Can you really learn to scuba dive safely on just one vacation?

Scuba diving is a sport that appeals to all sorts of people from all walks of life. Often described by enthusiasts as feeling like being in another world, or on another planet free of gravity, the experience of exploring reefs, caves, shipwrecks and other underwater habitats, as well as getting up close to some of the world’s most interesting wildlife, certainly holds its appeal. For most people, their first taste of diving is likely to take place in a tropical location where the water is warm, the fish are beautiful and the diving isn’t too demanding. This is why so many people who want to learn to dive choose destinations like Australia, Egypt, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean to take their first forays into diving as a sport. But is it really possible to learn how to dive safely on just one trip?

Scuba Diving Licensing

To be allowed to dive worldwide, you need a license. Some countries are far stricter about this than others, but in theory you do need to have passed at least the PADI Open Water licensing program to be allowed to dive without an instructor (though you will still need a ‘buddy’, diving alone for sport is almost never permitted). There are licensing bodies other than PADI, such as BSAC and SSI, but the PADI licenses are recognised worldwide and are the ones most commonly taught in tourist resorts.

The course to get your license includes both theoretical and practical training and tests, and you will also have to prove that you are a reasonable swimmer while wearing fins. You can do the whole course on a holiday in about four days, depending on the schedule your dive school offers. This means you will want a vacation of at least a week to be sure to complete it (you may have to retake some parts), and a two week holiday will allow you a full week or more of enjoying your new diving license, making it a much better choice.

Online Study

A recent addition to PADI’s programs is the ability to study and take the theory parts of the training online. This means if you are keen, you can actually get these out of the way before you set off on your holiday. This can be a good idea if you don’t want to spend any of your holiday in the Red Sea, the Caribbean or at a nice Great Barrier Reef resort poring over books and trying to figure out the maths involved in calculating rest stops and so on. This isn’t mandatory though, so if you prefer learning from a teacher to self study, you may choose to just do these portions of study while you are there.

Learning to scuba dive on holiday can be a really rewarding way to spend your vacation time. Not only will you have a really great time with lots of unique experiences and adventure, you will also come away with a new skill you can use for the rest of your life. You can follow up the basic Open Water license with more advanced courses on your next holiday too, if you want to be able to go further and deeper or use different techniques, for example diving with Nitrox.

  •  The author of this post, James Peters, is an employee at Orpheus, a luxury resort in Queensland. He is a voracious reader and he enjoys spending his free time reading fictional novels.

Author: Muzi Mohale

Hi there, am your host and I blog about the tourism industry in South Africa. You're also welcome to contribute your expert content on matters affecting the industry. You can reach me on muzi[at]

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