If you try to explain someone what SCUBA diving feels like in general you suddenly realise that words will not do justice to what you experienced when you descended and entered a whole new world of unknown territory. For some people diving is a sport which you do on holidays. It's the same as when you play beach volleyball or kite surfing. Once you start getting passionate about diving there is no way back. You will try new things as they become available and become a full on diving nerd... This clearly happened to me with TEC and Trimix diving but also with Closed Circuit Rebreather (CCR) diving. CCR diving is one of the most fascinating things I have technically ever experienced underwater!
My first few encounters with the underwater world when diving were quite conflicting. You remember all the colorful videos you have seen on tv and schools of fish all around. The fish don't seem to be bothered by the guy who has to navigate the camera in order to get the shots on tv. If you wonder how that works you will start SCUBA diving. Usually you will get PADI certified as Open Water Diver. This is the point where your addiction might start. You want to try more and realise that you will have to have additional dive training training to do so or you need to visit other places to dive and find what you are looking for.
Having experienced different types of diving in different areas you will start to see that divers on tv still get closer to the animals. Since you will have met different diving professionals with a wide range of training you will find out that the people on tv get this close with special equipment. The equipment used for this kind of closeup shooting is called Rebreather - more detailed Closed Circuit Rebreather (CCR). A Closed Circuit Rebreather (CCR) is a construction that does not produce bubbles and therefore allows you to get close to the subject you want to study or get footage from. My training was conducted on a Poseidon MK VI eCCR. Since I had already done the Semi Closed Rebreather training I was not entirely new to the whole matter. The most difficult change compared to open circuit SCUBA diving certainly is to establish buoyancy. When diving on a normal SCUBA setup you are used to control your buoyancy partially with your breath. Since you are on a Closed Circuit Rebreather (the name kind of gives it away already) the breath you exhale goes back into the so called counter lungs and if needed O2 will be added. You will breathe the same air over and over.
Once you reach the depth you would like to stay you have to control your buoyancy completely with your BCD. This is the only device that will keep you level or bring you up slightly. Due to the "silent diving" mode you are now in since you are not making bubbles you can get really close to the things you are interested in. This obviously helps if you are trying to get nice shots of video or photo of animals which normally are shy such as sharks, rays, turtles and basically any other animal you can imagine underwater. Just don't be surprised when you end up in a school of batfish and the swim by you so close that you could reach them with your hand. Because you are not making any bubbles with your Closed Circuit Rebreather (CCR) they accept you as one of their own - a fish! When you mastered the skills of bouyancy control and get used to the whole equipment you will be amazed after the first dive you really enjoyed. It happens that eagle rays swim past you, check you out and then circle back to figure out what you really are because they don't know you. This clearly is what I call the next step in diving and it is an experience you can even less put into words when asked about.
Since you do have the chance to get close to things I would like to mention a few very important things:
- NEVER EVER disturb, harass or touch anything underwater! You would certainly get the chance to touch animals/plants on Closed Circuit Rebreathers (CCR) which you would not have when diving normal SCUBA.
- BE READY to take on the challenge. Diving Closed Circuit Rebreathers (CCR) is not only challenging when you do it the first time but also when you continue. You constantly have to be aware on how your rebreather running, how deep you are and how much gas you still have.
- BE FIT! The challenge is a mental and a physical one. Mentally you have to adjust that you get closer to animals and they get closer to you... they are curious but this is part of the reason you took the course in the first place: you are curious, too! The physical level is certainly a challenge which is mostly undervalued. The gear needs more preparation, is heavier and certainly more demanding in the overall maintenance.
When you want to stay within recreational limits and would like to get the ultimate challenge: Closed Circuit Rebreather (CCR) diving certainly is a way to do it. No training within the recreational limits pushed me like this and the experience you get out of it is priceless!