Alright, we all know it. As awesome as cold water is, warm water diving is where you find all the colourful coral reefs, turtles, and the fish you see on nature shows. There are a lot more physical dangers in warm water though, and a few things to keep in mind when you take the plunge.
- Warm water still lowers your body temperature, as water is still a better conductor than air, even when it’s bathtub warm. A few short dives in a t-shirt and swim trunks might be doable, but a half or “shorty” wetsuit never goes far wrong. 2.5mm or 3mm is more than enough, especially if you’re used to wetsuit diving in colder climes, and are available for reasonable prices to purchase or rent just about everywhere. A hood isn’t necessary, but boots still are, unless you’re using the full foot style fins. A note on full foot fins: if you’re boat diving, these are great. If you’re walking anywhere for any distance, stick to the booties and then try to even out your tan later.
- Gloves. In cold water, gloves are essential. In warm water, they’re optional but some locations prefer you not wear them at all. The reason is simple, especially if you’re from cold water areas. In cold water, there are very few poisonous or maliciously sharp sea creatures. In warm water, there are a lot. Having gloves on gives a psychological feeling of safety that may or may not be true. For example, sea urchin spines will quickly and easily penetrate a 7mm neoprene wetsuit’s knee. How hard will it be for them to go through the thin leather and fabric of tropical weight gloves? Another reason is to discourage people from grabbing things or unintentionally damaging reef environments. Personally, I wear gloves, and when asked why, I respond: “I don’t wear gloves because I want to touch things, I wear them because I might have to.”
- Dehydration is a serious problem in warm water, probably more so than in cold water. Why? Because it’s warm out. You’re under the sun, you’re sweating, you had a few pints last night and because it’s vacation time, you haven’t acclimatized yet. Drink lots of water. Throw in a soft drink or a sports drink every so often to get the sugars. Pay attention to the colour of your urine (I know it’s gross, but whatever), the clearer it is, the better hydrated you are.
- The wildlife that lives in tropical water is mind blowing in its scope and diversity. Unfortunately, a lot of it has built in protective measures to prevent it being idly harassed by passing divers. Read up on the areas you’re going into, ask your dive guide or dive shop about local hazards. Stings can become very serious very quickly, so dive safely. Watch your buoyancy and keep you hands and knees to yourself. If you’re not with a guide or dive shop, pack your own first aid kit to leave on the surface in case you need it.
- Pay attention to your gauges and computer. It’s easy to become sidetracked and lose track of depth, time and air when you’re being overloaded by the sheer beauty of a tropical reef in good health. On the whole situational awareness thing, keep track of your buddy. It can be easy to lose them as well, and no one likes having to do the whole surface and look around thing.
Well, that’s about it for warm water advice for now. in my next entries I’ll be detailing dive locations and groups I’ve been with and the particulars of the environments.