City of Cape Town’s new protocol for cleaning tidal pools

Early in November I attended an information session at the Kalk Bay Community Centre, where the City of Cape Town announced that they will be trialling an environmentally friendly cleaning process on five of the 19 tidal pools on the 260 kilometres of Cape Town’s coastline managed by the City. This coast stretches from Silwerstroom on the West Coast to Kogel Bay on the eastern shores of False Bay.

St James tidal pool
St James tidal pool

The presentation was made by team members from the City’s Recreation and Parks department, which – among other things – is responsible for beaches, outdoor signage, ablutions, lifesaving, environmental education, and administration of Blue Flag status for the beaches and marinas that earn it. This department is also responsible for the tidal pools. (Incidentally the City’s assortment of safe seawater bathing facilities includes two of the largest tidal pools in the southern hemisphere, at Monwabisi and Strand.)

Until now, the City would use chlorine to clean the walls (top and sides) and steps in the tidal pools. The cleaning would be done after draining the pool completely. This year, a supply chain management issue meant that there was no cleaning of the tidal pools between July and November. During this time, regular swimmers (some of them members of the Sea-Change project) noticed that marine life flourished in the pools, and engaged with the City to try to find a way to keep the tidal pools safe but also to preserve the diversity of marine species that had been thriving in the pools during the cleaning hiatus. Safety, of course, is why they are cleaned: slippery, algae-covered steps are dangerous.

The tidal pool at Millers Point
The tidal pool at Millers Point

It was agreed that five of the pools – St James, Dalebrook, Wooley’s Pool, and the two pools at Kalk Bay station – would be subject to a trial of a new, environmentally friendly cleaning regimen. These pools are relatively close together in the north western corner of False Bay. The aim is still to ensure that the tops of the pool’s walls and steps are not slippery, and thus safe for bathers. But a second aim has been added by the City, which is to ensure the environmental integrity of the pools.

Under the new cleaning protocol, the following will be done:

  • the pools will be drained only when necessary, and only as far as is required to reach areas that are covered by water and in need of cleaning (for example, the steps at Dalebrook)
  • animals in harm’s way will be relocated
  • excess kelp and sea urchins will be removed from the pools
  • the tops of the walls and steps will be scraped to remove algae (the sides of the walls used to be scraped too, but this will no longer take place)
  • environmentally friendly chemicals will be used to remove the algal residue after scraping – no more chlorine and no more whitewashing!

All of the above means that the pools will be ready for use by the public immediately after cleaning, in contrast to the old protocol, which renders the pool unusable for a period after the cleaning crew has chlorined it.

I’ve asked the City for more information about the drainage procedure, and for more information about the earth-friendly chemicals that the cleaning contractor will use, but with no response so far. (If I get one I’ll obviously update this post.)

Buffels Bay tidal pool inside the Cape Point section of Table Mountain National Park
Buffels Bay tidal pool inside the Cape Point section of Table Mountain National Park

Many of the City of Cape Town’s tidal pools fall within the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area, and it therefore makes perfect sense to aim to protect the animals living in them while maintaining public safety. Dr Maya Pfaff, another speaker at the information session, even suggested that some of the animals that may now thrive in the pools may actually help to keep the water clean. Mussels and feather duster worms filter the water and improve the clarity, algae take up nutrients, and limpets clean algae off the rocks.

Particularly over the festive season, the beaches and tidal pools around Cape Town are extremely busy. This is a wonderful opportunity for thousands of beach-goers to experience both safe swimming and a little bit more of what the ocean has to offer, instead of a sterile, salt-water pool devoid of healthy marine life. Bringing a snorkel and mask with you when next you go swimming will be well rewarded. To see some pictures of the amazing animals – from nudibranchs to a cuttlefish with eggs – in the St James tidal pool, check out Lisa’s instagram profile.

Do you swim regularly in any of the five pools in which the new cleaning regimen is being tested? What do you think about it? If you think that environmentally gentle cleaning of tidal pools is a good idea, what about letting the city know that you appreciate having tidal pools that are both safe and biodiverse. A short message on the City of Cape Town facebook page to say thank you and keep up the good work (and a request to extend it to the other tidal pools) is a good place to start!

You can read a news article about the new cleaning protocol here.

