recent years there has been a huge increase in the number
of people taking part in the sport of scuba diving and as a
direct result of this there has been an explosion in the number
of people travelling abroad on scuba diving holidays.
Many holiday resorts nowadays have a dive centre where
guests can "have a go" or even undertake a basic scuba training
Most sports divers who travel
abroad on diving holidays go on trips arranged through a specialist
Sharm el Sheikh
There are dozens of companies in existence catering for
diving trips all over the world.
This kind of trip is designed specifically for qualified
divers or those intending to become qualified divers and the
whole holiday centres around the diving activities.
It is vitally important that
those intending to dive whilst abroad are properly trained in
the use of scuba equipment and are familiar with the risks and
dangers associated with the sport, i.e. basic resuscitation
skills, recognition of the signs and symptoms of decompression
illness and how to avoid it etc.
Dive Centre Na'ama Bay
Qualifications can be obtained by joining a club prior to travel
or attending a recognised diving school for training, and subsequently
making sure that you keep your skills up to date.
Popular destinations with UK divers are the Red Sea,
Mediterranean and Caribbean but other locations such as the
Maldives, Great Barrier Reef, South East Asia and the Pacific
Islands offer superb diving. The photograph above shows the
popular Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh.
Diving holidays can either be land based at a resort or dive
centre, or based aboard a specially designed dive boat known
as a liveaboard.
It is important that all divers
who are going on diving holidays are aware of the availability
of (or lack of) hyperbaric facilities in the area they are visiting,
or alternatively, how a diver may be evacuated to a chamber
in the event of a decompression incident.
Coral Queen Liveaboard
Decompression accidents can and do occur even amongst
divers who use personal decompression computers.
Liveaboard divers can make up to five dives per day and
are often most at risk due to the remoteness of their location.
information on decompression sickness, it's causes,
symptoms and treatment
Most reputable dive companies will operate dive boats
that are fully seaworthy and are equipped with all the necessary
safety and navigation equipment, and carry comprehensive first
aid and oxygen equipment. (It is always worth checking). They
should also employ fully trained
and competent personnel as dive guides and boat crew.
sports divers should make sure that their travel insurance
includes cover for scuba diving. Divers must be covered for
accidents which may occur during diving or as a direct result
of diving, recompression costs, hospitalisation etc. and loss
or damage to diving gear. The better dive companies will offer
specialist diving insurance.
Divers should be able to provide proof of medical fitness
should also take their 'C' Cards, Qualification Records or other
evidence of their diving qualifications for the Dive Master
or Guide to inspect.
you are flying to your destination you will usually have
a baggage allowance of 20kg plus hand luggage. This can be a
problem since basic scuba gear weighs around 15Kg which does
not allow for much else. If you also carry underwater photography
equipment your allowance is quickly used up. For this reason,
cylinders and weights are usually provided on site and equipment
hire is also available. Sometimes divers get an extra 10Kg per
person "sports allowance" Check with your agent.
Diving knives should always be packed
with the rest of your diving gear and carried in the hold. Pony
bottles and emergency cylinders must be completely emptied and
also carried in the hold.
divers travel abroad to dive on coral reefs which are
one of nature's wonders. Nearly all coral reefs are in the
tropics which means that the local climate will be hot. Divers
must take care to avoid dehydration and desist from sunbathing
immediately following a dive since both are predisposing factors
in decompression illness.
Most tropical dive locations
are in and around developing countries with poor standards
of hygiene etc. Therefore, all the usual travel precautions
should be observed; i.e. vaccinations, malaria tablets etc.
of the repeated immersion in sea water, divers are prone to
ear problems. Infections can result from sea water trapped
inside the ear canal. Ears should be cleaned out with fresh
water after the last dive of the day and dried without poking
anything inside. Aluminium acetate ear drops are good for
drying out the ears.
After several days diving a build
up of catarrh can lead to blockage of the sinuses and Eustachian
tubes giving rise to problems during equalisation. Decongestants
such as pseudoephedrine are useful for treating this condition.
One tablet should be taken prior to the first dive of the
day, the decongestant effect will last up to eight hours.
NOTE ON LARIAM (MEFLOQUINE) & SCUBA DIVING
(mefloquine) is an anti-malarial drug used in regions
of the world where chloroquine resistant falciparum
malaria is prevalent. e.g. East Africa, South East Asia.
Possible side effects of Lariam such as dizziness, blurred
vision and a disturbed sense of balance are common and
could cause problems for divers.
These effects can often imitate or even worsen the symptoms
of DCI. There could also be confusion between the side
effects of Lariam and the symptoms of DCI or nitrogen
narcosis resulting in a misleading diagnosis.
