Getting your scuba diving certificate is probably one of the best decisions you can make if you enjoy tropical waters like I do. You will be able to explore the beach location beyond the seashore and get closer to a fantastic underwater world. How do you start?
There are two ways to get started:
- Do a scuba diving baptism before you invest on the diving certificate course.
- Enrol yourself directly in a diving school and go forward with your decision to get certified.
People who are a bit sceptical about diving might prefer to go for a diving baptism to confirm their capacity of breathing underwater with the scuba diving gear or simply to see what the activity entails. However, I doubt you can find diving comfortable or enjoyable right away without knowing some basics about the equipment and techniques. If you are convinced about diving, then start with the second option: a diving course.
WHAT DIVING COURSES ARE THERE AVAILABLE?
Firstly, there are two main organisations offering internationally recognised scuba diving training: PADI and SSI. There are more PADI diving schools around the world than SSI schools but both course content and standards of training are very similar. How to choose one or another? My recommendation is to go for the diving school that offers you the best rate with the most reliable diving instructor and equipment. Browse around and read reviews to know what you feel more comfortable with. With either certifying school, you will be able to dive around the world.
Secondly, there are 2 courses for beginners: the PADI Scuba Diver and the PADI/SSI Open Water Diver (OWD) courses. The first one is a shorter version of the latter and does not certify you for independent diving. The OWD course is the most popular choice as it enables you to dive at any site without a diving instructor.
HOW TO GET AN OPEN WATER DIVER (OWD) CERTIFICATE?
In order to obtain your OWD certificate, you need to pass a multiple choice theory exam and have 4 successful open water dives. Most courses are spread over 3-4 days depending on whether the theory is taught online or in-class spread over 1 or 2 days.
The course structure is usually as follows:
- Theory Content Classes with exercises
- Theory Exam
- Confined Space (swimming pool) classes
- 4 Open Water Dives (spread over 2 days)
- Celebration time with your diving instructor and classmates!
If you are not given a book with the theoretical content, you will be given a digital book copy so you can study the material after the class. You will have plenty of theory to go over and homework to do, so try not to plan too many activities aside your course during those 3-4 days.
Also, it is worth mentioning you will need to fill in a medical questionnaire confirming that your fitness/medical condition is appropriate to proceed with the practical classes. In some cases, the diving instructor might request you to obtain the OK from a doctor.
The first opportunity to get hands on the diving gear will be during the practical classes in the swimming pool. You will be taught how to assemble, use and disassemble the equipment. The first time you submerge under water and breath through the regulator will possibly be a bit strange but nothing to worry about! It is safe and if anything feels strange, you are just a few meters below the swimming pool’s surface. No need to panic! My advice is to get all your equipment doubts sorted during the pool session, repeating the exercises as many times as needed. It will be easier there than in open waters.
The second part of the practical class will be during your first open water dives. It is time to gear up and dive in with your diving instructor and diving partner. I forgot to mention: you should always dive in pairs! The first dives won’t only be about enjoying yourself under water but about practising the skills you trained in the swimming pool and getting familiar with the diving best practices. Only upon completing theses tasks successfully, you will be granted your OWD certificate.
WHERE TO GET YOUR DIVING CERTIFICATE?
There are many locations around the world where to get your diving certificate. Some geographical areas are better than others due to the seas conditions and the quality of diving sites. Destinations with greater tourism offer a wider choice of diving schools with more competitive prices and, usually, better diving infrastructure. Wherever is that you decide, ensure the diving school offers small class groups and all assurances of having quality diving gear, instructors and an emergency response plan.
I got my OWD certificate in the Thai island of Koh Tao and had a very positive experience. It is one of the most popular locations to get your OWD certificate and, hence, there is a myriad of diving schools offering courses starting almost every day of the week. The diving atmosphere can be felt throughout the island, even outside the diving schools and shops. It is quite fun!
If you are looking for any suggestions, I recommend Sairee Cottage Diving. I did my training and certification there with an excellent diving instructor who managed to make me forget my fear of being in open seas and enjoy the subsea world from the start. The diving school also offers accommodation of different standards and prices within the premises. Its restaurant and bar has a privileged view of the sea! A great way to unwind after a long classroom day and watch the sunset!
Don’t wait any longer! Book your course, grab your gear and dive into the underwater world! And when you do, please let me know how it went! 🙂
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