Scuba Diving in France – The basic information you should know 30/10/2012

Scuba Diving in France – The basic information you should know

Here at we felt we should do a quick overview of some of the main things to consider when planning a diving trip in France. We hope the article below will help you out on your way to adequately plan your experience!

Did you know? – France can actually be considered the birthplace of diving schools, as the original dive centre was founded here in the 1930s.

France is thought of by many as a paradise for both beginners and experienced Scuba divers. With its three separate, individually beautiful coastlines there is a countless number of islands and magnificent marine scenery to be discovered. The sites on offer range from fantastic rock formations and reefs, a variety of marine life and numerous grand old wrecks to be explored (the PACA and Languedoc Roussillon regions in particular have a range of impressive wreck sites).

Whilst thousands of locals and tourists alike dive in the country every year, there are specific rules and regulations laid out by the state concerning diving (France is one of the few countries in the world to monitor the sport in such a way). These rules have been laid out primarily in the interest of safety, and you should seek to know a bit about this legislation when planning your diving holiday.

Medical safety – Before beginning a dive course in France it is mandatory to have a medical certificate signed off from your doctor stating that there are no problems, or ‘contra-indications’ to your safe diving. Insurance is not obligatory but it is highly recommended, the French health service is not free and you will rack up a nasty bill should something go wrong!

Choosing the right way to dive – You should only ever seek to dive with a professionally trained and certified instructor, provided by an established and reputable club or dive center. All dives should begin with thorough instruction from your guide. See our list of reputable dive centers available in France here. If you have your own boat and wish to dive without an instructor/guide, according to French law everyone on the excursion must be at least ‘Niveau 3’ by the French grading system. What’s more there is a minimum amount of safety equipment that must be on-board and there must be someone on the boat at all times whilst the other members of the party dive.
Dangerous wildlife – There are frankly not many sea creatures that pose much of a threat to humans in French waters, but there are a few that have nasty and sometimes poisonous bristles and spines. Be wary of scorpion fish, sea urchins, bristle worms and the stingray. If you touch or are stung by one of these fish you should seek immediate medical attention without exception.

Weather – Always check and monitor forecasts in advance as conditions on the sea can change very quickly. Strong winds and conditions averse to safe diving soon creep up and can present a very real, very dangerous threat. All members of a private dive party should be experienced in handling a boat and you should have a planned route to follow.

Dive equipment – It should always be ensured before any dive that all diving equipment is properly maintained and in good working order. Dive centers regularly maintain the equipment so be sure to do the same if it is your personal stash – Service all equipment at least once a year.  Always consider whether your wetsuits are appropriate for the sea temperature of the dive.

Certification – Regulation for scuba diving in France requires that all divers have a current diving licence and/or civil liability insuring scuba diving.

Diver age – The minimum legal age for diving in France is 8 years old and 14 years for the first certificate. Any diver under the age of majority (18) will need written parental consent before diving.

Don’t feel ready? – You should always feel completely at ease in the water. If scuba diving sounds daunting, snorkelling can be a fun, pressure free (and cheap!) substitute to help you become more comfortable with your surroundings in the water. Many dive centers in the PACA region offer snorkelling as part of their available activities.

So there you have it! If you are considering scuba diving in France as an activity, hopefully this guide to the basics of diving in France will have left you feel a little more informed. Whilst all of the regulations and important safety advice to remember can seem daunting, you should keep in mind that diving can be an extremely pleasurable and rewarding experience for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy (See our related article about the oldest man in the world to take up diving!).

If you’d like more information, or to find out where best to dive in France, don’t be afraid to contact us.
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