SCUBA diving during COVID times

Written by Thomas Collins

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced the diving industry to take an unexpected and extended stay of leave. However, with many countries making great progress in containing their respective COVID-19 outbreaks, some places are making a measured and steady return to scuba diving activities.

Advice From: SSI And DAN – On How Divers Can Get Back in The Water Safely.

Scuba divers around the world are eager to get back in the water and get their snorkels wet again. As diving operators reopen globally, they encourage divers to #DiveLocal. To help divers prepare for the new reality of diving during COVID-19, the Divers Alert Network (DAN), recently issued advice to dive operators on how to safely resume operations. SSI have created a tool in the form of their travel restriction map; this is searchable by country and offers a more detailed rundown of the restrictions in that area along with the sources for the information.

While this guidance gives divers a small idea of what they can expect when returning to their dive shop—reduced boat capacity, a possible disappearance of communal rinse barrels and simulated air sharing in training courses—the best practices also include ideas for what divers can do to keep the industry healthy & operating.

Please note: While these actions can reduce the likelihood of coronavirus transmission, the risk cannot be entirely eliminated when interacting with other people.

We are conscious that we are communicating to a global audience of divers, so we urge you to firstly follow the guidelines wherever you’re returning to diving. If local authorities are discouraging diving, be respectful of that – it may be in order to preserve emergency medical services. You should also be following the general safety guidelines outlined by the WHO (World Health Organisation), including maintaining a 1-2m distance from others where possible, frequently washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, nose, eyes and mouth, monitoring yourself for symptoms and quarantining if you exhibit symptoms.


Dive Centres

The diver or dive student needs to feel safe before they will go into a store to purchase gear or training, to board a dive charter, or simply to go diving. For the foreseeable future, this is going to mean wearing masks in public, social distancing in dive shops, fewer passengers spread out on dive charters, an emphasis on online training where possible, and smaller class sizes, again to allow students to practice social distancing. Pay by phone or curbside tank drop off could also be effective interventions to reduce the chance of infection.

One positive aspect of this pandemic is it has forced dive shops and training agencies to move towards more online training. E-learning has been growing in popularity for some time and has been embraced by various training agencies and dive centres to greater and lesser degrees. RAID now allows students access to all their training materials from open water diver through cave diving instructor at no cost. Other training agencies have also moved towards offering certain courses at low or no cost to students to keep money flowing into the dive centres during this exceedingly difficult time.

Webinars and Zoom conferences have become the new normal. There have been several outstanding live conferences put on by The Diver Medic, Dirty Dozen Expeditions, Dive Ninjas, Deeper Discussions and Shallow Thoughts, Divesoft Talk Live, and many others these past few weeks. I imagine dive centres will incorporate this mode of education into some aspects of their academic courses in the future.

Unfortunately, many dive centres will not be able to financially weather this storm, but as a community we need to do everything we can to help support our local dive centres. Take this time out of the water to get your gear serviced. For dive centres not located in diving hotspots like Florida or California, it is going to be really tough until travel restrictions are lifted, and their customers feel comfortable getting on an airplane. If you have a trip that is in jeopardy, consider rescheduling rather than cancelling and asking for a refund. Buy gear in preparation for upcoming dive trips in advance of the quarantines and shelter in place orders being lifted. Sign up for continuing education and do the academic portions online or via a conferencing app with your instructor. Every little but helps. We are all in this together.


Where & how to plan a dive trip in COVID-19 Times?

Planning a dive trip during COVID-19 times? With the pandemic dragging on, many scuba divers have had the longest surface interval ever. We cannot wait to put their scuba diving masks on!

Even though it might not be possible to travel right away with lockdowns, and/or family and financial obligations, nothing prevents you from planning your next dive trip right now! Indeed, many trips from 2020 have already been rescheduled to 2021 and 2022, if you would like to dive anytime soon, it’s better to plan ahead.

Are You Still Fit to Dive?

Remember to check-out with yourself before planning a dive trip if you are still fit to dive. You can use DAN Europe Diver Medical questionnaire as a checklist to go through.

