Best place for scuba diving course?
So here's the question: if you could learn to scuba dive anywhere in the world, where would you choose? The Red Sea? The Great Barrier Reef? Thailand? Philippines? Somewhere else? Not that I won't dive in all of those places (that's the point of getting certified), but where would you want to stay for a couple of weeks and learn (and why)? I can speak English, Spanish, Portuguese and a little French. Cost is a concern, but not a huge one. I'd rather have a shorter trip where I get to enjoy myself fully than a longer one where I have to sacrifice things I'd really like to do...
Also, although I know that Brazil and all of South America have great diving places, I'm planning on leaving those countries (all of the Americas, actually) for a later trip, since they're easily accessible to me. If I lived in a coastal city, I'd take a course before the trip, but alas, I live smack in the middle of Brazil (Brasilia), and am pretty much landlocked.
So the driving factors are facility licensing, cost, and water. I haven't done the research about costs, so I have nothing to say on that. Facilities need to be licensed by one of the internationally recognised certifying bodies. PADI and NAUI are the best known, so I'd probably look for one of them. On top of the recognised certificate, this also assures you of equipment safety, particularly the cleanliness of the compressed air.
As for water: I've been told by several people that learning to dive in cold water is best. Since cold water puts more stress on your body, and requires heavier and more restrictive gear, it's easy to move from cold water to warm water, but the opposite direction is more difficult. For this reason, I'd consider going further from the tropics for the course.
Boracy is a nice, laid back, hassle free place to chill or party depending on what you want, with CEBU Pacific airlines offering good rates to Thailand etc.
maristu wrote: Cost is a concern, but not a huge one. I'd rather have a shorter trip where I get to enjoy myself fully than a longer one where I have to sacrifice things I'd really like to do...
Based on that it probably doesn't matter where you get certified. Yes, it will be more expensive in one place than another but as a function of your overall journey it may not be worth the extra effort to go out of your way for a cheap course. And, to some extent, if you value your time it could actually be more beneficial to get certified in your home country. I'd first figure out what countries you really want to visit, then which of those countries you want to scuba dive in, and then finally figure out where you want to get certified from there.
For instance, historically Malawi has been one of the cheapest places around to get certified. But, it isn't going to be much good to you unless you were planning on traveling through East Africa and Malawi came before other destinations that you wanted to dive in.
These are the absolute cheapest places btw but loads are just as cheap- most of SE Asia has good courses for not much more, and dives on Zanzibar in East Africa were also around the US$50/dive mark. (I've never dived in cold water nor had the opportunity to, so I'm not sure how much 2wanderers' advice is accurate.) Regardless of what you pick though be sure to ask lots of questions from the dive center- what's included versus what isn't, what sort of certifications they give, and what their student to diver ratio is. I can't emphasize the latter point- on Ko Tao some of the bigger outfits would claim an 8:1 ratio and in actuality do as much as 16:1 (claiming that the guy who's learning to be an instructor should count or some such), and honestly I wouldn't be comfortable with anything more than 4:1- my cousin and I actually lucked out and had one to one instruction and that was great. Also be sure to ask how many of the dives are going to be in the ocean proper- of course you're going to spend a good amount of time doing skills underwater, but anything after the first "pool dive" can be in the ocean and it's just plain more fun to learn with fishes all around you etc.
But I guess you never know when someone needs the info!
I just finished my PADI Advanced Open Water Course today.
I did both the Open water course and the following Advance course in Bali.
Open water course costs about $395
Advanced open water course costs about $288
Both these prices are open for big time bargaining, so I suggest you do this. Especially in the off-season. I have also heard that Thailand is even cheaper!
I did it my courses on a small island just off the coast of Bali called: "Lembongan Island".
Not many tourists here and a great place to hang out with the locals and learn to dive and surf!
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