Article: The Atlantic on motion sickness

Tony checking out the fishing boat
Tony checking out the fishing boat

Travelling – by boat, car, bus – is supposed to be fun. If you suffer from motion sickness (sea sickness while on a boat), it isn’t. This feels like punishment, and Julie Beck in The Atlantic puts it better than I could:

For so long as man has attempted to tame and traverse the sea, the sea has punished him for it. With barfing.

If you are susceptible, you may have attempted to manage your motion sickness by various means, not excluding ginger biscuits. You may have settled on a gentle medical solution, which works quite well if you remember to take it before setting off on a journey.

The science of motion sickness turns out to be fairly complex and our understanding of it is not yet settled. Beck’s article explains the physical mechanisms at work when we get motion sick and the theories that explain the phenomenon, some of which are supported by the results of new genetic studies done by 23andMe. Sufferers will receive small consolation to hear that their sea sickness can be partly explained by their gender  or age, but may glean some understanding of when they are most susceptible to an uncomfortable ride.

Read the full article here.

Wind Atlas for South Africa (and divers too)

The Wind Atlas for South Africa (WASA) project was launched in mid-March, having been funded by the Danish government (masters of wind farming), and the United Nations Development Program-Global Environment Facility (UNDP-GEF). The atlas shows wind direction, frequency, and estimated power output, and the data was collected from a grid of wind measurement stations all over the country. Its primary use will be to assist South Africans in tapping the energy of the wind to generate electricity. This is incredibly exciting, as within a few months a wind turbine offsets the carbon emissions required to construct it, and then runs virtually emission-free for up to 20 years. Also, we’re all really tired of Eskom (supplier of electricity) encouraging us to purchase less of its product (electricity), and randomly switching off the power when we’re stuck in a shopping mall parking area or trying to cook dinner. I would love to see an economist’s take on that dogshow.

WInd farm off the coast of Denmark
WInd farm off the coast of Denmark

I digress. There’s quite a bit of techinical information on the CSIR WASA site, as well as in some of the news articles describing the project, but the gist of it is that measurements have been taken over the last 2-3 years, and supplemented by a mathematical model to provide a smooth map of wind speeds across most of South Africa. Thirty years of global data was used to calibrate the model.

All well and good, you say, but how on earth is this relevant to diving? Well, you’ll notice that the Learn to Dive Today newsletter frequently contains reference to wind speed and direction, and this affects where we can dive, and when. In summer, if the southeaster has been blowing, it’s Atlantic or eastern False Bay. In winter, the northwester makes the latter two destinations undiveable, but cleans up western False Bay delightfully. So wind is pretty central in the lives of local scuba divers. Wind is also the primary generating force for waves and the massive swells that arrive at our shores from the Southern Ocean, which affects our diving too.

Wind is also fairly central to the lives of everyone else who lives in this part of the world… If you speak to any Capetonian about the weather (a favourite topic), the wind is bound to come up (in discussion, not literally)!

30 year annual mean wind speed (measured in m/s) 100 metres above ground level
30 year annual mean wind speed (measured in m/s) 100 metres above ground level

With all this in mind, it’s quite gratifying to look at a WASA map, and see that our local obsession is justified. The Cape Peninsula and Gordon’s Bay area are among the windiest in the entire area mapped. Red indicates wind speeds of 10 metres per second, the green is about 5 metres per second, and purple (there’s almost none of it) is virtually windless. The source of this map is here.

If you’re a local diver, I encourage you to pay attention to the wind. Even if the weekend’s not windy (most people’s diving time), the wind in the week before will give clues as to what the sea conditions will be. Reading the newsletters of ethical operators will give you good insight into local weather patterns, courtesy of his years of reading the wind and water. If nothing else, an awareness of the wind will lead you to feel less disappointed when a dive is cancelled because of it, and enable you to make safe diving choices about what sort of conditions you want to go diving in. Unfortunately not all dive charters will hold back on launching when conditions are poor, and you can avoid an expensive zero-viz dive or getting seasick (or lost) on the surface by watching the weather yourself and making deductions.