If in any doubt, check with your local physician and take the necessary exams to make sure you can dive safely.

Which Safety Protocols Are in Place in Liveaboards & Dive resorts

Most dive operators have now put in place comprehensive safety procedures.

Before departure, a good practice of a liveaboard in Socorro is to ask guests to take their temperature twice a day for one week before departure. If you ever get COVID-19 symptoms or a light fever, you can reschedule your trip with no fee.

Taking temperature every day with a contactless thermometer during the trip is also a common practice.

Some liveaboards keep a cabin without any guest in case they would need to quarantine someone during the trip. Ask about these practices before booking.

If you have not invested in your own dive gear yet this might be a good time to do so. Even if it’s possible to disinfect the equipment, you’ll reduce your level of anxiety if you have your own mask, snorkel and regulator. Ask about who sets up the dive equipment on board, and once all geared, remember to do your buddy check without touching each other’s equipment.

When choosing a liveaboard, ensure there is plenty of space inside and outside so that you can social distance easily. If you prefer to social distance even more, an eco-resort is an ideal place to do so. Choose a small, responsible operation that supports local communities, they need it even more now!

How Flexible Are Booking and Cancellation Conditions?

Ask about the Special COVID-19 booking conditions. For instance, many liveaboards and eco-resorts accept a very small deposit at booking to secure your place, sometimes as low as 10%.

Conditions are also very flexible to get a refund or change dates in case of COVID-19 related causes, such as illness, borders lockdown, or cancellations of flights between the two countries.

In these times of great uncertainty, it is a good idea to ask a dive travel agent to help you out figure out which options are best for you. It might save you some headaches, and it will support small businesses you share the same passion with!

Advocate for yourself

Divers who are concerned about COVID-19 must take the correct precautions to protect themselves and others. If you’re thinking about booking a trip, call the dive operator and ask what disinfection procedures they’ve put in place. If they don’t seem adequate to you, book elsewhere. This is especially important if you plan to rent equipment.

If your dive destination is close to home or otherwise convenient, bring your own equipment, or at least the equipment that will come into contact with your eyes, nose and mouth. You should also consider cleaning your gear by yourself, away from other people or communal rinse tanks.

Make the rules & enforce them!

If you work at a dive shop, create a clear plan and let customers know ahead of time about any special procedures they will have to follow. Consistency is key, so even divers who bring their own equipment should follow relevant procedures, such as disinfecting equipment before rinsing.

Some top-notch examples of dive centres taking disinfection seriously have surfaced. This video of Mares Ecuador’s infection control procedure is a fantastic example of steps that dive operations can take to reduce the spread of COVID-19.


Stay distant at the surface!

Stay six feet away from other divers until you are underwater, such as when riding a boat out to the drop, checking your buddy’s kit or renting equipment. This means, for example, you should inspect your buddy’s equipment visually before getting in the water, but not reach out to adjust any of their straps. Keep at least six feet between you and other divers when in the water as well until you are securely below the surface. Once submerged, “breathing from scuba substantially reduces respiratory transmission concerns,” in the best practices document posted on the SSI website. “This is obviously important underwater because close contact is important for safety control, skill conduct and maintaining buddy contact.

Breathe through regulators in close quarters.

Some situations require proximity to other divers when at the surface, like dealing with a panicked diver or doing a tired diver exercise. While a regulator does not protect those around you from your exhalations, warns SSI, breathing through your regulator allows you to pull from your tank air, reducing the chance of inhaling respiratory particles floating around you.

Wash or sanitize hands while topside.

“Divers should avoid touching each other’s gear, but sometimes it is necessary before, during or after a dive,” says SSI. “The best practice is for divers to wash/sanitize hands before and after touching their own and someone else’s gear, meaning before and after the dive in most instances.”

Exercise caution with sanitizer around canister fills

Frequent disinfection of hands and equipment is key to limiting transmission. But DAN warns divers to keep alcohol away from canister fills in order to avoid accidentally igniting a fire.

