I am always up for an opportunity to experience something new in the BVI, be it a new restaurant, a previously un-hiked trail or new activity, and my list of fun excursions that I am keen to try is almost as long as my arm. I was thrilled to get the chance to experience one of the BVI’s newest water sports this last weekend on a trip out with BVI SNUBA. I wanted to tell you a bit more about it but I think that the pictures are going to do most of the talking for me.
A bit of a cross between snorkeling and scuba diving, SNUBA (Surface Nexus Underwater Breathing Apparatus) is the ideal activity for those that haven’t dived before but are looking for a bit of an introduction to the underwater action in the BVI. No previous Scuba diving experience or diving certification is required, which makes it perfect for kids and adults alike, and this would be such a fun family activity.
Free to go down to 2ft, 10ft or even as deep as 20ft, your regulator is attached to a small harness which you can wear comfortably and linked to an air source on an inflatable raft on the surface of the water. In groups of two or four you explore the underwater paradise, with just a mask and fins, no need for tanks! With the air-line you have the freedom to dive to whatever depth you feel most comfortable (up to a maximum of 20ft) so that you get a more immersive experience than when you snorkel on the surface.
I’ve not really been able to dive much before, since I’m not certified and I never took the time to do a resort course, or my open water qualification. It has been hard to get the opportunity to go out. This has been particularly difficult for my experienced diver husband as I couldn’t ever go out with him. BVI SNUBA proved to be the perfect alternative and no previous experience is required. Finally we had the chance to go out together!
We set off for Cistern Rock, a local area off Cooper Island known for great snorkeling. There were 8 people aboard our boat but you go down in groups of two or four. Not everyone needs to SNUBA if there are younger members of your party, or those that can’t medically, perhaps they would enjoy a snorkel instead. The husband and I opted for the Duo Special when only two of you are in the water at one time, this means that you get slightly longer underwater as less people are sharing the air supply. A couple of others in the group chose to snorkel and the rest waited on Cooper Island with a cold beverage.
Rashguard swimsuit available here
We were fully briefed before our trip by the lovely Elaine and then off we went. The principles are similar to diving, and safety is paramount, but after just a few key rules you’re ready to head out.
There are six SNUBA commandments to keep in mind during your experience:
- Never hold your breath. Relax and breathe normally
- Never take your regulator out of your mouth unless you are at the surface and holding onto the raft
- Use your air line and the hand-over-hand technique to control your ascent and descent, and prevent contact with the bottom
- Always stay with your SNUBA guide and remain together as a group
- Don’t touch any marine life
- Don’t stir up or disturb the sea floor by kicking or standing on it with your fins
All pretty straight forward, right? We went over the important stuff and then got ourselves kitted out ready to get in the water. Mask, fins, regulator, weight belt and camera, check! We were excited to see what was down there, which fishy friends would we meet today?
On entering the water I had a flutter of nervous excitement. After all, it’s a little counter intuitive to try and breathe underwater. But after a couple of shallow breaths trying out my regulator at the surface I soon relaxed and started to breathe more deeply, and we started our descent. Following Elaine, our guide, we used our airline to go down to around 20ft, pausing to equalize our ears at every foot. Soon we were all the way down on the reef and brightly colored fish of all sizes were everywhere. Very quickly I started to feel comfortable underwater and loved exploring my new marine surroundings.
Elaine leads you during your SNUBA experience and she is wearing a dive tank. She is the perfect underwater host and is very attentive, while also letting you explore for yourselves. She pointed out lots of the smaller reef life as we moved around the area, the lobsters under the rocks and even a turtle (although sadly he wasn’t sticking around to play).
We saw needle fish, a puffer fish, rays, juvenile trunk fish, and a whole host of other sea life, big and small. She regularly checks in on you to ensure that you’re comfortable with your mask, your equipment, your ears and she’ll also periodically check your air supply. I felt very secure and comfortable in the water with her.
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The aspect of the activity that my husband and I particularly enjoyed was that we could share it together, despite our vastly different levels of experience. I would certainly encourage groups to give it a try – especially where one or two members might have dived before and they want other non-diving family or friends to experience it for themselves. It was a fantastic activity for us to enjoy together. I definitely can’t wait to go again and I can think of others that I would love to introduce it to.
Some practical notes:
- Medical forms and liability waivers must be signed before you can take part in the SNUBA experience and there are some limited medical conditions that might mean that you are unable to take part.
- The minimum age for the experience is 8 years old, so it is a fantastic family activity.
- A degree of confidence in the water is good but you don’t necessarily need to be a strong swimmer – you will have the raft and your airline to hold onto. You do need to be able to propel yourself through the water.
- You can do the experience in just your regular swimsuit and no special equipment is required (everything is provided) although if you feel like you would be more comfortable with a rash guard on, please bring one with you.
- If you still feel nervous about going down to a depth you can also choose to ‘power snorkel’ with no weight belt – staying at the surface but with the support of the raft and air supply.
- The SNUBA experience lasts around 30 – 45 minutes, or longer if you’re doing the SNUBA Duo experience.
- Be careful not to put your feet down on the reef, don’t try to stand or touch anything with your hands. The reef life is incredibly delicate and it really is a case of look but don’t touch.
Rates for the BVI SNUBA experience start at $125 pp, and a discount is offered to BVI residents. If you’d like to give it a go on your next BVI vacation, contact them at +1 (284) 341 0660 or firstname.lastname@example.org and check out their website here! Ask BVI SNUBA about putting together a day trip and including your SNUBA experience as part of the day out.
Does it sound like an underwater activity that you would like to try?