UK divers don't have to go far to get wet - unless they want to. But what do divers in different parts of the world get up to in their own backyards? How much do we know about the lifestyles of others? Brendan O'Brien embarks on a virtual world tour to find out more about its divers
For several months we have been communicating with divers all over the world, not professional or high-profile divers but the sort you would expect to meet at any site if you dived in their countries. We wanted to know how they learnt, what they get up to while diving and what they hope to achieve, and perhaps pick up some tips for travellers on the local diving into the bargain.
We received many hundreds of responses. We couldn't publish every story but read them all with interest - thanks to every diver who took part.
We had been interested in whether there were major differences in diving habits or attitudes, though soon realised that many accounts from thousands of miles away could easily have come from UK-based divers.
However, accounts of diving in places such as Latvia and Kazakhstan left us with particular food for thought. But let's start in the UK...
Simon Gregory from Peebleshire is 14 and a PADI Rescue Diver. Is he the future of UK diving?
"In just 19 months I've done over 100 dives in warm and coldwater locations. I learnt how to dive in Tunisia on a CMAS course and when I came back converted to PADI. I prefer diving in Scotland, it's just more fun, especially when you show computer print-outs of 3°C dives to wussie divers in the Red Sea!
"Since I started I've completed several other speciality courses, including the DAN and PADI O2.
"Favourite dives in Scotland include the Breda in Oban and the wreck of the Adam Smith in the Firth of Forth - a 50 minute, one mile drift dive, honestly! Another dive site that's good for navigation training is Ratho Quarry near Edinburgh. You can come out with loads of golfballs and, unlike England, you don't get arrested!
"My ambitions are to do the RYA Level 2 RIB-handling course, the Disabled Diver Assist course with Fraser Bathgate and, when I'm 18, the PADI Divemaster qualification.
"Ultimately I want Eric Albinsson's job as PADI trouble-shooter at Customer Services!" Watch out, Eric.
The account of John van der Veer from Tiel was reminiscent of how many UK divers learn in a flooded lake before reaching the ocean, where the "one for the pot" temptations also seem familiar.
"I learnt to dive in the crystal-clear waters of Cairns, Australia, on the back end of a business trip, and caught the bug. Back in Holland I soon found that the diving was a completely different matter. I carried on learning at a dive shop in Zoelen, near where I live. It's a small artificial lake with a maximum depth of 24m and perfect for training.
"Through the shop's dive team I got the opportunity to dive at many different locations in Holland. Favourite places are Oostvoomse Meer and Grevelingen Meer in Zeeland in the south-west, where you can get viz of 15-20m, with plenty of lobsters to be seen, If you visit, all I ask is, don't take them away. There's too much of that already!"
Peter Adriaan Mieras from Cannes la Bocca typified many of the divers we came across as being something of a diving nomad.
"I'm from the Netherlands but live in France with my fiancée Kathy, who also dives. I learnt to dive following an introductory dive in Egypt in 1987 which triggered my curiosity, as I saw a big shark and wasn't so much afraid as interested.
"I like the Mediterranean side of France for its variety of underwater habitats. Sand, seagrass and rocks each have their own related species. There are good wreck dives towards Toulon and you can also encounter pelagic life such as dolphins or sunfish.
"Kathy and I also love to dive off Vancouver Island, because it has one of the world's most diverse marine habitats. Next to the giant octopus, squid, six-gill sharks etc you can swim in kelp forests, meeting big ling, king crabs, orcas and grey whales. Cousteau was right when he claimed that this was the second-best place in the world for diving!
"We love Vancouver so much that we're applying for a resident permit. We may even set up our own B& B/dive centre - what better way to live and dive your dream!"
The Baltic is the world's biggest body of brackish water. Its salinity varies from almost zero to 1.5%, compared with an average of 3.4% in the oceans. It is also rarely deeper than 50m. Reflecting their enthusiasm, we had a great response from divers in the Baltic area, including Igor Kot who lives near Riga, the capital of Latvia. He explains why it's not only the coastline of the Gulf of Riga that prevents Latvian divers from following their diving ambitions:
"Our bay has hundreds of kilometres of excellent sandy beaches and wonderful pine forests, but unfortunately the same sand beach under water. Diving from shore is useless - we have to surface-swim for hundreds of metres to reach deeper water. Diving from boats isn't popular either.
