Many divers are also enthusiastic topside travelers and, as we plan to travel abroad, we get the most from the experience by planning ahead â€” by knowing the local currency, learning a key phrase or two, employing a local travel guide, etc. This same approach greatly enhances our dive trips when we research local practices, etiquette and procedures. As the winter approaches, many divers in the northern hemisphere have already begun planning their next diving trip to a tropical destination.
For divers who may be used to local diving in lakes or quarries, or for those warm-water divers who have been out of the water for awhile, weâ€™ve put together a few tips and pointers that will help you prepare for your next tropical scuba trip.
Refresh your skills on arrival
Being trained to dive in tropical water doesnâ€™t mean youâ€™re immediately ready to dive in cold water, and vice versa. While cold-water diving, with challenges such as low visibility and strong currents, does advance your skills as a diver, there is a different etiquette for a tropical scuba trip. Reefs are no-touch zones, which may differ from diving on wrecks in strong currents, and boat-diving procedures will vary. Many marine parks will automatically require every diver to be checked for buoyancy and weighting, regardless of the number of dives and experience, as salinity and temperature affect both these variables. If you havenâ€™t dived for awhile in this environment, sign up for a refresher course once you arrive to get the most from your trip.
Consider specialty courses
Specialty classes are often hands-on and can be conducted in a day. Consider courses such as digital photography, which allow divers to get the most from tropical diving in places such as the Caribbean or Philippines. Diving somewhere like Chuuk Lagoon would be enhanced by a wreck, deep or enriched air specialty. The easy logistics when it comes to warm-water diving mean this may be a good time to get trained on a rebreather if youâ€™re interested. Finally, coral-reef specialties such as Fish ID, underwater naturalist and Project AWARE really enhance the storyline of tropical-reef diving.
Pack specific equipment and ditch what you donâ€™t need
Some of the items you may need in colder water, such as gloves or a knife, are often prohibited on tropical reefs and marine parks, so leave them at home. If youâ€™re diving off boats, bring a reel and SMB, as these may be essential when drift diving. You may also need a reef hook in some parts of the Maldives, Palau, or Indonesia.
Photographers and videographers should check local electricity outlets and specifications â€” while many Caribbean countries adhere to U.S. standards, some islands may follow the British or European systems and Asia has its own standards as well. Islands may be prone to power surges, so an outlet bar with multiple sockets and surge protection can be a great way to protect valuable electronics.
Stay hydrated and check your dive or travel insurance
Even with cloud cover and on cooler days, we tend to sweat more and dehydrate more when diving several times a day. Donâ€™t just rely on the hot sun to remind you to drink water â€” make sure you have an intake of several liters a day. For many of us who look forward to a sunset aprÃ¨s-dive cocktail or beer itâ€™s even more important to drink plenty of water for the next dayâ€™s diving. Even if you are doing everything right there is always a risk of DCS, so double check your dive-insurance policy is up to date, as hyperbaric-chamber treatment can often run into the tens of thousands of dollars, especially if medical evacuation is needed. Check out Divers Alert Network for coverage details.
Have a game plan
Many destinations feature more sites than you can possibly dive in a weekâ€™s trip. Furthermore, some may be beyond your current diving limitations or not suited to your specific interests, so try to research the sites and dive opportunities in advance. Be realistic and stay within your dive limits, and donâ€™t try to achieve too much in a short trip or youâ€™ll miss the quality of the local diving. Scuba Diver Life has published many articles on specific destinations, and most popular spots are getting mobile savvy, with apps available for the local area.