Newsletter: Shark love

Hi divers

First up, the bad news: there will be no diving in False Bay this weekend. (The Atlantic is a small possibility, maybe on Sunday, but we will wait and see.) The reasons for this will become clear as you read on.

Last weekend’s diving

Last weekend we did JP’s first sea dive at Long Beach in Simon’s Town. Conditions were fair, with visibility of about 4 metres and patches of cleaner water. There’s an album with some photos from last weekend on our facebook page, here. I was also in the sea at Shark Alley and Partridge Point early in the week, and conditions were patchy (about 4 metres visibility) and deteriorating owing to a massive, continuing plankton bloom.

Pelagic shark diving

The Shark Explorers boat
The Shark Explorers boat

Today I spent the day on the Shark Explorers boat, far out of sight of land, on the edge of the continental shelf at a location known as the “Tuna Grounds”, where the water is over 350 metres deep. We were diving with pelagic sharks – sharks like blues and makos that live in the open ocean. A tuna also popped in to say hello, as well as hundreds of seabirds including several albatross.

Black browed albatross
Black browed albatross

It’s a two hour boat ride out of Simon’s Town, looking for the warm Agulhas current, and although the sea was rough almost all the way there, the water went from chocolate brown in False Bay to green, to beautiful, deep blue. A small chum drum was placed in the water suspended from a buoy, and after about fifteen minutes the first shark arrived. We saw one mako shark, and a large number of blue sharks. We spent over an hour in the water – you descend to about 5 metres and hover within sight of the chum drum at all times. These underwater pictures were grabbed from the video footage I took today – more to follow!

A blue shark comes to investigate
A blue shark comes to investigate

I have done baited shark dives before – with tiger sharks in Aliwal Shoal, and more recently a cage dive with white sharks in Gansbaai. Today’s dive was a very different experience to Aliwal Shoal, where the sharks are sometimes whipped into a feeding frenzy and injure themselves biting on the chum drum. The situation can be very tense and uncomfortable for the divers and in fact a diver was recently bitten during one of these dives by a shark that (I think) was in feeding mode because of the chumming, and became confused by the diver’s hand and foot movements in the water.

Blue shark
Blue shark

Today’s sharks were attracted by the chum drum, but they stuck around because they were curious about the people in the water. They were very interactive, and investigated our cameras and dive gear, sometimes with gentle nibbles. Morne, the Shark Explorers owner, is extremely relaxed with these creatures and very knowledgeable about their habits. A lot of what he did in the water was to prevent the sharks from hurting themselves (for example by biting on the rope of the chum drum).

Dolphins in False Bay
Dolphins in False Bay

On the way back to Simon’s Town we encountered a pod of 400 or so common dolphins in False Bay, being pursued by a Brydes whale. We are very fortunate to live in such a rich environment that is bursting with health.

As you can imagine, good buoyancy control is essential for a dive like this – the bottom of the sea is so far below that no one is going to come and fetch you if you sink! Also, if you’re even slightly prone to seasickness I would suggest some Stugeron or similar… It’s a loooooong day on the boat. All of us carried SMBs and were instructed to surface and raise them immediately if we lost sight of the chum drum. The boat follows the buoy attached to the drum as it drifts in the (sometimes very strong) current. If you’d be interested in coming on a trip like this, please let me know so we can arrange a group – I have promised to take Clare with me next time, because she spent the day working in Excel while I was playing with sharks!

Weekend diving

As for the reasons why we won’t be in False Bay this weekend, I encourage you to study the following sequence of three photos taken out at sea, near Cape Point, and inside False Bay. I don’t want to dive in coffee… Do you? I have several Open Water students and Discover Scuba Diving candidates just itching to get into the water, but for your first sea diving experience I prefer to ensure excellent conditions.

I’ll send out text messages if there’s a chance of going on the boat to the Atlantic on Sunday, once he sends out a newsletter, or if False Bay miraculously clears up. If you don’t usually get these messages and would like to, please send me an email with your cell number and I’ll be sure to keep you in the loop.


Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099

Diving is addictive!

P.S. This blog is entered in the South African Blog Awards and we hope to use it to raise the profile of Cape Town diving a bit. We’d really appreciate your vote, if you enjoy the blog – to vote for us click here or on the banner at the top of the page in the right hand sidebar. You can only vote once, and if you’ve already done so then many thanks!

Dive Deals column: Don’t become a lost diver

Here’s the second in my series of articles for the website.

Don’t become a lost diver

Last week we looked at some of the situations and reasons that could cause a freshly qualified scuba diver to give up on the sport. This week I’d like to examine some of the simple things that can be done by the qualifying diver – before, during and after doing one’s first dive course – to reduce the attrition rate of new divers and avoid becoming a statistic.

Learning to dive

Firstly, learn to dive in a place you feel comfortable, with an instructor you feel good about. Choose an instructor whom you trust, and find approachable. Ask a lot of questions before you sign up. During the course, never hesitate to tell your instructor you are not sure of something you have just learnt. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. If you’re not comfortable performing a skill, ask if you can do it again. That skill might one day make the difference between a disastrous dive and a dive that ended well for all concerned.

Buying gear

Don’t buy the first piece of gear you are shown based on the sales pitch. There is very little junk available in the dive industry, but it just might not be what suits your budget, your body shape or diving needs. You WILL ultimately be better off buying your own equipment, but don’t rush into it without some research. Try on different styles of wetsuits, dive with different style BCDs, various volume masks, and so on. Then you will be qualified to make a good decision about what kit to buy for yourself.

On the boat

Do not hesitate to tell the skipper you are nervous, and never hesitate to tell the divemaster it’s your first dive and you are apprehensive. Don’t be shy to tell the group on the beach during the briefing you have never dived in the sea, or never been deeper than 12 metres, or whatever the case.

The divemaster faced with 10 new faces every dive cannot be expected to read everyone’s state of mind. Equally, a skipper that takes 30-40 different people out on his boat each day can’t be expected to know everyone’s gear, mental state, or qualification.

As a divemaster, skipper, and instructor, I can assure you the vast majority of people in the dive industry are helpful, keen to see you dive with them again and again and will go to great lengths to assist you whilst you find your feet. All you have to do is tell them that you’re just starting out. Don’t be afraid to ask the diver nearby for help as they will most likely be happy to share their knowledge. If they aren’t, don’t take it personally – unfortunately you will meet ungracious people in all areas of life – and just ask someone else.

Bad experiences

In the unlikely event you have a bad experience on a dive or with a dive operator, don’t give up move on as there are many, many, options and the vast majority of dive operators are good at what they do, keeping you a happy diver. After all, a dive centre filled with enthusiastic divers is a fun place to be and to these individuals diving will soon become a way of life. Diving has more to offer than any other sport in the world. (My opinion, yes, but shared by millions.)

Dive Deals column: Where have all the divers gone?

I recently (at the end of August) started writing a weekly column for the revamped website. Here’s the first of the series:

Where have all the divers gone?

Diving is a sport that draws people from all walks of life. Armed with a qualification to dive the world, several choices present themselves to the new diver. Does one keep diving, enrol for further training courses, travel to tropical dive destinations, or sell all that expensive gear and give it up?

Let’s be honest: the ocean is beautiful, full of weird and wonderful creatures, and incredible underwater topography. I doubt there are many people that give up diving because they felt it was boring.

So why DO people stop diving? Why do so many advertisements for second hand dive gear state that it’s been “used only once”?

Some people will try anything, and some new divers take up the sport just to try it out, to be able to say they’ve done it, and then move on to the next adventure.

Some people just don’t enjoy it, but the majority of people that give up diving will cite a bad experience or some negative event related to diving that was the catalyst to their decision.

Let’s look a little bit deeper. The majority of dive centres are pleasant environments, with shiny displays of the latest dive gear, exceptional salespeople and smiling instructors, mostly enthusiastic about what they do and keen to share it. These are easy places to be and easy places to spend money.

