Last updated: 2 December 2020
Reading time: 7 mins
There are few experiences in life that are capable of generating the overwhelming sense of freedom and exhilaration you feel when scuba diving. For beneath the oceans’ surface lies an underwater paradise, home to an abundance of life and magical beauty that’s completely unique to anything you’ll experience anywhere else on our planet.
In this guide, we take a look at some of the inspirational female divers who have helped women gain representation in a largely male-dominated sport. We also explore how scuba diving can play an important role in ocean conservation, as well as providing important tips and advice for all the women scuba divers around the world.
In recent years the scuba diving industry has grown significantly – with dive centres like PADI, offering scuba training and certification courses around the world. With this growth, we have seen an increase in the number of women joining the scuba diving community, however, rewind to the 1940s and the decades that followed, and gender equality was a far cry from what it is today. The majority of professional scuba divers were male, and it was very rare for women divers to be featured in the mainstream media, however, that’s not to say they didn’t exist.
Over the past few decades, there have been some exceptionally powerful female role models who have shown the world that women can scuba too, and their success has undoubtedly played a major role in encouraging other women to enter the sport.
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Often referred to as “the first lady of diving”, Charlotte Hildegard Baierl is a remarkable woman who came to fame following a filmmaking expedition with her husband in the Red Sea in the early 1950’s. The film, ‘Under the Red Sea’ won first prize at the Venice Film Festival. Despite receiving offers from Hollywood, Lotte chose to dedicate her career to becoming an underwater photographer and explorer. In 2015, Lotte sadly passed away, however, she’ll always be remembered as one of the first women divers.
Dr. Sylvia Earle, the marine biologist and diving legend. The first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and named by Time Magazine as its first Hero for the Planet in 1998, Sylvia is a fantastic role model for women, and is a true inspiration.
Another diving hero, Zale Parry started her diving career in the 1950’s, and went on to set a new deep-diving record for women while testing the Hope-Page non-return valve mouthpiece in open water. She helped to build California’s first civilian hyperbaric chamber, and was the first woman to complete a 300 meter test dive.
Often referred to as The Shark Lady, Eugenie Clark sadly passed away in 2015, however, she was one of the first females to enter the field of scuba diving for research purposes. Eugenie was recognised as a figure of authority in marine biology, specialising in fish behaviour, as well as being a big advocate for marine conservation.
At SLO-active, our core mission is to preserve and protect our oceans. That’s why we have chosen to partner with organisations like Project AWARE, who share our vision and are committed to achieving the same goal.
Over the past 27 years, Project AWARE has been fighting the marine debris crisis through a range of successful programmes and initiatives. One of their largest and most successful to date is their flagship citizen-science programme – Dive Against Debris, which has encouraged scuba divers to participate in the removal of marine debris from the ocean, and report data on the types, quantities and locations of the items found. The impact of the program has been fantastic with more than 50,000 community members in over 114 countries removing over 1.3 million debris items from the ocean, since its launch in 2011.
Project AWARE has also created the Project AWARE Specialty Course, which empowers individuals to make their own personal commitments and take further action to help protect our oceans.
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An inconvenience at the best of times, and when you’re out at sea zipped tightly into your wetsuit with no toilet nearby, your period can be even more of a frustration. But is it safe to dive on your period?
The answer is yes. There’s no reason why you can’t go diving when it’s your time of the month, providing you feel comfortable. A common concern is a fear of attracting the unwanted attention of a shark while diving, but according to Marie Levine, founder and executive director of The Shark Research Institute, diving on your period is perfectly safe. Furthermore, throughout history, there has never been any reported incidents of shark attacks linked to menstruation.
If you have had any surgical procedure, it’s always best to seek professional advice to ensure you are fit to dive. However, the good news is that breast implants are not considered a contraindication to diving.
There have been various studies carried out around the safety of scuba diving with breast implants, and research has demonstrated that different implant materials can range in buyonce levels. In some cases, this created an increase in air bubbles, however, they did not grow large enough to rupture the breast implants and the bubbles worked themselves out after a period of time.
