Diving: The Essentials (Page 1 of 3)
Preparing for your Tobago scuba diving holiday, notes for novices and our Top Ten dive tips.
This section comprises of three articles to help you plan and get the best from your Tobago diving holiday:
- Dive Prepartion – prepare for your holiday
- Learning to Dive – notes for diving novices
- Ten Tips for Better Diving – essential notes
The first thing that you need to do is to get in shape. If you aren’t a regular swimmer, get down to your local pool, do some cycling or a few early morning jogs. Swimming uses a remarkably varied set of muscles and the fitter you are the more relaxed and confident you will feel in the water. Regular swimming workouts, once or twice a week for at least a month before you depart, will work wonders. So too will daily, or frequent, visits to a sauna, because this will speed up your acclimatisation to tropical heat. If you are a holiday-diver and haven’t dived for a while, do a local dive with an experienced buddy. Even six months is a long time between dives. Any longer than a year and you should seriously consider a one-day SCUBA review course. This can be conducted at your local diving club before you go on holiday or with your chosen dive centre on arrival in Tobago.
If you’re thinking about taking your own equipment, you should take it in for a professional service, grease the o-rings and make sure that everything is working properly. Your regulator should be serviced and tested before you leave – don’t assume that everything is fine. When did you last replace your dive computer battery? A spare is always a good idea, if it’s a type that you can change yourself. What make of equipment does your dive shop use? If it’s different from your own, you might want to consider taking spare parts for your equipment.
Also worth taking is your own dive signal flag – an orange or yellow flag on an extending pole – an effective method of signalling to the dive boat in the choppy conditions found around Tobago. They are more easily visible than the short inflatable tube markers provided by many dive centres.
If you’re taking new equipment, check it over carefully and go for a test dive. It might be too late to correct any faults once you’ve left home. Don’t forget a dive light and tank marker light if you plan to do night dives and a line reel for wreck diving. For safety, think about a marker tube and make sure that you have at least one whistle attached to your BCD.
Assemble a good save-a-dive kit. At a very minimum this should contain a couple of silicone mask straps, fin straps, snorkel keeper, regulator mouthpiece, cable ties and o-rings. If you don’t have all these things, or your baggage allowance means you simply can’t include them, don’t worry – you’ll find that all good Tobago dive centres carry a range of equipment and spares. This may be one criteria to consider when choosing your dive centre.
You should also have a first aid kit, with ear decongestant, ear drops, antihistamine and seasickness tablets; plus, of course, any medication that you are on. That medication must be non-drowsy and appropriate for diving. If in doubt, check with your doctor. The combination of sun, salt-spray and wind is a deadly combination, so make sure that you have a good stock of high factor sunscreen. Remember, you will be swimming in a fragile ecosystem, so instead of slapping on tons of oil-based sun block, use a biodegradable product like Ultrasun, which is absorbed into the skin and only needs to be applied once a day.
Check your holiday insurance carefully to ensure that diving is covered. Some cheaper policies may specifically exclude the sport. Others may require you to declare it or impose conditions. It is far better to check before you depart for your holiday rather than risk problems later.
Drift diving is great fun, but you should be aware of the potential dangers. Stay with the group and resist temptation to go off on your own. Keep the divemaster in sight. He will be attached to the surface marker buoy that enables the dive boat to track the group’s position.
Finally, don’t try to squeeze too many dives into your holiday. If you plan to make multiple dives over multiple days, you shouldn’t fly within 24 hours of your last dive to minimise any risk of decompression sickness. If you’re planning to take up diving for the first time while in Tobago, arrange your course for the start of the holiday rather than during the latter stages. You will need three days for the course and a dive-free day before you go home, so you must start your course at least a week before your departure. If not, you will kick yourself for not having enough time to put your new skills into practice.