Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Lee Helm, in a full-face mask, narrates a dive on Blacktip Island’s Jawfish reef Thursday. The resort’s new program allows in-water divemasters to talk directly to resort guests throughout their dives. (photo courtesy of NOAA)
In an effort to stay one step ahead in the competitive world of recreational scuba, one Blacktip Island resort Monday began offering reef tours led by in-water dive guides giving running commentaries to snorkel and scuba guests outfitted with waterproof headphones.
“We kit our divers out with underwater headsets, and our divemasters have full-face masks so they can talk through the entire dive,” Eagle Ray Divers manager Ger Latner said. “Before, the best a dive guide could do was point to something and maybe write a quick note on a slate. Now our DMs can give full explanations.
“We’re the only dive op on Blacktip that offers this service,” Latner said. “All the extra gear costs, but it’s worth it.”
Resort guests guests agreed
“I never know what the divemaster’s pointing at, and I can never ask,” guest Jackie Wrasse said. “I usually just signal ‘OK’ and move on. Sometimes I think they point at nothing just to mess with me.
“With this, though, I know exactly what they’re showing me,” Wrasse said. “I had no idea there were so many things down there that’re supposed to be interesting.”
Other island dive operators were critical of the tours.
“With one or two divers it can be OK,” said Club Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick. “But you get 20 divers all trying to get up close to one tiny sea slug, it turns into a real Charlie Foxtrot.
“Already, you can tell where an Eagle Ray divemaster’s been,” Kiick said. “Just look for the broken sea fans and kicked-to-hell coral. No way we’re doing that to the reef.”
Some Eagle Ray Divers staff had reservations as well.
“It’s not fair, having to talk through the entire dive,” divemaster Lee Helm said. “Some people are good at it, but I like to zone out when I lead a dive. And it’s pure hell when there’s nothing to show people, but they still expect a nonstop monologue.”
Others have embraced the narration.
“It’s great being able to explain what I’m showing and why it’s cool,” said divemaster Alison Diesel. “It’s also great the guests can’t talk back. We tried that at first. It didn’t end well.”
“It’s also fun, when a diver hand-signals a question, to answer wrong just to see the look on their face,” Diesel said. “I’m playing with doing tours in rhyme, too. I started with couplets yesterday. I’m working my way up to rap.”