And for added reassurance, before you become a certified diver you are required to fill in scuba diving health questionnaire – a legal document which is used to protect prevent scuba diving injuries and minimize a scuba instructor’s liability – however breast implants are not listed on the form as a potentially hazard.
It’s not advisable to scuba dive whilst pregnant, but due to ethical reasons there has been little research into the possible effects of diving when pregnant. There have, however, been various scientific studies involving hyperbaric chambers and different species of animals, to simulate the increased pressure of diving. The results showed a range of developmental abnormalities including low birth weights, premature delivery and abnormal skull development. Therefore to avoid risk, we advise taking the recommended advice and do not scuba dive during pregnancy.
Source: Sarah Richard
The last thing you want is blurry vision while diving, but is it safe to use contact lenses when you’re metres below the surface?
Both soft and hard contact lenses are perfectly safe to wear when scuba diving, however, soft lenses are considered the better option. Soft lenses allow gas to penetrate them, helping air to pass through the lenses and prevent blurry vision post-dive. Hard lenses also tend to make your eyes feel slightly dry, causing you to blink more often than usual, whilst soft lenses do not have this effect.
With over 70% of the earth’s surface covered by water, there are plenty of incredible locations around the world that are fantastic for scuba diving. However these eight destinations are home to some of the best dive locations in the world, of- fering true underwater paradise that is guaranteed to take
your breath away.
Considered the best dive site in Belize, and arguably one of the greatest in the world – the Blue Whole is definitely one to add to your bucket list. Roughly 300 meters in diameter and 124 meters deep, the Blue Hole is Famous for its underwater cave which contains incredible stalactites that reach up to 6 metres tall. Due to the hole’s sheer walls, there is a lack of sunlight and nutrients, which has caused the water to become anoxic at certain depths, making uninhabitable living conditions for marine life. However, the hole is surrounded by crystal clear water, and here you may glimpse various marine species – including the Caribbean reef shark, hammerhead shark and bull sharks.
Composed of over 2900 individual reefs and stretching over 2000km Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, is the largest in the world. It’s home to thousands of species – including corals, molluscs, rays, dolphins, sharks and sea turtles – and it’s estimated that around 10% of the world’s total fish species can be found living on the reefs. Whether you’re a beginner diver, or a scuba veteran, there are dive sites on The Great Barrier Reef suitable for all abilities, and no matter your diving capabilities, you are guaranteed to be blown away by its sheer beauty.
Fernando de Noronha is an archipelago consisting of 21 islands and islets, and is considered one of the best destinations for scuba diving, offering excellent visibility all year round, thanks to it’s almost sediment-free waters. Oceanic currents help to keep water temperatures warm through- out the majority of the year, creating a tropical paradise for all kinds of marine life; from sharks and hawksbill turtles, to beaked sharks, horse-eye jacks, barracuda, and jewfish. Fer- nando de Noronha most spectacular dive sites include Pedras Secas, Pontal do Norte, Cagarras Fundas, and Luias.
Famous for it’s stunning white, sandy beaches, yet Boracay hides even more beauty underneath the surface of its wa- ters. You’ll find an abundance of marine species including sea squirts, feather stars, lionfish, anemones, clams, and butter- fly fish, and jungle of exotic corals. There’s plenty of fantastic dive sites to explore in Boracay, however Tulobhan Reef, Pun- ta Bunga, Yapak, Laguna de Boracay have the most to offer in terms of and stunning stunning scenery and species diversity.
When diving, protecting yourself from the sun is important – particularly if you’re diving in parts of the world where the rays are at the strongest. But recent studies have shown that chemicals found in sunscreen are creating disastrous consequences for our coral reefs, causing coral bleaching and death among thousands of organisms. It’s estimated that around 14,000 tons of sunscreen is deposited into our oceans annually, with popular reef areas such as Hawaii and the Caribbean suffering the most damage. Sadly, the same goes for many other products including lip balms, body lotions, shampoo and conditioners.
So what can you do?
Thankfully, an increasing number of brands including EIR NYC, All Good Products, Stream2Sea and Badger Balm, have recognised this issue and created a range of mineral based products that are free from chemicals and labelled as ‘reef-safe’. So you can protect yourself – while caring for the reefs too.