A blogpost by Bas discussing the dive equipment he uses in the dives he guides during his safaris. It is the evolution of more than 3500 dives in the Maldives, he tried much, this is the end result and it works.
1. Primary dive computer, a Suunto D6
A dive computer is mandatory in the Maldives and most people nowadays have one. Few people take the time to get to know their functions. I have seen divers get into deco on the check dive, completely ignoring the dive computer and locking it for 48 hours. Others put it into freedive mode and wonder why it doesn’t show any remaining bottom time. My best advice is to read the instruction manual thoroughly and get to know your dive computer’s functions.
It is a great little computer with everything you want and more but it has some bugs. The biggest bug is that the straps have the tendency to break (a lot) and you risk losing your computer. I used 4 straps in the first 3 years. A company called tibby adapters (google is your friend) has solved the problem and developed adapters which make it possible to use Zulu straps which are indestructible. The other bug is the pressure sensor tends to fail between 100 and 1500 dives but with good service from Suunto you should get a new movement for your dive computer cheap.
2. Backup computer
As a backup computer I use a Uwatec smart pro, modified with a bungee strap as the original strap broke. Perfect computer, about 1000 dives on 1 battery but very expensive to replace the battery through scubapro. I found out a way to replace it yourself costing you a new battery for 6 euro and 1 euro in non perfumed baby oil.
I always dive with a backup computer as we dive 250 to 300 dives non stop and we cannot afford to skip dives if a computer fails. Another advantage is that we can hand out a computer to someone else if their computer fails or if they leave it on the main boat.
3. Suunto SK7 Bungee
In the Maldives most important is to be visible after the dive so the dive boat captain knows where you are going after the dive so he can pick you up. Next couple of items are about being visible after the dive.
4. Surface Marker Buoy by AP Valves
Do not buy a simple plastic SMB that is open on the underside and has some lead strips to close the SMB while inflated. These kind of SMB’s are not likely to survive a couple of years as the plastic gets old and brittle and the leadstrip is a very poor seal. Buy a descent SMB, preferably one of fabric and one that is self sealing so you can hold it in the air and wave with it if necessary without the SMB deflating. A good SMB does not have to be expensive. AP Valves in the UK produces great SMB’s that last for at least 1500 dives. The commercial dive organisations now also recognize the importance of SMB’s and implement the use of these devices in their training or have developed SMB specialties.
If you don’t know how to use an SMB, just attach a 6 meter long rope (thickness like the lines you use for your tent) to it with a small weight (a bolt snap) on the other end. Once you can send the SMB to the surface and stay on the same level at the same time it is time to upgrade your rope to a reel. Don’t start using a reel and SMB if you are new to both. Most people drop the reel and 40 meters of rope gets stuck in the coral. With your reel attached to the bottom at 40 meters and your SMB at the surface you have an issue at the end of the dive
Did I tell you that visibility is so important? Every year some people are lost at sea as the dive boat captain cannot find them after the dive. A very good idea is having a small torch with you that you just leave in your BCD during your holiday. If you see some overhangs or caves you always have it with you to have a look. A simple torch with 3 c type batteries lasts for 6 hours, more than enough for a typical dive safari of one week. No need to bring the big guns people are used to using in Europe. A 800 Lumens torch is more than enough for the Maldives.
6. Rescue laser from Bomarine
Since a couple of years on the market and a good replacement for flares. Easy to put in your BCD in a watertight container. Flares (pyrotechnics) are illegal in the Maldives and this is a good alternative. Disadvantage is that it only works at night.
Very discutable as I have seen people abusing gloves by touching coral or trying to pull themselves forward on big rocks thus pulling the rocks loose from the reef which then roll down destroying more reef. I used to dive with normal dive or surf gloves but they only last for a couple days and then I discovered these. These are assembly gloves and last a couple of hundred dives. They won’t give you any warmth but then again the water temperature is 28°C.
Ideal for holding on to big rocks as there are always small sea urchins exactly there where you put your fingers.
