How To Find The Right Dive School
Either if you are looking for a diveschool to take your first time dive with, or to follow a new course or to just have some fun dives with, it is extremely important that you feel comfortable around the people that will guide you into the deep unknown. But how can you know this? How can you be certain that when you commit to a diveschool, you will have a great time? Well, you can’t. But you can do your best and tick all the boxes that need to be ticked BEFORE you commit to a school. Because that’s not easy, we’ll give you some guidelines and help you out to find a school that fits your needs.
Firstly we usually ask around and listen to other people’s opinions about the dive schools in or around the area we visit. Another way to get an idea of what place other people find reliable, is to check who is number one on Tripadvisor. But in the end, we always go with our guts. And the only way to do that is to walk around from shop to shop and talk to the crew. See who is running the place. What can they tell you? What do they know? The thing with customer reviews on Tripadvisor or Facebook, is that they can give you an idea about the schools and how they operate, but eventually they are only a personal reflection from a happy or angry customer. And these customers might have different standards of what is good and bad than you have.
So when you find yourself in your preferred location of diving, walk into the diveschools and have a chat with who ever comes over to talk to you. If no one comes over and you have to do all the talking by yourself, you already know that this will probably not be the diveschool for you. This is a first impression that the schools give you, and that is the most important thing! If they don’t care about you in the shop, why will they care about you under water? Scubadiving is a lot of fun, but it can be risky and dangerous if you are not knowing what you’re doing, or if you get guided/instructed by someone who does not know/care what they are doing. Talking with all the people from all the diveschools is a timeconsuming and very repetitive act since you are asking the same things over and over again, but they can only make a first impression once, and you learn a lot from it. So we feel that if you go around like this, you will have a lot of information to base a decision on. You follow your feelings, based on what you find out about the school, about how they treated you, about what they could tell you. This always worked out great for us in the past. You pay a good amount of money for your dives, so you really want to have a good time and most important, a safe environment during your dives. Don’t base your decision only on the fact that it is the cheapest diveschool because you are on a budget, and neither because it’s the most expensive. It also doesn’t mean that just because they rank nr 1 on Tripadvisor that YOU feel comfortable around them.
For example: When we were in the Maldives, we spent a lot of time on Maafushi. We found a great diving school and dreaded to leave them, but we wanted to explore and go diving in another part of the country. So when we arrived on the other island and met with the only diveschool available, our talk with the instructor changed all our plans. We found him to be very unmotivated and he could not answer most of our questions. Since we did not feel any passion from him, and they were the only diveschool on that island, we left the next morning back to Maafushi and dove with our first diveschool again.
A few questions you can ask are listed below.
How big are the divegroups?
When you are inquiring about some fun dives, you want to know how many people will be in your group. Usually the maximum is set to a 4:1 ratio, meaning 4 divers to 1 divemaster/instructor. Some smaller diveschools might have 2:1 and if you are travelling in low season you might have the instructor all to yourself. But, some bigger diveschools might not be too strict with this and have a 6:1 ratio or more. Or they just squeeze a fifth person into a group of four so only one divemaster needs to go down in the water. Offcourse, your preference depends on your own skills and level, but it is usually safer to dive in a smaller group than in a big group. The instructor or divemaster is responsible for you and your fellow divers. In case something happens and the more people there are in the group, the more difficult it is for the divemaster to keep an eye on everybody.
What is the maximum diving time?
This depends per diver, but normally the school sets a maximum time, just to be safe. This can vary between 40 to 60 minutes. If you have great control over your breathing you can get the most out of the 200 bar in the tank and stay down longer, but you have to ascend when your divemaster tells you so. This can just be a good indication to see if the school fits your needs, not the most important question. But if you ask more they see you know your stuff and take you seriously.
What’s the best divespot here?
Ask this to know about the area and to see what each diveschool can tell you about the most popular divespots. Some might give you some additional information or tell you their personal preference spot. It also gives you a chance to see how much they know and how fluent they can talk about it. You want a diveschool that knows the area inside out so you will not get lost.
Does the price include all equipment rental?
Most people that start to dive or only dive a little on vacation don’t have all the necessary equipment. Thats why diving schools can rent you the gear they have. They will have a range of different sizes in wetsuits, fins, BCD’s, regulators, masks. Usually the price they ask per dive includes all equipment-rental.
What’s the price if I have my own equipment?
Good question to ask if you do. You probably get a discount.
How deep do you go?
Your diveschool should now ask you about your certification. If you have none, the limit should be 12 metres. If you are an Open Water, the depth limit is 18 metres. Advanced Open Water Divers can go down to 30 metres. The recreational diving limit is 40 metres. A friend of ours went diving in Columbia as an open water and they took him to 40 metres! Fortunately nothing happened but this is not correct and certainly not safe! So check with the school if they are following the international rules.
Are the groups mixed levels or separate?
This is quite important. It means that people in the same dive group all have the same qualifications. As a new diver you don’t want to team up with experienced divers that go too fast, or as an Advanced Diver you don’t want to stay at 18 metres just because there is someone with an Open Water in your group.
I haven’t been diving for a year. Is that a problem?
Every dive school should make you do a refresher course if you haven’t been diving for atleast a year. Some schools make you do it even after 6 months. It’s a bit expensive because you have an extra cost, but it’s actually a good thing to do for your own safety. Diving is a skill, and if you don’t use it, you forget. When we went diving in Cairns, Australia in 2014, it was the first time for us after four years and they never even mentioned a refresher course. I was absolutely afraid to go in the water. I was nauseous on the boat and shitscared while descending. On top of that, we had a group of 7 and I did not feel comfortable at all. They should have made us take the refresher first, I would’ve enjoyed the dives that day a lot better if I had.
If you have any more questions about diving, or any suggestions to add to this page, please feel free to let us know in the comments below!