8 TYPES OF DIVING EVERY DIVER SHOULD KNOW ABOUT
So you’ve done it! You’ve passed your Open Water Certification and you’re ready to dive into the underwater world head first to discover all the wonders it has to offer!
As a new diver, the more time you spend with other groups of more seasoned divers, the more you’ll hear about their underwater anecdotes and experiences. Wreck diving, ice diving, drift diving….. Perhaps you’re still learning some of the lingo, so you’re not sure exactly WHAT they’ve been up to, or more important WHY they’ve been doing it!
How many types of scuba diving are there? Here’s our guide to 8 TYPES OF DIVING EVERY DIVER SHOULD KNOW ABOUT, to help you decide what your next adventure should be!
1) DEEP DIVING
Number one on our types of diving list is deep diving. As an Open Water diver, your max. depth should never exceed 18 or 21m (depending on the scuba agency). A deep dive is considered everything below 18 or 21m. Why? Because an emergency ascent should be no faster than 18m per minute, and a one minute is ascent to the surface without a regulator is classed as achievable for all divers.
How deep can recreational divers go? The depth limit for divers specified by Recreational Scuba Training Council Association is 40m. But recommendations can vary from country to country. Because all recreational diving is No Deco diving, 40m is considered to be the absolute max. depth. This depth a diver is able to reach without passing the No Decompression Line (for a max of 8 min), whilst keeping the probability of Nitrogen Narcosis and Oxygen Toxicity low.
Are there any more increased risks apart from a longer emergency ascent to the surface? The deeper divers go, the more at risk they are from decompression sickness. Just because a diver sticks to the No Deco limits doesn’t mean they are immune to it. The deeper you go, the greater the risks. You are also susceptible to Nitrogen Narcosis after depths of 30m, symptoms of which include
- loss of balance
- loss of manual dexterity
- slowing of reaction time
- fixation of ideas
- and impairment of complex reasoning.
It’s a little bit like being drunk.
So why would you want to do a deep dive if it’s considered to have more risks? Deep diving gives you the opportunity to visit new underwater areas, find new type of marine life, or discover more interesting wrecks. The additional risk and journey into the unknown also make it a very exciting and rewarding experience! And like any type of diving, with the right planning, training and the right team, it’s perfectly safe.
2) WRECK DIVING
There’s a lot of human history at the bottom of our lakes, seas and oceans. Much of it in the form of wrecks – shipwrecks, aircraft, and other artificial structures, which can give us a fascinating insight into our past.
Every wreck holds promises of discovering something no-one else has seen before or unlocking an important secret to our past. It also offers us the chance to get closer to exciting or tragic maritime heritage or history. They also sometimes contain artifacts – but don’t get thrifty! They should be left it in situ so as to not compromise the archaeology and give other divers the opportunity to enjoy the wreck. In most countries, treasure hunting or removing souvenirs is an illegal act punishable by large fines or jail sentences.
Are wrecks good or bad for the environment? There are nearly three million wrecks on the ocean floor. Many of them serve as an artificial reef, creating a man-made habitat and offering protection for many types of marine life. It may take several years for a wreck-reef to mature, but when they do they expand the food web and attract all forms of life. Wrecks which are sunk accidentally can contain toxic substances and pose threats to the environment.
Can I go inside the wreck? Wrecks can represent an extreme form of diving and present new challenges for scuba divers. They gather layers of silt waiting to be kicked up by divers, and reducing your visibility to zero in a matter of seconds. They can be disorientating and are often covered in fishing lines or other debris which could pose risks of ensnarement. As a general rule of thumb, as with all scuba diving – always dive within your training, your current practice levels, and your own personal limits.
3) DRIFT DIVING
What is a drift dive? All dives which start and finish at a different point are technically drift dives. Most of the time the divers are transported by a current which can be caused by the tide, an ocean current, or if you’re in a river, it’s natural course.
Why drift dive? The choice about whether to drift dive depends on the purpose of your dive. Perhaps you are you trying to cover a large underwater area, trying not to repeat the same path twice, or trying to keep up with the marine life. At some dive spots there is almost always a current which means you have no choice but to go with the flow! The current gives the diver the wonderful sensation of flying. It allows you to cover long distances and see more habitats and formations than normal. But it can be more difficult to interact with smaller creatures on a drift dive, so the style is more suited to ‘big fish’ and ‘landscape’ dives.
Is drift diving dangerous? Like any dive, with a great plan and a great team, it is not dangerous. But there are some additional considerations you need to take into account before you get into the water. The biggest concern when drift diving is keeping the team together – it is easy for distracted divers get separated from their buddies. A ‘negative entry’ may be the best way to start your dive if there is a strong surface current.
4) ICE DIVING
Ice diving is a type of penetration diving which takes place underneath the frozen surface of a lake or sea. Typically, an ice diving team will only have one single entry and exit point, and no other access to the surface. Ice diving requires special equipment and training. Most recreational ice diving takes place in lakes making the environment more controllable. In addition, it is also easier to equip the entry and exit point.
Why would anyone want to dive underneath the ice? Ice diving provides the diver with a unique experience. The colour of the water is different, the way the light disperses in the water is different, as is the feeling of diving in an enclosed space. What marine life you can see will depend on your location, but you can be sure that it’ll be something very different from anything you’ve seen as a recreational diver in the tropics!