8. Lavacore hood and thermocline vest from Fourth Element
Lavacore is a technically advanced fabric providing the insulation qualities similar to that of a neoprene wetsuit. Close to the skin, Lavacore’s soft internal fleece and high 4-way stretch produces the ultimate comfort-warmth-weight ratio. Big advantage is that it is not compressed when you go deeper like neoprene so you don’t have to compensate with your BCD as you go deeper. The thermocline vest from Fourth Element is more or less made out of the same material but Fourth Element is very expensive but it is worth every penny.
9. Beuchat 2mm full suit
We used to dive in 5 mm suits but they are expensive to replace so now we dive in 2 mm suit but use a vest and hood to keep the cold away (yes it gets cold diving 3 times a day in 28°C water).
10. IQ company boots and mask strap
A couple of years ago IQ company started with diving material and they had a scout program to promote their gear but unfortunately they stopped the program. I still have a mask strap and the boots which seem to last forever, must be more than 1000 dives I did with these and they are still going strong.
11. Mares Avanti quattro fins in yellow
Nowadays the avanti quattro fins are very expensive and if something happens with them I would probably go for the avanti tri. I have these about 1500 dives and I never even broke a strap. Very stiff compared to most modern fins which gives good propulsion in currents and as they are yellow very easy to spot. I never understood the tech black hype as you lose people quite easily.
12. AP Valves Buddy commando BCD
My buddy commando has the Air two as option which means the inflator is also an extra regulator with a valve to breath from the intermediate hose or when the tank is empty breath from your jacket. To keep air in your jacket you have an extra 0,8 liter pony bottle from which you can let air in your jacket.
As my jacket is 2500 dives old I don’t have the pony bottle anymore and my air two only functions as an inflator. The reflective stripes fell of the jacket and I don’t have weight integration but it still works. A good addition of this jacket is the extra pouch on your right back for your SMB. And as my SMB is also from AP valves it fits like a glove and I don’t have it hooked somewhere on the outside thus ruining my streamline.
—- Edit —-
I decided my buddy commando was getting to old and I gave it to my Maldivian diveguide and changed it for a Scubapro Tech Black. So far so good. It has a pouch for a torch in front and 2 pouches for weights in the back. I use 1 (900grm) weight in a back pouch and none in the integrated weightpockets.
13. Mares Liquid skin x vision mask
Mares makes some good stuff. I like their fins and I also like their masks. Because of the so called liquid skin silicone they use the mask leaves you not with a mask face after the dive. Still diving with the first strap, 2000 dives.
14. Apeks DS4
Before I dived with a Mares MR22 Abyss regulator as it is so easy to service but I got a bit annoyed with the middle pressure that creeped up already after 50 dives or so, resulting in a free flowing second stage. The Apeks DS4 first stage is very easy to service, the DS4 is very cheap and the maintenance kit is also very cheap. I did more than 500 dives before I serviced it for the first time and it worked still without problems. The middle pressure was still stable at around 9,5 bar. Unfortunately the second stage is not so easy to field strip and certainly not something you can service in a couple of minutes on a dive boat on your way to the divesite. So I have a backup Mares Abyss.
The DS4 has no turrets so no extra o-rings that can fail and it is immensely popular among technical divers as it is bulletproof.
I use a xtx40 second stage with a jax mouthpiece and flex hoses. For the octopus I use a long yellow flex hose that is strapped to my jacket with bungeecord so it doesn’t hook on coral or something else.
For the high pressure hose I don’t use a flex hose (anymore) as I have seen them explode without warning on some occasions so I stick with the normal hoses. They tend to leak first so you have a couple of dives to take action and replace them before they fail.
15. Remora Hydralloy Divers knife
A stainless steel shaker to top my list off. I used a normal painted shaker before but they corrode too quickly so now I use a cheap stainless steel one. I believe this one came from Beaver but the letters fell off a long time ago so I am not sure.