Diving Overseas

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.

Local laws

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

Fish Identification: Clown Triggerfish

I love goofy looking fish, and today's fish identification definitely fits that description!

Physical description

We've seen triggerfish before when we covered the black triggerfish. The clown triggerfish has the same basic body shape. This means an oval shaped body that is very flat. Ventral fins on the body and rear dorsal fins "wave' to allow slow movement through the water, giving triggerfish what is probably their most recognizable characteristic.

What distinguishes clown triggerfish is their coloring. The bottom half of the fish is covered in large white spots over a dark background. The top of the fish ...

Bell Diving

Children in a swimming pool experiment with trapping air in a bucket by quickly submerging it upside-down. While seemingly insignificant, this simple observation forms the basis of a diving bell. While we may think of swimming pools as somewhat modern, the idea of a diving bell dates back as far as Aristotle in the 4th century BC.


Not only is the idea of a diving bell simple, but the actual device is quite rudimentary, even in modern implementations. Any watertight container (except for the opening) can function as one. By submerging it underwater and keeping it vertical, a pocket ...

Fish Identification: Garibaldi

The state marine fish of California, the Garibaldi damselfish (full name) is a common sighting off eastern Pacific waters.

Physical description

Garibaldis have the usual damselfish look: steep sloped head, heart shaped caudal fin, and the flowing dorsal and anal fins. However, the most identifying characteristic is their distinctive orange color. In fact, this bright red-orange color provides the fish with its name. It is named after Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Italian revolutionary famous for his red shirt.

Juvenile garibaldis are not as bright in color, and often have shiny blue spots which disappear with age.

Garibaldis grow up to 30 ...

The Attraction of the Unknown

The Toronto Sun recently reported that actor Ving Rhames (Mission: Impossible, Pulp Fiction) has done some underwater work for a recent film, Piranha 3D. During one trip the actor spotted a "prehistoric" looking creature that he couldn't identify.^1^ This freaked him out so much that he "hasn't done any scuba diving since."

That's a little bit silly, but he relates some truth:

I really feel that there are things in the ocean that we have no idea about. I think there's so much we don't know and the unknown in the ocean; every 10 ...

Fish Identification: Spanish Hogfish

Being a hogfish, the Spanish hogfish is part of the wrasse family.

Physical description

Spanish hogfish have the common appearance of most hogfish. Namely, the pointed snout that they use to root through the sea bottom. Spanish hogfish are 10-13 inches (25-33 cm) long, although fish who eat their Wheaties can definitely grow larger.

Spanish hogfish also have streamlined dorsal and anal fins which trail back. Along with the pointed tips of the caudal fin, this gives them an aerodynamic appearance.

Juvenile Spanish hogfish have an almost entirely yellow body, except for the upper front quarter, which is a purplish ...

Commerson's Fish

Dive for a while, and you're bound to run into a fish named after Commerson. But just who is Commerson, and why is so much named after him?

Philibert Commerson was a French naturalist from the mid-18th century. He is best known---especially for fish lovers---for circumnavigating the globe with Louise Antoine de Bougainville from 1766-1769. An astute observer, Commerson discovered many species of fish, as well as trees and plants.

  • Commerson's dolphin. We saw this species in our [guide to dolphins][] article. Commerson discovered this dolphin in the Strait of Magellan.
  • Commerson's frogfish. As with many circumnavigators ...

Scuba Diving with Sharks

FayObserver.com published an article yesterday on sharks and scuba divers. The article is a part of a common attempt to dispel the myth of man-hunting sharks.

One diver interviewed for the article, Hank Parfitt, frequently swims alongside shark, and even acts as a shark wrangler for underwater photo shoots. The most practical bit of the article is Parfitt's tip on giving an angry shark its space.

When is a shark angry? Parfitt gives three signs:

  1. Pectoral fins angled down. A neutral to happy shark will swim with its pectoral (side) fins straight out, like an airplane. If you ...

Fish Identification: Sea Bass

Sea bass is part of the grouper family, which we've already covered. There are many types, including black sea bass, Asian seabass, European seabass, and the giant sea bass.

Physical description

Being from the same family, it is not surprising that sea bass share grouper's strong "fishy" appearance often associated with fish we eat.

The dorsal fins of the sea bass are one long continuous fin, rather than two separate sets of spines. The caudal and pectoral fins are rounded.

They have large, fleshy lips. It is also a tall fish, with a high back, moderately pointed snout ...

Top Wreck Diving Destinations

I'm not much of a wreck diver, and my experience is quite limited. Nevertheless, a recent article in the PADI publication The Undersea Journal caught my attention.

The article is about wreck diving, and an insert gives what author Ty Sawyer calls "15 hot wreck diving destinations." I thought I'd share them here with you, in case you are looking for travel inspiration:

  • Truk Lagoon, Chuuk
  • Scapa Flow, Scotland, United Kingdom
  • Great Lakes, USA / Canada
  • Iron Bottom Sound, Solomon Islands
  • Espirito Santo, Vanuatu
  • Kwajalein Atoll
  • South Florida and Florida Keys, USA
  • Palawan / Coron / Cebu region, Philippines
  • Bermuda
  • Bikini ...