Author Topic: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert  (Read 2181 times)

the_hobbitish

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I decided I'm going to move ahead with getting my open water scuba certification sometime this fall/spring. I'd love your take on where to do my first class and dives. Everything in my area (near DC) seems expensive and in a cold quarry, which is not my idea of fun. I'd like to do the PADI course at home online and the checkout dives somewhere warm. I'm considering two options -- Florida Keys and Thailand -- but I welcome other ideas.

My biggest preference besides clear water and good diving is a small class/dive size with focused instruction. I'm comfortable in the water and a good swimmer, so I don't expect to have any issues, but I wouldn't want a 'one of a herd' experience. I'm willing to increase my budget to feel like I'm with experienced people and not like I'm on one of those snorkel tours where 50 people swarm the boat. I'm willing to get up early to be at a site while it's quiet. I'd say I'm likely to approach this like learning a new sport.

The Keys: I hear good things. It looks like beginner classes are around $500 with follow-on dives around $100. In Largo, Ilsamorada, or Key West I might be able to stay at a time share. My parents usually have extra weeks I could trade. The places aren't always what I would choose if I was paying, but if it's free it's hard to complain.

The other option I thought about was Gulf of Thailand. The classes average around $350 with follow-on dives around $30. I might be able to get a time share on Koh Samui, but there seem to be plentiful cheap hotels on Koh Tao. I've been to Thailand before and know I can eat well cheaply. I hear good things about Koh Tao as long as you find a dive center that matches your style.

Airfare isn't an issue because I have enough points to fly free either place.

With the big caveat that all this might be on hold depending on what happens with covid and quarantines etc... If you were doing your first dives over where would you go? Dive operator recommendations welcome!
« Last Edit: August 05, 2021, 04:35:04 PM by the_hobbitish »

Wile E. Coyote

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2021, 05:04:46 PM »
I did my PADI class in the DC area several years ago, and then did my open water dive in Cozumel!  I highly recommend it!

use2betrix

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2021, 06:39:05 PM »
My wife and I did our PADI course in Phuket in 2017. First day was training in a classroom and pool, next two days were out in the ocean and 3 dives per day. My wife and I had our own instructor and it was dirt cheap. Canít recall off hand how much, but a few hundred for all 3 days.

That was in the top 3-4 greatest experiences in my life. Would do it again in a heartbeat.

I could probably track down the dive shop we used if you decide to really go that route.


Indio

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2021, 07:59:52 PM »
If you want something closer to home than Thailand, I hear the Cayman islands have great dive scenery, though I've never been. My vote is for Molokini off the coast of Maui. It's never cheap in HI, but you can dive inside and outside a dormant volcano, which is amazing.

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2021, 04:27:25 AM »
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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2021, 06:05:44 AM »
I did my open water cert in Thailand in 2001.  I went to Koh Tao, and it was awesome (it's quieter than Phuket or Koh Samui).  There were some excellent restaurants, too.  That said, I suppose it could have changed in the last 20 years.  I went back a year or two later do to my advanced cert.  The dive shop I used was Ban's, and they were great, but again that was 20 years ago so I'd read more recent reviews.

If memory serves, I flew into Bangkok, took the overnight train to Chumpon, then a boat to Koh Tao.  The second time, I flew from Bangkok to Koh Samui, then boat to Koh Tao.  I prefer the train, but the second time I was with an impatient friend. :)

The diving was fantastic -- clear warm water, Christmas tree worms, whale sharks, etc.  It was also quite cheap by US standards.  I lived in Hawaii years later, and always felt like Thailand was better.  Now I'm in Nova Scotia, and I'm looking forward to trying out diving here.  It'll be cold, but I hear it's still good.

If you do go to Koh Tao, be sure to check out some of the rest of the island (away from the dive shops).  I remember there being a tea shop at the top of the mountain in the center of the island, and a great snorkeling cove on the north side where there were a bunch of reef sharks.

