How to Find a Suitable Diving Center for Beginners
[reading time: approx. 5-6 mins.]
This blog post deals with some aspects and tips about how to find a suitable diving center when you’re just starting with scuba diving. Whether it’s for the OWD (Open Water Diver) Course or for your first Try Scuba, the choice of the diving center plays an important and decisive role.
On the one hand you’ll be nervous and insecure in the beginning. A good diving center and above all a good diving instructor will help you so much to handle that. Trust and the feeling of safety is a relevant aspect here!
And on the other hand, later on you’ll be glad about having a good education. Even though all diving centers should have the same educational content, it makes a difference who and how they teach it. That’s like in school, with competent and pedagogically good teachers and the opposite of these ones.
Before we give you a few tips, we have to say that all this does not necessarily apply to a good diving center. Some may seem to be great, but are still not ideal for beginners, in our eyes.
In the following aspects we’ll differentiate between finding a good diving center from home or on site.
The jetty from the Extra Divers Makadi to the housereef
How to Find a Suitable Diving Center from Home
Let’s start with from home. Most people already decide at home if and where they want to do a course or a Try Dive. If you’ve already chosen your holiday location, you’ll probably search in the web for diving centers e.g. nearby your hotel, which is of course the easiest method.
We’ll come back to that “online presence” topic later on, but first of all we’ll need to mention our favorite way to find a suitable diving center for beginners:
Ask for Recommendations!
If you have diving people in your circle of acquaintances, ask them for recommendations about good diving centers where they’ve already been to. Recommendations of family & friends are always the best way to decide about whatever, these are the most honest and valuable opinions you can get.
If you don’t know a diver, you can also join any diving facebook group and browse (with the help of the search function) through relevant articles and comments. Every day the question "Does anyone know a good dive center in the country X" is asked and is followed by a detailed exchange with tips. Just be careful, diving centers know the platform with its groups as well and sometimes gonna advertise for their own, which is of course not an independent recommendation.
Furthermore if you’re not sure yet you can check the diving centers own social media channels for customer comments or even rating websites like tripadvisor. You can also google diving centers if people on blogs have already written a few sentences about it. In the future we definitely want to share with you our experience with all diving centers we’ve been to!
Once you’ve decided on a diving center you will sooner or later click on the website to search for the prices. In most cases the website is the figurehead of a company or in this case the diving center. For us customers this is the first impression we can get and it’s not helpful if a website doesn`t provide all relevant facts.
There should be some information about the courses and fun dives, the prices, a gallery and maybe a list or description of the dive sites there and the type of renting equipment. Of course a nice and informative website is not a warranty for a high quality diving center, but it’s a good start.
The next relevant point for a Try Scuba or a OWD Course is to dive with small groups, which means for us a maximum of 4 divers on one instructor! It’s not safe enough to dive with bigger groups because there is less attention and focus on the individual. Besides, you always have to be considerate of others, and you will be busy enough with yourself in the beginning.
If you can’t find information about the group size of courses on the website, then definitely ask for that! It’s a really important point for your safety to not have more than four people in one group! Two is even better, but is not always possible, depending on the season and the available diving instructors there.
Just to mention that briefly, you can also find good diving centers at diving exhibitions. We think that’s too elaborate for the first course or Try Scuba dive but of course you can do this and talk to a few people there. Another idea if you don’t want to visit an exhibition would be to search in the web for information about the exhibitors there. Therefore you’ll get to know which diving centers are there and you can inform yourself about some of these.
Entrance of the InterDive - a huge diving exhibition in Germany
International Diving Centers
Worldwide there are thousands of diving centers. Small ones, bigger ones, and some of which belong to a chain. An example for that are the Extra Divers Worldwide with 25 diving centers all over the world (as of 2020). They have high quality standards in all these diving centers and don't want to ruin their good name.
(They did not sponsor us, it’s just a recommendation based on our personal experience.)
To get to the point, we sometimes have the feeling (our own personal opinion!) that larger dive centers are sometimes better “controlled” or “supervised” than diving centers with e.g. two people somewhere in South East Asia. We hope you don’t misunderstand us, there are many very good small and unknown diving centers. But for newcomers, and for a better feeling of safety in the beginning, we would always recommend bigger and more popular diving centers.
And last but not least, there are several diving magazines where you can read (amongst other things) a lot about dive sites and the diving centers there. These diving centers are known or tested by the editorial staff or someone else. No magazine would write an article about a bad diving center. Therefore they are recommended for beginners.
The two most famous diving magazines in Germany
How to Find a Suitable Diving Center On Site
So now let’s get to the tips if you’re already on site. The aspects mentioned above will of course still be applied on site, but there are two additional useful points for how to rate a diving center.
Ask Other Divers
In popular touristic diving areas like for example Koh Phi Phi, Thailand there is one diving center after another all over the island and everyone offers nearly the same, so no chance to decide just by seeing the website and so on. But when you’re already there, you have a decisive advantage: You can ask others customers that are just leaving the diving center if they’re happy there with the dive sites, people, equipment and so on.
Go for it! When you meet a satisfied diver, he will have a sparkle in his eyes and will tell you everything about his last dives. And the other way round if they are not happy, you’ll feel that as well.
Listen to Your Feelings
And last but not least, just listen to your feelings. On site you have the opportunity to go to the diving center and get a personal overall impression of everything. Are the prices way too cheap or high, are there only new diving instructors with 50 dives, is the equipment for example lying around on the floor or how is the overall cleanliness of the diving center. Talk to the diving instructors and have a look whether they seem sympathetic to you or not!
You can include all these facts in your personal evaluation to decide if you want to dive with this diving center.
And always remember, don’t dive if you’re not feeling safe enough!
We hope that we could help you a little bit with the tips mentioned above. Furthermore, if you’re interested in diving centers that we can warmly recommend, just write us a message or comment below.