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Beneath The Waves

From Technicolor Fish to Ghostly Shipwrecks, Scuba Diving Reveals a Whole Other World

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Fortunately, diving is much safer than most people think. According to PADI literature, "The risk of injury is much less today for diving than for other adventure-oriented sports like snow skiing.... The greatest danger facing today's recreational diver is usually sunburn." Bruce Delphia, who works the emergency hot line for Divers Alert Network (DAN), agrees. "There's a saying that it's more dangerous driving to the dock than diving, and that's probably true. Each year there are fewer than 100 deaths to U.S. citizens from diving." There are an estimated four million active recreational divers in this country, and DAN's statistics include fatalities to military and commercial divers as well.
The network, which is a part of the Duke University Medical Center, is a clearinghouse for diving information. Hospitals throughout the world contact its hot line for advice when confronted with dive accidents, and DAN provides the industry with many of its most widely used safety recommendations. Membership in DAN costs between $25 and $35 and is highly recommended for all recreational divers.
The world is filled with treasures that await divers who fall in love with the undersea environment. In California, divers swim through jungles of giant kelp. Micronesia offers a lake with two million nonstinging jellyfish. In Puerto Rico, "fireworks" go off every night in a unique bay filled with phosphorescent aquatic life. The list goes on and on. As Clive Cussler says, "Adventure is where you find it."
Larry Olmsted is a PADI advanced diver who frequently writes about travel, golf and outdoor recreation.
Great Dives
Excellent diving can be found in numerous locations around the globe. Here are some of the best:
California: The coast of Northern California offers what
many divers consider to be the best cold-water diving around, with forests of giant kelp and abundant aquatic life, especially around the Channel Islands.
Cayman Islands: The top dive destination in the Caribbean, known for excellent water conditions and steep wall diving, especially Bloody Bay Wall on Little Cayman. Grand Cayman's most popular dive site is the famed Stingray City.
Central America: Excellent wall and reef diving in Belize, Costa Rica and Honduras.
Cozumel, Mexico: The world's second-largest coral reef and
the best drift diving, as currents attract whale sharks, manta rays and sea lions. Home to Mexico's most modern dive shops.
Florida Keys: Abundant shallow dive sites, the first underwater state park in the United States and numerous wrecks, including what may be the largest ship ever intentionally sunk to create
a reef.
Great Barrier Reef, Australia: The world's largest living coral reef, in warm, very clear water.
Live-Aboard Boats: Specially designed cruise ships for divers, live-aboard boats offer weeklong packages to many of the world's top dive destinations. Guests spend time diving, not driving to dive shops and getting on boats. Live-aboards offer luxurious accommodations, on-board photo labs and up to five dives daily. The Aggressor Fleet (800/348-2628) and Peter Hughes Diving (800/932-6237) are the biggest operators of high-end live-aboards.
Micronesia: Palau and Truk are legendary dive destinations. Palau is renowned for such dive sites as Blue Corner and Jellyfish Lake, and took the world's top overall score in the most recent reader's poll in Rodale Press' Scuba Diving magazine. Truk Lagoon is the world's top wreck destination. One of Japan's largest naval bases during the Second World War, it was attacked by U.S. aircraft in 1944, which sent 60 ships, a submarine and 416 aircraft to the bottom of the crystal-clear harbor.
Red Sea: Superb diving in the cradle of civilization. Excellent reefs and conditions.
Saba: A pure diver's destination, the island of Saba, in the Caribbean near St. Martin, has a handful of small inns, a handful of residents and tremendous diving. The reefs that encircle the island have been designated as a marine preserve and are yet to be fully explored, as are the more than 400 shipwrecks nearby. This is the new hot place to dive.
Divers Alert Network (800) 446-2671
National Assoc. of Scuba Diving Schools (800) 34-NASDS
National Assoc. of Underwater Instructors (800) 553-NAUI
Professional Assoc. of Diving Instructors (800) 729-7234
Scuba Schools International (800) 821-4319
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