That gigantic popping sound you heard was from the huge crowbar they used to get me out of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Scuba divers tend to love the equipment - toys, really - that the sport requires. At the annual convention of the Diving Equipment & Marketing Assn. (DEMA) (, manufacturers made sure we found out how badly we needed to replace our outdated gear with this new whiz-bang stuff. (Click Photos.)

Actually, sport diving has matured quickly in the few decades it has existed, and most new gear makes only small incremental improvements over last year's models. For example, Aeris has a new second-stage regulator whose mouthpiece sits like a head atop the end of its air hose (instead of having the hose come in from the side). With this arrangement there's no guessing whether it's upside-down when your dive buddy grabs for it after running himself out of air. (I, uh, would never do such a careless thing myself.) Aeris' newest air-integrated dive computer has a few new settings, but its best feature is its reduced size. Then there were new battery-powered "Glo-toob" night-dive identification lights to replace the popular but single-use chemical light sticks.

The growing popularity of the sport has led many divers to be unsatisfied just diving; they want something to do down there besides looking around. This has helped the underwater photography and videography industries to become more mainstream, and there are many choices of underwater cameras and housings available, ranging in price from "Hey, that's cheaper than I thought" to "What?!! That's highway robbery!"

Makers such as Gates, Light & Motion, Oceanhaus, Amphibico, Ikelite, and 10 Bar had their latest offerings available for me to drool over, along with slick lighting packages and interchangeable lenses and filters. Did I mention the word "toys"? Here again the new features were incremental improvements, but the housing designs themselves are always new, because almost every housing is designed to fit a single camera model - and these days, a camera seems to stay in production for about, oh, ten minutes before it gets replaced by a new model. I also learned that these makers are still pretty polarized as to the superiority of mechanical versus electronic camera controls on the housings, much like the Mac versus PC computer rivalry. One principle applies to all four, however: don't let water get into them, or ain't none of 'em gonna work.

The most original and "new" product I saw is another result of divers' looking for new activities to enhance the experience. Diver Entertainment Systems has come up with an underwater MP3 player with earphones that clip onto a diver's mask strap and are specially designed to sound really good when your outer ears are full of water. It's waterproof to 90 feet, so don't let the rapture of underwater music distract you from your fancy new depth gauge.

The runner-up in originality was a mask with integrated dive-computer information on small screens at the bottom of the lens, like a heads-up display in a fighter plane. How cool is that? Unfortunately, it's available only to the U.S. Navy. Why did they bring it here - just to torment us toy lovers? There wasn't even a recruiting booth nearby, or they might have had a few people sign up.

Tourist bureaus and dive resorts were well represented at the convention, and I was glad to learn that there were dive trips specially geared toward underwater photography and video. Howard Hall Productions has expeditions to California's Channel Islands and Costa Rica's Cocos Island, where amateurs can pick up technique tips from experts who are there on professional shooting assignments. H2O Peak Performance ( conducts actual training courses in the beautiful cenotes (sunlit caverns) south of Cancún, Mexico while also providing an enjoyable overall dive trip in the area to non-shutterbugs

With all this encouragement, I hope people were persuaded to get out there and do some traveling and diving. Whether you think of the equipment as serious gear or really fun toys, one thing remains the same: the stuff won't do much good sitting in your closet.

Divelink International Technologies demonstrated the latest wireless underwater communications technology.

Their feature innovation is an integrated system for surface radio communications and portable phones - a first in the industry. Using a specialized adaptor, a cellular phone can be plugged into Divelink's modified headset surface unit, allowing divers to communicate with other divers around the world while the dive is in progress. Using this technology the dive can be broadcast directly from the ocean floor without pre-recording or time delay.

System innovations include:
  • new instructor transmitter units
  • new Explorer 2002 receiver units for students
  • more compact head-mounted or shoulder-mounted designs
  • increased power and range
  • 1, 2, 3, 4 and 8 channel units
  • whisper power mode for confidentiality or to prevent cross talking between groups of divers

Divelink International Technologies Inc. specializes in hands-free wireless underwater communications, supplying the Divelink system to almost 60 countries worldwide. As the next generation of wireless underwater communications, Divelink is a powerful dive tool, appropriate for search and rescue and military applications as well as sports diving and instructional use. For information and product specifications visit

The latest in dive watch technology, the B.U.G. (Bathymetric Underwater Guage) computer watch was also on display at the Divelink International Technologies booth.

The B.U.G. watch was in development for three years with Seiko Epson, Japan. At the point of immersion water sensors activate the dive computer, updating critical dive information such as depth and the amount of nitrogen in the body every second. By comparison, the best competing watch is updated only every 20 seconds.

B.U.G watch features include:

  • a full function nitrox/air dive computer
  • dive time: 0 - 599 minutes
  • dive log: 10 dives
  • temperature measurement interval of 1 minute
  • audible alarms for ascent, deco stops, PO2 levels
  • large displays designed to be read underwater
  • titanium case

Divelink International Technologies Inc. specializes in hands-free wireless underwater communications, supplying the Divelink system to almost 60 countries worldwide. As the next generation of wireless underwater communications, Divelink is a powerful dive tool, appropriate for search and rescue and military applications as well as sports diving and instructional use.

For information and product specifications visit or call 877/677-8877.

Malaysia's Secret Gardens revealed by international award-winning underwater photographer Michael AW.

The sea of Sarawak is located right in the heartland of the epicenter of marine bio-diversity - the richest in the world. The region is renowned to harbour over 3000 species of fishes and invertebrate life in unimaginable numbers. The Philippines in the north, Bali, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and neighbour state Sabah, all internationally acclaimed top destinations for snorkelers, underwater photographers and scuba divers from the world over. Books and magazine editorials about these places are published over and over again. Yet beneath Sarawak remains an enigma, shrouded in the mist of the Borneo Sea. There are very few pictures published of the life beneath the waves of one of the world's last remaining pristine reefs.

