Choosing a scuba diving vacation

Choosing a scuba diving vacation


WHICH DIVING HOLIDAY IS RIGHT FOR YOU

The first thing you need to think about when choosing a diving vacation is how much diving is actually involved; some vacations focus on one or two dives daily, others three or four, and some combine diving with another activity. Next, work out where you want to do it – do you want to be somewhere that’s ideal for beginners, somewhere that’s known for its photographic brilliance, or somewhere that’s home to some of the world’s most revered dive sites?
You also need to think about your accommodation as this can have an effect on the size of the group that you’re diving with – and on your vacation experience. Liveaboard trips are diving vacations spent living on board a boat, which doesn’t necessarily mean cramped accommodation, but can mean large groups. Similarly, the obvious assumption would be to presume that a resort vacation would mean larger groups heading out to dive spots together, but many resorts are aware of each other’s timetables and schedule their diving so as not to coincide with hordes of other underwater explorers.
Whether you’re a complete novice, or a bit of a dab hand can make as much difference to a diving vacation as whether you’re traveling solo, or with two kids in tow. All responsible diving vacation operators will welcome your questions, so research carefully and you should be able to pair your destination with what you want to achieve and how challenging you want your diving to be.

Types of scuba diving vacation


FIND YOUR DIVING STYLE

Accredited diving associations


Think scuba diving, think PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors). Not unreasonable considering they dominate an estimated 70 percent of the diving market. There are however a good many more excellent accredited diving associations out there, namely CMAS (Confederation Mondiale des Activites Subaquatiques), BSAC (British Sub-Aqua Club), and SSI (Scuba Schools International), so don’t be alarmed if the diving course you’re being offered isn’t PADI; they all serve divers to the same aim, but with slight differences to their styles and duration, so research what you find before you sign up.
Lynne Gillis, from our supplier, Dive Urge, shares her opinion on diving with PADI: “20-30 years ago diving was considered for tough men, not for wimps or wussies, or even women, and definitely not for kids, but what PADI did was take diving and make it accessible and get everyone involved. Other companies exist, but may have a ‘typical diver’ profile and their courses can be pretty hardcore – all about holding your breath and getting you equipment on under pressure. PADI broke diving up into manageable sections and cornered the market by making it accessible and safe for everyone.”

Resorts


If you want a relaxed introduction to diving, are traveling with your family – some of whom may not want to dive – or aren’t sure whether you have particularly good sea legs, then a resort based diving vacation is probably best for you. You have the privacy and comfort of a hotel room and packages ranging from the very plush to the more modest, but all served with a healthy dollop of restaurant options and local culture on the side. Also, more often than not, resort vacations will do a lot of the organisational legwork for you. By nature, resort-based diving vacations are more limited by the number of day boats there are available, or by the number of shore dives in the vicinity, and most trips will offer two dives daily returning to the resort after the second dive at lunchtime – leaving you with the rest of the day to do as you please.

Liveaboard


A liveaboard diving vacation means you literally live aboard the boat from which you dive, sailing between remote and generally less crowded dive sites. You need to know you love diving before you embark on one of these vacations; although there are liveaboard trips that combine less diving with more sailing and more relaxing, the mantra is often ‘eat, sleep, dive, repeat’.


There are no group meetings to organise, no waiting for late guests and no loading or unloading of equipment, so it’s normal to dive four times a day spending your nights under the stars on the bow of the boat chatting to your fellow passengers about what you’ve seen and done that day. Most liveaboards are far from cramped, but will sacrifice some of the luxury and convenience of a resort vacation, and seasickness can ruin a trip for those unaccustomed to bobbing about to the rhythm of the waves all day (and night!). However, if the lure of waking up and jumping straight into your day’s first dive is greater than the lure of a king size bed, then liveaboard’s the one for you.

Scuba diving conservation


Marine conservation diving vacations are as much about diving as they are giving up your free time to make a worthy contribution to a conservation initiative. If you’re not already a diver, you can learn during the first week of your trip, and if you can already dive then a marine conservation vacation is a great way to build on that skill and use it to do something that will really benefit the underwater environment. These trips largely involve early morning starts, up to three dives a day helping out with reef protection work, collecting data and conducting fish ID surveys alongside lectures, presentations and talks in the evening.

Shark/whale shark diving


Helping to dispel the myth of great white sharks existing purely to feast on unsuspecting humans, a shark conservation vacation is as much an opportunity to observe the magnificent creatures in their natural habitat as it is to dive in a secure steel cage about a metre below the surface, recording observations including the sharks’ sex, markings and behaviour. Whale shark diving vacations consist mainly of out-at-sea research, though unlike the more predatory great white, the whale shark is a filter-feeding engineer of the ecosystem that much prefers dining on plankton than people and can be swum beside – the pinnacle of any scuba diver’s close-up experiences. These types of vacation almost always offer resort accommodation.

Family


Scuba diving is an incredible adventure for kids and they can learn to dive from the age of 10 when they can do their Junior Open Water Diver course. This is just the same as an Open Water Diver course in terms of price, content and duration, just with ‘junior’ stuck on the front. Only you know your family, however, and – as with most vacation choices – how far-flung you go and what you require in terms of convenience is entirely subjective. Overall, it’s recommended that younger kids join adults on resort-based vacations where they’ll get the rest they need to complete their course successfully and get the most fun out of it by mixing it up with other activities and down time too. It’s advisable that kids do most, if not all of their theory before they arrive too, to avoid the inevitable ‘booooring’ homework factor.

Choosing a diving vacation


SOME ADVICE FROM OUR EXPERTS

Lynne Gillis, from our supplier, Dive Urge, shares her advice on how to choose a diving vacation: “If you’re considering a scuba diving trip for your family vacation, do it. It’s a perfect family vacation and such a great gift to bestow on your kids – you’re introducing them to a great skill that doesn’t expire, so will last a lifetime and of course they love it because it’s a real life exciting adventure and because kids are naturally fearless. To open that world to kids is an amazing thing and is great for conservation because the more young minds are educated about this precious environment, the more likely they are to show an interest in protecting it for generations to come.”
Annie Antonatou, from our supplier, Mystic Blue, shares her advice on choosing a diving vacation: “Our trip is not a typical liveaboard diving trip. Some liveaboard vacations are on quite big boats with big groups of 30-40 people diving four or five times a day. You wake up, dive, have breakfast, dive, have an hour rest, dive and the probably fit another dive in too; it’s non-stop. Our vacation is more like a combination of sailing and diving because we like to give our guests a long dive at one beautiful dive spot and then sail a few hours onto the next. A lot of people enjoy time in the afternoon to relax in the sun on the deck, or explore the island nearby. When we have more time, we always organise a second dive during the day, but the pace of the vacation is relaxed, so it’s never compulsory.
Photo credits: [Top box: NOAA's National Ocean Services] [Accredited diving associations - single: gordon.milligan] [Resorts - single: Serge Melki] [Liveaboard - double: Richard Peck] [Scuba diving conservation - single: USFWS - Pacific Region] [Shark/whale shark diving - single: NOAA's National Ocean Services] [Family - double: James Brooks]
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