Britains most loyal divers
Divernet
Why we take our diving holidays where we do may depend on anything from whether were into macro photography or our dive buddy demands a hot Jacuzzi at the end of the day. But what makes people return again and again to the same tour operator Is it the brilliant service - or lack of imagination Nick Hanna talks to Britains most faithful customers

Terry and Margaret Saunders were Oonasdivers first customers, in 1986. Both now in their late 60s, they have since travelled 36 times with Oonas, and have done some 3000-plus dives each.
     In August, Terry suffered a heart attack, and is hoping his bypass operation will be completed in time for the couple to join their local BSAC club on an anniversary trip to the Red Sea at Easter, with 44 people taking part.
     We travel with Oonasdivers two or three times a year, and weve been to all the places it goes to, including Thailand, Malta, and obviously the Red Sea, said Terry.
     We were actually its first customers when Amanda Levick started the company. We saw an advert which said Red Sea Speciality Diving and we rang up.
     Weve gone back with other companies since, but we tend to compare them with the service we get from Oonas - and its been a very good travel company for us.

     Weve got everything out of it that weve wanted. Its not the cheapest, but its one of the best, if not the best.
     On our first trip to Sharm you had to go in via Israel, and in those days Naama Bay had two hotels, one at either end, with a load of wooden huts and buildings made of cardboard boxes in-between, a restaurant serving fried fish, and that was about it.
     Nowadays, I feel Naama Bay is completely spoiled. We go south a lot now, and enjoy the kind of diving that we used to enjoy in the north. There are still a lot of beautiful sites in the north, but a lot of the dive centres keep them to themselves; over the years weve been fortunate to dive many of the sites that the tourists dont get to.
     I like Thailand; theres some beautiful diving there. I wasnt keen on Africa, I think we went to Mozambique at the wrong time of the year. There were big plankton blooms and the water wasnt very clear. The diving was all right, but it wasnt as memorable as in the Red Sea.
     In August we were diving in the Farne Islands, in the springtime were down in Looe. Ive dived every shore and offshore island around the UK over the years - were just coming up to our 30th year of diving.
     When we went into it, we fell into it big style. Its cost me a bloody fortune, but Ive got memories and pictures which no-one will take away from me.

Gordon Taylor (71) has been on liveaboards operated by Maldives Scuba Tours 19 times. I first started diving in the 1950s, he said. I didnt have any qualifications - wed go across to the Isle of Arran in a boat and just go diving for a couple of lobsters for ourselves.
     I have a company making net curtains, and in the 1970s myself and a few friends decided we wanted to get out of Britain, so I decided to stop selling curtains in London and export them overseas instead.
     My first overseas diving was in Mauritius, and I was completely blown away. Since then I have sold curtains in Fiji, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, the Maldives, South America, Mexico, the Caribbean, all over the world - anywhere theres good diving, Ive sold curtains.
     For most of my life Ive averaged around 120-150 dives per year, so I must have done around 5000 by now. This is my 19th trip to the Maldives. I came on mv Keema on only its second trip. I think Rob [Bryning] had just four people plus me on it.
     I really enjoyed it. At the time I was travelling to Singapore twice a year, and I just happened to read about the Maldives in one of the diving magazines. I thought, my God this will be good, I can stop off on the way home. So I started coming on a two-week trip, once in November and once in spring as well.
     I did that for seven years in a row, although now Im down to once a year, because Ive started doing less business in Singapore. Ive seen Robs business grow and Ive been so happy with the organisation that Ive never had any desire to go on any other boat.
     I love sleeping on the top deck - its like champagne up there, watching the night sky, which is absolutely gorgeous. I did that from the first trip - I probably spent the first night in the cabin and after that always slept on deck.
     I know that on some dive boats you can get four or five dives a day, but that doesnt appeal to me at all - at my age, three a day is plenty.
     Im a great fish man, I love fish curry and thats what I come here for. Ive got three sons, and all three of them have been on the boat.
     I find that the diving here is consistently better over a long period than it is anywhere else that I go.
     It was very, very sad when the corals disappeared [in 1998], and we used to see a lot more hammerheads than we do now. We used to go to Rasdhu and inevitably you would see hammerheads, four times out of five. Ive not seen hammerheads for the past three or four trips. You also dont see as many grey reef sharks as you used to.