"We have dozens of hotels near the beach but they have no diving centres, no boats, no harbours and no piers, as there are hurricanes each autumn. We also have three big river mouths that go into the bay, making it cloudy and murky.
"So I live 1km from the beach but never dive there. We sometimes use Saaremaa island, which is Estonian territory. Diving conditions there are much better, with dolomite cliffs and high visibility. And on the western shore of Latvia in the Baltic there are dozens of shipwrecks, but I'm not a fan of wrecks in cold, murky water.
"The best conditions are in our lakes, though sometimes thick layers of bottom sediment are no pleasure. The best visibility under water is in our dolomite and sand quarries, with lots of domestic fish and beautiful vegetation.
"In winter there is ice on Riga's bay, lakes and quarries. Under sea ice we have a thick layer of ice crystals and complete darkness on the bottom, but under lake ice you can find magnificent visibility, especially at the beginning of winter when there is not too much snow on the ice.
"For our vacations the Red Sea is the cheapest destination for us.
"We dive for fun and it's important that our beginners get maximum pleasure at the training stage. I learnt to dive in 1967 with Riga's diving club Amfibia. We were part of the Soviet Union then and one advantage was free participation in sport clubs. We never paid for training or certification.
"Our learning programme was much more serious than PADI's. The first stage included 28 training dives, diving medicine and internal constructions of all scuba units. It was practically a professional diving education!
"Diving is not popular in my country. Commercial training and high equipment prices are an obstacle, especially for young people. They have an interest but often not enough money. So I see a dangerous tendency to dive without proper certification or knowledge, using old, primitive or even home-made equipment, and sometimes no BC.
"My diving ambitions are to have a small but stable diving school and an opportunity to work sometimes abroad as a dive instructor. Who knows?"
On the other side of the Baltic, Peik Johannes Joutsen tells us how the lure of flooded quarries or mines is irresistible.
"I learnt to dive in 1990 with a local dive shop. Now I dive mostly with a small private group of serious divers with similar dreams and needs. I am lucky to have a wife who dives almost as seriously as I do.
"We dive a lot in Ojamo, an old mine close to us. We are currently carrying out research into crayfish. Because of the conditions we use cave and technical diving procedures, and in winter it's so cold that ice-diving techniques are a must.
"Once a week we dive in the Baltic Sea, which offers superior wreck diving. We've found a few virgin wrecks in the deeper waters, where one cannot dive with ordinary recreational equipment. Currently we are heading for closed-circuit diving with the Inspiration rebreather.
"After that we will get DPVs, probably Aqua-Zepps."
Sixteen-year-old Reet Volt from Tallin is part of a new wave of divers in this part of Europe. Diving started catching on in Estonia only a decade ago and now it seems that the wrecks and sites on offer are being recognised as worthy of further exploration.
"I have been on diving vacations to Bali, Egypt and the Canary Islands, but you shouldn't have to go hundreds of kilometres for a good diving experience. I learnt how to dive in Estonia and I'd like to do more diving here.
"Places I've been to and places I want to go to are Mohni Island, where there is the wreck of a Latvian ship called Rasma; Sinijart Lake, where there is clear water and some unusual underwater scenery, and finally the wreck of the Jossif Stalin, where you can easily find rifles, ammunition, shell-casings and lots of other objects. There are also lots of portholes to look through.
"Most of the time visibility is not great - we've had instructors say that there is a wreck down there when all we could see was the line! But there's a lot to see in Estonia, even if the fish aren't as colourful as in warm waters."
Ingvar Eliason, who reckons the wreck-diving in his country is formidable, represents another Baltic link.
"I was certified with the Submarine Diving Club in Helsingborg in 1970. I'm now a PADI Advanced Open Water Diver and belong to the local dive club Dykarklubben Kalmarsund, associated with the Swedish Sportsdiving Federation. In the past two years I've been wreck-diving in the Baltic at different sites off the west coast and done some overseas diving.
