My name is Alexandra Baackes, and I’m addicted to the ocean. When I’m not in the water, I’m daydreaming about how to get there. As a PADI AmbassaDiver, one of my favorite ways to explore the water is on scuba, eye to eye with the magical creatures and landscapes of the deep. However, my recent reader survey revealed that 75% of you don’t share my passion for getting parallel with plankton (there’s more coming out of that reader survey soon, I promise!)
Since I’m that friend always trying to get everyone to play mermaid with me – also known as “going scuba diving,” in some circles – I thought I’d do my best to banish some of the misinformation that might be keeping you, my friends, out of the water. From talking to readers, pals, and curious-yet-anxious looking people loitering around dive shops, I know all too well how prevalent some of these dive myths can be. Let’s dive in and dispel!
Myth: Diving is just for old white dudes
Fact: One of most harmful diving myths is the idea that diving is only for a certain group of people.
Let’s talk age. I get where this stereotype comes from. When I attend dive shows in North America, I’m usually one of the youngest people in the hall by a few decades. Yet there are young, vibrant, international dive communities all over the world that show diving is a sport for both the young and the young at heart. While PADI reports that the worldwide median age for certification is 27 for women and 30 for men, I was 19 when I did my Open Water course – and I’ve shared dive boats with several generations of scuba enthusiasts over the years.
Let’s talk gender. Technically, women make up just over a third of certified PADI divers, but it’s a number that’s increasing every year – and the lady divers of the world are waiting for their new dive sisters with open arms!
Is sexism alive in the dive industry? I won’t deny it — but I will say my own life is full of amazing women who are absolutely dominating the diving field. If you need inspiration, just look to groups like the Women Diver’s Hall of Fame, which highlights an influential community of pioneers in diving, underwater art, marine sciences, and beyond – many of whom have become mentors to me.
And finally let’s talk race. While I wasn’t able to find any statistics on this topic, it’s pretty widely acknowledged that diving is predominantly taken up by Caucasians. Yet groups like the National Association of Black Scuba Divers work to make sure everyone feels welcome on dive boats. The association has a lot to be proud of – they’ve certified over 2,000 divers and taught over 5,000 people to swim free of charge. I feel confident in saying that it does not matter what box you tick on the census, there is a diving community out there for you.
Bottom line? The world’s oceans, lakes and rivers belong to all all of us. Diving is for all of us (including old white dudes — they make the best dad jokes, after all.)
Myth: Diving is an unaffordable adventure
Fact: If it’s your dream to dive, you can make it happen even on a budget. I fall back to one of my favorite motivational phrases: find a way or make one.
In 2007 I paid $280 for my Open Water Course in Koh Tao, Thailand, one of the cheapest places in the world to be certified. At the time I was working at a clothing store in Brooklyn and making $10 an hour folding sweaters, and I can assure you that it was the most rewarding twenty-eight hours of sweater folding I have ever done in my life.
Once I was hooked, I found unconventional ways to continue my education. The next year, I moved to Grand Cayman to spend the summer filming tourists at Stingray City as part of an apprenticeship for a photographer and underwater videographer. It seemed every person I knew on that island was a dive instructor, and one of them taught me my Advanced Open Water on our mutual days off, while the dive school I filmed for had a Rescue Diver course starting and invited me to join the class for free.
I also started collecting gear. I was gifted a nice mask and snorkel set left in lost and found by some cruise shippers, and the same week I found a broken down BCD that was being thrown out by a dive shop. A friend who was a certified ScubaPro tech fixed it up for me, and I went on to use it for years before it finally went to BCD heaven. Yes, I went dumpster diving for dive gear.
Later, after graduation from college and leaving New York, I found myself back on Koh Tao working as an underwater videographer. While considering becoming a divemaster, I applied for and won a Women Diver’s Hall of Fame continuing education grant. It paid $500 towards my course fees as well as $500 towards equipment, plus the shop I chose in Indonesia also extended a 10% discount to me for the gear I had, which saved me $100.
In the end I went from zero to Divemaster spending less than $1,300 on courses and $900 on dive gear, with not a single media discount or perk. It wasn’t a traditional path and it’s not one that would be easily replicated, either.
But there’s no need to – there are a million new paths out there waiting to be forged. Check your local YMCA or community college for scuba certification classes. Check flights to The Bay Islands or Southeast Asia where certification is the cheapest on the planet. Check out scholarship organizations like the Women Diver’s Hall of Fame, Beneath the Sea Foundation, and World Underwater Scholarship Society.
