Divernet



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DREAM MASTER: ARABIAN DAYS AND NIGHTS
After effectively having closed its doors to tourism for many years, Saudi Arabia has almost become one of divings final frontiers. The Dream Master is one of three liveaboards from the same company that so far have the only licences to visit the countrys largely unexplored reefs.
The Farasan Banks are a series of about 1000 small reefs and islands visited by Dream Master. Reef life is described as abundant and colourful, with many shark encounters, and whitetips, grey reefs, silkies and hammerheads reported to be seen regularly.
Further north is Yanbu, a region noted for its wall dives and wrecks. And at the coral gardens of Abu Galawai you are promised truly magnificent world-class diving. We often hear nostalgic tales of the Egyptian Red Sea of old, and this could be your chance to see Red Sea reefs unspoilt by years of traffic and development. You get to do at least three dives a day and two or more night-dives.
The 28m yacht can take up to 20 people in six triple air-conditioned cabins, so its not ideal for couples, though there is one double-bedded VIP cabin. The cabins are not en-suite but there are three bathrooms. Strictly no alcohol on board, of course.

Prices: 850 for eight nights (six on board, two in Jeddah), including full board, at least 20 dives and transfers, www.xplore360.com/ saudiarabia/boats.html


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KARTESH: IN NORTHERN SEAS
The scientific research vessel Kartesh has been modernised and equipped for diving safaris in the Barents, Norwegian and White Seas. Its diving safari programmes give you the chance to feel like a genuine pioneer, as many of the dives are at virgin sites.
The Barents Sea, best dived between June and August, attracts spectacular visitors such as baleen whales with which you can snorkel and dive. There are seals, huge seaweed forests and carpets of sea anemones on steep walls that attract a wide variety of fish.
These in turn serve as prey to the guillemots and puffins that dive for them, sights rarely seen outside wildlife programmes.
Between October and November, orcas visit the Norwegian Sea and you can swim with these giants, as well as diving the WW2 wrecks of Narvik. You can also participate in a marine biological education programme.
Kartesh has six two-berth cabins, and a dive deck with a heat-room for drysuits. PADI and TDI courses are available, with technical divers catered for by two compressors and nitrox, trimix and argon gases available.
The vessel aims to be a bit of an open-water university both topside and down below.
Visits to the bridge and the engine-room are encouraged, for those interested in learning how a liveaboard works.
Divers get up to four dives a day from two RIBs. Drysuits and heated jackets can be hired, along with other coldwater equipment.
Prices: 857-1286 euros, www.dive.ru


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KAIROS: DISTANCE NO OBJECT
They say you should never judge a book by its cover. The exterior of the Kairos is that of a well-seasoned trawler, but few liveaboards operate in the Indian Ocean, and even fewer offer the expeditions on this liveaboards itinerary or can match its facilities.
Certainly few liveaboards have their own hyperbaric chamber, but Kairos does, along with nitrox and trimix filling stations for twins and rebreathers. And it does visit true remote areas - for example, it has recently been granted permission to dive Bassa da India and Europa Island, 250 miles from land in the Mozambique Channel and closed to tourism for the past 30 years.
The Kairos team also dives the Mascarene reefs, some 400 miles from land and only ever dived by scientists in the past.
Closer to shore, it runs whale-shark expeditions at Mafia off the coast of Tanzania, and visits the popular walls of Pemba.
The Kairos, 36m long and 7m wide, is an oceanographic research vessel and carries 12 guests in six air-conditioned cabins, though luxurious it is not. John Bantin has been a passenger: It has difficult access to and from the sea, and the plumbing arrangements were state-of-the-art only back in the early 90s... if you dont like hot and steamy conditions, its not for you, was how he put it.
What Kairos lacks in finesse, it makes up for in its apparatus. It has two Zodiacs, 12 Apollo DPVs, six tech wings, six Dräger SCCR rebreathers and a trimix compressor. And if you cant wait to discuss a dive, there are full-face masks with comms! Up to three guided dives a day are offered, along with a free underwater digital photo and video workshop.

