Before you choose which scuba facility to dive with, it is important to do some research and question their level of professionalism and integrity.
Novice divers can benefit enormously by asking a few probing questions, which increases trust, credibility, and rapport.
We are not specifically referring to shopping around for the cheapest price on offer, although that may be relevant.
We are targeting the kind of questions that monitor the safety and concern for your welfare from the dive shop or scuba instructor.
Consider doing some premature verbal checks to ensure the smoothest positive diving experience.
Unfortunately, not all dive centers demand that you fill out a medical history declaration prior to diving. Although this is mandatory for scuba course participation, some dive shops choose not to require this medical screening process once you have a diving license.
The best advice is to take a pro-active approach.
Insist on making them aware of any medical conditions that are contra-indications to scuba diving.
It is pertinent at this moment to suggest that if you are suffering with a serious medical issue, then the following additional questions maybe irrelevant and you should always seek professional medical advice before diving with a health condition.
You should always check the state of your health before participating on a dive. You are probably the best judge of your current condition. Do you feel healthy and strong enough to cope with the rigors of diving without endangering yourself? Is your mental state free of worry and anxiety?
These self-imposed questions assess your readiness and capability of making the dives safely, both for you and for your buddy’s sake. Beware the dive shop staff that pressurizes you into making the trip unless you feel ready. Whenever there is doubt, visit your doctor.
We always recommend that you have a professional dive guide with you at all times during the dive. Reputable dive centers provide a leader who is a local expert and familiar with the dive site. Maybe they can provide references or testimonials by previous happy customers.
Even experienced divers benefit from a local orientation to a new diving site, avoiding hazardous areas and finding the best points of interest. When offered the assistance of a Divemaster, it is also a good idea to confirm that he or she speaks your language. Clear communication and understanding is part of the role of a good dive guide.
Diving accidents happen, despite prudence and meticulous planning. Check if there is emergency oxygen available on your dive boat, and just as important, is there someone qualified to use it. Do they carry a first aid kit?
It is wise to ask your trusted dive center what are their emergency procedures and contingency plans in the event of a diving incident. If the unthinkable happened, how long would it take them to arrange speedy transportation to the nearest medical facility or a hyperbaric recompression chamber?
Of course, we also recommend that you get diving insurance. Helicopter evacuation from a remote island to medical facilities can be very expensive.
Similar to the last question, though perhaps not such a life-threatening emergency. Dive boats should always carry emergency oxygen equipment, first aid supplies, life jackets, recall systems, and flares.
We also include simple, but important items such as, seasickness pills, bandages, band-aids, headache pills, sunscreen, and lots of drinking water. Once on board, become familiar with the storage location of medical equipment in case you are the one needing to find it.
Under no circumstances should you dive alone. Assuming that you do not have a diving friend to buddy-up with, we would expect the dive shop to ‘pair’ you with another certified diver or divers. It may be helpful for you to determine whom you will be diving with and whether you are comfortable with that decision.
Some people prefer to dive in small groups, especially underwater photographers. Diving with a new buddy requires a few extra checks. Discuss and compare the scuba hand signals that you will use under water, and familiarize yourself with the scuba gear that your buddy is using, especially the BCD and weight configuration and alternate air sources.
It is informative to find out where you will be diving. This helps for pre-planning and comfort. You should try to determine the anticipated visibility, strength of tidal currents, water temperature, and whether the dive is a drift dive or will you be expected to return to the boat or shore.
Other important factors to consider are the maximum depth, what marine life you will see, and how to make the safety stops. Avoid confusion and disappointment by asking all the right questions before you make the dive.
Dive boats vary in size, facilities, and comfort. Would you be happy diving from a crowded boat? Large groups of divers can be intimidating for learner divers. A prudent diver ratio is around four divers to one Dive Master, although some of the popular destinations have higher ratios.
Are there enough crew to cope and has the boat been regularly serviced and repaired? Does the boat have showering and toilet facilities, and fresh water to clean your dive gear? Is there somewhere to store my dive gear?
You can rent scuba equipment from most reputable stores. However, they often include the gear that you need in the price of their dive trips. It is probably more important to check recent servicing and the functionality of the gear. Most dive shops do not charge extra for tanks, weights, and weight belts.
This may sound an unfair question to ask. However, it could be important why the dive shop chooses a particular metal type over another – steel vs. aluminum. I am not suggesting that the wrong answer is a deal breaker, but it may be of interest to you why they prefer a certain brand.
This is an ideal situation to have an informed, knowledgeable, discussion about the advantages and benefits of steel cylinders over alloys.
We appreciate that personal preference also plays its part, but knowing which type of tank you will be using helps you to prepare your weight assembly and make other buoyancy adjustments.
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We discussed some top questions that divers should ask before they go diving with a new dive shop. The list compiles the most popular topics that may be on your mind when choosing which facility to use. The internet allows us to find the answers to most of these questions ahead of time and without too much fuss. One final point is that the speed and response to your emails is usually a sign of the customer focus of the dive shop. Speedy, polite, and knowledgeable replies with informative, helpful answers, generally means you have made the right choice and your dives should be a pleasant and enjoyable experience.