Good buoyancy control is the holy grail of scuba diving and if you get this right your stress levels go down and your enjoyment goes up.
It seems simple but so many divers don't get it right so we are going to have a look at a few things that you can do to get your buoyancy to the next level. During your diver training you will have been shown how to control your buoyancy with your BCD and generally you will have been given a weight belt and shown how to do a buoyancy check. Normally when you are training as you are a little anxious you take large breaths of air making you super buoyant. This has to be balanced out with more weight on your weight belt. A lot of people as they start to dive remember what weight they had at the start and stick with it, thus meaning they are over weighted.
So why should you be properly weighted?
Having the correct weighting when diving is the corner stone of good buoyancy. The correct weight will help you to make nice smooth descents and easy but controlled ascents. You will be able to comfortably hold your depth and position at safety stops. You will also use less air and therefor have longer divers. This is because when you carry less weight you use less energy. Your manoeuvrability will improve as when you are correctly weighted your trim will be better.
It's a simple matter of physics
I've just taken my Instructors exams and there is a whole section on physics and with buoyancy in mind displacement is what we will look at here. To understand this you need to get your head around the science behind it - namely Archimedes' Principle.
Our Greek friend Archimedes said “An object placed in a liquid will be buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the liquid it displaces.”
So the buoyancy of an object depends on its weight and also it's volume - if it doesn't weigh a lot and has a large volume i.e. a balloon - it will float. If it weighs a lot and has a low volume i.e. a stone it will sink.
We can apply the same theory to diving - a slim diver with just boardies on needs less weight than a larger diver wearing a dry suit. So bearing this principal in mind - every time you change your suit, your equipment, your tank size or material you should check your weighting before you start your dive.
So start at the beginning
To do a buoyancy check you need somewhere to start. Check your log book from your first course and this should give you a starting point. However you will need to take into consideration your exposure suit and equipment used and also if it was fresh or salt water (salt water is more buoyant than fresh).
If you forgot to note your original weighting then this should give you an idea where to start.
As we said this is just a guiding and some people are just more buoyant than others so we then need to do a buoyancy check and here is how.
Once you know your correct weighting then we start to look at your trim. This is where on your set up is the weight distributed. Normally you would have the weight on the weight belt positioned on the hips and slightly towards the front of the body. Most BCD's now have integrated weight systems so the weight can be distributed in the weight pockets and most have trim pockets on the back of the jacket to. Getting your trim right stops you rolling, or pitching forwards or backwards which makes for hard work in the water.
Practice makes perfect
Then it is just a case of practicing and tweaking. Certainly a Peak Performance Buoyancy course would help you to get better weighted and improve on your diving technique and combined with lots of diving you will have it sorted in no time.
For lots of us, the whale shark is always at the top of our bucket list the Holy Grail of our underwater domain. It is the world’s biggest fish and this majestic animal isn’t easy to find. In order to give yourself the best chance of seeing one you have to select the right destination and make sure you get there at the right time of year. There are more and more dive holidays specifically designed around spotting Whale Sharks so what are you waiting for.
Whale sharks can be up to 12 meters long, weigh in excess of 20 tones and live for 80 years. So, you would think such a large animal would be pretty easy to spot. In reality they are quite elusive and unfortunately their numbers are dwindling. They really are amazing to dive with and if you want to come face-to-face with these gentle giants then we’ve come up with the top 10 destinations that will give you a chance of seeing them.
1. Puerto Ayora, Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos really are one of the true natural wonders of the world and should really be on everyone’s bucket list! This is a dive site for the more experienced diver because of the currents at Puerto Ayora but this gives you a fair crack at seeing these immense animals. The best time for whale shark encounters is between May and October.
2. Gladden Spit, Belize
The whale sharks are drawn here by the spawning cuberera snappers. The best time to visit is three days either side of a full moon as this coincides with when the snappers release their eggs and then the whale sharks feast begins. The best time for whale shark encounters is between April and May.
3. Ari and Baa, Maldives
This place is a great place to see whale sharks even if you aren’t diving. It’s possible to snorkel with them in the warm shallow waters, although it certainly is worth getting the scuba kit on and diving here. The best time for whale shark encounters is between May and December on the western side and December and April on the eastern side.
