Legends of Diving Articles


Rex De Silva
Marine Biologist, Shark Researcher, & Underwater Photographer of Sri Lanka

Rex De Silva

Rex De Silva was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka on October 22, 1940. Growing up on an island, the water always held a fascination for him and that, combined with what he was learning in school, piqued his interest in diving and experimenting with underwater equipment at a rather early age.

He made his first facemask at around 15 years of age, fashioning it out of an infant food tin, inner tube, and glass disk. This very creative design unfortunately leaked badly and was useless at more than 12 feet, but revealed a passion and desire to explore in young De Silva’s heart. That desire to explore, combined with a desire to spearfish, inspired the handmade spears he and his friends made out of 6 foot 3/8inch steel rods that they sharpened at one end. They didn’t use swimfins until a year or so later.

During his school years, De Silva had a voracious appetite for all the great diving books including Cousteau’s “Silent World,” James Dugan’s “Man Explores the Sea,” and the many books penned by Hans Hass. His imagination was fueled by those books as well as by the famous films Silent World (1954) and Under the Red Sea. After seeing those movies, Rex knew he wanted to be a diver.

Rex Diving Closeup

At the age of 15, Rex was determined to fulfill his dream, despite the fact that there were no diving schools or instructors available in Sri Lanka. He turned to books once again and read and reread Rick and Barbara Carrier’s book, “DIVE”, in order to learn the basics of diving. He borrowed an Aqualung from Langston Pereira and set off to dive alone. After a week or so of experimenting with the principles he had picked up from his book, Rex was diving to more than 100ft. By the time he was able to get certified, he was a very experienced diver with over 500 dives. He was certified by The Reefcombers of Ceylon, which was one of the world’s earliest diving clubs started by Rodney Jonklaas in 1946. De Silva was certified as a commercial diver, as well, in 1968 by the Colombo Port Commission.

Rex considers Langston Pereira to be his mentor in his early days of diving. De Silva greatly admired Langston for his own accomplishments and was always grateful for all he learned from him. Rex was later influenced by Rodney Jonklaas, as well as by Vicki Athukorala, who started diving in 1938. Other big influences on Rex were Arthur C Clarke, Mike Wilson, as well as Hans Hass.

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