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Solo Diving - an A to Z of operators who allow and those who don't


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#1 Timmoranuk

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 06:04 AM

Please write up your experiences of where you have been allowed to dive solo and what were the requirements, if any, that the operators cited. Conversely, please also advise of dive operations where, in your experiences, solo diving is not allowed and the rationales for their decision.
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#2 NWDiver

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 06:27 AM

Mike Ball lets you solo dive once you do a check out with a dive guide
Wakatobi if you have a cert

Edited by NWDiver, 19 December 2012 - 06:27 AM.


#3 saudio

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 07:30 AM

I'm a regular solo diver and the only places I met serious interference with solo diving was on certain live aboards. For example, I had read that the T&C Explorer would not allow solo diving without a Solo certification, so I arranged to get my Solo cert while on board. Since I started carrying that card, I have not been anywhere where I was not allowed to dive solo.

One strategy that always worked for me, in situations where solo diving was frowned upon, was simply requesting to buddy with the DM. Before the diving began, I would talk with the DM and explain that I would be buddying with him or her, but I wouldn't be hanging close if that was OK. It was always OK. So, I just did my own thing but stayed within sight of the group. And that is the main concern for most photogs, to be able to concentrate on a subject without boring a buddy to death.

In the Caribbean, Bonaire, Curacao, Cozumel (with the boutique ops) , and Roatan (especially CocoView) are notably solo diver friendly. Other than Wakatobi, I've found Asia to be pretty mellow about solo diving, in fact, when I was recently in PNG not only could I solo dive but I was never asked for my cert cards at all.

I was just planning a trip to Anilao in the Philippines and had to assure the resort that I would have a Solo cert before being allowed to do solo shore diving.

I have heard that Australia is pretty tough on solo divers, and during a trip to the Coral Sea a few years ago on the Nimrod Explorer, we were admonished about solo diving. However, it was a full boat charter so we were able to persuade them to relent to avoid a mutiny :-)

#4 Glasseye Snapper

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 08:23 PM

Scuba Club Cozumel and Cocoview Roatan allowed me to make solo shore dives on their house reef with just PADI OW certification. Same for the dive shop in the Den Laman condominiums on Bonaire (forgot their name). I did not officially ask any of them if I could dive solo on guided boat dives but they did not mind me straying away from the pack.

Red Sea Diving Safari in 2011 was extremely picky and only cared about showing a plastic card. Having hundreds of logged dives and demonstrated your skills on the checkout and guided dives did not have any impact. No solo diving at all and without PADI AOW or equivalent no Elphinstone trips or night diving without guide. A careful one-finger brace on the reef to stabilize a macro shot was also not tolerated whereas divers kicking up clouds of dust and knocking off the occasional branch of coral were left alone. Two years earlier they were much more reasonable and after a few days judged you by your demonstrated skills.

Planet Dive at Anilao (Philippines) officially has a no solo-diving policy but once they see how you dive I think you can dive solo on their house reef and they don't herd you during guided dives. However, I did not ask them about solo diving because I had a perfect buddy. So better confirm before you go if you want to dive solo.

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#5 Damo

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Posted 20 December 2012 - 12:56 AM

Great thread guys...:-)..
This is a subject very dear to my heart.
I dive solo at home....not often....but I do love it (no I dont have a solo diving qualification but I do have 900+ dives on my skull)..and always as safely as possible...i.e. safe site, easy ingress and egress.....no depths.....no currents...shallow water.. etc etc..

In all my years diving with a camera, I have always been the lone camera diver in the boat....have always been left behind by the pack....and in the early days...got the ear chewed off me by guides!

Totally concurr with Saudio.. I have to say that now I find that a little honest communication with the dive guides beforehand..(or the dive operator)....just assure them that you will be keeping an eye on the group as the dive progresses....does indeed help....and I do find they will meet me half way. After all........you are a paying customer....so if you dont open your mouth.........you wont get anywhere.
Also I find when I demonstrate to the guide I am a competant ..good buoyancy control...manage my air...stay with the group as best as possible......I do find I get more freedom to do my thing, because you build up faith with the guide that you will not do something stupid.

The only time I felt I was truely free to do my own thing was on a dedicated underwater photography workshop with Scuba Serya in Bali....and I loved that to bits.
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#6 Scubysnaps

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Posted 20 December 2012 - 03:05 AM

Dolphin Dream let you solo dive on Tiger Beach.
Blue O2 let you on their Red Sea liveaboards
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#7 davephdv

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Posted 23 December 2012 - 05:45 PM

I always solo dive. I never address it with the dive masters/boat. They always leave me alone when they see that I'm not a lia ilability.

I don't tell and they don't ask.
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#8 Stoo

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 09:37 AM

I know that the Explorer fleet allows it, with Solo Certification, which I acquired. (They required "proper gear" including a pony, which they rented to me...) I believe that they have an exception for the Galapagos which is understandable I suppose. It's always better to have a pair of divers swept away than a single diver. Posted Image

The Aggressor fleet doesn't as far as I know. I looked into the Belize Aggressor for this winter and they were adamant about not allowing it. My guess is that in practice, once the DMs have had a chance to check you out, they may be fine with it. That's my experience with most places, but then I have logs showing about 2500 solo dives.

Edited by Stoo, 24 December 2012 - 09:38 AM.


