I love scuba diving and having dived in Turkey, Cuba, Thailand (Koh Tao) and Indonesia (the Gili islands and Komodo), clocking in around 35 dives. However, I have begun to feel the more I learn, the less I know! My parents encouraged me to start scuba diving whilst on holiday in Turkey when I was 16 and being a keen swimmer and constantly splashing around in the sea whenever at a beach I couldn’t wait to give it a go! The PADI Open water course involved a mixture of classroom learning linked with dives and having to complete certain drills. I enjoyed the course and the diving in Turkey was relatively easy although there wasn’t an awful lot of marine life to see.
In 2015 I finally got round to completing my advanced qualification on Gili Air (Lombok)- mainly to give me the opportunity to dive deeper (although quite a few dive schools are not as strict on the limits as they perhaps should be)! This was such a fantastic course and so much better than fun diving that I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys diving! This course just involved slightly longer, more detailed dive briefings and then a variety of different dives. I completed a deep dive, current dive, night dive and navigation dive and learnt so much! This made me realise there is so much more to diving than the Open water course teaches you. Following the completion of my advanced course, I dived a couple of the sites around Nusa Lembongan (a small island off Bali) and these provided a much greater challenge, drawing in lots of advanced scuba divers… it wasn’t a great experience as for the first time I felt out of my depth and therefore has led me to write down some tips for those of you who don’t want to be plummeted out of your comfort zones too quickly!
- Do your research – This is the most important thing – make sure the dive school you choose is not only reputable but has good reviews from people at the same level as you. It’s no good if lots of dive masters have had a good experience there if you are an open water diver as they will be looking for different (probably more challenging) opportunities! Lots of dive schools are now on Tripadvisor so this can be an easy place to start looking.
- Make sure the equipment meets your standards – and have high standards! Remember you are essentially placing your trust in the equipment to allow you to breathe underwater so it seems obvious, but make sure you do trust that it will!
- Insist on a dive briefing – It may sound crazy that some places wouldn’t brief you… but I’ve experienced such a mix of detail given before the start of a dive. I love it when the dive master shows a map of the site and talks about what types of marine life you should expect to see (along with any potential dangers). Don’t be afraid to ask questions even if you think they are silly! I wish I had asked about any potential dangers when diving in Koh Tao and witnessing a trigger fish attack!!
- Get to know your buddy – It is always easier when you already know your buddy to dive in a manner that ensures you both feel confident. Some divers like their buddy right beside them, others are happy knowing they could reach them in an emergency situation. Therefore if you are diving with someone you don’t know it’s often helpful to get to know them on the surface before communication becomes harder underwater! Also even if you don’t know your buddy before diving with them, make sure you do your buddy checks properly! Reputable dive centres should encourage this! And just remember; “Bankok Women Rarely Are Females! = BCD, Weight belt, Releases, Air, Final check”
- Select your dive sites carefully – again if you have chosen your dive centre carefully, they should want to access your ability before encouraging you to dive a site with extreme currents, however it is always worth researching the dive sites to check you are experienced/confident enough with the conditions. It is also worth considering what you would like to see on your dive. Of course it is never a 100% guarantee … we are still on the search for Manta Rays, but there will be certain sites that provide a greater opportunity (it’s rare to not see a turtle at Marlin Hill in Gili Air!)
- Keep your log book up to date – This comes natural to me with the holiday journal always near by… but it’s really handy to have a live record of not only what you’ve seen but the equipment you’ve used. I can never remember how many weights I need so looking back can be a quick reference – I also like to keep an eye on my air consumption and see if little tips I’ve learnt have improved it!
- Try out underwater photography – Scuba diving is such a great opportunity to get up close and personal with marine life, however it can be tricky to get good footage whilst learning and thinking about everything else that is going on! When you are a relaxed diver and diving within your comfort zone, I would definitely encourage filming/trying some underwater photography – it is loads of fun and can be a great way to help share the experience with people who haven’t tried diving. A red lens is needed as this is the colour of light that goes first… I’m still looking for a good one suitable for GoPro so please let me know if you have any recommendations!
- Take your time and “speak up” if you have a problem – I know this is good advice because I rarely follow it myself! There have been times when I have struggled to get down or had a leaking mask for the whole dive or not been able to equalise my ear properly for ages… but it is so important just to pause, sort it out and then carry on! Sometimes you might need extra weight on your weight belt or to rise slightly to allow your ears to equalise before continuing with the descent. Keeping in close communication with your buddy is definitely necessary here!
- Practice playing with your buoyancy – use just your breath to figure out how to remain neutrally buoyant. This is not only really fun but will help you slow down and enjoy the dive, the slower you go the more you will see! Slowing down should help your air consumption as well resulting in a longer dive.
- Don’t touch anything, don’t take anything, don’t tease anything!Take only photos… leave only bubbles!
And most importantly of all … have the time of your life!
Please feel free to add any other tips in the comment box… I’m sure I’ve missed some useful tips but hopefully this is helpful for you!