Scuba Diving vs. Sea Walking: Do You Know the Difference?

If you’re looking to explore the sea, there are a lot of different ways that you can do that. Scuba diving and sea walking are two popular options that each offer some unique opportunities, depending on what you’re looking for. 

What is the difference between scuba diving and sea walking? Scuba diving is a way to explore the sea while using a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) to support your breathing. It requires training and certification. Sea walking is a way to explore the sea using a special helmet to support your breathing. It does not require certification or extensive training.

It is important to understand what each of these activities entails before you decide to try one. But if you do a little research and figure out what one might be best for you, it could be an amazing experience.  

Scuba Diving

Scuba diving originates back to the 1940s, but it has come a long way since then.  It was developed for the French Navy during World War II by Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Emile Gagnan. This was a huge advancement that helped with rescue operations during the war. And although scuba diving is still used for rescue operations today, it has also become a popular recreational activity. 

Throughout the years since its inception, scuba diving equipment has become much more advanced, and more safety measures have been put in place. As more people began scuba diving as a hobby, organizations were set up to train and certify people. 

Equipment

There is a lot of equipment required to scuba dive. Here is what you will need:

  • A mask. It is crucial to have a comfortable and properly fitted mask.
  • A buoyancy compensator (also known as a buoyancy control device). This comes in various styles, and it helps to control your buoyancy by adding or releasing air. 
  • A regulator. This converts the compressed air in your scuba tank to air that you can breathe.
  • A tank. This holds the air that you will be breathing underwater.
  • Fins. These help your legs to move more efficiently through the water, which is much denser than air. They come in a variety of styles. 
  • A wet suit or a dry suit. These will both keep you warm but in different ways. A wet suit will allow a small amount of water in that your body will heat. A dry suit keeps all the water out but allows you to wear clothing underneath. Gloves and hoods are optional items that may be useful. 
  • A dive computer. This keeps track of vital information, such as how long you’ve been underwater and how much time you have before you need to return to the surface. 
  • A compass. Knowing your directions is crucial when you are underwater. 
  • Other safety equipment. Depending on the amount of information that your dive computer keeps track of and the type of diving you are doing, there are other devices that you will need. These include a pressure gauge, depth gauge, and dive lights, among other things. 

Costs

A lot of the costs associated with scuba diving will depend on whether you choose to rent or buy your equipment. This is a personal preference that will depend on your finances and how often you plan on diving. One option is to buy some of your own equipment and rent the rest. If you buy all your own equipment, that could easily run you about $1,000.

Scuba diving also requires training and certification. As with the equipment, these prices vary, but are generally at least a few hundred dollars. And there will be costs for each time you go out to dive. Again, this will depend on if you are renting gear or not, but costs could be somewhere in the $50-$100 range per dive. 

Sea Walking

Sea walking, which is also sometimes referred to as helmet diving, is a very different experience from scuba diving. It’s a way to view underwater life up close and personal, but it doesn’t require all the training and expertise that scuba diving does. While scuba diving is more of a hobby that people can learn how to do on their own, sea walking is more of a tourist attraction that can be done by people with no diving experience. It’s a newer phenomenon that has been gaining popularity in recent years. 

Most sea walks are done at a depth of about 15 to 30 feet, so you’re not going really deep like scuba divers do, but you’re going deep enough to feel like you’re fully experiencing the beauty of the underwater life surrounding you. 

Typically there will be a short information session that will explain the basic safety precautions and what you can expect when you’re underwater. This includes basic hand signals that you can use to communicate. Then a boat will take you out to the location where you’ll be sea walking, and you’ll be able to spend about 20 minutes underwater, walking through a designated area with hand railings. There are certified guides who help you get your helmet on and get into the water, and there are certified guides on the seafloor when you get there. 

Equipment 

The list of equipment required for sea walking is a lot shorter than scuba diving. The only thing that you need is a helmet. Your helmet acts as your mask, and air supply all rolled into one. If you’re trying to picture this, think of an astronaut. It’s a large helmet that covers your whole head and sits on your shoulders while allowing you to see out of the front. 

While you have the helmet on, you can breathe as though you were above water.  Your helmet is connected to an air supply on the surface of the water that is pumping air into your helmet. Air is being constantly forced into the helmet, which keeps the water from getting in. The weight of the helmet helps to keep you balanced under the water, although it does not prevent you from swimming back up to the surface, and it feels virtually weightless once you are underwater.

Costs

The costs of sea walking are typically going to be a lot less than scuba diving. Prices can vary, as there are places all over the world that offer sea walking, but pricing is typically somewhere around $100. However, people don’t typically buy their own equipment for this. It is a one-time cost for the sea walk and helmet rental at a tourist location that offers this activity. Therefore, it is much less of a financial investment than scuba diving. 

Snorkeling 

Scuba diving and sea walking aren’t the only ways to explore the sea. If you’d rather stay closer to the surface of the water, snorkeling may be a good option. To do this, you will need a snorkel and goggles. Fins are optional but can be helpful while moving through the water. Like sea walking, it does not require any official certification, but it is important to know what you’re doing and be comfortable with your equipment before getting in the water. No matter which of these activities you may choose to do, it’s important to pay attention to all the safety precautions.

Final Thoughts

We have always been fascinated with the sea. Roughly 71% of the earth’s surface is made up of water, and yet so much of it is still a mystery to us. If you have the desire to see more of it up close, there are different options available. Whether you go scuba diving, sea walking, or another underwater activity, there is so much to explore. 


Articles contain affiliate links to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. The site is also an affiliate for other brands covered in our the content. We may earn a small commission when readers purchase through these links at no extra cost to the buyer.

Tim Conner, M.D.

Tim Conner, M.D. started boating in 1974. He has been involved in recreational boating continuously since then. Dr. Conner has been active in boating and watersports safety education for decades. He rode his first jet ski in 1997, and rejoined the personal watercraft arena in 2012 with a Sea-Doo GTX 155, followed by 2 supercharged SeaDoos. Scuba certification came in 1988, and he and the family have traveled the world snorkeling and scuba diving for decades. The family has recently taken up paddle boarding. Click the photo for a lot more.

Recent Content