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AD 2016 Q2

As we pointed out in the spring 2013 edition of the Alert Diver, even being a dive buddy has potential legal implications. So, to bump this up a notch, what about the diver training organisations themselves? Where do they stand? How do they relate to South African law? Are they all considered the same under our legal system in spite of the differences in organisational structures and training programmes? How does this affect their respective instructors and trainee divers from a legal perspective? These are not exactly simple questions. It is certainly true that the respective training organisations differ in a number of ways. However, this does not imply that there are necessarily differential legal implications for each of them. In fact, under South African law, the legal principles are common in all matters. Therefore, if you suffer a loss and you (or your estate in the case of a fatality) wish to recover damages, the legal principles would be applied commonly; whether you are driving or diving. Although not a frequent occurrence, there have been quite a number of law suits associated with diving injuries and damages in South Africa. This is not surprising, as the occurrence of law suits is really a function of “numbers”. As training increases, so do the chances of injuries and, with it, the chances of legal recourse. So, it remains wise to insure yourself, your equipment or your business in a proper and effective way. But before getting back to the potential differences amongst the training agencies, let’s first explore the foundational legal principles on which any civil claim would be adjudicated: inherent risk, negligence and duty to take care.

At certain times of the

At certain times of the year mantas can be seen throughout the Maldives. In the winter they tend to congregate at cleaning stations in the southern atolls, areas well known to dive operators. Below: Redtail butterflyfish are fairly common in the Maldives, but seeing large schools of them is a special treat. 66 | SPRING 2016

THE DIVES Our first dives were at Lhaviyani Atoll. We descended on Fushifaru Kandu at slack tide, which gave us the opportunity to effortlessly navigate the shallow reef, but the water clarity was worse than it would have been in an incoming tide. No matter, the attraction here was schools of reef tropicals so massive they obscured the water. I was initially surprised to find such a large congregation of redtail butterflyfish (Chaetodon collare), as I’d forgotten how common they are in the Maldives. We found them pretty consistently throughout the cruising range, mostly as singles or in pairs, but on this reef they were present by the dozen. We also saw bluestripe snappers in large schools at several bommies throughout the trip; here they were comingled with schoolmaster snappers. Turtle Cave was a site that came by its name honestly. The crew briefed us to expect green sea turtles throughout this dive, but they really undersold it. The site seemed fairly underwhelming at first — just a sloping reef populated by the usual Indo-Pacific suspects. But then we drifted into a portion of the wall with small pockets and overhangs that must be highly attractive for resting turtles, because they were literally everywhere. I don’t know if I saw 24 turtles or the same dozen twice, but it was incredible how abundant and mellow they were. If I never took another turtle shot the whole trip (though I did, of course), I would have been happily satiated after this dive. Once we drifted out of that portion of the reef, things got pretty tame again. But in that spot, Turtle Cave was world-class by any standard. Our next stop was Shaviyani Atoll. At Danbu Thila the most compelling feature was a large congregation of extraordinarily friendly batfish. We dropped into the water upcurrent of the reef structure, and the first thing we saw were batfish swimming right up to us in crystalline visibility. I think most of us maxed out our bottom time at 80 feet working with the batfish only to have them follow us into the shallows at 30 feet. Their behavior was the same throughout the dive, but the attractive reef backgrounds in the shallows made for even better images. If I never took another batfish shot the whole trip (though, again, I did), I would have been happily satiated after this dive, too. Up until we dived Eriyadhoo Beyru we hadn’t seen much soft coral on the northern reefs — I was actually surprised by how low-profile the decoration on the walls was. The soft coral was dense, and it made for wonderful backgrounds for fish photos, but I had the thought that if I were to photograph a diver against these soft corals and wanted to make the corals appear impressively large then I’d need to book Ant-Man as the model. That didn’t diminish my appreciation of the thoroughly beautiful and productive dive, but it was one of those random thoughts that passed though my mind during the safety stop. Later I searched online for “soft coral in the Maldives” and found plenty of contemporary photos and videos of reefs draped in soft coral, so I won’t project my experience on this reef to the broader Maldives underwater experience. Nor is the soft coral the only attraction here: The hard corals, particularly the staghorn variety, were vast and pristine. The contrast of the orange anthias amid the golden branching corals was particularly inspiring. At Noonu Atoll’s Raafushi Cave, my most significant photo opportunity was with a giant moray at a cleaning station. A school of orange anthias swam close to the eel — perilously close, perhaps, but I suppose such a large eel might be pretty ponderous in pursuit of a nimble anthia. Anyway, I saw no evidence of any fish being alarmed to swim near the cavernous eel maw. The next day at Raa Atoll I saw Nemo City on the briefing board. Having dived many sites called “Anemone City” or something similar, I am rather desensitized to such names. In fact, I’d forgotten the name of the reef until I began seeing lots of anemone clusters, many of which were curled up with their crimson or lavender mantles exposed and the resident endemic Maldives clownfish within. It was really quite beautiful, and once again I felt the dive was more significant than I had expected. Baa Atoll is most famous for the large aggregations of manta rays and whale sharks that frequent Hanifaru Bay between July and November each year. Being there on Valentine’s Day I realized I wasn’t likely to get much manta love, but I found other things of interest. The dive that most resonated with me was Horubadhoo Thila — the fish were especially friendly there. There are 32 marine protected areas in the Maldives. The expanses of reef they cover are not necessarily large, but the dive sites within them are especially vibrant. These are total no-take zones, and because the dive operators are there so often, they are self-policed. Here I saw surgeonfish calmly being cleaned and emperor angelfish boldly swimming toward my dome port. Had I not already been told about the protected status of this reef, I would have known based on the behavior of the marine life. With five days of diving under our weight belts, we headed southward to some of the most iconic dives in ALERTDIVER.COM | 67

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