Mauritius is a diving paradise
So learn to dive before you go4th Sep 2020
If you’re thinking of moving to Mauritius, or even just buying a second home there, you’ll soon be tempted to put your head under water to explore the fantastic coral reefs. You can, of course, learn once you are there, but you could also be proactive and learn before you go.
Isn’t diving dangerous?
Don’t be intimidated by all the gear, and the glossy photos of glamorous, superfit, neoprene-clad sea-gods and goddesses in the brochures. Diving is easy, and any healthy person with moderate fitness can safely learn to dive. A caveat here: diving is easy, and it is safe, but only if you follow some simple – but counterintuitive – rules. So, don’t just take the plunge and hope for the best. Learn with a reputable instructor.
Is diving for me?
You don’t need to be superfit to dive, but you do need to be healthy, so you should get a check-up before you join a course. Conditions that will absolutely contraindicate diving are severe respiratory and/or cardiovascular conditions; ear or sinus abnormalities that impede equalisation; and any condition that may lead to sudden unconsciousness. If you don’t suffer from any of those, you should be able to learn to dive, even if you are not very strong or fit. Paraplegics, and even quadriplegics have successfully learned to dive.
Of course, there is also the psychological issue – if you are pathologically afraid of water, or are claustrophobic, diving might not be for you. And, while you certainly don’t need to be Ryk Neethling or Chad le Clos, you should at the very least be able to stay afloat and propel yourself through the water. If you can’t swim (yet), do not despair – you can learn. Even as an adult. But do that first.
Snorkel or scuba?
Both scuba diving and snorkelling are fabulous ways of exploring the reefs, and Mauritius has many lovely shallow lagoons where snorkelling is safe and accessible from the shore. Snorkelling and scuba each have their advantages and disadvantages, and it’s worth considering both, but some people may be strongly drawn to one over the other.
- is significantly cheaper than scuba
- requires less equipment and organisation
- is less technical than scuba
- is much quicker to learn
- requires greater fitness and skill
- allows for more spontaneity.
- is physically easier but takes a while to learn
- involves quite a lot of technical theory
- requires more time kitting up, etc.
- requires more maintenance of equipment
- requires forward planning
- is much more expensive
- allows exploration of greater depths
- allows relaxed and unhurried examination of interesting organisms, as you don’t have to return to the surface to breathe.
What’s involved in learning to dive?
Both scuba diving and snorkelling are easy to learn, but both necessitate the understanding of some basic physics and physiology, and require that you learn – and internalise – some counterintuitive skills. Most dive shops and/or dive clubs offer a basic snorkelling course that will qualify you to safely explore pretty coral reefs. If, however, you fancy doing some deep breath-hold diving, you could do a more intense free-diving course.
A scuba diving course will involve quite a bit of theory – diving physics, diving physiology, first aid and decompression – and a number of pool sessions in which you will learn the skills necessary to dive safely. Most of the skills you need to dive safely are quite easy but they are counterintuitive, so they need lots of repetition. Seriously – if someone tells you they can teach you to dive in two or three pool sessions, find another instructor. Yes, you can learn the skills in one or two sessions – and you will be able to perform them on request, but chances are that, unless you have internalised them, and made them a habit, you will forget them in an emergency, and just behave instinctively – which could be fatal.
Choosing an instructor, school or agency
There are loads of great dive schools in Mauritius so, if you are moving there, you may want to learn to dive there. If, however, you’re not sure whether you will live there full time, or if you plan to stay there for only a few weeks at a time, it might be worth learning to dive before you leave home.
Whichever you choose, you will be inundated with lots of marketing that tells you how much better one agency is than another. This is not true, and there is very little difference between a certification from, e.g., PADI, NAUI, CMAS, SSI, etc. There is, however, a huge difference between instructors. So, before committing, chat to your prospective instructor, and ask for referrals from past students who are still diving.
There are, unfortunately, instructors who run ‘sausage-factory’ dive schools, and admit with a shrug of their shoulders that ‘80% of the people you teach will give up diving in the first six months.’ These are also likely the instructors who tell you they will make the course easy, and that you will only need two or three pool sessions.
As with learning anything, the foundation phase is critical. If you rush through the pool sessions because you are in a hurry to get into the ocean, you may not be sufficiently confident and relaxed to enjoy your first few open-water dives. It’s worth doing those extra pool sessions so that, when you first venture out into the Big Blue, you can actually focus on the beautiful reefs and colourful fish.
Most dive schools will supply all the gear you need, but you may want to buy your own mask, snorkel and fins, as these are relatively inexpensive, and – well – if you use a rental, someone else will have put their face or feet into them.
Chat to your instructor, who can help you choose appropriate equipment that fits you properly – or get good advice from the sales people in a dedicated dive store (not the discount sports shop down the road).
You may also not really fancy slipping on a rental wetsuit, so that’s worth considering. Or, hey, the water is warm in Mauritius and there is a whole school of thought about how we humans have evolved to immerse ourselves in cold water, so consider diving without a wetsuit.
Take the plunge
Diving will add a fantastic new dimension to living or sojourning in Mauritius. You will be smack on some of the most spectacular coral reefs in the world. How can you bear to not at least take a peek?