Divers around the globe are both excited and a little anxious to get back into the water. There’s a lot of uncertainty about scuba diving in a post COVID-19 world. The damage to lungs due to the coronavirus infection, as well as the body’s inflammatory reaction to it, can have lasting affects.
While there are plenty of unknowns as the world battles coronavirus, the dive community is pulling together to provide a path forward. Industry experts are gathering research and recommendations, divers are following government and local guidelines, and dive shops are being transparent about the safety measures they are taking to keep both their staff and divers safe.
We reached out to a few of our favorite dive shops to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on their business, and the steps they are taking to implement changes. Even if divers don’t feel uncomfortable traveling across the world to dive this year, we encourage them to contact their local dive centers to support them. Each shop is eager to welcome divers, and to make sure that divers feel safe during these uncertain times.
THE ART OF DIVING
The Art of Diving is located in the Dominican Republic and focuses on cave and technical diving with a holistic approach to learning – aiming to expand knowledge, thought, practice and continued training like any “art”.
Fortunately for The Art of Diving, they were already operating with semi- or fully private expeditions. The new COVID-19 rules were fairly easy to implement since their business never had large crowds to deal with.
Some of the changes The Art of Diving has implemented to keep their staff and divers safe:
CLASSES & SESSIONS
- Theory classes are exclusively conducted online now.
- For semi-private sessions, the number of students allowed per class has decreased from four to a max of two per instructor.
- For private sessions, the max number of students allowed is four.
- Hand sanitizers available at points of entry.
- All scuba equipment is carefully sanitized by staff members, instead of divers rinsing gear themselves post-dive.
- The scuba gear is prepared in advance and delivered to the training or dive location to avoid customers moving in and out of the office.
- Separate mask and regulator disinfection station added in the dive shop.
- The Art of Diving is following DAN and other major agencies recommendations for sanitation.
- Divers and staff are prohibited from using spit to clear masks.
- Boats are disinfected before and after departures.
- As of early July, The Art of Diving is not offering Catalina Island excursions because of the crowds.
- For cave and tech expeditions, there is max of 2 people. These people are usually dive buddies and traveling together.
- Almost 100% of their customers come in with full equipment so very little equipment needs to be rented, keeping divers and staff much safer. Their staff does not handle the personal equipment that the divers bring with them.
- Dive briefings are held outside in the fresh air.
COKI DIVE CENTER
The Coki Dive Center is located on St Thomas (a United States Virgin Island). Thanks to the prior lockdown, St. Thomas has a very low Coronavirus infection rate. Restaurants and shops are open, although they do require masks (bring some with you) in businesses, and social distancing whenever possible. There are plenty of beaches to relax on with few people to worry about, along with lots of open air activities.
The Coki Dive Center started in 1989, as a one man operation, and is now the oldest continually owned dive shop on St. Thomas.
The Coki Dive Center is open for diving either from the shore or boat on a daily basis with a few changes:
- A COVID-19 Health questionnaire and liability release is required to read and sign before diving.
- Wearing of protective masks are required before and after diving. Coki has a sanitized container to secure your mask while diving.
- The Coki Dive Center is following DAN and Diving industry recommendations and protocols for sanitizing all scuba gear and regulators, before and after dives, along with limiting high traffic areas used by customers and staff.
- New mouth pieces are available for purchase.
- Open areas around the shop and our beach dive station are limited to Coki Dive Center Customers.
- Group sizes will be limited so that social distancing can be maintained during dive lessons, pre-dive briefings , donning of equipment, exiting from a dive and removing of scuba gear.
- Boat Dive Reservations will be limited in size to 6 divers, in order to maintain social distancing on the boat.
The Coki Dive Center’s goal is to maintain a COVID-19 free diving environment so that their divers can enjoy the best diving they have to offer in a stress free environment.
SEA VENTURES PRO DIVE CENTER
Sea Ventures is located in Puerto Rico and offers great diving off Fajardo and throughout the Spanish Virgin Island. Sea Venture has responded to the current COVID-10 pandemic by implementing Safe Workplace Practices that will help ensure their diving and snorkeling actives are conducted as safely as possible for both their guests and their staff.
Specific changes are defined below:
- Clean and disinfect any shared surfaces or equipment, and wash hands frequently.
- Practice current social distancing recommendations (minimum 6ft).
- Cover mouth and nose with a face covering or mask at all times.
- Sea Ventures now provides a brand new sealed mouthpiece at check-in for each guest for installation on their regulator. It is encouraged to have divers install the new mouthpiece themselves, or one of Sea Ventures staff can help if needed.
- Shared surfaces, equipment and scuba gear will be cleaned and disinfected
- For divers that bring their own gear, a separate area has been created for them to clean their gear that is away from the Sea Ventures rinsing stations.
- Bathrooms will be cleaned and disinfected every 30 minutes by the Sea Ventures staff.
LIMITING BOAT CAPACITY
- Sea Ventures’ boats are US Coast Guard certified to carry 30 divers or 45 snorkelers. To ensure maximum space and safe distancing for their guests, the boat capacity will be limited to a maximum of 8 divers or 10 snorkelers.
- The helm area will be off lints to all guests.
- Boats will have a hand sanitizer station on the dock at boat entry. All guests MUST use hand sanitizer prior to boarding the boat.
- Sea Ventures has instituted a mandatory temperature check for all guests.
- Guests with a temperature of 100.3 degrees or higher will be restricted from participating in Sea Ventures diving or snorkeling excursions.
- Sea Ventures is following CDC guidelines and requires a minimum of six feet separation between guests, as well as protective face coverings or breathing masks.
- A maximum of three people will be allowed in the shop at one time.
FOOD & DRINK SERVICE
- All snacks and lunches will be pre-packed (no buffet).
- Staff temperatures are taken daily.
- Staff members showing any symptoms related to COVID-19 will be sent home immediately and required to get a test to return to work.
- Sea Ventures staff are required to wear face masks at all times, expect while participating in actives in the water.
SCUBA DIVING IN A POST COVID-19 WORLD
Join a panel of industry experts for a webinar discussion on the new normal of scuba diving in a post COVID-19 world. The panel will include industry experts from DAN, RAID, InDepth, and the Coral Reef Alliance.