Scuba 101: An Introduction To The Life Aquatic - My Family Travels

What every beginning scuba diver should know, plus some scuba-safety tips and more from the undersea experts.

“A whole new world” is how one scuba diver described his experiences underwater in the Caribbean Sea.  Many would agree and have made scuba diving one the most popular aquatic sports in the world, one enjoyed by people of all ages.  And why not? Just about any healthy teenage or adult swimmer can learn to scuba dive. (Note: children with ear or respiratory problems should consult with their doctors before jumping in.)

Classes are fun and can be a rewarding personal or family experience.  At many tropical resorts, families can join an introductory “Resort Course” to sample what diving is about.  Beginners can learn in a pool at their local Y. The entry-level Open Water course awards the certification card, which allows divers to go out unsupervised. Children 10 – 14 will earn a Jr. Certification, but of course they must dive with a certified adult.

These are just the beginning classes; educate yourself more and become an underwater photographer, videographer, or naturalist. Divers can learn to identify fish, explore wrecks, and so much more about a whole new world.

Here is a vocabulary list, gear checklist, safety tips, and some online sources to help you get started.


Diving Terms & Crucial Gear

Reefs:  coral colonies; this is an animal, not a plant.
Surge:  subsurface back and forth movement.
Current:  a directional flow of water than can vary in speed.
Drop off:  sheer, underwater wall.
Dive Profile:  includes depth and time to be spent underwater; this should be planned prior to making a dive.
C-Card:  certification card that shows proof of completed dive training; all divers renting or planning to go out with a licensed company will need to show this card.
Scuba Tank:  the cylinder that holds the air that divers breathe.
Wet Suit:  this suit keeps the body warm.
Bottom Timer:  this can be a diving watch or a timepiece or bottom timer on a gauge console that keeps track of the time spent under the water.
BCD:  this mandatory jacket is inflated and deflated to control your position.
Regulator:  this mandatory device connects to the scuba tank and controls airflow for breathing.
Dive Computer:  gives the diver information about depth, time under the water, and many other things.
Weights:  weights are held in weight belt and enable divers to maintain underwater positioning.
Fins:  facilitate self-propulsion in the water.

Source: Red Sail Sports

Safety Tips & Resources

Experts agree that safety is the number one concern. First, novice divers should choose a location with good visibility, within the Open Water depth limits of every family member, and without strong currents. Take the time to become comfortable with the environment and the marine life all around you. Be sure everyone in your dive group is comfortable with their equipment. And always, no matter how far you advance in the sport, dive with a buddy.

There are several good online information resources, including,, and with information about learning programs. For excellent literature on scuba diving and snorkeling specific to given regions, Lonely Planet has a Pisces Diving & Snorkeling series. Titles include guides to top dive sites in the Bahamas, Fiji, Cozumel, and the British Virgin Islands. To place an order or recieve more information, visit

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