Diving Protea Banks with Tiffany and Leslie...just a first...

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July 6th 2015
Published: July 7th 2015
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I have no idea how to start to write this blog. Here we are in South Africa for the first three weeks of the school holidays. Yes, one more school year is over. Tiffany managed to get 8 Bs, 4 Cs and one D...for Leslie it's one A*, 3 As and 3 Bs. They are following the British International Curriculum, and let put it simply, they deserve their holidays...and I can be slightly proud of the way they did at school. As some say....with such results...you surely don't do everything wrong...smile! Leslie has three more years till University, and five for Tiffany....and we are already starting to make choices for the future. All this may sound pretty weird when a lot of my friends are deep in nappies!

So first disclaimer...if everything is going fine, I'm moving to Shelly Beach in June 2018....it's three years from now, but it sounds like tomorrow! I know....how can a Dad speak about three years from now, when most people have hard time thinking of what is going on next month...let say it's just me...and past have proved...if you want something hard, it does happen, with some serious planning to it!

Why Shelly Beach? Well...so far, I'm fortunate enough to be able to live where ever I wanted for over the last 20 years, so why should we change this! So Shelly Beach....has some of the best diving in the world...if you just have a morning ( by opposition to a week liveaboard to Socorro in Mexico)! Amazing diving, if you love the big stuffs, I name sharks, dolphins, whales...and more sharks! If every morning is a different one, and you just don't want to miss THAT dive. My last visit here was back in March, a week later Kym and Suresh were chasing a Great White. Yes, I write chasing...as....swimming as fast as they could to get as close as possible to the Great White! If you want to know, this is what I miss on my wish list! We may be mad, but we love it!

Next, there is the golf....seven nice courses less than 40 minutes from Shelly Beach...all this dirt cheap...with nice people...and even few friends around! Next, the food and the wine...welcome to South Africa! Ok, I love to ski, and there is nothing great next door....but there is something...nearly next door!

So you get it....Dive, Golf, Wine...Food, I may have find my paradise! What is not great here....simple...forget about the night life...and we will need few trips to Durban and further to stock on few items....couldn't find saffron, scallops or even salmon eggs around!

Next, I'm preparing our future....yes, not my future...OUR future! As you know, the next generation is more than important for me. Teenagers are not known to enjoy their parents....same thing pretty often for young adults till they start their own family. Allow me declare an exception to this...when the next generation share the same passion as "the old ones"...and I believe here...Tiffany and Leslie may be very interested to join me on a regular basis....just for the dive....golf...food...and yes wine! Just forget about the night life!

I'm at home in Brussels, Luxembourg, Bangkok, Saigon, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Lubumbashi, Kinshasa, San Francisco, New York, Lima, Buenos Aires and few more cities around the world...but I'm also very much at home in Shelly beach. I have been coming here twice a year for the last five years...but this time it's special, I'm here with Tiffany and Leslie!

We spent 6 nights in a self-catering just across the dive center (aquaplanet.co.za). I normally stay in my regular B&B at Tropical Beach....but for a week with the kids...access to a kitchen and a braai ( a BBQ in South Africa)...was the only option! So out of 6 nights, we only had a night out with Amin! Small world, as I dived last year with Amin in Komodo and he had few days to join us diving Protea Banks!

To dive Protea Banks, you have to be an Advanced diver (read experienced diver)...preferably with at least 50 dives....this is not your average diving place! I've seen more than one diver panicking here...and more than one diver getting pretty sea sick. So I had to make sure Tiffany and Leslie were ready for this. And thanks to my friends in Lipe (Thailand), I can say we did a great job. First, Leslie is still well and happy after having been properly charged by four Oceanic Black Tips, and that's four...at the same time!

I love when in the morning other divers ask me...are the kids really going to dive...yes...and they may will be longer than you in the water...this is for Leslie, that had his shorted dive at 62 minutes, and his longer one at 80 minutes. For Tiffany it was an other challenge. Well, this is slightly deep diving...and yes, the current does drift you on average 4km in 45 minutes....but on top of that, we are in the middle of winter here, and water is roughly 21 to 22 degrees....this is not a lot for a 12 years old little girl!

For once, we even had the whales under water....but this time, they were four or more of them sprinting in front of us! I have a video, but let say, it's a whales mess....too many of them, too close, too fast...but what a moment, specially for Leslie who was right next to me. For everything else, pictures will speak. We hade three days of very cool visibility, and huge action, and two days of what I call a normal visibility for Protea Banks. We saw...very up close....lots of Raggies Sharks, lots of Bull Sharks, lots of Oceanic Black Tip sharks...and even Hammerheads on every dive! We had black rib rays, funny little electric rays....many potato bass...and yes...the dolphins...for Leslie and Tiffany!

