by Daniel and Michael Bernzweig
Scuba Diving, an Exciting Activity
Scuba Diving is a way of life. Once people start scuba diving, they won't stop very easily. The level of adrenaline, the feeling of being close to nature in a new and unknown environment, and the awareness of what lies beneath the surface of the water are all factors that will make you want more and more.
Scuba Diving is not difficult at all and certainly not as dangerous as many people think. It is important to get at least an open water diver certification and learn all the theory, practice, and special techniques that keep scuba divers safe during a dive to enjoy it to the fullest and succeed in whatever your underwater goals are.
Why do people Scuba Dive?
The majority of divers simply do it for pleasure: while on vacation in a resort on a tropical island or near home in lakes, oceans, or natural or artificial reefs, scuba diving is a way of exploring nature and feeling one with it while pushing ourselves a little out of our comfort zone and testing our own abilities.
Some people really go scuba diving for the thrill and the sense of adventure; others do it for biological interest and research, to look for hidden treasures, or again to participate in the protection of our environment. The reasons can be numerous, and no matter what brought you here, if you are reading this, you must be interested in becoming certified divers. Start with a swim test to be sure you are physically fit for the challenge. A swim test for divers is an underwater physical examination performed by a physician to determine whether a diver has any medical conditions that would prevent him from diving safely.
This is something that can be done in a resort, during your vacation, in your hometown, or literally wherever there's water and some good diving instructors!
How do I get my scuba certification?
You can achieve your scuba diving goals and become a certified PADI open water diver in no time at all. Theory lessons are nowadays available in dive centers or online, with the E-Learning option, while confined and open water dives will follow along with the guidance of your scuba instructor. Dive lessons include notions related to physics, environment, physiology, dive planning, and scuba equipment. At the basic levels, such as the scuba diver or the open water diver courses, you will get enough information to keep you safe and enjoy your diving experience up to a maximum depth of 60 feet - 18 meters -, but you can always take the next step, once certified, to become a more experienced diver. PADI offers, in this case, the advanced open water diver course, which allows you to dive up to 100 feet - 30 meters - and experience a few special dives such as the deep dive or the underwater navigation dive, as well as a choice between wreck diving, night diving, altitude diving, boat diving, etc. Experienced and advanced divers with more certifications, specialties, and dive trips can devote more time to their passions.
Is snorkeling experience needed to become a scuba diver?
If you are a snorkel addict, it is possible that you want to become a diver to be able to spend more time underwater or to get a closer look at coral, marine animals, and all the hidden treasures of the sea. You will probably already own a mask, a snorkel, a wetsuit, and a set of fins that can probably be used for scuba diving, too. However, if you have no snorkeling experience, this is absolutely not a problem nor a disadvantage. Snorkelers are used and accustomed to some light gear and are generally comfortable in the water. If you can swim and be at ease in the water, you will be absolutely fine. No athletic abilities are needed, at least at the recreational diver level, to become certified divers: all you need to do is be able to float and swim, be relaxed in the water, be reasonably healthy and be willing to learn.
How to look for the best dive shop
If you have some diver friends, they will probably be able to direct you to the best dive shop or diving instructors in your area. If you don't, you can refer to the PADI website for a list of dive centers where qualified underwater instructors can guide you in your underwater adventure and help you start your diving experience and career. You might also check swimming pools and beaches in your surroundings or while on vacation to find trustworthy centers with reliable dive instructors. The most reputable dive shops will be affiliated with PADI, the leading dive agency in the world, and will use registered materials, up-to-date standards, paperwork, protocols, and procedures. In the event that your dive shop is nowhere near open water, they might be associated with dive resorts or dive boats operating in a convenient location, and they might be able to arrange dive trips for your open water dives and following fun dives. The best dive shops also offer a plethora of dive gear that you can purchase, with interesting discounts for students and all types of scuba equipment, accessories, dive computers, and specialized scuba gear.
