Of all the various practices in dive centers or resorts around the world, using of untrained dive guides to lead scuba diving beginners rank highly among the most undesirable practices. There is a very big difference between a trained Dive Master acting as your guide into the underwater realm of exploration or merely following a guide who has no training whatsoever of safety precautions and even basic first aid should there be an emergency.The only thing going for them is that they maybe thoroughly familiar with the dive sites and can show you all the interesting sights and creatures .
The sad thing about this is that many scuba diving beginners who are certified divers seem to take things for granted and ignore this issue,and settling for whoever that will be their guide underwater. ;
It is not so much of an issue when it involves experienced divers following an untrained dive guide because these divers will know how to take care of themselves. And they will know to question unsafe scuba diving practices when they recognize it.
But when it comes to freshly certified inexperienced divers,then it is a different matter altogether.
Scuba diving as a recreational activity has really exploded in popularity the last few decades and there are now practically hundreds of thousands of certified scuba diving beginners the world over.
There are many variations when it comes to scuba diving and divers. There are those who have their own equipment and some even their own boats and when it comes to diving ,they can basically do as they please. But as long as they know what it means to dive safely and have at least a understanding of dive theory and the physiological effects then the risk of undesirable incidents are minimize. Safe scuba diving is all about knowledge and practical application in relation to ones level of skill and unnderstanding.
Certified Dive masters (DMs) are trained to anticipate or deal with problems or emergencies underwater should they arise. A very well trained DM would have gone through all the rigours of training and theory relating to all the aspects of underwater emergencies.
To be a fully qualified DM,the person will have gone through the Rescue diver certification which is precisely what it;s namesake suggests. Besides the the large variety of dive theory they need to study and pass an exam, it also prepares them to anticipate or respond to any given situation that may arise when they are scuba diving .Skills like search and recovery of missing divers or inwater rescuscitation of an unconscious diver ,CPR and logistics of handling any dive emergencies are practiced using realistic scenarios during the courses before the candidate can be considered for a Dive Master course.
In a nut shell,when you are being guided by a fully trained and certified DM,that means that you are in the hands of a capable person who has been trained to prevent or avoid potentially hazardous diving conditions or to handle them if suddenly a situation does arise.
Whereas in many dive centers,the dive guides that goes with you are sometimes just experienced divers who may know the local area or dive sites but have no clue as to what are the safety aspects in terms of scuba diving. Some have an inkling of it but often times ,most of them are reckless and not only do they lack the knowledge but they jeopardize their very own safety with irresponsible dive practices ,imagine these guys leading a group of newbies who may not know any better.
The concern is exactly that. With seasoned divers who have logged hundreds of dives,they will know what is safe and what is not and usually they can handle themselves underwater , So a local dive guide is just what they need to highlight the local sites attractions but with total beginners,even though certified,they have always dived with their instructor who knows exactly what the limits are but being still fresh at the activity,they will tend to follow the dive leader just assuming or taking it for granted that it is ok. And that can be a terrible mistake.
There are situations where a total beginner who has done only 4 certification dives and for all intents and purposes are still relatively ignorant of many dive safety issues in terms of the environment and their own ability but are taken to depths well beyond what they were trained to go to or dive in strenous and potentially dangerous dive sites which to a experienced diver may be a non issue but to a newbie not knowing how to cope may end up putting themselves in a grave risk of a mishap.
Almost everyday,thousands of dive courses are conducted somewhere in the world and thousands of certifications are issued to these newly trained divers.The marjority of these newbie scuba divers are city folk who perhaps dive only a few times in a year.
During the learning of the course,they will always be under the care of a trained dive pro who will know their ability and train them according to the requirements of an entry level diver course,trying their best to impart to them the necessity of safe diving practices and hazardous situations to avoid in terms of environment or sites they may not be qualified to dive at just yet. But as soon as they are signed off as certified divers, then they are on their own under the assumption that they will remember all they were taught.
If you are a beginner diver ,always know your own limitations. All dive agencies train the entry level to a restricted depth of 18 m and certain less challenging diving environments.. There is a very good reason for that as with all the other aspects of the diving course.
The next time you are diving at a dive resort or dive center, let it be known what kind of diving environment you are comfortable with and what you are not.If the dive leader who will be guiding you is a fully trained pro,they will know exactly what to plan for you to minimize the risks and maximize the enjoyment of your underwater experience.
If you feel you need a refresher , sign up for one, even very experienced divers who have not dived for an extended period of time will prefer to do the 1st dive in a very controlled and easy dive site with a dive pro refreshing their memory of the requirements for safety. This is more so for beginner scuba divers who may need a little more than merely jogging their memory, they might need to practice the skills they learnt during the scuba diving course in a controlled underwater environment to prepare themselves into diving at a regular dive site.
Dont follow blindly. The non trained dive guides may not even realize that there are dive sites unsuitable or even dangerous for beginners. They usually see things from their own point of view. If they can dive it,so can you, perception,not accounting that they have hundreds of logged dives where you have less than 10.
But what is most alarming is the fact that some of these purportedly experienced dive guides are in fact also not very experienced divers themselves who were hired by the dive resorts or dive shops to just accompany divers to cut costs. Many of them are not even trained to handle themselves in an emergency scenario underwater much less other divers,so the onus is on you to know who is leading you and what their qualifications are.
DMs are trained to cope with or avoid potential risks and hazards which a untrained guide will not even have the thought cross their minds.A good instructor will constantly hammer in to their DMs under training , the thought of dive safety ,risk prevention or elimination , management of emergency situations, proper planning and management of divers according to experience level. Recognizing and handling stress in divers, hazardous marine life and avoidance of potential risky creatures etc etc.
So if you are a freshly certified beginner scuba diver about to sign up for a few guided dives at a dive center,just very tactfully enquire as to who will bve leading or guiding you and what dive qualifications they have.All DMs have a number assigned to them by the respective training agency, so if you fell ackward about asking for credentials,get them to sign your log book, and you will know if they are trained DMs or not.