“Note that alcohol-based hand sanitizers are incompatible with compressed gas,” DAN says in its online FAQ. If you are filling your own tank, “alcohol-based substances should not come into contact with…cylinders and fill whips that are used with any compressed gas but especially oxygen-enriched gas. This would increase the risk of fire and explosion due to the high volatility of alcohol and its ability to ignite at relatively low temperatures.”

Washing hands with soap and water is a far preferable route. If hand sanitizer must be used, DAN urges divers to make sure their hands are “completely dry and all alcohol has evaporated.”


Smear defog, not saliva.

Some divers swear spit clears a mask better than any defog. That debate will have to wait. Spitting nearby other people—especially into a rented mask—could increase the risk of transmitting coronavirus. Rely on defog for the foreseeable future to get a clear view underwater.

Moving forward

With a somewhat uncertain future, it’s hard to know what diving will look like this time next year, but we do know that COVID-19 will change the diving community’s practices for the better. Greater attention to infection control can only serve our community well.

For more information, check out Divers Alert Network’s COVID-19 page. If you have additional questions, email DAN at

thomas collins

Thomas Collins, Contributor

Thomas is the diver behind and loves everything about snorkelling & scuba diving as he feels it presents a great sense of freedom while experiencing some of the amazing sites nature has to offer.  He wants everyone to get the most out of their experience so he reviews equipment that you will need & help you to choose the best. While also providing useful information about this wonderful pastime.

You can visit him at

6 Ways we can All Protect the Coral Reefs

In 2018, on May 1, Hawaii banned the use of certain sunscreens that are harmful to coral. In November, Palau followed suit. With 14,000 tons of sunscreen washing into the ocean every year, there is a real danger to the coral reefs we love and enjoy.

At the same time, tourism is one of the strongest protectors of coral reefs and dive sites around the world. Globally, coral reef tourism is worth $36 billion every year. Quite an incentive for governments to care for and protect their coral reefs. It can get confusing for divers–are we caring for or hurting our coral reefs?

Here are some ways you, a responsible diver, can help us protect and preserve our coral reefs for years to come.

Increase Your Skill

Our coral reefs and marine life are more delicate than they look. Sometimes, just by kicking up too much sediment, we can make it hard for corals to clean themselves. One way we as divers help protect the reefs is to make sure we hone our dive skills until we can enjoy them without touch or damage. For example;

A Scuba Skills Update

provides you with the opportunity to review and practice necessary scuba skills that you learned in your original Open Water Diver program under the guidance of an SSI Dive Professional. The Scuba Skills Update is often a required for continuing your diving training after a long period of time away from the sport.

SSI Perfect Buoyancy

Do you want to increase your buoyancy control, minimize your breathing gas consumption, or move effortlessly above the ocean floor? The SSI Perfect Buoyancy program teaches you the skills and techniques needed to maximize your dive experience, increase your comfort in the water, and get the most from your equipment. You will earn the SSI Perfect Buoyancy Specialty certification.

Use Gear that is Sustainable

One of the biggest pollution creators in the ocean is plastic. More importantly, in looking at how plastic impact the reef, it isn’t just about the trash, but the significant increase in disease based on contact. The likelihood of disease increases from 4 percent to 89 percent when corals are in contact with plastic.

When looking at gear options, look at using gear that is sustainable. Research gear that is eco-friendly, gear that uses solvent-free glue and works to be the “bluest” gear on the market.

It’s not just gear but support companies that actively use sustainable practices throughout the whole manufacturing process

Post Instructive Photos or Videos

Social media is a great way to encourage eco-conservation. When you post photos or videos, you could also share a little more trivia about the reef, fish, or other marine life. You can also add a reminder or tip about how to get close to your subject matter without harming any life forms.

Share Your Experiences

As an environment-aware diver, let your voice be heard by sharing your experiences. Sometimes, different divers and bloggers post and share what they did without encouraging responsible diving. New or first-time divers read these experiences and don’t find out that there’s more to diving than just good pictures and surreal views. Add your voice to the newsfeed and share how conservation efforts allow you and others to enjoy different dive sites. 