Scuba diving parties for kids

Learning to snorkel
Learning to snorkel

Earlier this month we hosted a scuba diving birthday party in our pool, for a group of extremely excited eight year olds. It was a slightly chaotic but enormously enjoyable day! The boys first mastered the use of snorkels, making drawings on slates while submerged. We were impressed by how well they took to skin diving, and they rocketed up and down the pool like sea otters.

After that they tried out scuba gear, and we were amused by the various ways they found to enjoy themselves. One of the boys kept inflating his BCD because he liked the sound the over-pressure valve made. Another made foamy fountains of water by purging his octo in the shallows. Others seemed to feel like Jacques Cousteau as they explored the pool! We taught them how to inflate an SMB using their spare regulator, and brought out our collection of underwater cameras for them to take innumerable selfies and group portraits that they could take home with them.

Parties like this are ideal for small groups of four to six participants, as they are supervision-intensive and a small group lets each child fully enjoy their turn to try out scuba gear under the supervision of the instructor. A little bit of advance planning is recommended for the purposes of paperwork, so get in touch sooner rather than later if you think this is something your child might enjoy. We can conduct the event in your swimming pool at home if it’s less than two metres deep, or at our pool. We have conducted a similar event at the Virgin Active gym, but that requires special permission. Be warned, the scuba diving bug might bite!

Sketching on slates
Sketching on slates

The PADI Bubblemakers and Seal Team programs are designed for kids aged 8-10, and enable them to master the use of scuba gear in the swimming pool. You can read more about those programs on the PADI website. From the age of 10, children can obtain a Junior Open Water qualification, which upgrades to a full Open Water qualification when they turn 15.

I’ve carefully chosen these photos so you can’t identify the kids, hence their mixed quality! The big kid with the silver hair is Tony.

Christmas gift guide 2013

Ok so this is a bit late, and if you haven’t done your Christmas, Hannukah and Festivus shopping yet, shame on you. Or just shame. Most of these ideas don’t entail going to a mall and having your personal space invaded by ten thousand hormonal adolescents. You can order online, or make a phone call or two. Get going!

Christmas at Sandy Cove
Christmas at Sandy Cove

Books

For the reader, you could check out our book reviews, arranged by topic:

I’m not going to suggest a magazine subscription – I’ve let most of ours lapse as we seem to have entered a long dark teatime of the soul when it comes to South African diving magazines. If the quality picks up, they’ll be back on the gift list at the end of 2014.

Dive gear

Check out What’s in My Dive Bag for some ideas… You can contact Andre for most of these:

Make sure you know the returns/exchanges policy of wherever you make your purchases. Some places can be difficult, and if the mask doesn’t fit it’s no good at all!

For lady divers

For the diving lady in your life (or your man friend with too much hair), what about some rich hair conditioner to apply before going in the water? Suggestions here. A pack of cheap, soft fabric elasticated hairbands is a good stocking filler.

Some high SPF, waterproof sunscreen, or a nice hooded towel for grown ups (available in one or two of the surf shops in Muizenberg) would also not go amiss.

Experiences

Don’t forget to add a memory card for the lucky recipient’s camera if you plan to gift any of these! Contact Tony for prices.

For the non diver, you could inspire a love for our oceans with one of these:

For those who need (or like) to relax

Memberships

Wall art

Clip Clop designs and prints beautiful tide charts for Cape Town and Durban and moon phase charts for the year. You can order online or usually find them at Exclusive Books.

My underwater alphabet is available for R200 in A1 size, fully laminated. Shout if you want a copy.

If you take your own photos, you could print and frame a couple, or experiment with stretched canvas prints if that’s your thing. A digital photo frame pre-loaded with underwater images is also a lovely gift for a diving friend.

Donations

For the person who has everything, or because you’re feeling grateful:

Great white shark at the Clan Stuart wreck – video

To close off Cape Town’s Shark Week, here’s the 11 second video footage that diver Vladislav Tomshinskiy (thank you Vlad!) took of the shark as it swam past the divers the second time. The bubbles at the end of the video belong to Craig (far left, with the buoy line) and Christo. Please enjoy this beautiful video of one of the ocean’s most brilliant predators, swimming curiously and gracefully past a group of awe-struck divers who are all amazed and grateful for having had the experience.

Local shark scientist Alison Kock of Shark Spotters says that from the video the shark looks to be a female (she said that if it was a male you’d expect to see claspers as it turned to swim away, which one can’t) and that she’s between 3 and 3.5 metres long. According to a recent study, most of the sharks seen at inshore locations by the Shark Spotters during the summer months are large females, who tend to be in False Bay year-round.

