Don’t try this at home.
A Fabulous Place to Learn
When Belize diving you'll meet lots of interesting and beautiful marine life. This is a nurse shark. Nurse sharks and whale sharks, are very gentle creatures, and generally eat plankton and small shrimp like animals.
Rays are incredibly gracefull and fantastic to watch. These creatures are very trusting and will not harm you.
Scuba diving is a sport
in which you swim underwater with artificial breathing apparatus delivering air for you to breathe without needing to surface. Belize diving is an excellent way to see some very beautiful sites: coral diving sites with their colorful sea life are the most famous but other scuba diving attractions include shipwrecks and caverns.
Scuba diving can also be a very relaxing sport
and in many places it's very beginner friendly. Many Belize diving sites are accessible (under the care of an instructor) after a short briefing and training dive.
You can learn Belize diving far more quickly than you can learn snow sports, for example.
It's also suitable for people with a number of physical disabilities. As long as you can use the breathing equipment and are able to successfully propel yourself underwater you may be able to dive.
Belize diving equipment
has standardized into a number of basic pieces, together with some optional pieces for certain conditions.
Most dive centers will have all the standard equipment for rental, and as with many equipment-heavy sports it can be worthwhile to use rental equipment for a while before you decide to purchase your own.
Standard equipment is:
· An eye mask, which includes a covering for the nose.
· A snorkel (a short tube allowing you to breathe through it with your head underwater)
· Fins for propelling yourself underwater
· An exposure suit: a wetsuit for warm water or a dry suit for cooler water, perhaps with boots and gloves
· A Buoyancy Control Device (BCD): an inflatable jacket allowing you to sink or float by deflating and inflating it
· An air tank
· A regulator: apparatus for delivering air from the tank to your mouth
· A weight belt or BCD weights
· A depth gauge and air gauge
· A timing device
Optional equipment includes:
· A dive computer to calculate depth limits
· Enriched air (extra oxygen) tanks
· Underwater photography or videography devices
Belize diving equipment. Rent or buy?
The three pieces of equipment every diver should buy for himself or herself and bring along are fins, snorkel and mask: these need to fit to your body closely to be safe and comfortable, they're fairly cheap, and they don't need that much space.
Up next is an exposure suit, which is also better fitted than off the shelf, but is bulkier to carry along.
But the bigger question for most divers is whether they should also make an investment in a full set of scuba gear, namely regulators, gauges and BCD. In purely financial terms, you have to dive quite a bit to save money this way, especially when you factor in yearly servicing fees.
However, perhaps a bigger factor is safety: not only can you ensure that your own gear is kept properly serviced, but you will already be familiar with the controls and performance of your own gear, which makes Belize diving easier and increases the chances of you acting correctly in an emergency.
The two items almost nobody brings along are tanks and weights, as these are extremely heavy and bulky, and practically always included in the dive price. For some destinations well and truly off the beaten track though (say, the Red Sea coast of Sudan) you may have to take along not just these, but the compressor too!
Learning Belize diving
You need to be taught diving by an experienced and qualified instructor: aside from the complexities of assembling the equipment, Belize diving has a number of risks that you need to understand, and safety procedures which you need to learn.
There are also some basic skills that it's useful to practice under a teacher: the major one is controlling your buoyancy so that you aren't alternately sinking and floating but instead can swim along without yo-yoing. Precisely because of these safety concerns, you will need to be trained and certified in order to be insured for medical treatment you need after a dive.
Belize diving-Open water certification
The term open water refers to dive sites from which you can swim straight up to the surface (not caverns, for example). Open water certification courses are complete beginner level diving courses: they assume no experience. After passing the course you will be certified as being able to go Belize diving in open water with a similarly qualified buddy diver but without an instructor's company, at least in cases where conditions are similar to those in your course.
Open water certification is close to mandatory: many insurance companies demand either that you dive with an instructor or that you go belize diving with open water certification in order to insure you and many dive tours will require that you are certified to at least this level.
Belize diving Open water courses tend to take three or four days full-time although you can often arrange to do them part-time or in pieces over a period of time. The time is divided between: time in a classroom learning the theory of Belize diving; time in a pool learning how to use the equipment and move around underwater; and several dives in open water under the care of your instructor.