Help Through Clean-Up Dives

You can ask your scuba dive guide if it’s okay to pull out trash you see floating around or embedded in the sea floor. With the number of tourists and divers in one spot, it’s not always easy for caretakers to keep the beaches clean. When you have the chance, even on the beaches, you can help pick up and properly dispose of man-made trash.

SSI even has specific courses to equip divers to better understand the marine ecology and our impact upon it. Plus there are many ways you can participate actively in cleaning up coral reefs and other dive areas. You could even become an instructor and help other divers turn their dives into advocacies that protect our reefs.

Or join Trash Hero on one of their weekly clean ups around Bali.

TRASH HERO is an energetic, volunteer-led movement that drives change within communities around the world, motivating and supporting them to clean and prevent plastic waste.”

The Green Fins Initiative

The United Nations Environment and The Reef-World Foundation internationally coordinate this initiative. It holds dive centres, guides, and partners to a 15-point code of conduct that preserves the environment.

You can take part by diving with Green Fins dive centers (we proudly are one of them), becoming a Green Fins dive guide if you are an instructor, or even donating to Green Fins if you would like to take part in that way.

Diving is a wonderful experience that shows us the very real natural beauty of the underwater world. Join us in our adventure to protect, preserve, and enjoy our coral reefs!

James Donaldson, Contributor

James is an avid diver that loves to write almost as much as he loves to dive. James fell into diving backwards. His first job out of high school was fish tank maintenance for a local fish store, and he fell in love with coral, fish, and invertebrates.

5 Tips for Snorkeling Menjangan Island

snorkeler at menjangan island

#1: Safety First

Of the 5 Tips for Snorkeling Menjangan Island I feel this is the most important. Go with the professionals.

We all understand what a budget is, but as the old adage goes

You pay for what you get.

Don’t let price be the deciding factor where your life and safety is concerned. Ask the questions.

  1. Are they legal?
  2. Do they follow the safety guidelines?
  3. Are the guides qualified, properly trained?
  4. Do they adhere to an environmentally friendly philosophy?

Just because there is a logo in the window of one of the well know organisations, it does not mean they are register dive centres. It just means that they have stickers.

Check organisation websites for a base near your hotel:

Being listed on these websites means that these dive bases have to adhere to and maintain certain standards. But also visit the base itself, email them, ask questions, check some reviews. Stay Safe.

who to dive with the logos

#2: Diveboat or Rent’A’Wreck

Standards may vary.

For example, purpose built speedboats, with safety equipment, communication equipment, a first aid kit, maybe even a certified Captain. Or alternatively rotting chunks of assorted wood nailed together in the shape of a boat with a putput attached to its aft. I know which I prefer, which is why I like our boats.

Whichever you end up on simple rules apply.

  • Remember boats have limited space, so stow your gear properly between use. Try an stow equipment so as you need it, you can take it out. As you finish with it, you put it away.
  • Boats are unstable platforms. So avoid walking around in a swell, especially if someone didn’t observe the first point and left their equipment lying around.
  • Do not walk around in fins. On boats or on land for that matter. Three reasons; They’re not designed to be walked in. You can break them and yourself if you do. Most importantly, you look stupid and no one likes to look stupid.
  • Always careful getting in and out of boats. Again, not stable platforms. One at a time, stay out from underneath the entry point or ladder when someone is climbing in or out. Just incase they slip and fall.
  • Pay attention to the crew and briefings
  • Stay away from the blunt bit at the back where the engines are attached. Especially if the engines are running.

Following the rules of the boat and a bit of commonsense is the key to staying safe on a boat.

#3: Take Precautions

If like me, you grew up in a place a bit further North, where the sun is a legend told around camp fires on grey wet summer days whilst out hunting woolly mammoths. You’re probably well aware of what that warm round orb of legends can do to your skin if you don’t use a bit of protection. Sunscreen boys and girls, very important. Equally important is to use something that is coral friendly.