"The Baltic has brackish water and that preserves wrecks in a fantastic way. Hard weather and wars have both provided their share of wrecks off the east coast and around Oland island.
"In spring and autumn visibility can be quite good, often 30m-plus, and you can get a great overview of treasures such as the wrecks of the ‘Submarine Massacre'.
"These are four large cargo vessels sunk in a single day by the British submarine E19 during WW1. The wrecks are the Nicomedia, Walter Leonhardt, Gutrune and Director Reppenhagen and they're still intact after more than 80 years.
"Kullaberg is one of the most popular dive sites. Swedish, Danish and German divers do an estimated 10,000 dives each year there - it's a beautiful spot in the north-west corner of Skane in southern Sweden.
"It's a very dramatic place with steep cliffs, and it has wall dives, small caves, a couple of wrecks and marine life as rich as that of the fjords and archipelagos of the north part of the Swedish west coast."
Frederica Squadrilli is an Italian now working in the UK. She tells us of the attraction for her of Italy's coastline and why UK diving isn't for her.
"I've been diving for five years; I started my theory and pool training with a store in London and completed the open-water segment in Zanzibar. I'd love to dive in British waters but it's just not my kind of diving - cold and muggy. My preference is for Italy, in places like Ustica or Elba.
"It's not that the diving there is exceptional but there are some things that make it special: lots of octopuses, eels, caves, and at depth, gorgonians. Ustica is a marine park, which helps; it also has an underwater archaeological trail.
"The crowd I dive with also make a difference. They're a fun bunch and we get to do some really different things.
"We recovered a Roman vase at about 35m, and from finding it to handing it over to a local museum, it was an amazing experience.
"Britain doesn't seem to offer these kinds of experiences - or it might be that I'm just a wuss!"
What do divers do for entertainment in one of the few land-locked European countries? Gaby Nenadal tells all.
"Learning to dive for me meant instruction in Austria's cold lakes with a diving club called SV Baeder in Vienna. It's a member of TSVOE, the Austrian Divers' Organisation, which is itself part of CMAS.
"I like to dive in different lakes in Austria, preferably Erlaufsee in Styria, which is 840m above sea level and 37m deep. It has lots of fish - very big pike, trout, carp, perch and big shoals of juveniles.
"There's a steep wall near the shallow area with many logs lying around, and they give it a bit of a fairyland look. The lake is 1.5km long, 500m wide and one of the few in Austria with good visibility - it can reach 10-20m or even more.
"The surrounding landscape is very picturesque - mountains, forests and meadows. Diving in Austria is mostly in natural lakes like this, and not in flooded quarries like many dive sites in Germany.
"I plan to concentrate more on underwater photography in future, participate in competitions and maybe try to sell some of the images. I'd also like to qualify as a CMAS instructor."
Not everybody is smitten at once by their local diving. Sofia Isabel Tavares de Figueiredo Santos Mooney tells us how she almost missed becoming acquainted with it altogether.
"I've been diving since 1997, when I got my PADI Open Water in the Dominican Republic. I was welcomed by hundreds of colourful fishes and just wanted to be down there forever. I then tried diving in Sagres, in the Algarve. When I hit the water and all I could see was grey, I didn't even bother going down. I just climbed back onto the boat and decided never to dive in Portugal again.
"But the instructor pushed me to get back in. He promised that I would see lots of life - and I did.
"In fact, diving in Portugal and northern Spain, which is closer to me than most dive spots in Portugal, can be quite rewarding. You don't have the diving-in-an-aquarium type of experience, but finding something interesting is worth that much more.
"There are many great wrecks, but my favourites are the Vapor das 19 in Sagres, which is a large iron-hulled cargo ship in 30m that's draped with fishing nets and is eerily amazing even in poor viz.
"Then there's the River Gurara in Sesimbra - the scattered wreck of a 175m Nigerian cargo ship carrying wood and cotton that sank in 1989, and now has lots of marine life. There is also the U1277, a WW2 combat sub off Oporto, which is superb but can be quite difficult to dive.
