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7 months ago

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.

HOW TO DIVE IT

HOW TO DIVE IT TEMPERATURE Expect air temperatures of 79-86°F and water temperatures of 82-85°F year round. A 3mm wetsuit is generally sufficient, even for four dives per day. CURRENCY Get just enough Maldivian rufiyaa (MVR) for island tipping and pocket change. Most restaurants, hotels, car-rental companies and shops accept major credit cards. Banks accept 2004 or newer U.S. dollars and euros with no tears, rips or markings. SEASONS The prime diving season is from November to April, although dive tourism is now a year-round attraction. DHONI DIVING Most liveaboards operate in tandem with a traditional dhoni, typically a 50- to 60-foot yacht with diesel engines that houses the compressors for air and nitrox fills as well as most Raa Atoll Baa Atoll Rasdhoo Atoll North Ari Atoll South Ari Atoll Shaviyani Atoll of the dive gear (though not cameras). Guests step from the mother ship to the stable and spacious dhoni (usually in calm water) for transport to the nearby dive site. CURRENTS Each diver should carry and know how to deploy a surface marker buoy. Also recommended are a personal air horn, mini strobe light and a radio or GPS locator. Most divers carry a reef hook as well. ALCOHOL Alcohol is generally prohibited in the Republic of Maldives. There are no liquor stores or bars where it can be sold or consumed, and tourists may not bring alcohol into the country with them. All incoming luggage (including carry-on bags) are X-rayed, and authorities will confiscate any liquor found. There is a specific exception for licensed tourist operations catering to international clientele. DEPTH By federal law, scuba divers may not dive deeper than 30 meters (98 feet). This tends not to be a problem because the seafloor at most dive sites Noonu Atoll Lhaviyani Atoll North Malé Atoll is around that depth. the region. The first was at North Ari Atoll among the sharks of Rasdhoo Ridge. Here we dropped onto the ridge, which topped out at about 60 feet, spread out and waited for the gray reef sharks swimming in the blue to approach us. We were advised to not swim toward the sharks, as this tends to keep them away; gratefully, everyone rigidly adhered to the directive. The result was sharks that came within 6 feet of us and occasionally as close as 4 feet. There was no bait in the water, just a calm interaction with a beautiful species of shark. The day began with a high-voltage shark dive and ended with a mellow night dive at Maaya Thila. Rising to a depth of 22 feet, this thila was small enough to circumnavigate a couple of times in the course of a 60-minute dive. The most significant photo ops were sleeping turtles, marbled rays, free-swimming morays and lionfish. Fish Head is another marine reserve, also on North Ari Atoll. The site was named during an era when local fishermen were likely to bring nothing but a fish head onboard, so ravenous and plentiful were the sharks. While the area may not be as shark infested as in days of yore, we were still able to perch atop a rocky knoll at 60 feet and watch a half dozen gray reef sharks pass to and fro, edging ever closer as we remained motionless. A massive school of bluestripe snapper was at 90 feet, and were I not reluctant to have my bubbles disrupt the shark action, I would’ve loved to drop into their midst. But it was just as well — at the top of the reef in only 30 feet of water was another school. Once I’d filled the frame with 100 fish, it didn’t really matter that there were 500 somewhere else. We had come southward specifically for manta rays. At certain times of the year mantas are abundant in the north as well, but this was February, and the dive staff knew that for us to interact with mantas we would do well at the manta cleaning stations at North Ari Atoll. The first we tried was Himendhoo Rock. The plan was to swim to a small coral bommie that hosted the cleaner wrasses that drew in the mantas. We saw one manta on a flyby, but despite 70 | SPRING 2016

the frequency of success others have enjoyed at this site, lovely reef tropicals were all that populated my image download. It was the same story on our second dive at Moofushi Rock: The visibility was marginal, and the manta action was sparse. That changed the next day at South Ari Atoll on Rangali Madivaru (“madivaru” means “ray” in the local language, appropriately enough). We swam along a shallow sloping reef that featured incredible manta activity — in terms of both the number encountered and the ease of proximity. Everyone in the water had wonderful close encounters with the rays and captured images with two or three in the frame. As if to underscore how special this dive was, our second dive on the site three hours later featured a few encounters but nothing at all like the rich rewards of the morning. Whether the tide or the current or karma was the differentiator, the lightning in the bottle on that morning dive had escaped by noon. Maldives reprised was a great success. We hit our marks. We found the iconic mantas in the south and enjoyed our time in the north as the only liveaboard on the horizon. We didn’t get a whale shark encounter, but on balance that was fine with us. I doubt the whale sharks missed us very much either. AD Clockwise from above: Batfish are resident at Danbu Thila. At some point in the cruise most liveaboards put on a beach barbecue, complete with sand sculptures. The gray reef sharks at Fish Head benefit from the location’s protected status. Giant squirrelfish swim at Himendhoo Rock. Emperor angelfish traverse the reef at Horubadhoo Thila. ALERTDIVER.COM | 71

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