Man... I want to go back really bad right now. :)

Hmm... a quick Google turns up some sketchy things about Koh Tao.  Apparently, it is known as "murder island".  I do remember, when I went back the second time, hearing that the owner of the diver shop had been shot and killed while eating dinner in a restaurant.  So maybe somewhere else?  The diving is really good there, though.

nereo

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #7 on: August 06, 2021, 06:46:24 AM »
OP - two of your conditions (ďwarmĒ and ďclear waterĒ) cancel out most of my suggestions. Similar to your situation, I got my open water when I was living in the DC suburbs and I did the first 12 dives in a quarry. THey were terrible dives, but itsí only improved since then.  While Iíve dove extensively in the Caribbean and Hawaiíi, Iím a cold-water diving at heart. Also, after two decades of working as a diver Iím convinced that those who learn cold-water diving are (on average) much better divers overall than those who have never donned a wetsuit.

If you really want to warm, clear waters without traveling >5,000 miles Iíd highly recommend Bonaire - highest coral percentage in the Caribbean, and the reefs are in much better shape than most other islands.  One quirk about Bonaire is the entire island centers around diving - compared to most other Caribbean islands itís kind of sleepy - no huge resort/nightclub scene.  But there are literally dozens of dive sites you can access from shore, and good dive outfits.

Belize also has some great diving, and more to do on the terrestrial side hiking/exploring. If you really want adventurous the ĎBlue Holeí is on most diversí bucket list, and can be an incredible (but pretty expensive) series of dives.  I wouldnít recommend it until you have a few dozen dives under your belt though.

I initially started out exploring the wrecks along NCís outer banks.  Itís different from diving tropical reefs - itís warm(ish) but Iíd still recommend wearing a 3mm wetsuit (though you can skip the gloves and hood). Wrecks donít have the color and diversity of critters that most healthy reefs have but they are magnets for schooling fish, groupers, small sharks and stonefish. If you go during shoulder season (particularly September or early October) you can get some great deals both on a beach house and with charter boats.

the_hobbitish

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #8 on: August 06, 2021, 07:24:54 AM »
Cold water is definitely in the plan eventually. I love sharks and I hear to do cage dives with the big ones that means cold, but for starting out I wanted one less thing to deal with... I get cold easy.

I don't think I'll do my starting cert in NC, but it's on the list eventually. It has the benefit of being able to drive down and it's only about 1.5-2 hours from my parents so I could dovetail it with a visit. I think the shoulder season is too soon for this year with other work things I have going on, but I plan to check it out at some point for the wrecks and sharks.

I was under the impression Bonaire was expensive?

It may come down to how long a trip I can take. Florida makes more sense for a quick 5 days. Something farther afield would be more fun if I had more time. This may turn into a Florida sooner and something far flung for mid-2022.

Anon-E-Mouze

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #9 on: August 06, 2021, 07:53:38 AM »
Many years ago, I did my pool training in Toronto before heading to New Zealand for an extended work trip + vacation, and did my OW certification one-on-one with dive shop on the South Island. It was amazing, but I imagine that trip is a little farther than you were planning to go.

In 2011, my husband and I chose to do our Advanced Open Water certification in the Florida Keys. There are a number of well-reviewed dive centers there. I chose Conch Republic Divers (near Tavernier Creek Marina) for their strong reputation, including their experience in accommodating veterans with disabilities. (At the time, I was about one year past a really severe case of ruptured disks in my back and I knew I would need assistance gearing up and getting in and out of boats and the water.) We were very happy with our choice. We stayed a short drive away at a Hampton Inn (and used a combination of points and cash to cover the accommodation cost).

When you are researching dive centers, pay particular attention to comments about safety and environmental awareness.

DoingMe

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #10 on: August 06, 2021, 08:35:45 AM »
Our dive instructor gave the advice ... "Get your certification in cold, low-viz conditions and you will know you can dive anywhere."

We got certified in New England.  On a later trip to the Florida Keys, we were the only ones that had a blast on a boat trip.  The captain cancelled the second dive because the conditions were "from 7 feet to holy-cow" while we were underwater.  I thanked our dive instructor upon our return for the, obviously, great prep we had.

Have fun, whatever you decide.

