The beaches of Mexico are undoubtedly beautiful, but that beauty is not restricted solely to the land. The world below the surface of the water is also breathtaking, containing countless colorful fish, turtles, reefs, and even sharks. The best way to discover the wonders of marine life is scuba diving, but before strapping on an oxygen tank, divers in Mexico must be certified, which is a fairly straightforward process.
Scuba Diving Certification
Beginners must complete a basic level of training, which allows them to descend to certain depths, depending on weather conditions. Also, potential scuba divers need to be well-versed in the geography of the region to avoid getting lost.
Scuba diving certification requires an academic training session, a confined water session, an open water dive, and confidence. Though most beginners will opt for basic training in order to dive in open water, there are also certifications for rescue divers, first aid divers and dive masters. In Mexico, basic level divers are required to be physically healthy and somewhat athletic, as well as ten or older.
The Professional Association of Dive Instructor (PADI) Scuba Diver certification, which is recognized worldwide and valid for life, allows holders to dive to a maximum depth of 40 feet. PADI scuba divers are permitted to dive under direct supervision by a PADI professional, secure air fills, rent or purchase scuba equipment and take part in supervised dive activities. For more information on certification, visit Padi.com.
Scuba Diving Safety
There are several tips for ensuring scuba diving safety. These include the following:
Don’t Hold Your Breath
Holding your breath underwater while scuba diving can cause serious injury or even death. Since the air in your lungs will expand during ascent and contract during descent, it is important to breathe naturally, since the excess air will escape. If a diver holds their breath, the air cannot escape as the lungs expand, which can result in the lung walls rupturing, which can be fatal.
Practice Ascending Safely
It is important to ascend safely. If a diver rises to the surface too quickly, the nitrogen absorbed into the bloodstream will be unable to dissolve as the pressure lowers on the way up. This can cause bubbles to form, which can lead to decompression sickness. Divers shouldn’t ascend at a rate faster than 30 feet per minute.
Since diving is a physically demanding sport, it is important to be in shape. Divers must be able to endure long surface swims, dive in strong currents, carry gear and be exposed to extreme weather. Obesity, alcohol, smoking and exhaustion, as well as pre-existing conditions, such as the common cold, can all lead to decompression sickness.
According to diving expert Kevin Cocks, "Everybody can participate in scuba diving; we teach people in their 70’s to dive. A diver’s level of fitness is not as important as simply being in good health. Diving whilst taking medication to cover up a health issue is not advisable. A diver must always select dives and sites to fit their level of fitness and training. Do not dive beyond your comfort zone."
Double Check Your Gear
In order to scuba dive safely, your equipment must be in working order. Check both your own equipment, as well as your companion’s. Be sure to know how to release your integrated weights, deploy your DSMB, and where the dump valves are located on your BCD. If diving at night, ensure you have a fully charged flashlight, a backup and a chemical light, and if your taking part in a nitrox dive, calibrate your computer to your new air mix.
Don’t Exceed Your Limits
Each diver should be aware of their own limitations. If you feel unwell, mentally unable to face the challenge, or don’t trust the weather conditions, don’t dive.
"The risks for beginners and qualified divers is the same. It is the way that we apply our training that could put us risk while diving. Difficulties normally occur on or near the surface. Small diving problems become major problems due to the lack of experience and training. For example, PANIC is the biggest problem. Panic grows from stress, if the stress is not dealt with calmly and immediately, it becomes panic resulting in a divers uncontrollable urge to surface quickly. Ascending too fast can result in an air embolism, which is a medical emergency," says Cocks.
It is important to plan a dive ahead since it is easy to lose track of time, and find yourself low on air or into decompression. Check your gauges frequently and have an emergency plan in place before diving. Divers should also plan on using a third of their air supply for the descent, a third for the ascent, and a third as a safety reserve, in case you lose track of time or need to aid your diving companion.
Best Mexico Scuba Diving Locations
The best scuba diving locations in Mexico include the following:
Yucatan Peninsula, Riviera Maya and Costa Maya
Divers are fond of the Riviera Maya and Costa Maya areas, where the Yucatan Peninsula merges with the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean, which are warm and calm.
In Banco Chinchorro, divers can view the western hemisphere’s largest coral reef off the coast of Costa Maya, between Mexico and Belize. The reef,which has witnessed hundreds of shipwrecks dating back to the 16th century, stretches over 600 square miles.
Grand Cenote Island
In the Riviera Maya, Grand Cenote Island offers an underwater spectacle of cave systems, passageways, and chambers with enormous stalagmites, stalactites, and columns.
Cancun and Playa Del Carmen
Divers in Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, and the islands of Isla Mujeres and Cozumel can revel in the warm, crystal clear waters, which hold a spectacular array of marine life.
Akumal and Tulum
In the town of Akumal, south of Cancun and Playa Del Carmen, divers will find incredible dive sites, where turtles, barracuda, lobsters, stingrays and nursing sharks make their home.
Cozumel, an island off the coast of Mexico in the Caribbean, has consistently been rated one of the best scuba diving locations in the world. The site, which features the protected Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park, showcases seahorses, turtles, nurse sharks and other reef fish.