Prices: Prices from 2660 euros, including transfers, full board, diving, nitrox and rebreather trial, www.thekairoscompany.com


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JANE R: NORWAY-BOUND
When the choices are diving, skiing, fishing, military-history tours and eagle-watching, what do you choose Diving, of course, but you can do any of the other things too if you join the Jane R on its activity-diving tours around Norway.
The 22m liveaboard, once a Scottish herring drifter, has seven cabins with 20 full-to-oversize bunks, and is equipped for long-range expeditions out of Bergen, Tromsø and Narvik.
Norway is a rich hunting ground for wreck enthusiasts, and divers from Jane R have discovered more than 100 in the past 13 years. It also takes in dry wreck tours (pictured) on half-submerged vessels such as the Murmansk, Tirpitz and Lofoten, so you can climb the top half, then dive the bottom!
On land, tie-in military history tours can be arranged. The crew also offer navigational and ropework instruction, so this is the place to gain some hands-on boating experience.
Topside photo opportunities include killer whale and eagles and, in the Land of the Midnight Sun, the amazing Northern Lights.
Jane R does flexible seven- or 10-day trips that can extend to southern Norway, Denmark or the Baltic. Guided diving is available when the vessel is chartered through PADI schools, and youll do up to three dives a day from either the main deck or RIB. There are facilities for technical and rebreather divers, and a trimix compressor.
Passengers are accommodated in six large centrally heated cabins containing 16 berths.

Prices: seven days from 700, www.divenorway.com


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CHENG HO: UNDER SAIL IN INDONESIA
The Cheng Ho is named after a Chinese mariner and explorer who played an important part in Asias maritime history. Years before Columbus set sail looking for a water route to Asia, Cheng was exploring the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific, and guests on this seven-sailed liveaboard can retrace those old routes while enjoying todays creature comforts.
Indonesias world-class dive destinations are all made accessible to Cheng Ho guests, including Bali, Ambon, Komodo, Raja Ampat and Triton Bay. Operated by Kararu Dive Voyages, this modified 50m phinisi schooner is an eye-catching wooden vessel with a piratical air. It has three decks with plenty of space to lose oneself, whether it is in the comfort of the large air-conditioned saloon or on the decks under the shade of one of the ships huge sails.
Guests are offered a variety of soothing services from spa treatments to cinema, when not in their air-conditioned single cabins or double staterooms, all with email access. Cheng Ho even has its own wine-cellar.
PADI and SDI/TDI courses are available and a professional photo/videographer is on hand to document your holiday. All dives are guided from two 6m tenders, and you can do as many as five a day. Both nitrox and Advanced Open Water courses can be taught onboard.

Prices: Seven nights from US $2525, including full board, diving and fuel surcharge, www.kararu.com


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BELUGA: ADRIATIC ADVENTURES
When you learn that a diving liveaboard has been decorated according to the rules of Feng Shui to create a relaxing atmosphere, you think, yes, thats a bit different. The Beluga is also apparently the only liveaboard operating in the Croatian Adriatic, and once tried to combine salsa with scuba (it now offers both, though separately), so it would certainly seem to be one of a kind.
The 40m mini-cruiser offers divers the chance to get away from crowded tourist spots by visiting Croatias many bays and deserted islands. The twin and double cabins have air-con, en-suite bathrooms and bay windows to help you enjoy the scenery. There are two dives a day plus a night dive, from the RIB or dive deck.
Departing from Sibenik, centrally located in Croatia, Beluga follows two itineraries, Secrets of the South Adriatic and Adventures of the North Adriatic, taking you to places such as Hvar, Korcula and Dubrovnik, with diving for all levels as well as cave- and wreck-diving. Both PADI and SSI courses are taught onboard.
Guided tours can be arranged when Beluga docks at various ports, including
a visit to Marco Polos birthplace. Mljet is another port of call, the island where Odysseus was supposedly imprisoned.

Prices: From 660-950 euros depending on season, www.diving.globecharter.com


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HANSE EXPLORER: CLASSY IN THE COLD
The 48m ice-class Hanse Explorer seems to have all the boxes ticked when it comes to style as it sails to both North and South polar regions and, in between, tropical dive destinations such as French Polynesia or Cocos. This is a hotel-like boat for divers who enjoy extremes, offering them an experience of a lifetime.
The air-conditioned cabins are brightly decorated, with those little touches that make a difference, such as plasma-screen TVs and satcom access for email and fax.
Five-course dinners are served from a galley that even has smoking ovens to cook the salmon caught along the way.
The decks around the liveaboard are spacious, with comfortable seating, and staff available at all times to serve you. Up front on the bridge is a lounge where you can relax while watching the captain and his crew navigate, using state of the art technology. See what they see, using the guest radar! An onboard sauna can soothe away any remaining stress at the end of the day.
The dive operation looks to have all the equipment a demanding diver could need, with nitrox and rebreather facilities supervised by the Waterproof Expeditions staff. You can do up to four dives a day in the tropics and up to two in cold water, with two fast tenders getting divers to and from dive sites.
For polar trips divers are advised to bring their own gear, though you can hire.

