IF THIS IS THE SHAPE of local diving guidebooks to come, I like the way we’re heading. It’s the first offering from Canadian company Reef Smart Guides – at least, it says inside that it’s the first, although Bahamas, Bonaire, Cayman Islands, Cozumel, Florida and Florida Keys covers are also pictured, and there is a reference to developing more books in the Atlantic and Pacific regions.
The company’s online store shows only print and e-versions of the Barbados guide and a load of one-site underwater cards, however, so I guess the others are still in development.
Anyway, Barbados has been put together by three divers, Brit Ian Popple, Canadian ecologist Peter McDougall and Romanian artist Otto Wagner, and it’s the latter’s contribution that seems to set this guide apart.
He has apparently won prizes for his work mapping underwater habitats and pioneering new 3D visual mapping techniques, and certainly I’ve rarely seen better dive-site graphics in a print book.
Wrecks are shown looking like computer-enhanced photos taken from above the surface of perfectly clear water, complete with dimensions and depths, and shown not just from one angle but several.
There are four versions of Barbados’s primary wreck, the big Greek freighter Stavronikita, overeight pages, and everything you could need and more to visualise the dive is included – in fact there can’t be much left to surprise you when you actually get wet.
The book is attractively packaged and colourful and the text informative. I never like the bits of advertorial that appear to have been provided direct from the operator – “Looking for a little luxury on the water? Try Tiami Catamaran Cruises…” – but there is mercifully little of that here.
Some 30 pages at the back are devoted to commonly seen fish species for ID purposes, but it’s the sites that dominate and set a high standard for other such books to follow.
Review by Steve Weinman

Reef Smart Guides
ISBN: 9781988818153
Softback, 184pp, 14x22cm,
US $27.95