If you have ever seen any promotional brochures about Thailand, you will have probably seen pictures of picturesque palm fringed beaches, glistening golden statues of Buddha, and smiling women selling wooden trinkets on a floating market. After all, Thailand is ‘The Land of Smiles’. Although the term ‘the land of smiles’ was originally a marketing ploy used by the Thai tourism board to attract more visitors, the name has now stuck and the country attracts millions of visitors each year to experience the kindness of the locals and the wealth of experiences Thailand has to offer.
Read our latest articles about scuba diving, travel, ocean conservation, marine life and anything else related to our blue planet!
The Top 10 Scuba Diver Errors
Scuba diving is an exhilarating sport where divers get to witness some of the most spectacular interactions among animals and explore the underwater world. Let’s face it, diving is fun, but it is a very serious sport. Proper training is necessary to help reduce the risk of diver errors, but accidents can happen. Diver error is the #1 cause of most scuba diving incidents and fatalities. This article will focus on common diver errors that occur in recreational diving. Here’s a list of the top 10 ways diver error could lead to potential problems underwater: 1) Not being SCUBA Certified This may seem logical, but I know of instances where people have gone scuba diving without any training or proper training. This is dangerous because little things like do not hold your breath or mask flooding could lead to very dangerous problems. Do not take someone out that has not been certified or do not go diving with someone that lets you go without yourself being certified by an acredited dive agency. 2) Running Out of Air This is one of those diver errors that can be mostly avoided. We drill this into students during their open water classes for beginning scuba divers. Running out of air while diving should never happen as long as you keep a close eye on your air remaining and dive the plan you made. If you happen to run out of air, proper training will help you get your buddy’s alternate air source or do a controlled emergency swimming ascent. Check out our article on Improving Air Consumption. 3) Panic Preventing a panic underwater is easier said than done. With anything that could possibly go wrong during diving such as mask flood, free-flowing regulator, or out of air, we teach the “stop, think, and act” procedure. Stop and breathe. If you cannot breathe, then get your buddy’s alternate air source. If you can breathe, get your breathing under control. A diver that is breathing very heavily will quickly become panicked and over breathe their regulator. Thus, it is very important to get your breathing under control and then figure out what the problem is and fix it. Click here to read about Overcoming Pre-Dive Nerves. 4) Barotrauma You’ve paid all that money for a scuba diving trip to an exotic location and right as you are getting ready to leave you become sick! We learn early on that if you are sick, you should not go scuba diving. If you are sick, while descending, it is hard to equalize the ears. Middle ear barotrauma is common among divers and is a diver error that could be mostly avoided if divers pay attention to their bodies and do not forcefully equalize when they are having trouble. Equalize early and often, before discomfort is felt. Here are 8 Tips for Easier Equalizing! 5) Exceeding your Limits Decompression sickness as a diver error is never 100% avoidable, but the risk of decompression sickness can be significantly reduced by not exceeding your no-decompression limits, doing a safety stop at 15 feet for 3 minutes, and drinking plenty of water, among others. How does decompression sickness occur? As we scuba dive, the atmospheric pressure increases by one atmosphere every 10 meters or 33 feet. According to dive physics, the partial pressures of the gases we breathe while diving also increase. Therefore, if you are breathing compressed air, the partial pressure of oxygen and nitrogen will increase as you go deeper. Our bodies use oxygen for metabolism, but we do not use nitrogen, and thus, we absorb nitrogen. Recreational dive tables were developed to help divers plan their dives as to not exceed their limits on nitrogen absorption. The times listed as no-decompression limits for a certain depth are general, meaning every person is different and someone might get decompression sickness at less time than is listed for the no-decompression limit or someone might accidentally exceed the no-decompression limit and not get decompression sickness. Always dive conservatively and never dive your limits! (i.e. If you are allowed 55 minutes at 60 feet, you should not get close to 55 minutes at that depth.) 6) Ascending Rapidly and Holding Your Breath Lung overexpansion can occur when a diver ascends rapidly and/or holds their breath while scuba diving. Gas becomes trapped in the lungs and during ascent, the gas expands and ruptures the lung tissue. Very safe, slow ascents should be a part of every diver’s plan to avoid this diver error. As always, just keep breathing. Do not hold your breath! 