Scuba diving is one of the most popular activities for both backpackers and for outdoor sports enthusiasts living within the UK.
Unlike freediving or snorkeling, scuba diving utilises breathing apparatus containing compressed air, carried by the diver themselves, in order to dive freely to larger depths and for longer amounts of time.
Scuba diving is relatively easy, however it does require a period of training to get started. There are many different unofficial certification boards within the UK for recreational diving, however the most widely accepted is through PADI Dive School (Professional Association of Diving Instructors), who offer many different courses with the right price and level to suit the kind of dives your are aiming towards.
Whether your goal in diving is to experience marine life, to dive deeper than would otherwise be possible, or just to explore the without worrying about breath hold, there is a sub sect of scuba diving that suits you.
Types Of Diving
Otherwise known as sport diving, recreational diving is used for leisure and fun, usually with open circuit scuba equipment or fully automated electronic closed circuit rebreathers.
This type of diving is the most popular among backpackers and first time divers, but a range of standardised procedures and certifications are still required in order to carry out any dives with scuba equipment, even when supervised.
Tec diving is a form of scuba diving that goes beyond the limits of recreational diving and therefore carries a much bigger risk to the diver.
To do a technical dive a person must have extensive and advanced training as well as specialised equipment and a high amount of hours previously logged on dives.
Technical dives often have extreme depths and bottom time and divers will often breathe alternative gases to standard nitrox used in other dives.
Professional divers who's job it is to carry out field research underwater are usually marine scientists first and train as divers after. Scientific is often carried out by universities is part of larger studies, but these dives tend to be fairly shallow in comparison to technical dives.
Public Safety Diving
These dives are conducted by the emergency services and law enforcement agencies and therefore occur regularly in conditions avoided by all other divers including waters of zero visibility and chemically polluted areas.
Anyone who is paid to dive (lucky them!) is a professional diver. To be a professional diver ,you need to have certain certification and training and also log a certain amount of diving time every couple of months.
While many professional divers to go abroad to teach and work, it has to be kept in mind that different countries have different procedures and certifications required to dive, which each person must qualify for. A diving instructor qualification in the UK, might not translate to the same level qualification in Mexico or Bali!
Scuba Diving For Beginners - Certification And Training
While there is no official board of certification for recreational dives, all dive centers are self regulated and have strict certifications that all divers must adhere to.
The most popular and well known diving certification provider in the UK is PADI dive school (Professional Association of Diving Instructors), who offer many different courses with the right price and level to suit the kind of dives your are aiming towards.
The most popular courses that are undertaken by recreational divers include:
- Skin Diver (Snorkeling)
- Junior Scuba Diver
- Scuba Diver
- Junior Open Water Diver
- Open Water Diver
- Adventure Diver — exposure to three elective scuba experiences.
- Advanced Open Water Diver — expanded scuba skills through "adventure" dive experience: a "deep" dive (18 - 30m), an underwater navigation dive and three electives from a large choice.
- Rescue Diver— Basic skills in stress management, self rescue and buddy rescue for recreational diving.
- Master Scuba Diver — recognition of selected set of certifications and experience:
Advanced Open Water Diver, Rescue Diver, 5 elective specialties and 50 logged dives.
In the UK, the national governing body for scuba diving is BSAC. You can learn more about BSAC and the courses they run here.
Scuba Diving Equipment
There are lots of different types of scuba diving apparatus available for dives and the type you're on will decide the type of equipment needed.
The most important things that your equipment needs to secure are your safety, breathing, vision and mobility and the equipment required can be separated into these different sections.
As the name suggests, the most important piece of equipment in scuba diving is the scuba, a personal breathing apparatus based around a regulator, that divers carry with them on dives. Regulators are usually sold in three parts; The 1st Stage and Primary together, an Alternate Air Source & a Submersible Pressure Gauge.
The two methods of breathing are open circuit, wherein the diver does not reuse any of the air they breathe, and a rebreather, which reuses each exhaled breath by removing the carbon dioxide and replacing the oxygen used by the diver.
Most scuba diving is done using a half mask which covers the diver's eyes and nose, and a mouthpiece to supply the breathing gas from the scuba. Technical divers however, often use a full face mask, which covers the eyes, nose and mouth, meaning all breathing must be done through the nose.
In order to dive safely, a diver must have total mobility and control. The most common method divers use to propel themselves underwater is through fins. Paddle shaped fins are the oldest and still the most widely used type of fins, however many divers have their own taste in fins, and wear split fins, free diving fins, open heel fins and full foot fins, depending on their need.
Buoyancy control is also a large factor contributing to mobility and divers utilise buoyancy compensators, diving weighting systems, and diver trims to control their own buoyancy throughout a dive.
Anyone who has ever been snorkeling will know the pain and annoyance that is getting your vision impaired through getting water in your equipment.
Diving masks and helmets not only provide an air space in front of the eyes, they also correct the refraction error created by the water as the light travels from water to air through a flat lens.
All diving below a certain depth is carried out with a diving light also connected to the mask and goggles.
The main source of protection for scuba divers is their wetsuit. Wearing a suit protects from many environmental factors, such as changing temperatures, abrasions and stings.
Different dives require different thickness of suit, with many technical deep divers wearing dry suits, to protect from the low temperature, further under the surface.
For added protection, many divers carry accessories and safety equipment such as video equipment and knives to cut themselves free in emergencies.
It is of the up most importance that a diver knows his location and depth at all times during a dive. To ensure this, most divers will carry a navigation device on them, as well as a communication device, to stay in contact with other divers and those on the surface.
Scuba Diving In The UK
They say that if you can scuba dive in the UK, you can scuba dive anywhere.
The waters around the United Kingdom may not be on the same level as more exotic locations as far as wildlife is concerned, however there are some really beautiful diving locations to be found.
The most popular area of the UK for multiple spots currently is Plymouth, with sunken ship wrecks and dolphins to be found.
Head to Scotland and Wales also, for some of the secret spots that UK diver would prefer you didn't know...
Scuba Diving Abroad
There are so many different dives across the globe, that we could be here all day.
Finding a new dive is just like climbing a mountain or going into a forest for the first time, it's all about exploration. Here are just a few of the best dives in the world:
- Costa rica - Cocos Island
- Magnetic Island, Australia
- Baa Atoll, the Maldives
- Truk Lagoon, Micronesia
- Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea
- Labuan Island, Malaysia
Gap Year Scuba Diving
So many people scuba dive on their gap year nowadays, you could be forgiven for thinking that a PADI qualification is a requirement for a year a away.
There are many different ways to dive while travelling, some people just try recreational dives while passing through, while others choose to stay and put a longer amount of time and effort into dives. Most travelers that land of diving long term either train to be instructors within the country, or get involved with environmental and marine life conservation.
Training as an instructor can be a great way to fund your travels and allow yourself to extend those travels for longer than your original budgets would have allowed, however travelers who get involved with conservation often find themselves committing to it as a long term vocation.
There are fantastic gap year diving opportunities to be found in Madagascar, Belize, Fiji, Tanzania and Colombia, among many other locations.