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ISSUE 17 ARCHIVE - CARIBBEAN DOS AND DON'TS

Traveller

DOs

DO Learn to love your fellow American diver. There are more of these than barracuda in the Carib seas. All shapes and sizes, all degrees of ineptitude, but darn... they

have the right kit. My favourite was an 80 year old from Delaware, resplendent in new Mares, who dropped like a stone onto an urchin patch as she couldn’t find the inflator button on her new BCD. Her husband offered his urine as a cure. “Earl... you have prostatism, how’re you gonna piss right now”.

DO You like sponges? Well you’re in the right place. Can’t move for their sponginess. Every brochure tourist shot has that chick in an open-fronted BCD, right next to the sponge. Great points of reference for navigation, slimy to touch, but beware, don’t stick your head in as it’s where the stonefish live.

DO Accept the pre-dive welcome rum. 80% proof, it is stronger than the meths we love to drink at home. Your dive will be one long semi-narcotic trip, fish will appear more beautiful and bountiful as you vomit through the reg. To refuse offends the charming islanders and will make them take the Queen off their money.

DO Have patience. Odd things happen here. I had a morning’s dive booked with a new dive shop. So new,

I had to help take the kit out of the plastic bags it was delivered in. After setting up, I asked where the dive boat was. He pointed to a little vessel on stilts in the dry dock. “I reckon the dive is cancelled then?”. Yes he says. He could have mentioned it before.

DO Set your watch to Caribbean time on arrival. This differs from, say, Egypt time which is half an hour late, to being a full hour tardy. Your 9am pick up time for the boat, means 10am with a cheerful “Mon, this is Carib time, relaaaax”. So bin your British ability to be somewhere at the right time and set your watch back another hour.

DO Enjoy a game of beach cricket before you go shore diving from your hotel. There is no better padding for the 100mph fast ball than 5mm of neoprene and a steel tank. If your weight belt is slung low enough and reversed, who needs a box when there’s lead padding? The bat comes in handy to ward off the triggerfish later.

DO Go for a shark feed dive. It’s totally safe, eh. When you see the feed diver take his wetsuit off afterwards, ask him where he got all the scars.

DON'Ts

DON'T Worry if your dive instructor has dreadlocks and seems a bit slow of mind this morning. He’s just stoned. That’s all. It’s a prerequisite when living in paradise.

DON'T Go feed the stingrays on the popular islands. It’s also a favourite for the visiting cruise boats. Waist high in warm water, you will be joined by 500 pensioners from Florida any moment. I still can’t figure out how Steve Irwin was killed by a ray, yet hundreds of tourists trample over them at these attractions yet never come to any harm. Proof of no God I suppose.

DON'T Try to dance along with the parade at the carnival. You will just look tired and dopey. With your sunburned legs and complete lack of rhythm, they will have to stop the 2 mile procession and start all over again. Imagine your Grandpa dancing to the Prodigy at your wedding. It’s like that for locals at carnival, when lame tourists “try to get down wit de beat”.

DON'T Be rude to anyone. Remember the scene in Roger Moore’s “Live and Let Die”, or even Steven Seagal’s “Gonna Bust your Head”. There’s a whole lotta voodoo still practised out there. An off-hand remark about the rental wetsuit not fitting can end up with multiple pains over the torso as the pins go in to the little replica of you. A snake in the bed is the response to too small a tip. Protection is possible. You will need a dead blackbird, half a sprig of lucky heather and a white cat. Fortunately they sell these plane-side at Boots in Heathrow.

DON'T Say “ire”, pronounced I-REE. Only locals know

its true definition. Cool/hi how are you/ yes indeed... one word crosses over a lot of meanings. You will probably get the wrong one. “How does Sir want his goat cooked”. “Ire”. See what I mean. Best stick to British throwaway words... “spankin gorgeous” and “not half”.

DON'T Worry about the hurricanes. For some reason they always seem to miss the islands you are on. If you do happen to be in the boat when the winds get up to Force 10, then close your eyes and it’ll seem like England on a good day.

DON'T Eat goat. Cloven hoofed and slitty of eye, they are Lucifer bleating. Stick to fried chicken or rice ‘n’ beans. If it’s good enough for Viv Richards and Mr Bolt...

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