Once you’re certified, the real fun beings! A fun dive somewhere like Utila, Honduras or Nha Trang, Vietnam can cost less than movie tickets, soda and a popcorn back home. And even pricey destinations like the Caribbean islands have the occasional bargain, like a $1,000 for an entire week at sea in the Bahamas including diving, food, alcohol and land excursions. And in more expensive destinations, sacrifices can be made. My friend Heather and I slept in our car on the Big Island of Hawaii after draining our daily budget on a pricey dream night dive with manta rays. Our grogginess wore off after a hit of caffeine, but those memories will last a lifetime.
When it comes to gear, consider simply renting, or buying used gear at reputable locations like Leisure Pro. Also, if you do choose to invest in new gear (like, um, most sane people) you can rest assured that with proper care it will last until you hang up for your fins.
Myth: Diving is dangerous
Fact: Frankly, I think those that overhype the dangers of diving get off on feeling like badasses. While the potential risks and hazards of diving feel mysterious and terrifying when you’re unfamiliar with them, throughout dive training you learn how rare events of that caliber are – and you’ll train to handle them, regardless.
While certain dives do consist of extreme stunts worthy of a red bull campaign – swimming with schooling hammerheads, navigating complex cave systems, exploring deep, eerie wrecks — the vast majority consist of what I call “underwater sightseeing.” It’s pretty chill down there, guys.
As with most adventure activities from hiking to whitewater rafting, your safety depends primarily on your good judgment, sensible planning, depth of knowledge and background of training. The numbers don’t lie. Statistically, driving to the pier is likely to be the most dangerous moments of your dive.
Myth: Dive theory is way over my head
Fact: What was that, a direct quote of something I have said many times in my past? Yes indeed it is. The truth is that as someone who recoils at the mere mention of physics, I often feel woefully inadequate when it comes to dive theory, or it’s more official term, “science-y stuff.”
When I first started my dive education, I kind of reverted to the “dumb blonde self-deprecation” and made jokes to hide my discomfort with this part of the curriculum. As time went on, I felt the desire to be taken more seriously and quickly realized that when I focused, asked my instructors not to let me off the hook, and really made an effort to wrap my mind around dive theory, it was within my grasp. And I believe it’s within yours too.
Recently, I went back to the classroom to take courses like Self Reliant Diver, Sidemount, and Enriched Air. I may have taken a little longer than some students to understand some of the concepts, but in the end who cares? When I signed off on those certifications, I felt like the baddest b (not bad enough to curse on my blog though, duh) on the islands.
Fact: Okay, this isn’t a myth – it isn’t even a sentence fragment. It’s just a word. But it’s a word so terrifying it keeps people out of the water every single day – once upon a time, I was one of them! I used to believe deep down in my soul that are sharks in not just oceans but also lakes pools and bath tubs, and they eat people for breakfast lunch dinner and midnight snack – Sharknado proved it. This was my personal biggest hurdle in signing up for my Open Water Diving certification.
Confession – seven years later, I still have that primal fear of sharks. I’ve read the statistics, I’ve seen the documentaries, I know the facts. But I still find myself hesitant to embrace surfing, and I’m easily spooked while swimming laps in a lagoon without a companion. Bottom line? I get being terrified of sharks.
But these days I also marvel at them. And I never feel less afraid of sharks than I do when I’m down at their level on a dive. The truth is sharks are calm, cool, collected predators and humans are flailing, bubble blowing losers. If you get a glance of one, you should consider yourself lucky they made time for you because sharks are sleek AF and they don’t have time for you and your lumpy neoprene.
The numbers back me up on this – sharks are not down with the bubbles scuba divers blow, or how large their tank, fins and other equipment make them appear to be. Divers just aren’t on the menu – sharks prefer to feed at the surface, on seals, which is why surfers, snorkelers and swimmers are so much more vulnerable to exploratory bites and cases of mistaken identities.
Did you know Peter Benchley originally wrote the book Jaws as a dark comedy? He later dedicated his life to advocating for sharks and for oceanic conservation, and eventually claimed regret over inspiring a movie that instilled terror in so many generations. I dream of the day we can relegate all shark movies to the genre where they belong – comedy and camp. (Thanks for nothing, Blake Lively!)
Myth: You have to be an epic swimmer
Fact: There’s no need to out-swim Phelps to get your certification. You do need to know how to swim – the Open Water course includes an endurance swim of 200 yards, but you can take as long as you need, and there are no points for style.
That said, water safety is an important skill in so many aspects of life. If your lack of comfort in the water is keeping you from diving, I highly recommend checking out an adult swimming or water safety class.
I may run like an ostrich that accidentally took a sleeping pill and bike like a manatee taking its first spin class, but I am a damn good swimmer, and that has brought me great comfort in many sketchy travel situations. From the time I had to tow in a fellow backpacker who jumped into a ravine on a hostel tour without knowing how to swim to the many times I’ve been on a boat that I wasn’t full confident would make it all the way to shore, I’m regularly grateful for all the hours I clocked in swim team as a kid.