JLee

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #11 on: August 06, 2021, 08:48:12 AM »
I did everything at Dive Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.  Visibility was great, water temp was fine (a little cool but ok), the course was extremely affordable and the instructors were excellent.  Their ongoing dives were super affordable too -- it's disrupted my view of pricing, as now I look at places in Bermuda/etc to go diving again and can't get over how expensive it is.

https://www.diverarotonga.com/

Samuel

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #12 on: August 06, 2021, 10:10:12 AM »
Also, after two decades of working as a diver Iím convinced that those who learn cold-water diving are (on average) much better divers overall than those who have never donned a wetsuit.

I did my checkout dives in Puget Sound. In March. It was not very pleasant, but very good experience and rewarding in a trial by fire kind of way. Water was 46 degrees. At points visibility was down to a few feet and the current made it difficult to even kneel on the bottom without falling over. First time in a wetsuit. First time performing any of the skills in gloves and a hood. It was tough and a bit scary but I was glad to be doing it with an experienced instructor right there. As he was signing off on the paperwork afterwards he told us "if you can do that you can dive anywhere".

A month later I was in Belize. 2 minutes into my first dive I was laughing at how easy and awesome it was.

Would I do it that way again? I don't know, but I'm glad I did it that way. I've not dove Puget Sound again (not until I get around to doing the dry suit cert, brrr) but know I can. And every warm water vacation dive I've done has been a piece of cake and thoroughly enjoyable.

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #13 on: August 06, 2021, 10:30:28 AM »

I was under the impression Bonaire was expensive?


It all depends on your style.  I was working there so most of my expenses were taken care of, but for most dive-destinations you have three major expenses: travel, lodging and dive-trips.  Travel to Bonaire is IIRC only slightly more expensive than larger destinations like the USVI.  Maybe thatís changedÖ. I have no idea. 

Lodging is largely what you make of it - Bonaire is a small island that lacks the super-posh resorts common in many places. The island is so small you can stay anywhere and have a short ride to the beach.

Then thereís the cost of dive-trips.  Which are often considerable, but in Bonaire can be negligible.  You pay a fee to dive (I think it was $15/diver/trip) but once certified you can skip the boat entirely and just drop in from shore.  Not many places have that.  Even if you want to go out on a dive boat, the distances are typically very short (a couple miles) which means the boats can be small and inexpensive.  THereís no live-aboards, itís all quick trips out to the nearby reef.


The Ďother stuffí was all manageable.  Food was a bit more than on the mainland but nothing outrageous, and i really liked the restaurants.

Anon-E-Mouze

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #14 on: August 06, 2021, 01:00:15 PM »
Adding to my earlier post, I also suggest that you give some thought to how the dive operators are going to deliver you to the dive sites, and take into account your physical abilities and preferences. Factors to consider include your physical strength and stamina, any limitations like back trouble or coordination, whether you are prone to anxiety, and whether you are susceptible to motion sickness.

For example, I've done a handful of dives (in New Zealand and on the Spanish coast) where I had to clamber over slippery rocks and cover a bit of distance to get into the water. This is a good experience, if those are the kind of dive sites you're likely to visit in the future. But I'm clumsy and developed back trouble after I got my OW certification, so I avoided those kinds of set-ups in other dive trips. These can also be challenging logistics if you're learning to dive with another person and there are major differences in your physical capabilities. My sister loves diving, but she used to hate diving with her boyfriend off the West Coast in BC because diving usually involved a trek from the car, clambering over rocks, and wading a long distance into the water before getting to dive. She was tired before the dive started, while her boyfriend was much less affected and didn't seem to realize the impact the conditions were having on her ability to enjoy what they were doing.

By contrast, I had some amazing, easy dives (full of wonderful sea life to observe) in Curacao, which has underwater life that is similar (although not quite as good as) Bonaire. In Curacao, we stayed at a Marriott with an onsite dive shop. They loaded the boat for us, and then it was a short ride to dive sites. We also could do wall dives from a dock. The pre-dive experience was easy, our dive shop was very safety-oriented, and we had a great time.

Boat diving usually is easier than shore diving, provided that the boat is big enough to offer stable ladder for getting back into the boat. (Diving off a dinghy is easy; getting back in can be a challenge.)

We had some amazing dives in Oman (much less crowded than Egypt and equally plentiful sea life), but some of the dive sites were a long boat ride away and the water could be quite choppy. Thankfully, neither my husband nor I am prone to seasickness, but several people on the boats had a rough time of it.