"I've recently been to Madeira island, where I was thrilled with the 30m visibility, the 20°C water and the friendly groupers in the nature reserve.
"Diving in Portugal isn't really club-based, so I either dive with friends, hubby, or go directly to a dive centre."
Jonathan Gaunt is one of the many expatriates we came across, a Cornishman living in Paulshof. As well as describing why he prefers South African diving, Jonathan reminds us that the UK has is something to be proud of.
"My original training was through Falmouth SAA over three years ago, but I was unable to complete certification as I had to relocate to West Africa. I subsequently retrained and completed my training through an SSI course up to Advanced with Stress and Rescue, and SAA Dive Leader.
"Most of my diving is in the Indian Ocean off the Natal and southern Mozambique coasts. I usually dive as a ‘casual diver', which is South African-speak for someone who doesn't dive with a given school but books into a dive charter and makes up space on the boats.
"I prefer this as it avoids the politics and egos that are rife in most scuba school set-ups. Casual diving also makes it easier to mix and dive with a far more diverse group of people in terms of qualification and experience.
"My preferred sites are Aliwal Shoal just south of Durban and the coral reefs off Ponta Malongane and Ponta do Ouro. Aliwal is a submerged fossilised sand dune with prolific fish-life and soft corals, typically in 15-25m. I enjoy the diving for its beauty, challenging sea conditions and the topographical range, from sandflats through caves, gullies, rises and sinks.
"During autumn and winter Aliwal is the Mecca for diving with ragtooth sharks, and there are two shipwrecks at around 30m, the Produce, a Norwegian molasses tanker wrecked in 1974 and now in two fairly intact parts, and the Nebo, a wooden barque wrecked in 1884.
"Ponta Malongane and Ponta do Ouro are a combination of coral reef and bluewater diving. The corals support a wide variety of abundant marine life, with turtles and other exotics commonly sighted. Depths range from 10-40m-plus and on bluewater dives it isn't unusual to sight hammerheads.
"There are some signs of diver damage to the reefs but this is the exception.
"I recently renewed my ties with Falmouth SAA for one week of diving in Falmouth Bay and one in Scapa Flow. I was struck by the very high standard of the members' diving, which I have to confess was far superior to anything I had been exposed to before.
"The club scene in South Africa is poorly developed, with agencies such as PADI and SSI dominating through individual instructors and shops.
"This stifles rather than encourages diver development whereas, if Falmouth SAA is an example, the diverse experience available in clubs appears to have the opposite effect.
"If there were a greater club scene in South Africa, this casual diver would certainly come in from the cold."
Mario Gauci and Sarah Gauci Carlton are married dive buddies from Marsaxlokk. Malta is well-known to British divers so perhaps the Maltese have developed their diving habits on similar lines. Sarah takes up the story:
"I learnt 10 years ago at Calypso Sub Aqua Club, where Mario was an Advanced Diver doing his Club Instructor.
"He taught me to dive and I ended up marrying him. We are both now BSAC Advanced Instructors and hold BSAC, ANDI and TDI technical qualifications.
"There's nothing better than the deep wrecks on the approaches to Grand Harbour in Malta. This summer we were part of an expedition to dive HMS Manchester off Tunisia (see News). The viz is usually good, the water relatively warm and the wrecks mostly intact, due to a Government policy of confiscating artefacts, divers' equipment and threatening to ban wreck-diving altogether if divers start to remove bits.
"Our ambitions are to do some of the English Channel wrecks in the cold water and foul conditions you suffer!"
In Kazakhstan we came across a group of divers who have turned their hobby into total dedication to creating a legacy to future generations. Viacheslav Matveev, who manages the diving club Afalina, explains:
"Our club was founded in 1985 at Pavlodar tractor plant and the number of members has ranged from eight to 15. In Kazakhstan you can dive in the lakes of Bayanaul, Borovoye, Ust-Kamenogorsk, Issykkul and the Caspian Sea. There are also some nice places near the Shulbinsk and Bukhtarma reservoirs.
