Scuba Diving lessons
By erik

9 Reasons why you should do your Scuba Diving International (SDI) Open Water Scuba Diver Course

9 Reasons why you should do your Scuba Diving International (SDI) Open Water Scuba Diver Course

 

According to statistics, there are over 6 million certified divers in the world[i].  When you think about it, there are over 7 billion people alive today, so when you do the math, we are talking about 0.1% of the entire world’s population.   That means that people who actively dive are part of an elite group of individuals who get to see parts of our planet that the other 99.9% of the people in the world never will. If that’s not enough reason for you, here’s a few fun facts.

Get a new perspective on how you see the world.

Once you’re in the water you’ll have an entirely new perspective on the world. Everything under the surface is calm and you’re surrounded by the most amazing creatures. Schools of colorful fish big and small, invertebrates, crustaceans, colorful coral formations that date back to an age before time itself existed are all there waiting for you to come and meet them

When you are a certified diver, you can start exploring all these sites and as a beginner you don’t even need to go deeper than 18meters/60 feet to see the most beautiful sights the world has to offer.

 

The scuba diving community

Scuba Diving friends

No matter where you go in the world, you will meet divers.  I have met some of my oldest and dearest friends through scuba diving.  Whether you take a trip to Playa del Carmen or Cozumel, a liveaboard in the Red Sea or simply join a dive club in your location for weekday pool nights and occasional local dive trips, you will see that as a certified diver, a  whole new group of individuals will welcome you with open arms to help you become a better diver, gain experience and simply have fun!

If you travel solo, you’ll never be bored because with diving, you will fill your days with excitement, and who knows, you might meet some really cool people on the dive boat who will become your travel friends, and even lifelong friends!

 

More reasons to travel

Scuba Diving Travels
Travel to Playa del Carmen for excellent scuba diving for you and the family

Not that anybody needs more reasons to go to amazing locations, but many of the world’s greatest and best known dive destinations are surrounded by white, sandy beaches, turquoise water and warm sunny climate.  Some other great locations might be inland, a bit colder, but with amazing dive opportunities. You’ll never know until you start diving and start exploring the 70% of the planet’s surface that is covered in water.

 

Get away from it all

underwater cell phone
enjoy the quiet of disconnecting from the world while scuba diving

There is no cellphone reception, no wifi, or any of the many things that contribute to our daily stress. For me personally, I love the fact that when I am under water, all my troubles stay on the surface along with my phone. Nobody can call me, text or email me.

 

Be an advocate for environmental conservation

environmental conservation scuba diving

As you have probably noticed, our planet is not doing great at the moment. There’s too many people, too much pollution, overfishing, plastics in the ocean choking the life out of it. As a diver, you will be part of the elite group of people who will advocate for conservation, who will help clean up even if just a small patch of a beach, remove garbage if you spot it during a dive (which could save a turtle’s life), remove ghost nets and fishing lines from reefs and wrecks, saving the lives of countless animals and feeling super good about doing your part to protect our fragile planet.

 

Get healthy and exercise

Did you know that even the laziest drift dive will burn between 300-600+ calories per hour?  That’s because when we dive, we are exercising several muscle groups.  Being in good shape obviously is a good thing, and getting in shape will certainly improve your diving, but the great thing about scuba diving is that divers come in all shape and sizes. Of course, you should check  with your doctor before enrolling in any scuba diving course or starting any form of physical activity if you have questions about your health.

 

Get up close and personal with the world’s ocean inhabitants

I remember my first night dive about 30 years ago, and I was looking into a small crevice on the coral when I spotted the first shark I ever saw in real life.  That moment changed my life forever.  I was always passionate about sharks as a kid, but seeing one in full color, close enough to touch (mind you, WE SHOULD NEVER EVER EVER TOUCH ANYTHING), gave me a whole new outlook on these animals. Now every time I go diving (even after 10,000+ dives) coming across a shark, a turtle, a sting ray, a small hermit crab or a giant lobster reminds me of how lucky we as divers are that we can enjoy these places and meet their colorful local inhabitants.

 

It helps you live in the moment

Once you’re in the water all of your troubles stay on the surface. You need only think about you, your buddy and enjoying the moment you are spending surrounded by beauty. One of the very first things you will learn in your SDI Open Water Scuba Diver course is to relax and enjoy breathing under water.  This will make everything else in your dives a whole lot simpler and you will enjoy it a whole lot more.

When you only need to worry about what is going on right around you it becomes so easy to live in the moment.

Because you want to!

