Where to start your SCUBA diving adventure?
The feeling of being weightless underwater, the numerous wildlife encounters, the amazing colors and the thrill of treasure hunting for a creature you have never seen before… It has something magical, relaxing and adventurous at the same time.
It’s a different world out there! Are you ready to soak up an amazing experience? Go SCUBA diving!
When you are choosing a destination to start your adventure it can be quite a challenge to get comparable information about the different dive sites. All dive shops show you their most amazing pictures and what you can see underwater – and who wouldn’t? It’s almost impossible to make a good decision if you haven’t been in many places. Previous dive experience, weather & time conditions and the changing seasons influence what you see and how you experience it as well. What to do?
As an experienced dive instructor I would like to point out is a few places where it’s easy to start diving with a lot to discover! I’ve been a PADI dive instructor for many years now and I taught diving at different countries and for different dive centers.
But first, let me explain a little bit about dive organizations. PADI is by far the biggest and most known organization worldwide. Although a lot of people think they are getting their ‘PADI’, they are actually gaining their first level of recreational diving called OPEN WATER. The OPEN WATER course takes a few (full) days and consist of three parts; theory, confined water (swimming pool conditions) and open water (the ocean). This PADI course is the same all over the world although the length, price/package and service changes with every dive center/instructor. Other organizations have different names and programs for the entry-level certification.
Selecting a diving center is different from selecting a dive destination, but to select a good destination you need some information about the dive centers as well.
In my opinion a good dive destination / dive center for beginners offers at least:
– Tropical weather and warm water so you are able to move flexible in the water since you don’t need a thick wetsuit;
– Sandy flat/slope bottoms to practice easily without worrying about touching corals;
– Colorful fish and underwater life without strong currents so you can just relax and look around without drifting off;
– The possibility to have more challenging dives after certification;
– Restaurant and accommodation within walking distance, because you will be tired!
– A house reef, so you can just walk in the ocean from the dive center to practice your diving skills with an instructor anytime;
– Great personal service and up-to-date equipment, send them an email and check the photo gallery on the website!
Gili Air, Bali Sea, Indonesia
– This really is an easy going destination. The small Island doesn’t have any proper roads, just sand paths with horse carriages, and many restaurants and bars. When you enter the harbor, Oceans 5 Dive Resort pops up. Hard to miss – even harder to leave… This diving center is a modern and comfortable one-stop-shop that has it’s own swimming pool, boats, accommodation, restaurant/bar, etc. The dive sites are awesome due to a large variety of fish and many different dive sites to reach by a short boat ride. You need to take a boat to get here from Lombok or Bali.
>>> My recommendation: Oceans 5, Gili Air
Moalboal, Zulu Sea, Philippines
– If you like to start your adventure in an aquarium, this is the place. While you are practicing your first skills a turtle might drop by to say hello. There’s a training area looking like a small lagoon where you start your course. When you are ready, your instructor will take you to the end of the flat part ‘the drop-off’ where you can really learn to fly through the water and hopefully see thousands of sardines! Watch the wall as it is filled with amazing little creatures! Neptune has it’s own boat for the dive sites a bit further out. Don’t skip a dive at Pescador Island! Moalboal is a small town on Cebu Island.
>>> My recommendation: Neptune Dive Center
Eilat, Red Sea, Israel
– In Eilat, from the Aqua Sport dive center, there is a huge house reef with many dive sites which makes it ideal for beginners. It’s easy to start-off here with a lot of sand and a bottom that slowly takes you deeper. Moses Rock is one of my favorite dive sites around here, shallow and colorful! Once you have got your certification, go for a wreck dive and take a day-trip to Taba, Egypt (Aqua Sport has a second dive center here). The water can be cold, check the season!
>>> My recommendation: Aqua Sport Eilat
Koh Tao, Gulf of Thailand, Thailand
– This is one of the places where most people get their first certification in diving, it’s an industry out here and you’ll find out why: Conditions are good! No currents around the Island, many dive sites and plenty of tropical reef fish! You can spot parrot fish, sting rays, maybe even a turtle! There are many dive centers to choose from and prices are low compared to other destinations. Expect to see a lot of divers under water! Once certified, go dive at Sail Rock! Koh Tao can be reached by boat from Koh Samui which has an airport.
>>> My recommendation: Koh Tao Resort
Marsa Alam, Red Sea, Egypt
– The Red Sea has always drown many tourist from Europe for snorkeling and diving, and yes: This is the place to be! It’s by far more diverse and colorful than any place I went diving in Europe and it’s warm!. One of the general rules (but there are exceptions) of the Red Sea is: The further South the better! More fish, healthy reefs and less divers can be found around Marsa Alam while there are still many sandy bottoms to learn without kicking the corals with your fins. Because this is a more remote area you are more likely to stick to a resort and relax than wandering around old towns/markets and other cultural activities, but there’s plenty to do!
>>> My recommendation: Coraya Divers
Bonaire, Caribbean Sea, Dutch Antilles
– Bonair is called ‘Divers paradise’ and this is just the perfect place to learn how to do it! Search for a sea horse, enjoy the colorful sponges and search a spotted drum fish. Once you’ve got your certification you can dive anywhere around the Island without dive guide. There are yellow rocks pointing out the dive sites. Just rent a car and equipment, find a certified buddy to dive with and off you go! Take a boat to dive around Little Bonaire Island if you have time, you might see turtles and black coral!
>>> My recommendation: Divi Dive Bonaire
Baa Atoll, Indian Ocean, Maldives
-The Maldives offers world class diving and is on top of the list of most divers! It’s my favorite dive destination and I loved teaching here. Most resorts are 4-5 stars and high-end but slowly local Islands are opening up for tourism offering home-stays. When you have the possibility to go here, do it! But, you will get spoiled! Most resorts have amazing house reefs with sandy bottoms to practice easily. As soon as you’re ready for the open water you’re likely to encounter everything you have dreamed off. Manta rays, turtles, (friendly) sharks, colorful anemones with clown fish (Nemo) and many many more! From Male International Airport you can take a boat or a seaplane depending on the atoll you’re going. If you go to Baa Atoll, dive Hanifaru Bay and search different kinds of sharks and rays – this is really a world class dive site!
>>> My recommendation: Sea-Explorer Reethi Beach Resort
One more thing to consider before you book your tickets:
If you want to get certified but don’t want to ‘loose’ days of studying and practicing, there might be an option for you to start at home. You can split up the course and do the theory fully online (at least with the PADI organization) or with a local dive center. It’s even possible to do the confined water skills (swimming pool part) before you go. You just need to find a dive center that wants to help you out. It’s likely to cost a bit more because you loose package deals, but it can save precious holiday time! Depending on your home country you can also do the full course before you go and just go fun diving! I did my certifications (up to Dive Master) in The Netherlands and never regret it even though the water was really cold!!!
Hopefully this gives you an overall idea about starting your dive adventure!
Good luck and happy bubbles!