Is Scuba Diving the World of Silence as Cousteau professed?
Hmm… I’d say yes and no!
Ok… let’s dive in and find out why.
“Marseilles, Aug 1997, 8:30 pm. Sunset on the horizon. On the Zodiac -our tanks are filled up with regulators in place. We put our wets on and a warm breeze welcomes us. We talk softly, each one of us dreaming about the next hour to come for a night dive that looks very promising.
Because at night everything is different! And species that you never see during a day dive will now appear in front of you and tease you under the beam of your lights.
The boat stops.
The moon is here with its crescent a bit arrogant.
We start our dive, slowly…” *
I was 18 when I took my very first scuba class. I had always dreamed about diving in the ocean. For years, each week I watched the epic adventures of Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Calypso crew on TV. I was just a kid… but so impressed. Breathing quietly underwater… I couldn’t believe it!
I wanted to do the same thing and see it all myself!
Nowadays, according to the Dema 2012 Annual Report there are around 6 million active scuba divers worldwide, with half of those in North America.
Recreational Scuba Diving has become a very popular, family-oriented sports activity. It wasn’t always like that. Indeed, scuba diving (SCUBA means Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) was originally the exclusive activity of military groups.
However in 1943 Navy officer Jacques-Yves Cousteau and a young engineer, Émile Gagnan, developed the now famous Aqua-Lung– a self-contained and automatic regulator. A new sport was born! And for everyone to enjoy… though that took a few decades to happen.
For the purpose of this post I’ll use the term recreational diving –diving for leisure and fun. This is different from technical diving which requires specialized training and equipment.
“We continue our descent toward that depth that seems to suck all of us deeper and deeper.
The Ocean is like a skin at the same time soft and sensual, warm and cold, safe and dangerous…
We’re now close to the Wall. I remember the pre-dive briefing but what I see with my light makes me forget to breathe!
I cannot take my eyes away from this vision: so much to see and watch.
I’m weightless…simply floating… staring at an abundance of colors and forms of all sizes: small hydroids in a polypoid shape turning the rock into a red-yellow carpet, clavelines or light bulb tunicates in grapes, and moving with the water flow…”
So why should Scuba Diving be your next great adventure?
Reason 1: There’s No Gravity!
Yes… that’s a huge discovery! Strapping on a tank of air and diving into the sea gives you an immediate feeling of flying or floating in space… just like an astronaut! No other place on earth can bring you this wonderful, unmatched sensation. It’s called neutral buoyancy. And that is why NASA has been conducting training to simulate deep-space missions at the Aquarius Reef Base underwater habitat off Key Largo, Fla since 2001.
The moment I start my descent it’s like a freefall. But I’m in control. I can choose to go slowly or just dive in and rush -arms open like I’m sky diving! A great feeling – )
Reason 2: You’ll Discover the Ocean as Another Planet
The underwater world is like no other you’ve seen: Right in front of your eyes is an ecosystem that has remained untouched and out of reach from air-breathing bipeds for millions or years.
Reason 3: It’s a Family Adventure
The truth is it has always been a family activity as Cousteau himself started the trend with his wife and two suns over 40 years ago. It was truly a family adventure!
It’s possible to discover scuba diving with the whole family and share many fun memories. Today even your 8 year-old child can take PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) courses. There are indeed plenty opportunities for adventures including shore dives, or spending the afternoon on a boat dive. Kids never stop smiling as they spend a few hours discovering and exploring. Then, when they get out of the water, they can’t wait to put their hands on books telling them about the new fish or sponges or corals they have discovered through the glass of their masks.
Oh… almost forgot. Kids Sea Camps are also a very nice way to let your child discover and enjoy an outdoor activity with friends! See this beautiful video (with your kids!):
And I can see now a question at the tip of your tongue: Is there an age limit? To my knowledge, no. It all depends on one’s physical and mental health.
So be ready to plan trips with kids and grandparents.
Having doubts?! Check this recent article by Stan Waterman, who’s 88 and diving more than ever!
Reason 4: It’s an Encounter of the 3rd Kind
I couldn’t skip this reason… the one that makes me go diving again and again: Scuba Diving gives me the chance to meet new species and remember that incredible experience for the rest of my life!
In my case, diving -on the great Barrier Reef in Australia has been a constant source of discovery and wonder: This is where I saw my Manta Rays… swimming (or maybe flying!)near me during a drift dive!
But See what Brian Skerry from National Geographic has to say about his encounter with a… well just watch the video!
Reason 5: You can Choose Your Dive
That’s the beauty of Scuba Diving! There are so many dive types that the choices may sometimes be overwhelming! But it’s not! Simply choose according to your taste, destination and level of certification. Your dive is yours to enjoy!
