The allure of the deep lies not so much in the depth itself but in what you can observe once you're there. Deep diving unveils a whole new world of sites, ranging from historical wrecks to deep-dwelling marine species, such as thresher sharks, which are rarely encountered in the shallows. In recreational diving, the depth is limited to a maximum of 40 metres, while technical divers routinely explore depths beyond 60 metres. However, diving at greater depths also requires acquiring new knowledge and skillsets, especially in the case of technical diving. So, if you're curious about delving a little deeper, read on to learn how to dive deep.

Get certified

The crucial first step in learning how to dive deep is to become certified. This begins with the Open Water Diver course, enabling you to dive to a maximum depth of 18 metres. At this level, you'll gain essential knowledge in diving safely, dive planning and buoyancy control. To explore greater depths, acquiring a new set of skills is necessary, and this is where the Advanced Open Water Diver course becomes invaluable. Through this course, you'll receive training to descend to a maximum depth of 30 metres. Recreational divers aspiring to explore even deeper waters will need to undertake the Deep Diver speciality course.

Underwater photo of two divers inside a cave with light coming in from the top

The deep diving speciality course

While the advanced certification provides you with fundamental knowledge for diving at greater depths, the Deep Diving speciality course teaches you everything you need to know to dive down to 40 metres. Divers in this course learn to plan deep dives, navigate at depth and precisely manage buoyancy. The course also covers depth physiology, decompression theory and gas management, emphasising specialised equipment and emergency procedures.

Want to go even deeper? If you're a dive junkie seeking adventures beyond recreational dive limits, consider enrolling in Technical Diving courses…

Technical diving

While recreational diving is capped at 40 metres, technical divers have the freedom to explore even greater depths. However, technical diving comes with its own guidelines, training and equipment. This typically includes using twin cylinders or rebreathers, as well as using different gas mixes, such as trimix, to manage decompression and reduce the risk of oxygen toxicity during deeper dives.

For those who take the plunge, a whole new world of rarely explored sites exists. Two of the most famous tech dives include the San Francisco Maru, a WWII wreck resting 62 metres deep in Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia, and the Blue Hole in Dahab, Egypt, which drops well beyond 100 metres.

Underwater photo of a diver exploring a cave

Nitrogen narcosis

Both recreational and technical divers learning how to dive deep will gain a thorough understanding of the associated risks, which include nitrogen narcosis and decompression sickness.

Nitrogen narcosis, otherwise known as 'the martini effect,' is a narcotic effect caused by breathing compressed gas, usually nitrogen, at depth. The deeper you go, the greater the effect of nitrogen narcosis is, so it's crucial to be aware of the symptoms. These may include tingling fingers, difficulty in concentrating, drowsiness, euphoria and feeling afraid. If you start to feel 'narced,' alert your dive buddy, take slow, deep breaths and ascend slightly.

Decompression theory

Decompression sickness (DCS), commonly known as 'the bends,' is most frequently encountered by deep divers due to increased pressure. As divers descend, nitrogen from the breathing gas dissolves in body tissues. During ascent, if the rate is too rapid, nitrogen forms bubbles in the bloodstream and tissues, resulting in DCS. Given that these bubbles can form anywhere in the body, symptoms vary, ranging from joint pain to fatigue, and in severe cases, paralysis or even death.

For those wondering how to dive deep without getting decompression sickness, all dives follow the same foundation, which starts with having a thorough dive plan.

Remember your dive plan

Irrespective of your target depth, every dive should start with a carefully devised plan. Make sure to meticulously consider factors such as bottom time, ascent rate, gas consumption and decompression stops. During the dive, adhere to controlled ascent rates and incorporate decompression stops, which allow the gradual release of nitrogen and minimise the risk of bubble formation.

Make sure to also stay well-informed about local diving regulations, weather conditions and potential hazards specific to the dive site. There's credence to the adage 'fail to prepare, prepare to fail'; the more knowledge you have, the better equipped you'll be to prevent and manage decompression sickness during deep dives.

Underwater photographer scuba divers explore reef with an old fishing net

Choose the right dive buddy

The buddy system was put in place for a reason. Having a dive buddy ensures that someone is there to support you in case of any issues. Select your dive buddy thoughtfully, ensuring they share similar experience, certifications and knowledge of deep diving procedures. Similarly, be mindful of your own limits. If your buddy is enthusiastic about exploring depths beyond your comfort level, prioritise respecting your personal boundaries. If you ever feel uneasy or face unexpected challenges during a dive, it's perfectly acceptable to abort the dive and ascend to shallower depths.