Diving is one of my main hobbies, and I try to do this also during my stays abroad. Diving in a foreign country while living there is very different from going on a dive vacation. You get a better chance to learn about the good spots and how to reach them. I always try to find a good club of scuba divers, as this is the best way to get in touch with people and enhance your diving experiences. It is always better to dive with someone you know.
In Texas I joined two great clubs of scuba divers, The Lunarfins, and later the Bay Area Divers often referred to as BAD divers. I did not own an underwater camera while living in Texas, and have no UV photos. It was also before I owned a digital camera. Diving was done offshore in the Gulf of Mexico during week-ends on two vessels operating out of a small town near Houston, the MV Fling, and MV Spree, or on longer dive vacations, often to Mexico. Once a year all dive clubs in Texas went to New Braunfels in central Texas for a clean-up action in the Guadalope River. Great fun, many interesting finds in the river, and good company. I miss you all.
Singapore is surrounded by world class dive-spots and is a heaven for divers. I joined the Singapore Club Aquanaut, and enjoyed many memorable meetings and dive trips with the members of this club. Some of the best trips were on board the MV Empress to nearby Tioman, or one of the many interesting wrecks in the waters around Singapore and Malaysia. I would like to come back to you one day. During my stay in Singapore I got a digital camera and underwater housing.
This is the MV Empress. It has all any diver can ask for, and is the best dive vessel and certainly the best crew I ever had on a liveaboard or any dive-vessel. No inexperienced and annoying divemasters here. Techies will also be fully satisfied, and she carries all gases you might consider breathing. There are more luxurious cruisers around, but the MV Empress have nice cabins with AC, and the unique advantage of a crew that have diving as a lifestyle and main interest. The owner lives on board.
A nice feature onboard the Empress is this lift. You step into it while submerged, and are lifted up to the main deck.
One of my fauvorite wrecks is the TT Seven Skies. Here I am on board for the last time during my stay in Singapore, and this is also the first dive with my UV photo gear. Great for photo when visibility is a bit better than here. It is a popular dive destination in this area, but I still managed to find an ash-tray on the bridge overlooked by 100s of other divers before me. Best enjoyed from a vessel like the Empress, well equipped and at the right size with about 10 divers onboard.
T/T SEVEN SKIES. Built 1965 at Kockums Varv, DW:97.950 tons, 261 meters (800 ft) long
Max speed 16 Kts, sold to the shipping line SALÉNREDERIERNA, Stockholm. Exploded in 1969 on a trip from Japan to Dubai, killing 4 crewmembers.
MV Empress offers pure oxygen on five meters to degass quicker after those deeper dives. Better not loose that mooring line to get back to the vessel. One tech-diver didn't find it and had a 45 min deco under his safety sausage in 2 kts current. That takes him a long way at sea. However, both the diver and the Empress was prepared for this, and a small dinghy was put out to pick up this diver. Always be prepared on what can happen, and you are safe.
When arriving in Rio de Janeiro I immediately started looking for a dive-club, but without success. I never learned about any clubs here during my stay. Diving is done off boats organized by dive-shops. There are a number of dive-shops here, but I only found two with staff that spoke English: Divers Quest in Rio itself, and Deep Trip in Arrial do Cabo about 2 hours drive north of Rio. For foreign divers coming to Rio, these are the only two I can recommend. Arrial do Cabo has more variety in it's dive-sites than Rio, and Deep Trip has a good deal with a nearby Pousada (little hotel). Great for learning to dive over a few week-ends. It has also become clear to me that Rio is more famous for other features than diving, not without reason. However, I am always eager to get wet, also with my UV photo gear recently purchased in Singapore.
The best dive vessel I encountered in Brazil was the Urutu operated by Divers Quest on day-trips out of Rio de Janeiro. It has a good size with a maximum capacity of 20 divers, but typically 10 - 15 would be on a trip. It was also the only vessel in Brazil I was on that had an adequate supply of fresh water for rinsing off equipment after the dive. Particularly important for that sensitive and expensive UV photo gear. Make sure the owner Milton, or one of his English speaking divemasters is onboard for your trip. These guys also had the best approach to manage dives to make them suitable for UV photo, and almost all my UV photos from Brazil were taken on these trips. On trips without these onboard, I experienced some strange behavior and lack of control by the crew onboard.
This type of fish were almost always around, and tend to be a nuisance, as it was very curious. It damaged many of my UV photos by being close to the camera and overexposed by the flash, even if I had no intention of shooting it.
Visibility in the waters around Rio ws generally not excellent, and close-ups and non-moving targets were the best photo options. An island up north in Brazil, the Fernando de Noronha, was said to have better wis, but still no corals etc. Some divers told me that it was common to use large dive-boats with 40 divers or so. Brazilian dive-masters tend to herd you more than usual, and they are also often impatient. Not good for UV photo. They sometimes divided divers into groups to guide them around rather than allowing buddy-teams to swim independently. I hate it when divemasters insist on swimming ahead of you scaring away the wildlife and stirring up silt. I even experienced a dive-master on Ihla Grande trying to scare off a sting-ray while I was photographing it. Some times I just gave up and left my UV camera in it's case rather than taking it on the dive.