Loren Ver

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #15 on: August 06, 2021, 01:49:15 PM »
I did my certification online and then my open water in Belize, off Ambergris Caye. 

It was my first solo international trip after paying off my non-federal student loans and money was really tight back then.  I went in the very off season, so I was a herd of one, which was AWESOME.  But if you go in the busier season, there will be more people, so better for what you want.  Costs were low, people were very friendly, and I had a good time traveling around the mainland as well as the Cayes.  It has been over a decade, so I know things have changed.

LV

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #16 on: August 06, 2021, 01:54:20 PM »
I did OW, AOW, Rescue Diver, Enriched Air Nitrox, Deep Diver, Wreck Diving, Underwater Photo, Night Diving, Search and Recovery Diving, Emergency First Reponse and Secondary Care, all at Crystal Diving Resort on Koh Tao in about 6 weeks in 2008. Great instructors and DMs, small groups, good teaching facilities, good price, and decent on-site accomodation. My daughter did all her training as a Dive Master, including Drysuit certification (I don't think she ever used a wet suit there) in Nanaimo at Sink and Swim Scuba.

A good Thai friend (YaYa) and her French husband Sylvain co-own a really nice dive resort in Thailand by the Andaman Sea. Now that I am retired, I want to go back and complete my DM certification with them.

Check it out:

https://www.khaolakexplorer.com/about-us/

JLee

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #17 on: August 06, 2021, 05:31:04 PM »
I did OW, AOW, Rescue Diver, Enriched Air Nitrox, Deep Diver, Wreck Diving, Underwater Photo, Night Diving, Search and Recovery Diving, Emergency First Reponse and Secondary Care, all at Crystal Diving Resort on Koh Tao in about 6 weeks in 2008. Great instructors and DMs, small groups, good teaching facilities, good price, and decent on-site accomodation. My daughter did all her training as a Dive Master, including Drysuit certification (I don't think she ever used a wet suit there) in Nanaimo at Sink and Swim Scuba.

A good Thai friend (YaYa) and her French husband Sylvain co-own a really nice dive resort in Thailand by the Andaman Sea. Now that I am retired, I want to go back and complete my DM certification with them.

Check it out:

https://www.khaolakexplorer.com/about-us/

Holy shit, thatís a lot in a short period of time - are you phenomenally naturally talented, or is that an achievable feat for us normal folks?  Iíd love to add to my capability but it took me probably my 5th-7th dive (including the four checkout dives) to start to get much of a decent feel for buoyancy control.

YK-Phil

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #18 on: August 06, 2021, 08:53:19 PM »
I did OW, AOW, Rescue Diver, Enriched Air Nitrox, Deep Diver, Wreck Diving, Underwater Photo, Night Diving, Search and Recovery Diving, Emergency First Reponse and Secondary Care, all at Crystal Diving Resort on Koh Tao in about 6 weeks in 2008. Great instructors and DMs, small groups, good teaching facilities, good price, and decent on-site accomodation. My daughter did all her training as a Dive Master, including Drysuit certification (I don't think she ever used a wet suit there) in Nanaimo at Sink and Swim Scuba.

A good Thai friend (YaYa) and her French husband Sylvain co-own a really nice dive resort in Thailand by the Andaman Sea. Now that I am retired, I want to go back and complete my DM certification with them.

Check it out:

https://www.khaolakexplorer.com/about-us/

Holy shit, thatís a lot in a short period of time - are you phenomenally naturally talented, or is that an achievable feat for us normal folks?  Iíd love to add to my capability but it took me probably my 5th-7th dive (including the four checkout dives) to start to get much of a decent feel for buoyancy control.

It was not too hard and I had plenty of time to do a couple of dives, snorkeling, and riding around the island between each course. I found OW (four dives in four days) and AOW (2-3 days and five dives) to be the hardest and scariest for someone with no prior diving experience, but once you've acquired enough confidence underwater and a solid understanding of diving theory, the other courses are quite simple, although Rescue Diver (one week) was physically the hardest but also the most fun. The other courses were all easy and enjoyable one- or two-day courses. Night diving and wreck diving were quite an experience and I jumped on the occasion to go on night and wreck dives as often as I could. I would have loved to keep going and start the DM but I was still short of 20 dives to start the program and it would have taken another 8-10 weeks so it was not practical at that time. Now that my daughter is DM and has worked for a few dive centers, I am hoping to spend a couple of months with her in Thailand to do that program while she does her Instructor program. Then again, I'm 63 and a bit rusty so I could just do some adventure dives here and there and hang out on the beach for a few months...     