And spend money we do. Some people will purchase a full set of dive gear before they ever enter the water. This is not a bad thing as you then become familiar with your own gear. From a hygiene point of view it’s nice to know only you have worn that wetsuit and booties. However some people have body shapes that differ from average, so a custom wetsuit is the way to go. Some people hate a side inflation BCD but don’t know there is an alternative.

Some people will arrive on your boat, newly qualified and on their first ocean dive with a mask the size of their heads, a BCD one size too big (it was on special) and cheap nasty fins because they blew their budget on the regulator… You know the one: the salesperson recommended it as it’s rated to 100 metres and you can take it diving under the ice. Their weight belt doesn’t fit because they were told to add a few kilos for salt water.

Imagine that you’re this newbie diver. Having qualified inland or by doing shore entries off the beach, the boat is all new. The diver next to you looks really hard core and is kitted and ready to roll into the water 10 seconds after the boat stops. They get annoyed with your hesitant attempts to kit up on a cramped boat whilst seasickness threatens to overwhelm you. You roll into the water, descend into the beauty of the sea, but on the way down you are overcome with fear, stress and near panic as this is all new to you.

Your divemaster and dive buddy did a negative entry and are way below you, and you can hear the boat leaving overhead. Your weight belt is loose, your mask is leaking and you want to gag because the mouthpiece on your new regulator feels strange, so you panic. Perhaps the divemaster comes over, solves all these problems and holds your hand for the entire dive. Perhaps not, and back to the boat you go. And at that point you decide diving is NOT for you.

Sometimes you will be on a dive boat, and the sea looks a little rough. But you have spent a lot of money getting here, and prepaid for a whole bunch of dives. The skipper tells you it’s fine, and that he has launched in far worse. He assures you that it’ll be fine on the bottom. It probably will, but getting there is scaring you half to death. At the last minute you decide to stay on the boat, spend 50 minutes feeling terribly seasick and decide diving is NOT for you.

In each of the situations I’ve described, there isn’t one single cause that led our new diver to the decision that this isn’t the sport for him. A combination of circumstances and factors have led to the decision to quit diving, and we’ll analyse how to avoid those next week.

Stugeron for seasickness

I’ve been deeply reluctant to take any western medicines in my minor struggle with seasickness. Not because I am opposed to western medicine – indeed, I ingest a veritable cocktail of drugs of varying scheduling status every morning before getting out of bed – but because I didn’t want to add another chemical dependency to my life! Before our recent trip to Gansbaai for some shark cage diving (or “shark cave diving”, as my sister repeatedly refers to it), however, I decided that the length of the trip (four hours at sea in winter) and the cost (not insignificant) were compelling arguments in favour of some strong drugs.


Following the advice of the cage diving operator we originally booked with, I took one Stugeron tablet the night before our trip, and one again about an hour before we climbed on the boat. Stugeron is also known as Cinnarizine and is safe for scuba divers to use, and is available over the counter at the pharmacy.

The only side effect that was noticeable was intense grumpiness, apparently worse than my usual morning funk – according to Tony. I don’t remember feeling specially drowsy (aside from the normal sleepiness associated with it being 0530 – a full two hours before I usually wake up).

I didn’t have any problems with seasickness in Gansbaai at all. I was acutely aware that the circumstances were such that I’d usually have gotten sick – large swells, stationary boat with the engines running, and often no clear horizon to look at because of the number of people standing around looking for sharks- but I was fine. Even the deathly gurglings and litres of vomit produced (in neat little white paper bags) by the only other South African on board, a gentleman from Durban who was almost paralytic for the entire trip, did not set me off.

I took Stugeron again two weekends ago, in preparation for the long boat ride out to the SS Lusitania off Cape Point. It definitely enhanced my feelings of grumpiness, but this was resolved as soon as I got into the water. Clearly this is a side effect to bear in mind.

I’m quite pleased about this development in my attempts to appear a normal human being (and maybe one day a proper pirate) whilst on the water. I’ve been reluctant to try Stugeron and other drugs of its ilk, hoping that apples, crackers, ginger and positive thinking will make future trips to Sodwana less physically taxing, but now that I have tested it (twice) with success I’m willing to try it again.