#9 Timmoranuk

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 12:28 AM

In the UK a couple of inland sites allow certified solo diving; Capernwray and Wraysbury. I've never had any problem with South Coast or Wales dive boats and have not been required to evidence my solo certification. Porthkerris and Discovery Divers are good with solo diving too.
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#10 bobanderson

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 03:32 PM

You can solo dive on my boat..! I do!

#11 jcclink

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 06:50 PM

How far can you lag behind your dive group before you're considered a solo diver? If you're a photographer you will be a solo diver at some point.
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#12 scuba_d

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Posted 26 December 2012 - 12:07 AM

How far can you lag behind your dive group before you're considered a solo diver? If you're a photographer you will be a solo diver at some point.


When you plan a dive yourself and jump in the water alone; that is a solo diver. Diving in a group is not a solo diving, unless you have a very stretchy imagination.Posted Image

Edited by scuba_d, 26 December 2012 - 01:47 AM.


#13 Glasseye Snapper

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Posted 26 December 2012 - 09:04 AM

How far can you lag behind your dive group before you're considered a solo diver? If you're a photographer you will be a solo diver at some point.


There is a difference between a solo diver, an independent diver, and a distracted-buddy diver. The first two, when done correctly, are responsible towards yourself and others but is often still frowned upon. The last is typically tolerated although it is dangerous because its risk calculations are based on redundancy and assistance provided by a buddy, who in this case won't be there when needed.

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#14 adamhanlon

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Posted 26 December 2012 - 02:38 PM

I guess I should raise the topic of insurance. Most insurers will only pay out if you are diving within your qualification level. This affects both the individual and the diver operation. If your insurers refuse to pay out, this makes it more likely that you dependents may resort to litigation in order to compensate them financially for your loss.

Hence many are (wisely) wary of allowing divers to dive alone as they are to some extent liable for the diver's behavior whilst in their care. Qualifications that allow for solo diving are, as far as I am aware, not yet proven via the court system.

Even in areas like Egypt where civil liability is not an issue, most operations rely on permits and permissions to operate, which can be denied if the operator is found to in breach of guidelines.

When solo diving qualifications are governmentally recognized, there is an inevitable inertia within individual centers due to them being risk averse, and the buddy system is still seen as being a safer option.

The best option is still to build up a relationship with the diving operators that you use. I'm sure many of us have dived with operators whose official policy does not allow it, but are prepared to tolerate it with divers whose skills and judgement they trust.

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#15 r4e

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Posted 26 December 2012 - 11:33 PM

Concerning many of the questions, including insurance, the following video contains useful information and views:

[vimeohd]49259855[/vimeohd]

vimeo.com/r4e

http://www.cerella.fi for the Underwater Photographer and Videographer

 


#16 Scubysnaps

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 11:27 AM

i thought the discussion was on the other thread, and this one being a list? can this be fixed?
Cheers
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#17 GekoDiveBali

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 08:00 PM

How far can you lag behind your dive group before you're considered a solo diver? If you're a photographer you will be a solo diver at some point.

Very good point. IMHO, if you're going to be too far away from a buddy/teammate to share air in case of emergency, then you are in effect diving on your own. With Tec courses, I teach students that their teammate is dead within 45s without air. Following this, if you are more than 45s from a fully redundant alternate air source, you are in effect diving alone. This is is different to solo diving, when a diver brings a completely redundant air source, such as a pony or sidemounted tanks, with him and plans his actual dive and gas consumption.

Solo diving can be done safely depending on the site. I teach Self-reliant diver courses but I advise divers to consider local conditions and particulars of a given site. I do not allow divers to solo dive on most sites, unless they have hundreds of logged dives on those given sites, around Bali because of tricky currents. Tulamben, Amed and even Manta Point can be notable exceptions.
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#18 John Bantin

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 06:33 AM

The Insurance red-herring is raised again. If you die, does it mean you have to die in a buddy-pair to get a payout for your dependants?

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#19 DamonA

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 03:48 AM

Insurance is easy for me, I live in a country with "universal" health care and due to my habit can't afford insurances anyhow, my wife would inherit all my stuff and a house free of a mortgage so thats good enough for me.







I been diving the last 4years from my own unattended boat solo(I tend to stick to the same large area that I know off by heart and has moorings set there by the dept.of P.I.), I have rules and instinct is the guiding VIBE over those logical set rules- if it don't feel right I don't do it, the shot never comes first over my safety and limitations which I stay well inside off(not that it is such a drag). I find solo-ing has made me more careful as a diver not less as the cert. agencies like to make you out as reckless or crazy.

How many then solo dive WITHOUT a independent air source; and if you do what rules do you set yourself?????

- ie: don't go into overhead enviros, don't provoke sharks or marine life, limit depth to 12m if not carrying a pony bottle, tow a bouyed flag while shore diving or set an anchored bouy on your entry/exit point.carry mirror/smb/knife/line cutter/snorkle and whistle

and the golden rule- if in trouble save yourself, not your camera

Maybe we could make a list of wise, risk mitigation measures to help the growing ranks of photogs that solo dive..........

#20 SimonSpear

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 11:36 AM

The only place I've ever been where solo diving was officially sanctioned was Bonaire. Other than that most ops are very reasonable to photographers once they have judged that you are not a liability.

Still accidents DO happen. One UK inland site will no longer even let you snorkel solo (without a debate at least) after a well known UK dive industry 'icon' nearly drowned while snorkelling testing out a new housing!

Cheers, Simon

 

edit - Nope I will not divulge the name!! :)


Edited by SimonSpear, 01 March 2013 - 02:25 PM.