The diving experience at a glance
Shipwrecks, coral reefs, marine life, and all sort of fish can become your best friends once you start your scuba diver experience. You might be diving from a boat or shore, during the day or at night, in familiar places or new and exciting locations, at recreational depth or even deeper, once you are experienced enough to become a technical or commercial diver. Scuba diving is magic and can be a different experience for different divers. Some people look for the adrenaline, strong currents, sharks, and whales, others are more focused on macrofauna and underwater photography, and others again just enjoy the peaceful swim and the break from a frenetic and hectic lifestyle and are content with no matter what they might encounter. You may even see a whale shark while scuba diving. They are usually found near coral reefs, where they feed on plankton. Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) are large fish that grow up to 20 ft in length and weigh over 5 tons. They have been found off the coast of Africa, Asia, Australia, South America, and the Caribbean.
It is important, before a dive trip, to get familiar with the area and know what to expect. A place like Lembeh, famous for muck diving, is a paradise for underwater photographers but can be boring for those divers looking for colorful reefs and big pelagic animals. On the other hand, a dive destination like the Red Sea might make everyone happy, as here divers can see sharks, manta rays, eagle rays, and dolphins, but also small nudibranchs and sea slugs, stunning corals, shipwrecks and amazing reefs, and an incredible variety of fish.
Diving from a resort or a liveaboard during a dive vacation is a unique diving experience that makes you feel part of a new world, completely submerged in the diving lifestyle, talking, eating, breathing, and dreaming of fish, and sharks, boat trips, and water. At a shallow water depth, you may see sea life such as jellyfish, starfish, crabs, fish, and other marine animals in the clear water. If you dive deeper, you may find coral reefs, shipwrecks, and sunken treasure!
Safety is a major concern for novice divers. A little unease and discomfort are totally fine at the beginning: we are entering an environment that we are not made for, an environment made of water and fish, but also pressure and potentially life-threatening situations.
During your open water certification course, you will learn how to use a dive table and a dive computer to monitor the nitrogen levels during your dive and avoid issues such as nitrogen narcosis, decompression sickness, air embolism, and lung overexpansion. A good part of your scuba lessons will focus on safety, both yours, your dive buddies, and the environment as well. Once you have reached the advanced diver level, you can also decide to become a certified rescue diver, and you will need to take an emergency first response certification, too. On top of all this training and techniques aiming to keep you safe, you might also want to consider enrolling in special insurance for divers, such as the leading diving insurance DAN, Divers Alert Network, which also promotes education and information about diving, environment, dive gear, treatment of injuries and diseases and medical assistance all over the world.
Thanks to the divers' alert network, thousands of divers keep recreational scuba diving within its limits and are assisted in case of emergency or accidents, with a huge impact on the safety end general enjoyment of the entire diving experience.
Now let's go diving!
With all this information in mind, you now know what steps to take to obtain your scuba certification and enjoy your next underwater adventure! With the help of your scuba instructor, you will be able to take interesting scuba lessons and explore natural and artificial reefs, learn about fish, sharks, marine life, wreck diving, purchase your scuba gear, and maybe even become an experienced diver with some time and practice. Your life as a certified diver will now move between a dive trip to some exclusive resort in the Caribbean, Australia, or the Red Sea and the most recent updates on dive gear. The underwater world will no longer have secrets for you!
Scuba Diving FAQ
What does PADI stand for in scuba diving?
The acronym PADI stands for PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION OF DIVING INSTRUCTORS. PADI is the world's leading scuba diver training agency and organization, with over 6600 dive centers and about 130000 individual PADI professionals in the world.
Where can I go scuba diving near me?
Depending on where you are located, you will find several operators that offer scuba diving. To ensure you only dive with a dive professional, the best resource is the PADI website. With their Dive Locator, you will be able to enter your region and find only PADI credited dive centers, including some of the most famous and sought-after professional organizations in the world, such as Sandals in the Caribbean, Emperor Divers in the Red Sea, or Papua Explorers in Indonesia.
What is scuba diving?
Scuba Diving is one of the most exciting and breathtaking experiences you might ever try in your entire life. With scuba diving, you can explore the underwater world using specialized equipment that allows you to breathe underwater.
How to get your scuba diving license?
