Closely linked with the history of the equipment used during this activity, diving with a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) has become a mainstream activity nowadays, however it wasn't until the 1950s that the acronym was patented and became the generic terminology for both the apparatus, as well as the activity itself.
What's all the hype with scuba diving?
Diving has increasingly become a popular activity with more and more individuals joining a scuba diving school and enrolling to a course to acquire some form of certification. Whether you're interested to explore a totally new world, have the ability to move in all directions at zero gravity or learn a new skill, it is not hard to understand why it has become such a sought-after sport.
In addition, there are numerous health benefits associated with it. From improving your strength, endurance levels, flexibility and overall fitness since your muscles tend to work harder due to water resistance to transforming your breathing to a calmer pace, diving is also known for lowering your blood pressure. As a result, it can be a great stress reliever. As your breathing slows down and you start feeling calmer, your stress levels instantly reduce. What's more, it is the ideal activity for socialising, since you'll meet like-minded people with whom you share a common interest, while the opportunity to interact with marine life and marvel at the variety of marine flora and fauna is second to none.
So whether you live on our warm, sunny island or you're travelling someplace tropical, diving is surely set to enrich the experience.
What are the different diving courses and guided tours available?
Whereas one-off, recreational diving is common and permissible, if you end up enjoying it and would like to dive again, it is best to get certified. All schools have a variety of courses you can undertake, depending on how much of a specialist you would like to be. But perhaps one of the most recognisable certifications is that offered by the Professional Association of Diving Instructions, most commonly known as PADI. The PADI scuba diver certification requires less time than the open water one, so it covers the first three of the five sections of knowledge development, the same applies to pool sessions and two instead of the four open water training dives.
Those who would like to take it a step further can opt for any of the most advanced or professional levels of certifications. These may include the PADI advanced open water diver course and others, whereas those who would like to become instructors can do so by enrolling to any of the courses at a professional level like the PADI dive master, PADI instructor and PADI assistant instructor.
Other, more specialised courses may include acquiring certification to become a rescue diver, an emergency first responder (EFR), an adaptive support diver, an altitude diver and a boat diver. Furthermore, certain schools may also be able to provide alternative specialisations that may not involve diving such as digital underwater photography for snorkelers or lessons to become an equipment specialist. This latter course will help you learn how to maintain your apparatus properly and how to resolve any kit issues. In recent years, many individuals are opting to delve into tec diving, which generally speaking, involves any diving set outside recreational diving limits. However, do keep in mind that it carries more risks, while it requires more effort and discipline.
All necessary information can be found on the schools' website or facebook page and on occasions, you may also find a full price list. Usually, courses will include air fills, training and the equipment hire.
Yet, local schools also offer guided tours and different diving options. For instance, the majority organise boat trips whereby you can spend a day immersed in the Maltese island's archipelago. Such trips are ideal for accessing smaller islands like Comino and Filfla. On the other hand, bearing in mind that the coast around the Maltese islands is easily accessible by car, shore diving is a breeze. Ranging from wrecks found in waters as shallow as 14 metres to tec dives of up to 60 metres and more, there is something for everyone irrespective of your diving expertise level.
What other services do scuba diving schools offer?
Equipment and supplies hire is a common amenity offered by diving schools to those who do not require certification but would like to dive. In effect, renting equipment can be a highly cost-effective way of maintaining your skills but without having to make an investment in apparatus. From masks and snorkels to dry suits and cylinders, rest assured that if you have forgotten to bring something with you, any school will be able to equip you with anything and everything that you need. Having said that, rentals are not the only service offered. Most equipment on hand can also be purchased. If you're unsure as to what you should buy, the employees will be able to advise you accordingly, potentially helping you avoid making expensive mistakes.
On the other hand, gas blending is one more service offered to those who own their own gear but who might need to have their gas cylinders filled. Depending on the equipment on hand, each school will be able to offer a variety of gas mix according to clients' needs. In essence, gas mixing consists of the filling of cylinders with nitrox, trimix and heliox, gasses that are generally intended to reduce the risk of decompression sickness and nitrogen narcosis, therefore improving the safety of the overall diving. Considering that gas mixing is a risky undertaking for both mixer and diver, ensure that your cylinders are filled by a certified school to avoid any mishaps and accidents.
Alternatively, you may need to have your cylinders inspected and hydrostatically tested. This is particularly important due to the fact that your cylinder must be suitable for the amount of pressure it is about to be exposed to. A visual inspection typically includes an external and internal inspection, pillar valve cleaning and replacing the neck O-ring. In contrast, a hydrostatic test will consist of disassembly, internal sandblasting and pillar valve cleaning amongst other things.
Scuba Diving in Malta & Gozo
Located in the middle of the Mediterranean sea and surrounded by sea, both Malta & Gozo offer a variety of diving spots ideal for both the novice and the expert who is looking to experience a variety of aquatic life, explore natural harbours, cliffs and reefs and get a thrill out of diving deep into mysterious wrecks. If you're seeking to experience something different, the numerous underwater caves and reefs will arouse your curiosity and interest. Some of the most well-known are the Santa Maria caves, the Blue Hole, Billinghurst cave and the Reqqa Reef to name a few. Looking for further ideas? Have a look at this list of top 10 diving sites in Malta.