THE PLUNGE, YOUR FIRST TROPICAL DIVE VACATION
by Dennis & Karen Sabo
your first exotic dive trip. Colorful adjectives such as swaying
palm trees, aquamarine waters, and fish storms are words chosen
by travel writers designed to entice you. But, what about
currents, depth considerations, and topside activities once
you reach your dream destination?
this installment of Landfall's Travelling Diver, we'll focus
on travel arrangements that a novice diver should consider
when getting ready to embark on a dive travel vacation. This
article should not be considered the final word on this subject.
It is a guideline to certain issues put together by experienced
divers relating to questions we wished we had asked before
planning our first dive vacation, along with suggestions we
wished we knew when we got started.
PRE TRIP CONSIDERATIONS
should be considered a novice diver? It may be someone headed
to a tropical destination to complete their certification
or it may be someone with C-Card in hand, but a log book with
few entries. A novice can also be a diver with previous experience,
but who participates in the sport for only a week each year
on their vacation. Long periods of inactivity may make it
difficult to fully develop skills exhibited by people who
dive on a regular basis.
Great, let's go! Where? Bonaire sounds good. Your neighbor
just came back from Cozumel, maybe you should try there. A
co-worker recently spent two weeks aboard a dive boat in the
South Pacific. How do you begin to sort through all the options
and considerations? As someone fairly new to the sport, you
certainly don't have the answers, and probably aren't even
sure of the questions! That's okay because the questions and
answers you're looking for can be found easily by calling
a travel agency which specializes in vacations specifically
for scuba divers, such as Landfall Dive and Adventure Travel.
A good dive travel specialist can help you make the choice
best suited to your personal list of expectations. This list
will be unique to you as everyone has different likes and
dislikes. Your first foreign dive vacation is an important
one. Your initial trip, if pleasurable, will be the springboard
that can plunge you into a lifetime of wonderful adventures
around the world. Landfall's Travelling Diver offers the following
TYPES OF DIVE VACATIONS
holidays fall into two major categories, land-based resorts
and live-aboard dive boats. Let's look at live-aboards first.
This is where people who want to dive, dive, dive, spend their
vacation on a "floating hotel". This can be a true
dive dedicated trip, which usually visits remote locations
where there may be little else to do. Three to four dives
a day over several days can become exhausting and feel more
like work than fun for a novice. This is because most beginning
divers are still fine tuning their physical ocean skills,
familiarizing themselves to their scuba gear, and are developing
the stamina to participate. Diving at a live-aboard pace for
a novice could result in a loss of prospective of what diving
is all about; critters, colors, and the thrill of the adventure.
Instead, you could find yourself struggling just trying to
keep up with the crowd. The remoteness of live-aboards can
also mean long ocean crossings and rough seas. Of course there
are exceptions to all of the above situations so if you are
thinking of a live-aboard holiday, talk to a dive travel specialist
to find the boat and program that's right for you.
resorts offer day boat diving, usually two dives a day is
the standard routine. They come in all shapes and sizes in
a variety of geographical locales. You can choose from a quaint,
10 room inn surrounded by lush mountainous jungle to a sprawling
high- rise hotel with color satellite TV situated along a
wide stretch of sparkling white sand beach.
islands offer a wide variety of nature activities. Others
have great shopping and eateries. Whatever your poison, land-based
vacations can offer a greater variety of things to do besides
diving. For some people this is the perfect way to ease into
diving. Others who are truly bitten by the bug may want a
resort with more than two dives a day. Presto, try a land-based
resort with unlimited beach diving which is usually included
free with the price of the vacation package.
this theme is lacking in originality, but it can't be said
any simpler. JUST SAY NO! The experiences you encounter on
your first dive vacation will shape your future decisions
about diving. Never, ever, let your travelling companion or
someone on a dive boat, regardless of their so-called position
of authority, pressure you into doing something you don't
feel comfortable with or you don't feel you have the skill
level for. JUST SAY NO. There is a big difference between
compromising on an overdone steak in a restaurant compared
to contending with a ferocious current headed to who knows
where in the open ocean on your first exotic dive.
like pea soup as long as it's served for lunch. I don't enjoy
it when it describes the water clarity. Diving isn't much
fun if you can't see the schools of neon colored fish darting
between corals. Good visibility also has a soothing effect
making it easier to make that first giant stride into the
unknown. Some destinations may be subject to better or worse
visibility depending on the time of year, annual rainfall,
island geography, or unusual ocean conditions. Be sure to
ask about this when choosing a destination, especially if
you are locked into travelling at a specific time of year.
are currents and then there are CURRENTS. Mild ones can actually
be conducive to beginning divers, you just relax and go with
the flow. Follow the divemaster and the boat follows you and
everybody has a wonderful time. Some destinations are known
for having CURRENTS. These can also be pleasurable if you
have a more experienced open water background and more dives
under your belt. Again, ask questions to determine if the
destination suits your skill level.
overlook this one. Just because you are heading for the tropics
don't assume you can jump in with just your bathing suit,
that is unless you have plumage and not skin. Sixty-five degree
air temperature can be real comfortable. Heck, I run around
in shorts and a tee shirt in that kind of weather. But an
unprotected diver would not last five minutes in 65 water.
