Our 6 top tips for good diving etiquette

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Our 6 top tips for good diving etiquette

Throughout our dive training and experiences we are made very aware of the “Rules of Diving”. Anyone who has ever dived will have learned the most important rule in scuba diving – breathe continuously and never hold your breath. Vital safety rules such as this one make up the core components of the PADI Open Water Diver Course and are reinforced whenever you dive. This way we are clear about the things we must do when we dive. But what about things that we should do when we dive?

It’s unlikely that an emergency situation would arise from the failure to follow one of these points, but awareness of these behaviours ensures that we enhance rather than detract from our buddies’ dive experience. If you are a favoured buddy whom others love to dive with, the more likely that you will be invited to join dive trips and travel, and the more exciting opportunities you will have to indulge in your hobby! Here are some of our top tips for ensuring you have good dive etiquette.

Being a considerate diver means being alert to your surroundings. This generally does develop with your number of dives, but it is one of the more advanced scuba skills to acquire. Scuba diving is an immersive experience. Now not only do we need to take account of what is all around us, but under water we also need to check what is above and below us. Keeping an eye all around us throughout the dive is a great way to keep things in check, but there are some specific niceties that divers can engage in that will make for a better experience. When we are actively aware of something, we are more able to work on improving it.


1. Know what is below you

If you are swimming close to the bottom be aware of what it is you are swimming over. Even if you don’t feel yourself accidentally touching a sandy / silty bottom with your fins, the turbulence your fin stroke creates can be sufficient to agitate the sand, thus disturbing marine life and reduce visibility for other divers coming behind you. You can also risk damaging or breaking coral if you are swimming and kicking too close to it – it’s easy to forget your “feet” now extend a way past the end of your toes. Try to train yourself to use a “frog kick” when diving, rather than the “flutter kick” and bending your knees slightly so your fins are pointing upwards and way from any sensitive bottoms. You can also consider the PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy Specialty, where you spend 2 dives learning and practicing skills such as these.



2. Regularly look to your Dive Leader

Sometimes they will want to ask you if you are “OK?”; sometimes they may want to know how much air you have; sometimes they might be warning you of a trigger pit across the sand patch; and sometimes they might just be trying to show you something really, really cool. It can be difficult to attract the attention of all members of a group of divers unless those divers actively look towards the leader. If a leader cannot get your attention with signals, they may be forced to use other means such as banging on their scuba tank. That annoying “ting, ting, ting” is usually the result of a diver not paying attention. But having said that…..


3. Try not to crowd your leader

They will not abandon you! Swimming too close to the Dive Leader actually makes it harder for them to do their job. If you are swimming directly beside the leader, if they change direction slightly, you do not have time to react to this, and are liable to bang into each other. Also since we cannot see behind us, if you swim very close behind the leader or another diver, you can expect to be kicked in the head with a fin.



4. Try to avoid getting in the way of other divers

It’s likely you will come across other groups of divers underwater. Since we swim at a slow, relaxed pace, you should have plenty of time to plan your direction to avoid mixing the groups. Of course sometimes divers can suddenly change direction, or stop swimming unexpectedly. Try not to let this frustrate you. The chances are if something has caught that diver’s eye, you might want to take a closer look too! You may come across a situation where you need to wait your turn in the group to have a good look under an outcropping, for example. Be courteous and patient to wait your turn, don’t barge people out of the way and try to avoid stirring up sand so those waiting behind you still have the same view that you did.


5. On the lines

Most of the lines we use to guide us between the surface and the dive site are actually not diver descent lines at all. They are boat mooring lines that divers are allowed to use also. Do remember to stay alert when on the lines, and be prepared to carefully pass by other groups, for example trainee divers will likely be holding the line in a group at 5m while they complete their safety stop. If you are more experienced and able to do so, it’s nice to move away from the line and give priority to those divers who need it. If you are on the line itself, if you are descending, it’s better to hold the line with your right hand (left hand for buoyancy adjustments and equalization) and face the direction of travel. If you are ascending, try to keep to the other side of the line so as to avoid crossing over the top of the divers coming in the other direction.



6. If you have a specific objective, consider hiring a private guide

Group dives follow an objective that is appropriate for the whole group. Beyond “return safely”, the Divemaster’s purpose of the dive is likely be to “conduct an underwater tour of the marine life at the site”. If the objective you have in mind is more along the lines of “take 800 macro photos of a rare nudibranch”, common sense tells you that someone will not get what they want out of the dive. We don’t intend to single out photographers, but a passionate photographer can disrupt the pace of the dive and make it harder for the Divemaster to keep the group together.



Photographers usually swim a lot slower and wish to stop for longer than other divers. Here at Master Divers, we offer private guiding for just a small surcharge extra. If you would like to take your time and make photos; or if you are particularly experienced and would prefer to maximize your dive times, you will certainly find this a great option.


Bonus: Diving with whale sharks

For most of us, a dive in the company of the biggest fish in the ocean is the ultimate bucket list. A sighting of this nature on a dive creates a lot of excitement, but it’s really important that we try to remain calm, maintain our buoyancy, not to swim directly in front of the fish and keep a check on how we interact with the whale shark.


It almost goes without saying that you should never attempt to touch the whale shark. But you should also be careful to stay well out of the way of the fish too. An average whale shark can weigh as much as 19 tonnes and possess a hugely powerful tail for swimming. While most whale sharks cruise around not much faster than a diver swims, one quick flick of their tail and they disappear off. As tempting as it may be, staying too close around the fish, especially around the tail area, could result in serious injury for the diver if contact is made with the tail.


How many of these tips do you actively do during your dives?

What other great diving etiquette tips do you have?


Photo credits: Rob Kelly, Dan Lee, private

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