I have recently had the privilege to do some diving with Team Blue Immersion in Dahab, Egypt.
Team Blue Immersion (TBI) is a world-renowned enterprise and it’s members are considered to be some of the best technical instructors in the world.
With them I did a TDI (Technical Diving International) Extended Range course over the course of 7 days. This course qualifies me to dive to 55m and, when diving with a trimix instructor, up to 60m with basic trimix.
The fact that it was TDI is not the point. The instructors, as any great instructor would, teach you the best course they possibly can – not restricted by any agency’s requirements or standards. This in mind, with the many years’ worth of teaching experience these guys have, I could ask for nothing more!
I started the course with a PADI Tec45 qualification, conducted by Dawie Duik.
I had the choice of doing the course either on backmount (with a twinset and stage setup), or on sidemount (with a four cylinder setup) – both of which I was comfortable in doing (adding the fourth cylinder was new, though).
I chose sidemount, simply because sidemournt diving is the best thing since sliced bread and I wanted to improve my sidemount skills.
Apart from myself, I had no diving equipment with me. I wasn’t planning on doing a course and after a month in Egypt I would travel down East Africa with my backpack – making it difficult to carry all that equipment with me.
This was no problem at all. Within about 10 minutes the guys at TBI sorted me out – from wetsuit and boots to SMS100, torch and backup mask.
We started the course with some theory and setup – making sure I was on par with decompression theory, dive planning and equipment setup. In the afternoon we did a shallow 100min dive with some drills, buoyancy, streamlining and proper propulsion. This dive is crucial for the instructor to assess the student’s skill and comfort level.
All went as well as it could on a first dive in a new environment with new dive equipment.
Over the course of the next few days we discussed the theory in more detail – decompression planning, ascent and descent rates, narcosis, ICD (isobaric counter diffusion), redundancy considerations and the pros and cons of trimix, to name some of the subjects. We also discussed alternative equipment options.
We did one more shallow 100min dive with no mask buyoncy control, out-of-air swims and simulated decompression, then we were off to do some of the best diving I had ever done!
We started off with a 45m dive at Tiger Canyon, followed the next day by a 50m dive at Full Canyons. This was all done on air with EANx50 and EANx80 for decompression. During the dive the instructor (Erik) would do a quick narcosis check. If we were uncomfortable at this level on air we would have to tell him.
We took a day off inbetween to try out the amazing Hollis Prism 2 CCR… (It was not the best idea, because now I want one!!) But that is a story for another day.
The next day was the big one – the Arch in the Blue Hole at 55m. The Blue Hole is famous (or infamous) for the arch and the technical diving possibilities it offers. Many records have been set here and it was also the site for the new world record in September 2014.
Erik allowed me and the intern (Chloé) to plan this dive on our own. He would check it afterwards and make some recommendations or changes if necessary (luckily it wasn’t). We would do this dive on some basic trimix for the reason that the Blue Hole can be a bit disorientating the first time. Our back gas would be a 20/20 mix and once again with a 50% and 80% for decompression.
This dive was definitely one I will never ever forget!! Rather than running you through the awesomeness of the dive, I will tell you to get the proper training and go do it yourself, because no words can describe that experience!
We ended the course with another 55m dive to Ras Abu Helal – topography-wise the most amazing dive site I have ever seen!! A great ending to an epic course. (And Erik took the camera with, so now I have some hardcore diving pics too! Whoohoo!)
All-in-all, this was a most rewarding course. Apart from the diving itself, to experience the different teaching techniques and approaches was a very meaningful experience. I can confidently say I learnt and improved a lot!
One thing I noticed, which is also worth noting, is that almost everything I learnt from Dawie Duik was applicable to the diving there in the exact same way.
Apart from going into more detail with the theory (it was a more advanced course, after all), my theory was on par. I sometimes even had a broader knowledge than was expected of me after completing the previous course (Tec45). Furthermore, my skills and drills were on par. I even set up my equipment the same way!
Of course my skill level still improved a lot – it was suppose to. That is generally what happens when you do a new course and spend more time underwayer. My point is, though, that the training I received from Geko Divers and Dawie Duik is first class.
I want to thank the guys from TBI Dahab (Aron, Greg, Sallah, Mansour and all the other dive buddies, Chloé, Simon, Fredrix, Denise, Sylvia, Ceci and Fede) and in particular Erik Brown, my instructor. Firstly for the exceptional training and secondly for the great fun – I had more than an amazing time both in and out of the water. (Oh yes, and thirdly for converting me back to the solid blade fin… haha)!
I also want to thank Dawie Duik and Geko Divers for equipping me with world class training and thus making it possible for me to go to places like the Red Sea and getting the most out of the experience!
May you all one day be as lucky as I am!
Niki Hans Henning