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Reef Report for Monday, April 22, 2013

Your Introductory Scuba Dive Experience
How your dive on the Great Barrier Reef will go.

We get a lot of enquiries from snorkelers, asking for details about how introductory scuba dives are conducted and what their experience will be like. An intro scuba dive is a great first dive experience, especially here on the Great Barrier Reef. © Deep Sea Divers Den Nearly every dive boat heading out to the reef offers them, at a very reasonable price. All instruction takes place on board, that’s right, no classroom, no pool, just diving!

We are always looking for an excuse to go out to the reef and reef, so even though we’ve been certified divers for years we recently went out to the reef and did a couple of introductory scuba dives.

Queensland has the safest recreational dive industry in the world, thanks to the very tight regulations and standards that reef tour operators must meet when they conduct their introductory scuba dives. Due to the fact that all dive boats operate on the same set of standards your experience will closely resemble our own, no matter what dive trip you book.

Before your dive starts: You’ll be asked to fill out a short health history form, which helps the dive operator determine if any pre-existing health conditions you have should prevent you from diving. If you are in good health and not taking any prescription medications then you are likely going to be able to dive. If you have heart or lung problems, diabetes, asthma, fainting spells or any other health condition then that would make scuba diving unsafe for you then you’ll not be allowed to dive.

Next, you’ll meet your dive instructor. Your intro dive group will consist of your dive instructor and no more than four intro scuba divers, you included. On board the boat they’ll spend time explaining how the dive will go, what you’ll probably see, and any other essential information. Our instructor kept things clear, simple and fun, it was easy to follow his explanations, and he patiently welcomed and answered questions.

By the time the dive instructor was finished with his explanations the boat had anchored at our first dive site and it was time to gear up. We had two people helping us put our gear on, then walk to the dive platform, where we sat as a group. Most boats hive a dive platform that swings down when the boat is anchored, leaving this platform just above water level, we could sit on the platform with our legs dangling in the water.

We tried out our gear, and practicing using the mouthpiece to breathe. While we were doing this a dive instructor inflated the buoyancy vests, which meant when we slid into the water our shoulders and head were above water.

We then tried out putting on our facemasks and faces underwater, our first look of the day at all the corals and fish underneath us, wonderful! The instructor checked to see that each person was OK, and one by one swam each of us over to a pair of descent ropes, which we hung onto at the surface.

Next the instructor came and checked each person, explained what was happening next, then with the OK sign and again one by one slowly late air out each person’s buoyancy vests, then helped each of us sink about feet below the surface, where a bar was conveniently hanging the we could hang on to, have a look around, then get comfortable using the gear underwater.

The instructor then checked with us repeatedly, making sure we were all OK. We then went for a dive, first we were linked arm in arm, then as the instructor felt each of us could swim next to a the group he let a couple of unlink and swim beside the linked divers.

The dive lasted about 30 minutes, and ended at a predetermined safe level of air remaining in the tanks. We very gradually move up and towards the boat, and ended the dive at the surface.

So what did we see? Just about everything all in one dive, a family of clownfish in an anemone, a huge moray eel, a huge and very friendly Maori Wrasse that nuzzled me, a sea turtle, and hundreds and hundreds of different fish, all in a backdrop of corals of all sizes and shapes.

Here’s what impressed us the most about the intro scuba dive experience:

-The upbeat, supportive, and positive nature of the instructors, which gave everyone confidence in what they were doing. Even the rare failure was handled in a positive manner. In my intro dive group one person became stressed over a facemask that was leaking, the instructor went back and brought back two different facemasks to try, and after that pulled the person from the dive, but in such a way that they were encouraged to try it again later, which she did, and when I approached her at the end of the day she told me she had a fantastic time diving.

-The gradual progression of skill teaching, from on board the boat to under the water, that allowed almost everyone to increase their confidence, be calm, and enjoy what they were doing.

-The good organization of the dive, which made it very easy for folks totally unfamiliar with scuba diving to enjoy their day.

Even if you have never done a scuba dive, doing an introductory scuba dive is an experience well worth the small extra cost, go for it!

Are you ready to search for a reef trip where you can do an intro scuba dive now? Start with a search through our comprehensive database of every dive trip to the Great Barrier Reef. (Be sure to tick the "introductory scuba dive" box.)

(C) DiveTheReef The weekly reef report is written by Joel Groberg of DiveTheReef.com, who compiles them from the many conversations he has with dive staff in the area, as well as  many other local sources in the dive community.

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