Surf launching

The vast majority of the best diving in the world lies beneath the ocean. I know there are many wonderful and exciting cave and quarry sites as well as inland lakes, but in South Africa we dive mostly in the ocean. Some of the launches are from sheltered harbour jetties and some are from sheltered launch sites in a cove or a bay. Many are however straight off the beach through the surf (such as in Sodwana, where these pictures were taken). On a calm flat sea this is very easy and safe but in rough conditions with huge swells it has a few risks.

The tractor pushes the boat into the water
The tractor pushes the boat into the water

The best operators and boat skippers will know the local conditions well and will rarely if ever launch if there are huge swells. So if the skipper is confident you should be safe.

The ladies climb in after pushing the boat out a bit
The ladies climb in after pushing the boat out a bit

A semi-ridgid inflatable dive boat is an extremely robust piece of equipment. They are well put together and can withstand a huge amount of punishment from the skipper and the ocean. They are also most often raced up the beach at high speed after every dive so they need to be tough. Most if not all will float despite being swamped with water, and many will stay afloat with more than 50% loss of air in the pontoons. There is most often a stainless steel keel strip under the boat and this takes most of the load as the boat is beached and trailored.

Everyone climbs on board
Everyone climbs on board

The risks

A dive boat filled with divers and their gear is stable and sits low in the water. The skipper will move people around to get the boat balanced and level and if all the divers have their feet in the foot straps on the deck it is then safe to race through the waves. Wave after wave can be punched with a boat and with the correct and well timed throttle control each wave can be crested gently without too much bone jarring. An inflatable boat can become almost vertical without capsizing but what it cannot do, nor can any other vessel for that matter, is handle waves from the side. A wave must be approached at as close to 90 degrees as possible. A huge swell can be approached at any angle, but a breaking or foamy wave must not.

Cresting a wave
Cresting a wave

Almost any boat will be rolled over by the motion of the wave. Unless you are on a keel boat (like a yacht), once over you are staying like that. A capsizing dive boat fills the air then the water with potentially lethal objects. Airborne weight belts, cylinders and cameras all have the potential for injury. Sandbanks are the most common cause of dive boats being rolled over as a sandbank stops the boat in its tracks allowing a wave to swing the boat on the anchored point (the motors) and the next wave will roll the boat over. The other cause of dive boat rollovers is a motor stalling in the middle of the launch. The sudden loss of power will render the boat poorly powered for wave hopping.

The skipper guides the boat through the breakers
The skipper guides the boat through the breakers

There are to my knowledge no practiced suggestions on how to stay safe. If the boat is going to go over the skipper will most likely shout “Jump!” and then do so quickly and try to get as far away from the boat as possible.

The most important rules:

  • Make sure you know that the skipper is experienced and aware of the local conditions.
  • Make sure the boat is in a well maintained state.
  • Make sure you are opposite your gear, it is secured correctly and add a little air to you BCD. This way it will float if tossed into the sea.

Don’t listen to the loud mouths on the boat that tell you to look at the land to avoid nausea. You won’t get sick while the boat is moving. WATCH the skipper, watch the sea and see what is coming at you. This way you can brace yourself for a wave, or any other unlikely event .

Despite the seemingly ease at which a boat rolls over I have done over a thousand dives from a rubber duck, launched through surf myself as a skipper and have never seen a dive boat go over. Many fishing boats, yes, but not dive boats. I think the industry and skippers in southern Africa and Mozambique are all well aware of the risks, loss of income and potential lawsuits so boats are generally well maintained and the skippers are experienced and capable. A skipper that gives divers scary launches does not last long in a dive resort. So sit back, hold on, feet in the straps and enjoy the ride.

Seasickness: The final word on ginger

I never thought I was the type to get seasick, but after taking up diving and spending a lot more time on boats than I did previously, I discovered that I can be pushed to a particular (unpleasant) limit. This next paragraph or two is going to sound as though I’m enumerating my chundering capabilities, but it provides context. Sorry in advance!

