The latest gadgets, gear and places to go...
SLR STEPS UP
Underwater photography's goalposts appear to have moved with the arrival of the SubEye, claimed to be the world's first SLR with built-in dome protection to minimise the risk of flooding. Able to take Nikon and Sigma lenses, the Swiss-made diecast aluminium camera is said to have a super-bright viewfinder and highly developed focus and exposure mechanisms. Body only, it costs a whacking £1999 but photographic pros are already said to be flocking to it like clownfish to anemones.
Videoquip 0116 255 8818
Handy for diving and other travel or home tasks, the Grip-Strap from Grip-Lok is simply a 1m-long, 16mm-wide extra-strength velcro'd strap. It will sit in a bag or BC pocket for a while, then suddenly become the most useful thing on the planet. If you remember where it is. Price is £3.95.
Enjay Marine 01202 481286
SAIL AND DIVE
Kuoni has taken over Sport Abroad's junk - the 30m June Hong Chian Lee, that is. Sailing to Burma, Richelieu and Similan islands, this traditional wooden vessel offers up to 18 guests the fun of a combined diving and sailing cruise, with a large deck area and air-conditioned comfort below in six en-suite cabins, sleeping one to four. Charters cost from £947 for six nights. Kuoni, now offering dive trips under its own name rather than Sport Abroad's, expects continued strong interest in South-east Asia in 2000.
Kuoni 01306 747001
It's the latest in the Force Fin range and said to be ideal for sport divers. The Foil Force Fin was, we are told, created for US service divers engaged in "extended range diving and surface kicking". Compact and very flexible, the fin is designed for a short, energy-efficient kicking style. It channels water through its central split to provide, it is claimed, impressive power and quick acceleration when you wish to move a short way from rest. There is, however, a price to pay - £190, to be exact.
UWI Circle 01420 544422
A new tracking device which Scubapro hopes will revolutionise diver navigation is now available. The Uwatec Neverlost consists of a transponder which can be fitted on a boat, shotline or shore exit point, and another unit carried by the diver on which the digital display shows the direction of and distance to the transponder. Neverlost works on four separate channels and Scubapro says it will soon be available on charter boats worldwide. It costs £595, or £300 for the diver unit only.
Scubapro (UK) 01256 812636
HANG ON TO THIS
For a few hundred pounds you could be doing your own James Bond diving impression with the Atlantic Mk4 Diver Propulsion Vehicle. Rated to a depth of 40m, this little scooter will, says its maker, drag you along for 2 hours at 1.5 knots or 45 minutes at 3 knots. The 68cm-long machine, containing electric motor, battery and voltage controller, weighs 18kg out of the water and is adjusted for the 0.22kg positive buoyancy in it. Price is £350, including 21hr charger. A fast, 3hr charger costs an extra £50.
Atlantic Products 0181 523 8622
The new Wave BC from Aqua-Lung is made from Armorshield, the latest version of Cordura material and claimed to offer exceptional resistance to wear and puncture. It's said to be easy to adjust and comes with dumps on the right shoulder, integrated into the BC's Air Mic Inflator and, optionally, in the lower right position. Fitted with a velcro'd pocket and stainless steel D-ring on each side, the Wave costs £229 for all sizes from XS to XL, colour coded for easier recognition when stacked.
Aqua-Lung 0116 251 4200
AVOID THE CRUNCH
The sound of splintering GRP as your RIB grounds on a slip or beach could be a thing of the past. Keelguard is a tough, protective composite supplied in bendy strips for easy glueing along forefoot and keel. It can also be bent through a right angle in the stern area. Supplied with a powerful 3M adhesive, Keelguard is available in black, white, yellow and red. A 6ft strip costs £125, 8ft £145, 10ft £169 and 12ft £195. Add £4.95 for carriage.
GMT Marine 01702 480516
No, not a reference to drink but to a set of humorous Christmas cards featuring underwater sillies. There are three designs in the box of six gloss-laminated, A6-sized cards, costing £5.99 plus £1 p&p.
Fishwish 07714 325398
PICK A POCKET
Do you sometimes wish your neoprene wetsuit or semi-drysuit offered some storage space? Well, you don't need to change the suit. New from O'Three Custom Wetsuits is a range of glue-on pockets in different sizes and types - neoprene and netting, zipped and velcro'd. Prices range from £15 to £25. Also new is a 5mm neoprene semi-dry hood, Lycra-lined, at £25.
O'Three Custom Wetsuits 01305 776754
PRESENTATION IS ALL
Is yours a meticulously kept PADI diving logbook? Then why not house it the way it deserves - in a smart binder? David Jones Dive Log Binders take PADI log inserts and contain wallets for certification card and a photo. Among a range of vinyl and leather covers, cheapest is the Standard Club Binder at £7.50 while a leather-bound number costs £24.95. Names and club logos can be embossed.
David Jones & Co 01843 604033
Regal Holidays offers a Red Sea liveaboard special over New Year, with a one-week safari and another week mooring at Hurghada's Hilton, the facilities of which can be used. 01353 778096...Photographer Mark Webster's Red Sea photo education trips aboard Coral Queen move south in 2000 to unspoilt sites such as Fury Shoal, Zabargad and St Johns reef, close to Sudan. 01323 648924...Scubaway, a Red Sea operator for the past six years, has expanded into dive holidays for Belize, Curaçao, Bonaire, Tobago, Oman, the Maldives, Indonesia and Micronesia. 01273 746261...The 120ft charter vessel Excel, which accommodates up to 20 divers in 10 luxury cabins, has joined the Red Sea's Aggressor Fleet. www.aggressor.com
It could be a new paradise. After years off-limits, the coast of Saudi Arabia is being opened up for diving holidays - and the operator which has managed to get its hands on visas to work there says it's like the western Red Sea 30 years ago. Listing Saudi in its Worldwide Diving Holidays 2000 brochure, Explorers Tours says the diving's great, but you must be ready to observe serious rules on alcohol and dress. The company's new brochure covers a wide range of other destinations too.
Explorers Tours 01753 681999
Photojournalist Gavin Parsons leads two trips to the Sudan next year. From 30 March to 13 April he'll be exploring the wreck of the Umbria, containing Fiat classic cars; the wreck at Sha'ab Saudi - containing yet more cars and trucks - and Cousteau's experimental Precontinent II sea home. From 13 April to 27 April he moves on to the Suarkin Islands, known for their fish life, including loadsa sharks. Both trips go from Port Sudan and if you want to join him the costs are £1800 and £1900 respectively.
Diving World 0171 407 0017
Appeared in DIVER - December 1999