Types of available dives can include from shore, a boat, a pier or drift dives; they can include caves, wrecks or even search and recovery dives; and they can be done day or night.
You can even try experimenting with underwater photography or videography dives, especially in warm water destinations! When you return home you’ve got plenty of treasured memories to talk about and share on your Facebook page.
Reason 6: You can Choose Your Location
Why is Scuba Diving so great? You can dive worldwide!
In the States you have many choices: Oceans, lakes, rivers and quarries. And let’s not forget the Florida Keys, or the Hawaiian and Catalina Islands.
I’ll not telling you to go here or there because I think one place is better than another. By experience, each new destination I’ve visited has been a very special discovery for me: in British Columbia -which provides some of the best cold-water dives around I saw giant white anemones.
In Egypt, it was the blue spotted rays and giant Napoleon fish that delighted me.
In Australia, I loved the Great Barrier Reef (by the way it’s the largest living organism on Earth). Diving over boomies and watching that tiny coral life just under my ever astonished eyes (and observing reef sharks swimming around!) was an experience I’ll never forget!
In the Caribbean I had the chance to see seahorses -and wonderful night creatures like lobsters and crabs…
I can safely say every dive is different and every one a thrilling adventure!
Reason 7: You Meet Nice People and Learn Different Cultures
I remember when I was diving off Lady Eliot Island, the first coral reef Island on the Great Barrier Reef. You can see on the photo below how the reef atoll extends far away from the island. Impressive, isn’t it!
At the end of the dive we always had some warm hot chocolate to drink. And the captain of the boat was pretty cool. He’d learned Swahili and always teased us by replying: “Acoona Matata (No Worries)!”
Anyway, scuba diving will let you discover the many faces of human culture wherever you travel. And you’ll grow from these experiences.
Reason 8: As You Learn More About the Ocean You’ll Want to Protect It
Generally scuba divers share the same fascination and respect for the underwater world. We all have our secret language with hand signs and our favorite dive spots with so many wonders that we can all talk about these experiences for hours.
It’s like being part of a special group or community. And that community is bound to cherish and thus protect the water around us from pollution, oil and bad fishing practices… to name just a few.
ProjectAware Foundation is a growing movement of scuba divers all around the world dedicated to protecting the oceans:
Reason 9: You Can Take Your Adventure to the Next level
This is obvious. I think by now you’ve guessed that scuba diving can be very rewarding and fulfilling. But now there is something new to experience. It’s like an underwater treasure hunt and it’s called geocaching!
When you go geocaching you become the Indiana Jones of the 21st century! You plan your next adventure by reading hints and following coordinates to find tiny treasures known as caches. You can get real creative at this new game and surprise people. (You may even surprise yourself!)
You can practice this sport as a beginner or even as a tech diver.
Reason 10: You’ll find a World of Silence to Escape Into and Explore
Now I’ll answer my question at the top of this post: Is Scuba Diving the World of Silence as Cousteau professed?
We know how cacophonous the terrestrial world can be. Well, below the surface the noise quietly fades away.
You descent and observe. You’re lost in your thoughts while automatic movements make your dive safe. You’re alone…
But not quite. You can hear your own breathing (remember Darth Vader –that was no special effect in the movie!) The lullaby of bubbles moving up towards the surface. The slip of an eagle ray just passing by… or the swish of a lobster crawling on the ocean floor.
It’s a very peaceful experience. Finally you give up swimming and just drift lazily with the current.
At the bottom of the sea, it’s a different world that no back-to-nature documentaries can match.
You sit on a sandy place, stop thinking and enjoy the view: a tiny fish swimming under the sand to hide, or an anemone fish -its colors hypnotizing you…
Suddenly you feel lucky to be part of a world you can witness without efforts.
How incredible! You never imagined this to be part of our beautiful planet!
“Time is running out and so is my air. I start the ascent. It’s with lots of regrets that I turn away from this marvellous spectacle.
I turn off my flash light.
The moon shines its light fully on us.
I arrive at the surface, my mind filled with colorful memories…”
Take away tips
- Get your scuba diving certification with a renowned organization like PADI,NAUI or SSI. To enjoy SCUBA Diving it’s imperative to get educated and certified under controlled conditions with the supervision of an instructor
- Plan your dive as much as you can. Read about new places so you can discover the best dive for your next adventure!
- Search Exvana’s directory of over 400 Dive Shops across North America for training, sales, rentals and dive trips.
Now sit down, relax and get a feeling of underwater extreme beauty of colors and shapes with this superb video:
*the poem above is by the author after a dive in the Mediterranee.