People say the reef hook is invented in Palau, but this is no confirmed and could well be a tall tale. If you go back to the early days of diving in Palau and speak to some of the earliest pioneers they will tell you how they invented reef hooks.
There are many claimants to this but it seems as though it was an invention that simultaneously occurred in a variety of dive shops all about the same time. Simple pieces of stainless steel fashioned with a claw or hook on one end and an eyelet at the other to which is tied about 6-8 feet of strong cord. They were invented for many reasons.
A reef hook is remarkably simple but accomplishes many tasks in it’s use. The hook is used to anchor a diver to a non-living part of the reef, and the cord is tied or clipped to a central D-ring or buckle on the front of the BCD.
Why use a reef hook?
A diver uses a reef hook at dive sites that get incredibly strong currents, and the hook is the best way to stay in one place.
In Palau, you will find dive sites that at times experience very strong currents. The only way to dive these sites when the currents are sweeping you will need a reef hook. Besides Palau, reef hooks are used on certain dive sites in:
Reason #1 use a reef hook for safety
The type of current that you have no chance of fighting for any amount of time is exactly when the reef hook is the most useful. If you were to try and maintain your position without a reef hook in these currents, you would burn through your breathing gas in no time. You would be exhausted and, CO2 will build up increasing the odds you get bend.
A reef hook allows you to relax and once anchored inflate your jacket a little and fly like a kite in the wind. It’s a great way of conserving gas as you relax and remain where you want to be in a strong current with no expenditure of energy.
Reason #2: consume less air and increase bottom time
When you relax you use less air and you make fewer bubbles. Bubbles tend to scare most marine creatures away. Fewer bubbles, more creatures, especially sharks that often hang out and ride the currents where they hit the reef walls. By hooking in near the edge of the reef wall, producing fewer bubbles, remaining calm with little movement you are placing yourself in the best way at the best place for close encounters with sharks.
Reason #3: Take pictures you would else not be able to make
A stable position once you are hooked right next to where the sharks are swimming will yield excellent opportunities to take stable pictures of these graceful animals. Just one word of warning to all underwater photographers:
"Do spare a thought to your strobe arms, they often get moved out of position by the current and will most likely end up wrapped back around your housing. Tuck them in close so they don’t create quite so much drag and tighten up those clamps!"
Reason #4: Protect the coral reef
Once hooked in, as mentioned before you put a little bit of air in your jacket. This lifts you up and off the reef thereby preventing any damage to fragile corals there. The lack of contact with the reef will also minimise potential damage to your equipment and yourself. It’s a win win win situation.
The best time to dive Ulong Channel is on an incoming tide when the current is strongest and the most clear, visibility up to 95 feet. . #scuba #palauPosted by Palau Dive Adventures on Saturday, May 9, 2015
Would you like to experience world class reef hook diving in Palau? Check out these dive operators in Palau who can teach you how to fly like a kite surrounded by sharks.
Reason #5: Hang out with your friends on the edge or the wall
When you and your group of friends hook in, you tend to line up side by side along the edge of the reef wall. From an external perspective, it’s like an audience at a performance.
You each get ￼a great view, you can see each other, see what each other are seeing and this is great for those after dive moments when you can say to each other about how close that shark came or did you see that Napoleon Wrasse hovering above your head?
Also read: 10 Tips to Get Your Mates into Scuba Diving
It’s also great for a dive master too. The group stays together, where normally it’s a cat herding exercise; people are relaxed and their air lasts longer. Everyone has a good time and gets back to the boat safely, buzzing with excitement after having done and witnessed something that may at first glance seemed impossible.
also read: How to choose a surface signaling device?
Add all these things and you get an incredible dive at incredible locations watching some of the nature’s most incredible animals. With no reef hook, you would be fighting in vain for a glimpse as we hurtled over the reef. And all because we used a simple stainless steel hook and some rope responsibly.
So as someone who has benefitted so many times from using reef hooks in Palau, I say to those who invented them, Thank you, and I think those of you who will use a reef hook for the first time you will agree with me.
Key take aways:
- It is said the reef hook is invented in Palau, but this 100 % sure. Other places in the world, where reef hook diving is common, are The Maldives, Komodo, Raja Ampat and French Polynesia
- Reef hook diving does not damage any corals because the hook is "hooked" behind a rock and not in a living piece of coral. When used properly diving like this protects the corals underneath you because your are slightly positively buoyant, and therefore you will fly like superman safe above the reef
- The reef hook enables underwater photographers to hover in one place so they can take amazing pictures, we all love to see and share.
- A reef hook is a safety item that enables you to witness the pelagic action at dive site where currents are so strong you would not be able to stay in one place without a hook.
What are your thoughts about reef hook diving? Have you ever used one? Did you ever fly like super man in sweeping currents? Let us know in the comments below
Feel free to contact us. We have multiple partners who can teach you how to use a reef hook responsibly.
Article written by Rutger Thole who is an avid scuba diver and loves to travel, dive and write about scuba diving. Based in Amsterdam he runs bookyourdive.com and at least twice a year he plans a dive trip of the beaten track.