Prices: Antarctic Peninsula, 10 days from 10,200 euros; Greenland, eight days, 4550 euros; French Polynesia, 10 days, 6500 euros, www.waterproof-expeditions.com


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PELAGIAN: WAKATOBI AND BEYOND
The motor yacht Pelagian uses the Wakatobi Dive Resort in Indonesia as its base of operations for venturing out to some of the worlds most biodiverse coral reefs and muck-diving sites.
The entire Wakatobi region is a protected marine park, so divers arent competing against fishermen.
But with a range of more than 8000 nautical miles, Pelagian can take you to sites far beyond dayboat range, including remote walls and pinnacles, overhangs, caverns and pelagic-rich sea-mounts.
Much of the diving is carried out in the worlds largest atoll, Karang Kaledupa.
Both beginner and professional photographers can take advantage of Pelagians well-equipped camera room. The cabins, ranging from standard to master stateroom (queen-sized bed, sofa, entertainment centre) take up to 12 divers.
The lounge has surround-sound TV and email facilities for all guests, while the upper deck has a forward and aft saloon with sun shelters. There is waiter service throughout.
Diving is from tenders, because
of the fantail shape of the yachts stern, and these have radios, depth-sounders and GPS. Nitrox is available, and training given onboard.

Prices: Seven days, US $2440-3090; 10 days, $3440-4390, pelagian.wakatobi.com


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NAUTILUS EXPLORER: OUT FROM CANADA
This 35m liveaboard operates out of Vancouver, Canada and houses 24 divers in soundproofed grand staterooms and executive suites on a hull it says is designed to reduce pitch and roll.
Itineraries include Alaskan adventures, British Columbia itself, and way south - for white shark diving in Guadalupe, manta diving at Mexicos Socorro Islands and experiences with all the big wildlife found in the Sea of Cortez.
Queues for the shark dives are unlikely, because the Nautilus has five cages, one of which can go down to 12m. All dives not done from the dive deck are from two powerful 12m RIBs, which are winched aboard and kept below - what else - the helideck!
Clipperton Island is one of the most isolated places on Earth, out in mid-Pacific, but it is reportedly an amazing tropical coral atoll, with an estimated
5 million land crabs, silky, silvertip, Galapagos, tiger and whitetip reef sharks and dolphins, tuna and wahoo along with the reef fish. Too far to visit Not for Nautilus Explorer.
You do up to four dives a day, and nitrox is available. Between dives guests relax on deck, in the hot tub or the bar, with its plasma TV and 30 kinds of microbrew to sample!

Prices: Sea of Cortez, from US $1595, Clipperton Island $5950, www.nautilusexplorer.com


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ARGO: THE DEEP ONE
The 40m Argo operates out of Costa Rica to destinations such as Cocos and Malpelo, and comes equipped with an underwater submersible called DeepSee that can carry a pilot and two passengers to a depth of 475m.
The custom-built submarine allows guests to combine regular scuba dives with non-deco dives to the sort of depths of which most of us have only dreamt. Mind you, you need deep pockets to go to maximum depth.
DeepSee has its own HD video camera and an array of HID lights. You can also use your own camera from inside the 10cm-thick transparent sphere, which offers an all-round view.
The sub travels at up to 1.7 knots and can remain operational under water for as long as 72 hours, at a pinch.
The Argo is the most luxurious liveaboard of the Undersea Hunter fleet, with its spacious twin and double en-suite cabins. The main saloon has surround-sound TV and the restaurant is said to serve gastronomic delicacies until you can eat no more!
Four guided dives a day is the plan, with each diver allocated a personal locator beacon along with an SMB. The beacons are designed to locate a diver within a five-mile radius. Nitrox is available. As the sites visited are so remote, there is a strict 40m depth limit (unless youre in DeepSee, of course!).

Prices: Cocos, 10 days, US $4395; Cocos & Malpelo, 13 days, $5645; DeepSee to 100m $650; DeepSee to 457m, $2550, www.underseahunter.com