by Paul Johnston
Scuba diving is one of the most popular activities to do when on holiday. This isn’t just for those who go on designated diving holidays, however, but also among more casual holidaymakers looking to explore the clear blue seas and marine life for themselves.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of strapping on breathing apparatus and plumbing the depths, so it’s easy to see why it proves to be such a draw – especially for those who typically live inland or in large, sprawling cities.
Scuba diving isn’t just a case of popping in the mouthpiece and jumping right in, however, but takes just a little forethought. Having done this would-be divers can be happy in the knowledge that they’re about to enjoy a safe and positive introduction to the world of scuba.
The first port of call for any scuba diver will be the equipment. For many first-timers, this will be rentedas it’s heavy, so doesn’t travel well and is expensive, so buying outright isn’t ideal for novices or occasional divers. Still, it is wise for a diver to get to know their equipment as it means they are sure what everything is and won’t end up having to put all their trust in the rental firm.
The main piece of kit is the self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (from which SCUBA gets its name). This is otherwise known as an aqualung, or simply breathing apparatus. It comprises of a pressurised air tank which is worn on the back, a harness with which it is affixed, a hose to carry air to the mouth, a regulator for ensuring air is delivered at an ambient rate and a mouthpiece through which to breathe.
Of these, it is the humble regulator which plays one of the biggest roles; amending the air pressure so it is at the right level to inflate a diver’s lungs whatever depth (and therefore pressure) they reach.
Aside from the breathing apparatus, much of a scuba diver’s kit is pretty straight-forward – comprising a wetsuit, flippers, light and mask that covers both the eyes and nose to prevent divers taking in water.
Scuba diving is incredibly popular and very commonplace at seaside resorts. This shouldn’t undermine that danger it poses, however, as it is still viewed as something of an extreme sport along with the likes of skiing and surfing. For this reason, travellers should take out sports travel insurance that comes with scuba cover before even setting off from home (try Columbus Direct).
Once out on the water, there are a number of checks to go through and procedures to learn before a dive begins in earnest.
First, divers will go through their equipment to ensure it is working efficiently. This isn’t just the breathing apparatus but also ensuring flippers are securely attached and goggles are both clean and free of anything that could lead to leakage.
Next, divers will enter the water and go through the dive procedure without reaching any potentially dangerous depths. This is to ensure equipment is working properly and set up as it should be.
Divers will typically participate with a buddy as this helps ensure neither party runs into trouble during the process. This way, any issues can be resolved immediately before they have the chance to escalate into a potentially dangerous or even lethal situations. The buddy can also share their air supply whilst ascending in the case of someone running into trouble.
A buddy will also need to be clued up on the hand-gestures used by divers to convey messages. A thumbs up, for example, doesn’t mean everything is fine but can – in fact – represent quite the opposite, as it means the person is headed for the surface. Thumbs down, meanwhile, is the opposite and conveys intention to dive further, whilst the ‘ok’ gesture involves touching the thumb and forefinger together to create an ‘o’ shape with the palm of the hand facing away from the body.
Lastly, safety doesn’t just involve getting in the water and during the dive itself but also getting back out of the water. This is the point when divers often think that any danger is gone but that’s not the case. Divers will still need to have their wits about them and get out of the water safely without rushing, taking in any water or damaging equipment.
With equipment and safety accounted for, it’s time to dive! The first issue which novice divers note is the alien feeling of breathing through apparatus. Not only does it require inhaling and exhaling through the mouth, it is also incredibly loud- sounding much like Darth Vader’s taken up residence in your ear canal.
Whilst this is disconcerting at first, it’s also one of the easiest issues to overcome, with many first-timers getting to grips with breathing through apparatus almost right away.
Then comes the swimming whilst lumbered with all the additional weight. The impact of water buoyancy should mean that equipment won’t feel too heavy (this, of course, varies between salt and fresh water, which have different densities), but it will still be strange trying to navigate with all the equipment.
The last thing many first-time divers note is the dream-like quality it provides. Once a diver gets going, there is a certain stillness and weightlessness that takes over, coupled with little more than the sound of their own breathing, making the experience feel like a dream.
Anything else a diver can come to expect will depend upon the location of their dive. It could be coral reefs, marine wildlife, sunken ships or any combination of the three. Either way, with the equipment and security issues addressed, all that needs to be done is settle in and enjoy this alien, unique and unforgettable experience.