4. Isla Mujeres, Mexico
You know when a place has a whale shark festival then you know you stand a good chance of seeing them. As scuba diving isn’t allowed here it will be a snorkeling trip but it is pretty awesome from the surface – time to practice your freediving! The water here is beautifully clear and encounters are spectacular. The best time for encounters are from May to September, although the annual Whale Shark Festival takes place in mid-June.
5. Cabo San Sebastian, Mozambique
If you want to see whale sharks and you don’t like crowds then this might just be the destination for you. This place has greatest concentration of whale sharks in Africa gives you a great chance of spotting one. Mozambique is also a little bit off the beaten track so you could find yourself having a one to one experience. November to February give you the best chance of seeing a whale shark here.
6. Utila, Honduras
This is one of the few places on the planet that you have a chance of diving with whale sharks all year round. It is possible to snorkel and to dive with them here and the deeper waters on the north side of the island is the place to go. You can quite often find the whale sharks below the flocking sea birds – a good skipper is worth his weight here.
7. Ningaloo Reef, Australia
Not only is this a great place to see whale sharks but this is also simply just a great place to visit and dive anyway. It’s a really good place for all levels of divers. Dive here between April and July and you stand a good chance of bumping into the whale sharks.
8. Honda Bay, Palawan, Philippines
Honday Bay is less well known than Donsol to the north but the whale shark sightings are just as frequent and it’s certainly less crowded. They start to group up here so multiple sightings are common and the dive boats spend their time trying to find them. Whale sharks are spotted between December to May here so certainly the best time to visit.
9. Mahé, Seychelles
This is one of those well-known secrets. The whale sharks migrate past the Seychelles archipelago in the Indian Ocean. It’s a dreamy destination anyway and the whale sharks are the cherry on top. The peak time to see them in October but they are around from September to November.
10. Richelieu Rock, Thailand
This is one of Thailand’s best dive destinations and a lot of the divers are rewarded with a whale shark sighting. Even if the whale sharks elude you this is one hell of a place to dive so it’s a great place to try. Your best time of the year to spot the whale sharks is from March to May.
I know divers that have 100’s of dives under their belts and still haven’t seen a whale shark. I have also met people that have seen them on their qualifying open water dives. It really does come down to luck however you can increase your chances by heading to a place that you know has a good history of sightings. What is guaranteed is that when you see your first, tenth or a hundredth whale shark you will be simply blown away. Keep diving, keep planning and keep those fins crossed!
It is a question that I hear quite a lot when talking to divers - what is it like to travel with a group.
Well if you have never done a group scuba diving trip then it is certainly worth giving it a go for lots of reasons. It does offer many advantages and opportunities that you might miss out on if you were to travel as a couple or on your own.
Here are 5 reasons why you should be giving it a go.
1. Benefit from the groups experience
If you are wanting to head to a destination that you have not visited before you have no experience to draw on. Travelling with a group gives more experience to draw on and a better chance that someone will know the inside track. Group trips are normally organised by someone that knows the area, will know the best dive centre to dive with and the best dive sites to head to. In travel experience really does count.
2. Save money
We all want to save money on our dive trips, it just means that we can afford more trips! The larger the number of the group the cheaper it gets. That can mean just the travel part, but usually means the diving and kit rental too! As a group you should be able to negotiate on price even down to meals out.
3. Be the star of the show
When you travel on your own you usually end up with lots of pictures and videos of other people. Travel in a group and the cameras are turned on you and with social media it's so easy to share these images around. So soon your friends and family will see exactly what you get up to on these amazing dives.
4. Create long-lasting friendships
Travelling with new people is a great way of making new friends. We know of people that met on liveaboards years ago and now go on a dive holiday with them every year. The great thing is no matter how different the people are on the boat - you all have one thing in common - you love diving. It's always a good conversation starter and a fab way of finding new dive partners. Don't be shy, jump right in.
5. Learn from your peers
We all learn from watching others. So if you are doing 4 dives a day with 20 other divers you are bound to pick up a few tips. I've learned so much from other divers and not necessarily instructors who where there to teach me. Just other divers and friends that have said 'have you every thought about trying this?' and it's really helped me develop as a diver. I hope there are lots more tips out there for me too on group holidays. As they say 'every day's a school day'.
I speak to a lot of divers and normally the topic of UK diving comes up. Many divers instantly turn their noses up – normally due to preconceived ideas. I wanted to just get over just why you should give it a go and find out for yourselves. It’s not for everyone, but if you have given it a go at least you will know for sure. You never know, you might just love it.
