Exploring the world underwater has always been challenging to man, until 1943 when Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnan developed the modern aqualung. ‘Scuba’ is an acronym derived from Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.
Mask and fins would be an obvious need. The mask helps you to see under water and creates an air space around your face, which enables you to equalize the pressure in your ears as you descend.
Fins facilitate easy movement under water and come in two different types, full foot or open heel. The full foot model fits over your foot like a shoe, while the open heel covers the front of the foot, with a strap over the heel. You would need to use a diving boot with the open heel fins to stop chafing; the boot has the added advantage of providing grip on a slippery deck.
An air tank and regulator is a necessity to help you breathe under water. Air tanks come pretty standard and are simply a method of storing sufficient air for you to remain under water for an extended time.
As the name suggests, the regulator is designed to supply you with air in a controlled way, so that you get the right amount of air at different depths. The regulator has two stages. The first stage is the connection to the air tank which adjusts the high air pressure in the tank to a pressure just above that of the surrounding water. The second stage is the mouthpiece itself that contains a valve to supply air automatically whenever you inhale. Exhaling closes the valve to enable exhaled air to escape into the water.
Because it’s difficult to talk with your mouth full of regulator, communication is primarily by hand signals, adapted for easy use underwater. Basic signals include thumbs up or down for ascending or descending and hands across the neck to indicate trouble with breathing.
One thing to remember is that water is denser than air and it’s harder to move around so things will look different, too. Objects will appear larger and closer, especially in salt water.
Training and scuba diving certification in South Africa
One of the best places is the Aliwal Dive Centre, in KwaZulu Natal. The facility includes a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) 5-Star Instructor Development Centre and has a great reputation among divers both in South Africa as well as Europe and beyond.
At Sodwana Bay, also a 5-star IDC, you can dive with the whale sharks on the Northern Zululand Elephant Coast.
So what are you waiting for? Head off to one of these great dive spots and take the plunge!