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Diving & Snorkelling Safety

Diving and snorkelling are more than underwater sightseeing, they are exhilarating sports that require a reasonable level of fitness and a recognition of your limitations.

Click on the headings below to learn more about how to make sure your underwater experience is safe and enjoyable.

Pressure & the Human Body

Water exerts a greater pressure on the body than air, and descending to depths of just 10m below the surface doubles the pressure on the human body.

Divers and snorkellers experience this pressure at relatively shallow depths when they get a slight earache similar to that experienced by some people during plane take-offs and landings.

At deeper levels this pressure can have quite a dramatic effect on the lungs, ears and sinuses. This is why diving - even at an introductory level - is not suitable for pregnant women or sufferers of medical illnesses such as respiratory diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure, epilepsy, ear or neurological problems.

Medical Fitness

Snorkelling is a strenuous activity, even in calm water. If you are planning to snorkel for the first time, talk to your snorkelling supervisor or guide before entering the water. There are some simple safety precautions to be aware of - review the Safety Information for Divers and Snorkellers using the links above.

When undertaking an introductory or resort dive you will be required to complete a simple medical questionnaire prior to commencing any activity to determine your fitness to dive.

Divers undertaking a Learn to Dive course will be required to pass a Dive Medical undertaken by a Dive Medical Practitioner that meets the Australian standard. It is strongly recommended that you undertake your medical in Australia, to ensure that medical examination conducted is in compliance with the Australian medical standard (AS4005.1).

Dive operators may also ask certified divers to complete a simple medical questionnaire to confirm that their medical fitness to dive is still current.

Being Prepared

Divers Alert Network (DAN) Asia Pacific is your buddy in dive safety. DAN have provided detailed information for the diver or snorkellor to be prepared for their adventure. Download their information on Scuba Diving Safety Tips, Diving Medical Questions, Diving Emergencies and Snorkelling Safety Tips from the DAN website.

Other Considerations

Divers and snorkellers may also face other health considerations such as sunburn, sunstroke, and marine stings. Snorkellers should be aware of protecting against sunburn and divers should be trained to look out for signs of decompression illness and nitrogen narcosis.

Sun Safety

The Queensland sun can be fierce so be sure to "slip, slop, slap" that is, wear a maximum protection sunscreen lotion, a broad brimmed hat, a long sleeved shirt and sunglasses. Snorkellers should be particularly diligent in protecting against sunburn whilst exposed in the water.

To minimise the risk of sunstroke, avoid prolonged periods in the sun, especially without sun protection and drink plenty of fluids to keep hydrated.

Marine Stingers

Marine Stingers or Jellyfish occur in all tropical waters worldwide. In Australia 2 of these species, the Chironex Box Jellyfish and the Irukandji, are classed as dangerous tropical jellyfish (marine stingers). During the warmer months (November-May) these marine stingers may be present in the tropical northern waters, but by taking a few simple precautions you can minimise risks associated with these two types of potentially dangerous jellyfish.

During the warmer months, when participating in water-based activities, it is recommended that full body coverage in the form of lycra bodysuits or wetsuits be worn to minimise the risk of jellyfish stings. Marine operators will have lycra bodysuits and/or wetsuits available for hire.

In order to prevent getting stung by the marine stingers take the following precautions and ensure your day at the beach is enjoyable:

  • ALWAYS swim at patrolled beaches between the red and yellow flags
  • ONLY SWIM in stinger nets if they are provided. They afford a high degree of protection.
  • However, they are not stinger “proof”  – Irukandji are small enough to get through the net. In order to avoid a sting, check with the patrolling lifesaver/lifeguard.
  • DO NOT interfere with the stinger nets or sit on the floating pontoons.
  • IT IS RECOMMENDED that a full-body lycra wet/stinger suit (or equivalent) be worn to provide a good measure of protection against marine stings.
  • SLOWLY enter the water – marine stingers will often move away given the time and opportunity.
  • LOOK for and obey safety signs.
  • DO NOT enter the water when beaches are closed.
  • ASK a lifesaver/lifeguard for help and advice if you need it.
  • DO NOT touch marine stingers washed up on the beach, they can still sting you
  • IF you are taking out your own boat, take a  bottle of household vinegar with you to treat potential stings and make sure you can contact medical aid if required.
  • IF in doubt of Irukandji sting, treat as Irukandji and seek medical aid (Better safe than sorry!)

For more information on marine stingers, visit the Marine Stingers website at www.marinestingers.com

Flying & Altitudes

Planning diving around a tight travel schedule? It is recommended that you should wait at least 24 hours after diving before you travel to more than 300 metres (or 1,000 feet) above sea level. Otherwise decompression sickness may result. Bear in mind that flying, ballooning, parachuting and even driving over a mountain range can put you over this altitude limit.

For General Safety Tips, review the Safety Information for Scuba Diving and Snorkelling produced by Workplace Health & Safety Queensland, or see our Frequently Asked Questions using the links above for more information.

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