Whether you are a novice diver about to embark on your first diving adventure or a diving veteran looking for a new place to pursue your passion, choosing the right dive centre is certainly the most important part of your next underwater experience.
Scuba diving has become an increasingly popular activity for people from all walks of life. Whether it is a family vacation, a fun trip with friends, a romantic getaway or a solo adventure around the world, most travellers will at some point along the way be encouraged to discover scuba diving. Scuba diving could be a planned part of your itinerary or it could be a new addition due to the persuasive techniques employed by an enthusiastic and friendly diving instructor. Whatever your reasons are for wanting to try scuba diving or perhaps continue your education as a scuba diver, the dive centre you choose will play an important role in the quality of your education, your safety and your overall enjoyment of the experience. There are hundreds of dive centres to choose from depending on your chosen tropical destination.
So how do we choose the right dive centre or better yet how do you choose the best dive centre for you?
Choosing a dive centre is an important process that should not be undertaken lightly. It is easy to forget the importance of this statement when one is under the influence of the light and fluffy throes of holiday bliss. On vacation we are relaxed and laid-back, enjoying the peace and freedom we associate with taking a break from our hectical working lives. It is easy to forget that, whilst diving is a fun activity, it also involves a serious risk of injury or death if conducted improperly. This is not to scare you; it is simply a statement of fact that can be read about in the ‘Liability Release and Assumption of Risk Agreement’ a diver must sign before embarking on any underwater adventures.
So what does all this mean for us as divers?
It means that we owe it to ourselves to choose a dive centre that considers our safety their highest priority.
As a new or inexperienced diver, you may be wondering how you would know if a dive centre considers safety a top priority. There are a few questions you should ask at the initial meeting between you and your potential dive professional. These questions can be asked through email if you have planned your diving holiday or upon initial contact with the dive centre if you have just walked in off the street with a sudden desperate desire to find ‘nemo’. Whether you are a diving veteran or a scuba virgin these questions should be at the fore front of your mind when you are interviewing a new or unfamiliar dive centre.
Yes. You read right. You are interviewing the dive centre; you are asking them questions to make sure the service they provide is the service you are looking for.
You also have the right to walk away if you are unhappy with the answers they provide. Remember though that they are also interviewing you, so be honest about your experience level, your comfort ability in the water and any existing medical conditions you may have. Honesty is a very important part of building a safety focused relationship with your dive centre.
Do you have emergency oxygen and where is it kept?
If a dive centre does not have the appropriate emergency first aid supplies you should not under any circumstances dive with them. From treating a minor scratch to providing emergency oxygen, a professional and reputable dive centre should be able to provide basic medical care in an emergency as well as facilitate transport to the nearest appropriate medical treatment facility. Would you put your life in the hands of people who do not have an effective emergency action plan?
What is your instructor to student ratio?
Like any business a dive centre aims to make a profit, but at what cost? Even the most experienced instructor will tell you that, in scuba diving, eight students in a class can be more than a handful. As instructors we aim to give our students the best possible training, the more students we have in a class the more divided our attention will be. As a diver in training, you will want to have some one on one time with your instructor whether it will be needed in the classroom, in the swimming pool or in the open water, it is an important part of the learning process. In a large group individual attention may be difficult to provide and furthermore the instructor may not have the necessary time to fine tune a student’s skills. A dive centre that offers a lower instructor to student ratio is not only thinking about safety but also the quality of your education.
What is the cost of the course?
It is difficult not to consider the cost of diving when choosing a dive centre, undoubtedly diving is an expensive activity. Perhaps it is better to ask yourself how much your life is worth to you. It is worth it to pay the extra fifty dollars or any such amount to ensure that your diving education is of the highest quality, that your dive centre follows the highest standards of safe diving practices and that your diving experience is easy, stress free and incredibly enjoyable.
Choose a dive centre that not only looks professional but behaves in a professional manner. Ask if you may see the equipment room. Ask where the tanks are filled and ask how regularly the equipment is serviced. The manner in which the dive professional responds should be with awed respect, because we, as instructors, are rarely asked such important questions by our potential divers.
If a dive centre meets all these criteria then they are quite simply the best dive centre for you.