Introduction to Scuba Diving.
Scientists believe that we have only explored about 5 percent of the ocean, making it by far the most undiscovered part of our planet. Find any coral reef and grab a snorkel and mask and you become Jacques Cousteau, perhaps finding one of the tens of millions of undocumented creatures that live in the ocean. This is a sport aimed at all sorts of people: singles, families, couples, experts, beginners, researchers, and explorers. Whether you are diving or snorkeling, aquatic life fascinates on a number of levels. Tropical locations dominate the diving and snorkeling seen. The fish are more colorful, the water is warmer, and a beachside bar is never far away. Whether your on the Bay Islands of Honduras, the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, or just some lonely island off the east African coast, the scenery is always different under the water, often more so than the world above.
Scuba Diving Overview
Scuba Diving Basics
The differences between scuba diving and snorkeling are huge. The differences lay both in equipment and range. Both sports allow you to breathe underwater, however, with snorkeling you are limited to the top of the water or the short distance you can swim holding your breath under the water. This makes swimming far below sea level impossible. Your equipment is basic, just a one size fits all mask, snorkel, and set of fins and you won’t need any training. Diving is another animal altogether. Not only do you need to have a wide assortment of equipment, but you need to take a certification course to be able to go out on the boat whenever you want. That said many of the world’s best and easiest to reach underwater spots can also be snorkeled and many advanced divers even opt to snorkel if given the option.
Scuba Diving – Beginners
For beginners and even advanced divers, snorkeling is a cheap, easy, and wonderful way to explore the earth’s ocean without much effort or frustration. You can rent a mask and snorkel from your hotel or a beachside shack and walk right out from the beach to explore the shallow waters right in front of you. Almost always, one will snorkel before they attempt diving. Snorkeling is the perfect introduction to diving. If you dislike snorkeling chances are diving is not your thing.
To dive like most enthusiasts you need to be certified. There is a basic 4-day certification course that every diver must take in order to dive on a regular basis. The course teaches you how to breathe, how to swim with your equipment, and how to change depths, among other things. You can also take a one day “fun dive” with an instructor, just a short introduction that sometimes counts toward the first day of your certification. Beginners are limited to depths just 16-32 feet below sea level, but can quickly move to greater depths with more practice.
Scuba Diving – Advanced
Snorkeling for the most part is a basic sport and there is little variation between beginners and advanced. The advanced diver, however, has an incredible array of options. There are literally hundreds of advanced courses, where you can become certified to be an advanced open water diver, rescue diver, dive master, search and recovery diver, night diver, underwater photographer, ice diver, coral reef conservationist, and much, much more. Most of these certifications can be accomplished in just a few days.
The more advanced you are and the more certifications you have the more places, and more importantly greater depths, you can dive. Generally speaking, the further you go below sea level the more the aquatic life changes and the more diverse creatures you will see. Advanced divers tend to be found in groups. They flock to well known islands and dive sites like sheep and may make up entire towns that sometimes begin to seem more like a UN meeting than a vacation. Many become addicted to the sport and set out on dive vacations for months at a time, while others squeeze in a weekend whenever they get a chance.
THINGS TO CONSIDER ABOUT SCUBA DIVING
Strong waves and rain will often cause waters to cloud at shallow depths. With any sign of lighting you should be out of the water. Water, as you know, conducts electricity and lighting is attracted to the tank attached to your back. Diving during strong waves or a hurricane is extremely dangerous, as you could be pushed into coral or other divers.
In light rain in open water though, it may not matter. Even during the rain the fish stick around. It isn’t ideal and the sun won’t be there to comfort you when you get back on the boat, but it can be a great way to save a cloudy day.
Water temperature is an incredibly important factor when diving. Not only does temperature decrease as you change latitude, but also as you change depths. Wet suits or dry suits need to be worn during dives as your body cannot handle the extreme temperatures.
Emergency situations do occur while diving on a more frequent basis than many activities. You can touch a poisonous fish or coral, your air tank might not function properly, and you could hit your head on a rock or boat. Generally these are not serious situations, unless you are diving alone. You should always dive with someone else, particularly someone who is a certified rescue diver, which all certified instructors are. It may save your life. Most dive accidents occur from careless preparation and from horseplay, so keep that in mind when trying to show off.
Food and Water
You should eat at least two hours before diving. Go for complex carbohydrates such as fruits, yogurt, and whole grains. You should avoid fatty foods such as hamburgers, French fries, and sausages. Drinking water before and between dives is important as well.
Length of Dives
The length of your dive depends on the amount of air in your tank, which is affected by how quickly you breathe. The quicker you breathe the faster you will run out of air. Many divers will go through one tank, climb back on the back on the boat and rest for a while, and then strap on a different tank.
