Scuba diving is a fun activity to try during your travels. Swimming beneath the waves, surrounded by colorful fish and sea creatures of all shapes and sizes: it’s like being in another world. It’s one of my favorite things to do abroad!
I’ve dived in Thailand with tropical fish, dodging spiky urchins. In Indonesia, I dived with turtles and in Cyprus, I explored a huge shipwreck teeming with life. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef had amazing coral and all kinds of sea creatures for me to enjoy.
Scuba diving is an experience like no other and I heartily recommend it! But where to begin? In this article, we’re going to look at some top tips for you to consider when planning a scuba dive on your holiday. It’s important that to note that divers need to have basic general fitness and health – and you must be able to swim!
Diving: Where to Start?
Unfortunately, you can’t just hire some gear and go diving by yourself. Well, technically you can, but without the proper training, you are putting yourself in a lot of danger! Hire companies and diving tours won’t take you unless you have some kind of diving certification.
Luckily, if you just want to try scuba diving without any training, you can. Many tour companies offer “buddy” or “taster” dives for beginners. You will be teamed up with an instructor who will give you some basic lessons, show you how the equipment works, and take you on a dive.
What to Expect From a Taster Dive
You won’t be able to go deep, 10-15 meters maximum, and dives are usually short – around 10-30 minutes. but you can still see some great stuff. The dive instructor will be close by for the whole time, ensuring you don’t have any problems. They’ll also point out anything interesting to look at. They bring you quickly to the surface if you have any difficulties or get into distress.
Taster dives are a great introduction to the world of diving and worth doing if you are short on time, or just want to experience a dive without investing in lessons.
If you Can’t Dive – Snorkel!
Remember that if you don’t like diving, can’t afford it, or are afraid to do it – snorkeling is a great alternative. Often dive tours will also have good snorkeling opportunities too, and allow companions to join you. Whilst you dive, they can snorkel. Snorkeling is cheaper, too. Everyone wins. In some places, you can see just as much floating on the ocean’s surface than beneath the waves!
But to experience everything that diving has to offer, and if you want to do multiple dives, you’ll need to take diving lessons.
Scuba Diving Lessons
Although many organizations offer lessons and training, the most internationally recognized one, that you’ll see offered in most tourist destinations is PADI (the Professional Association of Diving Instructors). Many dive tour companies and dive schools offer PADI courses and certifications. The basic level is PADI Open Water Diver course – do this course, and a wealth of diving options around the world become available to you.
Now, it’s possible to do some diving lessons in a swimming pool. You could get certified at home before you go. But that’s expensive – and wouldn’t you rather learn to dive in an exotic location, where prices are cheaper?
I did my Open Water course in Thailand, where during my training dives, I was surrounded by colorful fish and coral – perfect! If you want to learn to dive, why not base some, or all, of your holiday around a diving course in a famous diving location?
About the Open Water Course
The PADI Open Water Diving course teaches you all about basic diving safety and practices. You’ll learn how to use the equipment, control your buoyancy, plan dives, and what to do if things go wrong.
With an Open Water course in hand, you can go diving with a “buddy” (you usually dive in pairs). That means more freedom and cheaper dives in the long run – one dive instructor can guide a group of certified divers, instead of multiple instructors being assigned to just a few people each time.
An Open Water course normally takes around 5 days to complete – you have to do around 3 actual dives and a boring theory test at the end. You can cram it into fewer days if you’re feeling energetic!
At the end, you will receive a dive book which you should keep safe. After you complete dives, instructors will fill in the details of that dive. It’s proof when you go to book diving tours of your experience – some tours require that you’ve done a certain number of dives. Take photos of the pages inside in case you lose it (like I did!).
Continue Your Scuba Dive Training
After a basic certification like the PADI Open Water, you can do more lessons or courses specializing in different areas. You could even become an instructor yourself! Some good advanced courses to consider are night dive courses, letting you dive by torchlight, or advanced Open Water courses which certify you to greater depths – allowing you see to more sea life.
Where To Scuba Dive?
You can go diving all over the world! Sea life habitats and protected marine reserves can be found on every continent. Tropical countries tend to have the most diving opportunities.
