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.

Costs

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.

Newsletter: Diving this week

Hi everyone

The weekend’s diving was really good. We had a real early start on Saturday, leaving home at 6.00 am for the V&A Waterfront where we boarded a ferry for Robben Island. It was an OMSAC underwater clean up event and I believe the first ever recreational dive with such numbers in the harbour. We dived both sides of the centre jetty, 25 buddy pairs, each armed with a knife, scissors and mesh garbage bag, and there were some really interesting very old glass bottles found.

The weather was fantastic and the water was surprisingly 15 degrees. I was expecting 5 degree water. The bottom is very silty and at some points the visibility was reduced to zero, so bad you could barely make out your hand, but an interesting experience nonetheless. A similar size group dived in the Waterfront near the Table Bay Hotel and found a shopping trolley, bundles of rope and many other strange things.

Today we spent all day in the water in the Simon’s Town Yacht basin, doing Discover Scuba and Open Water dive courses. This is also an interesting dive as you swim along underneath some beautiful boats, boats that look like a million bucks on the surface, yet below the water line they are covered in algae, barnacles and all sorts of little fish scurrying around feeding. We were also joined by Charlie, an SSI Master Diver and job shadow participant, I think he worked harder than he imagined today (thanks Charlie)!

Kitting up
Charlie helping Sediqa put on her weight belt

This coming weekend has a public holiday, something we all love, and I am going to arrange a boat trip for Friday or Saturday, to dive either a wreck in Smitswinkel Bay, or a wreck in Hout Bay depending on the weather. To ensure we get the boat and have the right to choose the dive site requires that we are a minimum of six people. As an Open Water diver you can do a Deep Adventure dive with an Instructor, and anyone joining will receive a signed off deep dive in their log books. This can be used as a credit on the Advanced Course should you wish at some point in the future. So anyone keen to join, please let me know by Tuesday evening.

Full moon is getting close and either Friday or Saturday we plan to do a night dive at Fisherman’s Beach, the white sandy bottom, scattered reef and kelp forests are amazing in the dark, they are pretty awesome by day too!! The white sand reflects the light so it is an amazing place to be at night.

I am starting a new Open Water course this coming weekend and will most likely run this in the afternoons so we will do fun diving in the mornings. It has been a while since we have had conditions suitable for the seven gill cow sharks so this is high on my wish list.

Don’t forget to buy your dive permit at a post office, for the guys going to Sodwana this is very important as they are checked daily.

Yours in diving

Learn to Dive Today logoTony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog
Diving is addictive!

Newsletter: Diving

Hi everyone

The Sodwana trip is done and dusted, 10 people, all booked confirmed and raring to go. For those still keen mail me and there is a chance we can accommodate you.

The weekend is going to be busy as we are doing a clean up dive on Robben Island on Saturday morning and I hope the swell has dropped off enough to do a dive with the cowsharks in the afternoon. There will also be a night dive on Saturday night again. We did a night dive on Monday night and had a shoal of hundreds of maasbankers swarming around us for most of the dive, clearly attracted to the many torches, strobes and camera flashes.

Next weekend we have a public holiday on the Friday. I would like to arrange a boat dive for the group, possibly to one of the wrecks in Smitswinkel Bay or a wreck in Hout Bay depending on the wind direction. I will need to book this early in the week to ensure the boat goes where we want it to so please let me know early if you want to dive. Boat dives are normally R250, but if we are a group of six or more I can squeeze them down to R180.

I am starting an Open Water course tomorrow in Danish… Its been a while since I have had a Danish student. Sunday morning I have Discover Scuba Divers in the morning and will start a new Open Water course on Sunday afternoon.

I will also start another Open Water course on Thursday evening with diving on the long weekend for anyone wanting to complete the course in one weekend. It involves theory on the Thursday night, confined water training on Friday after the boat dives and more theory in the afternoon, and then two dives Saturday and two dives Sunday. There are still spots left for this.

Remember, all divers need a permit, get yours at the post office for R85 valid for a year and keep it in your dive bag with your dive gear.

The blog has been updated again, there are lots of random diving information posts about gear, travel, etc. and Clare has done a few book reviews of some of the books we have and what makes them good or bad to own… So feel free to read them, and comment…

I will add a list of diving and ocean related DVDs that we have and how you can get to watch them…

If you dive soon remember the two most important rules, never hold your breath, and never go deeper than the bottom!

best regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog

Diving is addictive!

