December is upon us! As various holidays rapidly approach, many of us (especially in the colder climes) are looking to the warmer areas of the planet and making or finalizing plans for travel. In all the hectic activity, it’s easy to forget simple things that will make your trip safer and dives more relaxing. Most of it is common sense stuff, but after all, better to travel and dive safely!
1.) Kit Check
If you haven’t been diving in some time, or your equipment has been in storage for a prolonged period, it’s never a bad plan to swing by your local dive shop and get it checked out. This is particularly important with regulators and BCDs, as they’re your primary life support items. Also check your fin straps and mask strap for serviceability. I covered packing earlier this year here, and the advice still stands as a good guideline for what to pack up after you’ve had your gear checked.
2.) Skill Check
Be honest, if you haven’t been in the water for over six months, and do most of your diving on seasonal holidays, you might be a bit rusty. We’ve all seen “that” diver; bad buoyancy, poor air consumption, bicycle kicking their way into the nearest stinging fauna on what should have been a great dive. It’s really easy to avoid being this diver. Do a quick refresher before your head out on vacation.
Most dive shops offer this service, and if not, you could also ask about joining in on an Open Water course for the pool and dive days or look up a local Divemaster, as they can provide this service too. The cost can vary quite a bit, depending on your shop or bargaining skills. In the end though, you’ll have a couple of dives prior to your trip to get you back in the groove and dust off the skill set. Plus you’ll avoid developing Bad Habits, and avoid the often exorbitant fees charges by some dive shops for the same service in tourist driven areas.
3.) Medical Check
This ties in a bit with last week’s entry, but is a little more focused on vaccinations. As I said last week, make sure all your medications (if you have any) are safe to dive with. Check and see if your dive destination has malaria and whether or not it’s in season. If it is, look into starting your regime of anti-malarials on time so you’re fully protected.
Vaccinations have become a bit of a controversial topic to some in recent years. Spearheaded by various grossly misinformed celebrities, and soundly and thoroughly debunked and disproved medical studies; the anti-vax movement has caused many people to question why we need vaccinations or to avoid them. Aside from being based on several logical and scientific fallacies, not getting vaccinated prior to vacation can lead to long term illnesses, and some areas won’t let you off the plane without an immunization record. MMR, Tet/Dip, HepA/B and Meningitis vaccinations/boosters will cover most things, but some areas may require Yellow Fever or even Japanese Encephalitis shots too. Check it out, and make sure you’re covered, because no amount of positive thinking or aroma therapy will cure tropical illness.
4.) Make a Plan
Let the dive shop know you’re coming! In the high tourist season, dive shops are humming with activity as they plan and carry out dive trips, training, and maintenance at a high tempo. Contact them a few weeks ahead of time and make arrangements for the “must do dives”. It’ll smooth things out for pick up and drop off times, meals (if needed) and give the staff a break. Calling ahead by a few weeks reduces your head ache for planning activities and smoothes out the trip nicely for the dive guides and staff.
5.) Easy on the Beer
Take it easy at the bar the night before. A lot of divers have been down this road. You get to your fabulous holiday location; it’s hot, you don’t have to work tomorrow, and the beer is so cheap here! Next morning you’re guzzling your sports drink of choice, wondering how you’ve kept that continental breakfast down, and praying to every ocean god and goddess in the world that you’ll get to the dive site fast and get off the boat. It doesn’t have to be this way. Have a drink or two, but then follow the old armoured adage “8hrs from bottle to throttle.”, make the effort to have at least 8hrs between your last drink and giant striding into the deep. A bad hangover (or worse, still being intoxicated) can impair your judgement and act as an additional stress on you. Save the party action for the nights before days you aren’t diving!