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Reefs, Wrecks and Caves: Lanzarote Dive Trip Report

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Lanzarote is somewhere visitors either love or hate; probably more for the landscape than anything else, but, along with the other Canary islands, it is coming back into fashion. Over the last three years the resorts have seen increasing numbers of tourists. Is it because of unrest elsewhere in the world, or is there something more? Mark Milburn re-visits the island.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThe relatively short flight of under four hours from Bristol was certainly appealing to us. The fastest ever customs check followed. We grabbed our bags and went to pick up the hire car, €45 for a day, roughly the same price as four transfers by coach. Hiring a car meant no waiting, and, no detour around every hotel in the resort. Plus, we had it for the next day. We were staying at Rubimar Aparthotel in Playa Blanca. Playa Blanca is at the south end of the island looking towards Fuertaventura, sheltered from the predominant northerly winds. We had stayed at the hotel before and found it adequate for our needs, which aren’t very great. We checked in and asked about upgrading from self catering to all inclusive, which worked out at €17.81 a day (about £15). That included three meals a day, an afternoon snack and all drinks. Even if we decided to eat out for just one meal a day, it was still cheap. The rooms are starting to look a little tired; but as we found out over our stay, the food had improved massively, so we rarely ate out. We spent the first day acclimatising; we even went to the beach for a snorkel. At the end of the day we went to the dive centre to book in for some diving.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAWe had to arrive at the dive centre at 08:30, ready to leave on the boat at 09:00. This was fine as the breakfast was ready at 08:00 and the dive centre was only a few minutes walk from our hotel. We loaded our gear onto the boat and were taken to the Twin Pipes site, also known as Emisario. The twin pipes are waste water discharge pipes that head out south on the sand, which at some point had come apart about three hundred metres from the reef. Most dives consist of heading out on the pipes a few metres looking for rays or sharks, then back to the reef. A pleasant enough dive, visibility was around 15m with a water temperature of 24C. Maximum depth was 20m. The morning dives were just an hour apart, but, with free nitrox for suitably qualified divers, it wouldn’t restrict our dive times. The second dive that day was Flamingo Wall, a man-made stone wall protecting a small bathing beach. An easy and relatively shallow dive, teeming with life. For some reason there are schools and schools of fish here, probably more than I have ever seen on any dive anywhere before. A great start.

The following day we hired mountain bikes and spent the day acquainting ourselves with non-cushioned  bike seats on off road trails – comfy. Everyone should try it.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAAnother dive day. Due to the tidal currents and dive abilities of today’s group, the best sites were Twin Pipes and Flamingo Wall. We decided we would still go. The centre’s owner was happy for us to do our own thing at the sites, as we had dived them before a couple of days beforehand. We wanted to go out to the break in the pipes, as there was loads of life there on our previous visit to Lanzarote. It wasn’t one of the centre’s normal sites though, so they didn’t have any coordinates. We told them to drop us about 150m south of the normal site and we would find our way. We jumped in and looked down as we descended. We could see the seabed from the surface some 20m below us, but we couldn’t see the pipes. There was a slow current running, so we decided it must have moved us across a little. When the pipes eventually came into view, we headed further south. After a ten minute swim, spotting five Angel Sharks and two Eagle Rays on the way, we were at the break in the pipes. Huge schools of barracuda circled the fish below, which were swirling around in a feeding frenzy. It’s an impressive sight; just stay out of the yellowish discharging water. We stayed watching SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAfor a while but we knew we had a long swim in front of us if we were going to try and find the anchored boat. We did have a delayed surface marker buoy, should we need it. The return swim was assisted by a small current, which sent us back along the pipes, past the same (or maybe different) Angel Sharks. We reached the reef in just under ten minutes; that current was stronger than we thought. If the boat was anchored in the same place as the previous dive there, we should be able find it, and luckily it was.

The next day, for a change, my other half decided to book us on a mountain trek around one of the volcanic peaks. It was quite interesting with some amazing views. It was followed by a long sea swim (I think she is trying to wear me out).

