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/The Fishwatcher's Guide to the Saltwater Aquarium Fishes of the World

Take Up Diving


By Bob Fenner


You say you like aquatic life? You could go for a little travel adventure? You admit you could stand a little more exercise as long as getting it wasn't boring or arduous? Well, have I got the sport/activity for your. Diving. No, not from a perfectly good plane, platform or spring-board; skin and scuba (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) diving. It's not hard or dangerous, need not be overly expensive, can be done most everywhere, cold, warm, fresh & marine, and it's fun!

This short piece is dedicated to encouraging you to take up the wonderful sports of snorkeling and scuba diving.


What's In it For You:

Critters: The underwater world is filled with life. Every dive is an adventure with new living things to see; and from an aquarists viewpoint, to learn about natural habitats. Imagine being able to observe how algae, plants, invertebrates and fishes really interact. You can. Always searching for ideas for aquascaping, rock arrangement... here they are at the water's edge.

And the exploration doesn't stop with sunset. Freshwater and marine environments are, if anything, more exciting on night dives with many of the secretive players only coming out in the dark.

Pictures: Underwater photography and video are my favorite forms of gambling. What better way to share your experiences? You can make your own aquatic screen saver for your PC!

Vacations: Fishing for a place to go and what to do once there? Most recreational diving is done on holidays that are planned around a resort offering dive services, or even fancier live-aboards. Yours can too.

Exercise: I believe in a couple of hundred years, humans will just spray something over their skin and down their lungs and dive right in. They'll think we were crazy for hauling all this gear and wetsuits around. At first you'll feel like a claustrophobic weight-lifter, but all that will fade with practice and the revealing of the beauty which is the diving experience.

Even casual diving will go a long way to inspiring and causing physical fitness. The experience of weightlessness and the wonder of what you're experiencing is addictive, all-consuming. You don't have to be a super swimmer, diving doesn't use arms and only slow kicking. The exercise will do you good.


Beyond Recreation:

Some folks have more than sport in mind when taking up skin or scuba diving. There is money to be made in many facets of this interest. The obvious quick options for aquarists are commercial collecting, underwater photography and journalism. Dive travel, retail, instruction are just some of many direct or tie-in occupations this field has to offer.


What's Involved:

Sufficient gear, a suitable watery spot, you and some instruction. Is it scary? Only at first and everything seems difficult when new; almost everyone can learn to dive.



Snorkeling, diving with just mask, fins and snorkel has been around since antiquity. Scuba diving with an tank of compressed air and demand regulator started in 1943 with the inventions of a familiar name, Jacques Cousteau and fellow French engineer Emil Gagnan. The innovation of SCUBA allowed an unprecedented degree of independence; freedom for commercial divers from clumsy suits and helmets with topside hoses. For skin-divers the opportunity to stay down and move around longer.

With the development of training and buoyancy compensators skin & scuba diving and related travel has continued to grown tremendously since the seventies to present.



There are all manner of backgrounds, abilities and desires in a given group of prospective divers. Learning diving has as many suitable approaches.

I strongly encourage the use of:

1) Formal training by a certifying agency; there are many.

2) A familiarization period with snorkel gear in a pool or at the site (even if certified, if out of practice) to gain a comfort level.

Snorkeling is easier than swimming with or without a buoyant wetsuit; you simply float at the surface or periodically breath-hold during dives to check out what's below.

Certification is a formal process of structured classroom instruction and pool and actual dive experiences. There courses are conveniently offered through dive business and recreation associations and many vacation resort outfits. Call and join in an introductory scuba class. Trying the at-first clumsy gear in a swimming pool is a great way to gain initial exposure to the hobby.

These courses are generally a few weeks long and of nominal cost. Contact the agencies listed for costs and procedures.

Looking for instruction? The following organizations will give you the locations of facilities in your area.