Therefore, Lariam must not be taken by persons intending
to take part in scuba diving.
The manufacturers of Lariam
recommend that it should not be taken by persons who
carry out tasks demanding fine co-ordination and spatial
discrimination, including scuba diving. If Larium is
taken, these persons should refrain from such activities
during and for at least three weeks following use.
reefs are underwater structures made from calcium carbonate
secreted by corals.
Coral reefs are unique structures
built up over many years. They flourish in the warm waters of
the tropics, fringing islands and continents, and forming atolls
far out in the ocean. Some are like beautiful gardens, paved
with delicate corals and home to innumerable brightly coloured
fish. Others are full of drama, with massive coral formations
extending into deep water with sharks patrolling along the reef
are made up of millions of tiny sea creatures called polyps.
Polyps are very closely related to the jellyfish and sea anemones
and like the anemones they possess tentacles for catching their
prey. They are colonial creatures with hundreds of polyps in
a single coral colony and they co-exist with algae in a symbiotic
Each polyp secretes an exoskeleton of chalk which forms the
basis of the reef and they are filter feeders catching tiny
food particles with their tentacles. The algae is able to produce
nutrients by photosynthesis and gives each coral its distinctive
reefs are almost exclusively located in tropical seas. This
is because of the conditions required by the corals in order
to sustain growth. Which are:-
sunlight - to enable photosynthesis.
- optimal growth is between 24 - 32 deg.C
- allows light penetration. Heavily silted water will choke
seas - sunlight cannot penetrate sufficiently below
100 metres to allow reef growth.
are normally found in marine waters containing few nutrients.
Most coral reefs are built from hard, stony corals, and are
formed by polyps that live together in groups. The polyps
secrete a hard carbonate exoskeleton which provides support
and protection for the body of each polyp. Reefs grow best
in warm, shallow, clear, sunny and agitated waters.
called rainforests of the sea, coral reefs form
some of the most diverse ecosystems on earth. They occupy
less than 1% of the world ocean surface, about half the area
of France, yet they provide a home for 25% of all marine species,
including fishes, molluscs, echinoderms and sponges.
Paradoxically, coral reefs flourish even though they are surrounded
by ocean waters that provide few nutrients. They are most
commonly found at shallow depths in tropical waters, particularly
in the Pacific Ocean, but deep water and cold water corals
exist on a much smaller scale.
Coral reefs deliver ecosystem services to tourism, fisheries
and shoreline protection. The annual global economic value
of coral reefs has been estimated at $30 billion. However,
coral reefs are fragile ecosystems, partly because they are
very sensitive to water temperature.
They are under threat from climate change, ocean acidification,
blast fishing, cyanide fishing for aquarium fish, overuse
of reef resources, and harmful land-use practices. High nutrient
levels such as those found in runoff from agricultural areas
can harm reefs by encouraging excess algae growth.
coral should be thought of as small live animals embedded
in calcium carbonate. It is a mistake to think of coral as
plants or rocks. Coral consists of accumulations of individual
animals called polyps, arranged in diverse shapes. Polyps
are usually tiny, but they can range in size from a pinhead
to about a foot across. Reefs grow as polyps along with other
organisms deposit calcium carbonate, (the basis of coral),
as a skeletal structure beneath and around themselves, pushing
the coral's "head" or polyps upwards and outwards.
Waves, grazing fish (such as parrotfish), sea urchins, sponges,
and other forces and organisms act as bio-eroders, breaking
down coral skeletons into fragments that settle into spaces
in the reef structure or form sandy bottoms in associated
other organisms living in the reef community contribute skeletal
calcium carbonate in the same manner.
Coralline algae are important contributors to reef structure
in those parts of the reef subjected to the greatest forces
by waves (such as the reef front facing the open ocean). These
algae deposit limestone in sheets over the reef surface, thereby
Reef-building or hermatypic corals are only found in the photic
zone (above 50 m depth), the depth to which sufficient sunlight
penetrates the water for photosynthesis to occur. Coral polyps
do not photosynthesize, but have a symbiotic relationship
with single-celled organisms called zooxanthellae; these cells
within the tissues of the coral polyps carry out photosynthesis
and produce excess organic nutrients that are then used by
the coral polyps.
of this relationship, coral reefs grow much faster in clear
water, which admits more sunlight. Indeed, the relationship
is responsible for coral reefs in the sense that without their
symbionts, coral growth would be too slow for the corals to
form impressive reef structures. Corals get up to 90% of their
nutrients from their zooxanthellae symbionts.