Ok let’s get straight in with the number one objection – the water will be freezing….. I’m not going to try and tell you that the water temperature is the same as the Maldives, it isn’t. We can however make ourselves really comfortable in the cooler water.
Even in warm water if you don’t wear the right wet suit you will get cold and it is the same thing with UK diving. Have the right equipment and you will stay warm. A steamer, semi-dry suit or a dry suit can lead to dives where the temperature of water just isn’t an issue.
You don’t wear your summer clothes in the winter so don’t think you have to adopt this principal in the water.
2. The Kit
Most people think that the equipment needed for diving in the UK is a mile away from the kit they dived with on their last holiday. They conjure up images of days gone by with bell helmets and lead boots. The primary difference is the exposure suit. Drysuits and a thicker wetsuit is needed to keep you warm but the technology and the improvements of the materials used have made a big difference and they are a lot more comfortable and flexible now. Most UK divers invest in their own suit so quickly get used to it whereas a lot of tropical divers rent equipment so have to put up with ill-fitting basic wetsuits.
You don’t need to have any extra training to dive in the UK- nice shallow dive in the warm seas in Cornwall would be fine for Open Water divers in a thick wetsuit in calm conditions. If you want to dive in a drysuit you will need to do a course but this is certainly worth it. The best way to do this is to combine this with your advanced course which cuts down on cost and time and this will open up lots more cool diving in the UK down to 30 metres.
As a long-standing sea faring nation and having partaken in a few naval altercations over the years there are so many great wrecks to dive on around the UK coast.
They are normally a lot quieter than the famous ones abroad so you aren’t fighting with people to look in the hold or getting caught in silt storms kicked up by the previous 6 groups of divers. My first UK wreck was the James Eagan Layne which is just off the coast of Plymouth and I was blown away by it. Loads to see and lots of sea life in, on and around it and in 20 meters of water it wasn’t too demanding. Stepping up a level there is the world class diving destination of Scapa Flow in Scotland. So, no matter where you are in the UK you aren’t far away from bumping into some heavy metal!
Like temperature this one of the key objections to getting in the water in the UK. It seems to be how a lot of divers judge their dives. Yes, none of us like diving in truly bad visibility, well maybe one at our club but most of the time, especially on the south coast the visibility is pretty good and not uncommon for us to have 10-15 meters. You don’t need to have crystal clear water to have a good dive and sometimes the misty water can add a lot of atmosphere especially on wrecks.
6. Marine Life
Yes, there is loads of it! Just because the water is a little cooler doesn’t mean we don’t have sea life. Some great encounters can be had in the UK and when you have the opportunity to dive with the second biggest fish in the sea, the mighty Basking Shark you really have something to look forward to. Playful seals, loads of fish on the wrecks and reefs. Take a grab bag as it’s amazing to grab a few scallops or the od lobster for the post dive BBQ.
Not many of us can afford to be on holiday all the time so diving in the UK enables us to keep diving and not break the bank. At Wraysbury I can get in the water for £10, hardly an expensive hobby when a ticket to the footie will set you back £60. We have plenty of UK trips and these start at £160 for 4 dives and accommodation so this really brings diving into most people’s budget.
Just Do it
Diving in the UK can be truly rewarding and will certainly make you a better diver. You get to meet people that you can continue to dive with and learn about the marine environment around our coast line. Our inland dive centres are great training grounds and can help you learn or just to see if you like it.
So, what are you waiting for???
If you could dive once each month for the next year where would you go? We’ve asked our idive team to find the best options out there. This might just give you the inspiration for that once in a life time trip!
This month is all about the biggest mammals on the planet. Head to Mexico and the Caribbean for some close-up experiences with these majestic animals. Humpback whales are frequent visitors to both destinations in January and on the Pacific coast of Mexico there is a chance of seeing Blue Whales.
The Whale Shark season starts in Thailand. For the best chance of seeing the creature that is usually number one on diver’s bucket list head for a liveaboard in the Andaman Sea.
For March, we are off the Malaysia to see the huge number of Hammerheads that gather there. Layang Layang is a remote Atoll and the deep water surrounding it brings in these amazing predators.
The perfect time for heading to Indonesia as the Manta Rays start to gather. It is possible to see the Reef Manta at sites around Bali.