Our daily lives on the surface are stressful.  You have 10,000 different things to worry about. But when you are scuba diving, all that goes away.  Becoming a diver will help you get rid of some of your daily stress, will help you become more confident, and will help you enjoy your life and our planet a whole lot more.   So join us and sign up for the SDI Open Water Scuba Diver course and start living life to the fullest!

 

[i] http://www.dema.org/associations/1017/files/Diving%20Fast%20Facts-2013.pdf

Learn to Dive Today
By erik

How to be a more conscientious scuba diver

We’ve all seen that person who looks like a bull running around a china store when they dive. You know the type… over weighed, trampling on the coral, or doing a number of things that – whether on purpose or not, gravely damage (sometimes irreparably) the reefs.

Here we will do a list of things you can do to not be that person and to become a better, reef friendly scuba diver.

 

  • Only take the amount of weight you need to become neutrally buoyant.

    • When you are over weighed, you will feel like you’re constantly fighting the current (even on drift dives), constantly finning to try to stay off the bottom, which will in turn lift up tons of sand that will inevitably end up on top of some poor unsuspecting coral polyps.
    • If we are properly weighed and neutrally buoyant, our air consumption gets way better,  our dives become more enjoyable, and we don’t send sand all over the place ruining visibility and damaging the corals.
    • Good buoyancy comes with practice, but having a good foundation to begin with is also essential.
    • If you’re an instructor, teach your students to perform skills while neutrally buoyant, maintaining horizontal trip.  Hovering vertically and doing “fin pivots” teaches nothing but bad habits.
    • You can take a course such as SDI Advanced Buoyancy Diver to help you get that edge and achieve neutral buoyancy.
  • Keep a horizontal trim throughout the dive and keep all of your equipment streamlined.

    • When we keep a proper horizontal trim throughout the dive, we can move with much more ease even if we are going against the current. This is because when we are flat and horizontal, with no gear dangling, we are streamlined and we create less drag.
    • If you have gear dangling, then it can get caught on the reef possibly causing severe  damage to both the the reef and to your equipment. It also increases your drag.
  • Do not stand, kneel or bounce around delicate coral reef structures.

    • This one should be obvious, but unfortunately it is something we see way too often.
    • When people do this, it causes irreparable damage to the reef. In fact, it kills the corals that form the reef, can kill, or seriously injure the delicate small creatures that live there, and can also cause them to get injured from possibly stepping on fire coral, scorpionfish or some other animal that doesn’t appreciate getting trampled.
  • Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but bubbles, kill nothing but time.

    • Another super obvious one. Do not spearfish while on scuba, do not collect shells, or anything while you’re diving.  Those empty conch shells could be the next home of a hemit crab, they could provide a place for juvenile fish and other animals to hide from predators, and ultimately, it is not yours.  Not to mention that in a lot of places in the world, it is a criminal offense.
  • While on the subject of taking photos…

    • If you need to come all the way down to the bottom, make sure you do it on a flat sandy area. Not on the reef, not on a plant, a gorgonia or a critter’s burrow.
  • Be mindful of where your fins are throughout the dive.

    • What do we mean by this? Very simple. Please always know that your fins are not accidentally scraping on the reef, on sponges, or anything else.
  • Learn other kicking styles than the flutter kick.

    • Frog kicking is a lot easier than you think.  It is also a lot less disruptive and destructive.  This is because when we frog kick, the water we displace gets pushed to the back rather than to the bottom where it hits with tremendous force.
    • The modified flutter kick is another excellent kicking style in areas where frog kicking might lead to damaging the coral (such as a smaller swimthrough – though you shouldn’t get yourself in an area that small, but that’s a topic for another blog post).
    • Backwards finning, helicopter turns, among others, are kicking techniques that every diver should attempt to master.   There is a reason why we use such styles in cave diving.
  • If you see a piece of trash, pick it up and bring it up.

    • Turtles and other animals cannot tell the difference between a plastic bag and a jellyfish. To them, it looks the same, however, when eaten, one will seriously hurt them (eventually even cause their death), and one will provide them with a nutritious meal. Can you guess which one does what?
    • Also, do we really want mountains of trash polluting our oceans? I think not.  Take a small mesh bag with you on your next dive. Make it count and pick up any trash you spot.  You will feel good about it and you will make a difference by saving the life of the animal that will not eat that bag or get stuck on the six-pack ring.
  • Do not harass, chase or touch any of the animals you encounter.

    • Other than the fact that marine creatures do not enjoy getting petted, chased or harassed, if we touch them we are introducing all kinds of bacteria and other pathogens to which they have no immunity.  This can cause life threatening diseases, and can get you bit as well. Neither one is a happy reminder of a great dive.
  • Do not feed the animals!

