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Dive Planning Tips for Novice Explorers

Hey, Victor, how do you make a good diving plan?

Victor is our Human Resources director, he’s been a Dive Instructor for over 30 years, and a Course Director for 20. He’s a technical diver, and Instructor for technical and cave diving, with so many dives logged he’s lost count. So, if we’re going to tell you how to make a proper diving plan, we should ask those who know, right?

Do you need a real recreational diving plan or something fancy?

LOL! What do you mean by fancy?

─ It is common for many certified divers upon arrival at a dive center, to forget they are still responsible for caring for themselves and personally planning their dive, although within the parameters laid out by the dive center.  Knowledge of dive planning will enable them to make informed decisions about the dive sites offered by the center, and how to stay coordinated with the others in the group and the guide.

If you want to add value for beginner divers reading this article, we should explain how they can optimize the diving planning process to make informed decisions and know what to expect.

Said and done. If you expect to read, in this article, the same as you were taught in the Open-Water course, it’s not for you, but if you want information on how diving planning is done nowadays and make informed decisions, take a look at the table of contents and keep reading.

Dive planning - plan de buceo 2

1. How to Plan a Dive

When I started diving in the ’80s, we joined a club to learn to dive, and when you finished the course, you had no one to dive with because experienced divers didn’t want to see beginners anywhere near them. So, you ended up diving with the same classmates and going to the places the instructors took you, learning by trial and error how to plan your dives.

Nowadays, nobody goes diving in unknown places; instead, they turn to a diving center for safe and exciting dives. These centers carefully select the most attractive sites, allowing divers to choose dives of different levels according to their experience. Additionally, they provide necessary rental equipment and offer expert logistical assistance.

What the center does is coordinate individual diving plans into a common and synchronized goal, anticipating potential problems and agreed-upon limits that everyone must adhere to. It’s important to understand that, even when diving in a group, it remains the responsibility of each diver to stay within their comfort zone and not exceed their personal capabilities.


2. Choosing the Dive Site

Dive planning theory says:

  • Consider factors like your experience level, the type of dive you want to do, and the marine life you want to see.
  • Look for dive sites online and read reviews from other divers.
  • Contact a local dive shop for recommendations.

The real diving plan

Dive centers are typically situated in areas with various options available. They usually offer a wide range of planned dive sites, from simple dives suitable for beginners to those requiring advanced skills and tailored for experienced divers. Thus, on any given day, they offer dives of different difficulty levels so that divers can choose accordingly.

What does a novice diver need to do? They should select a dive site suitable for their level of experience and training. It’s important to inquire and seek advice based on factors such as depth, current strength, or other challenges like low visibility in cenotes or wrecks.

For example, at Dressel Divers, when divers we don’t know arrive, we encourage them to start with what we call a “check dive” for them to review and improve their level of preparedness and comfort, before choosing from our wider dive offer.

With this check dive, they can refresh personal dive planning techniques, practice their review of sea conditions, and equipment checking, and evaluate the group’s intentions as compared to their own abilities and comfort zone. We cannot forget that an Open Water Diver is an independent diver, personally responsible for his or her dive, even when diving with others.

3. Depth and Bottom Time

Dive planning theory says:

  • Use a dive computer or dive tables to determine maximum depth and bottom time for your dive.
  • Consider your experience level, the type of dive you want to do, and your personal air consumption rate.
  • Be conservative in your calculations and err on the side of caution.

The real diving plan

In the actual dive planning, once again, it will depend on your personal experience as a diver. The dive center will indicate the dive depth and bottom time (we have it visible and published on the website). We can make recommendations when we know the client and their level of experience. Of course, it is ultimately up to the individual to choose.

Dive centers, typically, choose multi-level dives, avoiding excessively deep or long dives. Serious dive centers such as Dressel Divers rarely plan dives exceeding 30 meters to stay within conservative recreational limits.

Dive centers also provide larger tanks for heavy air consumers so that their personal dive plan need not diverge significantly from that of the group, in terms of bottom time and prioritize dive computers for more accurate bottom time planning and readings.


