Besides enjoying the tropical sun filled days, sea temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius , delicious Mozambique cuisine like pãozinho (pronounced pow-zing-yo or pow for short, which is a Portuguese-style bread roll), clam soup, Portuguese peri-peri chicken and LM prawns the main attraction for scuba divers are the pristine coral reefs.
Beauty of diving
Well known reefs like Doodles, Crèche, Checkers, Aquarium, Steps and Bass City play host to a wide variety of tropical fish like Lion or Devil fire fish, Stone fish, Potato bass, Two striped clown fish, Pipe fish, Paper fish, hundreds of different types of Butterfly, Angel, Wrasse, Moray eels, Goldies, Snappers, etc, etc.
On fortunate days you can also be treated to Dolphins, Whale sharks and Leatherback Turtles.
Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)
For the more adventurous divers there is also Pinnacles reef. Pinnacles is one of the deepest reefs at Ponta do Oura ranging at a depth of 30m to 42m and is well known for its shark activity. If you are keen to see sharks in its natural habitat this is the place to dive. I have personally been lucky enough to see schools of Hammerheads-, an occasional Zambezi- and a pair of female Tiger sharks at Pinnacles during my dives there. Not to mention the Manta rays and huge Potato Basses also showing up for an appearance.
Solving vision correction under water
As an Optometrists, Scuba diving holds another fascination for me. People who have eye prescriptions always have a dilemma with their vision when diving. Glasses are not always practical on the dive boat and contact lenses can be lost if the eyes are opened under water. It’s always interesting for me to see how every person has a unique way of coping with their type of visual correction. Make no mistake I’m not enjoying their dilemma, it’s just interesting and sometimes ingenious how everyone has a unique way of solving the problem.
Some will wear their glasses on the boat and just before diving hand it over to the skipper to safeguard on the boat while they are off diving. This is probably the most simplistic solution, but depending on the persons prescription, can lead to problems under water.
The other option is to wear contact lenses. This is by far the more practical solution on the boat compared to glasses. The only risk, as I mentioned earlier, is that of losing the lenses when the eyes are opened underwater or during the boat trip if a rogue wave hits the person full in the face. This luckily doesn’t happen often. My brother in law for instance, volunteers for Cape Town Sea Rescue. He has been out on numerous occasions with his soft contact lenses on the rescue boat in weather were most of us won’t venture out of the house and have never lost a lens.
The mayor irritation of contact lenses and scuba diving is when you are underwater. It can happen on occasion that some misdirected kick from your scuba buddy can dislodge your diving mask or that your mask is misting over and you need to flood the mask to clear the mist. At this point the contact lens wearing scuba diver must close his/her eyes and purge the mask of all the water before reopening the eyes. Doing all of this with your eyes closed, 15m underwater, can be a bit scary for some divers.
So what do I recommend to my scuba diving patients? First off, there is no one solution perfect for everybody. A lot depends on the eyes prescription (refractive error), the patient’s personality type, visual expectations and costing.
Contact lenses still remain the most practical solution. Any type of refractive error can be corrected with contact lenses, even the over forties with their short arm syndrome (you know who you are) can be helped with multi focal soft contact lenses.
For those who are concerned they will lose their monthly disposable contact lenses, we normally provide a secondary set of daily disposable lenses. The idea is that you can comfortably wear your normal contact lenses and on the day of the dive switch to the daily disposable contact lenses. Should you lose a daily disposable lens during the dive it’s not the end of the world as you would have disposed the lens at the end of the day in any case. As an extra precaution leave a spare set of daily disposable lenses with the skipper on the boat or in your dive bag. If it is early during the dive you could return to the boat, insert the new lens and continue the dive as if nothing happened.
Another solution is to place the prescription lenses into the diving mask. Certain masks have a built in spectacle lens holder into which prescription lenses can be glazed, others allow the original lenses to be removed and prescription lenses to be inserted in its place. Another solution is to laminate the prescription lens onto the existing lens of the mask. In both cases the right mask must be used as not all masked are suitable. The trick is to find a mask that will seal on your face and provide the correct surface size and mask depth for the laminated prescription lens to fit onto.
For the over forties, only requiring reading lenses, there is always stick on reading lenses. These are plastic half moon segments, similar to the bifocal reading segments, which literally stick on the back of sunglasses and diving masks. This is a simple yet elegant solution to reading those depth- and air gauges under water.
Then of course there is Orthokeratology. Orthokeratology is a process whereby you sleep with a specially designed contact lens which reshapes your cornea during the night. In the morning the lens is removed and you will enjoy normal sight for the rest of the day. It sounds a bit unreal, but accelerated overnight Orthokeratology has been around for over a decade and is a FDA approved procedure for correcting vision.
It’s with this correction method that my wife could enjoy the whole scuba diving vacation with me. She used to be a -4.00D myope and would normally wear monthly disposables during the day and would switch to daily disposable lenses when she went diving. After correcting her prescription with Orthokeratology, about ten years ago, all of this has changed. She will now wake up in the morning, remove her Orthokeratology lenses and never worry about her contact lenses or sight for the rest of the day.
Orthokeratology allows a huge amount of freedom for her when swimming in the sea with our two boys or scuba diving the reefs of Ponta do Oura with me.
The best part for her about Orthokeratology is she doesn’t have to worry about losing the lenses while she is diving. They are safely stored back at the lodge and will only be placed back in her eyes before she turns in for the night.
So the next time you are all geared up, sitting on the edge of a dive boat somewhere near the African coastline and verbally lamenting the sorrows of your troublesome prescription lenses. Don’t be surprised when a complete stranger looks at you with a bemused smile and asks, “Have you heard about Orthokeratology?”