Diving: The Essentials  (Page 2 of 3)

Preparing for your dive holiday, notes for novices and our Top Ten dive tips.

Learning to Dive

Seafan wall

There are several internationally-recognised SCUBA diving certification organisations. Although they all offer different methods and levels of certification, fundamentally the basics are the same. Of all the organisations, three stand out as being internationally recognised as the safest; they are PADI, CMAS and BSAC. These three have become the self-regulating organisations, which educate, teach and promote safe diving.

On continental Europe – CMAS, and in the UK – BSAC, both offer similar training courses for new divers. But outside their respective regions it’s hard to find dive centres that offer CMAS or BSAC courses. With over 5,000 dive centres in 175 Countries and more than a million professional instructors and divemasters worldwide, PADI is the world’s largest and most widely recognised diving organisation.

One of PADI’s concepts was to break down the ‘learning to dive’ process into a tier structure, or pyramid, that would allow new divers to learn in steps. Each step or course is linked to the next level and divers can climb the ladder, step by step, at their own rate, taking it as far as they want. This concept allows divers to pick up where they left off, anywhere in the world. They can gradually work their way to full certification by starting with Discover SCUBA Diving, a ‘Try Dive’ or by going straight into a full Open Water Diver course. For these reasons, myTobago has chosen to focus on the PADI system of diver education.

Discover Scuba Diving

Spotted Moray EelDesigned for people who perhaps only want to make one dive, or who are not 100% sure if diving is for them. PADI Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) is a programme designed to allow people to come off the street and safely experience the underwater world with the tuition and guidance of a professional. You receive some instruction, often in the form of video and a short classroom lesson before you go into a swimming pool or confined water to learn some basic SCUBA skills. Once you’ve completed these skills your instructor will take you into the sea for an open water scuba dive. This programme will take about three hours to complete, and although in itself the DSD programme is not a certification course, it can contribute to both the PADI Scuba Diver or Open Water Diver course if you decide to take it further. It is not necessary or mandatory to do a DSD course prior to undertaking a full Open Water Diver course.

Scuba Diver

This is the first level of certification under the PADI system. If you have already successfully enjoyed a DSD, then you’ll need another day or so to complete scuba diver. You’ll have a little bit of self study, using some dive books your instructor will provide. There’ll be more video to watch and some additional classroom sessions as well as more skills to learn in the swimming pool. Once this is done you’ll get another dive in the sea.

Otherwise the Scuba Diver course can be started from scratch and takes about 2 to 2½ days. Some people chose this option because it takes half the time of an Open Water Diver course, or for reasons like a cold or bad weather they are unable to complete an intended Open Water Course. You can upgrade your SCUBA diver licence to open water at any PADI dive centre by simply completing the remainder of the course, at any time.

Open Water Diver

Spotted ScorpionfishThe most popular SCUBA diving certification worldwide, the PADI Open Water Diver course (OWD) can be completed in three to four days. Remember that you’ll be on holiday so take it easy! You can undertake the OWD course from scratch or come into it by way of either of the previous courses. There’s a variety of video and classroom sessions, a bit more to learn than the SCUBA diver and you’ll be taught a whole lot more skills in the swimming pool too. The OWD includes four scuba dives in the sea, so that’s something to look forward to and at the end you’ll have an exam. Don’t be scared off by the this – most people have no problem getting to grips with SCUBA diving academics and besides, that’s what your instructor is there for – to help you learn.

Children's Courses

Both the Scuba Diver and Open Water Diver courses have junior equivalent for kids between 10 and 15 years old. For youngsters aged 8 – 10 years there’s the Bubblemaker course, so you don’t have to leave them out of it. For the most part, kids and mums and dads can all learn together. Normally children take to diving very quickly and get the hang of it quicker than mum and dad.

A Few tips To Help You On Your Way...

Most PADI courses require some self study or ‘knowledge reviews’. You can get a foot in the door by either buying a PADI open water manual from your local dive school and completing the knowledge reviews before you leave for your holiday. Or when you arrive in Tobago, make the dive centre your first stop. Check in with them and ask for the books so that you can self study for a day or two before starting the course proper.

Green Moray EelIf you’re really keen and can’t wait, or will only be on holiday for one week, then consider a ‘Referral’. Head for your local dive school where you can complete the academics and swimming pool skills. Your instructor will provide you with documents to bring to Tobago where you’ll make the actual dives in warmer Caribbean waters. It will mean you can get straight into the diving and is most useful if your planned holiday is only for one week.

Don’t miss out on the experience of a lifetime, be sure to plan your schedule and consider doing your dive course at the beginning of your holiday. The majority of new divers find they want to continue diving after their course, some even undertake the PADI Advanced Course, so be prepared for this and keep a couple of days free towards the end for additional diving.

Do you think you’ll make only the one ‘Try Dive’? Well, over 80% of those who do a try dive are so captivated by diving that they go on to complete an Open Water Diver course. If you’re going to be one of them, you should do your try dive at the beginning of your holiday, just in case.

Choose your dive centre wisely. Have a good look around, ask questions and be sure you feel comfortable with your environment. If you’re not sure then perhaps talk to one or two of the experienced divers that you see around the island or who may be staying at your hotel. Make sure you know exactly what is included and what is not. Read our ratings guide and discussion and comment about Tobago in our Tobago forums.

Have fun learning to dive and enjoy the 70% of the world’s surface that only 1% of the population get to explore.

Continue to Ten Tips for Better Diving or return to Dive Preparation

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Page Updated: 18 Aug 17