4. Selecting the Right Equipment

Dive planning theory says:

  • Choose the appropriate wetsuit or drysuit for water temperature.
  • Select a buoyancy compensator device (BCD) sized and weighted for you.
  • Use a regulator in good condition, recently serviced.
  • Carry an emergency kit with o-rings, fin straps, batteries, etc.

The real diving plan

Equipment is crucial, but beginners usually rely on dive centers for gear. Professionals adapt equipment based on dive planning and location. For example, at Dressel Divers, we offer different wetsuit thicknesses depending on the dive environment. Beginners typically arrive with minimal gear, relying on the center for the rest.

“…carry different-sized o-rings, fin straps…? That’s the theory,”

WHAT? So, I arrive at the dive center with a swimsuit, a towel, and my box of spares. If I don’t have my own gear, how am I going to carry fin straps? What the manuals say makes no sense when you’ve just started diving. It does make sense for experienced divers who already know how to perform repair procedures and dive on their own.

Dive planning - plan de buceo 4

5. Logistics Planning

Dive planning theory says:

  • Organize transportation to and from the dive site.
  • Check the weather forecast and plan for possible changes.
  • Pack all dive gear and personal belongings.

The real diving plan

Divers need not worry about logistics; dive centers handle transportation and monitor weather conditions. Centers like Dressel Divers design boats with divers’ needs in mind, with direct communication with port authorities for weather updates.


6. Dive Emergency Action Plan

Dive planning theory says:

  • DEAP must include protocols for underwater emergencies like decompression sickness, loss of visibility, or medical issues.
  • Detail roles, responsibilities, communication procedures, and proper evacuation.
  • Include information on available resources like rescue equipment, medical services, and nearby medical facilities.

The real diving plan

Emergency procedures are crucial. What if I get separated from my buddy? How should I act if I run out of air? What do I do if the current separates me and sends me far away from my companions? And what if a buddy becomes unconscious and I need to bring them to the surface? These are all situations that a certified rescue diver or higher knows how to handle.

That’s why at diving centers, we go in groups, and the Divemaster or Dive Instructor knows exactly what to do because we have established diving protocols. They know who to contact, where to turn for help, how to proceed with an evacuation, have an emergency kit prepared, and know how to use it, etc.

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7. Self-assessment and Buddy Evaluation

Dive planning theory says:

  • Assess personal readiness considering physical health, fatigue, stress, medications, and alcohol consumption.
  • Similarly, evaluate your buddy’s physical condition and training.

The real diving plan

Personal physical fitness considerations are something every diver can and should take care of, but when it comes to dive buddies… unless you’re going with your spouse (and you know you’ll end up arguing) or you’re diving with whoever they assign you at the dive center.

Do you ask them about their certification level and how many dives they have logged? You should, but it’s rarely done.

That’s why at Dressel Divers, we dive in groups accompanied by professionals. Furthermore, buddy assignments are made based on diving level, pairing divers by experience levels.

It’s also true that there are highly experienced divers who love mentoring. They are old friends of dive centers, diving frequently and not minding diving with someone less experienced, but that’s rare. Typically, advanced divers prefer not to have novice companions.


8. When is the Detailed Dive Plan Prescribed by the Books Made?

We have already seen that dive planning according to the manual involves a lot of detail, but just because a dive center facilitates decision-making for us does not mean that these skills are not important.

In technical diving, divers do indeed spend even more time planning their dives, much more in fact; they may spend days planning a single dive.

On the other hand, professional divers can help review the dive planning to provide a good service to beginner divers. It’s part of their job at dive centers. That’s why at Dressel Divers, we have a SDI & PADI Divemaster and Dive Instructor Academy. By training our own professionals, we ensure that they have the levels of knowledge and qualifications we require.

If you prioritize safety, maximize underwater time, appreciate personalized attention, seek high-quality services, and value a company’s knowledge and experience in coordinating dive planning, fill out the form, and let’s talk.


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