John Morris has been on 24 trips with Divequest since 1986. I started with a trip to Sipadan, which was what got me hooked on Divequest, said John, who is 68. Apart from the fact that it was great diving, it was a very complicated itinerary, with several flights, transit hotels, minibus and speedboat transfers and so forth; and it all worked, both there and on the way back, which was quite impressive.
     Because I mostly travel on my own, I tend to go for liveaboards. Through Divequest Ive been on all the Peter Hughes boats: I started off with Wind Dancer in the Bay Islands, I did the Wave Dancer in Belize before it was lost, Sun Dancer in Palau, Sky Dancer in Galapagos and Star Dancer in PNG.
     Ive also been on the Tahiti Aggressor, Kisuami in Pemba, the Undersea Explorer on the far northern Barrier Reef, and the Caribbean Explorer as it was then.

     Ive also been on quite a few Red Sea liveaboards, though not with Divequest. I like Peter Hughes boats very much - some people dont like being pampered to the extent of being waited on for dinner but it doesnt bother me at all if people wait on me!
     They do tend to push the thing of five dives per day, but I find thats too many, especially since I dont like doing night dives after dinner. So I normally do only four.

     My most memorable trip was probably that first one to Sipadan, which has about as much to offer as anything you can find in a small place.
     Another great trip was a Divequest tour to Mozambique earlier this year, led by Gavin Anderson. We had a couple of whale sharks which stayed with us, swimming around us rather than past. They were taking the bubbles and breathing them out through the gills, and that was pretty amazing.
     We were diving out of Guinjata Bay, where you are more or less guaranteed to see mantas and whale sharks. My next trip is on the Sheerwater, which runs in the Bahamas on a shark safari. Its one of Divequests guided tours, and the aim is to see as many different types of shark as possible.

Steve (48) and Shirley (47) Taylor have booked 17 trips through Regaldive since 1982. They run Coventry Scuba Schools, and between them have done around 4000 dives.
     On our first trip with Regal in 1992 there were just five of us, but since we started the PADI school in 1993 its just grown from there and weve travelled and travelled, said Steve. We do Egypt at least once and often twice a year.
     Weve been to Indonesia with Regala few times - thats really one of my favourite places and in fact weve just booked again to go out in April. We go to Manado and stay at a hotel called the Tasik Ria, which is a little paradise. The diving is some of the best Ive ever done.
     Over the years weve built up a relationship with Regal and just stuck with it. We have booked with a couple of other companies, but to be honest they promise the Earth when you speak to them at Dive Shows, but when it comes to dealing with them its a different kettle of fish. Then I realised that Regal did have that something extra special.
     One of my favourite dives is one in Hurghada that we call the Coral Gardens. Its no more than 10-12m-deep maximum, and its just awesome coral - the colours are stunning and theres acres and acres of coral and myriads of fish. I had my longest ever dive on a single cylinder there; I did 97 minutes.
     I think we must have first done that dive 10 or 12 years ago and I did it again last year and it was equally as good.
     Another of my favourite dives is the Thistlegorm, which we first dived not long after it was re-found; again, that was awesome as we dropped into the water and saw it appear in all its glory, and then explored the holds and saw all the BSA motorbikes, trucks and lorries.
     Weve also been fortunate enough to get out to Truk Lagoon, and Palau and Yap, and diving the wrecks of Truk is very special. Earlier this year we travelled out to Galapagos.
     Again, that was something Ive always wanted to do. To look up and watch hundreds of hammerhead sharks passing overhead in silhouette is something Ill never forget.
     So are these Britains most loyal travellers, or can you trump their deep devotion to their operators Let us know!


Terry
Terry and Margaret Saunders are Oonas divers through and through
The
The Keema in the Maldives - Gordon Taylor was an early customer.
Taylor
Taylor has sold curtains around the world to make his dive travelling possible
John
John Morris finds Divequests high-end trips very much to his liking<
Fish
Fish ball in Palau
Steve
Steve Taylor, who with his wife Shirley has seen such sights in Palau and many other places on Regaldive trips



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