Whether you’ve just completed your Open Water course or are the most seasoned diver on the boat, it’s important to know the do’s and don’ts of dive etiquette. After all, you’ll want your dive buddies on your side for what may be the greatest dive of your life. To make sure everyone is on the same page, we’ve picked our top tips for minding your manners both above and below the water.
Above the Water
Don’t be the one everyone is waiting for. If you show up late to the dive boat, don’t be surprised if your fellow divers give you the stink eye. Dives are often scheduled to take advantage of optimal conditions that may fall during a specific time of day. Even if this isn’t the case, making a boat full of people wait for you to finish your breakfast is bound to ruffle some feathers. In addition, if you know that you are a bit slow preparing your dive equipment on the boat, start getting ready early. It’s best to make sure that your dive buddies aren’t all in the water with inflated BCDs while you’re still donning your weight belt.
Check your gear before leaving the dive shop. There is nothing worse than spending two hours getting to a remote site only to realize you left your mask back at the dive shop. Not having your equipment ruins both the dive and the day. So make sure you have everything with you and that everything is working properly at time of departure.
Don’t be the one with the exploding gear bag. One of the first lessons in the Open Water course teaches divers how to pack a gear bag. This isn’t just to make life easier for you. Nobody likes a diver whose mask is in the captain’s cabin, fins are under the benches, wetsuit is strewn over four tanks and BCD is resting over the freshwater bin. Dive boats can get crowded. Respect your fellow divers by keeping your gear organized and out of everyone else’s way.
Respect the DM. You might be the most knowledgeable diver on the boat, but don’t try to take charge. There’s a reason you and the others are paying for the services of a dive master. He or she knows the area you are diving like the back of their hand. Respect their abilities and let them lead the dive. In the same vein, make sure you listen carefully to everything the DM says. He or she probably has some important information for you.
Tip your dive crew. This may be a debated issue, but tipping is the right thing to do. The dive staff is providing a service to you. Five dollars per tank is the average, although you may choose to tip more for outstanding service.
Below the Water
Don’t disturb the marine life. Brushing against coral, picking up sea creatures or poking at fish or eels to get a reaction may bring harm or even death to those animals. Everyone has gone to great lengths to visit this environment, so be good guest and keep your hands to yourself.
Do respect the underwater cameras and they will respect you. Underwater photography takes a great deal of patience (and money if we’re being honest). A diver who has taken the time to set up camera equipment and waited for a fish to be in the perfect spot is not going to be happy if someone comes along and jumps in front of their camera just as they press the shutter. Most people wouldn’t dare to jump between a professional photographer and a lion on land, so why do it underwater when the stakes are even higher? Take some time to communicate with the divers towing cameras. Know their goals and keep them happy. You never know, if you’re lucky, you might end up with a new profile photo of you and a hammerhead shark compliments of that photographer.
Don’t stir up the bottom with your fins. Imagine dropping into crystal clear waters full of crazy critters. You’re eyes are as big as your goggles as you mouth ‘wow’ to your partner. When you get to the bottom, you realize the diver in front of you hasn’t calculated his or her buoyancy correctly or insists on diving in a vertical position. Suddenly that 40m visibility drops to 5 as the forward diver’s fins continuously kick up the sand and debris on the seafloor. Don’t be that guy. Respect the divers behind you and stay off the bottom.
Don’t get pushy around a point of interest. If the dive master points out an interesting piece of marine life, don’t rush to the area, pushing other divers out of your way to get a glimpse of whatever the DM has seen. Be patient and wait for others to have their fill. When it is your turn, move slowly so as not to scare the creature away.
Stay with your group. While there might be some things worth hanging back for, becoming separated from your group creates an inconvenience for the other divers. Don’t make them interrupt their dive to search for you or worse, surface because they cannot find you. Be polite and stay within sight of your dive group. This is by no means an exhaustive list of diving etiquette rules. Sometimes these little rules aren’t obvious to a new diver. It always helps to be a bit of research. Nobody wants to be the diver who everyone talks about for the wrong reasons.