The most common entry-level scuba-diving courses are the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (Padi) Open Water Diver and Scuba Diver courses. Open Water Diver is a full entry-level certification, while you can get a Scuba Diver certification simply by completing a portion of the Open Water Diver course.
You’re eligible to take these courses if you can swim comfortably and are in good health. The minimum age for scuba certification is 10 years for the Junior Open Water Diver or Junior Scuba Certification, and 15 for the adult certifications. Padi certification is accepted around the world, and you must show your Open Water Padi Diver card before a dive centre will allow you to rent equipment or allow you to dive. If you have only completed a Scuba Diver course then you will require supervision from a Padi master and cannot dive on your own.
Scuba do: A Padi certification and training course (left) is the gateway to memorable diving experiences, such as exploring coral reefs. Photographs by Thinkstock
The Open Water Diver course consists of three segments— learning about scuba (generally by watching DVDs that teach you about the jargon, equipment, and physics of diving, and perhaps some classroom instructions); confined water dives (which often take place in swimming pools but for us occurred in 10ft of seawater); and three open-water dives (which happen towards the end of your course, in 40-60ft of water). You will also be required to demonstrate the ability to tread water or swim for about 10 minutes on your own. At the end you will need to complete a three-part multiple choice quiz, for which you will need to study from the manual your dive centre will provide you, and the dive computer—a kind of calculator for divers—both of which are yours to keep.
If you are prone to seasickness, and will be diving from a boat, make sure you take some seasickness medication prior to heading out. Eat before diving; scuba-diving can make you really hungry. Diving with a cold can make it difficult to equalize (clear the pressure in your ears by holding your nostrils and blowing).
Once you’re certified, here are four great places to go diving:
Boracay, The Philippines
Boracay Island has 4km of beaches and clam waters, making it an ideal spot for vacationers who want to combine a beach holiday with a gentle introduction to scuba-diving. The corals here are at shallow depths, so if you find you’re not comfortable with scuba, you can still snorkel down.
Caye Caulker, Belize
If you’re an experienced diver, one of the best spots in the world to scuba is the Blue Hole, a circular limestone sinkhole halfway between Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye that’s the doorway to an underwater cave network.
The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
We couldn’t leave this out: The biggest barrier reef in the world is long enough and varied enough to provide multiple dive sites of varying difficulty. Every one of them has breathtaking corals and fish. The reef’s famous fans include author Douglas Adams and the late film-maker Jacques Cousteau.
Kuredu Island, Maldives
Meant for the serious spender and the serious diver, this private island resort has villas on the beaches, so that you can go snorkelling as soon as you leave your room. For a proper scuba-diving experience, there are 50 dive sites in the nearby Lhaiviyani Atoll. Along with sharks and rays, Lhaiviyani hosts Hawksbill Turtles.
To find diving instructors, or to plan a diving vacation, log on to www.padi.com
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