The colder the water, the more thermal protection required.
This also means more weight which could spell discomfort for
QUESTION OF DEPTH
should be a function of comfort and skill level. You don't
have to push the limits to see what's down there. Sunlight
only penetrates so far and it is the shallows that support
the most sea life for this very reason. I have seen divers
who have sharpened their skills and good ole ocean sense early
on. These people are ready to safely dive a bit deeper and
they thoroughly enjoy it. I have seen others who are not ready,
and quite frankly, have a terrible time. YOU DON'T HAVE TO
DIVE DEEP TO HAVE FUN. However, you do need to match your
needs to the proper destination. The geological features of
some places make it necessary to dive deep at nearly every
site. If this is an important consideration to you ask about
the dive sites before you buy your plane ticket.
PEER PRESSURE II (The sequel)
are finally at the resort. Relaxed, rested, and ready to dive.
Wait a minute. Why is that diver shaving his beard with a
dive knife? Look over there. That guy has enough dive gizmos
to make the Rocketeer jealous. In the restaurant you overhear
two other people talking about their new depth record from
the morning's dive. All of the sudden you don't feel so good.
Don't ever let anyone's actions, equipment, or fish stories
influence your feeling towards diving. If you start to develop
anxieties the key to overcoming them is to communicate your
feelings. Start with the divemaster. Be honest. If depth is
your concern ask, "What are my options?" Don't worry
about what others will think of you. A mature person is not
going to laugh. Hopefully, they will remember what it was
like for them when they were learning. If they can't appreciate
your concerns as a new diver, simply place them in their own
special category, "Dive Bubba". Sooner or later
you'll encounter a bubba, it's inevitable, smile at them but
don't speak, turn, and try your best to avoid them during
the rest of your vacation.
DAY OF ARRIVAL
your arrival day at the resort have any bearing if you are
a novice diver? You bet! The majority of people travel to
arrive at their destination on the weekend. This initial period
is the time for the resort divemaster and the guests to become
acquainted. The general rule finds that the first day briefings
tend to be the most thorough, covering subjects ranging from
boat departure times and procedures to an overview of the
diving and dive policies specific to the area. These first
couple days allows the divemaster the opportunity to observe
underwater skills of the new arrivals. Once comfortable with
each other, dive sites may become more challenging and exciting.
Divemasters are human too. As the week progresses, briefings
become more informal because the divers have learned the routine
as entry and exit techniques have been mastered.
Denny Diver and his travelling companion Dorothy on Wednesday.
They do not get the well rehearsed speech that the others
heard. Everybody is going about their business while Denny
and Dorothy are in a bit of a daze. They begin to rush since
everybody else is ready to jump in. A little anxiety begins
to build. Completing the dive, Denny proceeds to remove his
weight belt, then fins, and starts up the ladder. "Hey,
what are you doing?" somebody yells. Oops! that wasn't
the way it is supposed to be done, and back into the water
he drops to remove his tank and BCD.
point to this story, continue to ask questions once you reach
your destination if things seem to be vague. This incident
I described, although not a big deal, could make some people
feel uncomfortable. Remember, divemasters get tired of their
jobs too, and when things become routine they can sometimes
be taken for granted. Overall, divemasters work very hard
and you will find them very accommodating to your needs.
more time to sum things up. The key to successful dive vacations
is to COMMUNICATE. First to a dive travel specialist to help
plan your trip. Second, review procedures with your dive buddy
before jumping in so you both have the same understanding
about the dive. Discuss insecurities with the divemaster and
don't be afraid to ask questions. Finally, always ignore the
following these suggestions your first exotic dive vacation
and the many which will follow, will leave you with memories
of swaying palm trees and aquamarine waters long after you've
and Karen Sabo, both certified scuba instructors, have over
25 years of dive travel experience and are the owners of Landfall
Productions, a travel company specializing in dive resort
and live-aboard dive vacations worldwide. They are also accomplished
underwater photographers, having produced numerous travelogue
presentations featuring tropical dive destinations.
Copyright Landfall Productions