Newsletter: Treasure Hunting, Whales, Sodwana

Hi everyone

The weekend is closing fast, today we saw 14 whales in the bay, of which four were close to Long Beach and three at the Clan Stuart. They have been hanging around for about two weeks now and don’t look set to leave soon. It is very likely we will dive with them on Saturday as the weather is looking amazing, sunny, 27 degrees and hardly a breath of wind.

I have a posse of Discover Scuba Diving candidates on Saturday, so I will dive long beach in the morning. Afternoon dives will be dependent on where the whales are and we will hopefully be able to get them on camera…on a dive.

Night dive on Saturday as usual, meet at long beach at 6.00 pm. Remember I have torches and cyalumes.

I have good news and bad news:

The good news is that the Sodwana dive trip is filling up fast, the water temperature there today was 22 degrees, flat seas and sunny skies…. Hmm, it’s not too late to decide to come along, a cheaper warm tropical dive trip will be hard to find. We are all arriving in Durban at about the same time so we will share hire cars to keep costs down. There is also an option of diving Aliwal shoal on the Monday… shout soon if you are interested.

More good news, I have been asked if we would be interested in diving the Rietvlei Nature Reserve and water sport facility. Matt works for a company that runs a boat there and they have lost a very valuable stainless steel propeller. It would require some search and recovery techniques and we would be very popular and possibly famous if we find it (the reward may be as much as a case of beer). We would need to be three teams and anyone doing the dive will receive a search and recovery adventure dive log in their log books, free, one less dive on the way to Advanced diver…

Besides, there must be so much treasure down there as it is a seldom dived area… no crocs I assure you. Sunday would be good for this dive.

The bad news is that from tomorrow anyone diving with me will need to ensure their hair is proper, make-up done, dive kit polished and shiny, and they behave underwater, and on the beach… I have a new video camera and will be hunting for footage of you all behaving badly underwater, something I can put on YouTube, or use to embarrass you. If you think you are behaving foolishly and no-one saw, beware, so Tami, no shark wrestling, Clare, no groping of unsuspecting puffer fish, Maurice, no more crayfish in your pockets, and then to all of those that molest poor innocent pipe fish… be warned… luckily the biggest offender will be holding the camera…

Don’t forget all divers need a dive permit, get yours before they get you! Available at the Post Office – take your ID book.

Dive Like a Fish - Learn to Dive Today!
Dive Like a Fish - Learn to Dive Today!

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog
Diving is addictive!

Newsletter: Sodwana trip and diving this weekend

Hi everyone,

Sodwana Bay

The trip to Sodwana is on for the weekend of 8th, 9th and 10th of October. I have attached a breakdown of the costs with as much detail as possible (courtesy of Clare) [Note to blog readers: email me for this]. To secure the booking I need you to think quick and respond as soon as possible as I need to know the numbers. It is open to anyone that dives, students and friends of mine as well as any of your friends. The idea group size will be 8 -10 as this way we will fill a boat and therefore get to decide on the dive site. All the dives go to 2 Mile Reef, and almost every dive on this reef is suitable for Open Water divers. Sodwana claims to be the best dive site in southern Africa and rightly so, it is also the town where they have T-shirts labeled: a small drinking town with a diving problem…

Diving this weekend

I ran a competition with a Discover Scuba Diving experience for two and the winners will possibly venture into the water on Saturday. The Rescue course starts this weekend and in between we will have a fun dive to the Clan Stuart or cowsharks. Swell dependent. Saturday night, I will feed my addiction to night diving, meet at Long Beach at 6.00pm.

Sunday I am hoping to do a deep wreck dive for the Advanced students and will confirm this with the charter during the course of the day (the wind may factor this out). If you do wish to do boat dives I need to know by Wednesday as the boat launch schedule comes out on Thursday morning and the boats often fill very quickly.

I have ventured into the blog world, see link below, the idea being to post diving related info and create a forum for questions, so feel free to read, post, comment, correct me and ask away, if I do not have the answer I will find it for you and add my theories and opinions… risky I know…

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog

iMod competition winner

Following up from our earlier post, the winner of the Discover Scuba Diving experience for two has been announced on iMod.

Tony is looking forward to taking Sediqa and a friend to experience life beneath the waves… Sediqa is quite excited… Can you tell? Can you? Awesome! We will be sure to post a follow-up.

Many thanks to Chris for running the competition!

Win a DSD for you and a friend on iMod

Tony is running a competition on www.imod.co.za, an awesome blog operated by Christopher Mills. You can win a DSD for two, or, if you’re a qualified diver, a refresher for you and a friend or (if you’re not in need of a refresher) a shore dive with kit, guided by Tony.

