You’ll never forget the first breath you take underwater; it’s a mix of amazement, adrenaline, fear and doubt. As you plunge into the water, the tanks and gear suddenly seem weightless, you nervously raise your arm above your head and slowly immerse into another world where noise, light and everything around you seems so different yet vaguely familiar.
My first venture into scuba diving took place in the tropical waters of Thailand. My friend, a qualified PADI instructor, had dragged me to sign up for a discovery dive while we were staying near Koh Phi Phi, and I reluctantly agreed not wanting to upset her. As I stepped off the boat into the warm waters and started to work through the skills I would need for my first open water dive, I quickly found myself excited by the prospect of exploring all the marine life underneath me.
I burned through my tank in just 30-minutes as I breathed my way through the underwater world and tried to remember everything I had been taught, but only two weeks later I found myself booked on to my Open Water Diver certification in Bali. It was quite easy for me to admit I was wrong about my reluctance; I was totally hooked on diving.
Diving the Great Barrier Reef in Australia
Now I’m an Advanced Certified Diver following a course in Malta and have been lucky enough to dive in spots ranging from Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the ice-cold waters of Iceland’s tectonic plates and one of the most marine-diverse spots on the world, Raja Ampat in Indonesia. Each dive brings something; whether it’s excitement from witnessing your first hammerhead shark or just the relaxing pace of gliding alongside a manta ray, scuba diving really does open up a whole other world and can double your travel opportunities.
With around 70% of our earth covered in water, learning to scuba dive is more than just a new hobby or rewarding achievement; it’s a chance to explore another dimension of our planet that many people will sadly miss. It’s so much more than counting fish or getting underwater, between shipwrecks, coral gardens, human-made statues and conservation projects, becoming PADI certified opens up a whole other level of travel that I just didn’t believe existed before taking that first breath underwater.
A much younger me all smiles after my first scuba dive in Thailand
How to get started Scuba Diving
Ever the protective friend, Louise, who took me on my first dive and who lived the dream life of teaching others to scuba in Bali for many years, was much pickier than I when it came to researching where to learn.
‘No, they won’t do. You need to be sure you will be fully certified. You don’t want to make it harder down the line.’ she summarised as I researched the multiple outlets available in Bali to study at.
The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) of which she was certified by is the world’s largest organisation that specialises in training new scuba divers. With over 135,000 members worldwide, she assured me it was the best option to do my course with as their material is solid, the exam standards are higher and being the leading organisation globally meant no matter what far-flung corner I went to dive in down the line, my qualifications would still be recognised.
A certified dive centre in Indonesia
So essentially, make sure you pick an instructor and diver training academy that ticks those boxes. While there might be cheaper alternatives available, the last place you want to find out you’ve made the wrong choice is at 20-metres underwater. I recently took my mum to get certified (although it turns out diving was not for her), and I made sure she picked a PADI instructor, too.
Discovery Dives offer a chance to either practice in a pool, or as an open water dive, and are an excellent introduction to make sure scuba is for you before committing to a course. That said, I was so nervous when I did my discovery dive I don’t think I really got the most out of being underwater until I had completed a handful of certified dives.