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAOn our third dive day, we arrived at the shop to be met by Sergio. He had been our dive guide on previous visits to Lanzarote and had heard we were back. He no longer worked at the centre as he was chasing a new career, something that could earn money (I can understand that!). He decided he would join us for a dive. He ended up leading the dive around the reef near the lighthouse, il faro de Pechiguera. The area is not known for an abundance of life, but they do get some big fish visit there on occasion. Down we went. Schools of hunting tuna swam overhead, whilst smaller reef fish darted in and out of safety. Barracuda hung mid water, watching. There wasn’t as much life as at the other sites we had visited, especially if you only looked forward and down (you had to look up too). We then came across an area which looked like a field of pink balls; these were balls of Maerl, a calcified seaweed, commonly called Rhodoliths. We also saw a very large scorpion fish, camouflaged in pink. It was nice to dive somewhere different.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThe second dive of the day was going to start at the wreck and cave, then drifting around Punta Berrugo. Sergio was coming for another dive. We were dropped onto the wreck, a very flattened wooden boat, from there we then swam to the cave. The cave is small and not too exciting, but we were escorted by a lot of fish and a small Eagle Ray. We continued with the slow drift eventually finding less and less fish. We then came across a large fishing cage. Like a crab pot but designed to catch anything, its rope had broken and it was full of fish; this was ‘Ghost Fishing’ in the extreme. It wasn’t long before a few of us tried to open the 1.5m diameter wire cage. Between us, we managed to make a couple of holes and by the time we left it, most fish had escaped. The timing wasn’t perfect, as most of us were getting low on air and close to the end of our no stop time; we had done enough though. At least that area will have some more fish for the next group.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAA group of friends had told us about the Temple Hall wreck, the Telamon, a shore dive near Arrecife. We asked the dive centre if we could go there; Sergio said would take us even though he had never dived it himself. Just the two of us met Sergio at the shop at 9:00 and loaded the van. Thirty minutes later we were on a tiny beach, near the remains of the beached ship. The entry was very easy, a gentle stony slope with sandy patches. We did a surface swim to the wreck, which lies stern to shore, and descended next to it, in about 1.5m of water. We headed towards mid ships, where the visible part of the ship ended. The engine room area was open at the break in the ship. We swam around the engine room in a maximum depth of around 3.5m. It was very interesting; it was also dark. Light came through holes around the wreck, creating some interesting light for photographers. From the shore you could just see a piece of wreck sticking out of the water thirty to forty metres in front of the break; we had heard there was more wreckage out there, so swam in that direction. We soon came across the bow, lying on its port side, pointing towards the midships/stern section. The bow itself was quite intact but it was quite broken away behind that. One of the ship’s masts nearly broke the surface from the seabed at around 6m. This section had quite an abundance of life; several schools of fish swam around the wreck’s remains. Almost at the bow there was an opened hatch which went down through three decks, with some great ambient light around the inside. Altogether this was a very nice dive, lots of light because of the maximum depth of 8.4m and a lot of life. I would say a must for photographers that are after well lit wreck shots, with some nice light breaking through.

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Another cycling day, mountain biking around a volcano, then across to the other side of the island. This was nearly the end of me; I had to have some rest, otherwise I wouldn’t make our last diving day.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAFor our last day of diving, we decided we wanted to dive the old harbour wrecks at Puerto del Carmen. These had been deliberately sunk years ago, nice and close so that divers could visit. When someone had decided to extend the harbour, the newly built harbour wall ended up partially covering one of the wrecks. We met at the dive centre at the normal time of 08:30. We put our kit together and loaded the van, which then took us to Puerto del Carmen. The centre operates two dive RIBs, one from Playa Blanca and one from Puerto del Carmen, which made life easy for diving two separate locations. The one minute boat ride went really quickly. We jumped in on the biggest wreck, the one part buried under the harbour wall. Altogether there are about five wrecks there, however some are well broken and don’t look very ship-shape anymore. After visiting all the wrecks, reaching a maximum depth of 37m, we visited a small cave, then returned back to the shallowest wreck. We looked around and checked everyone’s air before going back the the boat, which was now tied to the harbour wall. We went back to the harbour, changed our cylinders and had a little break. Then off to our next site, the orange coral. One of the things about the Canary Islands is there is very little in the way of corals or seaweed, so a whole dive is centred around one piece of coral. It’s not quite that bad, it is just a name for the route you take. SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAPuerto del Carmen has lots of sites and routes – the orange coral would include a small wreck, the orange coral, a seahorse and a cave. That is exactly what we saw, although we did hope for two seahorses. Another very nice dive, even if it did get a bit busy with divers towards the end. That was our last dive of our holiday. Once our kit was hung out to dry, we returned to our hotel.

