The little mermaid wanted nothing more than to become human, but for us lifelong landlubbers, the idea of breathing underwater is equally alluring—and challenging. This guide shows you where to get certification, find a place to dive, get the best deals on equipment and connect with the scuba diving community.
There’s a lot to know about diving, and following the rules can sometimes mean the difference between a fun afternoon and debilitating illness. The following certification organizations provide courses for divers of all types and ability levels.
- Many diving vacation packages include a certification program as part of their service. Check the “Where to Scuba Dive” section of this guide for resorts and diving companies that certify you on location.
- If you know which organization you want to study with, use its Web site to find a center near you. If you’re ambivalent, you might want to try one of the directories that locates all schools in your area
- The organizations below not only provide certification courses for first-time divers, but also offer teacher certification programs.
For certification organizations …
The National Association of Underwater Instructors
(NAUI), the world’s second largest training organization, also certifies all levels of divers, but with a more educational and safety-oriented bent. Each certification is equally respected but you’ll find PADI programs at more resorts and vacation destinations. Use the site’s search function to locate a diving trainer
Scuba Schools International
(SSI) is the third major organization for recreational diver certification. The “Begin diving
” page provides a good introduction to diving that answers your basic questions about what it means to become a diver. Learn about SSI’s various programs and diver services, and find a school in your area.
For finding places to study …
Scuba Diving Planet
offers a directory that lists schools alphabetically, in any country of your choice. If you’re looking to get certified near your home, you might use a more specific directory from one of the organizations above. However, if you’re interested in getting certified while on vacation in the Cayman Islands, for example, you might try this tool to explore all your options.
is a diving location in the Florida Keys that not only offers recreational dive charters, but a variety of certification and instructor training courses as well. If you’re interested in going away for your training and education, consider this school, which is strongly affiliated with PADI. It’s a good example of an organization that will train you while you’re on vacation.
There’s nothing stopping you from diving in a nearby river or lake, but if you’re looking for something a bit more interesting, you’ll want to explore the world’s reefs, ship wrecks or caves. This section points you toward the world’s most exotic and intriguing dive spots.
- The Scuba Guide offers basic guidelines for choosing a dive shop when you’re traveling. If you’re interested in local diving, use a directory to find a dive shop in your area. In all likelihood, they plan local excursions.
- Most scuba diving Web sites, especially those of magazines, gear sites or community pages, advertise travel deals, promote dive shops and recommend locations.
For advice on choosing a travel destination …
has a travel column that lists the top ten dive sites, as determined by specialist Harry Marks. Each dive location is described in brief.
is a U.K. site that also provides a list of top ten dive sites; these are determined by user ratings. View the top 100
if you choose, and vote for your own. The left side bar lists various dive locations you can research via the site’s comprehensive articles and reviews.
Online has multiple destination guides under the heading “Guides.” Don’t miss the “Dive Atlas of the World
” for a clickable world map you can use to learn more about particular dive locations.
For a directory of dive shops near you …
101 Scuba Diving
helps you find a scuba diving center pretty much anywhere. Select a world region on the left navigation bar to get started. To find a scuba center in the United States, choose USA diving centers
to get a list of states and available scuba centers.
Some people discover diving by chance while vacationing in scuba-friendly locations, but others deliberately seek out vacations that cram in as many dives as possible. This section links to travel agencies devoted to creating the best dive vacations imaginable.
- Some of the companies below book dive vacation packages all over the world. Other sites focus on dive opportunities in a particular location. Although there may appear to be some overlap, each company listed below has different specialties.
- As you’ll learn from the sites below, package deals usually include a hotel stay, meals and a certain number of dives per day. Details vary, so make sure you’re aware of what’s excluded and what extra charges you may incur, such as fees for equipment rental.
Reef & Rainforest
creates and customizes scuba diving and adventure travel vacations. Check out the scuba diving page to get overviews of destinations, live-aboards and dive resorts. Choose the desired elements of your trip and let the company put it together for you.
Maduro Dive Fanta-Seas plans dive trips to 36 countries worldwide. Find special deals, review profiles of locations, hotels and live-aboards, or request a quote
for a particular trip.
