Divers and astronauts have a lot in common. Venturing below the waves, we become weightless, and each dive often reveals otherworldly ecosystems and 'alien' life forms, from plants that don't photosynthesize to glow-in-the-dark creatures of the deep. For most of us, exploring the ocean is the closest we'll get to outer space. Astronauts and divers also undergo similar training. We both practice our essential skills in swimming pools, adhere to the buddy system and need special gear to explore. Whether it's your tenth or 200th dive (or spacewalk), safety is always a top priority. Read on to discover our top tips for staying safe when you dive.
1. Choose Reputable Dive Centres
Before you even slip into your wetsuit, choosing a reputable dive centre is paramount. Opt for a centre that prioritizes safety, offers well-maintained equipment and employs experienced dive instructors. A little research goes a long way in ensuring you're in safe hands.
2. Get Certified
For those new to diving, obtaining certification is your passport to the underwater world. PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and SSI (Scuba Schools International) offer courses that teach you the fundamentals of diving safety and techniques. Becoming a certified diver not only enhances your experience but also guarantees you're well-prepared for any situation.
Once you've completed your Open Water Diver certification, there are a plethora of speciality courses that will equip you with the know-how to dive safely in different situations. From the Deep Diver speciality to getting the Rescue Diver certification, keeping our knowledge up to date will ensure you are always staying safe while you dive.
3. Invest in Quality Gear
When it comes to getting suited and booted, investing in quality diving gear goes a long way. While most dive centres provide rental equipment, having your own gear will ensure your comfort and familiarity. Invest in a well-fitting wetsuit, mask and fins that suit your body type and preferences. Additionally, a high-quality dive computer can keep you informed about your dive's progress, helping you stay within safe time and depth limits.
4. Be Mindful of Your Health
Diving is a physically demanding activity, and while it's one of the most accessible extreme sports, it's essential to be mindful of your health. If you have pre-existing medical conditions, it's wise to consult a doctor before embarking on your underwater adventure. Even diving with a common cold is a serious no-go, and communicating any health concerns with your dive instructor or guide is paramount. Similarly, maintaining your fitness through activities like swimming and cardio exercises can enhance your diving experience.
5. Plan for Safe Depths
The famous mantra embraced by divers worldwide, 'Plan your dive and dive your plan', rings true for every dive you do. Diving allows you to explore the captivating depths of the ocean, but it's crucial to respect your depth limits. Depending on your certification level, there are specific maximum depths you should adhere to. Staying within these limits minimizes the risk of decompression sickness, commonly known as the bends'. Remember, the ocean's beauty is vast - even at shallower depths.
6, Buddy Up
Diving is an experience best shared, and that's where your dive buddy comes in. Partner up with your loved one or family member and keep a close eye on each other throughout the dive. A buddy system not only enhances safety but also adds to the joy of discovering and sharing your underwater endeavours.
Before every dive, conduct the dive buddy check. There are many variations of the buddy check acronym but for myself, as a diver in Indonesia, I swear by: Breakfast With Rice And Fish (BCD, Weights, Releases, Air, Final checks). Also, go over the essential dive hand signals (like 'how much air do you have' and 'not okay') so you can communicate underwater.
7. Listen to Your Dive Instructors
While it's easy to get swept away by the excitement of diving, remember that your dive instructors are there to guide you and ensure you stay safe. Listen carefully to their instructions, especially when it comes to techniques, equipment usage and safety protocols. No two dive sites are the same and their expertise ensures you have a smooth and secure diving experience.
8. Stay Hydrated and Protect Your Skin
Diving is a drinking game. Drink plenty of water before and after your dive to stay sufficiently hydrated. It sounds counterintuitive that diving can be dehydrating, given that we surround ourselves in the cool ocean. While wearing a wetsuit keeps you warm, it can also cause us to sweat, similarly, breathing compressed air can cause us to lose more fluid. Additionally, protect your skin from the sun's rays with reef-safe sunscreen, rash guards or wetsuit coverage. A lobster sunburn might put a dampener on your post-dive glow.
9. Respect Marine Life and Ecosystems
Diving isn't just about exploring, it's about being a responsible steward of the ocean. Treat marine life and ecosystems with respect by avoiding touching or disturbing them. Keep a safe distance and follow ethical diving practices to preserve the underwater world for generations to come.
10. Dive Secure: Health Insurance for Global Adventures
Amidst the splendour of diving, there's a practical aspect that resonates with luxury travellers: health insurance. While embarking on international escapades, especially in the world of diving, having comprehensive health insurance is akin to wrapping yourself in a blanket. It's that added layer of assurance that, should the unexpected occur, you're diving with a safety net. Divers Alert Network (DAN) is a popular option among all divers. Costing only £31 annually, it is a bargain considering it covers 100% of qualified accident medical expenses up to £392,100.