Dive Books (Around the World) – Part One

Something a little different this time with a review of books with a common theme (besides diving!) : all of them attempt to provide an overview of diving opportunities from a world view rather than a specific region. Each has their strengths & weaknesses so without further ado let’s kick off.

Dive Atlas of the World: An Illustrated Reference to the Best Sites – Jack Jackson (General Editor)

By far the largest of the titles on offer (by physical dimensions if not page count) this one is definitely designed for a coffee table presentation that will lure guests into flipping through the large well illustrated pages & inevitably asking questions that will kick off your dive reminiscing!

Editor (and scuba authorty) Jack Jackson, with the help of a number of respected dive authors, photographers, instructors & scientists (including Lawson Wood, Sam Harwood, Ann Storrie, Michael Aw and Bob Halstead) has put together a well structured overview of the ‘best’ sites organised by ocean/ sea with plenty of background on each as well as good appendix information on times to go, temperatures, climate, quality of life, depths, getting there etc.

Each section (Atlantic Ocean, Red Sea, Caribbean (expanded for this edition), Pacific Ocean etc.) has a zoomed out map to enable you to locate the more detailed sections (a boon to me as geography was never my strong suit) along with general information about the area (lots of interesting stuff there) and then within each detailed section (Indonesia, Bali, Cayman Islands etc) there are further maps with highlighted sites & other items of interest along with descriptions of the selected sites all illustrated with an excellent set of photos (courtesy of the expert photographers employed).

The large format presentation draws you in & it is easy to get lost amongst the excellent descriptive text & illustrations. Inevitably some will argue over the site selection (particularly if their favourites are not included) but from wrecks to walls, reefs to caves along with muck & macro-photography most of the well-known classics are there, along with a number of little-known or more recently discovered locations and as a taster that invites you to pick up more detailed location-specific books I think it works well (though the Atlantic as the 2nd largest ocean does seem to get short-changed with only 18 pages!).

There are also some excellent supplementary articles on climate change, atoll formation & scuba gear types (among others)

Is it worth the asking price? I would say for the sheer scope & amount of information on offer  – absolutely! But do make sure you pick up the latest (2016) edition – this book has been around coming on 20 years & though the earlier editions can be had for a bargain price I would suggest it is worth going the extra £10 or so to ensure the advice & information is current & relevant.

(£35. 300pp. 28 x 32.7x 2.4 (cm).  Hardback. IMM Lifestyle Books. 2016. ISBN10:1504800664)

Fifty Places to Dive Before You Die: Diving Experts Share The World’s Greatest Destinations – Chris Santella (Editor)

Cheery title that eh? After all we’re not all spring chickens!

I admit I haven’t read any of the others in this series (Fifty places to Hike, Fly Fish, Go Birding etc.) but the aim here is to provide a virtual bucket list of sites from all over the world by asking 50 different ‘experts’ in the field (from Stan Waterman, Mike Ball & Dee Scarr to Chuck Nicklin & many others)

Each of them has written what effectively is an essay (2-3 pages) on their favourite dive site & it’s topped & tailed by intros from Chris with travel details & background/ This approach works reasonably well & you get a much less structured and much more ‘personal’ insight into the kinds of diving that sinks these guys gear (!) (& perhaps with which you can identify).

However the same lack of structure – with sites seemingly randomly ordered, seemingly alphabetically by country but then states in the US are treated as countries!, Scotland is separated from the UK and speaking of the UK the sites mentioned there are Grand Cayman and Grand Turk!– doesn’t make it easy to always understand the ‘context’ of an area of the world from different perspectives nor to find essays on specific areas you might want to look up.

The essays are often meandering and vague while the photographic accompaniment (though all full-page) is unfortunately lacking in both inspiration & volume (there are 40 which is at least 10 less than I would have expected!) and does not inspire one to want to try the dives very well at all.

The selection of sites, while understandably ‘personal’ seems to seriously lack some of those that are truly considered ‘classics’ such as anything in the Red Sea (Thistlegorm where are you?) or anything in the UK except Scapa Flow

Finally, I have to admit I bought this online & was somewhat underwhelmed by the unimpressive item that arrived, it is the smallest of the books reviewed & I really expected more of a coffee table offering (though factoring in the price I shouldn’t have been surprised)

Saying all that I am glad I bought it & it is likely to cause a few of the places to make their way to my bucket list but as an ongoing reference this doesn’t cut it, but read as a one-off it does the job.

(£14.99. 224pp. 19.2 x 21.3 x 2.6 (cm). Hardback. Stewart, Tabori & Chang Inc. 2008. ISBN 10:158479710X)

Hopefully the above will have provided some insight into the current offerings in this category & with a little luck Part Two will follow in a week or so.