6 things Singaporeans need to know before getting a diving license

6 things Singaporeans need to know before getting a diving license
Diving in Sipadan
PHOTO: Tourism Malaysia

Living in Singapore means having convenient access to world-class diving sites, as most of them are located in Southeast Asia.

The Indonesian and Philippine archipelagos are a treasure trove of pristine waters, pelagics (large marine animals) and WWII shipwrecks. Some sites in Thailand, Malaysia and Philippines are famous for their abundant coral reefs.

From the exclusive sanctuaries of Raja Ampat in Indonesia and Sipadan in Malaysia to lesser-known gems like Pulau Weh in Banda Aceh and Mergui Archipelago off Myanmar, the mystic of the underwater world continues to draw curious divers.

Before you join the ranks of certified divers, here are six things you need to know:

1. Health considerations

People suffering from collapsed lungs, asthma and ear equalisation issues should seek their doctor's approval before diving. As the body is subjected to high pressures underwater, these conditions can be potentially dangerous and even fatal.

People with physical disabilities can also learn to dive with adaptive scuba gear such as webbed gloves instead of fins . Although there is no age limit for learner divers, and the enrolment standard varies across countries, children as young as eight have been certified. A diving instructor even claimed that he once taught an 82-year-old woman!

2. Affordable spots near Singapore

The cheapest option to get a diving license would be in Tioman Island, Malaysia. The average price of $550 at dive centres in Singapore covers transport, accommodation, theory and practical lessons.

If you want to go further, try Koh Tao in Thailand or Nha Trang in Vietnam. These two areas have stretches of dive shops you can choose. The average cost of learning to dive there is about $300, excluding flight tickets and accommodation.

Read more here: Top 5 places to go diving in Southeast Asia

3. Go with a buddy

Learning to dive with friends can make the experience a more memorable one. Besides sharing a common experience, buddy divers form the first contact of support underwater.

Don't fret if you're travelling solo as diving centres typically pair divers in a buddy system before heading out for trips. Take it as a good opportunity to make a new friend.

Most importantly, someone needs to take your dive #ootds for you, right?

4. Water confidence

Certified scuba divers must be able to swim at least 200m with any stroke and have to be able to tread water for at least 10 minutes. Although divers have a floatation device with them in water, they must still be able to swim in case of faulty equipment.

That said, strong swimmers do not necessarily make confident divers. Being underwater is a whole different ballgame. It is imperative to keep calm and learn to adapt to breathing through your mouth instead of your nose.

The bottom line is not to panic - divers are a danger to themselves and others when they lose confidence and panic underwater. That's how most accidents happen.

Read more here: Old oil rig transformed into diving resort near world's top diving sites

5. Diving seasons

Avoid destinations hit by the monsoon season as much as possible. With bad weather and minimum sunlight, underwater visibility can be reduced drastically. Choppy waves and storms are also obviously not optimal seafaring conditions.

The south-west monsoon in Southeast Asia period lasts from May to November, and tropical cyclones commonly appear in August near Philippines and Vietnam. Although most diving websites claim that they are open all-year round, do check with the dive operators directly on the safest time to book your trip.

6. Underwater behavior

It's easy to get excited when you're underwater, but don't go prodding or pocketing every marine life, reef or wreck you see. Touching marine creatures can provoke an attack. Even if they are not predatory or territorial creatures, we may unintentionally hurt them.

Pocketing artefacts from shipwrecks may also be illegal. Some wrecks have historical significance and stealing something from the dive site can diminish its historical value.

Respect is of utmost importance; after all we are but guests of the underwater world.

debwong@sph.com.sg

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