It’s not clear whether the shark was disturbed by the divers’ bubbles (as Christo speculates), and whether that was what caused it to swim away when it did. That flick of the tail says “I’m outta here!” and is something we’ve seen when observing these animals from the surface (on cage diving and research boats). The acceleration and turning abilities of white sharks is remarkable.

I’m interested by the bubbles because it’s an oft-repeated mantra by the shark cage diving operators (all over the country) that sharks are scared of scuba bubbles, and this is why you have to breath hold or snorkel in the cage. In July we did a cage diving trip in False Bay with African Shark Eco-Charters, who allow their clients to view sharks from the cage while on scuba, and they certainly don’t see fewer sharks than any other operator. Also, the sharks who swam past us in the cage were totally not bothered by our bubbles (of which there were many).

I therefore wouldn’t bet my reputation (or maybe I should, just to get rid of it…) on the “sharks don’t like bubbles” theory, but there may be far more nuance to it than we know. The shark in this video practically got a spa treatment on its tummy from Christo and Craig’s regulators… Perhaps to scare a shark away using air bubbles you need to get really close. But I don’t plan to test that theory unless I have to!

Shark cage diving in False Bay

The opportunity to see great white sharks safely, on your own terms (that is, not by surprise while diving!), and in a way that isn’t harming the sharks or affecting their behaviour on a large scale, is amazing and unusual one. Living in Cape Town, South Africa, we are more fortunate than most people in having three excellent cage diving operations (Apex Predators, African Shark Eco-Charters, and Shark Explorers) on our doorstep in False Bay, and – for the summer months, when the False Bay season closes down – Gansbaai just a two hour drive away.

I have visited Seal Island on board the Shark Spotters research boat, but that wasn’t for getting in the water with the sharks – the scienfic data is collected from the surface (I watched – more here, here and here), but Tony has never been. Tony and I have tried to go together to visit the sharks at Seal Island on two occasions before. Once, the conditions were too poor so we ended up in Gansbaai (more on that here), and the second time we planned an overseas trip and had to cancel our cage diving booking. The operators can get booked up very far in advance during peak season, which is when we wanted to go, which is why the overseas travel ended up overlapping with the cage diving trip.

Third time lucky! Two of Tony’s former students, Tamsyn and Gary, work for African Shark Eco-Charters, Tamsyn taking bookings and Gary as Divemaster on the boat. We booked a trip with them for late July, which is during the best period to see white sharks at Seal Island. We were excited to be able to breathe off scuba regulators while in the cage, and this turned out to be a wonderful thing because it was a very rough day (big swell, wind – and rain!) when we ventured out. The Stugeron that Bernita and I had ingested did its wonderful work.

Here’s a video clip of some of what we saw while in the cage. I’ve slowed this video down to 35% of the actual speed, because it’s really bumpy – the cage was like a washing machine! Trying to snorkel would have been unpleasant.

The shark in the video is a female white shark (she has no claspers – she obligingly shows us her big belly), and she was huge. It was lovely to have Bernita with us, and absolutely amazing to see our False Bay sharks up close. They are magnificent, remarkable animals worthy of our protection.

Dusky dolphins in Maori Bay

One Saturday in late October last year we went out to Maori Bay in the hope of a dive on either the SS Maori or BOS 400 wreck. Unfortunately the swell was huge and moving directly into Maori Bay, and the water was green from a developing algal bloom (but still freezing cold). We decided not to dive – the conditions just weren’t good enough.

Dolphins in Maori Bay
Dolphins in Maori Bay

While we were still in Maori Bay, discussing our options and checking out the conditions, a pod of dusky dolphins arrived from somewhere north of us, and surrounded the boat. The engines were off and all we could hear was the dolphins’ breath sounds, and the swell slapping on the sides of the boat and breaking slightly on the rocks at the edge of the bay. We sat watching the dolphins for some time. They were playful and very curious, coming close to the boat and filling the bay. There were at least 30 dolphins, perhaps as many as 50. They weren’t on their way anywhere, just milling around.

After quite a while, because the dolphins were so calm and curious, we slipped over the side of the boat to see if they’d like to take a look at us in the water. They did want to. The four of us (Tony was in his drysuit, which isn’t really suitable for snorkeling, so he stayed on the boat with skipper Mark) floated around the boat on snorkel, and the dolphins approached us repeatedly, often swimming in pairs or threes. The water wasn’t too clear so they approached as ghostly shapes in the gloom and then materialised a few metres from us. They’d look at us, and then swim by. We could hear them clicking under the water.

