I was certified for scuba diving a few years ago and it turned out to be one of the best things I have done for my traveling. I’m not going to go off on how awesome it is and how many dives I have done (because I haven’t done many) so don’t worry. This article is more about how it adds to your traveling and how to go about getting certified.
When traveling, there are so many opportunities to go diving (and for reasonable prices) that it is almost foolish to not be certified. It always gives you the opportunity to see a bit more when you are somewhere. Especially if you end up in one of those resort locations for a bit of time. You can throw in a few dives on those days when you just don’t feel like laying on the beach or sweating on some day hike somewhere.
I was certified through PADI which is one of the recognized bodies around the world and will let you dive basically anywhere. I have used my diving in Thailand, at Kande Beach in Malawi, and on the island of Zanzibar. I have had many other opportunities as well, but didn’t have the time (Galapagos Islands, Cuba, and Vietnam).
How Does Certification Work with PADI
My cousin first gave me the idea before I left on my trip to South East Asia in 2004. Basically it comprises of 2 components which cost around $300 Canadian altogether or $150 each.
- Class Room Instruction/Pool Dives
- 4 Open Water Dives
Class Room Instruction involves reading the textbook, doing quizzes, and practicing the techniques in a pool. You cover the basics of how it works, what the safety concerns are, how the PADI program works for certification (a sales pitch basically), and you get a good feel how to operate the gear within a safe pool environment.
The 4 open water dives are four seperate dives on open water. Open water means a lake, river, or ocean. You can do more than one dive a day as well so it doesn’t have to take long.
When you have completed both portions, you will receive a nice little PADI Open Water card in the mail that you can take with you whenever.
How Long Does It Take?
I did mine over the course of 6 weeks. I went 2 days a week for 3 hours each time. You can do it in a weekend too.
Can the Components Be Done Seperately?
Yes. This is what I did. I live in about the driest most boring place in terms of scuba diving activity. Plus the open water dives sites were either man-made lakes within the city I live in or freezing cold mountain lakes in the Rockies.
I did all my course and pool work here and then I planned my holiday. When you are at a place that has a PADI certified shop you can do your 4 open water dives there. This was awesome. The dives were instructional, but I still got to see a lot of neat fish and coral. The cost can be cheaper, but in my case it was about the same.
Remember to take all your documentation with you though. You will want your log book and PADI cards with you.
What If I Don’t Dive For Awhile?
This will vary, depending on where you go. Some places will make you take a refresher (for money of course) if you haven’t dived within the last 6 months. My last trip in Africa, they didn’t even check my log book. Just asked me some questions and went over a few things so it didn’t even matter.
In Calgary, some dive shops will even let you drop in and do your own thing in their pool for $5 and sign your log book that you have had a refresher, so if you are worried at all before you leave, just do a refresher. Personally I wouldn’t worry about it though. The refresher won’t cost you much anyways and you might even get a scenic dive out of it on your holiday.
Diving Locations I Know About
Koh Tao, Thailand
- This is a little island in the Gulf of Thailand. Know for cheap diving and cheap everything, it caters to those who are there for it. There isn’t much else you can do while you are there to tell you the truth. I spent a week there and had a great time. Lots of fish, coral, reef sharks, turtles, and my cousin saw a Whale Shark. Dive Point was the shop I used. Check them out. This link is for their main site which says Koh Samui, but they are on all 3 islands I think. They have the biggest boat and amount of equipment for Koh Tao. They were quite friendly too.
Kande Beach, Malawi
- My first lake dive was on Lake Malawi. Had lots of neat little fish and there is even an old jeep that was had been sunk off an island. There are cyclids in this lake and I even saw a mother fish who would let all 30-40 of her babies swim into her mouth when you got too close. The dive shop was called Aquanuts and all the people were super friendly.
- This was a fantastic place. It was at Nungwi on Zanzibar. The dive shop was called “Spanish Dancer” or something like that. It was on the north-west corner of the island. The beaches are awesome and the water nice and clear. I took a boat over to the north-east corner of the island and did a couple dives off of here. Monster sized sea turtles and dolphins were jumping out of the water when we were up top. Definitely lots to see. The snorkeling just off the beach was even fantastic. Check it out when you are there. The dive shop I used was right on the beach and they were all quite friendly. I found a link here that talks about it.