WANT to dive on your next trip? More of us seem to be taking the plunge as vacations to destinations renowned for their marine life soar – including the Indian Ocean favourite, the Maldives.
But you can’t just dive as soon as you arrive, whether you’re a beginner or fully PADI qualified.
Resident marine biologist at Ozen Life Maadhoo, Oshin Joanna Christopher, has some advice for anyone looking to have fun in the deep blue.
She said: “Knowledge of local habitats and wildlife, diver safety and environmental responsibility are key.
“So if you’re going on a diving-centric vacation, be sure to locate an accredited center that will look after both your well-being and that of the marine environment you’ll be exploring.”
Whether you’re just starting out, wanting to introduce your kids to the marine environment, or looking for advice after a Covid-enforced diving hiatus, Oshin has tips and ideas so you can get the most out of your diving holiday. dive.
1 Vacation preparation before diving: Whether you are heading to the Indian Ocean, the Pacific, the Caribbean or the Red Sea, it is important to understand the marine environment in which you will be immersed.
Do your research. There are several different types of underwater environments; seagrass beds, coral reefs, shipwrecks, protected areas and more.
Understand where you are going to dive or snorkel and what species you might encounter.
2 Know the fauna: Knowing the behavior and characteristics of a species can protect you: triggerfish, for example, protect their eggs and can become aggressive if you get too close to their nests, while a fire coral can sting. Make sure you know when to keep a safe distance from particular species.
Read up on the different marine habitats to know what to look for. If there are a lot of crevices where you are heading, you can try to spot lobsters, octopus or giant moray eels.
3 Packaging: Reef-safe sunscreen, hats or caps, sunglasses, insect repellent, rash, seasickness treatments are a must. Reduce single-use plastics by getting a reusable water bottle.
A user-friendly underwater camera or Go Pro is advised to document your diving/snorkeling experience.
You’ll be more comfortable with your own mask and fins, so it’s worth making room for these in your luggage.
4 Protect the coral: Coral reefs are a fragile ecosystem. They are biodiversity hotspots and building blocks of the marine environment, so it is important to prevent damage to reefs from human-made pollutants and stressors.
With over 200 million people living along coastlines around the world, corals are also a vital source of livelihoods and food and generate billions in revenue to support local communities through the tourism industry.
5 How to behave in the water: Never touch or hunt marine life. Stay off the sea/ocean bed. A number of sea creatures, such as eels or stingrays, inhabit the sand for camouflage, so avoid disturbing it.
Do not feed fish and marine mammals. Human food, which can be harmful to his organism and his environment.
Do not throw. Plastic and all other non-biodegradable materials can linger in the ocean for years and can entangle or suffocate marine animals.
6 Experiences with ocean giants: When looking for or approaching larger marine life – rays, whales, sharks or dolphins – do your homework.
Learn about the animal’s behavior and blind spots. For example, if you are diving with manta rays, you must know never to block their path. Approach from the side only.
Try to maintain a distance of three meters from the animal to minimize any stress.
7 Introduce children to diving or snorkeling: Education is key. Help educate children and the experience of snorkeling or diving in advance, using kid-friendly videos, films and documentaries such as Blue Planet, Puff: Wonders of the Reef or My teacher Octopus.
Fish identification books and cards are also useful for identifying marine life and creating anticipation.
Teaching children to swim and to feel confident and comfortable in the water is imperative before any beach trip, but especially in preparation for a diving or snorkeling trip.
The recommended minimum age for diving is 10 years old, and some children are introduced to snorkeling as young as two years old, every child is different.
8 Food and drink: Scuba diving burns a lot of calories, so a good balanced but light meal free from heavy fats and oils is recommended and should be eaten at least one hour before your dive.
Opt for slow-release energy foods such as eggs, cereal, fruit, bagels, yogurt, or toast to maximize body temperature and endurance throughout the dive.
Be sure to drink plenty of fresh juices, water, or even energy drinks to avoid dehydration, but avoid citrus fruits which can cause acid reflux.
9 Sun protection: It is very easy to get a sunburn on a boat and on the surface of the water. Use umbrellas, sunglasses and hats; especially if on a boat.
Wait at least 15-20 minutes after applying sunscreen to let the sunscreen absorb enough and apply it all over, including your lips, neck, feet and the backs of your hands to reduce the risk of sunburn of Sun.
And use an SPF of at least 30 and make sure it’s Reef Safe. Studies show that chemicals such as oxybenzone can harm coral health and be toxic to fish, so use a reef-safe mineral-based sunscreen.
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