Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Learning to Scuba Dive? Try It in Hong Kong

You wouldn’t think of Hong Kong as a dream destination for diving. Visually, it’s just not that appealing, and visibility is often not the best. Locals, however, insist that it’s a great place to begin learning, and here’s why.

Image: flickr.com/photos/100925175@N02

Hong Kong, first of all, is an island so you won’t lack for dive sites. Rob Christie of the South China Diving Club says conditions are easy enough for rookies. Average visibility is at five to ten meters, with a greenish, murky tinge. This isn’t caused by pollution, but by the seabed’s topography, which is silty and sandy. Particles are too easily stirred up by tides and have a hard time settling at the bottom.

The rocky islands that dot the surrounding seas shelter over 300 species of fish and 80 species of corals: enough to make the dive worth it. These include clown fish, snappers, sea urchins, anemones, and groupers, and sometimes a sea horse or two, maybe even some pink dolphins and possibly a lone stingray.

The more difficult diving conditions are exactly why Hong Kong waters provide excellent training for beginner divers. The often-poor visibility makes divers’ visions more sensitive, which can only get better in clear blue waters. The diving spots here also have a few dangers to watch out for, teaching beginners to be more vigilant.

Hong Kong is teeming with groups like PADI and the South China Diving Club that are eager to teach divers, share their enthusiasm, and even help you secure travel insurance. The SCDV, for example, meets every Thursday night at the Aberdeen Boat Club for drinks. Here, members share stories and experiences to strengthen relationships within the club.

The Hong Kong government requires 30 hours of training before certification. Lessons include diving physics, decompression, and the uses of diving equipment like dive tables and computers.

To begin diving, you must be reasonably fit enough to respond to possible emergencies, and be able to swim 200 meters. Buoyancy must be easily maintained for 10 minutes without strain and without any swimming aids. Six years is usually a good age to start learning. Any age, though, is of course, welcome. Make sure to check with your doctor, especially if you have a history of asthma, heart diseases, or ear problems, as any of these conditions may make you more prone to danger.

As with any activity, make sure you’re covered by travel insurance. Don’t forget to check if all your equipment function well and make sure to carefully follow safety regulations and dive within your limits. Do all these and you’re certain to enjoy the entire scuba diving experience in Hong Kong, enormously.

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