Solo Diver, Insta-Buddy, or Private Guide?
What do you do as a scuba diver without a partner? and what is an insta-buddy?There are a lot of single scuba divers out there who don’t have a regular diving partner, that may be discouraged from continuing on with the sport. Solo divers are usually given three options, depending on the dive center:
- They can pair you up with another solo diver, also known as an insta-buddy
- They may provide a dive guide in the water to follow with a group
- You may face a situation where the dive center does not provide a complimentary dive guide OR an insta buddy, meaning you will have to pay a fee for a private guide.
So, what are the pros and cons of each of these options?
What is solo diving?
There is a big difference between solo diving and simply going for a dive alone. The difference is self-reliance. This means that you are:
- Completely equipped to handle any situation that could arise
- Willing to accept the risks of diving without having another scuba diver with you
- Able to set your own dive gear up, run through a check, make a safe entry, and conduct a safe dive within all established limits.
Basically, the minimum requirements for an open water qualification.
- There is nothing like a good 30 to 45 minutes of solitude
- Maybe you are out with a scuba diving buddy and want to take a picture of a sea animal you saw while they explore a nearby coral reef
- You don’t have to be held responsible for a total stranger. Although, there are travel groups dedicated to buddy-less divers that let you get acquainted with other divers during your vacation.
Solo diving requires high levels of skill and self-sufficiency, and can be extremely risky. It is discouraged by most dive centers.
What is an insta buddy?
Insta-buddy is not another term for someone who comes along and shoots Instagram content for you. It is another solo diver that you are paired with. These pairings can lead to great friendships, but they can also lead to nightmare situations, especially if you are paired with a diver that is not as responsible, skilled, or conservative as you are.
Insta-buddying can be a great experience. For example, building a connection and keeping in touch with insta-buddies that you enjoyed diving with can help you grow a network of like-minded divers that you are familiar and comfortable with. If you grow this network enough, you may never need an insta-buddy again.
You might not feel prepared to, or simply not want to take responsibility for a total stranger. The most experienced diver in a pair is always going to shoulder the most responsibility on a dive.
How to insta buddy the right way
If you decide to take the plunge to be paired with another solo diver, here are five tips to help you get the best experience with your newfound scuba partner:
1. Ask questions and share your experience in a friendly way. Find out how long they’ve been diving, when their last dive was, and what type of diving they usually do. Be honest about your own experience.
2. Watch them set their gear up. You can tell a lot about a scuba diver by the way they set their gear up.
- Do they move fluidly?
- Do they test their gear thoroughly?
- Do they know where all their accessories mount?
Ask if there is anything you need to know about their setup.
3. Agree on a plan that you’re both comfortable with. This is always important, but especially when you are diving with someone that you’re unfamiliar with. What are both of your focuses for the dive? What are the agreed-upon limits? And what are you both comfortable with? You need to discuss these, as well as:
- Emergency procedures
- Lost buddy protocols
Clear, concise communication when planning the dive is going to lead to a smoother, safer diving experience.
4. Dive the plan with no variations or improvisations, and make sure that the hand signals you are using once you’re in the water are the same ones you agreed to on land.
5. Be sure to stay in touch! If you got along and had a great dive together, make sure you exchange contact information, reach out on social media, and share photos and videos you took on your dive together.
What is a private guide?
Some dive centers will choose not to insta-buddy, and instead provide solo divers with dive guides that will either take you on a diver alone, or with a group. Depending on the center, these guides are either complimentary, or available at a fee.
You don’t have to risk having a negative insta-buddy experience. In a recent poll of around 200 respondents, 69 percent reported having a negative experience with an insta buddy.
These guides are not always complimentary, and some dive centers will charge a fee.
This is sometimes referred to as a “loner tax”, and is a common complaint among solo divers. Although, it’s important to note that this is not because they are trying to make more money off of you, but to protect the experiences of other divers.