7) Missed Buddy Checks Buddy checks can save lives. I have seen a skipped buddy check end badly when a diver rushed to enter the water and ended up dying because he forgot to turn his air on. This can be an avoidable diver error. BWRAFis what most scuba diving students are taught to run through the steps of a buddy check: BCD, Weights, Releases, Air, and Final OK. These buddy checks should be completed on every dive just before getting in the water. 8) Equipment Malfunction Scuba diving equipment needs to be serviced according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Failure to use properly serviced gear can lead to equipment malfunction while scuba diving that could trigger panic. A free-flowing regulator can lead to an out of air situation. A BCD that will not inflate can lead to buoyancy trouble while diving and improper control at the surface. It is rarer for equipment that is properly taken care of to fail on you while diving. Thus, this type of diver error could be avoided with proper gear maintenance. 9) Not Diving Your Plan Plan to dive and dive to plan! Planning a dive involves talking about where you will be going, what you will be seeing, what turn pressure and/or time to go back to the exit, missing buddy procedures, etc. When you are diving, you should follow what you and your buddy planned to do. When divers deviate from their planned dive, things can go wrong such as running out of air or surfacing far away from your intended exit. 10) Overweighted Being overweighted might not seem like an immediate danger from diver error, however, a diver that is overweighted will not be able to reach and maintain neutral buoyancy. Such a diver will spend a lot of time adjusting buoyancy, kicking harder, and breathing more air, making them at risk for over exhaustion, over-breathing, and panicking. Being overweighted could also lead to a rapid descent that can cause other problems to occur. These are just some of the top diver errors that could be encountered while scuba diving. Other things, such as preexisting medical conditions, could potentially lead to unforeseen events. Overall, the more you dive, the more comfortable you will be in the water. Never let complacency set in! Never hold your breath, watch your air, stay with your buddy, do your buddy checks, equalize your ears, ascend slowly, and make a safety stop if feasible. Safe diving everyone!Continue reading
The Most Amazing Relationships in the Ocean
From the Ocean to the human body, nature is full of symbiotic relationships. Derived from the Greek ‘sym’ and ‘bios’ translated as together and life, biologists and ecologists have researched how species interact whilst intimately living and working together. These fascinating bonds are great examples of the intricacy of natures ecosystem. What is a Symbiotic Relationship? A symbiotic relationship is defined as an intimate interaction between two or more biological organisms, which may or may not help the other. These organisms or ‘symbionts’ can either entirely depend on each other for survival or can live independently without the other. Different Types of Symbiotic Relationships There are 3 major types of symbiotic relationships; 1. Commensalism Commensalism exists between two living organisms, where one organism benefits from the other without harming it. We see this relationship between Whales and barnacles; barnacles are a type of sedentary crustacean, belonging to the same class as lobsters, shrimp and crabs. They are believed to be one of the oldest surviving animals on earth and although some barnacles are classed as parasites, the type that attach themselves to the whales are filter feeders. By cementing themselves to the bellies and backs of Whales, they benefit from the availability of plankton which the Whales swim into to feed. They filter plankton into their bodies through holes in their shells. As the whales are constantly moving, the barnacles don’t suffer greatly from predators such as starfish and snails. This in contrast to those attached to wharves and piers and other stationary objects, is another benefit to their attachment to these giants. The sheer volume of barnacles a Whale can host without suffering is impressive, a typical humpback whale can host 1000 barnacles without an issue. In some rare cases, the barnacles can cause skin irritation and drag to the whales but in most instances, this is a perfect example of a commensalism symbiotic pairing, as the whale has no burden from their presence, and the hitchhiking barnacles thrive on their mobile counterpart. Diving with humpback whales (and their barnacles) is possible in Western and Eastern Australia during the Whale migration. 2. Parasitism Unlike commensalism which can sometimes be difficult to quantify, parasitic relationships occur all the time within the ecosystem and are easily defined. Parasitism is a relationship between two species of plants or animals in which one benefits at the expense of the other, sometimes without killing the host organism. Parasites commonly found on reef fish are called isopods or copepods, they are small crustaceans similar to crabs and are a type of marine louse or ‘fish lice.’ Truly inspiration for a horror movie, the Cymothoa Exigua is a marine Isopod that removes the tongue of its fish host. The Isopod slips into the fish through its gills and rests there until it matures. It then changes sex from male to female, detaches itself from the gills and moves to its tongue where it takes permanent residency. It is the only known organism to replace an entire organ of its host species, using its powerful bite it sucks the blood out of the fish’s tongue until it falls off. The Isopod then acts as the fish’s tongue, getting first refusal on all its food but still allowing the fish to eat enough to survive. 3. Mutualism Mutualism is a relationship between organisms from two different species in which both of the organisms benefit from the relationship. Whilst diving along a sandy bottom; you may have come across the mutual relationship between the Shrimp and the Goby. Sharing their living quarters and operating with close communication, these guys operate with perfect synchronicity. The Shrimp is nearly blind and as it burrows through the sand to find food to bring back into the burrow, the Goby protects its vulnerability by acting as its eyes and bodyguard. The Shrimp keeps in constant contact with the Goby, keeping its antennae in line with the Goby’s tail. When predators come close the Goby alerts the shrimp by wiggling its body and moving its dorsal or tail fin up and down or left and right in different frequencies, and together they simultaneously drawback into their sandy burrow. The Goby requires a safe nest to complete its lengthy mating ritual and benefits from the Shrimps superior burrowing skills. The two sleep in the burrow together every night. Predominantly found in the Indo Pacific region, you can witness this elaborate partnership within the Red Sea, Thailand and Indonesian waters and many other dive spots. It occurs between around 20 species of Shrimp associated with 130 different species of Gobies. Symbiotic Relationships & the Evolution of Organisms Within these examples, you can see how different organisms can provide each other habitat, nutrients and generate new functions, characteristics and behaviours. Symbiosis produces evolutionary progress that independent organisms cannot achieve, with species often covering the others deficiencies or shortcomings as we can take from the ‘Shrimp and Goby.’ Here the shrimp has used the goby as a tool, (and vice versa) to give itself a stronger chance of survival. As the evolutionary changes for the shrimp to act alone could take thousands of years to develop, his incorporation of the Goby gives him an evolutional shortcut. Symbiosis occurs in so many fascinating ways throughout nature and there are many examples that we can witness whilst diving, even the reef-building corals we see are symbiotically partnered with a type of algae that lives within its tissue. Take a moment when you are next diving to inspect a few relationships and see if they’re an example of Symbiosis! Photo Credits: Tony WU/Minden Pictures via Science Mag Doug Richardson Matthew GilliganContinue reading
Top 15 Places to Scuba Dive Over the Holiday Season
It’s the holiday season and many people are looking for an exotic place to escape to on vacation. Whether you live in a place that gets quite chilly over the holidays or you are just looking for a great place to relax with some extra time off, visiting a scuba diving destination can be a great option. Here is a list of our Top 15 Places to scuba dive during the holiday season: 1) Indonesia Indonesia is part of the coral triangle which is the most biodiverse habitat in the world’s oceans. One of the best places to scuba dive over the holiday season in Indonesia is Raja Ampat. Raja Ampat is an archipelago of 1500 islands and is considered to have the highest marine biodiversity on Earth! Here you can spot wobbegong sharks, epaulette sharks, manta rays, bobtail squid, pygmy seahorses, and whale sharks. Of the world’s coral species, 80% can be found in Raja Ampat. At the nearby Island of Alor, hammerhead sharks can be spotted in schools. 2) Philippines Photo Credit Hanna Norlin Also part of the coral triangle, the Philippines has a great diversity of marine life. Malapascua is a tiny island off Cebu. Here, you are very likely to encounter thresher sharks as well as many species of coral, manta rays, and hammerhead sharks. Moreover, schools of thousands of barracuda and jackfish are often spotted. The infamous dugong is also native to the area. In addition to the abundant sea life, there are wrecks that offer spectacular views full of life. Year-round diving here is usually done in a 3mm shorty suit. Boracay is the most popular diving location in the Philippines. With beautiful natural reef systems, eels, and many fish including the cute little clownfish, the diving here is a dream! The pristine, white sandy beaches also make your surface intervals very, very, very…relaxing. 3) Thailand Thailand offers some of the most affordable places to learn how to scuba dive. With a variety of dive sites suitable for divers of all levels, Thailand is truly a top place to scuba dive over the holiday season. The Similan Islands are only open November to April and accessible by boat. You will be greeted with calm water and clear weather. The plankton blooms and cleaner wrasse are abundant which attract manta rays, whale sharks and black and white-tipped reef sharks at Koh Bon and Richelieu Rock. Of the many places to learn how to scuba dive in Thailand, Koh Tao and Koh Lipe are both beautiful and very cheap. 