Scuba Diving Tips For Beginners

How be a great beginner diver

Do you want to be more than just a fish-watching tourist? Here is an infographic and a valuable collection of tips that might help. This article is for beginners but can also apply to divers of any skill level.

So you just earned your PADI license, congratulations! But where do you go from here? Moreover, how do you improve as a diver? This is why I put together a few scuba diving tips that will help you become the best diver you can be.

But what does that mean, being a good diver?

In a nutshell, it’s the diver who can dive responsibly, understands their place in the natural world, and prioritizes sustainability. Today, we look at how you can become not just a beginner diver, but a great beginner diver.

Scuba diving tips infographic

Before we’re digging into the goods, I made an infographic that should give you a general idea…

How to be a great beginner scuba diver infographic

Respect the underwater marine life

We’ve seen a few painful examples of unskilled divers breaking pieces of coral due to carelessness. The natural environment is there to be enjoyed from a responsible distance. This is why you should be aware of your surroundings so you don’t bump into anything.

So make sure you look around you regularly. Check your equipment to make sure nothing is dragging over the bottom. If you see your buddy’s octopus or SPG dangling, signal to them to put it back. This way you prevent any harm to any marine life.

There is never a good reason to touch anything. The turtles at Bunaken Marine Park might seem very complacent and friendly, but that doesn’t mean you should touch them. It can actually do them more harm than good, because you could disrupt their natural behavior. For instance, it can cause them to stay under the surface longer than they should.

The same goes for coral, fish, and anything that’s alive under water. This is also why we discourage the use of gloves when diving with us.

The video below perfectly demonstrates this kind of harmful behavior. If you follow any of our scuba diving tips, simply being kind to the environment is all you need to do.

Don’t be this guy!

Just remember to look around you and make sure you’re clear of any obstructions. The corals as well as other divers will be grateful!

Finally, Dive Against Debris is a project initiated in 2011 by Project AWARE. Dive Against Debris’ mission is to record as well as reduce waste, with divers worldwide joining in to clear our oceans of waste.

Use a reef-safe sunscreen for scuba diving

Obviously it’s sunny out here in North Sulawesi, so you have to take care of your skin. The number one rule is: don’t stay into the sunlight longer than you have to. Especially when you go diving, sunburn is one of the more common problems you will face. Therefore, a good sunscreen is definitely recommended. Specifically, you will want a reef-safe sunscreen.

A sunscreen that is reef-safe will not contain any chemicals that can harm aquatic life. The single chemical you should avoid is called oxybenzone, which is found in most regular sunscreens. This stuff is damaging to coral. A study conducted in 2015 came to a shocking conclusion: one drop of sunscreen in 15 million liters of water is enough to cause damage to coral. Dive o’ Clock wrote an excellent article about this, so read up on their recommendations about the

At the end of the day, the best protection against the sun is clothing. Wear a hoodie so your head, ears and neck don’t burn when you are at the surface.

Scuba Diving Tips — It's always best to use reef-safe sunscreen
Choose wisely. Choose reef-safe.

Don’t rely on single-use plastic

Here is a quote I found on Reddit, and it’s just perfect:

“Bottled water companies do not produce water, they produce plastic bottles.”

/r/Showerthoughts — Reddit

Our reliance on plastic has become so commonplace, we don’t think twice when we buy some bottled water. Therefore, a reusable bottle is the way to go.

Here in Manado, the local governments have taken steps to reduce plastic use. Many restaurants no longer serve plastic straws, and by offering bamboo straws with our cocktails & fruit juices we’re doing our part. They’re reusable, organic, and top of that: totally tropical. 🌴

Understand your dive computer

At Thalassa, we always tell our new guests during a briefing that diving with a computer is required. Without a computer you are simply not in control of your own safety. Besides, it really doesn’t matter how many dives you have made safely without one prior.

The algorithmic model that calculates your nitrogen absorption ensures you get to dive not just today, but tomorrow as well. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to read your computer’s user manual before going on a diving holiday.

Download the manual as a PDF and put it on your phone or tablet. Now you have something to read during your trip to North Sulawesi!

Always read the manual
Know your dive computer inside-out? You should.

Listen to the briefing

When the boat arrives at the dive site, pay attention to the guide. Even if you’ve heard the same briefing a thousand times, going over the procedures is just good practice. From maximum bottom time to your three-minute safety stop, we all have to sing to the same tune.

The briefing is not just informational, it also gets everyone into the right mindset before the dive. Check your equipment, check your buddy’s, and make sure everything is ok. Don’t rush into the water only to forget your fins! I’ve seen it happen…

Briefing time!
Time for the pre-dive briefing

Check your buoyancy

The number of dives you have done means absolutely nothing. What’s important is that you can control your buoyancy like a fish. Or at least, like a good diver!

I have seen divers with 300+ dives under their belt, and their buoyancy is terrible. They paddle with their hands and don’t know how to stay level. Others “crash-land” onto the bottom, only to kick up clouds of silt and sand.

Some experienced divers are convinced they require 12 kilograms of weights without ever having done a buoyancy check. As a result, they expend too much energy staying neutrally buoyant. This translates directly into not being very air-efficient. The worst part of this is, they never even realized they did all those “bad dives” in the first place!

This is exactly why the Peak Performance Buoyancy course is totally worth it, even if you have logged a lot of dives. For many people, taking PPB means that they end up using less weight than they did before the course. The result: more relaxed diving, less air consumption, more happiness. Now if that’s not a win-win situation, I don’t know what is…

A neutral diver is a happy diver

Just relax

Speaking of relaxed diving, scuba diving is a truly mindful experience. You have to force yourself to literally go slow, and focus on the dive itself. This doesn’t happen overnight though. But when you just started scuba diving, the following tips should help.

Breathing underwater becomes easier with each progressive dive. Trust me on this one. It took me at least 30 dives before I noticed any improvement in my air consumption.

The trick to this is dive with a purpose. When I started diving, I would give myself little “missions” for each dive. For example, I would focus purely on breathing steadily and slowly on one dive. On the next dive, I would work on my buoyancy, and so on.

These missions made my diving a lot better over time, and I can highly recommend every diver doing the same, regardless of experience.

Just take it easy

In conclusion

I hope you enjoyed our scuba diving tips, but above all, be more than just a “fish watching tourist”. You need to be a positive force in the underwater world. How do you do that? You could start with a buoyancy check with your buddy. Prior to the dive, tell them to stay away from the corals and ditch the gloves, for instance. These little things all make us better if not great divers, especially when you’re a beginner.

Continued reading

I can highly recommend the Ultimate Guide to Scuba & Free Diving for Women as well. Tied into PADI’s Womens’ Dive Day, this is a great resource for anyone who wants to find out more about womens’ contributions to diving worldwide.

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Picture of Arjen Bokhoven

Arjen Bokhoven

I'm a PADI Advanced Open Water diver, I do guest relations and resort management at Thalassa Dive Resorts Indonesia. Whether I'm diving the walls of Bunaken to spot schools of fish & turtles, or explore the sandy flats of Lembeh with its fascinating underwater creatures- I love all of it.

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