Certification tends to be progressive: you need to pass each module in order to proceed to the next. It's usually the case that you pay for the course, not the certification: paying the money does not guarantee that you will pass the course.
Some people recommend that you do the open water certification before a holiday rather than during it: you will need to be prepared to spend holiday time for time in a classroom otherwise.
But many travelers do their open water certification on holiday, either because they didn't plan to start Belize diving until they arrived, they don't live near dive sites, or they have a particular location in mind where they want to spend their first dives.
Other beginner courses
If you don't have the time or inclination to do a full open water course, there are often shorter courses available. These are constructed as either 'taster' courses in which you receive basic training in the equipment and do an open water dive, or courses that teach you enough to dive with an instructor's company.
Often these courses include the first couple of modules of an open water certification, so that when you complete them you can go on to finish the open water course without needing to do the full course from the beginning.
These beginner's courses are useful if you only want to do one or two dives or if you want to try out Belize diving before investing time and money in a full open water course.
After completing a beginner level Belize diving course, you can pursue particular interests or skills.
Interests are particular reasons why you dive and include: underwater photography and videography; marine life identification; and marine life preservation.
Many of the dive certification agencies have guided dives or courses in these fields but you may also be able to learn them informally from self-study, practice and fellow divers.
Skills involve learning to dive in new or more difficult conditions or learning to dive using different equipment. There are several reasons you might pursue more skills in addition to the simple challenge: increased safety knowledge or a desire to dive at particular sites that need those skills are among them.
Often you will need to do a formal course in new dive skills because centers running dives using those skills will require evidence that you are properly trained. Post-beginner skills include: diving using oxygen enriched air ("nitrox"), deep diving, diving in cold water, diving at night and wreck diving. Most certification agencies have courses in these skills and some wrap a number of them up into various 'Advanced' certifications.
Belize diving-Health and safety
The obvious safety concern with diving is that you must rely on your equipment to deliver you air.
For this reason, scuba equipment is subject to rigorous testing according to various standards. Your part of ensuring your own safety is making sure that you are adequately trained and prepared for any dive you do.
Your training will include information about performing basic safety checks on your equipment and about other guidelines. If you're diving regularly you will probably want to take courses in emergency diving procedures and in first aid including CPR.
Belize diving-Basic precautions
The basic precautions you should take for safe Belize diving are:
· Do not dive alone; always dive with a partner (a "buddy") who will stay close to you. Typically regulators have a second mouthpiece you can lend a buddy if they are out of air.
· Do not dive in unfamiliar areas. Do some introductory dives or a dive orientation with a local instructor or experienced diver.
· Do not dive outside your training, for example, diving deeper than you trained for, or diving in confined spaces when you're only certified for open water.
· Do not dive when impaired, e.g. by fatigue or alcohol.
Any medical condition which affects your respiratory or cardiovascular systems, or which may render you suddenly and unexpectedly unable to respond quickly or at all, might mean you cannot dive.
Common contraindications are asthma, epilepsy, diabetes and heart disease. If you have any of these, or other illnesses, which might cause similar problems, consult a doctor before diving. Most dive courses will require a detailed medical history from you or a doctor before you begin diving.
There are some injury risks that diving exposes you to. This is dependent on the site. For example, coral reef dives carry the risk of coral cuts, which can take months to heal well, and of stings and bites from poisonous marine life.
Educate yourself about risks in particular environments and particular sites and pay attention to dive orientations. You can dramatically reduce the risk of injury by exercising caution and not interfering with the state of the Belize diving site (e.g. by provoking the marine life or disturbing the bottom); this also helps preserve the site.
