Online learning with SDI

FAQ: How do I shop for a dive course?

Learning to dive is expensive, and for most people it simply cannot be a spur of the moment decision. Problem is, if you’ve never dived before, or hung out with divers, it’s kind of daunting to try and figure out what course to take, where to go, and what seems reasonable in terms of cost.


Some things to ask the dive centre or Instructor before you part with your hard-earned bucks:

  • What exactly does the course qualify me to do (how deep can I dive, accompanied by whom, and can I rent kit with my certification)?
  • Does the course fee include the registration fee with the certifying authority (PADI, NAUI, etc.)? If not, how much will that cost?
  • Does the course fee include full kit rental for the duration of the course? If not, how much extra will it cost to rent kit (including air fills)?
  • Does the course fee include extra costs like the MPA permits required for diving in Marine Protected Areas in South Africa?
  • If you’re doing a course such as Discover Scuba Diving or Scuba Diver, is there a discount if you decide that diving is the bomb, and want to upgrade to Open Water?
  • Is there an option to pay for the course in more than one installment? This isn’t at all common, but it’s actually quite safe for a dive operator to do this – legally they are allowed to withhold certification (so you won’t get your personal identification card and won’t be able to rent gear or dive anywhere else) if you don’t complete paying for the course.

Course presentation

Some more questions, not related to the financial aspect, but still important:

  • If I’m slow to catch on with the skills, can I have more than one or an extended confined water session, or is there going to be time pressure (direct or implied)?
  • How many other people will be doing the course with me? What happens if I fall behind, or if they fall behind?
  • I can only dive on weekends/Monday afternoons/whatever… Can you structure the course to suit my timetable?
  • Can you accommodate any specific medical issues I have that don’t make me unfit to dive but will mean I need a bit of special assistance now and then?

The Instructor

  • Will the same person teach me the entire course? (This isn’t important to everyone, but to some people it may be.)
  • Can I meet the Instructor before I sign up for the course?
  • Has the Instructor ever had any disciplinary proceedings against him or been the subject of a QA review?
  • Can I get the Instructor’s certification number so that I can check his teaching status with PADI Pro Chek (or the equivalent for other certifying authorities)?

The whole caboodle

I actually did this when I signed up for my Open Water course, but generally it’s NOT wise to take the package that many dive centres offer that includes a dive course plus full soft gear (wetsuit, booties, fins, mask, snorkel). There are a variety of reasons to hold back when this package is presented as an option:

  • As Tony has said repeatedly, you won’t have an idea of what kind of gear configuration suits you until you’ve done quite a few dives.
  • You may not even enjoy diving after you’ve tried it, and then you’ll be posting one of those “wetsuit worn once” advertisements!
  • You may end up with a lot of cheap junk instead of quality gear that will last you a long time.
  • It might not be cheaper than buying the gear piece by piece, yourself.

Certification agencies

This is a decision as to whether you’re going to do a PADI, SDINAUI, CMAS, SSI, IANTD or other course. It’s is a whole separate question but one which shouldn’t give you too much cause for concern… More to follow!

Hope this helps! As always, drop Tony an email if you have any more questions that need answering.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

2 thoughts on “FAQ: How do I shop for a dive course?”

  1. RE: The Basic Gear Debate: to Purchase own or Not
    My opinion re purchasing your own basic gear differs for the following reasons;
    1. In the interest of personal hygiene I do not want to wear a wet suit that a multitude of others have peed in. I do not want a snorkel that has been in other peoples mouths. I do not want a mask that other peoples noses have been in. I do not want booties that other people with foot and mouth disease have worn.
    2. Fit – you can never guarantee, or be sure that a lent or borrowed wet suit is going to fit. If it does not fit in our water, you WILL be cold and miserable.This is especially for women, who all have their own unique contours and roundings.
    3. Mask – the whole idea of diving is that you want to see what is going on below – SO WHY NOT INVEST IN AN OWN MASK? There is nothing worse than having a leaking mask or an ill fitting mask that nails you on the bridge of the nose of forehead.
    The whole first experience is important to me – if you are going to used borrowed equipment the chances that your experience is not going to be good is 50%. The instructor can give very good guidance during the purchase depending on budget and ability of a diver. I am of opinion that more people will get into scuba and saty in the sport if they had purchased their own equipment.
    Ok, let me get off my soap box!

    1. I hear you on the bodily fluids 🙂 Unfortunately I took the “course plus gear” package and ended up with fins more suited to a five year old (they’re about 10 centimetres long and I struggle to keep up with Tony), a wetsuit that pinches me in the neck, and a HUGE mask that leaks like a sieve… I wish I’d known you and Tony then for some guidance on what to get, but alas… Now I have to replace things one by one!

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