It wasn’t something I ever thought of or wanted to do when we left in 2016, but around Malaysia, I got this crazy idea to learn to scuba dive. Because of Ramadan in Malaysia, it didn’t feel good to be deep underwater and depend on someone who could be hangry. But on Bali, I saw this flyer of some diving schools and I jump right in, literally and figuratively.
In this article, I will try to give you some idea of how I experienced the whole process and what I learned afterward. Some tips and tricks for you when you want to learn to scuba dive yourself.
Before I went for my PADI, which I didn’t know existed at that time, I did some research. There are a lot of diving schools in Bali. I did the same thing as how we find restaurants: reviews. This is great to remove those choices where lots of people have been before and didn’t like it. Of course, don’t look at the reviews that say “the water was cold” or “there is nothing to see”. These don’t say anything about the professionalism of the instructors.
When checking out the websites I noticed most of them had a “Discover scuba diving”. A simple one-day course where you get some basic information and make your first dive. All to see if you really like to be submerged 10 meters below sea level. Perfect for people who don’t know for sure or if you have never done diving before.
In Bali, I went for Amed White Sand Divers. They had connections with the place where we were staying and some guy from that school came over for a small conversation. Mostly to check if you are motivated and healthy enough. This gave me a good feeling about this diving school.
The next day I went to the “Discover scuba diving” course. First, we got a small lecture on… 101 ways to die underwater. Great! After that some instructions about the gear (25 kilograms or more on your back). And finally a small dive from the beach.
I still remember the first time when I was 6 meters underwater. “This is so cool! Oh, I can breathe! THIS IS SO COOL!”. We swam around a bit and did some basic exercises, nothing too fancy.
After this intense and short trip, we went back to school. I decided I wanted to learn how to dive and was determined to get my PADI. Luckily they counted this discover scuba diving course as the first lesson, which shortened my PADI course by one day.
A PADI is like a driver’s license for diving. You can show you are qualified to dive to a certain depth, which differs from websites. One website says it’s to 12 meters another says it’s to 18 meters depth. Some schools say the depth you reached on your exam is the depth you will be certified for.
There are different licenses you can get for diving. And PADI is the most basic one. With this, you always need to be accompanied by a professional and you can never go alone. Also, you are not allowed to dive with a buddy who only has a PADI.
A PADI is the most common license for recreational diving and gets you where you need to go. If you want some more adventure, like with more currents or depths, you will need to get the other licenses. Ask the diving school for more information.
Besides licenses to dive, there are also special courses. This really depends on the location of the diving school, the country, and your license. A very popular course is the PADI Enriched air course. Enriched air, also known as nitrox or EANx, contains less nitrogen, which allows you to dive longer.
I don’t have the PADI Enriched air license, but there are some big advantages to using it. The one where you can dive longer with nitrox seems to be the best of them.
Downsides can be dizziness, nausea, convulsions, unconsciousness, breathing difficulties, eye damage, lung damage, and in extreme cases, even death. These can happen, although I never heard someone tell me it in person. The reason there are side effects is that there is less nitrogen, giving you more oxygen. Too much oxygen can be dangerous for your body. “Can” because it doesn’t have to be.
There is a theoretical part that you need to finish as well when you want to get your PADI. After the Discover Scuba Diving course, I get a DVD that I need to watch at the hotel. But during the PADI course, there are several moments where you sit down to study some of the things you learned underwater as well.
On the last day, there is an exam and the DVD and homework help you prepare for this. I was tired after a full day of diving but still had to find the time to study as well. Just keep this in mind when you sign up for a PADI course.
The rest of the day is spent diving in several different locations and learning all about the signals, the equipment, how to use your breath, and how to swim. I start out making big gestures but soon I learn it’s better not too much as much and just let my feet do all the work.
Between two dives there is ample time to recover which is important as well and something to pay attention to when you’re looking for a diving school. Especially in the beginning, you can go through your oxygen quite quickly. You get more tired with each dive on the same day, so take your break seriously.
Sadly, I haven’t been diving much since I got my PADI. I did some dives at the Canary Islands and when I finally wanted to pick it up again Covid hit the planet.
I went for two dives on Gran Canaria. I did the same thing I did on Bali: Reviews and checked out the website. I also e-mailed three diving schools and only one got back to me. One actually emailed me back 4 months later, nice!
The dives on Gran Canaria were a bit different. Rougher water, water was less clear, and not much to see. The guidance was okay, but not perfect.
A year later I took 3 dives on Lanzarote. It had been a while since my last dive, so I took a refreshment course first. Good school, with good people, and nice dives. The last dive wasn’t really good. The group was too big, like 12 people including the instructors. If you need an instructor (if you have a problem or something), they are hard to find in such a big group.
Although I already added some tips in this article, here is a summary of what you need to keep in mind when you want to learn to dive:
- Read reviews.
Skip the ones that complain about things a school can’t help.
- Do a discover scuba diving.
This gives you a great idea of how diving feels and if you want to continue getting your PADI.
- E-mail ahead
Communication is everything. Not only in the water, but also on the land. The way a school communicates on land is usually a good indication of how they communicate underwater.
- Western countries are expensive
Asian countries are cheaper and sometimes better. Not always. If you are in Australia for example and are planning on going to Indonesia or Malaysia, don’t get your PADI in Australia.
- Been a while? Do a refreshment course
It’s a small course that can help you with bigger dives. They show you how to use the equipment and help you in a short dive.
- Wear glasses? Get a special mask
I wear glasses and I can’t wear them underwater because of the mask. I found this dive shop that sells masks with glasses on my prescription. Now I can see more clearly.
- Take pictures or videos
If you are experienced enough you can bring a device to take pictures or videos. Don’t bring your smartphone, since these aren’t made for these kinds of depths. Bring an action camera like a GoPro or DJI Action.
If you’re thinking about learning to Scuba Dive, I highly recommend going to Bali. Not only did they teach me everything I needed to know, but the instructor was fun and there was a lot of personal attention.
We did a couple of general dives where we saw a lot of fish and coral and on the last dive, we even went to a shipwreck. I look forward to taking additional courses and expand my knowledge.
Is scuba diving on your bucket list? Let us know in the comment why you want to learn to scuba dive. Or why not for that matter. Share your favorite spots to go diving as well!
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