Whether you’re heading off to Thailand, Australia, the Caribbean, or elsewhere, diving is almost a rite of passage for the traveler and the first step is getting your open water certification.
Follow these 6 steps to help ensure you get the most from your first dive experience.
Pick a Good School
Before even getting in the water you want to be sure the people teaching you know what they’re doing. While it can sometimes be tempting to go with a party school, schools that take the sport a little more seriously are often better equipped, have a long standing safety record and provide better training.
Ask other divers in the area for their experiences and try searching Tripadvisor or Scubaadviser before selecting a school. When you get to the school, take a look at their boats and equipment to see if everything looks clean, relatively new, and in reasonable condition. A well-kept shop is a good indication that they take pride in what they do.
Before my first dive, I remember my brother (a commercial diver) telling me the most important thing I can do is to “stay calm.” If you stay calm everything will go well, you’ll feel more comfortable, and you’ll use less air. It’s when you freak out that things start to go sideways and diving can be difficult.
In my open water course I watched two German girls struggle the whole time as they were terrified of what they were doing. They repeatedly shot up to the surface putting themselves and others in danger. Meanwhile I took my brother’s advice and waited patiently on the bottom playing tic-tac-toe in the sand with the assisting divemaster.
The dive instructors are there to keep you and the reef safe. They’ll tell you how to control your buoyancy and keep track of your air. Don’t lie to them about your air supply or you could endanger them and the rest of your group.
It’s also particularly important to follow the leader while surfacing as many dive sites have passing boats as a potential hazard.
Don’t Touch Anything
While the reefs and wrecks we visit are beautiful they are also very fragile. A large amount of coral gets damaged every year from the carelessness of divers. It can take decades or even centuries for parts of the reef to grow back once damaged, so watch where you put your fins, tank and hands.
For more information on this topic visit project aware.
Don’t Dive With a Hangover
Dive towns are often also synonymous with party spots. While it can be tempting to head out and party the night before a dive, take it easy and you’ll be thankful you did. Between the rocking of the boat and the pressure at depth, a hangover can turn a fun diving experience into a queasy one very fast.
Having a hangover at depth can also put you at risk of endangering yourself and others, particularly on deep dives over 30 metres where nitrogen narcosis starts to take effect
Diving is about seeing and enjoying the amazing colours and shapes the natural underwater world provides. Wrecks of boats can be a haunting view into a not so distant past. For many, diving is the closest we can come to the feeling of flight as we traverse the ocean floor. So wherever you’re headed, make sure to have fun doing it!
If all goes well with your open water diving, consider going further with some of the many courses that can take you in to places like caves, deeper reefs, wrecks and much more.
Have any other first time diver tips? Leave a comment below or send me a message.