5 Tips for Scuba Diving in Coral Reefs
Coral Reefs are breathtaking. Submerged within the complex ecosystem, surrounded by schools of fish swimming around and within the Coral reef is incredible.
People dream of Scuba diving on a coral reef, to experience its vibrant colours and a huge display of life. It is our responsibility as Scuba divers to protect the marine ecosystems that we love and dive to experience.
In addition to their attractiveness, coral reefs supply multiple benefits, such as habitats for fish, coastal protection, recycling nutrients and even medicine. Protecting them is of great importance.
If you are lucky to Scuba dive in coral reefs, it is crucial to remember these tips to ensure you leave their beauty intact.
Tips for Scuba diving in Coral Reefs:
- Perfect buoyancy
- Do not touch the reef
- Be streamline
- Secure your weights
- Reef safe sunscreen
Perfect your Buoyancy.
Perfect buoyancy is important to ensure you do not crash into and damage coral reefs or marine life!
We have all been there. Struggling with your buoyancy is the first step for any new diver. But it is essential to perfect this skill before scuba diving on Coral Reefs.
Floating up then crashing into the bottom is never ideal, but at least on a sandy bottom, there is no risk of damaging a coral reef. Of course, on a sandy bottom, there are other kinds of marine life hiding away that you need to be careful of.
This is why one of the rules in Scuba diving is to have a perfect trim. Keeping a horizontal position, with perfect buoyancy ensures that you are not touching the bottom of any marine life, putting you or them in danger.
Crashing into a coral reef can be detrimental to its health.
Corals grow incredibly slowly, only 0.3-2cm a year for big corals, and branching corals up to 10cm a year. Therefore, to repair themselves after a knock, it could take them many years!
Being comfortable with your diving skills not only prevents you from damaging the coral but allows you to appreciate their beauty. Effortlessly maintaining perfect buoyancy can allow you to look around and witness the spectacular rainforests of the sea.
You can perfect your buoyancy by training with your instructor, a dive buddy or by completing the PADI peak performance buoyancy training.
Other benefits of this course other than improving your buoyancy, include diving with less weight and even improving your air consumption!
Do not Touch the Reef.
Coral reefs are very delicate. It is important not to touch the reef, as you can stress or damage the coral, which can create illness or even cause death.
When diving on coral reefs, you should act as if you’re in an underwater gallery.
Look and admire nature’s artwork, but do not touch it! Touching a coral can weaken it and even cause death to an entire colony.
Corals are composed of calcium carbonate, forming unique shapes and structures, from Staghorn corals to even Brain corals! (Yes, they look like a brain!) The unique shapes might tickle your curious side, to touch and see what they feel like.
But it is crucial to override this urge and keep your hands to yourself.
It’s not just corals you should not be touching underwater! Try not to touch anything, for your own safety. You might see a pretty shell and think it would be harmless to take it home for your mantlepiece. But this shell could be a cone snail shell, which is extremely venomous.
Not to mention, everything natural within the sea belongs there. Materials are recycled and used within the ecosystem. If everyone were to take something from a dive, there would be nothing left! Except for rubbish, that should be collected!
A favourite saying within the Scuba diving community is “Take only pictures, and leave only bubbles!”
There are many benefits of being streamlined underwater, one being that nothing is dangling from your equipment which could cause damage to the coral reef or marine animals.
Being streamlined means all your hoses and accessories are tucked away nicely. Dangling equipment, if you are not careful, can drag along the bottom, get caught on the reef and cause pieces of coral to break off.
How streamlined you are, might depend on the type of equipment you are using. However, no matter what equipment you are using, your hoses should be tucked away and not dangling. Your octopus is an important part of your equipment you need to keep streamline.
There are different preferences on where to keep the octopus, as long as it is in the triangle of life on the front of your body. For example, it is popular to keep it tucked in by the pocket, or in the section on your shoulder strap.
A lot of Scuba divers have a hose retainer clip, keeping the long hose nicely tucked away, but easily accessible in an emergency!
Not only is it unsafe to have your octopus dangling down in case you can’t reach it quickly during an emergency, but it can also leave a path of destruction while dragging along the bottom.
If you carry a lot of accessories with you underwater, you might find yourself needing more space in your BCD. A jacket BCD is perfect at providing space for your accessories, such as a reef hook or a submersible marker buoy, keeping them neatly tucked away.
It is possible to clip accessories to D-ring on your BCD, as long as they are touching anything during your dive!
Secure your Weights
Before the dive during your buddy check, double-check your weights are secure. This prevents them from falling off during the dive and harming corals or marine life.
Make sure your weight belt is tightly clamped. Weight belts have been known to unbuckle and slip during a dive. This can be uncomfortable and risk damaging the coral reef and marine life.
Weight pockets are quite popular due to being more convenient and comfortable for some scuba divers. They click or zip into designated weight pocket areas of a BCD. These also need to be checked before a dive, listening for a loud click to indicate they are secure.
A falling weight can plummet to the bottom, snapping branches of corals or hitting marine life! As Scuba divers, it is our job to admire and protect marine life, not hit it on the head with our weights!
Snapping branches of corals can cause huge amounts of stress. If not fatal, it can take them many years to grow back what they lost.
There are chemicals in sunscreen which are harmful to the Coral Reef. While on a scuba diving trip, use reef-safe sunscreen to protect the ecosystem!
This is not the first thing that might come to mind when people are planning a scuba diving trip, but it is very important. Protect your skin with reef-safe sunscreen while you’re enjoying your time on the boat before and after a dive.
Chemicals in sunscreen, such as Oxybenzone and Octinoxate are harmful to corals, disrupting their reproduction and growth cycle. They can even cause sunscreen-induced coral bleaching!
Check for these chemicals when buying sunscreen for your next holiday, to prevent releasing them into the ocean and damaging the corals. Dive shops and Eco-Friendly brands have Reef Safe sunscreen available, to protect your skin and the environment.
If reef-safe sunscreen is not easily available, another way to tackle the reduction of these chemicals affecting the reef is to not wear sunscreen just before a dive. Wear protective clothing such as long sleeves and a hat, and keep within the shade on the boat.
Don’t Forget Your Dive Insurance!
Before you go out on any dive trip or holiday, it is essential to make sure you have insurance that covers you if something goes wrong. Check out our dive insurance article for more information.
Or go straight to these dive insurance company websites:
Coral reefs are extremely interesting and gorgeous, causing divers from all over the world to witness some of the famous reefs. While doing so, it is our responsibility as divers to ensure we are not causing any harm.
Protecting the coral reefs is paramount to preserving the complex marine ecosystems and the health of our oceans. Remember these tips when Scuba diving in Coral reefs to act as an Eco-warrior and have an incredible dive.
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