JLee

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #19 on: August 06, 2021, 09:29:13 PM »
I did OW, AOW, Rescue Diver, Enriched Air Nitrox, Deep Diver, Wreck Diving, Underwater Photo, Night Diving, Search and Recovery Diving, Emergency First Reponse and Secondary Care, all at Crystal Diving Resort on Koh Tao in about 6 weeks in 2008. Great instructors and DMs, small groups, good teaching facilities, good price, and decent on-site accomodation. My daughter did all her training as a Dive Master, including Drysuit certification (I don't think she ever used a wet suit there) in Nanaimo at Sink and Swim Scuba.

A good Thai friend (YaYa) and her French husband Sylvain co-own a really nice dive resort in Thailand by the Andaman Sea. Now that I am retired, I want to go back and complete my DM certification with them.

Check it out:

https://www.khaolakexplorer.com/about-us/

Holy shit, thatís a lot in a short period of time - are you phenomenally naturally talented, or is that an achievable feat for us normal folks?  Iíd love to add to my capability but it took me probably my 5th-7th dive (including the four checkout dives) to start to get much of a decent feel for buoyancy control.

It was not too hard and I had plenty of time to do a couple of dives, snorkeling, and riding around the island between each course. I found OW (four dives in four days) and AOW (2-3 days and five dives) to be the hardest and scariest for someone with no prior diving experience, but once you've acquired enough confidence underwater and a solid understanding of diving theory, the other courses are quite simple, although Rescue Diver (one week) was physically the hardest but also the most fun. The other courses were all easy and enjoyable one- or two-day courses. Night diving and wreck diving were quite an experience and I jumped on the occasion to go on night and wreck dives as often as I could. I would have loved to keep going and start the DM but I was still short of 20 dives to start the program and it would have taken another 8-10 weeks so it was not practical at that time. Now that my daughter is DM and has worked for a few dive centers, I am hoping to spend a couple of months with her in Thailand to do that program while she does her Instructor program. Then again, I'm 63 and a bit rusty so I could just do some adventure dives here and there and hang out on the beach for a few months...   

Wow, well you have me thinking!  I would love to get AOW and Rescue (not to mention all the rest too).

Loren Ver

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #20 on: August 07, 2021, 09:48:00 AM »
I did OW, AOW, Rescue Diver, Enriched Air Nitrox, Deep Diver, Wreck Diving, Underwater Photo, Night Diving, Search and Recovery Diving, Emergency First Reponse and Secondary Care, all at Crystal Diving Resort on Koh Tao in about 6 weeks in 2008. Great instructors and DMs, small groups, good teaching facilities, good price, and decent on-site accomodation. My daughter did all her training as a Dive Master, including Drysuit certification (I don't think she ever used a wet suit there) in Nanaimo at Sink and Swim Scuba.

A good Thai friend (YaYa) and her French husband Sylvain co-own a really nice dive resort in Thailand by the Andaman Sea. Now that I am retired, I want to go back and complete my DM certification with them.

Check it out:

https://www.khaolakexplorer.com/about-us/

Holy shit, thatís a lot in a short period of time - are you phenomenally naturally talented, or is that an achievable feat for us normal folks?  Iíd love to add to my capability but it took me probably my 5th-7th dive (including the four checkout dives) to start to get much of a decent feel for buoyancy control.

It was not too hard and I had plenty of time to do a couple of dives, snorkeling, and riding around the island between each course. I found OW (four dives in four days) and AOW (2-3 days and five dives) to be the hardest and scariest for someone with no prior diving experience, but once you've acquired enough confidence underwater and a solid understanding of diving theory, the other courses are quite simple, although Rescue Diver (one week) was physically the hardest but also the most fun. The other courses were all easy and enjoyable one- or two-day courses. Night diving and wreck diving were quite an experience and I jumped on the occasion to go on night and wreck dives as often as I could. I would have loved to keep going and start the DM but I was still short of 20 dives to start the program and it would have taken another 8-10 weeks so it was not practical at that time. Now that my daughter is DM and has worked for a few dive centers, I am hoping to spend a couple of months with her in Thailand to do that program while she does her Instructor program. Then again, I'm 63 and a bit rusty so I could just do some adventure dives here and there and hang out on the beach for a few months...   