Leslie will remember a pretty unique moment shared with Kym. There was no camera....but I have experienced this before so I know how he feels. On one dive, he stays down there 80 minutes (on a 12 liter tank), and by the 74th minutes, there were only two of them at 8-10 meters....and four Oceanic Black Tips showed....these sharks are the Ferraris of the Ocean...3-4 meters long, full of muscles...and very curious....they simply started to charge Leslie, as if Leslie was the bait (bait = food). As Kym explained to me after....well done for a 14 years old boy...he respected the sharks...understood that they were serious...didn't back out...and experienced few minutes...where they would charge him...as in a proper bullfight! I was back on the boat at the time, when he went back on the boat his heart was racing...but he learnt to respect the animal, to open his eyes (they were opened wide)...and to learn that sharks don't attack divers....when they are in charge...the divers I mean! Great moment!

What happened the last few days is only the result of some serious training, some serious discipline for our young divers....but also the chance we had over the years to meet amazing divers....who understand that kids are not only fun, but can also be very serious divers, and need to be trained as such. So Protea Banks, Tiffany and Leslie will be back...because this is home, with the family of Aquaplanet! And today, they smile when an adult ask if they are diving...because a lot of these adults will be back on the boat less than 25 minutes after getting in the water....and Leslie would be the last back on the boat with Kym. Thanks Kym! His training is only starting!

Then, there is the golf! My ideal day here is a running one, doing two dives followed by 18 holes of golf. Well, this is winter time....sun rise at 6.50am, and sunset is at 5pm, so forget about two dives and a round of golf. No issue, I'm still convince a dive per day here is more than enough for Tiffany and Leslie. 45 minutes drive from Shelly Beach, you have the top courses of Wild Coast, and Selborne, the gorgeous courses of Southbroom, San Lameer and Umdoni, and the decent courses of Margate and Port Shepstone. This is a lot of golf....at a very very competitive rate! We went as low as 19usd for a round of golf...for 3 of us....that's 19usd for all of us!

Leslie has hitted a lot of balls....but needs a lot more experience on the course, which is not specially easy to combine with a full school schedule in Bangkok. Tiffany has hitted few balls at the driving range in Bangkok, but never play a round on a proper course!

Over the last few days, we play Southbroom, Wild Coast, Port Shepstone and Margate. Leslie received his birthday present from me few weeks ahead of the big day. He needs proper men club, so we stop on the way in Durban to get him his first proper set. And we went for a challenge....first two rounds were in Southbroom and Wild Coast... these are pretty amazing courses...while Tiffany was following us in order to get used to what is required from a well behaved golfer...on a decent course! Challenging it was...but fun it was...trust me, so far, Leslie dives way better than he plays golf...only so far...

We than made our way to Port Shepstone and Margate, where Tiffany could play for the first time 9 holes...twice...great experience! And she is doing it pretty well for a first time, so more to come soon! So this was Port Shepstone and Margate for Tiffany....

That was it for the golf....food wise, Leslie is in charge of the BBQ...aka, the Braai in South Africa. We had friends home for two evenings, only went out once. Wake up at 6.30am, dive...walk or play 18 holes of golf....by 9pm, these two are asking to go to sleep while I check my last emails! We had great meat....great food....but also the local crayfishes...13usd for 4 lobsters...that's it...I'm moving here...but it's not tomorrow!

Shelly Beach with the kids...done....we should be back here in January 2016...more details on this later on...

Next stop should be a very special one...a very white one! The summer ( rather South African winter) of the kids is only starting...but trust me, they will remember this month of July for many more years....and Protea Banks will remember...that this week, the reef met his younger diver....ever! And I have to thanks a lot of great friends...and great divers...all over the world for this!

Additional photos below
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7th July 2015

Your children really are living life to the fullest!
Pierre, what an amazing childhood your kids are living; and it seems that you are doing a great job: they are very brave and used to unusual situations. I absolutely love reading your blogs and I hope Ella grows up to be as brave and with that thirst for life as your children.
15th July 2015

Thanks a lot for the very kind words....
I often say smiling....I'll send them the bill once they are 18! But at the end of the day, what you experience in life, you can't take it away....Well again, this is only valid if they don't forget about it...which for kids or teenagers, is not 100% proof! Smile!
7th July 2015
Raggies....very close...

Shark, shark and more sharks.
15th July 2015
Raggies....very close...

And more to come....
And some of my close friends are asking me...but why do you bother diving in Thailand after all this...for the vibe...and the warm water...South Africa....is the obviously mainly for the sharks, the wine....and the friends too!

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