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Scuba Diving and Snorkelling Safety

By: Ian Youngman - Updated: 20 Nov 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Scuba Diving Snorkelling Scuba Safety

Underwater is another world of extra-ordinary creatures, sights, sounds and sensations. Diving can be a great way of relaxing from the stresses and strains of modern life. Whether you are an experienced diver, or want to start diving, there is a wide range of diving holidays available. Although some holidays offer the chance to learn, the vast majority will only take you if you have a current diving certificate. Be very wary of operators or locations, which suggest you, can dive without experience or equipment.

The simplest form of diving is free diving, using a snorkel. This is suitable for calm warm shallow waters. You can dive just to look around, or take photos. To get into deeper and more interesting waters, you will need scuba equipment with high-pressure air tanks. You can only scuba dive if you have training and a current certification card.

There are many dive sites around the world. You can learn to dive in the Red Sea, live and dive aboard boats in the Galapagos Islands, or scuba dive in the Mediterranean. Live aboard holidays are where you are out on the ocean aboard a specialist boat; great for getting to unusual locations. On land-based centres, you can combine diving and other pursuits. Partying the night away is not an option, as you will not be allowed to dive if tired or suffering a hangover.

Equipment and Training

Diving is a sport where you do need to buy or hire equipment. Check what the dive centre expects you take and what it can provide. The hiring of some equipment is generally included in the price of your purchase of the number of days dives you wish to do, this includes air tanks which you will never be asked to supply yourself, even if an experienced diver with all your own equipment or even your own dive centre you still do not have to travel on planes to other countries with air tanks, you borrow these from a local dive centre for a small charge and can refill them at the local dive centre.

Other equipment hireable includes: wetsuit, mask and snorkel, buoyancy control device(jacket), the hoses with regulator (mouthpiece), octopus(spare mouthpiece for sharing with buddy), air pressure gauge and buoyancy inflator, fins and weight belt. The price for this equipment hire will be roughly £10 or 10 euros with a good dive centre although some courses such as a try dive or open water learn to dive include all this equipment in the price. Also depending on conditions and what the dive centre can provide, you may get a short wetsuit (shorty), full body wetsuit, drysuit, boots, hood or gloves.

Essential Equipment

Whatever scuba diving you do, essential equipment includes; mask, fins, buoyancy control device, weight belt, regulator, spare regulator(octopus), computerised monitoring instruments(air pressure gauge). Other equipment such as knife, surface marker buoy, spare kit, first aid kit, gear bag, emergency alternate air and oxygen is not essential for every diver to have. Aside from the knife this should all be kept on the boat if it is your boat or if diving with a dive centre they will have all of these supplies. A knife is only necessary for one member of the team to have - this should be the most experienced or instructor.

A snorkel is not an essential item when scuba diving and is only really used if you run out of air and surface away from the boat in choppy conditions meaning that swimming with a snorkel to the boat is easier than swimming without. An experienced diver would generally not let this happen and an inexperienced diver would have an instructor or buddy who would not let this happen.

Holiday Dive Packages

Most dive packages are for experienced divers only. They require you to have a current logbook and dive card. If you have not dived for 6 to 12 months it is unlikely that you will be made to take a check dive or a test but they may ask you to show them some skills such as setting up equipment and then underwater filling your mask with water and clearing it, as well as removing and dropping your regulator to then recover it and clear it of water. You may also have the option of doing a refresher dive in a swimming pool or shallow area of the sea (generally off shore dive rather than from a boat) to remind yourself.

Learn to dive holiday courses are for beginners and experienced divers wanting to develop their skills. Most people find they enjoy diving holidays much more if they already know how to dive.

Who Can Learn to Dive?

As long as you are reasonably fit and comfortable in the water, you can learn to dive. Some health issues and conditions will prevent you from being allowed to dive, others such as asthma however, may not stop you but it is essential that you check with your doctor that you are fit to dive. If you have a health condition or are taking medication and provide the dive centre or company with a doctor's note allowing you to dive. First time divers are also recommended to check with their doctors that they are fit to dive.You can dive train inland with instructors accredited by a specialist organisation such as British Sub Aqua Club, Professional Association of Diving Instructors or National Association of Underwater Instructors.

Safety

One of the best reasons for arranging a dive holiday with a specialist is that they have a good safety record. Arranging it yourself is possible, but you will need to spend a fair amount of time checking the credentials of the diving company you dive with.

Unless it is a learning to dive holiday, avoid companies or locations, which do not check you have a current diving certificate. Even when buying specialist dive tours, ask what experience the diving centre and divers have. Reliable operators will welcome questions. Wherever you are going, enjoy the holiday most by getting some dive practice in before travelling.

Insurance

Most holiday providers insist that you have insurance. Some will offer their own specialist insurance. Standard travel insurance policies exclude diving as a "hazardous pursuit", but this may be well hidden in the small print. Check with insurers that it includes diving or can be extended to do so. Specialist dive insurance policies are available. Always check that cover includes the type of diving you plan to do e.g. scuba diving beyond 30 metres, and that it covers an unlimited number of dives.

Your Own Comfort and Safety when Diving

If ever you feel that you do not want to dive or are under pressure or frightened - or even just feel too tired, do not worry about money or embarrassment, it is completely your decision and you do not need to give an explanation. It would spoil your enjoyment of the dive or even be dangerous if you dived when you didn't initially want to. First time divers or divers who have not dived for a long time however, are bound to feel nervous or slightly anxious; a good instructor or buddy will calm your nerves but will not push you if you feel uncomfortable. If you are not happy with your buddy and do not trust them to be safe underwater then do not dive with them, because your safety is in their hands as much as in your own.

A Few More Tips

1. When diving you need to equalise (clear your ears) by holding your nose and mouth closed and breathing out when changing depth.
2. You cannot dive within 24 hours of going on a plane as this is dangerous and could cause severe sinus problems due to vast pressure changes.
3. Your instructor or team leader will always give a brief before the dive and no matter how many times you've heard it or your experience you should always listen as every dive site is different and every dive centre may do things differently such as use slightly different hand signals for certain things (although the main signals are universal).

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