Wow, well you have me thinking!  I would love to get AOW and Rescue (not to mention all the rest too).

I'm going to second this, that is awesome!  I've gotten away from diving as I have moved on to other things, but this kinda makes me want to get back in to it.  I've been thinking about going to Thailand....

the_hobbitish

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #21 on: August 07, 2021, 07:50:36 PM »
I sense a group MMM Thailand scuba trip in the making...

Anon-E-Mouze

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #22 on: August 08, 2021, 09:22:37 AM »
I did OW, AOW, Rescue Diver, Enriched Air Nitrox, Deep Diver, Wreck Diving, Underwater Photo, Night Diving, Search and Recovery Diving, Emergency First Reponse and Secondary Care, all at Crystal Diving Resort on Koh Tao in about 6 weeks in 2008. Great instructors and DMs, small groups, good teaching facilities, good price, and decent on-site accomodation. My daughter did all her training as a Dive Master, including Drysuit certification (I don't think she ever used a wet suit there) in Nanaimo at Sink and Swim Scuba.

A good Thai friend (YaYa) and her French husband Sylvain co-own a really nice dive resort in Thailand by the Andaman Sea. Now that I am retired, I want to go back and complete my DM certification with them.

Check it out:

https://www.khaolakexplorer.com/about-us/

Holy shit, thatís a lot in a short period of time - are you phenomenally naturally talented, or is that an achievable feat for us normal folks?  Iíd love to add to my capability but it took me probably my 5th-7th dive (including the four checkout dives) to start to get much of a decent feel for buoyancy control.

It was not too hard and I had plenty of time to do a couple of dives, snorkeling, and riding around the island between each course. I found OW (four dives in four days) and AOW (2-3 days and five dives) to be the hardest and scariest for someone with no prior diving experience, but once you've acquired enough confidence underwater and a solid understanding of diving theory, the other courses are quite simple, although Rescue Diver (one week) was physically the hardest but also the most fun. The other courses were all easy and enjoyable one- or two-day courses. Night diving and wreck diving were quite an experience and I jumped on the occasion to go on night and wreck dives as often as I could. I would have loved to keep going and start the DM but I was still short of 20 dives to start the program and it would have taken another 8-10 weeks so it was not practical at that time. Now that my daughter is DM and has worked for a few dive centers, I am hoping to spend a couple of months with her in Thailand to do that program while she does her Instructor program. Then again, I'm 63 and a bit rusty so I could just do some adventure dives here and there and hang out on the beach for a few months...   

Wow, well you have me thinking!  I would love to get AOW and Rescue (not to mention all the rest too).

I'm going to throw some cold water on your impulse to get your AOW and Rescue certifications right after doing your basic OW certification. AOW isn't just book learning and a handful of dives to see if you can demonstrate the minimal skills, under supervision and in just one set of circumstances. I know that's how PADI and dive schools like to promote it, because it makes them money. But the reality is that if you've got an AOW certification, then you're viewed on dive trips as being able to take care of yourself. And you're able to get yourself into a lot of trouble on your own (e.g. with deep dives etc.)

My husband had over 100 dives, and I had about 80, before we did our AOW certifications. And we'd dived in a fairly wide range of conditions (shore dives, dock dives, dinghy dives, larger boat dives, murky water, cold water, strong currents, etc).

Diving is amazing and it's fun and most of the time it's fairly straightforward. But if you do something wrong, you can quickly kill yourself and/or other people. Please take the time after you've got your OW certification to practice the basic skills in a range of environments and conditions, accompanied by responsible divemasters, before moving ahead to AOW. If you want to collect courses, by all means sign up for the continuing education courses that motivate you to improve your skills. I'd recommend courses like (1) Peak Performance Buoyancy, (2) Underwater Navigator, (3) EFR Primary and Secondary Care, (4) Drift Diver and (5) Search and Recovery Diver (especially the first three).  And then there are courses that focus on particular dive activities or conditions (like Underwater Naturalist, Photography or Videography, Dry Suit Diving, Night Diving etc).

nereo

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #23 on: August 08, 2021, 09:42:07 AM »
Iíll second the idea of getting a few dozen dives under your belt before going for more advanced certifications. There is simply no substitute for real order drive experience, and while you can rack up specialties your first season of diving just getting more dives under your weight belt can be the best use of your time and money.

the_hobbitish

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #24 on: August 09, 2021, 08:19:18 AM »
I'm surprised there's not a requirement for a number of dives between certifications. In skydiving you have to do a specific number of jumps before you can get the next license level because simple mistakes or disorientation can easily cause a life or death situation. I would think scuba is more complicated if anything and would warrant minimum experience requirements.

nereo

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #25 on: August 09, 2021, 08:35:24 AM »
I'm surprised there's not a requirement for a number of dives between certifications. In skydiving you have to do a specific number of jumps before you can get the next license level because simple mistakes or disorientation can easily cause a life or death situation. I would think scuba is more complicated if anything and would warrant minimum experience requirements.
There are, particularly for the instruction-track (rescuer, Dive master, instructor), but most of the specialties require only a few dives.

Frankly I see scuba as much less dangerous than sky diving IF you can just do the following: dives your plan, go slow, relax. Until you start dealing with exotic mixes as long as you follow those simple rules itís very straightforward.

JLee

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #26 on: August 09, 2021, 09:04:35 AM »
I'm surprised there's not a requirement for a number of dives between certifications. In skydiving you have to do a specific number of jumps before you can get the next license level because simple mistakes or disorientation can easily cause a life or death situation. I would think scuba is more complicated if anything and would warrant minimum experience requirements.

Skydives are really short -- a Skydiving "D" license requires 500 jumps and 3 hours minimum freefall time.  Minimum for PADI dive master is 60 dives upon completion, and if you figure an average of 45 minutes underwater for each one that's 45 hours underwater.

the_fixer

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #27 on: August 16, 2021, 01:28:21 PM »
Grand cayman - use divetech they are a great

Nice thing about grand cayman is there is a bunch of shore diving for example at divetech many of our test / classes were done right out the back of the shop. No rushing getting on the boat you just gear up and go off the dock.

You can also do boat dives. Also plenty of shore diving that is easy / safe and snorkeling.

https://www.divetech.com

We have spent weeks just driving from location to location shore diving. Great to do on your own time and make a day of it.


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Sugaree

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #28 on: August 16, 2021, 02:08:54 PM »
I just finished AOW at Anthony's Key Resort in Roatan.  I highly recommend the resort.  I love the course director there.  He did my kiddo's Bubblemaker program and did a fantastic job.  His wife is also an instructor there and was very good.  I have some issues with the PADI AOW course, but that's more to do with the program and less with the instructor. 

My recommendation would be to do the classwork locally and finish the checkout dives wherever you want to dive.  I don't feel like a few days on vacation is really enough to learn everything you need to know, even for basic OW.  My OW course was a six-week course structured where we had about 45 minutes of classwork and then about 45 minutes in the pool practicing skills each week.  Then the next week, we'd review what we did the previous week and learn a little more.  This was true of both the classwork and the pool.  Of course, this was many years ago, so a lot of the coursework was devoted to learning and practicing dive tables. 

I'm trying to make a decision on Rescue now.  I have a few instructors in mind and most of them teach out of quarries or in cave country.  I think it would probably be helpful to do that course in less hospitable water.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2021, 02:13:38 PM by Sugaree »

Sugaree

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #29 on: August 16, 2021, 02:11:41 PM »
I'm surprised there's not a requirement for a number of dives between certifications. In skydiving you have to do a specific number of jumps before you can get the next license level because simple mistakes or disorientation can easily cause a life or death situation. I would think scuba is more complicated if anything and would warrant minimum experience requirements.

The shop I got my OW from required 24 dives before they'd let you do AOW.  I don't know if that's an SSI thing or what.  But the girl I was paired with for AOW had just finished OW the day before and it showed.

habanero

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #30 on: August 16, 2021, 02:25:53 PM »
Bonaire.