The conditions were far from ideal – you can see how large the swell was and how green the water in the video – but we loved spending time with these animals. They came very close, sometimes closer than arm’s length, but they didn’t touch us (and we didn’t touch them). This was a very unusual encounter. When the boys got out of the water, Odette and I stayed in for a bit, and the dolphins came even closer.

We have seen dolphins on both the False Bay and Atlantic sides of the peninsula. The pods of dolphins we’ve seen in False Bay are usually hunting or on their way somewhere (and are usually long beaked common dolphins). This was the first time I’ve seen dolphins who didn’t seem to have anything particular to do at that moment.

A Day on the Bay: Seal snorkeling in Hout Bay

Date: 4 March 2013

On the boat at Duiker Island
On the boat at Duiker Island

On a trip to snorkel with seals at Duiker Island in March, Kate got hold of my camera. She took most of these photos, which is why I am in some of them.

Snorkeling with the seals
Snorkeling with the seals

You can see that it was a calm, beautiful day. The snorkellers were visiting South Africa from the United Kingdom, and had a wonderful time checking out the seal colony.

It was warm enough for them to take a break on the boat when they got cold, warm up, and get back in the water. I don’t like to rush things – unexpected and interesting things always happen when you’re not expecting them to, and being in a hurry leads to missed opportunities.

Taking a break on the boat
Taking a break on the boat

 

 

Handy hints: Snorkel technique

Kate demonstrates incorrect snorkel technique
Kate demonstrates incorrect snorkel technique (in the car)

Note that the snorkel is worn on the right hand side of the mask in these images; this is incorrect, and it should be on the left. Because your regulator is worn over your right shoulder, the snorkel is usually on the opposite side.

Kate demonstrates snorkel remove and replace
Kate demonstrates snorkel remove and replace

Wearing a snorkel on land is not recommended unless you are highly trained, as Kate is.

Cage diving: the logistics

Tony on the Marine Dynamics boat in the harbour at Kleinbaai
Tony on the Marine Dynamics boat in the harbour at Kleinbaai

Tony and I have wanted to go shark cage diving forever. We booked with Apex Predators in Simon’s Town, but the day before our trip the weather was looking so poor that we wouldn’t have been able to get in the water. Since that was what we really, really wanted to do, they rebooked us with Marine Dynamics in Gansbaai.

The Great White House, where Marine Dynamics is based
The Great White House, where Marine Dynamics is based

Gansbaai

Geyser Rock, off Dyer Island in Gansbaai
Geyser Rock, off Dyer Island in Gansbaai

Gansbaai is considered the great white shark capital of the world (by some, at least!). It’s just under 200 kilometres from Cape Town, and, like False Bay, boasts a rocky outcrop (Geyser Rock) brimming over with chubby, sleek Cape fur seals. There’s also a wild, small island called Dyer Island, favoured by seabirds- particularly African penguins – and a narrow, shallow channel between the two islands called Shark Alley… Also referred to as the MacDonalds drive-through for great white sharks. Unlike the sharks of False Bay, the Gansbaai sharks don’t usually breach (jump out of the water) after seals, so one doesn’t have the opportunity to view this behaviour on a trip here. In terms of reliability of shark sightings, however, Gansbaai kicks False Bay’s butt.

Geyser Rock in Gansbaai
Geyser Rock in Gansbaai

The launch site for the shark viewing trips is the tiny Kleinbaai harbour, characterised by jagged rocks and a big wave (yes) at the entrance on days with big southerly swell. You need to be an outstanding skipper to negotiate this little gap in poor conditions.

Kleinbaai harbour
Kleinbaai harbour

The cage diving industry

Cage diving boats at Kleinbaai Harbour
Cage diving boats at Kleinbaai Harbour

Shark cage diving is big business. Multi-million rand business. We were gobsmacked by the number of operators (eight in Gansbaai alone, three in False Bay, one in Mossel Bay), the size and condition of their boats, the number of tourists that each boat can handle (up to 40 at a time) and (not least) by what it costs to spend a morning with the sharks (we paid R1350 each – nearly $200). Lots of volunteers work in this industry – who wouldn’t want to see sharks every day? – making it even more profitable. (We actually found the volunteers really annoying in general – they had a knack of standing in the best viewing spots, relegating the paying customers to second row seats.)

