Curious about scuba diving but not sure if it’s worth the time and money? I could write a whole essay about why YES, it is worth your time and money (in fact, I did). But wouldn’t it be great if you could just go for a test d(r)ive before you decide?
Well here’s the good news: you actually can! Some call it a try dive, some call it an introduction dive, and PADI calls it Discover Scuba Diving. This is a step by step guide on what you can expect on a typical PADI Discover Scuba Diving experience. Be aware that the program may vary slightly depending on dive organization, location or dive center.
P is for Paperwork
As with ANY scuba diving related activity, it starts with a bunch of paperwork to sign. Some people joke that the P in PADI stands for Paperwork (it doesn’t, for the record, but might as well). For the Discover Scuba Dive program it consists of a medical questionnaire, a liability release and in some dive shops an equipment rental form.
In the medical questionnaire you have to specify if you suffer from a list of medical conditions. If you answer yes to any of the conditions, you need to get medical clearance from a doctor before you can participate in the program. There’s often no time to do this on the day itself, so if you’re worried about this ask your dive center to send you the questionnaire in advance.
The liability release is a standard form that’s used for all scuba courses. In this form you acknowledge that you understand and comply with the risks involved in scuba diving, and that the dive center, instructor or PADI is not liable in case of an accident. Signing this form is mandatory, but you shouldn’t be worried about signing your life away. If something happens and the dive center or instructor is at fault, you can still hold them accountable.
Equipment rental form
Equipment rental is usually included in the price of a Discover Scuba Dive, but most dive centers will still let you sign an equipment rental form. That way they can charge you the replacement costs if you lose or break something. If not specified on the form, ask your dive center about the replacement costs before signing.
Learn something new every day
Even though a Discover Scuba Dive is not a full course, your instructor will still teach you some basic scuba theory. Usually a short and informal session (no classroom), this is the perfect opportunity to ask any questions you might have! You don’t need to prepare anything for this, it’s very basic and your instructor will just walk you through it. You will also receive a Discover Scuba Diving leaflet with all essential information for you to review and bring home. At the end of the theory session you need to fill out a short quiz with true or false questions. There is no pass or fail; your instructor will simply explain the questions you answer incorrectly, to make sure you understand everything.
Look like a pro
Before you jump in the water, you will fit your personal set of equipment for the day. If you think trying on a new pair of jeans is bad, you’ve obviously never put on a wetsuit before. It’s absolute hell, especially in a tropical climate. But the good news is that once you’ve done this, you’ve made it through the hardest part of the day. Apart from the wetsuit, you’ll get a full set of scuba gear. If you have some of your own equipment, such as a mask or fins, I’d recommend to use your own. There’s never a guarantee that rental gear is available in the perfect size for you (or that it’s clean).
Let’s get wet!
Depending on where you do your Discover Scuba Dive, you will either start in the pool or in a very calm and shallow part of the ocean. I personally prefer to take people into the pool first, because it’s so much easier to get comfortable in the water and familiar with your equipment. This may not always be possible due to logistics, so going straight into the ocean (with calm conditions!) is also common practice. However, if you don’t feel comfortable with this, let your instructor know!
Before going into the water, your equipment will be introduced and explained to you (usually while putting it on). You don’t need to know everything since your instructor will help you with most of it. But it’s nice and informative to get some background information!
Even though your instructor will help you with almost everything underwater, there are a few things that he or she can’t do for you. This is why you need to master some basic skills before you go on your actual dive. You will practice these skills in the pool (or in a calm, shallow part of the ocean as mentioned before). Even though not difficult for most people, it will still challenge you in a nice way. You’re doing something completely new for the first time! It will give you a huge sense of accomplishment and will truly increase your confidence level. Depending on the group size, the pool session will usually take around 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Time for some action
You’ve signed the paperwork, you understand the theory, you practiced the skills – now it’s time for the real work! Your first dive is exhilarating, mind blowing and will literally open up a new world to you. When diving from a boat, there are two options. You can jump from the boat with your gear on, or you can walk down the ladder and put on your gear in the water. In both cases, the crew helps you with everything. Your instructor is right beside you to double check everything is ok.
Once you’re in the water, it’s time to go down! Right away you’ll be amazed by this beautiful new environment you find yourself in. The calmness, the crazy creatures, the vastness! It can be a truly inspiring, and for some people life changing experience. Throughout the whole dive, your instructor will be right beside you, always within arms reach. He/she will help you with everything you need to make your dive enjoyable and safe. The maximum depth for a Discover Scuba Dive is 12 meters or 39 feet. The duration of the dive will depend on how fast you use up the air in your tank. In general you can expect a total dive time between 30 and 40 minutes.
The group size of a Discover Scuba Dive can vary from dive center to dive center. Officially 1 instructor is allowed to take 4 students on a dive at the same time. I personally wouldn’t take more than 2, because there is no way I could give more people the attention they need. In the pool I will take larger groups of people at the same time (8 people is the maximum allowed).
Let’s talk $
A Discover Scuba Dive is relatively expensive compared to a ‘normal’ dive as a certified diver. There is a lot of extra work and responsibility involved for both the dive center and the instructor, compared to diving with people who are more or less self-reliant.
The price of a Discover Scuba Dive will also vary widely depending on your location and even between dive centers. There are many dive centers who offer unofficial ‘try dives’, for extremely competitive prices. They are not affiliated with PADI or any other dive organization and therefore quality is not monitored. This allows them to put customers in extremely dangerous situations. Your safety is not something you want to compromise, so I really urge you to not go for the cheapest option. Choose a dive center that’s affiliated with any of the major dive organizations (PADI, SSI, RAID, SDI, etc.).
The price of a Discover Scuba Dive will also depend on where you will dive. Diving from shore is cheaper than diving from a boat, and diving in a marine sanctuary is more expensive than diving in an unregulated area.
Tip: many dive centers will offer a heavily discounted second dive on a Discover Scuba Dive experience. Sometimes this can be half the price or even less!
Are you ready to take the plunge?
Now that you know what to expect on a Discover Scuba Diving experience, are you ready to take the plunge? Why not do your first underwater experience on the magical island of Apo Island in the Philippines? Apo Island is one of the most successful marine sanctuaries in the country (if not the world) and is world famous for its healthy corals and many turtles! Fill out the comment box below or drop me an email if you have any questions. Im’m happy to give recommendations on who to dive with in the Dauin & Apo Island area!