Scuba diving is expensive – you’re paying for a boat ride, equipment hire and instructors all at once. But it’s much cheaper in regions like Southeast Asia where currency rates are favorable for tourists, and there is a lot of competition between dive companies.
If you’re planning a holiday based around scuba diving, consider these factors when choosing a destination:
- Cost – What can you afford? How many dives do you want to do? Do you want to do a dive course?
- Type of Sea Life – Do you want to see certain sea creatures, coral or fish? Maybe you want to see sharks, turtles, stingrays or dolphins. These can only be found in some countries.
- Types of Dive Available – Do you want to do specialized types of dive, or advanced diving? For example, a place might be famous for night dives, sea life in deep trenches, or shipwrecks.
- Other Activities – What else do you want to do on your holiday? For example, do you want nice beaches or perhaps other adventure activities?
- Climate – Do you mind diving in chilly seas and wear a wetsuit? Is the time of year favorable for diving in the place that you want to go? Do your research beforehand.
Popular Scuba Diving Locations
Here are some of the most popular places to dive in the world for beginners:
- South East Asia – Thailand is a diving hotspot with its many islands having hundreds of dive companies. Although coral isn’t great here, the sea life is colourful and diverse in great numbers. It’s really cheap too – with so many competing dive companies and a great tourist infrastructure. An ideal budget travel choice for diving lessons in paradise. Malaysia and Indonesia (especially around the Gillie and Komodo Islands) also have fantastic diving and are fairly cheap.
- Australia – The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most impressive protected sea life reserves. This vast stretch of corals is usually accessed from the town of Cairns in the north and has every type of dive location and sea life you can imagine. The best coral habitats are quite far out though, so the best dive tours are over multiple days on liveaboard boats. It is an amazing place to dive, but can be very expensive thanks to the strength of the Australian dollar.
- Egypt – The Red Sea has astonishing numbers of colorful tropical fish and is a famously good diving spot. The resort beach town of Sharm el Sheikh is a diving hub filled with nice hotels and dive clubs. Prices are very reasonable and there’s lots of package deals available as tourism is so strong here.
- Maldives – It’s not cheap by any means, but the Maldives, in the Indian Ocean, have some of the best liveaboard dive tours on the planet. It’s a true paradise location with the island’s turquoise waters and powder white beaches surrounded by amazing tropical sea life to enjoy. The Maldives are also famous for romantic getaways, maybe you can persuade your loved one to join you in a dive instead of lounging on the beach all day!
General Dive Tips
Before you go, here’s a few nuggets of wisdom from my own experiences:
- When you first dive, some people find it scary, especially breathing through a mask. Stick with it, stay in shallow water and take things slowly. Tell your instructor that you are nervous, they are used to dealing with it. Don’t worry – you’ll soon get used to the experience and then you’ll love it!
- Make sure your travel insurance covers diving and to the depth that you will go to – you can usually pay a small premium addition if it’s not covered already.
- Only dive with certified instructors and companies.
- Always listen to your instructors and don’t dive if they don’t advise it. They know what they’re talking about.
Before and During Dives
- If you’re having problems with equalizing, take it very slowly and let your instructor or buddy know. Don’t force yourself to go deeper if it’s causing you problems, you’ll just make it worse.
- Don’t drink heavily the night before a dive. Trust me, you will regret it in many ways, and it can be dangerous!
- Consider water visibility before diving – if bad weather or high wind is forecast, visibility might be poor and you might want to reschedule your dive.
Other Diving Tips
- Hiring an underwater camera or waterproof case for your own is a fun way to document your experience. It takes practice to get good photos though! GoPros are a good option for video.
- If you did a dive course a few years ago, but can’t remember everything, don’t worry. Most dive companies offer quick refresher dives to bring you back up to speed so you can dive with confidence again.
Plan that Dive Holiday!
I hope you found this article useful. Diving is amazing fun and it’s very addictive once you start. Each dive spot around the world offers different sea life and experiences – there’s so much to choose from!
I always try to fit a dive or two in when I am headed to a coastal location, and it’s always worth it. I suggest that if you enjoy it the first few times, invest in a course and get certified – it lasts for life and gives you so many diving opportunities. I hope you enjoy diving as much as I do – and I’d love to hear your own favorite dive spots and diving tips in the comments below!