Scuba diving for beginners: tips for your first diving trip

Everyone has different motivations for taking up scuba diving. Some people are interested in wildlife, while others might be looking for new ways to challenge themselves and overcome fears. No matter what the reason is, there are some things you should take into consideration before embarking on a new adventure. Here are our scuba diving tips for beginners.

Let’s make a splash

First step: hit your local swimming pool and do a couple of laps

Whatever it is that has you thinking about starting diving, it’s imperative you’re comfortable in the water. As part of your first diving course (the PADI Open Water Scuba Diver certification or equivalent), you will have to be able to tread water/float for 10 minutes and you will have to swim 200m.

If you’re not 100% sure that you can achieve this in the ocean, taking a couple of sessions in the pool before you start your course will leave you feeling much more confident.

Open your eyes

While you’re in the pool practicing your swimming, have a go at opening your eyes underwater. So many people psych themselves out about opening their eyes in water, but honestly, it doesn’t sting, and you can still see surprisingly well. During your course, you will have to be underwater for 1 minute without a mask on, and you will have to do a no mask swim.

The more comfortable you are with having your eyes open underwater, the more unnecessary stress you will save yourself during the course.

Try before you buy

Before you book a flight and spend thousands on a once in a lifetime diving holiday only to get there and wonder if it really is for you, contact a local dive center and do a “try dive” session in the pool first. You can often do these in the evenings or the weekends and it only takes a couple of hours. You’ll learn some basic theory, have a go at a couple of skills and enjoy the freedom of breathing underwater.

Pick a location

Interested in swimming with turtles? Make sure you pick the right location

If you’re planning on going away specifically to learn to dive, there are so many factors to consider. The main diving factors to think about are currents, visibility and water temperature. By picking a place with the correct conditions, you can take a lot of stress out of diving.

For example, diving in Greece in the summer where there are no currents, 30m+ visibility and 27-degree water makes diving a lot easier than let’s say in the UK, where there can be strong currents, 5m or less visibility and cold water which at times requires dry suits.

Another factor to consider is the things you might like to see on your dives. Different species thrive in different habitats, so if you have your heart set on seeing a turtle, make sure you pick a place where they are commonly found.

Find a dive center

The easiest way to pick the best dive center in your chosen location is to read reviews. Go online and do your research. There are loads of great online forums full of people willing to share their advice and experiences. Another good place is the Girls That Scuba Facebook page where beginners are encouraged to ask questions and more experienced divers are happy to help.

Balance your time

If you choose a dive center that offers PADI courses, you have several options in how you’d like to structure your course. You can do the entirety of it while you’re on holiday, which takes approximately four days, or you can do eLearning and complete the theory in the comfort of your own home before you go, thus avoiding a day in the classroom.

Another option which takes slightly more organizing is completing the theory and pool work while at home, then going abroad and doing the four open water dives somewhere nice. This is perfect if you have limited holiday time and would rather take the whole thing at a slower pace.

Don’t buy any gear just yet

Scuba gear might be nice to have, but give it a couple of dives before you purchase it all

You absolutely do not need to buy any equipment before you start your course. Of course, a mask or a pair of boots is fine but avoid buying anything big like buoyancy control devices or regulators until you’ve got a few dives under your belt.

It’ll take a while to decide what it is you’re looking for in your equipment and your needs will change over time as different interests come and go. It’s a lot of money to spend, so also make sure you will be using your gear regularly. If you’re only going to be diving for one week a year, rental gear may well be more suitable.

Diving is serious business

Remember that even though you’re on holiday, diving is a serious sport and requires your full attention in order to avoid accidents. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep, you’ve eaten in the morning and that you haven’t drunk too much alcohol the night before. All of these factors not only affect how much you will enjoy your dives (hangovers and boats are not a fun combo!), but they can actually increase your risk of getting decompression sickness.

Although diving accidents are rare, make sure you have comprehensive medical insurance that covers all the activities you will be doing while you’re away. Learn about the essentials of travel insurance before you book your next holiday.

Always ask questions!

A big part of feeling safe while diving is down to understanding all the physics that are at work, and understanding your equipment. If you don’t understand something or you can’t remember – ask your instructor! It’s almost guaranteed that they’ve heard it before and there is no such thing as a stupid question. Instructors would much rather explain something to you again than have you develop unnecessary anxiety.

Where to go diving

Unplug on Tioman Island, Malaysia

Tioman Island provides the perfect landscape for tranquil walks

If you’re after a chilled out diving holiday that is only about diving, Tioman Island off the south-east coast of Malaysia is the place for you. Get a ferry from Mersing or Tanjung Gemok to a beautiful tropical island and stay in tiny villages with no cars and very limited Wi-Fi. Dive all day, sit at intimate restaurants and bars on the beach and talk about diving all night. Everyone there lives and breathes diving and everyone who visits Tioman completely falls in love with the place.

Find a flight to Mersing

A bit of everything in Cyprus

Beside great scuba dives, Cyprus offers beautiful views and tranquil towns

If you want diving to only be a part of your holiday, Cyprus has so many other things to do as well as great diving. Explore ruins, pick olives, party in Ayia Napa or visit water parks in Paphos, the opportunities are endless in Cyprus. With beautiful visibility and no currents, it’s the perfect place to learn and there’s something for everyone.

Find a flight to Larnaca

Diving paradise in Ecuador

Spot the sea lions in the Galápagos

Famous as the gateway to one of the world’s best scuba destination – the Galápagos Islands – Ecuador scores high points in the scuba industry. The downside? The price. It’s a pretty hefty investment getting to the Galápagos and scuba diving there – with the park fees, accommodations, flights and diving – but it sure is worth it! Here you can see shivers (the name for a group of sharks) of hammerheads, playful seals and penguins, manta rays, dolphins and pretty much everything in-between. Can’t afford it just yet? How about the nicknamed “poor man’s Galápagos”? Isla de la Plata is one of the nearest islands (but still pretty far) to the same waters as the Galápagos where you can see a few of the same underwater flora and fauna.

Find a flight to nearby Manta

Looking for more beach and water fun?