Diving Etiquette 101: Mingling with marine life

There is more to being a diver than just underwater exploration  and encountering different kinds of marine life. Proper diving etiquette is a fundamental part of diving which you can carry on throughout your diving life.  Keep in mind that you are just a guest when you venture into a marine ecosystem and as a visitor in someone else’s home, it’s only fitting that you observe good manners.

Responsible marine life interaction

Interacting with marine life is a personal responsibility that you should take seriously.  In relation to this, here are some friendly tips that can help promote responsible encounters with marine wildlife and protect underwater sanctuaries.

First of all, when you make your descent, enter the water as smooth and quiet as possible. You might not be aware of it but sound travels better in the water so the noise that you create as you enter can easily spook aquatic creatures and drive them away from the area. It’s also advisable to go slowly and avoid creating too many bubbles as you explore your surroundings to appear less conspicuous to ocean inhabitants. The less attention you draw to yourself, the more chances you have to observe marine life.

Another equally important thing to remember is that no matter how fascinating they seem, underwater creatures are not domesticated animals that you can touch whenever you please. Marine animals such as turtles, rays, eels, fish, octopuses, whale sharks, and other species are delicate creatures which can easily get stressed or injured when mishandled.

screencap from http://divemagazine.co.uk/life/7046-dive-instructor-caught-harassing-octopusIt’s sad to think that some divers don’t understand that the underwater world is not a petting zoo. Take for instance the unbecoming behavior of an SSI Instructor who was caught harassing an octopus while diving in Vietnam in his own video that he uploaded on his Facebook account.  The video clip showed him forcefully dragging an octopus from its shelter and manhandling the poor creature that was trying to flee several times. This is precisely the kind of behavior that you should not follow because it endangers the life of underwater animals.

Not touching the aquatic residents is also for your own personal safety and well-being. Be aware that some underwater creatures are equipped with certain defense mechanisms and touching them can make you vulnerable to bites and stings.

It is also vital that you keep off the bottom to avoid accidentally stepping on bottom-dwellers like stingrays and other sensitive marine life that hides under the sand.  

Make sure that you’re aware of your flippers and leg movements when diving to avoid disturbing animals, stirring up silt, and accidentally hitting a coral reef. Sometimes in the excitement while diving, the frenzied kicking of your fins can cause irreparable damage to the corals. Establishing appropriate buoyancy control can help you have better control of your movements when diving but this is not something that you can learn overnight. Buoyancy control takes constant practice to master that’s why the more you dive, the more opportunities you have to improve your skills. Aside from being mindful of your fins, you shouldn’t touch corals as well because these beautiful colored rocks in the sea are fragile living organisms.

Believe it or not, the way you look at an aquatic creature can affect your interaction. As you may well know, a predator often locks its gaze directly into its prey that’s why it’s not a good idea to stare at an animal intensely. Doing so might threaten the creature and cause it to swim away. You can use your peripheral vision instead and shift your focus once in a while because animals have a good sense if you’re watching them.

source: https://phys.org/news/2016-06-manta-rays-local-commuters-long-distance.htmlEstablishing a proper distance is also another important factor in responsible marine life interactions. Although it is normal for any diver to feel the urge to go near an aquatic creature, it’s recommended to keep a comfortable distance between yourself and the subject, whether it’s a single animal or group. Doing this will not only increase your chances of better interaction with underwater residents but also protect you from aggressive animals.

When you explore the ocean or sea, take only photographs but do not remove anything that belongs in the sea as a souvenir. You might be tempted to get a pretty shell or a starfish as a keepsake but gathering this kind of souvenir is prohibited in certain places. The best thing to do is to take some lovely shots and bring home memories that you can cherish for a lifetime.

You can book a Cabo Dive to experience a fun and rewarding marine life interactions. Remember to observe proper manners when you venture into the underwater world just as you would if visiting a friend’s house and chances are you’ll feel more than welcome among marine inhabitants. Happy diving!

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