The Whale Sharks are just one excuse to head to the Galapagos Islands. This is one of the most sought after destinations so time it right and you stand a good chance of bumping into these gentle giants. The Galapagos Islands have a myriad of water and land base animals to enjoy in this unique ecosystem.
We couldn’t forget the Sardine Run as it is one of the natural world’s most amazing experiences. Every year massive shoals of Sardines run the gauntlet of marine predators near KwaZulu Natal in the Indian Ocean. Sharks a plenty, this is one exhilarating dive.
The blue sharks around the Azores Islands are a fantastic reason to head here. The deep water that runs between these magnificent volcanic islands brings in these oceanic predators. It is an amazing sight watching these beautiful sharks glide effortlessly through the blue.
This was an easy one – it has to be Sipadan. August is the perfect month to visit as it is the breading season for Green Turtles and it’s a great way of getting up close to these amazing reptiles.
Seeing coral spawn is not something many divers can say that they have seen….. this happens in Bonaire at this time of year and really is a spectacular sight. Some great diving to be had here anyway.
The best month for the Red Sea. Warm water, the air temperature is comfortable and there is so much to see in the water from Hammerhead and Oceanic Whitetip Sharks, to turtles and dolphins. Great wrecks and sublime reef and wall diving. Check out the idive liveaboard for our October trip to the Red Sea.
For the shark fans, it’s a great time to head to South Africa. Dive at Protea Banks and you stand a really good chance of seeing Hammerhead, Bull and Tiger sharks, certain to get the adrenaline pumping.
Spend Christmas in the Maldives, the Monsoon has finished and with water temperature of 28 degrees, Whale Sharks and Manta Rays what’s not to love.
If like me, you are entering 2017 having had a pretty unhealthy festive period, you will probably be thinking about getting a bit healthier and also about what to do during the next 12 months.
When we think about getting healthier at this time of year it’s usually trying to dig out the trainers from the back of the cupboard, or fix that puncture or trying to find the gym card that you signed up for at this point last year.
Well we thought about something we love doing and then looked at how much diving actually benefited us – who would have known!
Here are our top 10 health benefits of scuba diving
1. Gaining Strength and Flexibility
We all know that swimming is good for us, it’s one of the best forms of exercise. As we move through the water during a dive the resistance the water produces means your muscles work harder building endurance and strength. This includes core strength and stability which is great for your posture.
We always try and breath deep, slow breaths whilst diving to try and conserve air and optimise your air consumption. The byproduct of this is that it slows your heart rate down which in turn promotes calmness and a sense of wellbeing. It has also been linked with helping existing conditions such as asthma.
3. Can Lower Blood Pressure
Sometimes when we first get into the water, our heart rate and therefor our blood pressure may spike. This can be due to excitement, the adrenaline starting to be released or just the cold water. However, as we control our breathing our heart rate falls and thus lowers our blood pressure… who needs stress anyway?
4. Maintains and Increase Fitness Levels
Obviously, we must all maintain a good level of fitness to dive as we don’t want to over exert the body if we have to swim against a strong current or have a long surface swim. You will find that most things you do on a dive help maintain or improve your fitness. Lifting kit onto the boat, kitting up, swimming out to the dive, navigating currents and climbing up the boat ladder. They are all helping. It may not be running a marathon but it certainly is better that eating chocolate in front of the TV!
5.Traveling To Warmer Climates
Yes, we know you can dive in Wraysbury in January but we usually dream of jetting off to the slightly warmer diving destinations. With this type of dive trip comes, excitement, adventure, culture, relaxation, fantastic food and drink, amazing people – need I go on?? This of course can only enhance your mind body and soul.
6. Healing Effects of the Water
Apparently due to our time in the mother’s womb being in water gives us a sense of security, happiness and well-being. Also, if you are in salt water for extended periods of time the body wants to re-hydrate and we all know that drinking lots of water is good for us.
7. Interaction with Marine Life
All divers have been amazed and totally in awe when surrounded by the stunning marine life the world’s oceans have to offer. So, it is no surprise that this interaction just simply puts us in a good mood. However, scientists believe that exposure to certain colours, the ones that can be seen on many reefs can help to promote feelings of joy and happiness, blue has also been known to have a calming effect on the body.
8. Exposure To Sunlight
The body needs sunlight to create Vitamin D. This vitamin aids the absorption of calcium essential for strong and healthy bones. Sunlight also increases endorphin production in the brains and endorphins make us happy – simple as that!
