Each January, people all over the world resolve to better themselves or their lives in one way or another with a New Year’s resolution. These can range from “get fit and lose weight” all the way to “get out of debt and save money”, but the percentage of people who can actually maintain these resolutions are frighteningly low. The key to maintaining a resolution is enthusiasm – you need to be motivated and passionate about it, the whole year round, and you have to want to sustain it, and not just feel like you have to. So the easiest way to articulate a resolution that you’ll succeed with, is by choosing something that you want to do, not something that you feel you need to do. The best way to do that is to choose a new hobby, and the greatest hobby to choose for me is diving!
Diving cannot be compared to any other hobby, because it is unlike anything else out there. It’s a transcendent experience that takes place in another world – a world where the laws of gravity, motion and dominance are all vastly different to life above the surface. Scuba diving encapsulates such a wide array of experiences, which can include diving with huge schools of sharks, drifting hundreds of meters along towering walls of coral, or even exploring sunken shipwrecks. There are few hobbies out there that can provide the same adrenaline that diving does, the same excitement that engulfs you as you take the giant leap from the boat, plunge into the deep, and wonder which tiny creatures lay on the sea floor and which larger creatures could be swimming around you. It’s a humbling experience, in which the situation is transformed – no longer are you at the top of the food chain, and no longer do you govern everything around you, reminding yourself of the true natural pecking order. Scuba diving truly is unique, and unlike anything else; it’s an experience that should be enjoyed by everyone – especially if you live in a place like the UAE, that is surrounded by perfectly temperate waters and huge stretches of coastlines littered with coral reefs.
The access to Scuba diving in the UAE and the Middle East is unlimited. Much of the UAE’s coastline is lined with coral reefs, the best spots being along the coast of Fujairah. As well, Oman’s coast, all the way from Musandam down to Muscat, is privileged with colourful and diverse coral reefs, that act as a permanent residence to a plethora of underwater species. Dubai also has a type of diving location that not many other diving destinations can boast: artificial islands. The World Islands are another fantastic dive spot, further demonstrating the diversity and vastness of diving opportunities here in the UAE and Middle East. Not only are the diving locations in the area superb, but also the dive community here in the UAE – the people who will set up these dives and get you to these incredible locations – is just as vast. There are over a dozen dive operations in Dubai alone, who can do everything from getting you certified to getting you diving inside a shipwreck, not to mention the operations in Fujairah, Musandam and Muscat, who will do the same. With this overabundance of opportunity that so few people around the world have access to, how can you not take advantage of it?
Getting certified to Scuba dive is not a difficult or tedious process, but it is instead a fun and interesting experience, that will only inspire you further, to get into the water, once you’ve learnt the basics. The word Scuba is an acronym for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, which is the equipment that allows divers to safely explore the underwater world, and in the training process of becoming a certified diver, you learn the basics of how this equipment does its job in allowing us to breath underwater, and how to use it safely. One of the most well-known governing bodies on the rules and regulations of diving is an organization called PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors). This is the most recognized qualification for the majority of diving locations around the world, including Dubai. The process of getting certified includes a few different steps: classroom study, practical training in a pool and then open water training.
The required age to learn to Scuba dive is 10 years old, and a reasonable level of fitness is also needed, as Scuba diving is an active sport that requires energy and capability. If you’re of age and reasonably fit – you qualify to learn! During the course, classroom study usually involves watching an informational video that visually outlines the basics of the sport, as well as the important safety aspects. This is a great way to quickly get accustomed to and understand the activity and it will naturally increase your confidence about the wonderful hobby. As well, you’ll be issued a diver’s manual that will help to reinforce and consolidate your knowledge and with the help of your instructor, you will complete the exercises in the manual, giving you a firm grasp of the fundamentals and essentials. That’s the extent of the classroom work, after which the practical training will begin. With the knowledge gained from the video and manual, it will be easy to quickly familiarize yourself with the equipment and its functions, getting you into the pool even faster. One of the most exciting aspects of the course is taking your first breath underwater – it’s a bizarre and unfamiliar experience at first but it will eventually become second nature, and you’ll forget all about life on the surface! The pool training encompasses the learning of a range of new and exciting exercises, like breathing through your primary and secondary air, how to clear your mask if it floods, controlling your buoyancy and much more. And after spending some time underwater in the pool, you’ll by dying to hit the open ocean. The last phase of the course involves four open water dives, in which you’ll practice the same skills as previously done in the pool, and get a feel for diving in the open ocean. The first open water dive is just as exciting as taking your first breath underwater in the pool, as you’ll finally discover that world beneath the waves that you’ve only wondered about. Once all four open water dives have been done, the final phase is over and the course is finished. Each dive operation varies in the time they take to carry out the course as well as the price they assign to them. Although it can be stretched over a few weekends if you can’t find the time to do it all in one hit, the course can be completed over four days, costing between 2000-3000 AED, depending on the dive shop.
After gaining your first diving qualification, it’s often difficult to stop there. Once the open water course is complete, it’s not uncommon for people to progress through the diving qualifications thereafter. One of the strongest pulls is to specialise. There is a plethora of specialty diving courses to undertake after receiving your open water, including things like underwater photographer, night diver, diver propulsion vehicle diver and a lot more. These specialties greatly enhance the diving experience, and make the dives themselves, all the more exciting. Moving further on from specialties, divers can proceed to even higher qualifications, like Advanced Open Water, Rescue Diver or even Master Scuba Diver. This unique sport has a limitless scope for development, which will allow you to learn new skills all the time – helping to invest your money in quality experiences that you won’t regret or forget. One of the greatest things about the hobby is that it has no borders, diving is a global phenomenon, with oceans all over the world waiting to be explored. It will act as the vehicle to take you around the world in search for new experiences and unforgettable sights. Diving will inspire and encourage travel, unlike any other hobby out there; it will take you across continents and oceans, from country to country and dive to dive. The potential is limitless.
Choosing a new year’s resolution is something that everybody begins to think about come late December. People think “what should I do better this year?” or “what’s a sensible change to make for this year?” – why limit the resolution to just one year? Why not choose a resolution that will affect the rest of your life, something that you will start this year and continue to do every year after that; something that will better your life but also sustain your enthusiasm for it. The obvious choice is a new and exciting hobby, a hobby like diving, that will have you hooked from the moment you plunge into the deep and surround yourself in an alien world that so many people are unfamiliar with. Even if none of your friends or family has ever undertaken the endeavour – be the pioneer. Diving is seldom something that you can do once and never repeat. It’s something that will have you planning your holidays around it – checking water visibility levels, dive shops in the area, whale shark migration seasons and everything else to ensure you get your perfect dive.
We live in a unique part of the world, where the buildings are the tallest and the cars are the fastest, but too often people fail to realize – the oceans are the liveliest. With idyllic dive locations scattered around the Arabian seas, and a surplus of dive shops waiting to issue qualifications, there’s never been a greater time to take up this hobby, and sit back and watch it change your life.
Words+Photos By: Jake Lyle