"Unfortunately, Kazakhstan is not rich in lakes with clear water, and their condition has worsened in recent years.
"In 1989 our club began to clean the bottoms of two lakes in Bayanaul National Park. For three years our divers lifted all the garbage onto boats, piled it on the shore and finally moved 40 truck-loads to a dump.
"Even the boat we used was found in the lake! There was a huge amount of steel and aluminium wire, glass bottles, cans, more than 10 sunken boats and water bikes, automobile and tractor wheels. We think an exercise on such a scale carried out by divers had never been done before in the Community of Independent States.
"We have struggled, however. Our diving equipment is almost worn out, we have no wetsuits left and the old types of Soviet scuba gear are dangerous to dive with, as the regulator valves are in bad condition. But despite this, and the fact that garbage still returns, we think we're doing a good job to provide a clean place where people can enjoy diving. Maybe diving will be more popular one day."
Diving in this part of the world is just taking off. Young Choen Kang, a doctor in the region, tells us what can be expected:
"Water temperature in Korea ranges from 5-28°C, though cold water prevails. Drysuit diving probably lasts from November to June and the rest of the year 5mm neoprene wetsuits are OK.
"Hunting is probably still the main purpose of diving here. There are so many opportunities to catch some really good food! But underwater photography and videography is getting more and more popular and ecology diving is taking its place in the Korean Diving Society.
"Beach-diving is done only at limited places. Mostly it is boat-diving, not too far out from the coast. Jeju Island is great because warm and cold waters meet and mix there and we can see all kinds of marine life.
"A huge reef called Wangdol (King's Stone) off the east coast is probably the only one not greatly frequented by divers. It's like a miniature Great Barrier Reef - you can dive there 200 times and see only a small fraction of it.
"Korea is a peninsula well surrounded by ocean. Scuba-diving education should be more active than it is now and I want to be one of the pioneers."
On the northern side of the Sea of Japan is Vladivostok, from where Andrei Y Chouliar breaks the language barrier to tells us of the diving:
"My older brother taught me to dive, and now my ambition is to travel the world. Diving here is with a drysuit. I have a Mobby's Trilaminate, which is good even when it's freezing.
"I stay at a dive motel in Vityaz Bay, 250km from Vladivostok City and counted as the best dive site in the Russian Pacific - "solid world class". It can accommodate 25 divers, and in the non-diving season there is horse-riding.
"The coastline around Vladivostok is beautiful and untouched - there are so many areas for diving that have still to be discovered."
David Whung-wey Yang from Denpasar, Bali, believes that some of the best diving in the world is on his doorstep. We found it interesting how the locals get to the dive site - never complain again about lack of space on a RIB!
"I'm Taiwanese but grew up in Indonesia and have been diving for 10 years. Areas I love to dive here are Tulamben, Gili Selang, Gilimanuk Bay and Secret Bay. We have walls, slopes, muck-diving (as in Kunkungan Bay) and the best beach-dive wreck in the world, the Liberty.
"I can literally walk down the beach from my friend's place and find myself a harlequin ghost pipefish. The other night I was having an equalisation problem on the wreck and stayed at around 12m. I thought someone was staring at me when I peeked inside the wreckage, and it was a 1m bumphead staring right back!
"We use a jukung (local outrigger canoe) to get to our dives. Whenever visitors from other countries see them they get very worried, but they're a great way of reaching the dive site; once you're in and have balanced yourself they're perfect. It always looks impressive when we have a small flotilla of them!"
Nicky Langley explains what life is like when all you have to think about is diving, toilet accessories and sinking boats.
"I learnt to dive with a PADI centre in Turkey in 1995 and crossed over to BSAC when I moved to Doha in 1999.
"There is nothing to do in Qatar when you're not working, so diving fills the gap admirably. I'm in a diving club of more than 100 members - half turn up at the weekly meeting and a quarter at the beach at the weekend! Hey, there really is nothing else to do!
"We have two boats, a RIB and a 32ft Gulf craft called Wahran which has two 200hp motors and flies! At 1mpg we couldn't afford to run it in the UK.
