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.