If you’re anything like me, you still vividly remember that first breath from a regulator while you were underwater. And if you’re reading this now, that experience probably changed your life forever! You became a diver!
For most of us, after earning the scuba certification, the next course of action was to book a dive trip in some tropical waters where we could explore the new and fascinating world of underwater environments.
Guided boat dives are an excellent method to improve your dive skills with general dive safety, learn buoyancy control, and fill your dive log with “critter” sightings and species identification.
But what comes next? There are numerous avenues of diving to explore, from advancing your open water skills, learning underwater photography, becoming an instructor or perhaps technical or wreck diving.
Another alternative to become a better diver!
However, if you’re “land-locked” booking guided boat dives and squeezing in a trip whenever you can easily become the norm. And really, that is perfectly okay! Diving is very much about enjoyment and experiencing the moment.
So there is another way to increase your skill level and enjoyment of recreational diving. It's not for everyone and it certainly isn’t as easy as a backward roll off of a boat, but it is extremely rewarding. I am speaking of diving the ocean from a shore entry.
My personal evolution into the skill of shore diving came about several years ago. I got a chance to meet up with my oldest son who had just completed his 5-year term with the U.S. Navy. I booked us a dive trip in Cozumel, Mexico and I purposely chose one of the smaller dive operators on the island for the opportunity to dive with a more intimate group. We were set up with a series of, 2-tank drift dives for 6 days.
Our dive guide seemed to enjoy cruising along the sand and looking into crevices and under overhangs for lobster and crab. On the fourth day, I was maybe 3 meters /10 feet away from our small group looking at something in the sand that had caught my eye.
Our dive guide, my son and the other couple were cruising along the bottom looking into the shadowy areas at the bottom of the reef. About 3 meters/10 feet right above them was this little shelf of coral where a school of silverfish numbering in the thousands, was taking shelter from the current.
I slowly ascended to the shelf and eased myself right into the center of this mass of fish. For a few seconds, I could only see the flashing of silver scales and the black eyes of this school and found myself completely surrounded by them. It was one of those extremely cool experiences that only divers have.
The school of silverfish parted and a rising stream of bubbles soon revealed our dive guide. He looked a bit frustrated with me and motioned me to follow him. So I spent the remainder of the dive following along with the group, looking into the shadowy areas and being shown lobsters and crabs.
Upon arriving at the boat, I got a fairly good lecture from the dive guide about staying “tighter” with the group. And in all fairness, I had it coming because this man was in fact charged with my safety. And yet, I felt a bit disappointed by his scolding as I wouldn’t have traded that experience of being right in the middle of those thousands of fishes. There had to be an alternative!
Discovering Shore Diving
The next winter I found myself fortunate enough to make a trip to Bonaire…The Shore Diving Capital of the Caribbean for sure! One of the first things I realized on my check-out dive is that through the luxury of boat dives and the service they provide.
I had more or less forgotten how to set up my own gear! (and it pains me to admit that).
My wife was newly certified and it wasn’t long before we began exploring the varied and accessible dives that can be easily reached from shore. What an amazing place!
The resort we stayed at has a “drive-through” station where you drop off your empty tanks from your rental truck, check your new ones for the correct pressure and off you go. While not quite as easy as falling off a boat, it’s a close second, with many dives starting just a few meters from shore.
For the most part, it was just my wife and me diving together for that week. We dove where we wanted. When we wanted. We lingered when we saw interesting things and we covered large areas when we wanted to explore the topography. We dove safely and we had a fantastic time.
It’s all up to you!
Shore diving makes you responsible for the transportation, assembly, and cleaning of your own gear. It makes you responsible for researching dive sites and understanding the local conditions. Shore diving makes you responsible for your own safety and enjoyment and it is much, much cheaper than diving from guided boats!
Shore diving is definitely not for everyone. It sometimes requires hiking heavy dive gear over difficult terrain. It sometimes requires swimming out quite far from shore to reach a reef and learning to send up an SMB.
Sometimes it requires that you abort a dive if conditions are not safe. But if you have enough confidence in your diving, safety and navigating skills, the added responsibility of shore diving will absolutely make you a better and even more confident diver!
Shorediving.com is an excellent resource for those interested in shore diving.