Have you ever seen those beautiful nat geo underwater documentaries, about coral reefs and fish life, and wondered, if you could experience that for yourself in person? Well, scuba diving may be your answer.
SCUBA is the abbreviation for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. It helps us to breathe naturally underwater without any support from the surface, so, scuba diving enables us to stay underwater for extended periods of time and move around freely like the fish. Scuba diving has over the years become quite popular as a recreational sport. But it also plays an important role in scientific research, defence, public safety and a wide variety of commercial applications. It is also being used in training of astronauts for the zero gravity environment of space!
Why Scuba Dive?
Scuba diving opens up so many possibilities. You could explore the reef observing all kinds of marine critters in their natural habitat – a rainbow of colourful reef fishes to plethora of soft and hard corals. Or you could pick up some skills with a camera and capture those beautiful pictures you see in the magazines. Maybe you’d like to volunteer with a marine conservation group and work on coral reef conservation or marine survey programs. You could also dive world war wrecks or explore underwater cave systems like the beautiful cenotes in Mexico. Maybe even dive with the crocodiles (yes, people do that too!). So, you get the drift – the world of scuba diving is wide and colourful with something for everyone.
Learning to Scuba Dive
Learning scuba diving as a skill itself is easy. Of course you need to be medically fit to dive and be generally comfortable being in water. It’s like riding a bike, takes time to get a feel for it, but once you’ve got the basics right, you keep getting better with practice. What is more important though is learning to do it safely without being a danger to yourself, people around you or the marine environment. This takes time and effort.
Since in scuba diving you go into an environment to which you are not naturally adapted, there are some inherent risks, but nothing that can’t be mitigated to acceptable levels with training, prudence and adherence to good practices. So, it is important that you learn it properly and get certified if you want to go scuba diving. You also have an option in which you could try it out before committing to a certification course under the supervision of a diving professional.
There are many training agencies that offer courses and programs for scuba diving, most popular among them being PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and SSI (Scuba Schools International). But this is not a reflection on their quality as most of these agencies follow standards set by the WRSTC (World Recreational Scuba Training Council), and are also compliant with ISO standards (ISO 24801, ISO 24802 and ISO 24803).
Dive centres and instructors that follow the training methods set by these agencies are affiliated to them. Sometimes, they are affiliated with multiple agencies for various reasons. So, you will see many multi agency dive centres and instructors as well. Though various agencies have strong followings and take a lot of pride in their brands, in reality, your experience of the course or program will depend a lot on the diving instructor you choose to do it with. This is because as humans, we all have our distinct personalities and this bears an effect on everything we do. So, even if an instructor may be really good, their teaching style may still not be the right fit for you. So, it is a good practice to interact with your instructor beforehand to understand and clarify expectations on either sides.
Once you are a certified diver, remember to keep your skills and knowledge fresh. You could join a local dive club, subscribe to online or offline scuba magazines, join online scuba forums etc. Of course traveling to those awesome diving destinations or booking trips on liveaboards (diving cruises) are super fun too! Staying in touch with your instructor always helps. But the best way though is to keep learning new stuff that you may be interested in. Advanced courses offer various options like night diving, search and recovery, underwater navigation, photography, naturalist, emergency first aid and rescue etc. Learning new skills can also open doors for new experiences and opportunities.
If by any chance, you’ve not dived for over six months and may want to go diving, it is considered necessary by many diving professionals and training agencies that you take a refresher program to jog up your memory and brush up those skills.
Scuba diving has much to offer and it can be one of the most rewarding activities you take up. But at the same time it has some inherent risks that need to be acknowledged and managed with proper training and good judgement. It does not make much of a difference which agency you get certified with since most follow internationally accepted standards, but choice of instructor should not be taken lightly. Once certified, ensure to keep your skills fresh and that will ensure that you keep diving enjoyably and safely!