Attracting the sharks

Chum! Yum!
Chum! Yum!

There was a recent revelation that certain operators were using sevengill cowshark livers as chum to attract the great whites. The idea that one shark must die so that I can view another one doesn’t sit well with me at all, so we made sure that wasn’t the case with the operator we used. Marine Dynamics is one of the most eco-friendly operators in the region. Marine Dynamics only uses fish oil, discarded sardines (crushed fish from the bottom of the catch), tuna heads, and other waste products that smell fabulous if you’re a shark.

The fish heads (bait) for the shark, with an attached cork for floatation
The fish heads (bait) for the shark, with an attached cork for floatation

The crew also tap sharply on the side of the boat, and run the engines – sharks are attracted to the magnetic field created by the motors. A lump of tuna heads on a cork, and a small decoy cut out in the shape of a seal are manipulated by bait handlers who use them to attract the sharks’ interest. Once a shark has approached the boat, it generally sticks around for a little while, playing (like a dog, I thought) with the decoy and bait. This industry is heavily regulated – the sharks are not supposed to be fed at all, and the bait line is not allowed to be draped over the cage. This protects the sharks from swimming into the cage, which (while it may scare the occupants) will hurt the shark.

Seagulls enjoying some chum
Seagulls enjoying some chum

On the boat

Securing the cage to the side of the boat
Securing the cage to the side of the boat

Before all this excitement can happen, however, one has to wait for a shark to come a-visiting. We waited for nearly two hours, during which time some of the group were violently seasick (more on this another time), it poured with rain, and the boat bobbed like a cork on the large swells and wind chop. I was loving the variety of birds that we saw – Cape Gannets fishing, a Common Tern, two Southern Giant Petrels (one of which was the rare white form), lots of characterful Subantarctic Skua, and a gorgeous little Wilsons Storm-Petrel that skimmed along the surface of the water like a little ballerina.

Subantarctic Skua
Subantarctic Skua

Marine Dynamics has a marine biologist on board at all times, and Oliver, our biologist, was able to identify the various birds for us and later to explain the shark’s behaviour. He was also occupied filling in a record sheet of which sharks we saw, what time, their dimensions, and how long they stayed with the boat. The company supports the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, and some of the proceeds from products and services provided by Marine Dynamics go towards funding the trust’s work.

In the water

Cage full of divers
Cage full of divers

Once the shark arrives everything is action. Seven people could fit into the cage at a time (the size of cages used by the operators varies – with Apex, only two can fit in the cage per viewing). Tony and I had brought our own wetsuits, booties, hoodies, masks and snorkels. Weight belts are provided, as well as all soft gear except for snorkels (people drop them and don’t know how to use them, so breath holding is encouraged). There are hand and foot holds in the cage, and big soft floats on top. The sea was extremely choppy so the cage was being banged around a lot and being inside it was like being in a washing machine. We wedged our heads against the float, our feet on the foot rest, and held on tight.

My foot and Tony's foot in the cage - look how clean the water is!
My foot and Tony's foot in the cage - look how clean the water is!

The bait operator shouts from which direction the shark is coming, and that is your cue to look in that direction. We had our heads underwater all the time with snorkels on, but the other customers just ducked down when a shark was approaching. The water was very clean (since it’s winter) so we could see the sharks well below us and from a distance as they approached. There was a school of fransmadam and hottentot hanging around in front of and below the cage, munching on the particles of tuna being scattered from the bait ball.

Tony on snorkel in the cage
Tony on snorkel in the cage

We had two opportunities in the cage, of about 20 minutes each. Seven different sharks visited us, and some of them stayed at the boat for over half an hour. They were all between 2.5 and just over 4 metres long. They are massive, graceful creatures with impressive teeth, enormous tails and pectoral fins like surfboards. Between turns in the cage we stood on the boat and watched the surface action, of which there is a lot. The sharks splash and manoeuvre with impressive agility. Some of the passengers didn’t go in the water at all – they missed seeing the shark completely submerged in its natural element, but there was still quite a bit to see from the boat.

Great white shark below the decoy seal cut-out
Great white shark below the decoy seal cut-out

Extras

On arrival at Marine Dynamics (0900 – the meeting time varies with the tide because the harbour at Kleinbaai is such a nightmare) we were served breakfast, and hot and cold drinks. After a briefing about the sharks and what to expect on the trip we were all issued with life jackets and roomy orange oilskins to keep us dry. I managed to put mine on over my Cape Union Mart marshmallow jacket and was snug and dry (if not stylish).

