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How to choose the right scuba instructor

SCUBA Diving is a fairly expensive hobby. Virtually all dive centres claim to be the best, but when it comes to reality – this simply cannot be true. How do you choose the right scuba instructor to dive with? When it comes to forking out your hard-earned bucks, you want to be sure you are getting the best money can buy, don’t you?

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It’s a known fact that cheaper is not always better and this is certainly true in obtaining scuba certification! Big centres may not be perfect for you, if you don’t like a crowd. On the other hand, small centres could be resource-limited. Therefore, there are many things to check. But how will you know whether your choice has a brilliant safety record? It is difficult for a novice to check the parameters that matter and even an experienced diver may struggle to find the real facts until it’s too late.

There are a number of things that divers or prospective divers should know or check with regards to scuba dive training before they part with their money.

Things to look out for in order to choose the right scuba instructor

Safety

What type of safety equipment is there and where do they keep it? Who operates it and where will they be during the dive? Is there a medical doctor or nurse close by and on call? How close is the nearest chamber and does the centre advise divers on this? Is there a good emergency plan in place?

Professionalism and service

Divers should look at the number of staff and how well trained they are. Trainees are probably better placed to ask questions about the instructor that the centre assigns to them. How many people have they certified in the past year? An answer above 20 would be good but anything above 30 ideal. Are their credentials on view? How accessible are the staff to questions and how transparent are the responses? Does the dive centre staff speak the same language as the diver or trainee? If not what effort have they made to ensure comprehension?

Are the centre owners actively involved in the centre or is there a manager? Are you being given what you were promised? If you are an ardent log-booker and dive stamp collector, is there one available for after your dive or are you going to be disappointed? How much attention is given to this type of detail? How long has the centre been running? Do they have PADI certification or similar?

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Gear

Is it all in a good working order and neat? Does it look really old and out of date? Are things leaking and smelling very “musty”. Does the boat work efficiently and is it neat and clean?

Value

This doesn’t only relate to the price of the course or dive but rather to an overall consideration. How far do you have to travel to dive in open water and what dive sites are in proximity to the centre? When you get an air fill – do you actually get the amount you are paying for or are you short-changed by 20 or so bar/psi each time? What extras were on offer i.e. are you collected from your hotel if travelling? On occasions value for money may also be relevant. Was your experience overall worth what you paid for it?

For example, centres may try to keep the price really low to hook the diver but then you would have to buy all sorts of extras and thus end up paying more than you would have, had you just gone for the more expensive deal in the first place. So if you are shopping around then ensure you are comparing “apples with apples”.

For some novices, the training agency that the instructor or centre is affiliated to may be important, so that should also be checked. Not all dive centres in the world accept the standards of some training agencies. So, the diver should ensure that if they train with a PADI or SSI (or any of the others) dive instructor or centre whilst abroad. Then, they will be able to use this certification at home or where they would usually want to dive.

So-called independent reviews of a dive centre may be available online but it can be difficult to check the reliability of the review. Also, can one be certain that the review hasn’t come from the centre itself? Probably, the best advice I can leave you with is to go through the questions here and choose which ones matter most to you. Write them in your logbook and be sure to ask. In this way, dive centres could also become more fastidious, especially when it comes to safety and maintaining the standards required of the training agency they are affiliated to.

If you’re looking to choose the right scuba instructor to get certified in South Africa, check out the training at Fiona Ayerst Underwater Photography. You can also take a look at our Underwater Photography and Video programs on offer while you’re at it.

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Fiona is a world renowned underwater photographer and winner of numerous awards. Passionate about documenting the underwater world, she hopes that her photos will inspire greater marine conservation efforts. She instructs the Underwater Photography program for Africa Media.

Connect with Fiona: Facebook or at fiona@fionaayerst.com

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