There’s nothing like stepping onto the tarmac after a long flight and feeling that hot tropical sun beating down on you. Time to get your island tan on, right? Maybe not so fast… Though we love that tanned eco-diver look, we also know that with the sun comes a sunburn… and often lots of reef safe sunscreen.
Throughout a dive day, between the excitement of setting up gear, talking with your guides on the boat or sitting down for post-dive drinks on the beach, you don’t always realize how long your skin has been in the sun. If you are aware, then slathering your skin with sunscreen tends to be the first go-to.
Unfortunately, the most popular sunscreens you see in stores contain harmful chemicals, many of which have been proven through scientific studies to kill our beautiful coral reefs.
And really, if it’s not good for the ocean, is it really that good for us?
If developing skin cancer, from the sun or whatever you are putting on your body, isn’t a major concern for you, NOT diving on your dive holiday maybe.
Squeezing into your skin-tight wetsuit with sensitive, sunburned skin is not a happy image. Add your dive gear and a tank for extra pressure on top? The pain may be intolerable and you’ll find yourself laying in bed while your buddy is out diving! No thank you!
Also, from a safety stand point, sunburns can lead to dehydration, which increases the risk of decompression illness.
If, like us, you find the above doesn’t really sound… fantastic, here is a shortlist of the best ways you can protect yourself from the sun in true Eco-Diver style!
Avoid the Sun at its Peak
A good way to protect yourself against the sun is to avoid the time of day when UV rays are the strongest. This varies from location to location, but generally is between 11am and 4pm.
Also, many of our favourite dive destinations are closer to the equator, which means UV levels are higher, so we again encourage going on morning dives before the sun peaks.
In our experience, morning dives tend to be the more exciting ones anyway!! Ocean conditions are not only better in the morning, but you have a chance to see the ocean critters waking up or even catch the nocturnal ones heading to bed. All of this while enjoying the peace and tranquillity on the water before more boats and divers enter the scene!
Thank goodness for coffee!
Stay in the Shade
An obvious, but easy way to limit your exposure to the sun is to avoid it altogether. Even on cloudy or hazy days it is still possible to get a sunburn.
Fortunately, if you are boat diving, most dive boats have shaded areas, but it’s a good idea to check with your dive operator before you book.
Though smaller boats, like an uncovered RIB, can offer a faster boat ride, they do have limited space for equipment, unlike a larger, slower boat with a shaded area. The second boat may be worth the extra time and money just from a comfort standpoint.
If you can’t find shade and don’t want to be reapplying reef safe sunscreen all day long, be prepared to cover up! This is an easy form of skin protection.
When prepping for your holiday, packing a good hat, sunglasses and a rash guard/skinsuit is a must! Some even come with UV protection.!
Rash guards are great for when you have your wetsuit rolled down during surface intervals! Without worrying about the sun, you can snack in peace!
As an extra bonus, if you are snorkelling and prefer not to wear a wetsuit, rash guards are a whale of a great layer to protect you from jellyfish stings or an accidental brush up against the coral!
Sunscreen is by far the most common product used by an Eco-Diver for sun protection, but as mentioned earlier, there are many brands out there selling sunscreens that damage the reefs we’ve travelled so far to see!
Remember, when using sunscreen, be sure to reapply frequently and follow all the instructions on the packaging!
And lastly, as always, dive safe and have fun!
“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson