By Bruce Biermann
Thoreau writes that all nature is connected, yet we know so little of how the underwater world is connected to us. The ocean is the last great area to be explored on our planet. The most accessible way for us to examine it is with scuba gear.
Scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) diving goes beyond snorkeling, allowing us to spend more time underwater, taking in all the astonishing sights beneath the surface of the waves. You can explore freshwater lakes, springs and rivers as well; these are the best places to begin your training.
Texas diving features pristine freshwater springs, marine sanctuaries, shipwrecks and a huge array of sea life, suitable for beginners and experts. Certification is required, and the gear requires an investment, but the experiences you’ll have are well worth the price of admission.
The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) are the two primary certification agencies. Scuba-related sales and rental outlets require proof of diver certification.
Where to Go
- Balmorhea State Park: Scuba diving in the Chihuahuan Desert? You bet, and it’s wonderful. The pristine spring-fed water is full of fish, including the endangered Pecos gambusia and Comanche Springs pupfish. This is a safe, fun and easy dive for all levels of experienced divers.
- Lake Travis: Because of its depth and location in Central Texas, Lake Travis is a popular spot for divers. Visibility is 30 feet max on a good day.
- Spring Lake: Divers must have special training before diving in these environmentally sensitive springs in San Marcos. Visibility fluctuates from 60 to 90 feet, making it one of the clearest places to dive in Texas.
- The Texas Clipper: TPWD turned this ship into an underwater reef off the coast near South Padre Island. Usually considered to be an intermediate to advanced dive, the top of the ship’s at 66 feet and the bottom rests at 134 feet.
- Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary: About 100 miles south of Galveston, this 56-square-mile sanctuary is one of the most scenic dives in Texas, recommended for more advanced divers. Caribbean fish, manta rays, sharks and bright coral are some of the stunning sights.
- Mask: Provides an air space in front of your eyes, allowing you to see clearly underwater.
- Snorkel: Allows you to breath air while on the surface and conserve your compressed air supply.
- Fins: There is no better way to maneuver and propel yourself underwater than with fins.
- BCD: The buoyancy control device is worn to control the rate of decent or ascent in the water.
- Tank: A gas cylinder used to store and transport the high-pressure breathing gas required to breathe underwater.
- Regulator: A pressure-reducing device that delivers the breathing gas to you at a comfortable pressure.
- Gauges: Allows you to keep track of your depth, pressure remaining in your tank and water temperature.
- Wetsuit: Usually made of foamed neoprene, it provides thermal insulation, abrasion resistance and buoyancy.
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