Backpackers descend onto Koh Tao in search of a scuba diving certification, although many are rarely armed with the information to allow them the freedom to make an informed decision on which dive company to use.
Allow me to shed some light on the subject….
One of the main confusions is “What’s the first course I should do?”
Quite simply the first level of qualification is “Scuba Diver” but this qualification has its restrictions and only allows you to dive with a qualified instructor. The more common, and most sought after is that of the “Open Water Diver”.
There are over 144 recognized dive agencies around the world….
They issue their own variation on standards and indeed qualifications. That said, all of them adhere (in one form or another) to the recognition standards of training and as such an Open Water Diver (albeit, maybe a title variation) is in fact, an Open Water Diver. For example the Open Water Diver has depth limitations of between 18-20m (59-65ft) and cannot dive outside of the daylight hours. This is the same for all OW divers regardless of the agency they are certified by.
Once you are qualified by an agency you are then recognized as such by the rest; for example an SSI OW diver can dive at a PADI center and is the equivalent of a PADI OW diver. The only place in the world that this is not allowed is Alberta, Canada; for some reason Alberta will not recognize any governing body other than PADI (each to their own I suppose) but if your geography is on point Alberta is landlocked and it’s safe to assume the water is bone numbingly cold.
So what does this mean to you as a new “wannabe” diver?
It means you can select whichever qualifying agency you prefer to do your non pro certifications with. By non pro I mean OW diver, Advanced Diver, Rescue Diver etc etc. If you are striving to become a pro and work in the industry this will be the point when you need to be selective (DM & above).
There are slight variations in the teaching methods between the agencies too….
For example, with PADI you must achieve all of your required skills in a set process therefore if you cannot achieve some of the skills on dive 1 of your course then you cannot move onto dive 2. Whereas with SSI they have developed the teaching style to reflect the recognition of nerves & apprehension, therefore your instructor is allowed to build your confidence underwater prior to attempting any skills that you are having issues with.
Finally, once you have selected your agency to gain your first certification this does not mean that you have to stick with the same agency to proceed onto further qualifications. For example I bounced through OW & Advanced with British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC), I then completed my Rescue course, Dive Master & Instructor with PADI which I then crossed over to become an SSI Instructor as well.
Ultimately, whoever and wherever you do your courses with I am sure you will enjoy it. If you have read this article then I urge you to firstly decide on which agency you prefer to be certified by and THEN decide on which dive center you wish to use.
Hopefully you can now go in search of that special place that will introduce you to the new world of adventures. Always keep in mind that flexibility is key, you’re initial thoughts may be of one particular agency, only to find that once on location a dive center that suits your style may not offer the agency you want. IT DOESN’T MATTER, it’s your holiday so its your choice, remember rule number 4 in diving- Look Cool & Have Fun!!