After being attacked by a titan triggerfish – an ambush that felt like a punch from Muhammad Ali’s right fist and the bite of Tyson, though I’m not one to exaggerate – I started to realise the importance of why we as divers need to remain aware when underwater.

Past that euphoric feeling of breathing below the waves, and that backseat drive in the mind of many divers to go deeper and explore further, there is an element of safety that needs to come when taking the plunge. Remaining aware of what is around you, the species to spot and the potential dangers can create a safer, more comfortable and more enjoyable dive. Of course, you naturally become more aware of your sub-aqua surroundings and how marine creatures behave, the more you dive. Due to a lack of awareness on my part, and as an inexperienced titan triggerfish boxer, I was treated as all inane intruders should be – bitten then banished from the vicinity. Here are 9 reasons why you need to be aware when underwater:

You could miss a whale shark, a camouflaged pygmy seahorse, or quarreling blacktips

Sometimes moments happen in a split second and then disappear forever. Remaining aware when underwater will give you the best chance of spotting that hawksbill turtle gliding into the distant fading blue, or that whitetip poking its nose out from under a coral garden. To create an ever impressive log book of lists of species spotted and childlike doodles of manta rays that touched your heart, it’s imperative that you stay aware when diving.

A manta ray unexpectedly glides into the view of a diver

A manta ray unexpectedly glides into the view of a diver

Your buddy could be entangled by a bobbit worm

Whether your buddy is an experienced diver or not, you need to look out for them. Recently, a friend made the mistake of assuming that their buddy didn’t need to be checked on, they were diving in Singapore in visibility as clear as English Mustard, and his buddy happened to get tangled in an unsecured leading line. At the time he had no idea, and luckily his buddy managed to break free before running out of air. If he had been new to the sport, then the consequences could have been fatal. Always check on your buddy.

Unknowingly, you might be hovering in the strike zone of a territorial animal

It’s a good idea to research into your dive destination before diving it. Often dive guides may point out the territorial marine species that you might encounter during the dive, whether that’s diving with leopard seals in Antartica or titan triggerfish in Lombok. That particular titan triggerfish episode (referred to in the introduction) was first sparked by a couple of divers quite innocently conducting a safety stop above a nest, with the triggerfish riled, as I unknowingly passed overhead I became its first victim. With a little more awareness on the part of myself and the divers conducting the safety-stop, that scenario could have been averted.

Two divers linger by the sea bottom, searching for marine life

Two divers linger at the sea bottom, searching for marine life

You could be running out of air

Breathing underwater. It’s one of the most surreal and rewarding experiences a creature without gills can experience, and not to be taken for granted. Being aware of your remaining air will help you stay safe in the blue.

You could be too deep, and going the wrong way in a strong current

Navigation is vital to staying safe when diving. Keep track of where you are heading, the depth that you are at, and the strength and direction of the current. Being swept out to sea is not all “Castaway” or “Life of Pi”; it’s a terrifying reality that can strike an  unaware diver, anytime.

Your fins might be dangerously fanning a clownfish and his family

Sometimes we may forget when distracted by a never-before-seen sight the damage that our fins may be causing other marine life. You could be accidentally kicking a vulnerable nest, or causing a tiny whirlpool that dazzles a nudibranch. Staying aware of where you are, and what you are doing, is vital to keeping the ocean and its many inhabitants safe.

Your SPG might be leaking air

Equipment checks before and during a dive are vital. Keep an eye on both your equipment and your buddy’s when underwater to stay safe. 

Your buddy might be screaming for your attention

When you are denied the option to communicate with your buddy by sound, people start to do the funniest things to get your attention – especially if you see something that you have forgotten, or don’t know, the sign for. My buddy forgot the sign for starfish – and with me out of arm’s reach, she had to fin-kick desperately into my view to get my attention. She did this by floating under my mask with her limbs outstretched like roadkill – obviously to her she was a starfish. It was all okay until she remained in the position and lost depth quickly, floating down out of my view like a snowflake. It’s worth keeping close contact with your buddy, so you both never miss an exciting spot.

Diving only lasts an hour, it’s precious time and it’s splendid to remember, be aware of that

You’ve only got a limited amount of time to explore this alien world, so make use of it in the best way possible. Follow that ancient Eastern philosophy of remaining solely in the moment, and be completely aware of it – you may even reach a greater understanding of the spiritual world in the process.

The most enjoyable and adrenaline-packed sports are often the ones that carry the most risks. With diving’s unique opportunity to explore a relatively unknown world, it is imperative that we remain constantly aware of our surroundings, for the safety of both ourselves and our buddies.

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