So where once you have got the bug should a beginner to scuba diving go?
You might think that as a beginner or basic scuba diver your choices of truly amazing or exotic aquatic experiences are somewhat limited. Not true, indeed even for the beginning Scuba Diver holding an entry-level Scuba certification the world truly is your Ocean – or River, Lake or Stream for that matter.
Some of the most exotic and popular dive sites in the world like Costa Rica, Fiji, Thailand even Australia have sites for beginners as well as the advanced or experienced diver and for the UK resident who cant get that far, there are safe dive locations around our own coasts, the water too being crystal clear in places off the Scottish coast for example. Further away places like Florida and the Florida Keys offer some of the most extensive dive areas and different Scuba Diving environments that are easy enough for beginning divers but diverse enough to return again and again. For example Scuba Diving Magazine rated Islamorada in the Florida Keys the number one dive site for beginners. There you can find many dive sites like the fully protected Alligator Reef Sanctuary, this 25 ft dive is located only 3.5 miles off the coast of Islamorada and is ideal for snorklers and beginner Scuba Divers. Safe and easy and crystal clear, Alligator Reef – don’t worry it’s named for a nearby wreck the USS Alligator not the reptile – is home to the largest variety of fish species in the keys. This is a great beginner dive for fish lovers and underwater photographers alike. There are dozens of other sites throughout Islamorada where even beginner scuba divers can see large pelagic fish like groupers, exotics like blue parrot fish and even have close encounters with a variety of Sharks.
Another amazing experience that can be had in Florida and should not be missed by any diver is to dive with the Manatee in Crystal River Florida. The Manatee or sea cow is a docile and gentle sea mammal that many believed inspired the first tales of mermaids. Crystal River boasts the largest population of Manatee in the world and is the only place where you can snorkel or scuba dive among these gentle giants of the sea.
Jamaica and many other sites throughout the Caribbean are also relatively inexpensive places to experience some truly excellent beginner dive sites. Any and all of the popular and well-known typical tourists sites and island chains such as Curacao, the Turks and Caicos, the Caymans, even the Bahamas offer not only exciting nightlife and lots to do, but also great scuba diving for the beginner. There are some islands however that may not be as familiar sounding to you as the usual fare that are consistently rated as the top destinations specifically for Scuba, and there too, the beginner can experience the best that Scuba Diving has to offer. Bonaire a small island off of the coast of Venezuela in the Dutch Caribbean is generally recognized by Scuba professionals and Dive magazines as one of the top Scuba destinations worldwide. All of Bonaire’s waters have been legally protected since 1979, and as such sports some of the most pristine reefs and diversity of exotic marine life on the planet.
The bottom line is, once you have become a certified Scuba Diver, even as a beginner the possibilities of where you can dive and what you can see are almost as limitless as the open waters themselves.
And of course when you have passed the beginner stage, there are a host of other things like caves or sunken ships to temp you, all of which offer a great way to make that holiday abroad (or in the UK) one to remember..
You see, beyond exploring reefs and other underwater inhabitants of the deep, probably one of the most exciting, interesting and challenging dives for the recreational scuba diver is the Wreck Dive. Wreck diving requires particular skills, and specialty certification is required before taking on the challenges of exploring a sunken ship or other wreck (so this is not for the beginner), but the additional training is well worth it. Underwater wrecks are fascinating not only because of the history and the eerie feeling one gets exploring the decks and corridors of a vessel that once plied the surface, but underwater wrecks become havens for all manner of aquatic flora and fauna. And while you do need an advanced scuba certification to become wreck diver certified, contrary to popular belief, wrecks are not necessarily deep-water dives; in fact there are many popular and interesting wreck dives that take place in relatively shallow waters.
Wrecks are it seems so irresistible to scuba divers, that not all wrecks are ships that met with a tragic fate in open waters, many wrecks being sunk intentionally for scuba divers to explore, or to be part of “artificial reefs” and build up marine habitats. In either case, there is nothing quite like descending through the waters, bubbles trailing off behind you, the sound of your own breath quickening ever so slightly as a hulking shape beneath you begins to take on recognizable form. Suddenly a window, or door, or a gaping hole in the hull appears large enough to swim through, and your adventure begins as you swim back in time. Not all wrecks are ships – plans, trains and even automobiles exist below the surface, in fact my first experience with a wreck was encountering a ’69 VW Beatle during my very first open water dive in a quarry in the UK. Every sport or recreational scuba diver is at heart an explorer and wreck diving feeds the scuba divers desire to be an amateur archaeologist and maybe even a treasure hunter. Wreck divers find many interesting artifacts even on recent wrecks, but be sure to check with the local laws governing salvage and what you can keep and cannot keep regarding found items on a wreck – but even if you cannot keep your “treasures” diver finds contribute to historians and researchers by helping them identify and catalogue ship wrecks.
As you might imagine there are great Wreck Dives all over the world, mankind has left its make all over the ocean floors for centuries. But some of the top rated Wreck Dives are located in the U.S. Recently National Geographic Magazine listed “Wreck Diving off the Coast of Carolina” as one of its Top 10 Water Adventures. In these perilous waters of the Atlantic where Gulf Stream and Artic waters collide, more than 2000 ships have met their fate, making this “Graveyard of the Atlantic” one of the best sites for wreck diving in the world.
But do remember, the very thing that make scuba diving on wrecks interesting and exciting, makes it a much more hazardous environment to the diver then ordinary open water diving. That is why advanced training is necessary to recognize and deal with the potential dangers in a wreck including shards of metal, entanglement hazards due to rigging, nets and lines, disorientation and a lot of metal that can render your compass useless. At the bottom line, the more training you receive the safer diver and better steward of the marine environment you will become.
So do have a good scuba diving holiday, whether it be to try it for the first time, learn, gain more experience, or just have some great fun, and above all do be safe and remember that when your scuba diving your in someone elses natural environment, not your own