Scuba diving and travel go together hand in hand. Dive travel can see you going to places that you never would have dreamed of visiting, and I think it is fair to say that one of the best parts of scuba diving holidays (aside from the diving, obviously) is the sense of adventure that you feel when you rock up at a near deserted island in the Philippines, or heading hundreds of miles out to sea on a liveaboard.
After years of working around the world in the scuba diving industry and taking countless diving holidays, you learn a few tricks on how to streamline the process and have a more comfortable and relaxed travel experience.
These are my top tips for booking and executing your next dive holiday…
1) Research your Destination
Booking your next diving destination is an exciting task! You might be dreaming of blue skies and crystal clear waters, but the reality might be very different from what you had initially imagined.
Most people will do thorough research on where they are staying and who they will be diving with. After all, that is why Dive Compare exists! So you can easily separate the good dive operators from the bad ones.
What so many people fail to research is what to expect when they are there. I previously managed a resort in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. An area famed for its high level of marine biodiversity and its abundance of macro life, however, it is not a well known destination for big encounters. That still didn’t stop people being disappointed when they failed to see a manta ray or whale shark. If you know exactly what you want to see on your dives, make sure they can be found in the area you are looking into.
Seasons are an important factor too. If you are spending so much money on a dive trip and travelling half way around the world, it is probably a good idea to know what you can expect the weather to be like when you get there. While some of the smaller operators might close during the off season, as long as conditions are safe, you can bet that most companies will remain open year round.
2) Take Your Own Equipment
Although almost every dive centre in the world offers rental equipment, you should still take your own equipment if possible. Most resorts I have stayed in do look after their rental equipment, however you occasionally hear horror stories about gauges not working, regulators free-flowing, and that sinister sound of constant bubbling sound coming from behind your head.
Rental equipment is usually the most basic equipment that can be safety used in that environment, and rental prices are not cheap either. By the time you have taken a few dive holidays, you would have spent more on rental than if your have just bought it yourself. If you don’t want the hassle of lugging all that extra weight, then just take the basics. Carrying your own mask, fins, booties and exposure suit won’t take up too much of your luggage space, but will significantly improve your comfort during dives.
Another very important thing to remember is that while almost all dive centres offer rental equipment, they do not have an infinite stock pile, and it is usually first come, first serve. They may not have size 47-48 fins, and they probably don’t stock XXXL BCDs or wetsuits either.
3) Carry-On the Delicate Stuff
Although scuba diving equipment is designed to take a bit of a beating, it is not designed to deal with being thrown around, and airport baggage handlers are not well known for being gentle with your luggage. Things like BCDs, wetsuits, and fins will be fine, but your delicate equipment like masks, regulators, dive computers or camera equipment might not handle it well.
I almost always carry my regulator in my hand luggage, and I have never had an issue with airport security. If you are travelling through any areas where diving is not so popular (India, for instance), it might be a good idea to have a picture of a scuba diver on your phone so you can show them what it is used for.
If your hand luggage is completely full, or you don’t want to carry your regulator around with you, it is a good idea to remove all the hoses from the regulators first stage. All you need for this is a small adjustable spanner, and as the connections are the weakest point, you will greatly reduce the risk of anything getting damaged.
4) Pack a Spares Kit
Scuba diving equipment is pretty robust, but things can still break from time to time, and there is nothing worse than being stuck on a liveaboard and not being able to dive because your fin strap has broken. A basic spare kit should include things like extra fin straps, comfortable mouthpieces, cable ties, low and high pressure hoses, and an extra mask. Generally, all of these things will be available at the resort you are staying with, but they might charge a premium for them.
Perhaps more important, are spares for your BCD and regulator.
Every equipment brand is different, and as such have different fittings for their equipment. You might love your Oceanic BCD, however, chances are the resort does not stock them, so when your corrugated inflater hose has a hole in it, there is nothing that can be done. The same applies for your regulator. Simple problems like a leaking 2nd stage connection might be unfixable if your regulator is not standard (ball connection, for instance).
You should always pack a few spare O-rings for your regulator, as well as an additional power inflater and hose that is specific to your BCD.
5) Don’t Service Your Regulator!
OK, obviously servicing your regulator is extremely important, not just for the health of the equipment itself, but to reduce your risk of having an accident while underwater. Depending on how much you dive, you should have your regulator serviced annually. If you are an instructor or Divemaster who does 500+ dives a year, you will probably need it looked at more often.
The only time you should never consider servicing your equipment is directly before your next dive holiday. At a dive resort I previously worked at, I had far too many experiences with guests arriving at the resort with their freshly serviced equipment, only for them to head out on the boat and not be able to use their own regulator due to a major leak.
“I just had it serviced, it must have gotten damaged on the flight!”
It’s possible, but most likely the culprit is the technician who serviced it before you left. A technician is supposed to pressure check and bubble check any serviced regulators before handing them back to their owners, but just like in any other industry, the world of scuba has its own cowboy builders who don’t do a proper job. I have seen freshly serviced regulators missing o-rings, port plugs, and once I even saw one that was missing the filter!
If you insist on servicing your reg before going on holiday, make sure you test it in a pool before you leave.
Do you spend much time travelling for scuba diving holidays? Maybe you have some tips or tricks of your own that you would like to share with the world? If so, please leave a comment in the comments section below and help a fellow diver out!
‘Top Tips for Dive Travel’ was written by Mike