“Take only pictures, leave only bubbles” is a common diver saying which proves itself true – every single time. But I have seen beginners go hand over hand along on coral reefs touching every coral. It is indeed hard to describe the mind-blowing magic of being able to breath underwater combined with the feeling of somehow flying and the stunning underwater scenery around you. Do not touch the corals. Ever. That is one basic diving rule you cannot stress enough. Maybe you are a diving beginner or interested in becoming one. Then that’s for you: Five tips – or almost rules – on how you become a responsible diver and can have a worthwhile experience.
1. Don’t pick anything up
Let’s stick to that. As a responsible diver you do not pick up shells, rocks or anything else while you are diving – apart from plastic. You might think that that shell you pick up would not make any difference. But what happens if ever diver thinks like this? The impact can be devastating. You are most welcome to collect a few plastic items though and take them back with you. That would actually be most desirable. Also watch your fins. You do not want to accidentally destroy the sensitive coral habitats by accidentally crushing your feet into them. It takes some time to get used to the fins. It feels weird to have an extension of your foot, but you have the training dives to practise your fin moving skills.
2. Do not rush or push yourself
It might be intriguing. Underwater everything is new and so exciting. Still, it is essential that you do not push yourself to keep up with experienced divers or test your limits which can be hard at times. Especially when you are diving with friends. Avoid the peer pressure. Only do what you feel comfortable with. A relaxed diver is a good diver. That way you do not use up too much oxygen and stay controlled.
3. Practice, practice, practice and check your gear
Practice is the key to everything. If water leaks into your mask or you lose it, it is better you know how to clear you mask and stay relaxed than to panic. Also practise a slow and steady breath. That saves oxygen and it helps you with a safe ascent. Always take your time ascending and make sure that you still have 1/3 of your oxygen left. If you ascend too quickly, the nitrogen absorbed in your blood stream does not have time to dissolve back as the pressure decreases on your way to the surface That causes decompression sickness – fatigue, dizziness, headache, joint pain. Nothing you want to experience, trust me.
Luckily, most modern diving equipment includes a small computer that will warn you when you ascend to fast. If you don’t have one, it is also simple: Never go faster than your smallest bubble. On top of that, always check your gear. Your survival under water literally depends on your diving equipment. Always check your buddy’s gear and let him or her check yours before very dive.
4. Buddy up and plan your dive
Plan you dive and while diving keep to your plan. Remember you are not the only one relying on it, your buddy is as well. Thus, take your time and properly to plan your dive as it is ensuring your safety underwater. Make sure that you have agreed on a maximum time and depth. It is easy to lose track of time under water. Always stay in communication with your buddy and agree on hand signals. On your first dives or PADI course, you will most likely be paired with a stranger. So, you have to be on the same page for the signals used for, for example, ½ tank of air, the signal that you are okay or want to start your ascend.
5. Scared of the under-water experience?
The imagination of diving, carrying that heavy equipment surrounded by water and breathing oxygen out of a tank can be quite daunting. So, I cannot emphasize on how important it is that you feel comfortable. If you are unsure if scuba diving would be something for you or it is too far out of your comfort zone, try an organised test dive. They are commercial group-dives and not as adventurous as diving with your buddy as a qualified diver but worth to get a feeling before you spend £200 and £400 diving course.
Is diving safe? Yes, diving is safe if you know how to control your buoyancy, have a good finning technique, pay attention to your diving instructor and regularly practice your skills. Some people worry that their ears might hurt on the way down but pinching your nose and blowing gently equalizes your ears.