Updated: Nov 3
There are two main diving activities, SCUBA diving and Freediving. These two activities can happen in the same place, but they are quite different? Which one should you do? Lets see what are the differences.
Enthought the both of them are diving activities, they are quite different.
SCUBA diving uses many equipment such as Mask, BCD, Regulator, Tank, Weights and Belt, and Fins as a minimum. Those equipment can be more costly if you want to have your own equipment, and also require more preparations. There are more equipment that you usually use on a dive, such as Wetsuit, DSMB, Torches, Boots if you're using Open Heel Fins, or even just the tank O-ring fell of during the transportation and you don't have a spare, which means more things to go wrong if they break or you forgot them.
Freediving on the other hand only require just Mask, Fins, and Snorkel. Other equipment such as Freediving Buoys and Line, Bottom Weight, Weights and Belt.
Because of the different equipment mentioned earlier, the difficulty of the activity is different.
SCUBA uses a lot of equipment will be more like driving a car, a bit more complicated at first, but it will allow you to stay in the water or at depth longer and easier. SCUBA is less physically demanding and less perfection of the technique to be able to dive as you have air to breathe underwater. Even if your technique isn't perfect, you'll still be able to dive, just not as good and easy and consume more air = less time underwater.
Freediving uses a lot less equipment, so guess who has to do the work? Yes, you! Freediving is more like running. Its a sport, so whether you will be able to dive deep or long would depend on your fitness and mentality. Due to this reason, different people have different goal Freediving, some for the photos, some for the challenges, some just like the feeling of being in/underwater without many equipment.
The two activities can happen in the same location, but they have different limitations.
SCUBA diving is more forgiving when it comes to diving condition.
If the surface is a bit rough, once you are deeper than 5 meters, there isn't much effect to you.
If there is a strong current, you can hide behind corals and rocks or stay close to the sea floor or the wall.
If the visibility is bad, you can still navigate using compass and map of the dive site.
Your time in the water/underwater limited by the air consumption rate and amount of nitrogen absorbed in your body.
Freediving requires more favoring condition.
If the surface is rough, you can't fully relax on the surface. You will keep getting water in your snorkel and be thrown around by the waves.
If there is a strong current, you'll have to kick to try to keep yourself at the location you want to dive. Or if it is line training, your line will be curved and the current will try to wash you away from the line making it harder to dive.
If the visibility is bad, for fun dive you'll not be able to tell where you are from the surface if you can't see the bottom. For line training, it's ok, just not a pleasant to see the surrounding even thought you are just starring at the line.
Your time in the water/underwater limited by the level of your exhaustion. You can spend as much time you like in the water, but your performance will be reduced as your tiredness accumulate.
There are different risks from these two diving activities
SCUBA diving has risks and injuries that can happened as you learned/will learn during the course such as Decompression Sickness, Lung Over Expansion Injuries, Nitrogen Narcosis, Oxygen Toxicity, and more, but these injuries are not common as the standards and regulations of recreational SCUBA diving has lower limitation ceiling to allow certain amount of margin of error. You don't have to worry about these injuries, during the course you learn about the injuries, how it happens, how to treat if it happens, and how to prevent it from happening.
Freediving has different risks. The risk of freediving are Black Out(BO) and Lost of Motor Control(LMC) which can happen if you push yourself too much, ignore urge to breathe, and dive alone. People don't die from BO and LMC, when they are unconscious all they require is a buddy to bring them back to the surface and perform rescue procedure before they resume breathing and inhale water and drown as the number one rule of freediving is to never dive alone(without a buddy). Other risks are such as getting hit by boats as Freedivers float on the surface most of the time. Even with surface marker device does not ensure that the other guy(boat captain) will see you bobbing at the surface.
This is totally depending on the individual preferences.
SCUBA diving will spend more time underwater, doing deep isn't difficult so you'll get more chance to photograph more of the underwater scenery and spending more time looking for underwater creature. Taking pictures of people is different as they have more equipment, the style is to look more professional. You can also bring strobes and lights to compensate the lack of color and light at depth.
Freediving stay mostly close to the surface. The taking photos will be depending on the natural light. Camera setup are usually simple with just camera and housing, no arms and floats and strobes to reduce the the drag in the water. Photos will mostly taking of models showing their shape and posture.
Travelling to your destination and dive and go back home is not difficult for both,
SCUBA equipment for rental are usually available at the dive centers. If you don't want to bring your own equipment just to do a couple dives, you can rent them. However, you'll have to try your luck on the equipment whether it's in good condition or not. Other thing to consider, you have to wait 18 - 24 hours before you get on the plane after SCUBA diving to avoid having DCS. SCUBA diving is also more widely known so better chance for you to find the dive center that can cater to your need.
Freediving equipment are not widely available for renting, however, because there are not many equipment necessary to start diving, you can fit most things in your suitcase which doesn't require much space such as mask, snorkel, wetsuit, and weight belt. You can later use the SCUBA diving weight with your belt if you are planning on diving with SCUBA diving boat. You may disassemble your fins and fit them in your baggage or bet a dedicated bag to your equipment and load them. The total weight might be only 3 - 4 kilos. And not, there is no required time for you to wait before you get on the plane. You can go straight from the pier get on the plane and fly back to home right away.
So there you have it, the differences of the two activities. SCUBA Diving vs Freediving. Which one is better? Which one is Harder?
For me there is no one better, just different. My recommendation is to try both and see how do you feel about it. I personally do/teach both and I find both of them suitable for different situation. If I want to go deep, explore a wreck and find underwater creatures, I'd go with SCUBA as it allows me to spend more time underwater. If I want to just look around the reef or do some photoshoot, I'd go with Freediving as it allow me to spend more time in the water covering more area and also better for photoshoot.