The dives of my life

Alexis Vincent. Photo: Paul Orphanidis

The dives of my life

Alexis Vincent. Photo: Paul Orphanidis

Journeys

The dives of my life

Alexis Vincent looks back on some of his most memorable moments underwater.

By Dominique Afacan | 3 June 2018

Alexis Vincent started diving in his early twenties and discovered it was ‘love at first breath.’ After stints as a dive instructor at the Four Seasons Kuda Huraa and other top hotels in the Maldives and beyond, he and his wife launched Dive Butler, to cater to the growing trend for private instructors on superyachts.

Here, he recalls some of the most memorable dives over the course a career spent beneath the surface.

The dives of my life

Photo: Nick Fenley

The dives of my life

Photo: Nick Fenley

1. Mantas in the Maldives

“The first time I saw a manta was on a reef in the Maldives – I had about 500 dives under my belt in those days [he has 8000 today] and had been to many places with manta populations, but it was like the more I wanted to see one, the less it happened. I was minding my own business when all of a sudden I looked up and saw a shadow of something. I didn’t quite allow myself to believe it at first. From tip to tip it was maybe five or six metres – it looked almost like a spacecraft from Battlestar Galactica. To my delight, it did a very nice swim by and showed itself in all its glory. Since then, I’ve had many other manta encounters – in some parts of the Maldives the plankton is so thick that you can feel it in the water like a soup. The manta feed on it and actually I’ve been ‘manta slapped’ before during one of their feeding frenzies.”

The dives of my life
The dives of my life

2. Sharks in French Polynesia

“The first time you encounter huge schools of sharks is incredible. One of my most memorable experiences was in French Polynesia in a channel that was maybe 50 metres wide. It felt like a funnel; there must have been 400 sharks in there. Because the current was so strong, they kind of ignored me, but they were right there next to me. Once you understand that sharks aren’t actually out there to attack you – you can appreciate the raw beauty of an apex predator. I wouldn’t pull its tail, but otherwise you’re pretty safe. Sharks attack about 500 people a year; out of those there are around five that are fatal. Flip things around and we kill between 100 and 200 million sharks a year for the shark fin soup trade. So the only sharks I am really worried about are the two-legged ones.”

The dives of my life
The dives of my life

3. Humpback whales in the Dominican Republic

“I was on a superyacht in a place called Silver Bank north east of the Dominican Republic. It’s one of the few places on the planet that you’re allowed to swim with humpback whales. You aren’t supposed to dive but on our first evening, the yacht captain was a little nervous about our anchor so we descended down the anchor chain to go and check it out. As we were down there we suddenly heard them, but more than anything we felt their vibrations. I could feel it right in my chest. I teared up instantly, it was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had, even though we didn’t see the whales themselves. Over the period of the next few weeks though, we must have seen over 80 individuals, the area is a calving ground for them.”

The dives of my life
The dives of my life

4. Wreck diving in Egypt

“The Salem Express dive really affected me. It is the wreck of a ferry, which used to transport people between Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and Safaga in Egypt. Back in the early 90s, it hit a reef in the Red Sea and went down, taking a lot of lives with it. Even if you don’t know all the details, as I didn’t when I first saw it, you can really sense an atmosphere of history and tragedy down there. It’s really spooky. Of course, there are different kinds of wrecks and not all of them have such sadness attached to them. There are wrecks that have been purposefully sunk, for example, to serve as artificial reefs and a means to create a habitat for fish, and they are interesting too. Natural wrecks are powerful, though, negative or not.”

The dives of my life
The dives of my life

5. Whale Sharks in the Philippines

“I remember the first time I came face to face with a whale shark. I was in the south of the Philippines in Donsol Bay in Legazpi and we weren’t even scuba diving, we were just looking for them from the boat. We were looking and looking and eventually we started seeing those big dark fins – I jumped in so close, I remember thinking ‘oh my God, this thing is so big, I’m gonna die here.’ Our boat was about 14 or 15 metres long and this whale shark was longer. Of course, they are gentle giants, all they eat is plankton – but they are still the biggest fish in the sea. We spent the whole weekend swimming with a lot of them.”

Get a taste of the superyachting good life at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show from 31 October to 4 November.

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