Many divers are also enthusiastic topside travelers. As we plan to travel abroad, we get the most from the experience by planning ahead. Research the local currency, learn a key phrase or two, or employ a local travel guide. This same approach greatly enhances our dive trips when we research local practices, etiquette and procedures. As the winter approaches, many divers in the northern hemisphere have already begun planning their next tropical scuba trip.
For divers who may be used to local diving in lakes or quarries, or for those warm-water divers who have been out of the water for awhile, we’ve put together a few tips and pointers that will help you prepare for your next tropical scuba trip.
Refresh your skills on arrival
Being trained to dive in tropical water doesn’t mean you’re immediately ready to dive in cold water, and vice versa. While cold-water diving, with challenges such as low visibility and strong currents, does advance your skills as a diver, there is a different etiquette for a tropical scuba trip. Reefs are no-touch zones, which may differ from diving on wrecks in strong currents, and boat-diving procedures will vary. Many marine parks automatically require operators to check every diver for buoyancy and weighting, regardless of number of dives and experience. Salinity and temperature affect both these variables. If you haven’t dived for awhile in this environment, sign up for a refresher course once you arrive to get the most from your tropical scuba trip.
Consider specialty courses
Specialty classes are often hands-on and are conducted in a day. Consider courses such as digital photography, which allow divers to get the most from tropical diving in places such as the Caribbean or Philippines. Diving somewhere like Chuuk Lagoon would be enhanced by a wreck, deep or enriched air specialty. The easy logistics when it comes to warm-water diving mean this may be a good time to get trained on a rebreather if you’re interested. Finally, coral-reef specialties such as Fish ID, underwater naturalist and Project AWARE really enhance the storyline of tropical-reef diving.
Pack specific equipment and ditch what you don’t need
Tropical reefs and marine parks often prohibit some of the items you use in colder water, such as gloves or a knife. Leave them at home on your next tropical scuba trip. If you’re diving off boats, bring a reel and SMB. These may be essential when drift diving. You may also need a reef hook in some parts of the Maldives, Palau, or Indonesia.
Photographers and videographers should check local electricity outlets and specifications. While many Caribbean countries adhere to U.S. standards, some islands may follow the British or European systems. Asia has its own standards as well. Islands may be prone to power surges, so use an outlet bar with multiple sockets and surge protection.
Stay hydrated and check your dive or travel insurance
Even with cloud cover and on cooler days, we tend to sweat and dehydrate more when diving several times a day. Don’t just rely on the hot sun to remind you to drink water. Make sure you take in several liters a day. Those of us who look forward to a sunset après-dive cocktail or beer must also drink plenty of water for the next day’s diving. Even if you are doing everything right there is always a risk of DCS. Double check that your dive-insurance policy is up to date. Hyperbaric-chamber treatment can often cost tens of thousands of dollars, especially if you need medical evacuation. Check out Divers Alert Network for coverage details.
Have a game plan
Many destinations feature more sites than you can possibly dive in a week’s trip. Furthermore, some may be beyond your current diving limitations or not suited to your specific interests. Ty to research the sites and dive opportunities in advance. Be realistic and stay within your dive limits. Don’t try to achieve too much in a short trip or you’ll miss the quality of the local diving. Scuba Diver Life has published many articles on specific destinations, and most popular spots are getting mobile savvy, with apps available for the local area.