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Exploration and the Advent of Technical Scuba Diving
To boldly go where no one has gone before to quote Star Trek is a good part of the allure of what is now known as technical diving. When extending depths and increasing decompression requirements proper training and appropriate equipment are important safety considerations. With these we can explore the underwater world further. In Aqaba technical diving was introduced in 2003 after appropriate training to instructor levels was acquired in other countries. It has since grown and several dive centres in Aqaba now offer Technical Scuba Diving, including tri mix which was introduced in 2007 and later side mount options introduced in 2014.
Due to the nature of the topography in the waters of Aqaba this opened up many areas of exploration where no one had actually dived before, thus offering great experiences to be the first to experience and see things that no one had ever seen in the past! Something that only a very few get the chance to do, much like the early start of scuba diving in the Cousteau and Hans Hass days.
As mentioned in the previous article this led to the discovery of the Taiyong wreck in 2004 and also the ability to dive and explore the Al Shorouk wreck that sank a little deeper than was planned!
When I had students ask me about technical diver training, I asked them the question Do you like to spend a lot of time in shallow water?Most divers would retort No, I want to go deep I would then explain the decompression obligations that would be required to complete any technical dive in various stops the longest being in the three to six metre area. For example on the 167m dive I completed here with Mark Ellyatt in 2011 with the help co-operation of several dive centres to achieve the deepest dive in Jordan, it took us 15 mins to get down to the depth and over hours to ascend slowly and get back to the surface! After saying that, most nice technical dives in Jordan are between 40 and 60 metres depth with around 20 minutes of bottom time exploring and another hour to ascend safely to the surface. The local advantage is that here in Aqaba we have lots of fantastic reef at all depths making the ascent and decompression part of the dive enjoyable and a long time in the shallows can be spent on Underwater Diving photography. (You can get a diver to bring you a camera for this purpose if it is not suitable for the maximum depth of the dive.)
So we have lots of deep exploration and thing to see here in Aqaba at the deeper depths, with some steep walls and valleys that lead to a fantastic marine landscape which you can see here in Aqaba because of the fantastic light penetration at depth. There are many marine creatures that you are more likely to encounter at depth such as sharks, sunfish, large groupers and hump head wrasse and things that are not so common in the recreational diving depths. Also you may find some of these creatures and many sea turtles coming down to hide from a large group of recreational divers in the shallows after being disturbed by them. There are also many different varieties of corals that are only found at depth including many, many large colourful deep water fan corals and some species of smaller fish and invertebrates that are not at all found in shallower water.
Safety for the diver is the most important issue so apart from proper technical dive training after gaining appropriate experience in a large amount of recreational diving and using proper equipment including back up. Detailed dive planning is very important including letting other divers know how long you will be, including divers to check on you on the decompression apart of the dive. Food and drinks can be also consumed then! I recommend bananas and small cartons of fruit juice, dispose of skins and cartons appropriately! One thing to watch out for here in Aqaba are down currents that can push you deeper than planned and also making it difficult to get back. Taking time and awareness is important. Just stop and hover every so often and see which way you are drifting.
In conclusion Aqaba is a great place to learn technical diving and if you are already technically qualified a great place to visit and extend your deep experiences.