马代船宿归来分享当地潜水船MV Carpe Vita的专业! 一艘值得我撰文表扬的潜水旅程!
Before my Maldives trip, I heard various stories about how currents can be very strong there and how divemasters on the boats my diver friends were on before would just drop them in the blue...in the "middle of nowhere", and make them fight the strong currents during several dives to get to particular site locations underwater. I have also heard how some divemasters are not acute to divers' air consumption rate, resulting in a diver being at 50 bars (i.e. 1/4 of a full tank) at about 30m (i.e. max. depth for leisure divers) while still fighting current(!) and needing to share air halfway with his wife while ascending, herself also running out of air close to the surface.
Hearing all these experiences first-hand, I decided not to choose those
particular liveaboards my friends went on, although they were cheaper & more "popular" with several Singaporean dive companies. I chose MV Carpe Vita mainly because it offered Nitrox, allowed for 4 dives/day and had good reviews (nothing from reviews that suggested much fighting of current). Nevertheless, I managed my expectations and, other than 1 advance student I would be taking care of on a 1-to-1 basis, the rest in my group had dive experiences ranging from 200 to 1,000 dives.
听了那么多第一手的故事分享后，我决定做一个非常保守的旅程计划。基本跳过故事中出现过的船宿，虽然这些船在新加玻俱乐部中比较吃香，主要是比较便宜。最后选定了聘用马代当地潜导，有高氧设施，一天4潜（一般马代船宿都是一天3潜而已），并且在网上口碑不错的MV Carpe Vita。至少在阅读评论时，发现没有客户提到这艘船的潜导有带人逆流而潜的问题。虽然做好了选船的功课，因为这是我第一次考察马代，为了控制好安全形势，这次除了一位要升A的潜水员一对一的跟着我，其他跟着我的潜水员都是200至1000潜的老手，其中包括了另外一位美国籍教练。
In the end, none of the "horror" stories happened on MV Carpe Vita. And here's why. Firstly, the divemasters were all locals already diving here for some years, not foreigners on a holiday-cum-dive work job. They know the dive sites inside-out. Secondly, 3 out of the 4 divemasters are instructors. The leader, Zinah, was very strict in terms of limits. No doing deco dives, no going deeper than 30m. Absolutely no Nitrox without showing certification card...no exception. This is very good in terms
of safety, & he sets the pace in terms of making sure his crew is also vigilant. Our max. depth and bottom time are recorded after every dive.
细细周详考量计划的结果证明选择MV Carpe Vita是非常的正确，所有朋友们描述的惊险镜头都没有在这艘船宿上演。最主要归功于超专业的潜导团队。在他们身上看到了4大强点：
Thirdly, before EVERY dive, one of the divemasters will personally skin dive and test the strength and direction of the current at the site. We will ALWAYS be dropped off at an entry point where we can descend slowly & DRIFT with the current to the specific spot of
interest, rather than fight current. The captain may need to move the boat after the divemaster has tested the direction, but that doesn't stop them from making sure the divers get a good entry point.
The strength of current is also always rated from mild to moderate to strong. When the current was rated a "strong-to-oh-my-god-strong" level once at one of the dive sites, that dive was aborted and we dived at another site. I think this is something I am very grateful to the divemasters for. Everytime, it is so comfortable to drift to a site while descending - almost perfectly timed that by the time we drop slowly to, say, 20m, we are just nice right at the place of interest to see the aquarium of sharks or the cleaning station for manta rays etc.
This is not the case with some other boats we encountered at the same dive sites. We saw some divers (one we remembered with her bunny hood, no less!) being dropped off where waves seemed too high, in the middle of nowhere, for whalesharks. At another site where our group descended nicely and drifted to a huge natural ledge to watch 12-15 gray reef sharks swimming in front of us like in an aquarium, we actually saw a group of divers drop DIRECTLY into the sharks area before our very eyes, & while descending they were snapping away at every shark that crossed them, not aware that they were going to descend below 30m.
Besides being unsafe, there was also absolutely no diving etiquette. Imagine you are watching Star Wars in a movie theatre, and suddenly a group of 15 people walk in front of you for 5min. (The same bunny hood lady & her group of friends would at this point appear from the side, swim/crash in front of us, with bunny hood lady deciding to drop right in front of Thomas Suwa and his beloved Gopro....but that's about buoyancy skills/ dive experience before going to Maldives, which is a different topic altogether!).
Lastly, our divemasters are very detailed. Just look at their dive brief drawings which is each drawn from scratch without any reference. Their familiarity, not just with the dive site profiles, but with also with the potential hazards/ problems of each dive site was invaluable. More impressively, they will inform you of
their plans which are to be executed underwater in order to avoid the hazards. They would tell you during the dive briefings that, for e.g. at
the Alimataa jetty night dive where there are many boats including speedboats, that we need to swim away from the jetty when we are ascending and point the torch above & onto our heads at the surface, so that other boats can see us in the dark + our boat knows it is our group so they can come & collect us straightaway. Although this sounded like a simple strategy, none of the other divers from other boats did anything similar to protect themselves - not those that surfaced at about the same time as us at least.
I am very glad to have chosen this boat just because the dive crew had made our dives so easy even with moderate-strong currents, and organised everything underwater perfectly by being detailed on land. Indeed, a good dive crew makes a whole lot of difference to any diving experience!