Medical Issues:Inner Ear problems
Often times your ears begin to hurt when diving to the bottom of a pool. Changing depths puts added pressure on your inner ear and you must adjust by blowing air out of your nose and other techniques that an instructor will show you. If you have a history of inner ear problems, you should consult with a doctor before diving.
Considering you will be out on a boat and in the water, where the suns rays are reflected back onto your body and eyes, Sunscreen and sunglasses that absorb at least 90 percent of UV sunlight are important.
Dehydration is a common ailment of divers. Your body needs water and when you are doing any sport you will go through plenty of it whether you realize it our not.
Diving in cold weather and at significant depths is a common cause of hypothermia, which is why the correct wet or dry suit is so important.
PREPARING FOR YOUR SCUBA DIVING TRIP
Scuba Diving Training
For snorkeling, training and preparation are minimal. All you need are basic swimming skills and the know how to breath out of a snorkel.
Diving is a bit more complicated. The basic operational skills for dive equipment is necessary to begin diving, therefore, certification is a must. The first day of the course you will be taught how to breathe with your equipment, how to connect it, how to change depths, to get adjusted to swimming with the equipment, and you will take brief lesson in the water and a basic dive with an instructor. The remaining days are all spent in the water.
Physical conditioning is only somewhat important when diving. You’ll need basic swimming skills the same you would when snorkeling, however, there’s no need to be a marathon runner. A lack of stress and relaxation is more important. Maintaining your normal breath.
The best training for a diver is practice in the water. The more hours and dives spent underwater the better you will get. In the beginning many divers tend to use their hands more frequently than usual, thus getting tired more quickly. Eventually you will rarely use you hands and just your feet and fins to swim about.
Scuba Diving Gear
To snorkel you just need a mask, fins, snorkel, and bathing suit. That’s it. Dive equipment is much more varied. Diving is usually done with an air tank, a suit, mask, fins, snorkel, breathing apparatus, shoes, belt, and a slew of optional accessories.
Your mask, fins, and snorkel are your most basic accessories. They are, for the most part, the same ones you will use while snorkeling. Your scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) set has four main parts: a high-pressure tank, a pressure regulator, a mouthpiece, and a belt that connects everything together.
The wet suit, or dry suit, is one of the most important features that will keep you both warm and comfortable. What you wear completely depends on the water temperatures and the length of a dive. A wet suit is a neoprene body suit that provides thermal insulation, but does not keep the diver from getting wet. A dry suit, which is often used when diving in dirty or contaminated water, keeps the diver completely dry and insulates the diver via air trapped in the suit or the suit’s material. A hot water suit is similar to a basic wet suit but made for long, deep, dives in cold water. The suit stays warm from warm water that is dripped inside the suit from a cord at the surface.
Dive watches are another popular item. They can withstand extreme depths, tell you when you should swim to the surface, time your dive, and tell you just how deep you are.
Every dive shop has rentals and most beginner divers stick to renting. Advanced divers will often own all of their gear, with the exception of their tanks, which are supplied by every dive shop.
Your dive equipment is extremely important. It should be tested and retested often. Serious injuries and deaths do occur simply because of faulty equipment.
SCUBA DIVING RESOURCES
Recommended Scuba Diving Books
- The Certified Diver’s Handbook: The Complete Guide to Your Own Underwater Adventures by Clay Coleman
This guide will help you create your own diving adventures “on any budget, on any schedule, in waters local or distant, and without the restrictions of group demands.”
- DAN Pocket Guide to First Aid for Scuba Diving by Dan Orr and Bill Clendenen
A good book to keep in your dive bag. Easy reference for what to do in emergency situations.
Dive: The Ultimate Guide to 60 of the World’s Top Dive Locations by Monty Halls
A great resource for whenever your going to be trip planning. Includes an in depth rundown of the world’s best dive sites.
- Footprint’s Diving the World by Beth Tierney and Shaun Tierney
Complete background on diving locations around the world. General information, location details, gear reviews and trip planning resources.
- Lonely Planet Diving and Snorkeling Series
These are dozens of mini-guidebooks for dive areas. Written by various authors, this series from the world’s number one guidebook company covers the top dive and snorkel destinations around the world.
- Scuba Diving by Dennis K. Graver
This is a broad guide to scuba diving, covering all aspects of the sport. There’s easy to read charts, descriptions of equipment, notes on maintenance, and listings of training organizations.
- Scuba Diving and Snorkeling for Dummies by John Newman.
You know who you are. All around info for the complete idiot to the expert that needs a refresher.
- Scuba Divers Sign Language Manual by James P. Smith
Communication under water is made much easier with sign language and this Scuba Diving Magazine
- “The Magazine Divers Trust.” Gear reviews, dive site highlights, resort and tour information, and a general update of everything happening in the dive world each month.
- World Atlas of Coral Reefs by Mark D. Spalding
The most colorful and unusual aquatic life often is found nearby coral reefs