It has been proven that a lot of your standard, go to sunscreen options are not good for our delicate eco systems. The chemicals in the sunscreen can be toxic to the coral reefs. So if you’re planning some snorkeling or diving, be aware of this and buy something coral friendly. Also try to apply sunscreen at least half an hour before entering the water so it has time to soak into the skin. Be particularly careful with back and back of legs. Remember if you’re snorkeling, you’ll be face down for a while and the water is cool and deceptive. Same on boats. Being wet and because there is a breeze, tends to make people forget the sun.

Rashvests, are a good option in the water when snorkeling Menjangan Island. They add a layer of protection from the sun and also jellyfish if they are around. Not usually a problem, but it is the ocean, there are things in it. Which is why we keep vinegar on the boat.

Hats and sunglasses also recommended.

Stay hydrated! It’s good for you, good for your skin, keeps you healthy and this is the tropics. We are after all only 8 degrees South of the equator, its hot, you’ll sweat and speaking from personal experience, even mild heat stroke isn’t nice. You don’t need to drink gallons at a time, just remember to drink regularly and you’ll be fine.

#4: Protect it for the Future

Lets face it, as a species we are pretty naft at looking after the planet. But we could do better.

Which is why Sea Rovers has become a member of the Green Fins initiative. This is a voluntary oganisation that is helping to establish rules and guidelines for dive centre operators. Supplying materials and rules to help make them a better business environmentally. More about this in a different post.


Watch your feet and fins at all times. Most damaging contacts to the reef come from your fins. Corals are very fragile and take a long time to grow.


If you are not careful, your fins can stir up the sediment and debris, upsetting sandy habitats and covering nearby corals.


We have all seen the images and videos by now of the mess of plastic polluting our oceans. Try not to add more, Marine debris can kill turtles, birds and coral. Show respect, dispose of trash properly.


Food thrown overboard attracts fish away from their natural food source. This upsets the food web. Fish feeding also encourages unatural habits and can cause aggression in marine animals. Again DO NOT FEED THE FISH.


If it is found underwater, it should stay underwater. This activity is often illegal and can leave species homeless.


This can cause great stress to any animal. You can also transmit diseases or remove protective coatings on fish, invertebrates and other species. Look but never touch; try not to get too close.

These are amongst the important rules when out snorkelling with the Pirates Who Dive. Please follow them.

Menjangan Island snorkelling

#6: Its about the fun and a little bit more

Ultimately its all about you having fun in a safe and responsible way. We do our best to take care of the safety side of things so you don’t have to think about it too much. The safety, snorkelling equipment is maintained and looked after. Our licensed guides are properly trained, know what they are doing and are keen to find you the treasures that lie beneath the Bali Sea.

We provide you with environmentally aware guidelines to help preserve and protect what you’re here to see. So that you can come back, again and again, to see it with others. Who can also enjoy it too because you made an effort to do the right thing? By helping and supporting one of the legitimate businesses of North West Bali, who make an effort to protect the delicate ecosystem that is our lifeblood. You are helping us to maintain.a balance between tourism and the marine environment.

Remember. Be Happy and Snorkel Pirate


Menjangan Island is now cleaner

Diving, snorkeling and an impromptu beach cleanup

Not so long ago, on an island in the Bali Sea, a motley group of pirate divers and snorkellers stumbled across a beach strewn with plastic and decided to do something about it.

Every little bit helps.

Scuba 101: Dive tables

SSI Open Water Diver dive tables

Learning your dive tables is the absolute basics and part of the foundations of Scuba diving. They should be taught as part of every open water diver course. The “You have a dive computer, don’t need those.” mentality has become way to prevalent these days.

Don’t get me wrong, dive computers are great. But they are not infalible, it pays to know what they’re are based on. Besides, tables don’t need batteries.

So follow the link to learn more about why learning dive tables and carrying them is so Important.

Learn more

Sea Rovers Message in e-bottle The pirates who dive
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