Apparently ranked as top-3 dive location in the world. Me and my GF did a one week stopover en route to Galapagos (from Europe) and think we were the only ones who weren't on a diving vacation at the resort we stayed at. Several dive clubs from the US had their annual trip or whatever at the resort. The diving is spectacular and generally accessed just by walking off the beach so no boat ride required. Its so far south it's generally outside the hurricane belt and according to the info in our hotel room the difference in temperature between the year's hottest and coldest day is less than the difference between morning and afternoon temps.

The downside: There is really not much to do than hang out on the beach and dive, its a tiny, flat island. We didn't see any of the island at all and most info was variations over "not worth the hassle". Maybe we missed something, bu doubt it. This is 15 years back so things might have changed a bit since but I assume the reef is still there.

The potential downside of getting used to diving in tropical waters is that diving in colder waters can get quite dull in comparison, unless there is some cool wreck or something else that makes it wortwile. I did my PADI OW in Thailand (great diving), the year after I dived off Croatia in the Adriatic Sea and the main challenge was to stay awake as it was so dull compared to the Thailand experience.

Where we stayed on Bonaire the hotel had oxygen tanks lined up at the beach so if you wanted to dive you could just grab a tank and go. The reef runs just outside the beach so it's no hassle to get to it. You could also do boat trips to several locations pretty close to shore, we did one to seek out a rare sea horse and the dude knew exactly under which rock to look for it (and found it).

We also had great diving on Puerto Rico (stayed in Rincon, was a very chill place, great surfing as well they said (I don't surf)). The boat owner / shop operator / dive guide pointed out that it was a great spot for inexperienced divers as the water we dived in was so shallow (generally around 30 feet max) so we culd stay under much longer as you use less oxygen and as the limited depth pretty much takes away the need for decompression stops and more advanced stuff. At least that's how I remembered it, I haven't done any diving in ages.


the_hobbitish

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #31 on: October 07, 2021, 11:56:37 AM »
Has anyone done a trip with singledivers.com? They organize group trips with an emphasis on solo travelers that don't already have a dive buddy.

I'm thinking of going on a trip with them to cozumel in January. I'd do my check out dives as part of the trip. There's another new diver going on the trip so there would be someone else at my level. I can hire a dive mentor/instructor to be my dive buddy for the rest of the trip for $50/day which seems reasonable. The cost is a bit more expensive than going completely solo, but I get the benefit of someone else organizing my first trip and having everything included but my personal gear.

Daisy

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #32 on: October 07, 2021, 04:48:37 PM »
I did my certification online and then my open water in Belize, off Ambergris Caye. 

It was my first solo international trip after paying off my non-federal student loans and money was really tight back then.  I went in the very off season, so I was a herd of one, which was AWESOME.  But if you go in the busier season, there will be more people, so better for what you want.  Costs were low, people were very friendly, and I had a good time traveling around the mainland as well as the Cayes.  It has been over a decade, so I know things have changed.

LV

Another vote for Ambergris Caye in Belize!

I am a south Floridian and got certified here and had done some dives in the Keys and such. If you want to stay in the US that's a good option.

However, the experience at Ambergris Caye is something else! The coral reef there was amazing and full of life. The small island was also a great experience...no cars allowed and you walk everywhere. The lobster was cheap and delicious! I went in the mid 90s. Afterwards, I went diving to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia but I much preferred the color and wildlife in Belize. I was underwhelmed with the Great Barrier Reef.

And as someone else mentioned above, we dove The Blue Hole which was a two day trip on a boat, sleeping one night at a small island. However, be advised that this is a very deep dive so you can only be down there for a short time, and due to the deepness could be a bit overwhelming for a first timer.

Even if you don't get certified in Belize I highly recommend it as a trip in the future for you!

the_hobbitish

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #33 on: November 09, 2021, 11:52:39 AM »
I just finished all my confined water dives. I'm headed to Cozumel for my check out dives in early 2022. Can't wait to finish my cert and get diving.

the_fixer

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Re: Calling all divers - help me decide where to do my open water cert
« Reply #34 on: November 09, 2021, 05:49:51 PM »
Awesome have fun and stay safe!


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