"We'll try anything to make the diving more interesting. The club has built two artificial reefs off the beach and we augment them at every opportunity.
"This year we have added more than 200 items of bathroom porcelain (hence the Bidet-mid and Bath-Henge were born) and two boats. It's a big problem sinking boats - they're made of floaty stuff and sink only with difficulty!"
Dr Peter Michael Forster from England and his partner Marijke might typify our dreams of expatriate life. They work at the University of the South Pacific at Suva and spend much of their spare time diving, as Peter explains.
"I started diving in 1975 with the North-east London Polytechnic club. We are now MSDT Instructors with PADI. Most weekends we dive with friends in Beqa Lagoon, from one of the dive operations based in Pacific Harbour.
"Our favourite site there is Shark Fin Passage, because up to seven species of shark can be seen there, plus large numbers of giant trevally, humphead wrasse, giant grouper, eagle rays, green turtles and so on. Sometimes we go to sites a little closer to home, offshore from Lami near Suva.
"Some day I would like to find a diver-training agency that is principled, competent and motivated by more than the desire for money and/or power. After 27 years, I am beginning to think that my aim may be unrealistic!"
We had dozens of responses from the USA, so there follows a cross-section from across the country. Debbie McBride and her husband from Juneau in Alaska are a hardy pair who seem to typify the approach to diving in the Pacific North-west. They don't hang up their gear in winter!
"Larry and I were both certified in Juneau and love to dive with each other from the skiff in which we've just invested. As well as diving offshore every weekend, we dive the wreck of the Princess Kathleen. It's covered with basketstars, decorated warbonnets and huge fish. Diving is so remote here that you can even get to name a site after yourself. Our favourite is Larry's Secret Wall, and in the winter we get to play with Stellar's sea-lions there.
"As well as going for the scenic dives we also enjoy treasure-hunting in the cruise-ship docks in downtown Juneau. You can find lots of china that's fallen off the ships, artefacts dropped off the docks and huge king crabs."
Approaching the East Coast, the interests of divers such as Charlene in Massachusetts seem very similar to those of UK divers.
"I've been diving for 12 years, and belong to a local club, the MetroWest Dive Club in Natick. We dive all over the East coast: Boston, Salem, Gloucester, Rhode Island and Maine, as well as some trips to California. We also arrange trips to other parts of the world; so far I've been to Cozumel, Bimini, British Columbia, Italy, Croatia, Palau, Truk Lagoon, Yap, Hawaii, Belize, Bahamas, Florida, Turks & Caicos, the Red Sea and Jamaica.
"I love the local diving, however - wonderful marine life; anemones, nudibranchs, lobsters, fish, crabs, shipwrecks and great visibility. My ambition is to become cave-certified and to continue my diving locally as well as worldwide.
"I like wreck-diving because of what you can find on them. Recently I won an award from my club for a most unusual find - on the USS San Diego off Long Island, New York, I found a WW1 rifle, which was a great discovery."
John Edgar Brook is from Tulsa, Oklahoma, bang in mid-USA, but still manages to get some diving in.
"I've been certified for 20 years, my wife Lena for six. I'm what we used to call a ‘gorilla diver' - I like to dive anywhere the depth is greater than 5m and the visibility better than my outstretched arm. Locally we dive sites like Tenkiller Lake and Bull Shoals Lake from the Missouri side. My usual dive buddy is Lena but I have partnered many former members of our club, Divers Anonymous Inc.
"Lake Tenkiller has decent visibility most of the year. It was formed in the granite valleys of the Cookson Hills and provides large rock formations, swim-throughs and shallow caves to prowl around in. The fish life is usually plentiful and ranges from little pumpkinseeds to big carp and catfish. There are several flat areas around 10m, good for students, and drop-offs to 40m.
"For diving weekends away, we go to Bull Shoals, where we rent a pair of 65ft houseboats for our club. Although this is also an inland location, there are some interesting sites in the lake: the Farm, where there are tractors and cement statues of pigs; the School Bus, what the name implies; and the Abyss, a sheer wall to 45m.
