Jul 2015

What Makes a Great Dive?

By Mike Waddington

There are good dives, and sometimes there are bad dives. At some point in your dive career you will surface feeling a little disappointed, but with the right planning and forethought, you can make sure that most of your dives will be positive experiences that you will remember for a long time. There are many elements involved in a great dive. These elements are different for every diver, but personally for me, these things are key for me to have an amazing dive:

1) Having the right buddy

Unless you are a solo diver and actually conducting a solo dive, there will be at least one other person in the water with you. Most of the time, you and your buddy will get on famously, however every now and then you will be paired with a diver that makes you want to pull your hair out! Annoying buddy habits can include (but are not limited to); swimming too close to you, swimming off from the rest of the group, flailing around, touching things, or just being a bad diver in general.

Unfortunately, if you are on a dive vacation, you probably won’t get to choose your buddy. You can however, avoid being paired up with a brand new diver by asking the dive centre you will be diving with if they assign buddy pairs randomly, or by experience level, the second being the preferred option.

2) Being in comfortable equipment

Having the right gear makes a massive difference between a great dive, and a not so great one. It is always best to dive in your own stuff, but there might be several reasons why this is not possible. Rental gear is fine, just check the condition and make sure they have stuff that fits you properly before you rent. An oversized BCD can leave you struggling to keep your head above the water (at the surface) and a wetsuit that is too big will just keep flooding with colder water. Closed heel fins must be exactly the right size for you. If not they will either fall off as soon as you kick, or cause your foot to have painful cramps within a few minutes.

3) Diving from a decent boat

Boat diving has several advantages over shore diving. You can take all of your equipment with you, you avoid long surface swims, and you can get to the further out, better dive sites. However, boat diving can also become your worst nightmare. Probably the biggest mistakes many dive operators make when organising boat trips is cramming too many divers onto one boat. Everyone is fighting for what little space there is, equipment is everywhere, and everyone trips over each other when trying to kit up.

A proper dive boat should be spacious, have proper places for storing cylinders, have a complete first aid kit, some kind of shelter from the sun, and offer water for keeping refreshed. A hot water kettle with tea and coffee is always nice after a dive in cooler climates too.

4) Having an experienced guide

If you are diving at your local spot, then you probably don’t need a guide. But if you go on holiday, or to sites that you have never been to before, having a local guide can make all the difference between a great dive and a boring one. Someone with decent local knowledge will know the best sites to choose from, as different conditions can vary sites massively. They will be able to take you to all the best spots, and will probably know the best places to find some cool critters.

An experienced guide will not just know the local diving. They will also make sure the group is safe, and they can make informed decisions about the dive regarding safety and diver needs.

5) Diving interesting dive sites

It is common in places like Europe to go diving in the same lake or quarry every weekend. This allows them to get into the water as much as possible, but after a while the same sites can get a bit samey after a while. It is important to keep it fresh and interesting, otherwise you will eventually get bored. Try having competitions with your buddy such; as who can get the best photo, or who can spot the most nudibranchs. Every now and then you should plan a trip to a new site, or a new area, just to keep things fresh.

6) Diving in good visibility

You could be diving with a school of hammerheads, or surrounded turtles, but if you cannot see anything, then it will be a pretty boring dive. For me good visibility is more important that amazing marine life. Swimming around in water with 30m+ visibility gives you an incredible feeling of flying, while swimming in muddy water with 2m visibility just makes everything a bit confusing.

7) Being prepared for the dive

Dive preparation means more than just grabbing your equipment and jumping on a boat. Diving can be a physically exhausting activity, so should be treated as such. A good night’s sleep the night before a dive will give you more energy, and keep your head cleared. Dive trips can also take a few hours, so you should take some water with you, as well as a snack, just in case you get hungry. You should never dive on an empty stomach, so a decent meal around an hour before you plan to be in the water will stop a growling tummy taking your mind off the dive.

‘What Makes a Great Dive?’ was written by Mike

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Mike Waddington

I first discovered diving in 2008 after going snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. After trying diving at a flooded quarry in England I decided to head out to warmer more interesting waters in Thailand where I ended on the Island of Koh Tao completing my Open Water course. Instantly addicted with money to spend and plenty of time on my hands I decided to continue until I became a Divemaster so I could live what seemed as the perfect life.

After that I headed to the Caribbean to an island called Utila to complete my instructor course, I spent several months out there completing the MSDT internship, teaching students and leading dives. This is also where I discovered my interest in the technical side of diving, taking part in equipment repair courses and learning about blending gasses and running compressors.

With all my new qualifications it was time to head back to where it had all started, Back to Koh Tao where I intended on living the dream. Once I arrived I quickly found a job and started teaching straight away. During my time on Koh Tao I took part in all many technical diving courses, learning how to dive with re-breathers, in caves and even going down to 90m/300ft!


PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer
PADI/DSAT Tech Deep Instructor
PADI/DSAT Gas Trimix Gas Blender
PADI/DSAT Trimix Diver
TDI Intro to Cave Diver
TDI Advanced Wreck Diver
TDI Inspiration rebreather Decompression Procedures
PADI Professional Videographer
BSAC Compressor Operator
TDI Equipment Service Technician

Dream Dive Locations:

Silfra, Iceland
Cenotes, Mexico
Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia
Ice Diving in Russia