Scuba diving is a sport that many people would like to try, but with limited opportunities to dive in the UK and the often prohibitive costs of diving abroad, it is often beyond the reach of many. As an introduction to the underwater world that you can experience during scuba diving, a trip to the local aquarium or sea life centre could be a good first step.
For those who have visited aquariums, you'll know the thrill of seeing amazing fish and sea creatures close up, perhaps for the first time. But can this ever come close to swimming with fish in the water, experiencing their natural environment, being part of their world on a scuba dive? In aquariums the fish are always going to be constrained, however big the tank, and you can never really get close to them. You may see new types of fish but not experience how they naturally behave in the ocean. So how can this ever come close to the freedom of scuba diving.
If you are passionate about underwater life and are already an experienced diver, visiting an aquarium could serve as a quick fix between scuba dives. There are plenty of aquariums around Britain and the world where you can experience the beauty and grace of the fish as they swim by in large tanks, reminding you of the excitement of the ocean environment. They offer the chance to perhaps see fish that you may have already encountered on a dive or are likely to see on a future dive. If you are really passionate about ocean life however, then an aquarium may be a place you'd find difficult to visit.
Much like the argument about zoos, many people believe that the aquarium environment is un-natural and restrictive for the fish and sea creatures concerned. Seeing sharks and rays swimming up and down a tank could be a cruel reminder of when you last observed them in the ocean on a scuba dive, free to explore and hunt their own food. These creatures will never be able to use the instincts and skills they were born with in an aquarium environment. On the other hand, some people argue that fish are well cared for in aquariums; they have their food provided, their water monitored and are not under threat from predators.
Water parks and aquariums can also be great places to spark young people's interest in the underwater environment. They are fantastic locations to take the family for a day out or for school parties to attend on an educational visit. Keeping fish as pets in a tank at home can also provide an insight into underwater life and teach children how to respect and care for ocean creatures. All these things provide a chance to experience the wonders of sea life without being in the water. Perhaps artificial aquatic environments are therefore a great chance to get more people, particularly the young, interested in the underwater world - which may then in turn lead on to an interest in scuba diving. For those who have not had the opportunity to see amazing fish and sea creatures whilst diving, the aquarium could be a good place to start a lifelong interest in and respect for the wonders of the ocean.