A Guide To Scuba Diving In India In 2021 During Covid
Scuba diving during Covid – is it safe, or are you diving into uncharted waters? It has been months since the coronavirus has kept us on dry land, marooned to the confines of our homes. But as the rules begin to change and things slowly begin to pick up pace, people are still apprehensive. Even if you have taken every precaution and booked your tickets to a seaside getaway, you may still be wondering if it’s safe to put on those diving fins. We’ve comprehensively answered all the questions you may have, plus a few you didn’t even think of, in our guide to scuba diving during Covid.
Where To Go
You may be under the impression that gorgeous coral reefs and thriving underwater life can only be found in exotic locations like the Andamans or Lakshadweep. However, India has several diving sites that offer the same stunning life to behold. The west coast of India has spots like Malvan and Goa, while the south has Murudeshwar & Netrani Island, Kovalam and Kochi. The eastern coast of India only has one spot for scuba diving, which is the gorgeous French-inspired Pondicherry.
Each of these locations will have multiple dive operators offering to take people on scuba dives. However, the time of year you visit is important as all sites have seasons in which no diving takes place due to rough seas, strong currents or erratic weather. Make sure you look up the best time to scuba dive for your preferred location before you book any tickets.
Also keep in mind that not all sites will be allowed to organise dives due to the coronavirus. For instance, the dive spots near Murudeshwar and Netrani Island in Karnataka have recently opened for divers. Sites in Goa were instructed to remain shut for the winter tourist season. Ensure you thoroughly research the state regulations for each location, calling up operators to personally enquire if you have to.
Choosing A Dive Operator
At a time when people are taking precautionary measures before stepping out for a walk, it becomes paramount to exercise caution when choosing a dive operator for your dive. The good news is that the full form of SCUBA is ‘Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus’, with an emphasis on ‘self contained’. The worry? The virus can easily be transmitted if the apparatus and gear is not properly sanitized between use.
A good thing to do is contact the dive operators in advance, thoroughly asking about their safety protocol for Covid. Their communication should be transparent and clear if they are indeed taking every precaution to ensure their divers’ safety. You have the right to request for information on the measures they are taking, including whether their staff and instructors are social distancing and what their disinfection procedures are.
Another green flag is when the operators ask you questions about your health, and insist on documentation to ensure you’re fit for a dive. This shows responsibility and professionalism on their part.
Health Restrictions When Scuba Diving During Covid
Due to its nature, there are always some health-related procedures to be followed when scuba diving. All divers are given a form to fill in which they must enlist any disabilities, illnesses and medical conditions they have. Generally, it is recommended that pregnant women, people with heart conditions or other serious conditions, and people with back problems avoid scuba diving.
But the coronavirus leaves chaos in its wake, and can plague people with respiratory disorders and irreversible lung damage among a slew of other problems. If you tested positive for coronavirus at any point, even if you were asymptomatic, ensure you ask your doctor whether diving is a safe activity for you. You may have to wait for a few months before you can attempt it. Also inform your dive organizers of the same.
Whether you’re a rookie, a seasoned diver or just someone looking to tick scuba diving off their bucket list, everyone has to take added precautions when scuba diving during Covid. The most basic of these is properly isolating yourself 14 days before your dive so as to practically eliminate the risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Buy Good Disinfectant: Any responsible dive organizers will have their own disinfectant sprays for their equipment and divers. Nonetheless, we recommend purchasing a good disinfectant to carry with you, even on board the boat to the site. Go a step further by purchasing a disinfectant that won’t harm the coral reefs.
Use Your Own Equipment: This may be tricky one for beginners or one-time divers, but if you’re a frequent diver, now is a good time to purchase your own diving equipment. While it is ideal to have a full set of your own scuba equipment, at least consider having your own equipment that comes in direct contact with your skin and face. This includes a mask, snorkel, regulator mouthpiece and wetsuit. Make sure the organisers properly sanitize all their equipment before you use it, and remember that you can always ask to sanitize it yourself as well, for your own peace of mind.
Spitting In The Mask: This may baffle beginners: a common practice among divers is to spit on their mask lenses to avoid fogging. Not only is this convenient, but since saliva is a natural solution, it is safe for the delicate coral reefs. However, at a time when we’re shielding ourselves from air-borne saliva droplets, spitting is a big no-no. An easy alternative is to use an anti-fogging agent, several of which are reef-safe.
Important Documentation: Before you head out, have a look at your travel and medical insurance to see if it covers COVID-19 emergencies, virus treatment, 14-day quarantine costs and refunds for canceled trips. You will need to carry a copy of your travel/medical insurance when you go for the dive, alongside possibly some diving insurance, medical clearance (if applicable) and a COVID-negative test result.
Our world has certainly been jolted and changed due to the coronavirus. But the world under the sea, with its bright colours and diverse life, can definitely give you a much-needed break. As with any other activity like trekking and adventure sports, scuba diving during Covid requires a strict adherence to safety and health regulations. Maintain these, and you’ll be off exploring the deep blue and its treasures in no time.
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