Types of Coral Reefs
Most reef scientists generally recognize three basic types
of coral reefs:
between these three main reef types are pronounced in terms
of large-scale structure. Nonetheless, there is often a good
deal of similarity between them within a given biogeographic
region in terms of species composition and ecological interactions.
1. Fringing Reefs
first major coral reef type is the fringing reef, which is
a reef system growing fairly close to or directly from shore
with an entirely shallow (less than about 10m) lagoon, or
no lagoon at all.
These are by far the most common reef type in the Red Sea
and Greater Caribbean region. Fringing reefs also surround
many islands of French Polynesia (South Pacific) and the Indian
Many islands within atolls have fringing reefs often referred
to as the "house reef".
Patch Reefs are outcrops of coral usually offshore but often
found within the lagoon of a Barrier Reef or Atoll.
Because they are situated relatively close to island or mainland
shores, fringing reefs are generally the most susceptible
to coastal development, agriculture, pollution, and other
human activities that result in sedimentation and freshwater
2. Barrier Reefs
reefs (center photo; above) are reef systems that parallel
the shore and are separated from it by a wide lagoon that
contain at least some deep portions. Examples of large barrier
reefs can be found in both the Indo-Pacific and Greater Caribbean,
with the Great Barrier Reef of Australia being the prime example.
The very largest barrier reefs develop on the edges of continental
shelves (e.g., Great Barrier Reef; Belize Barrier Reef). These
massive reef complexes are sometimes referred to as "shelf
barrier reefs" in order to differentiate them from the
much smaller barrier reefs surrounding some islands found
in the South Pacific (e.g, Bora-Bora).
The back reef zones and lagoons of shelf barrier reefs are
often very extensive, in some cases lying over 100 miles from
the mainland in some areas. In contrast, the barrier reef
surrounding the narrow lagoon of Bora Bora (photo, above right)
actually transitions into a fringing reef in a few places.
are roughly circular (or occasionally horseshoe-shaped) oceanic
reef complexes surrounding a large, deep central lagoon.
Atolls are most common in the Indo-Pacific region where over
300 atolls are found, but rare in the Greater Caribbean which
houses only about 10-15. The four best developed Caribbean
atolls are found off southern Mexico and the coast of Belize.
Atolls can exceed 100 miles in diameter and contain lagoons
several thousand square miles in extent. The best developed
parts of reefs surrounding atolls are on the windward side,
where wave energy is greatest.
Map showing the distribution of the world's
Sadly, like virtually every other natural habitat, coral
reefs are coming under intense pressure. Many have been polluted
and choked with sediment and rubbish washed from the land.
Others have been damaged by coastal development, coral mining,
over-fishing and collection of reef animals. Tourism too has
an impact, but YOU can help to minimise the damage.
- Don't touch corals, rest on them
or kick them. Corals are living animals and are damaged
even by gentle handling.
kicking up the sand. It spoils the visibility for other
visitors and damages corals and other reef animals when
- Do not spearfish. This is now
prohibited in most countries and spearguns are usually confiscated
by Customs officials.
- Leave all corals and reef animals
where they are. Corals are the 'building bricks' of the
reef. In many areas shells and other reef animals have become
rare because too many people are taking them. Many tourist
resorts and dive operators ban collecting.
- Make sure you are properly weighted!
- Take great care in underwater
caves and caverns. Avoid crowding into a cave and don't
spend too long there. Bubbles collect in pockets on the
roof of the cave and the delicate reef animals there can
'drown in air'.
- Never anchor on corals. They
are easily broken or damaged by anchors. Tie up to a mooring
buoy or jetty, or anchor carefully in sand or rubble patches.
- Mind the reef! Grounding is bad
for your boat and the reef. Navigation in reef waters needs
Nowadays more and
more people are visiting coral reefs, to look at their amazing
variety of colourful life. Unfortunately, all over the world
reefs are suffering from too many visitors. Corals that take
years to grow are being damaged or destroyed in an instant.
Now is the time to act.
efforts to protect reefs by visiting marine parks. Help
them to be a success by carefully obeying all the regulations.
- Learn more about reef and other
marine life. Your visits will be all the more enjoyable.
- Be satisfied with nature as it
is. Fish feeding has a place in selected areas but is best
resisted elsewhere. It disrupts natural behaviour and can
upset the balance of species on reefs.
- Help keep the reef clean. Always
take your own litter away, and also pick up other rubbish
from the beach or reef.
- Support groups such as the Marine
Conservation Society that are involved in promoting the
conservation of reefs.
- Follow the visitors code. Take
care of the reef not just for yourself, but for all who