Safe Scuba Diving and Snorkeling Tips

Protect the Environment

  • Do not touch wildlife. Avoiding wildlife is safer for you and better for the wildlife. Some marine animals have a protective coating that is rubbed off when touched, exposing them to parasites and infection. Touching or "playing" with them also stresses the animal.
  • Coral are marine animals. Take care when snorkeling or scuba diving and avoid touching, grabbing, or accidentally grazing the coral with your fins. The portion of the coral that is touched will die.
  • Do not take marine animals out of the ocean for any reason. This also stresses the animal.
  • When taking pictures underwater, do not touch the animals. Do not lean or hold onto coral or other underwater structures while trying to "get a good picture." Remember, touching coral in any way damages it, and the damaged portion will die.
  • Secure "dangling gear" that may damage the reef. Secure the secondary air source, computer console, flashlights, or any other gear that may come into contact with coral and other marine life.
  • If you witness someone abusing a marine animal, contact the authorities if the information is available. There are many reefs that are under marine law protection (for example, the island of Bonaire in the Caribbean) and have organizations to protect the animals.
  • You are in their environment and world. Respect marine life as a living being and take only pictures, and leave only bubbles.

Practical Issues

  • Bring a list of emergency numbers on your dive trip, such as the location of the nearest hyperbaric chamber, dive insurance phone numbers, and whom to contact in case of an emergency.
  • Bring a scuba diving emergency tool kit (this will contain spare o-rings, fin straps, fin clips, mask straps, etc., in case the part you need is not available).
  • Maintain your scuba gear. It is advised to have regulators serviced annually. Inspect your buoyancy compensator device prior to each dive to assure there are no holes or malfunctioning parts.
  • Carry a signaling device such as small mirror, whistle, or emergency surface marker. These items easily fit in a BCD pocket.
  • Prior to the trip make sure that your tetanus shot is up-to-date before any dive trip. Get a new shot every 10 years. See your personal doctor for immunization and health recommendations prior to foreign travel. In addition, check the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site for specific immunization requirements concerning your travel plans. If you do not have a personal physician, check your local hospitals for travel medicine clinics. You will be able to get the necessary immunizations and antibiotics through these centers in a timely fashion. Remember that some continents require multiple immunizations, so leave at least one to two months lead time for appropriate treatment.
  • If you have a known insect sting allergy, carry an allergy kit, which contains injectable epi-pens (epinephrine, adrenaline). Make sure those traveling with you know how to administer the epi-pen in case you are unable to do so.
  • Complete a course in diving first aid, CPR, or Oxygen First Aid for Scuba Diving Injuries. Take a list of emergency contacts, diving insurance information, phone numbers, and a first aid kit.
  • Refresh your knowledge of the basics of scuba diving safety prior to departing on dive trips. For example be prepared by:
    • Observing the "no fly rules" of air travel after diving.
    • Know the signs and symptoms of decompression illness
    • Know the actions to take with a mask, ear, tooth, sinus, or gastric squeeze.
    • Know what actions to take in the event you are bitten by a marine animal, come in contact with fire coral, or accidentally scraped or cut on hard coral with bare skin.
    • Know what actions to take if you or your buddy are stung by a venomous jellyfish

On the Dive

  • When boat diving, observe all regulations and rules as outlined by the boat captain. Each diver should personally check-in with the captain when boarding the boat and at the end of every dive.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol prior to scuba diving.
  • In case of serious injury:
    • Do not move a traumatically injured person unless absolutely necessary.
    • Contact emergency medical services as soon as possible.

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Medically reviewed by Joseph Palermo, DO; American Osteopathic Board Certified Internal Medicine


Divers Alert Network.