Ballpark Estimate: $350 to $600 for training and certification
If you consider yourself a true adventurer, you may enjoy exploring new places not only above ground but also beneath sea level. Scuba diving (or Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) is a popular sport that allows you to journey into the ocean’s depth and come face to face with all of the wonderful textures, colors and life forms of the aquatic world.
Allure of a Dive
Want to swim with catfish, sharks and minnows and explore their natural habitat? When you go scuba diving, you can do just that and much, much more. This fact propels record numbers of scuba divers to pack their gear and head to destinations worldwide, eager for such experiences.
When you feel that urge to leave the hectic pace of day-to-day life and connect with nature, scuba diving is also a hobby that can offer the perfect escape, at least for a few hours or a few days. Instead of dealing with traffic and bills and politics, the underwater environment offers a peaceful, yet colorful, setting where you can appreciate the true wonders and beauty of nature.
Scuba Diving Basics
Whether you want to go for a dive off the coast of Florida or prefer to head for a tropical island, numerous destinations await you. But if you are a novice at this hobby, the experts stress a few key points to keep in mind before you go in order to ensure your ultimate safety. First, it’s important to get professionally trained and certified before you go diving for the first time. This is a multi-part process that will help you learn some essential basics so you’ll know how to dive safely and what to do in a variety of situations.
Next, until you’re an experienced diver and completely comfortable in this role, it’s also best to participate in planned dive trips that include an instructor and guide to coordinate your adventure and help to ensure it goes smoothly. You can find such options at most popular destinations and resorts.
Finally, remember to take scuba diving as the serious activity it is. While it may feel like a fun hobby, it’s also one that comes with great responsibility; therefore, you need to be sure to always act cautiously and responsibly.
Perhaps you want to try your hand at scuba diving while on vacation. Most resorts offer an introduction class to teach you some basic skills and also give you certification training, which is an important step to ensuring your ultimate safety. Because of the perilous nature of scuba diving, this certification is often a requirement before you participate in any dive trips, or are even eligible to rent any equipment. You can find these dive certification classes locally through a dive school in your area or through some continuing education programs. The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) has a searchable database of teaching sites worldwide and offers different levels of certification that are widely recognized. The basic classes start with a classroom portion, then progress to a dive pool and finally, may move to the open water. To make the process accessible for almost anyone, PADI also offers an option to take the classroom part of the certification online.
Other reputable websites you can use to find dive courses either near where you live, or at your travel destination, include Scuba Schools International and the National Association of Underwater Instructors Worldwide (NAUI).
Are you looking for a day trip closer to home or do you prefer to venture to far off places for your next dive? The options are unlimited, but a few of the endless popular scuba diving destinations include Hawaii, the Caribbean, South America, the Mediterranean islands, Scotland, Australia and Asia. Keep in mind that some locations have prime conditions all year long, while others are much more seasonal and therefore, you’ll need to plan your schedule accordingly. In addition, what you’ll see on your dive depends on where you go. For instance, many divers like to explore underwater caves and/or wreckage sites, so such preferences can help to guide your itinerary. If you’re seeking a special type of tropical fish or flora, this can also steer you in a specific direction. In addition to what you’ll find on your dive, just keep in mind that you’ll likely want to consider the above ground attractions of any location as well, since you won’t be spending all of your vacation under water and will also likely want to partake of some other local sightseeing and entertainment.
It Takes Two
It’s also worth noting that divers usually have a partner or “dive buddy” who will be going with them on their excursion. This can be someone you know and travel with, such as a family member or friend, or it can be someone you meet through a scuba diving message board online such as at ScubaDiving.com, Dive Buddy, and Scuba Match. (Such websites make it possible to match up divers with others in need of a partner.) Or, if you travel alone and don’t have a buddy lined up, your dive guide can assign you to a buddy when you participate in a planned excursion. This team concept is essential, since diving requires a buddy system in order to be able to help each other and ensure a safe underwater journey.
Another essential part of a successful dive is being prepared with the proper equipment. You can either purchase your own items if you dive often, or you may prefer to rent them right at your dive location. Either way, though, you’ll need to make sure that before you begin your excursion, you have all of the necessary pieces on and that they all fit comfortably.
Here is a rundown of the basic items you’ll need for a dive:
You’ll probably want to own this most important piece of equipment and make sure it’s just the right fit, since this enables you to keep your eyes open underwater so you can see all of the beauty spread out before you.
This is the tube that attaches to your mask and allows you to breathe while you’re near the surface of the water. Again, you’ll probably want to own this small, but essential, piece of gear.