9. Socialising Benefits
You shouldn’t dive alone for safety reasons and not only that, surely it is lot more fun doing it with like-minded people? You may be diving with a long-standing buddy, or with your dive club or being buddied up with a new diving buddy for the first time, but sharing this amazing world always enhances the experience. Being able to share your dive with others over a cold beer at the end of the day never fails to make you feel good too!
10. A Great Stress Reliever
Stress is bad. It’s bad for our health, our mind and our wellbeing. Breathing slowly and deeply is one of the most widely used exercises to relieve stress and increases oxygen blood flow to the brain. This increases the production of endorphins which makes us feel good. Diving is about living in the moment. We leave, work, problems, money issues, family niggles at the surface and for the next hour these are all forgotten. This gives the body a break and studies have shown that this time out helps bring the body and mind into balance. Having a relaxed and calm mind gives us a positive mental attitude which helps you stay on top of any issues, relieves stress and keeps you happy.
Happy 2017 from all at idivetravel
We've been talking a lot about diving in Iceland here in the office. A couple of our divers dived at Silfra this summer as well as having a tour around the island as it's not just the diving that is spectacular there.
The famous dive in Iceland is Silfra where you get to dive or snorkel in crystal clear water in a fissure between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. At points, you can actually touch both at the same time! The water is so clear as it has been filtered through porous lava rock fields over hundreds of years and so it is just as spectacular when viewed from the top as you snorkel. As the dive is at a maximum of 18 meters it means that this can be experienced by all. We are really desperate to get in the water here and there seems like a lot of interest from our divers too.
It's a bit of a toss-up on when to go. Obviously, the water is (slightly) warmer in the summer, but in the winter, you get a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights which is a real draw. The land of fire and ice has loads of other activities to entertain you - steaming geysers, ice caves, glacier tours and whale watching can all be done here.
Reykjavik is the northern most capital city in the world and looks like it is well worth an explore. For such a small city, it is strikingly cosmopolitan and has loads to offer travelers. It has a great selection of places to eat and to head out to at night and a real variety seeing that it really is a town compared to most cities.
Have a look at our Iceland page for some more details or check out the video for a real idea of what it is like to dive between two continents.......
It looks that good that it seems to have even tempted Mark to put his dry suit on!
Reason 1: Convenience
You can sometimes return from a dive holiday feeling whacked! Using day boats each day or getting to shore dive sites can be tiring. Remembering your kit each day - jumping in mini buses and getting heavy gear on and off the boat all take their toll. On a liveaboard you do it once - you have all your kit on board and never the chance of forgetting something for the next dive. You stow your equipment; you know where it is and in the morning after a leisurely breakfast you only have steps to walk to start kitting up. It also helps that the dive boat can travel over night to the intended sites for the day - no getting up at 4am to get to the dive site for 9.....
Reason 2: Variety of Diving
When you have at least a week on a liveaboard you will simply get a wider variety of diving. As you can travel great distances you could be diving wrecks close to shore on one day then as you can up anchor you could wake up the next day on a distant offshore reef.
Reason 3: Value for Money
Surprisingly the cost of a liveaboard can be substantially lower than going to a resort. Everything is usually included on a liveaboard including up to 4 dives a day. Unlimited fills, 3 meals a day with snacks and refreshments make it a really cost effective way of diving. Red Sea liveaboards start from around £750pp including flights and transfers so this makes it a realistic option for most divers.
Reason 4: Get Social
If you are travelling alone, as a couple or small group it is a great way of spending a week with likeminded divers. There is always someone around to share the day’s adventures over a beer at the end of the day. It lets you gain from other divers experiences and the social meal times are always good fun.
Reason 5: Perfect for a large group
If you are part of a large group, dive club or dive center this really is a great option. You can find a boat that you can take as a sole charter gives you lots of flexibility in where you dive and the type of diving you want to do. When you take a boat solely for your group you can have a certain amount of say on where you go. The ports where you sail from and to will usually be fixed but then you can fill in the itinerary with the help of the operator. There are usually some great group booking offers as well with free places and discounts.
We have been talking about doing a blog for a while now so here goes.
We don't stop talking about diving so we are going to start putting these things down in the blog. Today's started off with a cool freediving video that I saw on Facebook today and then Mark mentioned that he had seen a fantastic video of a freediver running through the water..... I couldn't agree with him more so here it is!