In scuba diving, air is delivered to your lungs at the surrounding water pressure. Breathing air at high pressure can cause a number of illnesses:
· lung over expansion in which high pressure air trapped in your lungs expands as you ascend, damaging your lungs and possibly forcing air into your bloodstream
· decompression sickness ("the bends") in which dissolved nitrogen in your body forms gas bubbles as you ascend, blocking blood supply to limbs or organs
· nitrogen narcosis in which nitrogen causes impairment similar to drunkenness
· oxygen toxicity in which oxygen poisons your nervous system or lungs All of these illnesses and their prevention will be discussed during diver training. Not all of them are fully preventable, hence you must be alert to the risk and know how to seek appropriate treatment. Always know how to contact the local emergency services and the diver emergency services (if they exist) before a dive.
It is very important to be insured for both general medical treatment needed for dive related illnesses and injuries, and in particular for decompression sickness treatment, which involves some hours in a recompression chamber.
Recompression can be extremely expensive, around US$6000 an hour, and is specifically excluded by some insurance policies.
There are many dive insurance policies, which cover medical treatment needed after diving, including recompression. Some are associated with the certification agencies or with dive resort organizations.
Typical prices are about US$50 per year for insurance for dives to less than 40 meters and US$120 per year for coverage to any depth you have trained for. In addition dive resorts and dive tour operators will often have insurance for divers who are injured or become ill on dives they conduct.
Many general travel insurance policies cover diving if you are certified or with an instructor, but check the terms first: some also exclude scuba diving.
There are a number of agencies, which certify divers. They work by training and certifying instructors in their syllabus and teaching methods, and then allowing those instructors to certify individual divers.
This section lists some of the certification agencies and their recreational (rather than professional or teaching) certifications. Your choice of certification will depend on a number of factors, primarily which certification agencies have a presence in the area you learn in, and in the areas you wish to dive in.
All reputable dive shops will require certification of your skills in the form of a certification card (C-card) from a recognized agency.
The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (http://www.padi.com/) is the largest scuba certification agency, issuing about half a million new certifications a year.
PADI is a commercial agency targeted towards recreational divers who want to learn quickly.
A basic PADI Open Water course can be completed in as little as three days, although it is generally advisable both to allow more time and to take the more thorough Advanced Open Water course.
Their pre-open water program has two courses: Discover Scuba, a taster course; and PADI Scuba Diver, allowing you to dive with an instructor. Their open water certification called "PADI Open Water Diver." After you've completed Open Water, a number of Adventure Dives and Specialty courses in interests like underwater photography and fish identification and skills like enriched air open up.
Continuing recreational skill level is reflected in the Advanced Open Water course, allowing you to dive to 30 meters; the advanced skills of deep diving and wreck diving; and the Rescue Diver and Master Scuba Diver certifications.
The National Association of Underwater Instructors (http://www.naui.org/) is US-based and is the oldest recreational scuba certification agency.
Their pre-open water program is the NAUI Skin Diving course in snorkeling and breath hold, there's no pre-open water scuba certification. Their open water certification is called "NAUI Scuba Diver".
After you've achieved Scuba Diver level, you can proceed to Advanced Scuba Diver, a number of interest and skill courses, and the Master Scuba Diver certification.
The French-based Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques (http://www.cmas2000.org/) is a volunteer-run amateur organization that takes a more comprehensive approach than many of the above.
CMAS's basic "one-star" certification usually involves training several days a week for several months, including physics and physiology lessons and practicing a wide variety of skills, and is considered roughly equivalent to PADI Advanced Open Water.
Local CMAS chapters can be found in most countries around the world, particularly Europe, and it's common (and recommended) to complete a CMAS certification in your home country before that big trip to tropical reefs.
The International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers (http://www.iantd.com/) specializes in training programs in more advanced recreational diving including: wreck diving; cavern diving; rebreather diving and diving with different gas mixtures including helium mixtures.
Many of the skills taught are outside the scope of even the advanced courses offered by PADI and similar organizations.
· The Professional Diving Instructors Corporation (http://www.pdic-intl.com/) (PDIC)
· The International Diving Educators Association (http://www.idea-scubadiving.com/) (IDEA)
· The American Canadian Underwater Certifications (http://www.acuc.es/) (ACUC)
· The British Sub Aqua Club (http://www.bsac.com/) (BSAC)
· Scuba Schools International (http://www.divessi.com/) (SSI)
Click here for more about the Blue Hole and a link to a Belize diving report all about it