These days more and more divers are moving onto machines (or rebreathers). The advantages are many (longer dive times, cheaper mixed gases, feeling better after the dive). The only real disadvantage lies in the price (at least R40k up front) and of course the fact that you have to get spend time getting experience on your machine before you can get back to doing the dives you where doing on open circuit.
The good news is that gone are the days where the only machine you could choose was the Inspiration. These days South Africa has access to pretty much any machine, from the Scuba Pro Submatix to the new Hammer CCR.
Below is a short list of the readily available machines in South Africa. The prices quoted are in Dollars so that you have an unbiased comparison (all the prices come from dive rite express).
1) SCUBAPRO SUBMATIX
This comes standard as a semi-closed machine and can be converted to a full closed circuit, although the cost of the conversion makes it more cost effective to go straight to a fully closed machine. Price $7,000
This is a fully closed machine and available in a number of configurations, so you can basically put together a machine to match your requirements. Stands up well to the better known Inspiration (which comes in only one format).
Second hand units are not available currently in South Africa. Price : $8000
3) New Hammer CCR
This is an exciting unit (I may be biased as I sold my inspiration new vision for one). The unit is designed for deep exploration and comes with the famous hammer head and controller (which most deep divers purchase and fit onto their inspirations or megs). It also has a radial scrubber which is yet another plus for depth and duration. Another feature worth mentioning is the pre scrubber oxygen injection (the oxygen mixes before it is measured). it comes standard with an ADV (the magody that injects your diluent without you having to press a button...a must). Oh and it has been dived successfully in the 200 meter range. Training will be available from June 2008 from Gerhard du Preez of Liquid Edge Diving. Price : $10,500
4) Inpiration (Classic, New Vision)
The best known rebreather (especially in South Africa). A big plus for us here is that units can be found second hand from around R35k (for the classic, add at least 10k for a new vision or evolution), which makes Inspiration the more affordable alternative.
One of the down sides of the Inspiration is that it comes in only one configuration and the cost does not include items like an ADV (which really is a necessity these days). The new vision electronics includes decompression software which gives you a second computer although the verdict is still out as to whether or not it is better to have a classic and two Liquivisions (is certainly cheaper than a new vision and a Liquivision computer). From a depth perspective it handles well up to 150/ 180 meters after which the electronics need to be upgraded to the Hammer Head (you are looking at another $3,000) Price : $10,000
So...when you going to take the plunge and go silent ? You know you want to :)