IDEA NASDS International Diving National Association Educators Association of Scuba Diving Schools P.O. Box 8427 8099 Indiana Avenue Jacksonville, FL 32239-8427 Riverside, CA 92504 904-744-5554 909-687-8792

PADI Professional Association of Diving Instructors PADI Americas 30151 Tomas Street Rancho Santa Margarita CA 92688-2125 949-858-7234 www.padi.com < http://www.padi.com/>

NAUI National Association of Underwater Instructors Regional Office 1031 Guernsey St.. Orlando, FL 32804 (407) 245-7810 Voice (407) 210-9462 Fax www.naui.org < http://www.naui.org/>

SSI Scuba Schools International 2619 Canton Court Fort Collins CO 80525-4498 970-4820-0883 www.ssiusa.com < http://www.ssiusa.com/>

NASDS is currently handled thru SSI PDIC  Professional Diving Instructors Corp PDIC International PO Box 3633 Scranton, PA 18505 570-342-1480 info@pdic-intl.com <mailto:info@pdic-intl.com>

YMCA National YMCA Scuba Program Oakbrook Square 6083-A Oakbrook Parkway Norcross/Atlanta, GA 30093 404-662-5172


Health Considerations:

You don't have to be a superman (more than forty percent of divers are women) to dive. A medical check-up and some degree of fitness is de riguer. Participating in the activity itself is a fantastic way to stay in shape. It sure beats lugging buckets during water changes for scenery. Even moderate swimmers can become proficient divers.

Mental/emotional benefits? Diving is the quintessential Zen experience. Outside of using diving as a format for hunting or photo contests there is no product-oriented competition involved. Each individual gets out of diving what they are personally looking for; self-improvement, enjoyment and the sheer excitement of underwater exploration.


An Initial Investment:

If you've tried out snorkeling a few times and are thinking seriously about continuing, I'd suggest acquiring your own mask, snorkel and fins. There are many varieties of these of differing materials and fit. Be a good consumer and check out what's available before committing.

Mask fit and comfort are paramount (after safety). With your hair out of the way, scrunch your face down (like while eating a lemon), and press the mask without the strap against your face. Breath in slightly; the mask should stay, comfortably.

Snorkels have many new design and style features; most important is how yours fits your mouth.

Fins must fit snug without pinching. I can't encourage you enough to either acquire wetsuit-type booties, "wet socks", or to wear some heavy socks to go between you and your fins. This will give you much comfort and protect your feet as you're walking about outside the water.

Dangers From The Deep:

Give me a break, this isn't Sea Hunt. People often ask me if I'm afraid of being underwater, being an old-timey diver. I tell them "driving on the freeway" is what really scares me. The likelihood of injury or death from diving is minimal comparatively. How about sharks? There's thirty plus times more likelihood you'll die from falling aircraft parts. Do you have a morbid fear of that? More folks are killed by lightning every year than have been attacked by sharks in the last fifty. Get real. The most dangerous marine life you'll encounter is your fellow divers.

The rule of thumb for diving is identical to that for aquarists; when, where in doubt, don't touch, period.


A Beginning:

Has you appetite been more than whetted (maybe that should be wetted) by this introduction? Don't stop now; call for further information on instruction. As with the aquarium hobby there are good published works on diving subjects and several excellent periodicals (see below).

Yes, you can breath underwater! Go see the aquatic worlds in the rough, on their own terms. You'll find it's absolutely remarkable, a whole different world down there.


Reference/Further Reading:

Froggies Liveaboard, Bunaken/Manado/Sulawesi/Indonesia: http://www.divefroggies.com/clown.html

Gleason, Bill, 1992. Diving Is Your Passport to Exploration, Excitement, Travel & Fun. Skin Diver, 5/92.

Gleason, Bill, 1993. Learning To Dive. Your Passport To A Lifetime Of Adventures & Underwater Exploration. Skin Diver 1993.

Gleason, Bill, 1994. Getting Certified To Dive Opens A World Of Underwater Exploration. Skin Diver, 7/94.

Magazines About Diving, A Non-Exhaustive List:

Discover Diving, by Watersport Publishing, Inc., P.O. Box 83727, San Diego, CA 92138, 800-776-3483

Diver, incorporating Underwater World, by Eaton Publications, 55 High Street, Teddington, Middlesex TW11 8HA, tel. 081-943

Scuba Diving, 6600 Abercorn St., Suite 208, Savannah, GA 31405, 912-351-0855

Scuba Times, 14110 Perdido Key Drive, Suite 16, Pensacola, FL 32507

Skin Diver Magazine, 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048-5515, 213-782-2960

Sport Diver, by World Publications, Inc.. 330 W. Canton Ave., Winter Park, FL 32789-3195

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