Divers want coral reef and environmental protection

Mixed feelings of excitement and concern washed over me when I first got under water with an oxygen cylinder on my back and a mask on my face. It was the first time I'd experienced scuba diving, as I had only tried snorkeling before. I was given this opportunity by the Kuwait Sea Sports Club's diving center during a trip to Kubbar Island.

I felt excited to dive and feel like a mermaid or fish, able to breathe underwater. I didn't mind getting up early on my day off for this experience. When I first dunked my head under water and couldn't breathe real oxygen and depended on the mask, I felt a bit constrained and concerned if I would be able to remain underwater for a long period. But after a few seconds, I felt more comfortable.

Instructor Jasim Al-Harban accompanied me on this dive, giving me instructions on what to do, along with teaching me the basic signs I would need under water. One of the most important instructions was to breathe slowly and inhale and exhale deeply to save oxygen and dive better.

Best diving spots

The best place for diving in Kuwait is Qarouh Island, as it has the best coral reefs. Although our trip was planned for Qarouh, we had to change the destination to Kubbar due to strong waves and unstable weather.

But diving here too was exciting, and I saw many different types of fish. Four instructors went on this trip with their students to give them practical training after classes in a swimming pool. Every student dived with their instructor to ensure their safety, as these were students of the 'open water' basic course.

"This course is seven days long. It includes five lectures and five dives in the swimming pool. Then the student experiences diving in the sea, which includes four dives over two days. The main condition is to be fit from the health perspective. Children from age 10 can take this course. There is no age limit if the person is in good health," Captain Shukri told Kuwait Times.

There are more courses available. "If a student loves diving, they can continue training and participating in advanced courses that include adventurous diving, deep diving, night diving, wreck diving and many other specialties. Each of the 13 courses has a special excitement level, so for instance, during night diving, you can see certain kinds of fish that only appear at night, such as lionfish or mollusks. During this dive, we use head-mounted lights and special signals," explained Shukri.

Dive from May to November

The diving season starts in May and ends in November. "Apart from the summer season, we can organize a diving trip on demand. Although this is rare, we have organized such dives for Westerners. Also, this is only available for advanced divers and not for beginners. The divers wear thick suits to stay warm in the water, yet many on winter diving trips complain of feeling cold," Harban said.

As mentioned earlier, Qarouh is the favorite Kuwaiti island for diving. "It's rich in coral reefs and different kinds of fish of all colors. Also, the depth is suitable for both beginners and professionals, as the sea is six meters deep for beginners and up to 17 meters for advanced divers. The view there is nice and more beautiful than other islands. The second suitable island is Kubbar, which also has coral reefs. Our center only goes to these two islands," he pointed out.

These classes also teach other important things and not just scuba diving. "We care for protecting the environment, especially the marine environment. Many people throw waste into the sea, and plastic waste is the most dangerous for sea creatures. Many fish eat the plastic and die. So we teach our students not to throw anything in the sea from the first day of the course," Harban said.

Divers have found many strange objects on the seabed. "During our diving trips, we have found boat batteries, anchors, plates, nets, bags and many other items. The most affected island is Kubbar due it being the most popular getaway for weekend trips. There are special diving courses for environment protection, which include awareness, reef conservation, fish identification, underwater naturalism and others," he noted.

Some advice

Captain Ali Al-Saffar has some pieces of advice for divers. "Divers should drink water or other liquids all the time, so the body remains hydrated. A dry body absorbs nitrogen much faster, which is harmful. Also, they should eat bananas, as it is rich in potassium and the diver doesn't feel thirsty," he said.

After passing the course, the student diver gets a certified license from PADI, which is the international organization that issues diving licenses. "The diving license is valid forever and doesn't require renewal. The basic course results in a license to dive to a depth of up to 18 meters. Many international diving locations require an advanced diving license, which is for up to 30 meters. The level of concentration of a person and not their age determines the length of the course. Some students complete the course in only five days, while others take it for two weeks," added Saffar.

Captain Shukri said diving conditions in Kuwait are more difficult. "Diving in Kuwait gives divers more experience, as it's more difficult here compared to the Red Sea for instance. Here the water is mostly not clear, so they have a bad view, and there are strong water currents," he concluded.

By Nawara Fattahova