Snuba, a sport that serves as an introduction to scuba diving, gets its name from combining the words “snorkel” and “scuba.”
Instead of wearing air tanks on your back, as in scuba diving, in snubling the tanks are placed on a rubber dingy on the surface, with the diver getting air via a long hose between the tank and his or her regulator.
On a cruise in January, I experienced snubling at Grand Turk in the Caribbean. John, our guide, worked for Oasis Divers. An experienced diver, he moved to Grand Turk, came to love the water surrounding the island and wouldn’t live anywhere else. He immediately put us at ease with his sense of humour. On the way to the snubling site he pointed out a nice big mud area and a “pond,” joking that was where we would snuble.
At the site, he took us to what he called “my office” – a fallen tree trunk where we received our instructions and signed a waiver. We were provided with fins, regulators and masks. I had brought my own mask .
I soon found I wasn’t the only Canadian escaping the winter back home. Canada eh? I met another Canadian couple on the snubling expedition. But with the water temperature at about 82 degrees Fahrenheit, we left the pleasantries for later because the water was so inviting. I took off quickly, leaving one of our guides behind. We completed a circle 50 or 100 yards out and around . Visibility was good as we swam up to 20 feet below the surface. There were lots of colourful fish and some red coral – stay away from that – so it was a good chance for people with underwater cameras to take photographs.
Snuba is particularly popular in locations such as the Caribbean because no dive experience is necessary, which opens up great potential for cruise ship passengers to try something different. The snuba experience, in turn, can prompt people to take the next step and train as a scuba diver.
As well as not having to carry a tank on your back, the air hose back to the tank on the dinghy helps assure that novice divers won’t stray too deep and get into trouble. Of course, such dives are also closely supervised by trained staff.
Given the nature of the sport, with lots of first-time divers and the fact that the dinghy on the surface can be difficult to pull if there are strong surface winds, snuba operations are usually in sheltered water.
It was those same strong winds that denied me an opportunity to scuba dive on the cruise. That was scheduled for our stop at Princess Cays. However, our ship did not stop there as planned because the only access to it is by tenders (the lifeboats on the ship) and high waves at the time would have made tendering difficult and uncomfortable for passengers.
Fortunately, I was able to snorkel at St. Thomas, go helmet diving at St.Martin and, of course, the snubling at Grand Turk, an island I loved, with its real home feeling, with no crime or litter, and friendly people.
I enjoyed snubling, although it takes some practice to avoid getting the air hoses tangled up in your legs, especially when turning.
Snuba and helmet diving enable novices to experience being underwater, without the rest of equipment required to dive. It’s a good test for people to find out if they are going to be claustrophobic, or if they want to progress to scuba.
If you’re ever at Grand Turk, look up John from Oasis Divers. He will show you the ropes . . . er, hose.