If you are already planning a trip to dive coral reefs or thinking of doing so, then this section is for you. In this first of our three-page section on diving coral reefs we provide answers to common FAQs regarding recreational dive travel.
One such source is the general online travel guide called Tripadvisor which provides traveler reports on various accommodations at most of the more popular scuba diving destinations, and in some cases reviews of individual dive operations at these locations. Use Trip Advisor with caution and common sense; it is not at all uncommon for unscrupulous dive resorts and dive operators to “stack” the ratings in their favor by having friends and colleagues submit overly favorable inaccurate reports. If the review consists of a relatively few reports (less than 10) be especially wary of the results.
Another useful research tool for planning a trip to dive coral reefs is the online and print information provided by Undercurrent, the so-called “Consumer Reports of diving” (according to Business Week). This source provides reports of many dive destinations, dive resorts, dive sites, and dive operators throughout the world. Once you have narrowed your travel options to a few destinations, it is well worth checking out this source for detailed reports about the places you are considering.
The question of what (and what not) to bring along in the way of dive gear and accessories is critical for the novice setting out to dive coral reefs for the first time. If you plan to use scuba, bring along everything you own EXCEPT tanks and weights. Almost all operators also supply weight belts, but if you prefer your own padded weight belt, bring it.
For both scuba diving and snorkeling, bring along proper thermal protection. Keep in mind that water temperatures in some coral reef areas (e..g., The Bahamas) during local winter can be in the low-mid 70s, while summer temperatures in most coral reef dive destinations will generally be in the 80s. Regardless of time of year, you should bring full body protection of appropriate thickness for the season. Even in the warmest months, you can encounter stinging plankton in the water column, and areas of exposed skin are vulnerable.
Particularly indispensable for travel to dive coral reefs are two pieces of accessory equipment. First, you should bring along a sturdy, good quality gear bag large enough to hold everything you will want on the dive boat. This will enable you to conveniently keep all your gear in one place during travel, and provide a safe place to store your dry clothing, towels, sunglasses, etc. while in the water.
Second, bring along a quality pair of polarized sunglasses, with dark lenses designed for the brightest conditions and plastic or nylon sport frames that can take some rough use. At sea or on land in the tropics, quality eyewear is essential for good vision, and polarization allows you to see the water colors of varying depths as well as reefs as you approach dive sites.
Diving coral reefs presents some unique challenges not encountered in other popular diving habitats. Ensuring that your visit is both fun for you and friendly to the coral reef ecosystem is best accomplished by learning and practicing a few advanced reef diving skills and becoming familiar with basic “reef friendly” diving practices that will minimize the impacts of your visits to coral reef environments. Proper preparation and planning often makes the difference between a fantastic coral reef diving expedition and an unpleasant trip.
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