By Mudassir Raja
Who said mermaids didn’t exist? They are no more invisible and their numbers are increasing. They can also be seen in the underwater world of Qatar.
Scuba diving has long been thought – along with many other activities – of only a man’s sport. However, over the last two decades women have started to enjoy the sport as well and even taken over and become an important pillar in the scuba diving industry all over the world. Many of them are making a difference to the oceans and the underwater species by working as marine biologists, under water photographers and diving instructors.
The sport of underwater diving is very popular among women. Every year the world celebrates PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) Women Diving Day. Recently the day was also celebrated in Qatar like other countries of the world. Thousands of divers of all genders, ages and experience levels marked the day for a global celebration of shared adventure and passion for the ocean.
On the occasion, Community got a chance to speak with some PADI instructors and women divers.
Khaled Zaki, PADI diving ambassador and master instructor, who certified thousands of elite divers in the region during last two decades, said: “Women are almost a half of our population. Scuba diving, like many sports, has historically been a male dominated field. However, this is changing. Since PADI’s first Women’s Dive Day in 2014 there has been a 2.2% increase in female certifications for PADI recreational courses – from 37.2% to 39.4%. Males still make up a majority of the divers, but the margin is getting smaller and smaller, and these women are making a huge difference to our oceans, dive community, and waters all over the world.”
The instructor sees many reasons that can make women better divers than men. “When it comes to air consumption, women tend to have the advantage. As they are often physically smaller than men, they have a smaller lung capacity, and less muscle mass. It is not a guarantee, but it is likely that they will have more air left in the cylinders than men will after the dive.
“Women are also more safety conscious in some points. My advice to any woman or a girl who is thinking to become a diver is that don’t let the opinions of others hold you back. The underwater world is magical, so don’t miss the opportunity to experience and enjoy it. Further, there are several females instructors for women divers and luckily now all scuba equipment brands have multiple women’s BCDs (Buoyancy Control Devices), wetsuits and masks that are specially made for women divers with nice trend girly colours to stay fashionable even under water.” He added: “Women now make up 40% of the dive community which is quite an accomplishment.”
There are many women divers enjoying the sport on daily or weekly basis in Qatar. Dr Suzy Duckworth has been working as a family medicine consultant in Qatar. “My experience of diving started in Malta and I was instantly hooked. It came at a time of change in my life, when I was relocating and starting my medical career. It was a great outlet for discovery, relaxation and meeting new people. I completed my PADI qualifications in Sydney and then went on diving holidays throughout Asia.
“I love the ever changing underwater environment and the excitement of uncertainty each time you set off. I have seen some amazing marine life over the years and created some great friendships since I arrived in Qatar. I have loved the shore diving as a reintroduction to my favourite sport and am enjoying reminding myself of the related physiology of diving. “Diving in Qatar is an evolving discipline and there is a growing community of divers. On days with good visibility, you can see turtles, a wide range of colourful fish and even the possibility of a whale shark at certain times of the year. The water is always warm and the car ride across the beach to the dive site is always an adventure”
Nicki Smith, a British expatriate, who has been working in the healthcare sector of Qatar for three years. She said: “I started diving with my young son when we arrived in Qatar. We both love having a shared hobby and the freedom and joy it gives us. The diving community is so welcoming that we have made many friends and love our dive weekends at the beach.”
Maria Alexandra, another diver, said: “I grew up in eastern Romania up in the hills, far away from the sea. This is the reason for which swimming used to be more of a dream for me until my late 20’s.
“I have discovered the amazing underwater world through documentaries on TV etc. I am currently exploring the underwater world of Qatar.“Scuba diving is one of the most important activities over the weekend. Living in Qatar is a blessing as we can enjoy scuba diving almost the entire year.”
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