As you dive more and more, your expeditions will eventually take you overseas. While this might be a simple version of the U.S. across a border, it can often be a trial in planning and executing your vacation plan. This article will guide you through the difficulties in diving overseas.
Finding a shop / resort
The first hurdle to overcome is finding a dive shop. In some cases, this may be a resort where you also stay. With the advent of the internet, this search has become immensely easier. Usually this is accomplished by typing "destination dive shop" into your favorite search engine, where "destination" is replaced by the part of the world in which you're traveling (e.g., "fiji dive shop").
Even with these advances, it can be hard to mill through the options. How do you choose one shop over another? Here are a few tips:
- Priorities. Decide what's most important to you in a dive shop. Are you looking for super-cheapo diving, or do you not mind spending a little more to get pampered? Do you need something conveniently located, or will you have a rental car? Think about what you look for when you look for a dive shop.
- Reviews. Now that you know what's important to you, try to find reviews online. Here are a few resources: www.tripadvisor.com, www.divematrix.com, www.yelp.com, www.scubadviser.com, and www.scubaboard.com.
- Outings. Confirm that the shop you are interested in is going out on the days you want. This is especially important during off-season travel. If you have choices, do research on dive locations and decide based on the dive sites you'd like to see.
After choosing, make any necessary reservations unless you are sure you can just show up and have a seat on the boat (doubtful, although you may prefer to visit the shop in person after arriving).
The vast majority of you out there are probably certified through one of the major scuba agencies---that's what makes them major. Even so, there are still many certifying agencies specific to regions and countries. If you hold a card with one of these, I would suggest checking that the shop you want will recognize your cert card.
Even if you do use a major agency, it can't hurt to do a sanity check and avoid problems the day you want to dive.
If you are reading this, I assume you speak English fairly well. English is a very common base language for communication, and popular destinations know this. Hence, almost all places you find yourself in will not pose a communication problem for you.
Nevertheless, difficulties can arise. While many instructors and shop employees are English-speaking transplants, it is popular to hire cheap local labor for running boats and leading dives. Thus, it is quite possible to find yourself unable to communicate effectively at times. Fortunately, these instances are few and far between, and are hardly ever over anything life critical.
If you are so inclined, it can't hurt to learn a few key phrases and words should you ever find yourself in such a situation. I hardly consider it a necessity, though.
The dive shop should notify you beforehand, but check up on any local laws for your dive destination. Some places don't allow dive knives or gloves, for instance.
Another possibility is any fees required to get in the water. For example, the water around Bonaire is considered a marine park, and a \$25 USD "admission" is required to scuba dive.
Depending on where you are from, you either you use the metric or imperial system of measurement, or some derivative of one of these. In diving, this means you are either used to kilograms (weight), bar (pressure), and meters (length), or pounds (weight), PSI (pressure), and feet (length).
Here at The Diving Blog, I try to give you both units, but not everyone will be so kind. Therefore, you should check what is being used at your vacation spot and plan accordingly. Here is a breakdown of conversion between the two. Familiarize yourself with it.
- Kilograms (kgs) / pounds (lbs). For your weight belt, you will need to know how much weight to use. Depending on what you are used to, you may need to convert to the other unit. One pound is roughly 0.45 kilograms, and one kilogram is about 2.2 pounds.
- Bar / PSI. It doesn't make sense to memorize the conversion between bar and PSI, since your cylinder pressure gauge will give one or the other, and will often have red markings to indicate low air situations. However, you should probably know that a full tank is about 3,000 PSI, which is about 200 bar. A half tank is then 1,500 PSI / 100 bar.
- Meters (m) / feet (ft). Probably the easiest is converting between depths. 1 meter is a little over 3 feet. Usually people remember that 10 meters is 33 feet and go from there. For example, 30 meters is about 99 feet.
Knowing these ahead of time can avoid a stressful situation. For example, if the boat is being loaded up and you are asked how much weight you need in kilograms, you may end up saying something stupid and being short on weight. Again, not incredibly likely, but any stress in diving situations should be avoided.
If diving with a reputable outfit, you shouldn't need to worry about how to handle emergencies. It can happen, however, during shore diving or a rented boat, that emergency services need to be contacted while in a foreign country.
DAN, the Divers Alert Network, while based in the U.S., has services worldwide.
Many countries, especially popular dive destinations, have services dedicated to scuba emergencies. If this is the case, you will want to be aware and contact these services before regular emergency services. The savings in time could be critical.
As a last option, contact information for regular emergency services is needed where diving emergency or DAN services are not available. In any case, you will need to know where to find a telephone and how local telephone numbers work. This is easy, but shouldn't be neglected.
Diving overseas is an exciting opportunity to see entirely new sites and critters, as well as expand your horizons. As with all things, a small bit of preparation goes a long way to increasing overall enjoyment. You may find the preparation time builds anticipation (in a good way) towards the upcoming trip. Have fun, and send me a postcard!
Photo by Irargerich