The most obvious hazards of ice diving are getting lost under the ice, hypothermia, and equipment failure due to freezing.
5) CAVERN DIVING & CAVE DIVING
What is the difference between cavern diving and cave diving? These two types of diving sound very similar but are quite different. When you’re cavern diving, you can expect to continue to see natural light for the duration of your dive. During a cave dive, you may penetrate the cave system completely. A cave dive can take you hundreds of meters away from the entrance, and way past the point penetrated by natural light. Cave diving is a specialist technical dive, whereas cavern diving can be practiced by recreational divers.
But isn’t it dangerous? Cavern divers stay within the ‘cavern zone’ where natural light can be seen in order that they can swim towards the light ‘in a straight line’ and vacate the cavern easily in the event of an emergency. Cave divers do not have it so easy when it comes to exiting a cave. That is the reason why they are required to take an extra safety training to protect themselves and their dive buddies while they are exploring a cave system.
Why should I try Cavern diving? Cavern diving gives you the opportunity to discover what marine life exists in the darkness, and how it has adapted to life there. Different types of corals, shrimps, crabs and fish all live out of the reach of natural light and have evolved strange characteristics to compensate! Swimming towards the dark, and into the unknown, makes this an extremely exciting form of scuba diving. But it is not for the faint-hearted! Cavern diving is a good way to find out if you want to commit the time and money required to qualify as a technical cave diver.
6) ENRICHED AIR NITROX (EAN) DIVING
What is it? When we dive we rely on the air in our tank. But what we all learn early on in our diving careers is that the very air that keeps us alive underwater can also pose a threat. Pure air is composed of 21% Oxygen and 79% Nitrogen and it is the Nitrogen being absorbed into our bodies that puts us at risk. So, what if we changed the mix of gas to reduce the amount of Nitrogen we absorb?
Enriched air nitrox diving is the term used when we change the blend of Oxygen and Nitrogen in our tank. Recreational EAN scuba divers use a blend that is usually a mixture of between 21- 40% oxygen. Breathing an EAN mix gives divers the opportunity to endure a longer bottom time and allow an easier exploration of deep wrecks or other underwater features. It is also useful for divers who are making many dives over a short period to keep their residual nitrogen saturation low. It also means we feel less tired after a many days diving.
7) ALTITUDE DIVING
Not all dives spots are at sea level – a mountain lake makes an exciting challenge for divers! Altitude diving is classed as any dive spot higher than 300 metres (980 ft) above sea level. Unsurprisingly, it changes many things about the way we approach our dive.
So what’s the difference between altitude diving and diving at sea level? When we do an altitude dive the reduced atmospheric pressure at the surface of the body of water affects the diver’s depth gauges, as does the fresh water which is less dense than in the sea. When the diver ascends from depth at altitude, the rate of change as the ambient pressure drops is far greater than when ascending from a dive in the sea. These factors need to be compensated for otherwise dives considered relatively safe in the sea might be dangerous. This could generate copious nitrogen bubbles within a diver’s bodily tissues, causing an increased risk of decompression sickness.
There are many reasons people dive at high altitude, some of them maybe searching for particular objects such as WWII aircraft. For others, lakes make a great place to train when the sea is inhospitable or too distant to be practical. And of course, there are some people who are diving at altitude for scientific research purposes or only because they are attracted to mountain lakes and rivers just for the plain fun of it!
8) NIGHT DIVING
Last but not least on our Types of diving list is the night diving. When the sun disappears behind the horizon and darkness descends, a new kind of opportunity arises. Diving at night opens up a whole new world of creatures and sensations. You may be at a dive spot familiar to you during the day – but dived at night it will offer a completely different experience.
So, what will I see? As the reef transitions from daylight to darkness, nocturnal creatures that hide during the day come alive. From stealthy hunters like sharks and octopuses to ghostly glowing plankton, bizarre alien larvae and all manner of life in between. From frogfish to stargazers, ghost pipefish, blue-ringed octopuses to nudibranchs and beyond. If you’re in the right spot you might also see the natural phenomenon of bioluminescence.
You can experience an awe-inspiring light show, which is created by microorganisms, plankton and other minute critters from a chemical reaction.
Is there any special training required? due to an increased chance of disorientation, night diving requires extremely good buoyancy and spatial awareness. You will also need a new set of hand signals and some notes on how to use your torch. This is important that you can continue to communicate effectively with your buddy and not frighten any of the sea creatures with your light!
For all these types of diving, Biodiversity would recommend you to take the relevant SSI or PADI Specialty Diver courses. Both for your safety and to enhance your underwater experience. At Biodiversity Eco Resort, we offer some of these SSI or PADI Specialty Diver courses:
- SSI/ PADI Deep Diver Speciality – for those wanting to pursue deep diving
- SSI/ PADI Drift Diver Speciality – for those wanting to pursue drift diving
- SSI Night Diving and Limited Visibility or PADI Night Diver courses – for those wanting to take the plunge in the dark.
Come to join us for your next dive adventure and try some different types of diving in our Paradise, Raja Ampat!