"I applaud the diving community for its concern over the fate of the world's oceans and reefs, but I think some of that concern should also be given to the lakes and rivers that feed them."
Scott Huber from Milwaukee has some of the largest inland lakes and incredible wrecks in the world on his doorstep, though he still dreams of diving in the UK!
"I have dived regularly for three years now, and in the last year I've been reaching out for year-round opportunities, like ice-diving. I did my original certification course through PADI while at university, and my Advanced, Ice, Nitrox and Wreck course have all been through my local dive shop in Menominee Falls, Wisconsin.
"My buddies and I direct most of our energies toward the wrecks in Lake Michigan. I met most of the others during our ice-diving course, and we've been diving together for about six months.
"Some of the best-preserved wrecks in the world lie in the lake. The fresh waters are so cold that they contain very little oxygen, which means little decomposition of the wood and rope normally consumed in warmer climates. The lack of salt also slows the rusting of metal hulls, so wrecks can be almost intact after 150 years of submersion.
"My plans involve further education in the direction of extended-deco diving, and trimix. I hope eventually to dive under the ice in Antarctica, dive the USS Saratoga, and of course the Mecca of all wreck-diving, Scapa Flow!"
Craig & Fiona Ashton-Potter come from Middlesex and now live in Kuala Lumpur, working on a drinking water leakage/rehabilitation project. Craig puts us in the picture:
"I first dived 18 years ago with the BSAC but after six years had a break. We've both taken up diving again and are now PADI Advanced through a local store.
"For a weekend getaway we often go to Pulau Tioman. We have a choice of a 40-minute flight and 10-minute speedboat ride or a five-hour drive and two-hour ferry crossing to get to this island and all its dive shops.
"We normally fly on the last plane on a Friday and can get a night dive in that night and three dives minimum the following day. We forego diving on Sunday due to the flying, going for a jungle hike and a few photos instead.
"Tioman diving is easy. It has some of the best corals Malaysia has to offer. It's a marine wildlife sanctuary and all forms of fishing are banned for 3km around the main island. Even the many divers here don't seem to have had a huge impact on the marine life. The diving ranges from 10m bay dives in surreal turquoise water to 50m-plus big-boulder diving further out at the islands of Pulau Chebes and Pulau Labas.
"Further afield but definitely worth diving is Pulau Sipadan, which takes at least a day's travelling either way through a mixture of minibus, plane and speedboat. Sipadan diving is truly awesome. The corals are a bit disappointing but the 600m wall 15m from the dive centre and the ever-present turtles make up for this by a long way.
"There are hundreds of dive stores in the region, all of varying quality. We tend to dive on our own with these stores after sounding them out from people who'venef been there."
We received many responses from UK divers, who almost all seemed to fall neatly into two camps - the "club divers" whose diving revolved around UK branch activities with perhaps an annual club holiday to places such as the Red Sea, and the "warmwater divers" who treat UK diving as a means to an end and want to apply their skills abroad.
What was noticeable from most of these responses was that while the club divers regaled us with their "technical" achievements and ambitions that usually resembled a shopping list of wrecks they wanted to dive, what was lacking was any great sense of enthusiasm.
Their warmwater counterparts seemed uninterested in the club scene but diving for them appeared to be something truly fascinating. Yet while diving was often a deciding factor in where to go on holiday, it wasn't regarded as a way of life.
Is a trend emerging? Will club divers be the trainspotters of the future? In 10 years' time, will people at parties avoid them and their tales of how they dived their shopping-list? Will the warmwater divers keep quiet, aware that diving is like any other holiday activity - talk about it too much and people soon nod off?
From the rest of the world, mention should be made of Jinky Pureza from the Philippines, who seemed so keen to get involved but was finally defeated by language problems; Marius Mol from Romania, who appeared to regard diving as a fascinating way of getting close to nature, and massacring flatfish in the process; Serbian Milos Gajic, who had become a big fan of the Baltic; and Katarina from Yugoslavia, who missed telling us about the underwater film festival there because she insisted on going out diving!