I am quite intolerant of surge, and have been ill on or after one or two particularly surgy dives such as a recent at Shark Alley. I’ve gotten sick once or twice on boat dives in Cape Town but had really bad experiences when I went to Sodwana for the first time.

Tony and Grant - these two clowns never get seasick
Tony and Grant – these two clowns never get seasick

The boat dives in Sodwana are surf launches, which I find scary but manageable. When the boat is moving and wind is in my face I feel perfectly fine. I did struggle with nausea and vomiting while putting on our kit on the boat before the dive, and quite a lot while underwater. The surge in Sodwana is often quite severe, and after a while my brain and body rebel against the back and forth motion – often at the safety stop. Fortunately I’m well practised at vomiting through a regulator – it can be done!

I wasn’t taking any preventative measures for sea- or motion sickness last time we visited Sodwana (in October 2010), but on this last trip (April 2011) I decided to conclude my trial of ginger as an anti-nausea medication. You may recall that I located some ginger capsules at my local pharmacy – two per day is the dosage, and while they smell like fresh gingerbread they seem to have a fairly irritant effect on my throat and stomach. I never took them with food because eating before a bumpy boat ride doesn’t appeal to me, but this might help!

The bad news is that, despite regular ginger dosings, I got sick on every single one of the six dives I did in Sodwana this time round. Only once or twice on the boat, but at every safety stop and on most of the repetitive dives after as little as ten minutes. The feeling of nausea persisted for an hour or two after the last dive, as well, which made me poor company until I’d had a nap! It’s physically draining and also a bit scary, even though I know I won’t drown if I keep my head and don’t panic.

So, ginger, thanks, it was fun, but I have to move on.

Future avenues of research include green apples (really?) and Stugeron – the hard stuff. I’m reluctant to go this route, but Tony and I are going shark cage diving at the end of June and there’s NO WAY I will be adding my own chum to the water instead of watching the whites breaching at Seal Island!

Diving medical insurance

A large part of diving training involves making sure that you are a safe, competent underwater adventurer. You learn the consequences of various actions on the air spaces in your body, and the physiology related to breathing compressed air at depth, including how long it’s safe to stay down, how fast to ascend, and all about safety stops. The training you will do teaches you to manage your buoyancy so as not to make uncontrolled ascents or descents. All this minimises the chance that you will need emergency medical care after a dive.

Diving accidents are uncommon, but when they do happen, the cost of treatment is likely to be high. In the event that you’re bent – or possibly bent – you’ll have to go to a hyperbaric chamber for recompression treatment. For some perspective on what this involves, and what this feels like, I spoke to Alistair Downing of Underwater Explorers, technical diver extraordinaire. He’s been bent twice – here’s how he describes the first time (in 2003), after a deep dive on trimix out of Hout Bay, involving numerous long decompression stops:

The dive and deco went great. No problems at all.

On my final ascent from 6 metres (doing 1 metre/minute ascent rate), I felt a slight twinge in my thigh muscle, but put it down to being really cold and immobile for such a long dive – roughly two hours!

Finally surfaced and felt a little dizzy, but assumed with the rolling seas, it was a little seasickness (not that it is usually a problem…).

By the time the boat picked me up, I was exhausted. I couldn’t unkit and needed the safety diver to get my gear off me.

I just made it into the boat and needed to lie down. Just felt really, really tired. Again put it down to exhaustion, having just done a massive dive.

About two minutes later I called for the O2 – thought it can’t hurt.

A few minutes onto the O2 the pins and needles all over my body started – time to go!

We were all DAN members and as per DAN’s protocol, we contacted DAN first. They then contacted Kingsbury Chamber and we were advised to proceed there. At this stage, I was aware of my surroundings and besides the pins and needles, was doing OK. We were 16 kilometres out to sea from Hout Bay and en route my condition deteriorated. Some of these I can recall, but others were relayed to me after the fact. By the time we got to Hout Bay harbour I was paralysed from my waist down, had lost sight in both eyes, apparently had stopped breathing on several occasions and was basically out of it!

