Basically, skin diving, the new buzz word is free diving and not, as one customer decided, that he did not need to pay his bill after a week’s scuba diving!!
It has now had a resurgence with many training agencies offering courses at various levels of free diving. I did have some reservations when on a holiday I observed an instructor forcibly holding a girl underwater until she was practically drowning, then pulled her head up shouted BREATHE, then pushed her back under again!
Many years ago I completed my skin diver badge in the scouts when I was 14. For this, after pool training we had to complete 30 open water dives which consisted of 30 minutes duration, the first ten included 3 dives to 10 metres depth in each dive, the second ten included 2 dives to 20 metres depth in each dive, the third ten included 1 dive to 30 metres depth in each dive. At no time in any of this training was I held underwater! This is what got my interest in the underwater world and encouraged me to take up scuba diving (you needed to be 18 back then!)
Several years later when I was scuba diving in Sardinia I saw a free diver at over 30 metres depth with a spear-gun, I met him after surfacing and we had a long chat, he was more conservation minded than the average diver, only spearing 4 -5 fish a year and eating them himself! I bought myself some free diving fins and used them for both scuba and free diving as very efficient. I also met Umberto Molinaro, the first free diver to reach 150m, who was actually scuba diving from our boat. He gave me much advice, including never to mix scuba diving and free diving in the same day due to decompression considerations, only surface snorkelling allowed after scuba diving, another tip was to not hyperventilate, but relax and “inhale the universe” prior to a free dive, and only lift a single fin on the surface dive to save energy!
So lets look at what we have in Aqaba that is great for free diving. We have great visibility year round, warm waters year round (22-30 degrees centigrade), easily obtainable depth from shore as well as boat, several unique wrecks that make great places for free diving, fantastic marine life and many visiting pelagic animals to make that free diving experience one to remember!
Many dive centres here can now offer special free diving support. A word of warning, if free diving the famous Cedar Pride wreck, DO NOT free dive to the “air” pocket as this is not air! It only has a 9% oxygen content so if breathed when free diving this will lead to a serious shallow water blackout on ascent as the partial pressure of the oxygen drops in the blood dramatically! I have had to rescue more than one free diver attempting this! But it also makes a fantastic place to free dive and observe the marine life and fish shoals that inhabit the wreck. The new site of the Hercules C130 aircraft also makes for an unusual free dive and can result in great photographs to show your friends. For those with deeper free diving ambitions great depths can be found at most dive site not far from shore, I would recommend a boat option for these for better support. Just ask at any dive centre what they can offer free diving wise including courses in free diving.
On a closing not I noticed now, even in the main stream media, they have “free divers” on travel advertisements more than scuba divers!! Hey how about one of them recommending Aqaba.