These are webbed rubber items that you put on your feet. As you kick, they propel you through the water.
This is a fitted waterproof suit that’s designed to help you retain your body heat even while you’re immersed in extremely cold water.
This holds the compressed air that you’ll need to breathe while you are underwater. Most people rent these instead of owning.
This is the system that adjusts the compressed air in the tank to make it safe for you to breathe. You may also want to rent this, as owning can be costly.
Buoyancy Compensator/Control Device
This is an inflatable vest that you wear underwater and adjust as needed to control your buoyancy as you move along. (You can also opt for it in a backpack style.) Some people rent, while others prefer to buy.
Adding weights on your presence can also be crucial in helping you to achieve the buoyancy you desire so you can get the most from your scuba dive and maintain optimal control. These are inexpensive to own, but generally easier just to rent at your destination so you don’t have to carry them with you when you travel.
Where to Shop
You can buy scuba equipment at a wide range of places. Generally, dive shops are a great place to start because they can guide you on the best choices for your specific needs and can also help you with fit, which is extremely important. Keep in mind that most equipment isn’t a luxury but is actually necessary for your safety and comfort, too. You can also shop online at a host of website venues, including Leisure Pro, Scuba Toys, Joe Diver America, and Scuba.Com. Many sellers offer new equipment and also used, which can be had at a substantial discount. If you prefer to rent, find out what dive shops are available at your destination. Most dive tour operators and excursion companies either offer rental equipment or will direct you to someone who does.
What It Costs
When it comes to determining what it costs to scuba dive, there are numerous factors to consider. Therefore, it can help to break down the prices into several key categories. This includes training, equipment and dive trips.
First, when you consider training prices, you need to be sure to look for certification. You’ll find that this is a requirement for most dive shops to rent you equipment or allow you to book an outing.
Training consists of several parts, including coursework, pool work and open water diving. Four are required in order to get certified. You can expect to pay somewhere in the range of $200 to $300 for the course and pool work alone, then add another $150 to $300 for the dive portion of the training course. Just be sure to find out from your instructor up front whether this course includes equipment rental and dive fee itself or whether you will need to pay an extra charge for this. You may also need to take periodic refresher courses, which some dive tour operators require if you haven’t been on a dive in a two-year period. These can cost between $25 and $50.
So you can spend in the range of $350 to $600 total to get your diving certification.
When it comes to equipment, the quality you select can vary a great deal. If you only plan to dive once in a while, you may be able to get away with something on the lower end of the scale, but serious divers will want to invest in the very best. (Also remember that some of the equipment can be rented if you dive infrequently and don’t want to spend the money to buy.) Many recreational divers buy just the basics, which includes the mask, snorkel and fins, then rent the rest.
- Mask: $50 to $100
- Snorkel: $20 to $50
- Fins: $50 to $200
- Tank: $150 to $500
- Wetsuit: $100 to $400
- Buoyancy Compensator: $350 to $800
- Scuba Weights: $5 to $20 each
This means that if you were to buy all of these items, you could spend more than $1,000. But if you want to invest in just the basic mask, fins and snorkel, you can get this for as low as $120.
Or, to rent a complete set of dive gear, you can expect to spend between $50 and $100 for each dive.
Once you’ve earned your certification and purchased the equipment you’ll need, you’re ready to go on a location dive. Depending on the location you select and the expertise of the tour operator, you can expect to spend between $75 and $150 for a basic two-tank dive that lasts several hours.
So going on a basic dive starts at $75 to $150. More extension excursions go on up from there. Also keep in mind that you’ll also need to consider all of your travel expenses separately as well.
In addition to all the costs of preparing and going for a dive, there’s one more expense certainly worth considering. That’s buying dive trip insurance. If you think this sounds unnecessary, just remember that no one ever plans on having an accident, yet if one should happen, this can offer some peace of mind. If you don’t do more than one dive trip a year, single trip insurance can provide protection in the event something goes wrong. For people who take multiple trips each year, you’ll need to look into a more comprehensive option. In addition, where you plan to travel and what other features you want included in the coverage, and how much the trip costs overall will greatly affect the price range. To give you an idea of what to expect, though, here are a few possible scenarios: to purchase Divers Alert Network (DAN) trip insurance for a diving trip to Aruba valued at approximately $2,000 would be about $120. Compare this with a $7,000 trip to Australia, which would cost $500 to insure. (Note that these are non DAN-member prices.) You can visit the DAN website or shop other travel insurance companies that include coverage for scuba diving to get a quote on insuring your next dive trip.