As far as adventurous travel experiences go, scuba diving is near the top of the list. Anyone who's in healthy condition can do it, and you can dive in locations all over the world. Swim by tropical fish in Belize or see what the famous Great Barrier Reef looks like yourself. You can even scuba dive in Iceland! The possibilities of where to go are endless.
Scuba diving is a fun, active way to see the world. Choose a certified operator, and make sure you take a refresher course if it's been awhile since you last dove. Getting certified in a different country is a great experience and perfect way to explore what's underneath the deep blue sea.
Make sure the time of year is appropriate for going diving -- rainy, windy conditions will churn up the sand, making it nearly impossible to see around you. If there's certain sea life you're hoping to see, check with the local dive shops to see if those species are common to the area or what's the best season to see what you're looking for.
How do you choose where to go? Below are a few ideas -- but by no means an exhaustive list.
- Best time to go: September through November
- Highlight: With the country's large size, there's hundreds of dive sites to choose from all over Australia no matter what part you're staying in.
Surrounded entirely by water, Australia is a very popular place for diving. The most famous site is the Great Barrier Reef, which is the largest coral reef system in the world. For year-round diving, check out New South Wales for a unique mix of cold and warm currents. South Australia offers many shipwreck dives for the adventure junkies.
- Best time to go: November through April -- temperatures are pleasant and most of the rainy season has passed by then.
- Highlight: One of the most biologically diverse habitats in the world can be found in Central America
Central America has so many iconic dive sites that it can be hard to choose where to go. Head to Roatan in Honduras to see the Bay Islands and the walls covered in sea life around the area. In Belize, the infamous Blue Hole brings thousands of divers to the site every year to see this natural wonder. Costa Rice also offers great dive sites, including Galapagos' National Park and Cocos Island.
- Best time to go: May through July -- while Mexico is warm year-round, it's also subject to the rainy season and hurricanes in the fall and winter.
- Highlight: Head to Mexico during the summer to see eels, whales, seahorses, and toadfish among many other species.
Mexico has some of the clearest water around filled with hundreds of different varieties of sea life. Sites such as the Palancar Garden is perfect for beginners looking to work on their skills. More advanced divers will love the Punta Sur Reef, which follows a sand chute down to 90 feet under the sea, where you'll find coral tunnels.
- Best time to go: November to April
- Highlight: The Philippines can have monsoon season from May to October, so it's best to avoid that time frame, known as the "wet season."
With over 7,000 different islands, you won't run out of places to go diving. Almost any dive can be done in the Philippines, from shore dives to staying on a boat for several days with other divers. Shipwreck diving is popular, as there are many leftover ships from World War II underneath the water. There are over 1200 different species to spot swimming among the reefs as well.
What to Look For In a Scuba Diving Tour
It’s important to make sure the tour operator only works with certified dive shops in your itinerary. While there are different certifications, PADI is one of the most well-known and typically a stamp of trustworthiness. Going to a place with an international certification will ensure the same guidelines for safety are followed anywhere you go.
Types of Scuba Tours
Certifications: If you want to scuba dive on your next vacation but haven’t been certified yet, no worries! There’s plenty of places you can go to get your open-water certification. It’s usually about three days long, with the first day being spent in the classroom and practicing in a pool or shallow water. The last two days will be going over all the skills you learned in your open water dives. Most places have all the equipment you need to rent, but it’s smart to check ahead of time.
If spending a day in the classroom while being in a tropical location sounds like torture, you can do the tropical referral program. This allows you to do the classroom work and pool practice at a facility near your home, so once you go on your vacation you’re ready to go straight to the open water dives.
Speciality dives: Maybe you’re already certified and want to improve your skills. In this case, you might want to consider looking at a specialty dive instead of a certification/beginner dive. That might be anything from getting a drysuit certification in Iceland or doing an advanced, deeper dive in the Philippines. You can also head out on weeklong dives for trips like shark diving in the Bahamas.
Average Scuba Diving Trip Length
Each trip will have a different duration depending on which one you choose. If you decide to get certified, it will be around three days long. If you go out on a specialty group dive, it can be up to seven days long. You can also purchase single day trips, such as the night dive in Hawaii with manta rays.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
If you have your own gear and aren't traveling very far, you can usually bring your own; be sure to confirm this with your tour operator. It can be hard to bring all your gear, including your own tank, so consider just bringing your wetsuit, mask, and fins. The rest can be rented from dives shops or will be provided as part of your tour.
Always make sure you get certified with a internationally recognized provider such as PADI before diving. They'll go over very important details of how to dive, how to use your equipment, and what to do in the case of an emergency. While diving should mainly be fun, things can quickly go wrong if you don't pay attention to your instructor and your surroundings.
You should never go diving if you're not feeling normal. Being sick will increase your chances of getting decompression sickness (also known as the bends), a sickness that causes nitrogen bubbles to form in the tissues of the body and can be very serious. You should also never be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, as you need to be very aware and clear-minded during diving.