4) Palau Photo credit pxfuel With the best diving in Palau occurring from December to March, it makes the list of top places to scuba dive over the holiday. There can be very strong currents here so they say its best if you have some diving experience before venturing to here. However, these strong currents offer some amazing drift dives and bring out pelagics such as manta rays, reef sharks, and sea turtles. There are also wrecks and reefs to explore and shark dives to take part in. The Blue Hole offers an undersea cavern with transparent waters. 5) Federated States of Micronesia Photo: LuxTonnerre December falls within the peak diving months for exploring Micronesia in dry weather and warm water. In Chuuk Lagoon, arguably the best wreck diving location in the world, you will find more than 200 aircraft and 60 ships that were sunk during World War II. Much of the area is now a Japanese memorial, but many sites still allow scuba divers. 6) Galapagos Islands, Ecuador Photo credit: Piqsels As you may know, the Galapagos Islands are protected, which leads to an abundance of marine life. Besides being made famous by Charles Darwin, scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands offers some big and rare marine life. There are over 30 species of sharks here as well as whale sharks (June-November), penguins, sea lions, marine iguanas, schooling hammerhead sharks, and mola mola. Scuba diving in December offers warmer waters making it great for a top place to scuba dive over the holiday. 7) Mexico Photo credit: Flickr In Riviera Maya, considered Mexico’s top holiday resort destination, scuba divers will find many cenotes (deep sinkholes), underwater cave systems, and caverns for non-technical divers. Bull sharks and sailfish are often spotted here as well. 8) Maldives Photo credit: needpix From December to March, you will find dry weather and calm seas. The Maldives offers pinnacles and channels which make for some good drift diving. Whale sharks and manta rays are among the top marine life expected to be seen. 9) Belize Photo: Wiki media The Blue Hole was once explored by Jacques Cousteau and is considered to be one of the best diving sites in the world. With crystal clear waters offered year-round, Belize is a top place to scuba dive over the holidays. Reef sharks, bull sharks, and hammerhead sharks are all a possibility to be seen here. 10) Malaysia In Malaysia, Sipadan is a very popular diving location with over 300 species of fish and hundreds of species of coral. Turtles can be found everywhere on the island. The rangers even helps protect turtle eggs from predators until they can hatch. Sharks, dolphins, and stunning coral make Sipadan an amazing place to explore the underwater world over the holidays. 11) Australia The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s longest reef. The reef is deteriorating over time due to climate change and other human impacts so make sure to get there soon! Away from tourists, head to Ribbon Reefs and you will really see what Australia has to offer. Here you will spot humpback whales, huge and small schooling fish, and humongous potato groupers that might give you a scare but they are very friendly. 12) The Red Sea All of the Red Sea is diveable. You can find dive sites in Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Sudan. Underwater you can expect to see nudibranchs, long-nosed hawkfish, oceanic whitetips, hammerheads, and whale sharks along with very vibrant, colourful coral. Dive sites to visit include Ras Mohamed and Tiran, St Johns, Daedelus, Elphinstone and the Brothers, Blue Hole in Dahab, Cedar Pride wreck in Aqaba, and SS Thistegorm. A brand new plane wreck includes the purposely sunken C130 Hercules which can be found in Aqaba. 13) Hawaii In Hawaii, there is great diving all over the islands. You will see so many turtles, seals, and manta rays. Visiting December to May, there is also the possibility to see humpback whales and whale sharks. 14) Curacao, Bonaire, Saba Once part of the Netherlands Antilles, these islands in the Caribbean are less expensive and less touristy than some of the other popular Caribbean islands. Here you will find mostly rich coral with walls and drifts and year-round great visibility. 15) Maltese Islands In Malta, diving can be a little colder in the winter months with an average water temperature of 18°C in December, but the crowds are significantly decreased. The Blue Hole is the most popular dive site off Gozo. Off the coast of Comino, you will find wrecks to explore. The underwater arches and caves along with great visibility make diving in Malta an excellent top scuba diving destination over the holiday season. So, there we have it our top 15 diving destinations for the holiday season. If you have any experiences diving elsewhere in the world during the holiday season, please let us know in the comments section below. Happy diving and happy New year! Continue reading
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