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Bad Dive – is it really? That depends on you!

Bad Dive – is it really? That depends on you!

Written by Juli Cole,20 September 2023.

So here is the scenario. You have heard everyone talking of this prime diving site, so you do your research, make your plans and it is finally going to happen. For the coming months or year, you go through social media and because of the algorithms (Google is listening), you get loads of material showing divers visiting this spot and having an awesome time, taking beautiful footage. You are getting so excited; you can taste the ocean brine. The day is finally come, and you are on your way, and when you arrive – it is pouring down rain when it should be sunshine. Or the regular boat captain was not available. Or the divemaster has been replaced with someone new. Or there are new regulations. Or there is an unusual school of jellyfish that blew in. And so on.

There are myriads of reasons why a dive may not go as you think it will, despite you and everyone else’s best efforts. Sometimes the fish just are not there, or mother nature is uncooperative. It’s out of everyone’s hands. I wanted to share things I have found that helped me to turn what seemed at first disappointing dives into something still pretty awesome.

  1. Be Prepared– consider what is the worst that can happen? How will you deal with it? What if your flight is late and you miss your next flight? What if your dive comp stops working? What if the weather is unfavorable? Thinking ahead and having back up plans can help you maintain control when things go awry. I recently cut my hand open on a coral during the 2nd dive of a five-day trip. We were on an island and it is a long boat ride to the nearest doctor. The first aid kit they had at the resort was very basic. From another experience, I learned to pack a small medical kit specific for diving. Through what I had, I managed to patch my hand together and complete the trip. So instead of being a sad short end to my trip, it’s now a good story to tell my buddies for years to come!
  2. Do your research thoroughly. We learned that what is reported for diving generally in a region can vary greatly from what actual day to day is like. For example, if you ask Alexa when is the best time to dive in Thailand, the response will say between November and April. But if you ask a local person who regularly dives there, they may say October to February. And they may tell you December is great but that is also high season for all the European tourists. Or they may tell you, February is not so good in that particular locale as it is jellyfish season. Or there are still strong currents in October. We have found there are these little local variations that have affected our dives. Good communication with your diving operator should help. If they don’t communicate, then that is a good sign to go somewhere else. You want to talk to people who have lived and dived in that area over a few seasons, not just someone who went for one trip. Also it is best to choose a dive operator by word of mouth. The good reviews and web design are no guarantee, and even if they seem to communicate with you. One operator we were communicating with was actually living in the US (we found out later) and when we physically arrived at the dive center, the people there, though expecting us, had no idea what we had requested or spoken with the owner about.  We had a totally different experience working with an awesome operator recommended to us by a fellow diver in another area.
  3. Do more research. Often a dive spot is advertised with some enticing proclamation: “see the turtles”, “swim with the sharks”, “discover the amazing corals”, and so on. But what if you do not see the turtle or the shark, or find the reef unimpressive? Having back-up goals of other things to see or experience will mitigate the disappointment of failing to achieve your original goal. As we all know, there is more than one fish living on that reef! We have found that there is always something extra to be explored in an area. Again, good communication with your dive operator (the actual one in the dive center!) is key to helping with this. They should be able to give suggestions ahead of time of alternative activities or creatures to see. You just need to tell them what you are interested in. We have found if we are unclear in what our goals are, we just leave the dive masters guessing and they try their hardest, but really, it’s our fault if the dive is less than satisfactory.
  4. Maybe think Macro? I have had the opportunity to dive with some amazing macro “treasure hunters”. When we see a barren reef, they see a museum of tiny creatures to be discovered. I tried that on a recent dive along what initially appeared to be a “meh” wall. I was further out and it just looked like not much of anything. There was a bit of current so I thought swimming closer to the wall would help. When I did, I started finding all these tiny creatures hidden among the short stocky coral: nudibranchs of course, tiny fish, shrimps, colorful tunicates. It turned out to be a beautiful reef, just in miniature. I had to visually adjust to what I was looking for.
  5. Repeating a dive site is not a bad thing. One of our favorite dive sites this past year turned out to be a training wall for new divers off Mactan, Cebu, PH. Because of the weather at the time, we ended up diving it I think 3-4 times on our trip there. It is a rich coral wall, only about 25m to depth. Familiarity did not breed contempt -rather we found it helped us relax and see more each successive dive. We have gone on repeated trips to Perhentian Island in the past six months and had the same experience. We find the dives more relaxing as we are familiar with the dive operator and their procedures; we know the divemasters. We have some knowledge of the reef terrain and the major highlights – we start looking then beyond these things and see what more there is to see.
  6. Most important, be willing to take it as it comes. Having a flexible attitude always helps no matter what the situation is. And this is coming from someone who is a black and white thinker. I have dolefully learned, my attitude changes everything. Expect the unexpected! And sometimes the unexpected turns out to be something really awesome, better than the expected.

Give these 6 tips ago whenever you go on a dive trip and you will surely find a newfound excitement and appreciation for the dives you have regardless of the circumstances. At the end of the day – we all love diving and we should enjoy it every second we are down beneath the surface! Flow is putting up their 2024 dive trips so be sure to keep your eyes peeled!

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