Let’s talk about diving, and all the way in which I plan to part with my money in the next year via this very pricey hobby. Basically this post is part brain dump, part desperate plea for help.
I have some very big decisions that I would like you to make for me I would like your input on.
First of all, I have dropped some serious cash recently on dive gear. I skated by for nearly three years with freebies and handouts, but I finally had to throw down some cash and buy some big girl stuff. What pushed me over the edge was the equipment grant money from the Women Diver’s Hall of Fame. In March I ordered both a regulator and a dive computer, which I can’t wait to show you when they arrive. Then, in a fit of total self-indulgence, I bought a completely luxurious and expensive wetsuit that I want to wear everyday for the rest of my life. I brought it to Thailand and dove with it only twice (sob) before shipping it home with my BCD and other gear, and I’m still awaiting our reunion. This little shopping spree cost me a cool $750 without even taking into account the grant money. So, um, yeah. Once all this gear is in my possession there will be a full post about it (with gratuitous wetsuit photos of course) but I just wanted you to understand the frame of mind I’m in. Okay, maybe you get one teensy wetsuit preview.
While my previous paragraph doesn’t really show it, I am a frugal gal. I broke my shopping addiction years ago and now I rarely buy physical things. There is an exception, however, and it is cameras. Every once in a while I just get an itch… and that itch is for an upgrade. I upgraded my dSLR just about a year ago (you can see what I use now on my gear page) so my land camera is safe… for now.
Underwater I use Canon PowerShot SD1300 with a Canon Underwater Housing. Every underwater photo you’ve ever seen on this site has been taken with that camera, so it has served me well for two years! I’ve been very happy with the macro shots its produces… however I’m ready to start shooting wider and shooting some video on the same dive. I just booked a day of diving during my upcoming trip to Iceland (I am exercising extreme restraint in not using all caps here, which should tell you how excited I am) and I think this is going to be very wide-angle kind of diving. So, considering underwater photography is a big part of this blog and my freelance writing, I think it’s definitely time to upgrade! I would love to add a strobe to the mix too but right now I think that is going to wait for when Christmas time rolls around. Unfortunately I have the common limitation of a very small budget, at least when it comes to the camera world.
Unfortunately I am one of those psychotic people who going into research overload and puts themselves into an information coma when trying to make a decision. So far Scubaboard members seem smitten with the Canon S100, while Amazon reviews are being far more kind to the G12. They are both around $400. (I hope to sell my old setup for around $250*, which will make this a fairly affordable upgrade for me.)
It seems the S100 has lens error issues, though it has a significantly faster focus and is more compact. The G12 seems to have the best image quality but a slow focus and wide-angle issues in most underwater housings. Ah yes, housings. Once I decide on a camera, I need to then pick a housing system! I’ve loved my Canon housing so far but have been reading some really bleak reports of flooding in these new models (~$250). Next up on the price scale is Ikelite housings (~$325-$650) but the one time I tested their housings I hated the buttons. Then comes the universally beloved Recsea housings ($879-$1099) which might as well cost my weight in narcotics for how not-in-my-budget they are.
So, um, suggestions? Recommendations? Words of wisdom? I’ll take anything.
As I mentioned I need to make a big decisions soon about where to complete my PADI Divemaster Training. At the end I will be able to take certified divers on fun dives and assist on courses, though I will not be able to certify new divers (that requires the next step, becoming an instructor). It’s a major investment in time and money (costs range from $800-1800). The course can be completed in as little as six weeks but I plan to allot three months as I will be blogging and doing freelance writing and design work throughout.
My biggest requirements are a balance of fantastic diving and a youthful, fun lifestyle. Which is to say I don’t want to do it in Koh Tao, where the lifestyle is fantastic but I’m not excited by the diving** and I don’t want to do it in some remote Caribbean island were the diving is mind-blowing but the mood is relaxed retiree. Does that make sense? Here are some of my initial brainstorming ideas:
• Hawaii: This is the US option. I have friends and family here despite never having been. I hear good things about the diving and love the mix of big city living and remote island adventures. The cost of living does give me major pause.
• Bay Islands/Corn Islands: There are the Central America options. I’ve been to the Bay Islands and while I wasn’t totally smitten to the point of wanting to live there, I know that it would be very familiar (it’s kind of the Koh Tao of the Western hemisphere) and I would have insta-friends as this is a common spot to do your Divemaster. I also think I might be able to convince family and friends to visit. The Corn Islands have always fascinated me but I think they might be too sleepy. My concern with the Bay Islands is I would go here because it’s a familiar area of the world and not because I feel passionate about it.
• Columbia/Venezuela: This is the South America option. I hear great things about the atmosphere on the Caribbean coast of these countries, but I don’t know much yet about the diving. I love this idea because I could practice my Spanish and head to a new exotic part of the world that I’ve always wanted to go to. I get kind of giddy thinking about this option.
• Indonesia/Philippines: If I’m heading back to Asia to do this, I’m heading to one of these two countries. Obviously I’d have a lot further narrowing down to do! I know that I would be able to find a great combo of diving, lifestyle and cost here.
• Mozambique: Yes, there is an Africa option. Mom, stop crying. I’ve heard almost unbelievable stories about the fantastic diving off Tofo, but I don’t know nearly enough about the lifestyle/cost, or frankly, the safety.
You might notice there is no European option and no Caribbean option. I would have definitely considered Spain or other countries, however I will be missing the summer season there. As for the Caribbean I don’t think I will find the lifestyle and atmosphere that I am looking for there (though I do love the diving!).
That is by no means an exhaustive list. I’m just getting started! You may have noticed I’m awful at decision-making so expect some reader polling in the future (after all, I let you guys pick my destination before!)
Do you have any suggestions or ideas? Any insight on the places I’ve listed here? Please decide my life for me! Haha just kidding but not!
*If you are interested in purchasing my underwater camera+housing or the housing alone, please contact me for details. The current model setup sells for around $380, while my exact model sells for $430. So $250 is a steal! This is an amazing camera for getting started and you simply won’t find a better price.
**Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Koh Tao. But outside of a few spectacular dive sites, it’s really for beginners… hence it’s reputation as a training mecca. Plus I’ve already dove it intensely while working as an underwater videographer. I’m ready for something new, something that will blow me away!