    • Feeding or chumming to attract animals is a terrible idea.  It changes feeding behaviours, migration patterns, and it makes animals associate humans with food, which could eventually lead to a very unfortunate accident.
    • Here in Playa during bull shark season, several shops and operators feed the sharks to create a spectacle of sorts to their customers.  As you may know, we are 100% against that practice and speak out against it every chance we get
  • If you must use sunblock, make sure it is biodegradable.

    • Sunblocks, suntan lotions and body lotions leech all kinds of nasty, harmful chemicals into the water.  Biodegradable lotions will not. Even better, use a rashguard and a hat to keep the sun’s rays from burning your skin to crisp.  That way, you will not be leeching chemicals into the environment.
playa del carmen dive center
By erik

How to Choose the Right Dive Center in Playa del Carmen

When you do a google search for “scuba diving in Playa del Carmen”, dive centers in Playa del Carmen” or “dive shops” or any other scuba diving related querie, you get hundreds, if not thousands of hits.  Obviously, you are not going to contact every single website that you come across, because, well, you have better things to do!  However, it is very important that when you are planning your vacation to Playa del Carmen, the Riviera Maya as well as any other destination where you plan on doing some (or a lot) of diving, you do some research.

What do I mean by research? Very simple.  There are some questions you should always ask any potential dive operator.

  • Do you have a physical dive shop?
  • Are you/your guide/instructor a Mexican citizen, and if not, are you legally allowed to work in Mexico?
  • How many years have you been in business?
  • What are your group sizes, diver:instructor ratio?
  • What is the experience of the instructors/divemasters that work for you?

You are probably scratching your head at some of these questions.  There are good reasons why you should know the answer to these questions.

  • If the operator does not have an actual shop, and is just some person selling trips/courses from his/her computer, then what guarantees do you have that your reservation will be honored, deposits will be safe, and that you will have a safe place where your equipment can be stored if you will be diving for several days? An established dive center will give you all those and more.

 

  • If the operator is not a Mexican citizen and is not allowed to work legally in Mexico opens you up to all kinds of trouble.  Imagine you are heading off to the Cenotes with this great person who has a beautiful website, talks a big game about his/her thousands of dives, charges very little in comparison to others,  and then you get pulled over.  Well, it turns out your guide has no permits to be transporting you, has no permits to be working in Mexico, and now, the vehicle you’re in as well as everything in it (including your personal equipment) will be subject to seizure by the authorities.  Also, there is the issue with liability and insurance.

 

  • We all started our business at one point.  So a new shop does not necessarily mean that the shop will not be just as good, or even better than one that has been around for decades.  However, a shop that has been around for a few years probably has a better track record than a new shop.

 

  • Some dive shops are all about maximizing profits and minimizing expenses, and this is not always better for you, the customer. This holds true both in Playa del Carmen as well as the rest of the world. It is not uncommon to see an Open Water Diver class with 8 or more students and just one instructor.   Or a combined group with several open water diver students, a couple of advanced open water diver and perhaps a rescue student and one instructor (and maybe a dive master assisting).   This is unacceptable even in the best of conditions.  An instructor should never have more than 4 students at once, and they should all be doing the same level of training.  The same goes for leading dives.  Groups should not be larger than 4 divers per instructor or dive master, and they should all be of similar experience and training levels.  Mixing groups is just not acceptable.

 

  • Again, we all started as instructors or dive masters at one point. With little experience, and fortunately, someone cut us a break.  Some of us were certified divers for a long time, and even worked as dive masters for many years before we decided to become instructors, however, the world has changed a lot in the past 10-15 years. We live in a world of “instant gratification”, and unfortunately this has also transferred onto the diving industry.  One of the bigger agencies allows many of their larger affiliated centers to conduct what have been commonly become known as “zero-to-hero” programs.  In these programs, they basically take you from being a non-diver (or one with little experience) all the way to open water scuba instructor level in a year or less.  You probably ask yourselves what the problem is with this… well, the main problem is the lack of experience.  You see, most recreational scuba diving training agencies require that to become an instructor, one has to have a minimum of 100 logged dives.  100 logged dives may seem like a lot, but in reality, it isn’t. Especially for someone who is an instructor.  When you choose an instructor, you want to make sure that your instructor has lots of experience in as many different environments as possible (be it tropical reefs, cold lakes and quarries, caves, wrecks, cold water reefs, etc).

These are just some of the things you should be asking before booking dives or scuba diving courses not just in Playa del Carmen, but all over the world.   This information will not guarantee that your vacation will be flawless, but I can promise you that if you know all of this beforehand, you will save yourself a whole lot of headaches and heartache.