Scuba Diving and Travel: How Not to Vacation

Recently, on a 10-day vacation to South Africa, I decided at the last minute to squeeze in a day of scuba diving.

My already jam-packed vacation just became a bit more stressful. But I’m a scuba fanatic, so I should dive whenever I can, right? On the contrary, I learned that sometimes, on a vacation not dedicated to diving, it often is not a good idea to force scuba to be a part of your travel.

Returning from this trip, I realized that:

1) Many people (myself included!) are vacationing all wrong

2) Sometimes it is not appropriate to include scuba diving as an activity in your vacation plans

When I arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa, my diving day was scheduled for day 3 of my trip. After spending 3 days climbing mountains, sightseeing, museum hopping and staying up late, I was exhausted and still battling jet lag when I arrived at the dive center. I was without my own gear and when I went to rent, their equipment was out of service and had been left on the dive boat for weeks, never being rinsed after dives. I made the decision any smart diver would and canceled the dives.

While I was disappointed not to be diving, I took some key lessons from my experience. I realized that when travelling, your vacation is supposed to be restful and recuperative. Instead, most of us try to jam-pack our vacation in order to “see everything” during our travels. I think this can often cause your experiences while vacationing to all run together like melting wax.

Read below to find out how to avoid making the same mistakes I did on your next vacation.

Safe Diving Travel Tips:

  • One of the safest diving practices is to bring your own gear with you when you travel. Yes, you may have to pay a bit extra to check another bag when flying, but it is the best way to ensure your gear has been properly maintained and serviced.
  • If you are renting scuba gear, do your research. Find a dive center that you trust and ask for proof of when your rented gear was last serviced. Ask the dive operators how they maintain their scuba gear. And if you are diving Nitrox, please, check the tank yourself!
  • When flying to a dive location significantly far away, ensure that you do not dive the day you land or possibly even the next day. Most people experience jet lag when crossing multiple time zones, which will impair your mental and physical capabilities underwater. (For example, I live in the U.S. and traveled to South Africa. Needless to say, I experienced a good deal of jet lag for the first couple days and would not have felt safe diving during that time because I did not have all my wits about me).
  • If the main purpose of your vacation is not diving, carefully consider whether squeezing in a day of scuba diving is safe based of what you know about yourself as a diver. Will you have had adequate rest to ensure you are at your peak, mentally and physically, to dive? Will it be too stressful or too much of a hassle to try and incorporate a dive into your travel plans? It is largely up to you to avoid diving accidents. Ensure you are ready and able to dive safely if you plan to do so on vacation.

Safe scuba diving is a very personal sport. It is primarily up to you to ensure your own safety underwater. Be proactive and maintain your scuba diving skills between dive trips by getting in pool training sessions at your local dive center and reviewing your dive log notes and training materials.

You are responsible for your own safety while diving and your scuba gear is your life support system. It is the only thing keeping you alive at depth and as such, should be treated with the best care.

Owning your own set of diving equipment not only enhances your scuba experience, it also deepens your understanding of how scuba gear works to support you underwater. This, in my opinion, makes you a more informed diver and a better one. I feel the most safe and in control when diving with my own gear.

Also, owning your own scuba gear will save you money because it means you will not have to rent sub-par gear that does not fit and may not have been properly maintained. Your initial equipment investment will quickly pay for itself with the savings you’ll accrue from not renting.

While scuba diving is fun and incredible, it is also a great responsibility. When planning your next dive trip, take into account your personality and dive preferences. Do you get worn out after 2 boat dives? Or can you do 3 shore dives in a day without tiring? Do you need a day of rest or a “dry day” in the middle of a weeklong dive trip?

Keeping mental notes of such things or recording them in your dive log can be an invaluable resource during the planning of subsequent scuba trips. And remember, just because the opportunity to dive is there doesn’t mean that you have to dive. Being a safe diver sometimes means erring on the side of caution and not scuba diving. Next time you’re scheduling a vacation, plan some relaxation time in there and really evaluate whether it is appropriate to incorporate diving into your trip or not.