With the majority of the world’s surface covered with water, and more known about the moon’s surface than the ocean’s bottom, and man’s tireless efforts to explore it all, the sport of scuba diving allows anyone of average fitness to experience the briny blue and its watery wonders. A relatively new sport born from research by the US Navy, scuba diving is an increasingly popular recreational activity for holiday-makers and the adventure hungry. Southeast Asia, and in particular Thailand, offers worldclass training and diving with some of the region’s bst dive sites accessible from its shores.
Although a relatively safe recreational sport, it is necessary to become a certified diver before venturing below. There are several certification bodies (BSAC, SSI, PADI, CMAS) which offer entry-level certification and train would-be Cousteaus in dive safety and academic and practical skills. The PADI open-water course takes three to four days and successful completion of four open-water dives, confined sessions and academics to become certified.
All courses require a reasonable degree of fitness and health as a basic prerequisite before embarking on the practical training, as well as sound knowledge of dive theory and physics gaines through training videos, manuals and written tests. Diving isn’t for everyone and those who suffer from claustrophobia, a fear of hights, or panic-attacks may find it more challenging than others.
After an introductory training video and equipment review the first underwater breath is in confined water, i.e. a swimming pool or similar area used to complete underwater skill sets with your instrucor. This is designed to introduce a person to the unnatural feeling of breathing underwater in a safe and controlled environment and complete skills necessary for safe diving such as communication, regulator recovery, mask flooding and development of safe dive habits. After the confined sessions you are ready to practise your skills in an open-water environment and experience the adventure of scuba diving.
The initial thrill of breathing underwater is soon replaced with a feeling of freedom and wonder at the prospect of exploring the marine environment. Your senses are challenged with the feeling of weightlessness, the adrenalin and the unique sights and sounds. The sensations experienced are due to the physical difference of being underwater and their effect on the body and senses. Most notable is the pressure which can be felt as you descend to greater depths, as well as changes in sight and sound which make for a truly underworldly experience.
In addition to the practical and academic aspects of diving, it is also important to appreciate the limits imposed by the underwater environment, and to respect marine ecology. Diving is fun, and once you become comfortable in your abilities the marine life offers a realm of discovery. Thailand’s seas contain an amazing array of marine life from sea snakes to whale sharks. Your instructor will teach you good diving practises which limit interaction and damage to marine life, yet ensure the experience is both complete and unforgettable.
After completion of the entry level PADI open-water scuba dive course you are now qualified to dive independently and plan, conduct, and log no-decimpression dives when accompanied by a buddy, to a maximum depth of 18 meters.
The adventure does not stop there, and a sea of possibilities opens up for those wishing to continue their diving education. For some scuba diving provides such a rewarding experience they make it a career, and progress up the training ladder to become divemasters, instructors, or technical-diving specialists. For others the pure joy and satisfaction, of being a certified diver is enough to keep the imagination alive and the dive holidays regular, whether you’re into sharks or ship wrecks or simply enjoy blowing bubbles.