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Different Scuba Diving Types

There are dozens of specialty diving certifications you can obtain depending on your level of experience and expectations. Whether you’re looking to move on to more advanced types of diving or you’re just curious to see what other options there are, we’ve got you covered. Diving can be divided into two large categories: scuba diving and freediving. While freediving is done at breath-hold, scuba diving requires a breathing apparatus. There are many different types of scuba diving, each defined as either recreational or professional. Let’s go over each of the common types of diving and their main characteristics.

Drift Diving

Drifting is one of the most rewarding types of diving, but one that requires knowledge and precaution. As opposed to other forms of diving, drift diving implies going where the current takes you rather than planning where you go. The force that moves divers may be an ocean current, tidal current, or the natural course of a river, depending on where you’re diving.

Drift diving is relaxing and it’s also the quickest way to get to your next point of interest. However, the current may carry you to unpredictable places. As such, this form of diving requires a good sense of navigation, scuba diving experience and confidence. As you learn to go with the flow, it will almost be like you’re flying, as many divers describe the feeling of drifting.

While drift diving is generally safe as long as divers are properly trained and carry the right equipment, there are a few things to consider. Divers need a surface marker buoy (SMB) or a delayed surface marker buoy (DSMB) so that the skipper of the dive boat knows where they are. Being separated from other divers and taken away from the dive site to unknown waters are dangers to be aware of.

Wreck Diving

There’s something terribly intriguing in exploring mysterious wrecks underwater. Some have been on the bottom of the ocean, sea or river for thousands of years. Many are among the last physical remnants of tragedies that happened throughout the course of history. Most of these wrecks are taken over by underwater flora and attract ecosystems of fish that bring life to these artificial constructions.

While not all wrecks offer something to be discovered, there are plenty of pirate ships and large vessels where one can still observe their mechanical parts and different items they were carrying before sinking. But not all wrecks are ships or boats. Airplanes, submarines, trains, buses, and naval radar stations are also among the popular types of wrecks divers can explore.

Wreck diving is generally safe, but it does come with a few risks. Venturing inside a wreck may result in an injury or getting stuck in parts of the wreck. These are unstable structures that break apart continuously. Divers also face the danger of getting tangled in rigging, fishing nets, or even their wreck reel. Even if one doesn’t go inside, there’s still the risk of suffering lacerations when swimming too close to it.

Deep Diving

What is considered a deep dive depends on the scuba diver training organization, but a deep diving certificate generally allows one to dive down to 40 meters (131 feet). Most divers want to obtain this certification so that they can dive wrecks, caverns, and caves. Or one may simply want to swim alongside marine creatures that inhabit deeper waters and see coral plateaus sitting at depths of around 40 meters.

Some risks are associated with this type of scuba diving, however. Decompression sickness is the main risk, and it occurs because the deeper you go, the quicker the nitrogen is dissolved into the tissues of the body. Decompression stops need to be carried out during ascent to allow the body to expel the inert gases from the body.

Cavern Diving

Cavern diving is done close to the entrance of a cave, where one is still able to see the natural light and can easily find the exit. Divers swimming these waters don’t usually go further than 40 meters (130 feet) from the surface and always keep the entrance of the cave in sight. Cavern diving is considered a form of recreational diving that requires a specialty diver certification from any open-water training agency.

Although less dangerous than cave diving, cavern diving is not without risk. Common things that may occur during a dive involve the misuse of a guideline to open water, not adhering to the rule of thirds, giving in to the lure of the deep and venturing too far without proper skills and equipment.

Cave Diving

Cave diving is a form of technical diving that requires several years of training, special certification, and a different set of equipment than that used for open-water and cavern diving. It’s done as an extreme sport, for research purposes, or for the recovery of lost divers.

As with penetration diving, in case of an emergency, the diver cannot swim vertically towards the surface; they must swim the entire way back out. Navigating complex cave systems can be difficult, with exit routes at considerable distances. Many consider cave diving one of the deadliest sports in the world, yet this is mostly because of poorly trained divers that venture into caves without the proper set of skills and equipment.

Being among the most dangerous types of scuba diving, there are several dangers associated with cave diving. These include encountering an overhead environment that prevents one from making an unplanned exit to the surface in case of emergency, increased air consumption due to stress, sediment that causes visibility to drop to near zero, and so many other risks.

Night Diving

Night diving is diving in little to no ambient light. It often occurs at night, but it may also occur at dusk. Furthermore, cave diving, diving in murky or extremely low visibility water, and diving under an overhang may also be referred to as night dives. Divers need to complete a specialty course to be allowed to go on night diving trips.

But why would one go on a night dive? Firstly, because it’s a totally different experience. There are many nocturnal animals that shy away from daylight and you may only observe them during the night. There are also bioluminescent creatures that emit their own light, and it’s pretty magical to see them. Night diving also ensures some amazing shots for underwater photographers.

Darkness creates some risks divers need to be aware of. Flashlight failure is the most obvious one; it leads to loss of visual references, inability to control depth or to read instruments and control buoyancy. Precautions such as bringing three lights – a powerful main light of about 1,100 lumens, a backup light, and a signal light – are in order. Bear in mind that shining light into other divers’ eyes can damage their night vision.

Technical Diving

There’s some disagreement as to what technical diving is. However, there’s a general agreement that technical diving is a type of scuba diving that exceeds the limits of recreational and commercial diving for depth and bottom time, involves accelerated decompression, and makes use of variable gas mixtures.

Tech diving also means exposure to a (natural or artificial) ceiling that does not allow the diver to ascent to the surface vertically. Consequently, cave and wreck diving are considered by some to be forms of technical diving. A technical diver is also prevented from making a quick ascend to the surface due to decompression obligation.

Technical diving may expose the diver to dangers beyond those normally associated with recreational or commercial diving. Going deep for longer periods of time poses more risks for techs than other types of scuba diving. Some of the main ones involve decompression sickness, improper breathing technique, overexertion, and misuse of diving equipment.

Ice Diving

One of the most challenging types of scuba diving, ice diving is a penetration dive that takes place under ice. The dive time is limited to less than 30 minutes to reduce exposure to freezing temperatures. Ice divers usually dive one at a time while the other team members ensure the diver’s safety.

But why would anyone want to dive under ice? For starters, ice diving can provide unique encounters with animals such as penguins and seals or animals you may not be able to observe during summertime. Furthermore, those diving in freshwater will notice that clarity tends to increase in the winter due to lack of water circulation.

There are many risks associated with ice diving; hypothermia, getting lost under the ice, and regulator failure are among the main ones. Divers are always tethered for safety, meaning they must wear a harness clipped to a safety line that is secured above the surface.

Altitude Diving

Altitude diving is defined as the type of diving that takes place in waters found at altitudes higher than 300 meters (1,000 feet) above sea level. While most divers only experience dives below sea level, there are plenty of high-altitude dive sites around the Globe that offer a select few unique underwater experiences.

High altitude poses some unique challenges divers may otherwise not experience when diving at sea level. Reduced atmospheric pressure and freshwater affect the depth gauges. Altitude divers are also more exposed to decompression sickness because the effect of diving at altitude is greater than it would be at sea level. Because of this, there are shorter no-decompression times.