Sunday, September 23, 2012

Getting Certified for SCUBA - Home or Away?

SP and I have signed up to complete our scuba diving open water certification. I thought it would be interesting to write up the notes from whether it would be a good decision to complete the certification at home in Vancouver BC, or to do it in Cairns, Australia (one of our eventual scuba destinations)
It was a last minute decision. We're squeezing it in just before we leave. In fact, it was such a last minute decision that I'm kinda surprised that we found a course that is running in time. 

Why Certify?

There are a lot more options for diving locations and trips if you are certified.
It's your life and your safety - According to wikipedia scuba is 35 to 62 x more dangerous than driving.
Though you can just do "Introductory Dives" you are limited in depth, they are more expensive, shorter duration and you will always be diving with people who are newbies.

  1. Time
    • Because we're working stiff's, the only feasible way for us to get it done in time was to take 5 x 4 hour evening classes followed by a full weekend of diving. You also need to complete some reading ahead of time too.
    • If we were to do the course in Australia, it would be a 5 day course. You typically spend 2 days in the "classroom" followed by 3 days on a liveaboard boat.  That means that 2 days of our vacation would be spent mostly reading the manual.
  2. Value
    1. Both Australia and Canada have 5 star PADI diving centers with quality instructors.
    2. Though diving in Canada in October sounds a little nuts (7' C ocean temperature) I hear that the dives are a lot of fun. I can't particularly say I'm looking forward to it, but I'll reserve judgment for two weeks from now when we jump into the ocean. In contrast, getting certified in Cairns Australia means that we'd have the luxury of completing the certification in warm waters and get the extra time on the Great Barrier Reef.
    3. Potentially the most overlooked value here is that because we're completing the course in Canada ahead of time, we will be able to concentrated on the material and learning the skills instead of ruing the loss of our vacation to reading a rather bland manual.
  3. Cost
    • Australia
    • Canada
      • The evening classes plus 2 days of diving in Canada = $390 CAD ($100 dry suit upgrade not included, also, no accommodation, etc)


In the end we're spending $200 ahead of time (at least) in order to save ourselves from having to learn the skills on location in Australia. Despite this not being the cheaper way to go, I think that there is a lot of value getting certified this way.
It is worth mentioning that the cost difference between Canada and Australia is linked to the fact that in Canada we complete the four open water dives right off the beach. In Australia, those dives are out on the Great Barrier Reef which means both time spent on a boat, fuel charges, staff costs, etc.

As a side note, PADI does have a Referral program. Basically you can do your academic work and the exam in your home country and receive Referral papers. You then arrange with your diving outfitter in Australia (or wherever) and they take you out for the 4 dives required to complete the course.

Essentially, completing the referral program would have saved us the $100 dry suit upgrade, about $110 off the Canadian program and $75 off the AUD program. Of course, then we would have had 5 weeks between completing the academic work and the completing the dives (as we are in New Zealand for the rest of Oct). If I was really not interested in the Canadian portion of the diving, then it would have been a feasible option.

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