When venturing out into the world to dive, choosing a dive center can seem like a bit of a crapshoot. Follow these tips to minimize the gamble. A guest post by our friends at Dive In, if you like what you see, there’s plenty more at their site if you click here!
Diving while traveling is one of the main motivators for many people who take their first dive certification course. But once you choose your destination, the next big question is: how do you choose your dive center?
There are tons of centers out there, and typically, the better the diving is in a given area, the more centers you’ll find there. Luckily, most centers who are affiliated with one of the large dive organizations will have decent standards, but as with any other industry, there is the occasional rotten apple in the bunch. So, follow the tips below to put the odds of finding a great dive center on your side.
Affiliation, affiliation, affiliation
Most dive centers around the world are affiliated with one or more of the major dive organizations, of which the biggest are PADI, NAUI, and SSI. So, choosing a center that is affiliated with one of those is preferable, especially if you’re looking to do training while you’re at your destination, but also if you’re just looking for a bit of guided pleasure diving. The organizations seek to uphold a good standard among their centers, so they act as a safeguard.
Check Their Credentials
Once you’ve found a candidate to be your dive center, go to the organization they are affiliated under, and look them up. All the organizations have membership checkers on their web sites (www.padi.com, www.naui.org, www.ssi.com), where you can confirm that their claim to be affiliated with the organization is legitimate.
Other credentials worth looking for are ratings from dive organizations, tourist boards, or dive and travel magazines.
Check out the dive center’s web site (also for information about organization affiliation). Look for an updated, seemingly well-run website. But, don’t discount a dive center for a poorly designed website, as the diving industry is not necessarily the most web-oriented industry out there. I’ve dived with plenty of great centers that had crappy sites. But a good site is a good indicator. Also, check for any social media presence to see if they have social media accounts, and if so, what are people generally saying about them. If they aren’t on social media, try sites such as Yelp!, Tripadvisor, or dive forums for info on the dive center. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask. Post your question about a specific center in any appropriate forum to tap into a worldwide knowledge bank.
Editor’s Note: We’re Partial to Planet Deepblu.
Talk to them
Contact them by email, phone, or in person. Ask them any questions you may have, or just get a feel for them. You’re looking for people who are open, friendly, service-minded, and willing to take the time to answer any questions or concerns you may have.
Inspect the gear
If you have a chance, take a look at their gear, whether you’re renting or not. Rental gear will almost always be fairly low-end items, and will have a good amount of wear on it, but look for the key stuff to be in order. All gear should be in working order, no rust spots on cylinders, no frayed moldy BCD’s, and no cracked regulator hoses, do they offer dive computers and are all kit stored in an orderly way. If it seems like the center takes reasonable care of its rental kit, there’s a good chance it takes good care of its customers, too.
Trust the gut
Finally, go with your gut. Even if a center seems to live up to all objective criteria, you may still have feeling deep down in your stomach that something just isn’t right about them. It might not be that there’s anything wrong with them, its just that they’re not right for you (the diving equivalent of “it’s not you, it’s me”). Go with that feeling. Never dive with someone that you’re not comfortable going out with. It’s not scientific, but our guts often tell us things that our conscious minds haven’t quite picked up on.
– This guest post is by Torben Lonne, Editor-in-Chief of DIVEIN.com, check out their site for more great stuff.
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