Pure Adventure is a small company that helps you book and schedule trips that focus on diving and kayaking. Hire them to lead a group trip or sign up for a trip they’re planning. You can also get scuba certification
through the organization.
Whether you’re fully submerged or just testing the waters, you can deepen your knowledge of the diving world with a variety of scuba-centric magazines and news sources. Use the sites in this section to read about the best places to dive, examine equipment reviews, explore dive features or just look at glossy pictures of really pretty fish.
- Reading diving news isn’t just a way to enjoy your hobby on dry land, it also ensures you stay current with safety information.
- You may also find relevant news in the “Scuba Diving Forums and Communities” section of this guide.
is the official magazine of the PADI Diving Society. Its Web site is a comprehensive resource for divers including information on schools, vacations, equipment and community activities. Consider subscribing to the free e-newsletter
to be sure you’re up to date on worthy scuba news.
is an online magazine for divers. Find travel and equipment information, advisories and lots of news. Beware that some of the links don’t lead to anything but a “Coming Soon” page.
“Scuba” is an acronym for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, so it follows that you need a significant amount of gear to do it. Not only does diving require the apparatus itself, but you’ll also need a mask, fins, weights, a buoyancy compensator and more. This section shows you how to evaluate scuba gear and where to find it.
- Although all the sites below allow you to buy gear online, you may not actually want to. Scuba gear can be cumbersome and your comfort will be a matter of personal taste. You may want to visit a store where you can try things on.
- The diving magazines listed in the sections above are surefire sources for product reviews, especially when an item is first introduced on the market. Such magazines may also report on good dealers, or have recommendations from pros.
- All the sites listed below make similar promises of “best price guarantee.” You can either find a site you like the best, or use all three. Since they’re discount sites, they might have different items in stock at different times.
Sport Diver Magazine
lists and reviews hundreds of products in several categories of gear. Editors at the magazine have selected products, and you’ll find links to sites where you can purchase products or learn more.
The Scuba Guide
has a gear directory that provides a few ways you can search for gear. Browse items by manufacturer using the list on the right, or by item type using the photos in the center of the page.
is a well-organized site offering many different brands of scuba gear. All products are under full warrantee, and Scuba.com offers 150% price protection. If you find a product they sell for less anywhere else, you’ll get 150% of the difference as a credit toward your next purchase.
, the oldest online gear dealer, has a flashier site that does most of what Scuba.com does, including promise you the best prices out there. You can also return gear for a full refund after 60 days, and a store credit after 120.
promotes many of its less expensive products, although it has a comprehensive range of gear from name brand manufacturers. One unique feature of Joe’s is that it offers exchange/store credit for used gear within a 90-day return period.
Vintage Scuba Supply
buys and sells vintage and antique scuba gear. Send in your gear for repair, buy products to help fix your old gear or just browse through their online museum.
Unless you live on the Great Barrier Reef, you probably can’t chat about diving with your coworkers. The sites below help you connect with other divers through online forums, blogs and community organizations.
- The news and magazine sites listed in the “Diving News” section of this guide are also helpful resources for connecting divers.
- Looking for dive-related employment? Some of the community sites below are good places to look for job opportunities. Also consider contacting the career services sector of the organization that certified you.
- Reading scuba blogs is a good way to stay connected, too. A search on TravelBlog, a general travel blog site, found a story of one man’s diving experience in the Channel Islands.
is an online forum that unites more than 100,000 divers in conversations on more than 500 scuba-related topics.
Scuba Diving Magazine
, listed above as a news source, also has a well-trafficked online forum. This page lets you select a category of interest.
is the “divers’ blog community.” Start your own blog or read the blogs of others. Don’t miss the link to Diver Jobs
for a list of worldwide job opportunities.
For diving clubs and communities …
The Divers Alert Network
(DAN) is a nonprofit organization devoted to diver safety. Become a member, learn about training classes or research diver insurance.
Diving Society provides a number of membership perks, such as a Sport Diver magazine subscription, savings on equipment, invitations to events, free gifts and savings on DAN membership.
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