Ever wanted to dive with the hammer head sharks in Cocos Island, cage dive with the Great White sharks in South Africa or swim through Japanese WWII ships in the Philippines?
No matter the dive trip, to make it an enjoyable one, there are a number of things to consider before booking and going on an overseas dive trip.
What to consider before booking a dive holiday
1. Decide what to see & when to go
Is your dive trip going to revolve around seeing a specific marine animal? My husband Dean and I wanted to see the Minke Whales on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), Australia. Minke whales are only seen on the GBR between June and July, so it would have been pointless for us to book a trip to see them in December. Avoid disappointment, and research the best time of year to visit. Also for popular experiences such as this, make sure you book early, as you won’t want to miss out!
2. Skills Level
Where you want to go diving and what you are capable of diving may be two different things. The first dive I did after gaining my Open Water certification was a dive in Tobago at a place called Speyside. It probably wasn’t the best spot to pick for a nervous new diver, as I later found out it was a place known for currents. Throughout the dive I clung onto my husband Dean, who dragged me around the dive site. To be honest I don’t remember much from the dive site other than how uncomfortable I was, which is a shame because Dean tells me how plentiful the marine life was. So make sure you understand the required skill level and dive conditions before booking on a dive.
3. Determine how much of the holiday will be diving
Do you want to spend all day diving, or do you want a mix of diving and other land based activities?
If you fall into the former (like my husband Dean), a liveaboard trip may be something to consider. The benefit of a liveaboard is that you can get to those remote dive sites that are not possible to dive in a day. It really is for those that love to do nothing but dive, as there is little else to do. Also some dive sites, like on the Minke whale diving trip, are only accessible via a liveaboard. If however, you like to do a mix of things on your holiday, then booking day diving trips would be a better option, especially if you are travelling with a non-diver.
4. Plan the trip around the dives
Remember you cannot be at an altitude of 300m or more within 24 hours of your last dive. Everyone typically remembers that this means no flying, but it also means no hiking, no hot air ballooning, no skydiving or other air based activities that exceed an altitude of 300m. This nearly caught us out on a trip we made to Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia. We had planned to dive in Kota Kinabalu and then climb Mount Kinabalu (4095m) the next day. Luckily we remembered this rule, so we added an extra day to our itinerary after the dive. Make sure you don’t get caught out and plan your trip around your dives. Ignoring this advice increases the risk of decompression sickness.
5. Pick a reputable dive company
The most important thing is to find a safe diving centre. The best way to determine this is by looking at reviews from multiple online sources and not just rely on the dive company’s own website. Tripadvisor is a good site to use to get a range of customer feedback on a dive company. We avoid booking with any dive centres where the reviews suggest poorly maintained equipment or unsafe dive practices.
6. Check inclusions
It is important to understand what is included in your dive trip. Often marine fees are an additional charge, and sometimes a dive guide is not included. On our recent diving trip at Malapascua Island in the Philippines, we prepaid our diving online, but when we got to the dive shop we also had to pay an additional amount for marine fees. While the fees are usually minimal, it is still something you need to account for, especially if you have a tight budget.
With all of these considerations in mind, you can now book your overseas dive trip!
What to do after booking a dive holiday
It’s almost time to go on that dive trip, but there are still a couple of things to do before you go.
1. Buy travel insurance that covers diving
Diving is not risk free, and unfortunately accidents do happen. You want to be sure that if you are one of the few people who have a diving accident, that any related costs are covered by your travel insurance. Typically travel insurance policies have exclusions on extreme sports like scuba diving, so you need to read the fine print carefully and pick one that includes scuba diving.
Some things you should look for in the policy:
- Unlimited amount (or minimum 6 figures) for recompression therapy, in case of decompression sickness (DCS).
- Check it is inclusive of any search and rescue costs.
- Ensure there is no exclusion on the type of diving you are doing e.g. cave diving, deep diving, great white shark cage diving.
- Check if there is a limit on the depth you can dive to. Sometimes policies state maximum depth, even if your certification allows you to dive deeper.
- If you are bringing your own gear, then you may also want to check that your scuba gear is covered if it is lost, stolen or damaged.
And once you have purchased your policy, keep a copy of: the policy, the insurance certificate and emergency phone number on you in case of an accident. Make sure you also share this information with your emergency contact and the dive centre before you dive.
What to pack depends on the dive trip booked, and really comes down to personal preference. If you are the type that just likes to take carry-on luggage (like me), then you will only be packing the essentials and hiring most of your gear.
Regardless of the dive trip, here are 5 recommended things to take on every dive trip:
- Diving card – helps prove your certification level but it is one of those things that is easily forgotten when packing for a trip. For any PADI certified divers out there, your dive certification is available for purchase in electronic format to store on your phone, which means it is less likely to be forgotten.
- Mask & tamer – having your own mask can make so much difference on a dive trip. You don’t want to get out on a dive and realise the mask doesn’t fit, leaks, or fogs up. These problems just make for an uncomfortable dive. Also if you have long hair (like me), you understand the pain of getting your hair tangled in the mask strap so adding a tamer to the back strap really helps.
- Dry bag – is a great way to keep clothes and other valuables (as the name suggests) dry.
- Camera & extra memory – for those of you who like taking those scuba selfies with marine life, make sure you bring your underwater camera. Just don’t forget to also take a couple of extra memory cards so you can capture every exciting moment.
- Underwater chill proof clothing – are useful regardless of the water temperature. Chill proof clothing comes in a variety of styles (long sleeve, short sleeve, vest, shorts and pants). In warm water it can be used instead of a wetsuit, while in cold water it can be worn underneath a wetsuit for an extra layer of warmth. If you are looking for a recommendation, the brand we use is called sharkskin. We love it because it dries quickly, has neutral buoyancy and is versatile as we use it to keep warm both under and above the water.
Now that you are booked and packed, all that’s left to do is to go and enjoy your dive trip! But remember, those cocktails are best enjoyed AFTER diving!
About the Author
Amanda Bolzan and her husband Dean Samuels have been certified divers since 2009. Amanda has her advanced open water and Dean is a dive master. They have travelled the world and dived many sites in Australia, Asia, Central America and the Caribbean.
Amanda and Dean have a travel blog called Scatabout which details the fun and unique experiences they have had on their world travels. You can find them doing something adventurous like scuba diving, hiking or something strange like running down the side of a building.
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