A few tips on Interacting with Marine Life whilst scuba diving….
Crystal Dive is one of the leading dive centres in the world for producing and educating scuba divers about diving and marine life.
We realise that being positive role models, sharing our knowledge & passion and encouraging good diving habits and etiquette will help our divers enjoy being underwater even more.
Many times, I have been asked “how do you get a pufferfish to puff up?” or “can we make sea cucumbers squirt?”. It is here when I will then point out how harmful that can be to the animal.
Look, but DO NOT touch!
Become a fish instead.
The simplest answer to the question of what is the best way to interact with marine life is to look and do not touch. By adhering to this simple rule, you will be able to observe your subject behaving as normal as possible in its natural habitat.
Being calm and passive means you won’t scare marine life away and you will be amazed at how close you can actually get to most underwater creatures.
Behaving like a fish yourself will give you the best chance possible to observe fish!
Here are my tips for a better, all round interactional experience with marine life….
1. Relax and Swim Slowly
Generally marine life doesn’t like the sight of a large, strange looking creature heading straight towards them, making lots of noise with lots and lots of bubbles coming from its mouth. That is how we look to them! Once they see this large, noisy ‘human fish’ swimming directly towards them, most marine life will head to a safer place, meaning you won’t get an opportunity to have a good look at it.
To counteract this, GO SLOW, be relaxed and minimise your movement. I always tell my PADI Open Waterstudents the ‘the slower you go, the more you will see’. This will minimise the possibility of scaring the fish away
2. Take A Break, Stand Still
Stop swimming and hover motionless is a great way to have the fish to come to you. You can do this directly next to, or above the reef or while muck diving out in the sand. Find a good spot and you’ll be amazed at the little things that catch your eye which you previously would have swam past. By remaining motionless the fish will become more comfortable with your presence, and will continue their normal routine.
3. Show Some Respect, Do Not Chase
One of the worst things you can do underwater is to chase fish. Ultimately fish are a lot faster than you are so you will never catch up! On Koh Tao we have the opportunity to dive with majestic Whalesharks which will get even a seasoned dive professional super excited.
However, it can be sad to see whose beautiful creatures being chased off dive sites by groups of scuba divers literally chasing after them. Giving the animal respect and the space it deserves will give everyone a much better dive experience.
4. Edge Closer, But Slowly
While following the above tips if you still want to get closer for a better view you should slowly and gently edge forward. SLOW being the key word here if you want to get this right. You need to ensure the animal is comfortable and does not feel threatened so it’s imperative you don’t make any sudden movements. Having the animal getting used to you before you move in again will have him feel relaxed with your presence.
5. Position Yourself
You should also think about your position underwater. Are you potentially positioning yourself in a place that may be considered a threatening position? Are you positioned between the animal and its juveniles? Or could you be in a spot where you might be blocking access for a turtle to head up for a breath?
You need to have some situational awareness of where you are in the water which in turn will help the creature you are watching to feel more relaxed.
There are also a few PADI Speciality Courses that you can take to help improve your diving knowledge and skills to help you get better marine life interaction.
The PADI Underwater Naturalist course will educate you how better to identify fish, learn where its habitat is and if it has relationships with other creatures. Many marine creatures have a symbiotic relationship with another giving you great insight into how they act and co-exist underwater.
The classic case is a cleaning station – this is where fish come to be cleaned by a smaller fish called a cleaner wrasse. Even sometime these little critters will come over to you and try to give you a quick clean.
Peak Performance Buoyancy
Improving your buoyancy skills will definitely help you to get closer to fish and will also make you more relaxed underwater, meaning longer dive times. Becoming streamlined, have proper weight distribution and maintaining proper trim, not to mention learning how to hover motionless in different positions will have you moving smoother through the water, or alternatively remaining totally still, allowing better viewing opportunities of the creatures you are diving to see.
Being a Peak Performance Buoyancy expert gets you closer to the aquatic life, whilst at the same time reducing the effect you make on the underwater world.
This course will help you not just identify fish but also place them in appropriate family groups, and identify specific species. Recording information such as fish name and species they belong to as well as abundance and habitat information this course brings certain specific characteristics of unfamiliar fish to your attention, encouraging divers to note this information down in an attempt to determine their identities after the dive.
Like with many PADI courses, the Fish Identification course places emphasis on appropriate and responsible dive practices and behaviors to minimize negative environmental effects.
Author: Neil Davidson (PADI MSDT #294100)