If you have friends and family you think might enjoy diving, this is a super opportunity to get them involved.

The link to the competition is here. The competition ends at noon on 29 August, so pay iMod a visit and enter now!

FAQ: Should I do a resort course, or learn to dive before I go on holiday?

Perhaps you’re going to Mozambique, Mauritius, the Seychelles, Thailand, the Red Sea (Egypt, Israel or Jordan for example), or some other equally exciting (and warm) destination.

Diving in Aqaba, Jordan
Diving in Aqaba, Jordan, where I worked for a few months in 2008.

I would suggest you qualify as a diver here at home, for several reasons:

  1. Diving courses contain a theory component, involving watching a dvd, self-study, classroom time with an instructor, and some quizzes and exams. Do you really want to be wasting your well-earned holiday hitting the books?
  2. Resort courses are usually way more expensive than a locally-run course, because you’re a captive market and can’t really shop around when you’re on holiday.
  3. You’ve paid a lot of money to book your holiday and you want to have the best possible experience. To do that, I suggest that you make sure you’re totally relaxed and at ease in the water. Some people take a few tries to get comfortable with the idea of breathing underwater, and I promise you’ll enjoy your holiday far more if you’ve already mastered diving, and you can concentrate on enjoying the sights while you’re away rather than taking the first nervous steps towards mastering a new skill.
  4. When you start diving, it takes a few dives before you are fully relaxed and able to turn your attention away from fidgeting with your kit to the underwater world around you. Rather let me help you fine tune your buoyancy and kit configuration while you’re here, so that when you go on holiday you can confidently tell the dive centre, “I need a large BC, 8kg weight belt and size 9 booties please!” No surprises.
  5. Conditions in the Cape are very different to what you’ll experience diving in warm tropical oceans. You might think this a reason not to learn to dive here, but experienced Cape Town divers will tell you that if you can dive here, you can dive anywhere. It only gets easier!

(This information also appears on my website, here.)

Newsletter: Diving, a way of life

Hi everyone

The water has been very pleasant this week. The viz yesterday was 8 meters and I had three students on a dive. We were extremely lucky to see a great white swim gracefully by us. The most impressive feature for me was the shark’s girth, it was massive, solid looking and very sleek without a single blemish or scar. I felt honoured to have seen such a majestic creature, so close (it swam by less than three meters away), in its own domain, and very grateful that sharks tolerate us in their space. According to this website there has only ever been one incident of a diver being attacked and that was on the surface.

Diving this weekend

Saturday I have a few Discover Scuba experience students so I will be at Long Beach in the morning.

At 2.00pm we plan to dive the Clan Stuart providing the swell allows or alternatively we will do a navigation adventure dive at long beach and swim the navigation route found here. There is an unidentified huge anchor somewhere out there, as well as a 22 metre yacht and an old shipping container (Jeff’s box).

Saturday night conditions will be perfect for an adventure night dive and we meet in the parking lot at Long Beach at 6.00pm to decide where to dive.

I am trying to find ways of getting more people interested in the ocean, diving and conservation.

So these are my plans:

I am running a special introduction to scuba diving for anyone interested in the experience. For the month of September I will conduct Discover Scuba experiences for anyone that’s keen for the small amount of R350 per person, 7 days a week, minimum two people at a time. Anyone signing up for the Open Water course after this event will receive a full credit of this amount on their course.

I will also run a special Advanced course during September providing there are four people that all do the course at the same time. The normal price is R2400, but for the month of September it will be only R2000. Remember this is five dives, two of which will be boat dives where we will dive a wreck and do a mandatory Deep dive. Both these dives will in reality be deep dives so you gain more experience in this area. The remaining three dives can be a combination of Peak Performance Buoyancy (can you swim through three hoops at different depths without using your inflator hose?), Search and Recovery (lose it, find it and raise it with a lift bag), Photography, or Night diving, to name a few, but must include a Navigation dive. If you have done adventure dives with me in the last 12 months this will count as a credit towards your course.

Two Divemaster candidates start September (both bossy type girls so I hope I survive that!!) and Open Water course starts 11 September.

During September we will have a world clean up day and I plan to rally every one of you to join me on a dive with a garbage bag to clean up one of our dive sites… details next week, you may be lucky and get your picture in the newspaper… in a wetsuit and dive gear!

Be good and have fun

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za