Scuba Diving in the Caribbean
Searching all avid scuba divers and travelers! Have you been meaning to book a Caribbean vacation but can’t find the right resort and amenities? Are you interested in picking up a new hobby in a breath-taking location? If the answer if ‘yes’, then this blog is for you!
Did you know that all Sandals resorts include unlimited scuba diving? All dives are guided with depths ranging from 20 to 100 feet. Certified divers can dive twice a day with a single tank or once a day with a double tank. Divers who are resort-certified may dive once daily to a maximum depth of 40 feet. Equipment provided by Sandals includes Luxfer or Catalina tanks, SCUBAPRO BCD, regulators and fins, silicone mask, snorkel, and weight belt. Sandals has custom Newton dive boats. Resorts offer their own scuba certification pools and PADI and NAUI are represented.
Dive experiences at Sandals can be customized with:
PADI certification courses
Private dive courses and private dives
Open water certification
Rescue diver course
Now, maybe you’re like me and are brand-new to the scuba world and need some clarification on several of these terms and specifications. Starting at the beginning of the information seemed not only chronologically logical, but also simple. Well, I was wrong. So here’s what I’ve learned in my scuba research and what I’ve been able to translate into layman’s terms.
On Tanks- A single oxygen tank is used for dives less than 100 feet that do not require decompression. These dives are more popular among recreational divers as they are less complex. A double tank holds twice the amount of oxygen and is safe to use on dives more than 100 feet deep. According to scuba.about.com, an average diver at an average depth with an average tank can stay at 40 feet for 45-60 minutes before surfacing safely.
On Resort Certification- The introductory PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) course takes just 1 day.
On Equipment- Luxfer and Catalina are brands of compressed oxygen tanks. SCUBAPRO BCD refers to a brand of a buoyancy control device. A BCD is a jacket worn by divers to keep them from sinking or floating up as they dive. A regulator connects the tank to the diver and enables breathing underwater. Fins are worn on divers’ feet and help to propel them through the water. A mask and snorkel go together and help divers to see, and breathe before submerging completely. Weight belts offset flotation and allow divers to sink slowly.
Why take my word on anything when you can hear it from a professional? I reached out to Rich Morin, owner of the local Professional Scuba Center, and here’s what he had to say about scuba diving!
Have you been scuba diving in the Caribbean? What is some feedback on your dives in the Caribbean? A general synopsis will suffice if many Caribbean dives have been completed.
Rich Morin: Not only do I dive in the Caribbean but we also own a home there. I have traveled extensively over the past 31 years. Crystal clear, warm Caribbean waters makes for a divers delight. Many islands are overpopulated and reefs at the dive sites are taking a beating. A favorite destination of mine is Bonaire. I have been going there since 1985 and have made 29 trips over the years. To see the growth the island has endured and the decline in the health of the reef is heart breaking. The same goes for the island of New Providence in the Bahamas. I have traveled there 35 times and have watched the quality of the reef diminish due to pollution, chemicals, global warming, and the destruction of the shoreline to accommodate more hotels, resorts, industry, and private homes.
What makes diving in the Caribbean memorable? How is it different from scuba diving in a lake?
Rich Morin: Although lake diving can be thrilling and many lakes have fantastic visibility and a variety of aquatic life it doesn’t compare to the Caribbean. Compared to the lakes in upstate New York where the water is cool year round, the Caribbean produces warm waters which equates to less exposure protection divers need to wear. The vibrant colors, variety of aquatic life, shipwrecks, and exploration makes diving the Caribbean a wonderful experience. As a professional trainer for Sea World and Discovery Cove in Florida, professional Shark Diver Trainer, and an aquatic life handler, I love introducing new divers to the exciting underwater world.
What would you tell someone who has not been diving in the Caribbean about restrictions with air travel and diving?
Rich Morin: A Diver can fly then dive, but a Diver can't dive then fly. The reason is, after a dive (even a shallow dive) a diver has nitrogen (an inert gas that we don't metabolize) absorbed in their body tissue now as a liquid due to the pressures they're exposed to. It takes time to release this absorbed gas. As a member of the diving review committee for 25 years, I can tell you that the best rule to follow is wait 24hrs after completing a dive before flying or traveling to altitude. I had never encountered a documented case of a diver having issues after waiting 24hrs. Decompression sickness (DCS) is what can occur when a diver fails to follow certain rules established within the diving industry. It's when the nitrogen that is absorbed in the body tissue as a liquid is allowed to return to a gaseous state while still trapped in the divers tissue causing pain (especially in the joints and limbs), paralysis, weakness, numbness, tingling, difficulty breathing, blurred vision, bloody frothy mouth, unconsciousness, even death can occur. Dehydration plays a "HUGE" role and accounts for the majority of decompression sickness cases in recreational diving. If we can just get Divers to "STOP" consuming alcohol and recreational drugs prior to and following a dive, drink plenty of water preferably before, in-between, and following a dive, ascend slowly and as you get closer to the surface continue to go slower and slower. This is where the biggest pressure reduction takes place and where divers are in the greatest jeopardy of DCS. And during ascents stop at half your maximum depth (Haldanian or Deep Stop) for 5 minutes, and again between 15' and 20' with 20' being preferred (Safety Stop) for an additional 5 minutes. Because we're reducing water pressure on our bodies during ascent the nitrogen is getting agitated in our tissue. By making these stops it gives nitrogen an opportunity to settle down and hopefully remain in a liquid state. During surface intervals nitrogen is released as we exhale. The nitrogen will be eliminated from our bodies after a 24hr surface interval and would now be safe to fly or drive to altitudes.
How can individuals in our area get certified to scuba dive in the Caribbean before traveling?
Rich Morin: At Rich Morin’s Professional Scuba Centers we offer over 140 different courses in recreational diving, technical diving, public safety diving, and professional diving. Under the direction of one of the nation’s highest certified instructional staff, we will ensure the proper training and education needed so that you can start to explore the underwater world safely. You can even start your training here and finish with us on one of our exotic trips. We will complete your training and be your underwater and land tour guide. Our team will take the time to show you and explain the aquatic life to you. It’s also a great time to continue your diving education in warm, clear waters while under supervision of our instructional staff. It will change the way you vacation forever!
At privately owned scuba centers throughout the Caribbean, already-certified divers can complete a single tank dive with equipment rental included for an average of $65. Certificate courses start at $105 plus course material.
Mark’s notes: Being a Certified Sandals Specialist I have had the opportunity to travel to all the resort locations Sandals and Beaches has to offer in 7 different Caribbean countries. Sadly I cannot scuba due to health, but, snorkeling is ok for me. I wish I could dive! I’ve snorkeled all over the Caribbean and that in itself is not only amazing but free to do at all our properties too, just like scuba is. When you’re ready to begin looking at luxury-included dive vacations for yourself and your family, I can help. Rich can help also get you certified locally to save even more time so you can get to diving faster once on property. However you do it, rest assured you’re in the best hands locally and internationally when you begin diving. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started today!
That's me, embarking on a snorkeling trip at Sandals in Antigua!