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3 Tips for First-Time Scuba Divers Visiting Tobago

3 Tips for First-Time Scuba Divers Visiting Tobago
Photo Credit: Ty Sawyer

Have you noticed that we don’t do too many scuba diving stories here on Uncommon Caribbean? It’s not that we’re against diving, or think that it’s not uncommon enough. It’s just that… well… we don’t dive.

*Gasp!*

This is a hard truth for many of my stateside friends (and probably more than a few of you) to swallow. How could someone who grew up among the most jaw-dropping undersea environs in the world possibly escape the siren song of scuba? Truthfully, I have no real answer.

I’ve always loved to snorkel, but just never took the time to get certified. As for Patrick, I’m not 100% sure that he’s avoided taking the plunge his whole life. As regular readers and Facebook fans know, though, he’s literally out to sea at present and blissfully unavailable to confirm or deny much of anything.

So, I think it’s high time we rectify this, no? As a start, I contacted my good friend and unabashed scuba diving addict, Warren Solomon. You may remember Warren from this informative 2010 post listing his top choice dive spots in Tobago, where he serves as Director of Tourism and unofficial ambassador of all things scuba diving. In keeping with both roles, Warren is getting set to host the second annual Tobago Underwater Carnival, May 16-23, which with its instructional seminars would’ve been a great place for me to get started on the sport.

Either way, here are three great tips Warren shared with me that will come in very handy if I’m lucky enough to finally start diving on my next trip to Tobago…

Where should I dive?

Two spots, Arnos Vale and Mt. Irvine Wall, are ideal for first-timers. Both are considered easy dives, though Mt. Irvine is a tad more challenging.

Is it best to start at maximum depth and work back up, or vice-versa?

Definitely start your dive at the maximum depth you’re comfortable with and work your way back up. There’s some indication, though no definitive proof, that this is safer from the standpoint of avoiding decompression sickness. However, equally important from an air management perspective, it’s certainly better to end your dive in shallow water in case you run low on air.

Any special safety concerns I need to worry about?

It goes without saying for most people, but as I know you UC fellas love rum, absolutely avoid alcohol prior to diving! The nitrogen in your breathing air has an anesthetic effect, which increases with depth, so alcohol only make matters worse. You certainly want to have all your wits about you when you dive. There’s no minimum time from “bottle to throttle,” as there is in flying, just use common sense. Certainly you never dive if there’s any indication that you’re impaired.

Nice. As a legendary Carnival reveler, I wonder if he had to learn that last lesson the hard way…

Now, once you get your skills past the novice stage, Tobago will continue to thrill you with its more challenging undersea adventures. As he pointed out in last year’s story, Warren reminded me that Tobago is home to the world’s largest brain coral, located at Kelleston Drain off Speyside. There’s also a great wreck, the MV Maverick, encrusted with colorful marine life at Mt. Irvine, and more!

The Association of Tobago Dive Operators is the official dive organization on the island, so it’s always a good idea to make sure you’re diving with one of their members when you’re down there. Click here for a list of members, and we’ll see you soon under the sea!

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