"Underwater Jungles," a new book by Michael AW encapsulates the reefs off the Miri, Northern coast of Sarawak illuminating them through the finest photographic imagery never before seen in one volume. They are new pictures; they are an exploratory documentation of impressions that thrilled the senses. The imagery reveals the secret gardens of Sarawak in flamboyant colours and the animals that live in this biological wonderland. Immense has never been so big nor numbers so uncountable, colours never so vivid or so rich.

With the objective of enlightening the local people, students and divers to what lies beneath the reefs of Miri and the need for its preservation, 'Underwater Jungles' show off the luxuriant habitats, flora and fauna of the Miri-Sibuti patch reef system. Though seemingly weak in pelagic biomass, the diversity of reef fishes, invertebrLet's Dive Sarawakates, coral meadows, sea fans, sea whips and soft corals are compatible to those of the Maldives and PNG both rated to be the most prolific in the world. There are not many reefs in such immaculate condition remaining in South East Asia.

Using state of the art underwater photographic equipment the book comprised of HMI and fluorescent imagery never before published in any coffee-table book of the sea. Miri's reefs harbour an extraordinary abundance of invertebrates that fluoresces green, yellow, orange, purple and blue. Though primarily the book shall focus on seascapes, reef fishes, invertebrates and ecology of coral reefs, a chapter shall be included featuring marine life supported by oil platforms, wrecks and artificial reef systems.

River Running Water ShoesThe book is scheduled for official release in conjunction with Visit Sarawak Year 2003, and advance copies were available by late October. For more information about supporting the production of "Underwater Jungles" or diving in Sarawak, contact Gracie Geikie at Seridan Mulu, Tel: 60 (0) 85 414300 Fax: 60 (0) 85 416066, E-mail: For more information about Michael AW -

"The coral reefs of Miri, Sarawak, are a natural treasure for Sarawak, in fact they are a national treasure for all of Malaysia. These reefs are among the best and healthiest in the whole country of Malaysia." - Douglas Fenner, Ph.D., Australian Institute of Marine Science.

Books by the same author: "Celebrate the Sea"; "Beneath Bunaken"; "Dreams From a Rainbow Sea"; "Tropical Reef Fishes"; "Tropical Reef Life"; "Staghorn Corals".

I lived in the Yucatan many years before commercial tourism and sports divers discovered the Mexican/Mayan paradise.

I am happy to report that the country and the dive resorts have taken great strides in preserving the natural elements that bring divers to this historic coast.

The latest entry in the diver resort market is the Playa Sol Resort (click first photo in the feature) that is immersing itself in the Mayan wrold through the spectacular sunken Mayan City. You can dive or snorkel the reefs at Columbia and Palancar or admire the animals in thei zoo. Take a waverunner or parachute sail fromt he watersports center or even better a Sea Glacial kayak ride. Then sit under the largest palapa on the island and enjoy the international cusiine.

Jetsetters Magazine stopped in to speak with Heidi Alfrey, offering underwater weddings in Maui. The ordained minister can get you hitched fathoms below the sea with her Wet and Wild Wedding packages like the Pulu Ahiu Male'ana, or for deep commitments, the Hohonu Komike held at a maximum depth of 100 feet. The Black Pearl Wedding, or 'Ele'ele Momi is held as a night dive. The Half Moon shaped Molokini is the description for the Ka Mahina Molokini. Thebig Kahuna total blowout is Nui Kahuna. And one of the most spectacular weddings is on Lanai, the Cathedral Male'ana. Conact Heidi for more information at

Air Fiji Dive Flights

Get Your Dive Gear Here OnlineDiving Fiji just became a little easier and cheaper. Once you land in Fiji, Air Fiji has just your ticket for dive adventures with the Discover Fiji Pass. The pass is good for 30 days on four outer island flights except to Lakeba, Tonga, Vanuabalavu, Cicia, Moala, Koro, or Tuvalu. The price is only US$279 and each additional flight is only $90. What a great way to see the spread out archipelago. For info: or

Sam's Dive Tours - on Palau has been offering great diving adventures for over ten years, and he has been consistantly voted best tour operator on the islands in the western Pacific by numerous dive magazines. Sam now offers golfing, kayaking, fishing and snorkeling expeditions. Sam is well known for his great prices and quality resorts. Book any group or individual trip to Palau to dive with Sam's Dive Tours and you will receive a free Chandelier Cave dive and copy of either Kevin Davidson's book "Palau Dive Sites, History and Culture" or "Best of Palau" video. Visit Sam at or

New Ritz Carlton Dive Package

Get YourSail Gear HereThe Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas now offers guests the opportunity to explore the Caribbean Sea under the guidance of expert instructors as part of the resort's new four- and seven-night dive vacation packages. The packages, created for both advanced and novice divers, includes breakfast for two daily and a scuba refresher course. The four-night package also includes two two-tank dives per guest and the seven-night package also includes four two-tank dives per guest. For beginner divers, one of the two-tank dives can be replaced with class and pool training or an equal number of snorkel eco-tours. Rates for the four-night package begin at $350 per room, per night and rates for the seven-night package begin at $364 per room, per night. Dive operators at the Ritz-Carlton provide guests with the ultimate in personalized service and safety and more than 20 years of local marine experience.

Feature compiled by Robert LaGrone and Kriss Hammond.

National Geographic Passport to Adventure DVD-ROM

National Geographic Passport to Adventure DVD-ROM

Become a National Geographic Certified Diver and learn about marine conservation.

The Great Barrier Reef Dive Guide

The Great Barrier Reef Dive Guide

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