While I was travelling in Australia I spent six months working on a scuba diving island called Mackerel Island. Before this, I’d never intended to learn to scuba dive because:
a) I’m a total wuss
b) I’m not very good at swimming
c) I’m scared of fish
d) It’s expensive
e) I hadn’t realised how amazingly, incredibly, epically awesome scuba diving is
Working on the island meant I could learn really slowly and practice in my own time. I also had a hefty discount on my PADI course and I was always around fish, so I slowly began to get over my fish phobia. With all these things considered, it would be rude not to learn to scuba dive, and after a few months I was an addict!
Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to scuba dive in some of the most incredible places in the world, like Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Maldives and Egypt. I’m hoping to squeeze a scuba diving and yoga holiday in this summer so I can combine two of my favourite activities and go somewhere beautiful and exotic.
If you’re learning to scuba dive, here are some of my top tips for learning to scuba dive that I picked up from my work on the island and generally through being a scardy cat.
Top tips for new scuba divers
Cover your mask in toothpaste to avoid it fogging up
When you first learn to dive you will be nervous. Even if you’re the bravest person in the world, it is terrifying the first time you sink to the sandy bed of the sea. If there is one thing that makes it even more terrifying, it’s not being able to see.
Even good quality scuba diving masks can fog up, so to avoid this I recommend smearing a thin layer of toothpaste over the inside of the mask. Leave it there for about half an hour and you’ll have clear vision for your whole dive. Some people recommend spitting or washing it with baby shampoo but I found toothpaste to be the most effective.
You will be taught how to un-fog your mask while you’re underwater but you’ll want to do this as little as possible so you can enjoy the dive.
I was a very nervous diver to begin with, but I found that once I’d mastered snorkelling, I was much more confident diver.
I know you might think that snorkelling is just floating on the surface, but there’s actually much more to it.
You need to get used to wearing fins, diving below the surface and using your breath to control yourself. Practice breathing out and emptying your lungs so that you’ll sink and generally get used to being underwater.
Don’t drink too much the night before
Scuba diving and beer go hand in hand. There is nothing better than spending a day diving and then returning to the shores where you’ll drink a few icy beers while watching the sunset.
‘A few beers’ inevitably turns into a messy night and before you know it it’s 7am and you’re hurling over the side of the boat as you desperately try to sober up for your next day of diving.
Scuba diving is all about breathing slowly while staying calm and relaxed. This is virtually impossible when you’re hungover (trust me, I’m speaking from experience) so it really isn’t worth it.
Remember that when you’re sick, you have a reflex to then take a huge breath and suck in as much air as possible. If you do this underwater you either have to be sick inside your regulator (the thing you breathe through) or risk sucking in a lung full of water. Just. Not. Worth. It.
Focus on your breathing
When you’re underwater you can hear the steady, rhythmic inhale and exhale of your own breaths. I find this to be incredibly relaxing and whenever I start to panic I focus on my breath and it helps to calm me down.
It’s all about the little kicks when you’re breathing to help conserve your energy and your precious oxygen.
Whenever possible you should swim with the current, but when you’re swimming against the current, try using lots of tiny kicks. You’ll find you’ll move much faster and will use far less energy.
Make sure you’re comfortable with your instructor
Most scuba diving instructors are super friendly and chilled out and I’ve never come across one I don’t like. But if you’re learning with an instructor you don’t feel comfortable with then you’re really going to struggle. You should literally trust them with your life and feel like you can comfortably follow all of their advice and instructions.
Make sure you meet your instructor before signing up to a course.
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If you have any more tips for anyone learning to scuba dive, please share them in the comments below!
Emma @ Down to Scuba
Thursday 14th of January 2021
Great tips. Especially the 'drinking too much the night before!' I'm a scuba instructor and the number of times I had hungover (or still drunk!) backpackers trying to dive *shakes head!* The worst was when I was teaching a group of English lads to dive in the swimming pool. We were kneeling down and practicing skills when one guy stood up in the pool and vomited...and it created a green and brown cloud over our heads. Super gross and I had to stand up (with his vomit in my hair) to comfort him! Needless to say, I sent him back to his room to sleep it off!!
Anyway, due to Covid, I have lost my job as an instructor so I started a diving blog with free scuba tips, dive destination guides, and interviews with diving experts. Please take a look and let me know if there is a topic you would like to learn more about!
Saturday 16th of January 2021
Oh that's gross!! Oh gosh I am sorry to hear you've lost your job. So many different careers have been affected by this. Best of luck with your blog! I'll take a look now!
Friday 5th of January 2018
That's exactly what I am looking for. Thanks for this post. I love your blog and all the ideas you shared about outdoor experiences. Keep it up!
Thursday 14th of December 2017
Thank you to share your amazing experience on scuba diving.On reading your experience i want to learn scuba dive.
Kirsty - Rescue Diver
Wednesday 15th of November 2017
Great post Monica! My boyfriend tried scuba diving for the very first time last year and I know he had the same thoughts as you with regards of not being a great swimming and also being scared of fish! He loved the experience and now can't wait to get certified!
Wednesday 4th of May 2016
Mastering snorkeling seems like a great way to go when it comes to learning to dive. Starting out small and working your way up would definitely make things a bit easier. My husband has been a big scuba diver for the past few years and he finally talked me into getting my certification. I would love to be able to have those neat experiences so I can't wait to get started!