There are several different levels of dive training that you can access to. If you are a novice willing to learn how to dive, the PADI Scuba Diver or the PADI Open Water Diver is the perfect beginners' course chosen by thousands of divers all over the world. With some theory lessons, confined water sessions, and two - for the SD - or four - for the OWD - dives in open water, you will learn the basics of diving and be able to scuba dive safely all over the world for the rest of your life.
What is the bends caused by scuba diving?
The "bends", whose correct name is Decompression Sickness, are just one of the problems included in the wider definition of Decompression Illness. This last one includes DCS (Decompression Sickness) and all types of AGE (Arterial Gas Embolism).
DCS, or the bends, is due to inert gas - nitrogen in recreational diving - that is dissolved in a diver's body tissues under pressure and expands during the ascent. The reasons are numerous: a fast ascent rate, skipping safety stops, an uncontrolled ascent due to problems with equipment, or have exceeded the maximum dive time allowed for a specific depth. The gas will respond to the modifications in pressure on the way to the surface, expanding as any gas would do when brought to minor pressure, and literally create bubbles in your bloodstream that might end up blocking your circulation in the spot where it occurred - mostly where the body "bends": joints such as the hips, shoulders, elbows, ankles are some of the most common places where the bends can happen.
What gear do you need for scuba diving?
Bottom to top, the essential scuba diving gear is composed of fins (with or without boots), an exposure suit (wetsuit, semidry or dry), a weight belt, a buoyancy control device and an octopus with two regulators, a high-pressure hose and an instrument console, a dive computer, a mask, a snorkel, gloves, and a hood if the temperature requires it.
Several additional pieces of equipment might need to be added, such as a compass to be able to navigate, a depth gauge, a slate, a surface marker buoy, several types of lights for night diving, dive tables, acoustic signaling devices, a knife, a line cutter, and spare items to place in pockets such as an additional mask, a foldable snorkel, or a backup computer.
If you are one of the participants in a search and recovery dive or you're looking for underwater treasures, you should add to the list a good lift bag and a mesh bag to collect your findings.
How much do scuba diving lessons cost?
Scuba diving course prices vary around the world but always beware of those that look too cheap. In the cheapest locations such as South East Asia or Africa, prices for an Open Water Diver course can be as low as $300, but you can get it for higher prices in more exclusive locations such as the Maldives or on cruise ships, up to $800. In general, anywhere between $350 and $450 is considered a reasonable price for a well-done beginner's certification.
How deep can you go scuba diving?
The depth is established by your level of certification. Recreational diving is anywhere between 0 and 40 meters or 0 to 120 feet. Here is a table that might help you with this question:
Anything below 40 meters/120 feet is no longer recreational diving and requires special equipment, knowledge, and techniques. This is called technical diving.
How much does scuba diving equipment cost?
Dive gear is not cheap, let's be honest. But, if properly taken care of, it really can last you forever.
Masks, snorkels, and fins are probably the cheapest part of your equipment, and most people might already own some decent ones from snorkeling. Exposure suits depend on the water temperature: a tropical thin wetsuit might cost anywhere between $180 and $300, but prices go up with additional millimeters until dry suits can cost up to $1,000.
You can find cheap, basic dive computers for around $250; after that, the sky is the limit! Dive computers that can read multiple gas blends that can automatically adjust to the altitude or that work on the most up-to-date algorithms can be quite pricey.
BCDs and regulators are the core of a scuba diver's gear, and you can easily find some good combos for $800 to $1,500.
Other accessories vary in price; dive torches can be a little pricier, while knives, compasses, undergarments, and other tools are more reasonable.
What is the difference between snorkeling and scuba diving?
One thing to keep in mind is that while snorkeling, you simply float on the surface and observe the underwater world, breathing air through your snorkel. Equipment and training are minimal, but you are limited to the surface.
When scuba diving, you are literally submerged under water and breathe through a regulator that feeds from a scuba tank that is normally worn on your back. In this case, you will be able to get a closer look at the reef and its inhabitants, but you will need proper training and specialized equipment.
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