancy, how to put on your gear, etc.
– Affective:  this is your personal beliefs, attitudes and emotions – to put another way, what you consider important, what you pay attention to, etc
Within each domains, there are different levels of mastery (eg, in the Cognitive domain, being able to merely recite the correct answer, vs understand the reasoning behind it vs being apply to apply different pieces of knowledge to come up with an answer to an unfamiliar scenario, and so on), but that is not so relevant for now.
Instead, let’s focus on how the Open Water course is taught:   The student does the bulk of the theory via self-study (online, watching videos, reading the book, etc), with perhaps some additional sessions with an instructor re-visiting a few salient points and adding some additional content.   Then there is an exam to review the knowledge – which includes the importance of dive planning, of taking responsibility of your own safety, of the buddy system, of being conservative, etc.   That covers the Cognitive domain.  Then (or in parallel) the student goes into the water and completes the various skills needed to get certified as an Open Water diver.   That’s the Psychomotor domain right there.
What about the Affective domain?     Sure, in the course, a conscientious instructor will make sure the students plan their dives, stay close to their buddies, etc. etc.   But is that really the same as instilling the value of those things, to the point that it becomes something that the student takes seriously and integrates into his or her diving routine?     Very rarely so.
Simply put – while students leave with a knowledge of the buddy system, of dive planning, of getting familiar with their gear, etc., this is rarely internalized.   Then they go diving and see other divers being pretty loose about such things, and these things tend to get ignored – and repetition reduces the value even further.
And to some degree, this is understandable – in a typical course, often even teaching the psychomotor skills to a sufficient degree can be challenging.        So the instructor’s time is focused on knocking off the skills and making sure the student is safe during the course.    Furthermore, there is no checklist or requirement in the Standard manual of any agency that talks about this – after all, how can you measure this?    So often, instructors coming from a system where they aren’t mentored by more experienced instructors fail to even realize the importance of this, and end up following a checklist approach to teaching a  course:  ticking off every requirement individually but failing to integrate it into a cohesive whole.    To me, that is directly comparable to teaching someone to cook merely by teaching them to slice, dice, fry, grill, bake and roast separately, and not telling them how to put these things together.
But even when an instructor tries to teach it, they often to not face a lot of success:  the student diver is overloaded with theory and physical skills which they are doing right then – all this talk about dive planning, buddy system etc is merely theoretical noise for them, as they lack the experience to appreciate how and when it can be valuable (and typically, this realization often comes too late to be immediately useful – for example, only when you are low on air and your buddy is nowhere to be seen do you realize the value of the buddy system).
So what is the solution?     Fairly simple, really.
For one, spend some time in the Open Water course covering this.   Merely saying “remember, always stay with your buddy” or whatever isn’t going to cut it – you have to have an actual session on this.    A good way to do it is in an informal setting after the dives, where the instructor can discuss any lapses that may have happened in these areas and use that to segue into anecdotes from his or her diving experience, talk about specific situations that may have occurred on that dive site involving such lapses, etc.   Really hammer home the point, but in an interesting manner that catches the student’s interest.
Second, use the Advanced Open Water course to really drill this in.   Let’s face it, the curriculum for the Advanced Open Water course is fairly light on theory and skills – it is just meant to give the diver a taste of different types of dives, with more substantial theory in the corresponding Specialty course.    And by the time the student starts the AOW, s/he already has most of the basics of diving mastered (hopefully, anyway).    So they are less overloaded, and by virtue of having some diving experience already, more able to relate to a discussion on this diving behavior.
I have spent the last 10 years conducting one session in the Advanced  course focussed on what being an Advanced Diver entails – and PADI has also recently formalized that into their AOW curriculum.   However, this tends to get ignored a little bit as there is no checklist to measure how effective this session is, and instructors often tend to focus on what they consider the more material skills.    But really, teaching new divers to value the importance of these safe diving practices is probably the single biggest contribution an instructor can make to helping them continue to develop as divers.
What is the content covered in this discussion?  For me, it consists of, at minimum, the following:
–  How to do a self-assessment of skills at the start of every diving trip
–  The importance of checking gear – along with a practical workshop on different types of kit, what is useful where, etc.
–  Essential safety equipment to carry
–  What is sufficient real-world dive planning and the value of doing so
–  The mindset of being responsible for one’s own safety and diving with one’s comfort zone, with anecdotes on how peer pressure, etc. often make it difficult to do so
–  How to continue to improve one’s skills – short games one can play on each dive (air consumption, safety stop drills, etc)
–  How to balance staying within one’s comfort zone vs expanding that comfort zone and getting better as a diver
–  Learning the importance of saying “no, i will not dive”
–  The value of a buddy
–  How small issues can snowball into accidents
To me, a dive instructor’s role is to not just check off the list of skills in the course standards book, but to prepare the student diver to enjoy a lifetime of safe and fun-filled participation in the sport.   And that means passing on ownership of the diver’s safety from the instructor to the diver.   And this is a good way to do so.

Best Scuba Diving in Chennai

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Best Scuba Diving in Chennai

We had a run of a few clear and calm days in Chennai, and decided to go exploring.   However, as one would expect, on the day of the trip, it rained in the morning and the winds picked up.   But since we were all psyched for exploring, we went anyway.     The vis was fairly low, but the fishlife was amazing – and that ornate seasnake was a new one for me!      It definitely had us psyched about the potential, and we’ll be going out and shooting more often, that’s for sure.

Location: Chennai, India
Dive Site: Middle Rock