If you’ve been following our posts you already know that tech diving requires a significant investment in equipment, both used and new. Simultaneously, tech diving destinations can be very remote and require quite a bit of travel. So how do the two come together? We’re taking a closer look at what you need to know about tech diving and traveling.
Planning is everything
Like with technical diving in general, ‘technical traveling’ is nothing without pre-planning. Having a clear idea of the kind of diving you want to do and the equipment and logistics required to make that happen is crucial. To be very clear — neither traveling light nor leaving arrangements to the last moment will work in your favor, so start early. How early is early enough? This will depend on the remoteness of your destination and what supplies you can get there. You must start planning early enough to allow for contingency planning.
If you don’t have a checklist for your equipment, start making one. Every piece of equipment on the list must be in good working order or it will cause problems on your trip. If it’s been a while since your equipment got wet, try to schedule a local dive or join a pool session to test your gear. You may have to allow time for equipment servicing should anything fail. Getting wet not an option? How about arriving at your destination a few days before the boat leaves, for example. While this won’t necessarily help with shopping for replacements it may allow time for last-minute servicing.
Use local supplies
Many tech centers have rental equipment available, especially if they also offer introductory tech courses. Selection, however, tends to be limited. If you are counting on specific items to supplement the gear you’re bringing, you must check that they are available and reserve them.
Why don’t the centers carry more rental equipment? Because most tech divers— once they qualify and decide that tech diving is a good fit — purchase their own gear and personalize it. For example, in order to be comfortable carrying three or more tanks, your harness must fit (near) perfectly. It simply becomes too inconvenient to set up from scratch every time you arrive at a new destination.
On the other hand, if you dive a (fairly) standard 50-pound donut-shaped wing that’s too bulky for your luggage, most tech centers can likely supply it. At the end of the day, the more complex your dives become, the more you’ll want to use your own personal gear.
Know your airlines
Getting to far-flung destinations — think Chuk Lagoon in Micronesia or Solomon Islands — inevitably involves a serious amount of air travel. While low-cost carriers might be a great choice on a short hop between two cities, for tech traveling you need a reliable airline with extensive luggage allowance options.
Rather than looking for the cheapest flight, research individual airlines and their specific baggage policies. Many airlines offer an additional allowance for sports equipment, although not all of them will accept dive gear as sports equipment. Use your clothes as padding for your equipment and plan to add to your holiday wardrobe at your destination. After all, who doesn’t like a new diving t-shirt?
If you’re likely to travel for diving regularly, check out airlines’ loyalty programs. While the upfront cost of the flight may look higher, the benefits may well make up for that and more. Eventually, especially with a serious amount of intercontinental travel, you will collect airmiles which will bring additional benefits.
Apart from the financial aspect, other considerations are the restrictions on what you can carry safely. Take scuba cylinders as an example: airline staff are trained to be vigilant about allowing them on board. You will need to remove the valves and make staff aware that you are checking in tanks. It’s best to be proactive about these things at check-in, explaining to (non-diving!) personnel what you’re checking in and why it is safe to fly.
The same is even more true for traveling with rebreathers. CCRs are life-support equipment that is likely to look strange on the average airport x-ray machine. A short explanation of what the equipment does, accompanied by images of you using it, can work wonders here.
Ask for help
Remember, diving is a team sport. Even if you are traveling alone, and especially if you are maneuvering several bags, cases and boxes across an airport, onto a ferry or simply out of a hotel room, there are usually people around who can lend a hand.
In Asia, paying porters a small amount to carry luggage is customary, and you can find them in most places where there’s heavy luggage. While it may look strange to western eyes, it’s a source of income for local people, and it can be vital for divers and traveling divers.
Many airlines have support staff available, as well, which comes in especially handy when you have a lot more luggage than hands to carry it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Tech diving and traveling can be challenging, but the rewards outdo the hassle many times over. Be sure to plan ahead, allow plenty of time on journeys and budget realistically — and tech traveling becomes (almost) as easy as a weekend city break.