The last day of our holiday was a rest day, and I needed it. The diving hadn’t been tiring; it was what we did between the diving that tired me out. The weather was almost perfect; we did have a short rain shower on one day and a few night time ones too. The sun had shone and the visibility had, on the whole, been good.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERASo, had anything changed over the last three years? In reality, no. The diving has always been good; I’d compare it with places like Malta or Mediterranean Spain, but with more life. There is only about three degrees of latitude – less than two hundred miles – between the likes of Egypt and Lanzarote. That makes hardly any difference in temperature during the winter months, with the summer temperatures being a little cooler and more bearable. I spoke to various people around the island, who all seemed to think the increase in tourism was due to perceived troubles elsewhere in the world. That, combined with the great value for money Lanzarote seems to offer, makes the Canary Islands a great option for divers.

 

 

Mark Milburn is the owner of Atlantic Scuba in Falmouth, Cornwall, England, and is an SDI/TDI/NAS/RYA Instructor and a Commercial Boat Skipper. Although often referred to as a maritime archaeologist, he prefers to call himself a wreck hunter. Find out more about Mark and Atlantic Scuba by visiting www.atlanticscuba.co.uk.

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Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 4

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Join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy for part 4 of his Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.

We are all back to the house reef today; the weather is lovely, the sea calm, the tide will soon be slack, so a great day’s diving in store.

A few yards away from the beach dive centre, on the Roots’ beach is their day time restaurant. It is where we take lunch when diving, and there is a continual supply of tea, coffee and soft drinks, and some marvellous lunches.  There are also male and female toilets and a fully accessible toilet for those using wheelchairs.

A few thoughts around working with amputees and those who have paraplegia. Firstly amputees – the part of the limb remaining is known as the ‘stump’, and we have worked with a substantial number of bilateral leg amputees (both legs), single leg amputees and single arm amputees.  The level of amputation can be above or below the knee or elbow, or through the knee. In one case the amputation was transpelvic and in another through the shoulder.  Some like Chris Middleton have one leg amputated above the knee and one below the knee.  This is rare, but each type of amputation offers a different challenge.

Many people think the amputation is clean and the skin neatly tidied up after surgery. Although that occurs in a few cases, in most the stump is rather rugged.  Elasticity of the skin around the stump is often exceptionally poor and can easily be damaged.  Some of our beneficiaries, as they were injured as young men, suffered from heterotopic ossification – this is where the bone tries to grow after amputation and often penetrates the skin, resulting in further surgery being required to cut back the bone and of course the stump needs to be restitched.  Very often stumps are sealed with skin from elsewhere on the body.

Swars kitting up

Few divers have never experienced a graze or cut underwater but such an experience for those with amputations can have serious consequences.  Stumps are more likely to get cut or grazed as the skin is so tight. We all know that there are lots of infections in seawater and if infected the cut or graze can cause very serious problems for the amputee.  Tailored wetsuits are one preventative measure, as are daily stump checks, making sure there is no damage and if there is, applying medication and or protecting the stump.

Those with paraplegia provide an additional challenge, not being able to feel their lower limbs they can easily damage them, so cuts, abrasions, and even sunburn can go unnoticed.  Donning a full-length wetsuit can be a challenge as toes can easily be broken and hairs pulled out of legs.  On the Deptherapy Education Professionals’ Course we show how to fit a wetsuit properly.

In recent discussions between our dive medicine advisor Mark Downs and our VP Richard Castle, who is a consultant psychologist, we have been looking at areas for further medical research in terms of diving for those with disabilities.  One area of suggested study is thermoregulation. The theory is that those with amputations and those with paraplegia suffer more with the cold as their body is unable to regulate heat. Certainly, in Corey’s case, he feels the cold more quickly than those diving with him. Chris Middleton can feel the cold more quickly than others with amputations but that may well be that Chris is muscle and bone where, to put it nicely, others have a more substantial covering.

Some AMEDs and Dive Referees will not sign off amputees as being fit to dive. That is their professional opinion and although we can show that even triple amputees are more than capable divers, capable of progressing to Rescue Diver standard even, they still refuse to sign them off. Last year Oli and Mark invited us to speak at the UK Annual Hyperbaric Medicine Conference in London where Josh Boggi, the world’s first triple amputee Rescue Diver and a Deptherapy beneficiary spoke about how amputees can become safe and successful divers.

Corey, Swars and Michael

For Corey, he wears full leg coverings and diving boots in the water; as he cannot use his legs there is no purpose in wearing fins.

Another point around amputations is that most of the general population make an assumption that a leg amputation is the result of a traumatic incident.  That is incorrect; by far the majority of leg amputations in the UK are the result of diabetes. Those whose legs are amputated as a result as diabetes are more likely to have poor healing of the stumps.  This also presents an issue of comorbidity that may well result in an AMED or Dive Referee declining to sign them off as ‘fit to dive’.  If signed off you would need to be very aware of the health of a stump; I certainly would not take someone with an open wound diving and the fact that they will be on medication for the diabetes.  You also have to be aware that they may well be on other medication to manage pain etc.

You need to be very clear with those who have paraplegia and other conditions that they must let you know if they start to feel cold.

Managing air – diving just using your arms for propulsion can, for many, be very tiring and a considerable amount of effort is required.  This, plus other factors, may result in enhanced air consumption by the diver.  This may increase if a current is encountered, even one which most divers who have use of their legs and dive with fins would not cause the least concern.

Within Deptherapy we very much work on the ‘rule of thirds’ – a third of your air to get you down and to see what you want to see, a third to get you back to the surface and a third in reserve.  This in most circumstances will ensure no ‘low on air’ or ‘out of air’ situations.

Say if we have 210 bar in a cylinder that means 70 bar out, so turn on 140 bar, 70 bar to return and to the surface so we should have 70 bar reserve at the surface.

We also work our students through SAC rates and looking at the air consumption of others in their team.

Checking the team’s air frequently during a dive is stressed to all our Pro team.

Keiron became very engaged with this concept as the result of the online RAID study for his Master Rescue Diver.

On expeditions we normally dive in small teams, a DM/TDM with three programme members.  They work as a team and understand each other’s air consumption. Of course, they also dive as buddy pairs.

Today offered perfect conditions for diving, and Keiron, Moudi, and this time TDM Oatsie were kitted up and in the water within minutes.

Pause for thought… those with paraplegia will have different toileting arrangements to those who do not have the condition. This also applies to some who have suffered traumatic limb loss.  They may use catheters for urination, some may have Stoma bags etc.  This all has to be planned into your dive schedule to ensure the safety and comfort of your student.  For young people talking about these very personal arrangements may be very difficult.  Those with Stoma bags may be embarrassed by people seeing them.  This is another part of seeing beyond the injury or condition – it is the person inside that you are dealing with.

Corey on the Roots House Reef

So, Corey, Michael and myself were joined by Swars.  Swars, although he joined the DM programme at the same time as the other guys, because of work commitments was unable to join us in September 2019 at Roots where we ran a DM introductory programme alongside the crossover of our Pro Team to RAID.  Swars has become a really good mate; he is a great diver, with an engaging personality.

Michael and Oatsie were a known quantity to me as they had been on the September 2019 programme and both have travelled to my home dive centre Divecrew in Crowthorne, Berkshire, to work on courses, pre-COVID.  During COVID Michael and I, plus a few of the guys from Divecrew, have dived at Wraysbury together.

Just as Roots is our base in Egypt, Divecrew is our base in the UK, and through this relationship, Martin (who owns Divecrew with his wife Sue) is one of our trustees. Together they have established a centre where pretty much 100% of the Pros are Deptherapy Education trained.

I asked Swars straight away to brief a dive for Corey. I gave him the briefing slate, a few tips and then ten minutes later he came back with a perfect briefing… and I mean perfect.  So, a great briefing under his belt; now to watch him work with Corey in open water. He looked the Pro, he knew what he should be doing, he understood his role. We assigned Michael as Corey’s buddy and said he would lead the dive. I was there to assess the TDMs and supervise very closely Corey’s skill demonstrations.

