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How To Plan Your Dive

Divers for Project AWARE looking at charts underwater

Planning your dive is a big part of scuba diving and for a many scuba divers it is half of what makes scuba diving fun. The feeling when you complete a dive in which everything went according to plan is extremely fulfilling.

Planning a dive is not hard, and is something that you will learn in your PADI Open Water Course. In case you forgot or have not been diving for a while, we are here to refresh your memory!

Decide on your dive objective

The first thing to determine when planning your dive is the objectives of the dive. On the reef we see many divers whose main objective is to “sightsee” and explore the reef. At the Yongala we often have divers who are underwater photographers looking for the perfect shot. Now you can see how pairing these two divers up would be a mismatch. One might wander off trying to see everything they can and the other might spend half the dive following a turtle or ray trying to get that Natgeo-worthy shot!

Pick Your Dive Site

Once you have determined your dive objectives, it is time to pick your dive site. Even when you are at the reef there are many different “sites” you can dive at. Picking a dive site will allow you to determine the layout, current, surface conditions and other factors.

Determine the specifics of your dive

Deciding the specifics of your dive is the most basic yet most crucial part of planning your dive. This is the part where you determine your total dive time, maximum depth. Your dive time is determined by various factors such as your no-decompression limit and air usage rate; and remember, it’s not just you but your buddy’s as well!

Ideally, you want to dive to your maximum depth at the start of your dive and slowly make your way to shallower depths as the dive progresses. This will give your body the chance to offload the nitrogen built up in your system. What you don’t want to do is slowly dive to your maximum depth and then ascend in a short amount of time.

Plan your contingencies

Once the specifics of the dive are ironed out it is time to plan for contingencies. Knowing what to do in an emergency is extremely important when scuba diving. When you run into a problem underwater you want to know what to do immediately so no time is wasted. What do you do if you spend much longer in one area than you planned? What do you do if you are using air faster than you planned? These are all considerations to take into account when planning your contingencies.

Final check with your buddy

After all that it is time to do a final check with your buddy. Go through each other’s release systems, make sure you know where other’s dump valves are, what colour each other’s octo is. It is also important to go through your hand signals so that you are familiar. Your hand signal for “I can’t equalise in my right ear” might be the hand signal your buddy uses for “I don’t know what you are saying” so it is important to square that away before proceeding underwater.