These days the majority of people are very much aware of the environment and of the negative impact humans can potentially have on nature. It is brilliant that more and more people are considerate and supportive to protecting the natural environment both above and below the water. However, I still often see divers that drive me to despair with their behaviour and actions underwater. Most of us know how to behave, but here are a few reminders of how you can make the most of your dive trip and help ensure that the dive sites you visit remain as beautiful and as rich in life as they are today.

• It goes without saying really, but before diving keep yourself hydrated and in good health and fitness. Many cases of DCS are caused simply because the diver is dehydrated.
• While on the boat, respect the ocean environment and don’t throw anything over board. Even throwing food over the side can have an impact on the behaviour of the marine life.
• Listen carefully to your briefing, stick to the planned depths, and follow your guide – he/she is most definitely likely to know something that you don’t about the dive site – so be sure to benefit from his/her knowledge.
• Once underwater, don’t touch anything, and aim to have absolutely no impact upon the reef. Fine-tune your buoyancy to prevent bumping into coral, kicking up sand, or crashing down on the ocean floor. Don’t think it’s cool to pick up a lump of coral or a shell, it’s not! And please – don’t go holding on to turtles or stroking whalesharks either.
• Approach all marine life slowly and show respect. You’ll see more this way. If you go charging towards a shy leopard shark, fins propelling behind you, you can almost guarantee he’ll swim, quickly and gracefully, as far away from you as possible. Approach it slowly, remain in its eye view, let it get used to you, and earn its trust. You’ll be amazed how much closer you can get. If you’re waiting for that mantis shrimp to come out of his hole so you can get a good shot – please don’t poke your stick in his home and try to hook him out – how would you like it? Instead, move slightly away, make sure your buoyancy and breathing is steady and calm, and keep your eye on his hole – he’s bound to come out again. If not cast your eye around, he’s probably popped out of another hole somewhere nearby.
• Always hold safety as a priority. Don’t risk your safety in order to see something spectacular, or to get that perfect photograph. And when you do see something amazing, such as a manta ray, remember you’re human – you can’t follow the same dive profile as a manta ray. Keep an eye on your computer; it’s easy to slowly float upwards without noticing when you’re in awe of something so beautiful.
• Remember to be courteous to other divers. No matter how amazing that sea horse is that you are looking at, please remember that other people may want to see too. Photographers should follow the 6-frame rule, keep flashes to a minimum, and move on quickly without “hogging” the subject. If others are looking at the subject you want to see, don’t barge through to get your look. Wait patiently to the side for them to finish, then move gently in as they move away. There’s nothing worse than a frenzy of divers pushing and shoving to get to see something tiny in the reef. And imagine how scary it must be for the fish!
• Bear in mind that there are no guarantees when it comes to nature. Whilst you may choose your dive location carefully, and stand a good chance of experiencing beautiful conditions and amazing marine life – it is not guaranteed. Enjoy and respect everything the ocean has to offer, whatever the conditions.
To get the most out of your dive, consider that diving is not about getting from A to B as quickly as possible; it’s about what you see on the way. Take your time and let the marine life come to you. If you stop in front of a reef in the same spot for a number of minutes, you’ll find you start seeing things you’d never noticed before. There’s no need to cover as much of the reef as possible, you’ll probably see more if you focus on one spot for longer!
• Finally remember! Diving is supposed to be a relaxing and enjoyable experience. Be polite to other divers, chill out, relax, take your time, keep an eye on your buddy, and ENJOY your dive.

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