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A Beginner's Guide to Scuba Diving

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DIN:
This post is for the benefit of future, soon-to-be or newbie divers. If you have been searching the Internet for many sleepless nights, this is the basic resource you are looking for.

As I am PADI certified, this post tends to gear towards PADI certification. Don't worry if you choose to get certified by other certifying agency, the steps are somewhat similar.

How to Become a Scuba Diver?
The basic certification is the Open Water Diver. This is the basic scuba diving certification that allows you to dive up to 18 meters. Assuming that you are more than 10 years old, be sure to meet the other prerequisite - physically fit to swim 200 meters and thread or float for 10 minutes. If not, what are you waiting for? Get out of that chair now and hit the gym… or pool.

What Do You Learn in the Course?
There are three phases to the Open Water Diver Course. Knownledge Development, Confined Water and Open Water respectively. You have to complete all three to be a certified diver. You can also enroll in PADI eLearning for the Theory part and then choose a dive center to complete the confined water and open water bit.


* Classroom session (4 to 6 hours) - Most boring part of the course – theory or knowledge development as they called it. You will read the course manual, watch video and complete the quizzes. Lastly, you must sit and pass an easy exam.
* Confined water session (3 to 6 hours) - You will be taught 20 basic scuba diving skills in a pool and get familiar with Scuba Diving equipment. Its very important you ask your Instructor to practice with you the skills that you are unsure of here.
* Open water dives– This is the fun part where you get to integrate the principles and demonstrate the skills learned from the confined water sessions in the deep blue sea and of course get certified! The Open water part will typicallly be conducted in Tioman or Dayang over the weekend or Pulau Hantu during off-season.
One last part – once you are done with your course, join this forum and tell us your experience. Don’t just read, please contribute.

DIN:
This is what interest most, isn't it? The good thing about Singapore is that it’s probably the cheapest place on earth to learn Scuba Diving. In our competitive market, prices don’t vary much. The differences between the dive centers are probably about $10 to $30 only.

First, you need to get out of that "Cheap & Good" mentality because eventually you'll get what you paid for. It applies not just in Scuba Diving but also in life, as you know. Since you are going to fork-out more than half a thousand dollars for a plastic card (with a picture of a creature you may not even have the chance to see), you want to ensure that its money well-spend. Scuba diving is an expensive sport to begin with, and it’s a drug - extremely addictive! If $20 matters so much to you, I highly suggest you stay away from this addiction. You don’t want to end up pick-pocketing and snatching bags on the street, do you?

If you’re still reading, I know you are already somewhat hooked and financially ready to embark on your new addiction, which is being a scuba junkie – just like most of us here. If you insist on getting hooked, please read on. You have been warned!

I’m not saying expensive is good and cheap is not. What I’m rambling about is not to make cost as your main decisive factor. Quality should come first, experience and then cost. Select your dive centers or instructor based on these criteria, not because they are $10 cheaper. This ensured that you would learn the skills properly and become a safe diver.

Safety is the top priority in diving and the key to having fun underwater. If you do not learn the skills properly during your basic open water course, you’ll end up paying more for your leisure trips to practice what you’re missing. Not just that, you become a sort of “burden” to others and your buddy when you cant fin properly, cant clear your mask and float up unnecessarily to the surface. Also, please remember that, while diving is a safe sport, accidents do happened and most of the times, the victim never get a chance to tell their story, if you get my drift.

If you want to learn, make sure you learn well. If you have friend that recommend you a good dive center or instructor but they are slightly expensive than the one you called two hours ago. I said you should go for it!

Finally, you should be tired of reading by now so here it is, the amount that you should expect to pay based on the two common destinations:

• Pulau Dayang : $570 - $620
• Pulau Tioman : $590 - $630 
• Pulau Hantu   : $480 - $520 

The prices above are based on a typical Open Water Diver course package in 2011, at a basic resort in the two islands. Expect to fork out more if you are staying in a 4-star Berjaya Resort or if you are going on a Liveaboard boat.

What's Included in the Cost?
• 4 to 6 hours theory class
• 3 to 6 hours pool lesson
• All equipment for the entire course
• 3 days/2 nights dive trip
• Land & Sea Transfers
• Instructor and Certification Cost
• PADI Open Water Course manual
• PADI RDP table
• PADI certification fees
• PADI certification card
• Dive logbook
• 4 Open water training dive / 1 leisure dive
• Accommodation and Meals on the Islands

There are dive center that provide rental of dive computers and include the new eRDP (electronic dive table as opposed to the conventional ones) at an extra cost. There are also dive center that can provide you with insurance for a fee.

DIN:
Before you part with your hard earned cash, ask what is included in the fee. You must make sure everything mentioned above is inclusive. Some dive centers  practice ala-carte type of fee. Basically, the 3 phases mentioned above will be priced individually. There's nothing wrong with it, except that you eventually need to pay for all the 3 phases to complete your certification.

Also, there are dive centers that priced their course irresistibly cheap. However, once you register, you will be asked to buy the manual to get certified. You need to, because it’s a standard requirement for you to get your scuba diving license. These are just some of the many creative ideas that dive centers use to market their courses. It may look tempting initially but in actual fact; it rounds up to the same amount. Read the fine print carefully and just be extra cautious if you find an offer that is too good to be true because it probably is.

If you happen to come across a good deal that is a fraction of the cost above, say 50% less? I think you should stay away from it. It's likely to be another marketing gimmick. It's next to impossible to get your Open Water Diver certification at less than the amount stated above. If you find one, post it here for everyone to share.

DIN:
There a many dive centers in Singapore you can choose from. Just look at the listing in the Scuba Diving Directory. The best way to find a suitable one is by asking your diver's friend, especially those who had experience diving with a few dive centers or if you don't have any friends, no worries, make one here.
 
No matter which certifying agency you chose or preferred - PADI, SSI, NAUI and so forth, most important is finding the right Dive Center and Instructor. While most dive centers in Singapore are teaching the PADI syllabus, teaching standard and style varies. Some are better than others but you wouldn't know anyway, at least until you start diving with others and meet more diver’s friend.

Finding a good instructor is subjective so its better to do a bit of research or ask around to check what is suitable for you. Some like it strict while others like it fun. The choice is yours. If you cant find anyone to recommend, you can always go down for a chat at a few dive centers. Dive centers are generally run by a friendly bunch of people and they more than willing to answer your silly queries. Choose the one you are comfortable with.

Do take note that, enrolling for a dive course is different from queuing for nasi lemak in the hawker center. Don't join the queue just because everyone else is queuing there. What I am saying is, a popular dive centers that has bigger group doesn't necessarily be better than the smaller outfit. They all have their pros and cons. You have more chance meeting people with bigger group but you might learn better in smaller group.

Instructor to Student Ratio
Ask about the Instructor to Student ratio. Most dive centers practice 4 to 6 students per Instructor and more when Divemasters are present. When comes to learning, less is more. Less students means you will get more attention and most probably get to finish your skills faster.

Again, if you prefer to save that $20, you might end up doing your course with 20 other people. Now you definitely don’t want to come back from your course and all that you remember is holding to a rope underwater and struggling with your fins not to touch the bottom. Or perhaps, you might saw someone you know who happened to do the same course with another smaller group, swimming like a fish around you while you wondered what on earth are you doing. That someone might also wondered why are you finning like a constipated seahorse holding a rope or was he missing another skill?

Hope this helps with your selection. Now you can start your search at this thread and make some calls.

siaokao:
excellent sticky! ++kama for u! :D

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