The reception and restaurant area (straight ahead) at Marine Dynamics
The reception and restaurant area (straight ahead) at Marine Dynamics

We were given snacks, water, lunch and towels to use on the boat, and the diving gear seemed to be in good condition – new 7 millimetre wetsuits with hoodies, proper diving masks, and decent booties. For an additional R300 we could purchase a DVD of the day’s events, produced by a separate company called FastTrax Marine.

The verdict

You have to do this if you love the ocean and its creatures. Seeing the sharks swimming past the cage was a breathtaking experience. The first time a shark appeared on the surface I choked up – couldn’t believe I was finally having an opportunity to see this creature in the flesh.

A shark comes visiting
A shark comes visiting

Yes, it’s expensive, and potentially uncomfortable (seasickness, cold, wet) but there are things you can do to mitigate much of that. Choose the operator you go with carefully, ask questions about their ethics (not just to them – check out their reputation in the industry as well), and choose the time of year that you go carefully. In both False Bay and Gansbaai winter is the high season for sharks, and what’s more the water clarity is excellent. Don’t go in summer – if any sharks DO show up, you probably won’t be able to see them in the pea soupy water!

Chilly, choppy winter morning
Chilly, choppy winter morning

We’ll have pictures of the sharks – actually the whole point of this experience – in a separate post to follow…

Be my buddy…

Many experienced divers have very low tolerance levels for new divers, especially on a boat. It is sad that they have quickly forgotten that they were once a greenhorn, new to the world of diving and slow in getting ready once the boat had reached the dive site. These are usually the divers that will do stupid things thinking they are “exceptional divers” and in fact they are the ones that should know better. Experience comes with time, time underwater exposes you to many different situations and we all learn from these sometimes silly mistakes and sometimes dangerous errors of judgment.

An Open Water course, irrespective of the certifying agency, is essentially an introduction to the basics, and all the skills you acquire during your course will not be of a huge benefit in a dire situation unless you hone them from time to time. Many a diver will not have removed their mask underwater since they did their first dive course and I know of many such divers who have never performed any of the skills since the training days of their course.

You will seldom see an experienced diver doing a buddy check, but you will often be asked to turn their air on for them after they have kitted up and are ready to roll into the water. You will seldom see them checking their buddy’s training level, but will often see them alone at the bottom without a clue as to their buddy’s whereabouts. You will seldom hear anyone on the boat voicing any concerns about the dive site or the dive conditions, yet you will hear all of these thoughts after the dive. Imaging swimming around underwater blissfully unaware of the near-panic state half the group are in. What will you do if you are suddenly faced with a group of panicked divers?

Dirk, Tony and Cecil on the surface at North Paw
Dirk, Tony and Cecil on the surface at North Paw

A  few simple tips

Imagine this… You are qualified and ready to explore the world. You book a dive and are allocated a buddy on the boat on the way to the dive site. “Hi my name is Bob!” and a few minutes later you backward roll into the water. Descending slowly you look at your buddy Bob, who is descending like a rocket as he is wearing twice the required weight and wonder, “Can he dive? How long will he stay down? What will I do if he sucks his cylinder dry in 10 minutes and refuses to surface alone?”

Diving is a very safe sport. Follow the rules and things just don’t go wrong, but deviate, modify and ignore them and a good dive can turn bad very quickly.

  • Know your buddy. Prior knowledge that your buddy has problems equalising will prevent you sitting on the bottom waiting for 20 minutes for them to descend.
  • Know how his equipment works, know his dive style and know his level of experience
  • Have a plan that includes the depth you will go to, the route you will follow, who will lead and what your planned low on air pressure will be, will he ascend alone, do you both have an SMB, a knife, a snorkel and a whistle?
  • Know what feature of his attire you will use to recognise him as divers all kitted out in black look very similar in 3 metre visibility.
  • Know your own equipment well, know your limits and voice your apprehension if it is there before the dive Knowing your buddy is terrified of jellyfish makes it easier to understand their need to swim at high speed in the opposite direction when confronted by one.
  • Do a thorough buddy check: it takes but a minute, remember that there is a 100% chance that a problem experienced underwater by either you or your buddy is going to be your problem, so plan your dive and dive your plan.