I was asked by Peter, owner of the Indian Ocean Explorer, to give an American?s view of the Explorer and my diving trip. I should point out the I have not lived in the USA for over 35 years, I am 59 and single and work on the drilling rigs. Due to work, I have lived predominately in Europe but have traveled extensively for work and pleasure. I also treat traveling as an adventure, one of discovery, and adjust to what comes my way.
I learned to dive in 1999 and have made up for lost time by doing as much diving as I can. I have been able to do this by doing some local diving in the North Sea but mostly on live aboards in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. I decided to go on the diving trip on the Explorer because it offered an adventure which covered a number of islands, offered a large number of dives and went to places where divers very seldom get to visit. If as a diver you are looking for a luxury live aboard, the Explorer is not for you. If you like an adventure with lots of diving this boat is for you.
The Indian Ocean Explorer was built in 1956 and started life as the M.S. Suderoog ( named after an island off the North German coast ) as a research vessel. Over the years it has had a number of owners and has been modified for their different purposes. It is not perfect or the most modern but I found it clean and functional. If something malfunctioned, all you needed to do was talk with the crew and it was fixed. Remember this ship is almost 50 years old and for two weeks was for me a cross between the African Queen and a tramp steamer and allowed me to live a dream and have a great adventure with great company and crew. I also enjoyed the informality of shorts and tee shirts.
The Explorer is the ninth live aboard I have been on in basically five years. I have been on very new and modern live aboards and others near the end of their life but it is the crew and divers who make the trip, not the boat. On the Explorer we had the right combination. I have never experienced such a nice, friendly and helpful crew who were a joy to be with and who we treated as friends. Now food is always a big issue on dive boats and here I can truthfully say it is the best that I have had of all the boats I have been on.
Diving is varied from the different sites and there is generally a current all the time. The coral is not at its best, especially hard coral, due to the ocean warming up a number of times in the last 10 years. However, the soft coral is coming back. ( NB: the Maldives and the east coast of Africa have the same problem. ) Visibility is generally good unless you are diving when there is a lot of plankton in the water or near the ou let of lagoons and the currents carry material into the water. Marine life is varied but we did experience very large species, (nurse sharks, sting rays, barracudas, some reef sharks and green and hawksbill turtles) and lots of small species which you were able to get close to. I just like to dive and so enjoy whatever coral and marine life I find on each dive. Diving is about seeing the unexpected on a dive.
If you are looking at going on the Indian Ocean Explorer, go for it. It may not be all what you expected so go with an open mind and a sense of adventure and enjoy what you find. Life is too short to have regrets or ?if only?s? and is meant to be enjoyed.
Mr. Banfi agreed with Mr. Holland, the owner of the ship operations company, that he could use Banfi`s photos as he liked, provided Banfi`s signature (www.banfi.ch) remains on all photos. They were a present from Mr. Banfi to Mr. Holland and Mr. Holland allows you to use them as well.