One of the mainstays of Bunaken’s spectacular diving are its dramatic walls, often dropping away to far more than 100 meters, sometimes featuring ledges, overhangs and small caverns. They’re a fantastic playground for beginners and experienced divers alike. Especially for newbies, though, the topography might be a little daunting, so we’ve put together a few tips to help you enjoy your wall dives more.
1. It’s all about buoyancy
Being able to control your position in the water is key to enjoying any dive and it’s even more important on walls as you don’t have an actual bottom directly underneath you. Good buoyancy control comes with practice, so the more you dive the easier you will find your underwater balance. Remember that it’s a combination of the air in your BCD which should be enough to hold you steady in the water column and the air in your lungs which allows you to fine-tune that position during the dive.
2. Check your weights
Proper weighting really is a prerequisite to good buoyancy control. How do you know you’re weighted right? During the dive you should be able to float horizontally. If you’re struggling to lift your knees and fins you’re most likely carrying too much weight. At the end of the dive, you should still be able to hold your safety stop easily. If you’re having to fin to stay down take another weight on your next dive. However, if your BCD is still full of air during your safety stop with a near-empty tank on your back, consider taking a kilo off. Always adjust weights gradually and re-assess your needs when you’re changing wetsuits and other equipment.
3. Start gently
Many of the dive sites around Bunaken start with a sloping reef, ideal to get your bearings and adjust your buoyancy before dropping over the edge and diving on the actual wall. Let your dive guide know if you prefer sites that allow a gentler start to the dive and, together with our boat captains, we can make sure that you get time to ease into your underwater adventure.
4. Keep an eye on your computer
It’s very easy to be drawn in by a wall and follow it, thus going to a much greater depth than you and your buddy had originally planned and potentially running out of no-decompression time. Our dive guides will keep an eye on you and remind you when it’s time to shallow up a bit, of course. However, it’s a good idea to level off a few metres before your intended maximum depth, say 22 m if you’re planning to dive to 25 m, to allow a margin for error. Check your computer’s manual for options to set a depth alarm or a reminder when you’re running low on no-decompression time as well.
5. Get comfortable with currents
If you’ve dived with us before, you may remember hearing words along the line of ‘we will keep the reef on our left unless the current goes the other way’ during a briefing. Most of our dive sites have fairly predictable currents, gently pushing you along the wall at just the right pace. If the current is with you, there’s no need to fin at all – just fly with it. We tend to avoid kicking into the current – after all, you’re on holiday, not in a fitness bootcamp! From time to time, we also experience up and down currents: the key is not to follow either! How do you know what’s going on? Take a look at the fish around you: if they are all facing in one direction, that’s where the current is coming from. To be safe, stay behind your guide, allowing them time to turn the group around or change depth if needed.