Again, it comes as no surprise that many beneficiaries in Deptherapy can move straight into dive management, as several were NCOs, as was Swars, and they are used to briefing individuals and teams.

We had decided that we would mix up the dives required to complete Corey’s OW 20 RAID dives with some general diving as trim and swimming arm action are all important. We also needed to concentrate on spatial awareness.

We agreed a signal for horizontal trim and Swars reinforced the swim stroke that Corey needed to do to get propulsion.  Every time Corey moved out of horizontal trim Swars was there reminding him about trim and reminding him of his swim stroke.

The Roots’ House Reef is amazing – at a metre you encounter a shoal of black Damselfish, at 3 metres a shoal of Unicornfish, there are Butterflyfish and all manner of other fishes in great profusion.  The coral is in great condition. It really is a place of beauty and tranquillity.

Oatsie and Swars relaxing by the Roots pool after a long day

Although we had problems getting Corey underwater again, once we got him in skill demonstration mode his anxieties disappeared.  We then took him diving. Steve Rattle, the owner of Roots joined us and was taking photos that provide a great record of the week’s diving.  Steve commented on the quality of Swars and Michael’s supervision and control underwater of Corey and gave them feedback on how impressed he was.

Meanwhile on the RAID Master Rescue Course, Oatsie who was in the same Regiment, same Platoon and Section as Keiron in Afghanistan was more than willing to be a very uncooperative victim for his brother-in-arms.  I think Keiron gave Oatsie some feedback about this!

For me this was a hard week, combining running the RAID OW 20 for Corey but also the assessment of our three TDMs.  A week underwater but no opportunity to dive for myself.  People often think Deptherapy Expeditions are holidays for the Dive Team; they are not, it is hard work and I mean hard work.

Tomorrow is Day 4 in the water Day 5 of our trip. We are on the House Reef again, and things are starting to come together. Join us back here on Monday 26th October…


Find out more about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education at www.deptherapy.co.uk

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WIN an XDEEP Radical Frameless Mask!!!

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Yes, XDEEP have now officially called their excellent frameless mask the ‘Radical’, and in this week’s competition, we’ve got another one to give away!

The XDEEP Radical Frameless Mask is a large single lens dive mask with a soft silicone skirt and traditional strap. The frameless design brings the lens closer to your face so you get a wider FOV and less internal volume that you have to equalise and clear. The larger nose pocket makes the mask more comfortable and easier to equalise, even with thick gloves.

To be in with a chance of winning this awesome prize, all you have to do is answer the following question:

In a recent post on Scubaverse.com (which you can find here), we reported that you can join Reef-World and a panel of industry experts at the first ever Scuba.Digital for an open discussion on green tourism and how this might be shaped by a post-corona world. But when can you join Reef-Word’s Sustainable Diving event on the main stage of Scuba.Digital 2020?

Is it:

  • A) 3pm BST on Friday 23rd October 2020
  • B) 3pm BST on Saturday 24th October 2020
  • C) 3pm BST on Sunday 25th October 2020

Answer, A, B or C to the question above:

Nautilus Diving XDEEP Frameless Mask October 2020

Competition
  • Enter the country you live in
  • Terms and Conditions: This competition is open to all visitors to www.scubaverse.com except for members of the Scubaverse team and their families, employees of Nautilus Diving and their families, or XDEEP and their families. A valid answer to the competition’s question must be entered. If no valid answer to the competition’s question is entered, your entry will be invalid. Only one competition entry per entrant permitted (multiple entries will lead to disqualification). Only one prize per winner. All prizes are non-transferable, and no cash alternative will be offered. In the event that the prize cannot be supplied, no liability will be attached to www.scubaverse.com. When prizes are supplied by third parties, www.scubaverse.com is acting as their agents and as such we exclude all liability for loss or damage you may suffer as a result of this competition. This competition closes on 02/11/20. The winner will be notified by email. The Editor-in-Chief’s decision is final.

  • The following fields are optional, however if you fill them in it will help us to determine what prizes to source in the future.

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