They had initially arranged for an ambulance to collect me at Hout Bay, but there was a delay so my crew decided to transport me in the back of a bakkie – I have only one fleeting memory of the trip from Hout Bay to Claremont.

DAN had put Kingsbury on full alert and soon after I arrived, Dr Rosenthal arrived. I basically went straight into the chamber and was there for about 8 hours. I forget the exact details of the treatment, but Rosenthal has all these details. What I can recall is that it was not a pleasant experience. Lots of pain, confusion, too hot, too cold, thirst, nausea, and feeling very uncomfortable. That evening I was admitted to High Care and spent the night there on oxygen. At this stage I was generally pain free, except for one mother of a headache… and a general ‘pap’ feeling.

Over the next several days I went for about five follow up treatments of about two hours each. I was also on massive doses of medication, specifically to reduce the swelling of my brain. I was not allowed to dive for a year, which in itself almost killed me! It also took about 6 months before my headache went away…

I was diagnosed with neurological bend, most likely caused by a helium bubble. After the year, I passed my medical and it was all systems go again.

Alistair dived with the same buddy both times he got bent, and his buddy experienced no problems either time. Alistair was later diagnosed with a PFO (patent foramen ovale, or hole in the heart that did not close completely at birth – about one third of people have them) which may have  predisposed him to getting bent despite meticulously following safe decompression schedules and experiencing nothing untoward on either dive. He had this surgically repaired and since 2009 has been back in the water with no problems!

DAN emergency noticeboard at Long Beach
DAN emergency noticeboard at Long Beach

DAN stands for Divers’ Alert Network. They’re an international organisation that provides top-up medical aid cover for divers, as well as diving medical information and research, evacuation services, and training in diving safety.

Alistair’s treatment for the bends he’s experienced cost between R30,000 and R40,000 each time – and if a helicopter evacuation had been required, that cost would have increased sharply. Here’s what he said about the extent of the cover by DAN:

DAN covered me in full for both bends – picked up all the bills, including medicine. I basically did not pay a cent and as a DAN Business member, was really happy about this. They however did not cover anything linked to the PFO operation, as it is post injury elective surgery, not bends incident related.  All in all, a good showing by DAN and reason enough to get cover from them.

While we trust medical aids to provide the peace of mind that your costs will be covered when you require hospitalisation or emergency treatment, the truth is that in many cases they will do everything they can to avoid paying out your claims. You should be certain that the medical aid cover you have will pick up the tab if you incur an injury while diving – many medical aids classify scuba diving (even recreational scuba on air to less than 40 metres’ depth) as an extreme sport, and treat associated claims accordingly – in other words, with great reluctance.

(As an aside, if you have life cover, you should make sure that the life insurance company is also aware of your diving activities for their records.)

Learn to Dive Today is a DAN Business Member, which means that we are able to supply you with application forms and membership information, and have access to DAN training on emergency procedures and management. It also means that we are kept up to date with developments in diving medicine, and have access to the extremely efficient DAN team in South Africa for any assistance we require.

If you dive frequently, if you like to dive in remote places, if you have a penchant – or desire – to push the limits of recreational scuba, and especially if you fit into one of the risk categories for diving (old age, overweight, heart problems), you should have this kind of insurance. If you want more information or to discuss the various options DAN offers, email Tony or contact the DAN Southern Africa office. They’re very friendly and super efficient!

Arresting the vomit comet

Ginger Root
Ginger Root

Today I picked up a bottle of ginger capsules manufactured by Flora Force at Wellness Warehouse. It’s a single-ingredient supplement and is supposed to help with cramps and nausea caused by motion sickness, digestive issues, chemotherapy, morning sickness and the like.

I’m hoping this will prevent any chundering on the boat dives – of which I trust there will be many – in my future. It’s the next remedy I am trying after ditching the ProBalance band.

Dosage is two capsules per day, and I only anticipate taking them on days I’m diving. Like tomorrow…

Watch this space.