Recreational diving, as opposed to technical diving, is what most people engage in when scuba diving
Recreational diving has developed largely since 1943, largely as a result of innovations brought about by Jacques Cousteau and other milestones which I have gone into some detail in my
History of scuba
The sport has become more and more popular over the past 30 years and with it economies of scale have meant equipment has become both more accessible (pricewise) and easier to use as the technologies have advanced.
The numbers of people joining the sport every year is estimated at 500 000 per year in the states alone. Numbers vary quite widely in the various statistics listed, whichever you read, it is big business now and growing at a hell of a rate!
Recreational diving is typically diving taking place at a depth of less than 30 – 35 meters. Deeper than this would designate the activity as technical diving and entail the use of more specialised equipment and training.
The demand for technical training is increasing as interest in diving to greater depths for the purposes of viewing wrecks, for example, increases. The development of ‘rebreather equipment’ has also gone some way to giving access to a wider group of divers.
To some extent the fact that some locations have been over-dived - typically wrecks - means in order to see 'untouched' wrecks, one needs to dive to gretaer depths and in doing so require more specialised training and equipment.
Typically the following are the types of recreational diving activities which fall within recreational diving, and are not surprisingly the specialty dive courses that are offered by the various certifying bodies:
- Altitude diving
- Cave diving
- Deep diving
- Drift diving
- Ice diving
- Underwater archaeology
- Night diving
- Underwater navigation
- Underwater photography
- Underwater search and recovery
- Underwater videography
- Wreck diving
- Nitrox diving
The type of location where recreational diving is carried out are varied and almost anywhere you find water:
Sea and Oceans which are the most common location as well as usually most interesting.
Dams, Lakes and quarries, these are most commonly used for diver training, being calmer and usually a safer environment for learning diving skills.
Of course there are enormous lakes which are virtually the same as diving in a sea and in some there are just as or even in some cases greater hazards – Crocodiles for example!!
Caves which present a different set of hazards and can be quite dangerous. Quite often caves are terribly deep.
Rivers generally will have strong currents, are not particularly deep and poor visibility due to silt and vegetation.
The types of locations and environment which attracts divers to a location are:
Coral reefs for the marine life which inhabits the reefs as well as photographic opportunities they present. Even without photography simply diving in amongst this ‘other-world’ is incredibly beautiful. I find it difficult to explain to non-divers just how beautiful it is underwater.
Shipwrecks and other artefacts which have come to rest on the ocean floor, interesting either from an historical perspective or perhaps archeologically speaking.
Caves, There are various reasons why people dive in caves – they can be, as I said earlier, quite dangerous and I think eerie. There isn’t often very much marine life. The visibility or clarity of the water is very often excellent.
I have dived in Chinoyi Caves in Zimbabwe, Africa and the water there is so clear that from 30 metres down you can see people outside the water clearly. It feels as though you are floating in air it is so clear.
The sport as a whole is an expensive one. The equipment is quite costly and then if you consider not only the expense of a dive center and the cost of tanks, transport to dive site, but the fact that most dive sites are in some sort of ‘exotic’ location.
I heard someone comment that if you compromise on the cost of both equipment and your training, you are compromising on your safety and in turn will likely lead to circumstances causing you to stop diving, either by way of discomfort – lack of enjoyment, or fear or even serious accident.
I agree with the comments. The better your equipment and the better your training, the more competent you are and in turn the better your dives will be.
The training facility you choose is important in terms of making sure you seek recommendations for the dive school and instructors.
Get someone who is passionate about the sport rather than someone who is interested in churning out qualifications with the least effort.
It is only when you see something go wrong underwater that you realise how quickly and easily it can happen. The only thing standing between you and serious injury or even death may be the training and experience you have.
One of the speciality dive courses available is one which you learn the basics of how to identify marine species, believe it or not that may at some point save your life - there are some fairly small, and innocuous looking creatures underwater which are highly dangerous:
Click on the names to read about each animal
The point being that both training and experience will be vital in making sure that some of the hazards of scuba diving, both from the creatures you come across and the environment, are at least hazards that you are aware of and can take steps to make sure you safeguard yourself against potential injuries through ignorance.
In turn knowing something about these creatures will go some way to ensuring you understand the impact of your presence in their world and perhaps the impact of your world on theirs?
To learn about the First Aid basics of scuba diving, click here
If you are interested in Shark diving, click here
For information on places to go and do recreational diving, click here