Recreational dive sites include specific places that recreational scuba divers go to enjoy the underwater environment. This includes publicly accessible recreational diver training sites and technical diving sites beyond the range generally accepted for recreational diving. In this context all diving done for recreational purposes is included. Professional diving tends to be done where the job is, and with the exception of the recreational diving service industry, does not generally occur at specific sites chosen for their easy access, pleasant conditions or interesting features.
There are a wide range of underwater features which may contribute to the popularity of a dive site:
- Accessibility is important, but not critical. Some divers will travel long distances at considerable cost to get to a site with exceptional features.
- Biodiversity at the site: Popular examples are coral, sponges, fish, sting rays, molluscs, cetaceans, seals, sharksand crustaceans.
- The Topography of the site: Coral reefs, walls (underwater cliffs), rocky reefs, gullies, caves and swim-throughs (short tunnels or arches) can be spectacular.
- Historical or cultural items at the site: Ship wrecks, sunken aircraft and achaeological sites, apart from their historical value, form artificial habitats for marine life making them more attractive as dive sites.
- Underwater visibility: This can vary widely between sites and with time and other conditions. Poor visibility is caused by suspended particles in the water, such as mud, silt, suspended organic matter and plankton. Currents and surge can stir up the particles. Rainfall runoff can carry particulate matter from the shore. Diving close to the sediments on the bottom can result in the particles being kicked up by the divers fins. Sites which generally have good visibility are preferred, but poor visibility will often be tolerated if the site is sufficiently attractive for other reasons.
- Water temperature: Warm water diving is comfortable and convenient, and requires less equipment. Although cold water is uncomfortable and can cause hypothermia it can be interesting because different species of underwater life thrive in cold conditions.
- Currents and tidal flows can transport nutrients to underwater environments increasing the variety and density of life at a site. Currents can also be dangerous to divers as they can carry the diver being away from the surface support or the planned exit point. Currents that meet flow over or around large obstructions can cause strong local vertical currents and turbulence that are dangerous because they may cause the diver to lose buoyancy control risking barotrauma, or impact against the bottom terrain.
Credits to Wikipedia.