Myth: You’ll feel claustrophobic
This is one of the top explanations I hear from friends for why they haven’t yet tried diving. Yet overwhelmingly, if someone with that fear does give it a try, they enthusiastically share the same conclusion – there’s never been a more freeing feeling than being underwater! At neutral buoyancy, you can move in ways you never could at the surface. And there’s never been a more spacious playground than the ocean.
Getting in and out of wetsuits is the one exception – I think it can genuinely stir up feelings of serious claustrophobia. So if this is what’s keeping you from diving, I recommend giving it a try somewhere you can hop in in a bikini, like Southeast Asia or the Caribbean.
Myth: I can’t dive because I have (insert medical condition here)
Fact: Some doctors are also moonlight as the Fun Police. Just joking! Because, um, medicine is serious business. But doctors do tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to their patients, and few are familiar with the intricacies of scuba diving. The conversation is always evolving. Ten years ago, asthma and diabetes were firm no-gos for prospective divers. Today, some with those conditions are able to enjoy diving, safely and comfortably.
If you dream of diving but a diagnosis is holding you back, it never hurts to get a second opinion. The medical experts at Divers Alert Network and at your local hyperbaric chamber are highly knowledgeable in the specialized field of dive medicine – don’t be shy about reaching out to discuss your specific situation.
The bottom line? Diving is a choose-your-own-adventure novel in which the ending is basically always epic. Everyone’s scuba story is different, and yours will be too.
As a perpetual student of life, the ocean, and of course, PADI, I’m always humbled by how much more I have to learn – but I’m also more than happy to share what I’ve picked up so far along the way. Is there something holding you back from diving in with diving? Let me know in the comments, and we can talk it out.
See you blowing bubbles!
This post is brought to you by PADI as part of the PADI AmbassaDiver initiative.
I took a diving course in a pool about 2 years ago, then a brush up lesson when I tried diving in Mexico. I was fully confident, and got all the way to the sandy bottom, but had a panic attack about my mask filling with water and not seeing and drowning under the gallons of water, I had to sit out the rest of the dive. Don’t get me wrong, I love the ocean and snorkeling and swimming, but I admit that I’m still quite nervous about diving again. I have a real issue with draining my mask, as my eyes are uber sensitive and I have to wipe them off with something dry anytime water touches them. Any tips?
First of all I can totally empathize as I have very sensitive eyes too! Sounds like the first issue I’d address is finding a well-fitting mask. Your mask may occasionally leak or be removed completely and that’s why clearing is an important skill, but in reality those events should be rare. I’d recommend finding a shop with an empathetic employee and work with them to find a perfect fit — even if you decide diving isn’t for you, you’ll have a mask for snorkeling and ocean swimming so it’s a good investment either way!
I got certified my freshman year of college but have unfortunately only used it once in the 4 years since then. For me it’s mostly that I don’t live somewhere with local diving and I don’t know anyone else who’s certified. Plus being just out of college most of my travel has been kind of more about opportunities that come up like travel to non-diving destinations or travel with people who aren’t certified (for example a few big trips to ocean destinations have been with my boyfriends family, and as none of them are certified I feel rude trying to go off on my own when I’m an invited guest on the trip). So I would like to do a trip sometime when I can save up the funds but I just haven’t had many chances so far, though I am hoping to change that!
I had a similar situation. I lost my dive buddy in a divorce (ex wife), and I was looking for a trip. I stumbled across singledivers.com. And no, it’s not a dating site. Great trips, good people and great value.
I totally get both these situations — I LOVE diving with my friends and am sometimes hesitant to jump on a boat when I don’t have a buddy. But I’m almost always pleasantly surprised 🙂 I have seen singledivers.com at dive shows and it seems like a great idea. Local dive clubs are also a great way to find dive buddies and join affordable trips with people from your area — I recommend checking Meetup.com and asking around at your local PADI dive ships for dive clubs!
Also, yeah, I’ve skipped diving in plenty of drool-worthy locations because I was with family or friends and I wanted to prioritize time with them over diving. No shame in that! I just always promise myself I’ll dive one extra time on a future trip 🙂
Alex, us old white guys welcome you. After many years of diving we have found that sharks do not find us flavorful so we enjoy visiting with them.
In my youth there was a fantastic TV show callled Sea Hunt staring Loyd Bridges. He taught us to respect but never fear anything in the ocean. Jaws later emerged to traumatize all subsequent generations.
If you get a chance to go diving with whale sharks it is amazing. They are like monster pussycats of the sea and you will love it.
Rick, I have been looking for old copies of Sea Hunt — I hear about it all the time and would love to see it today! Now that I’m home I should order the DVDs on Amazon. I’ve been diving with whale sharks a few times in Thailand but I’m greedy… it’s never enough!
I’d better get my adult swimming lessons booked to develop my confidence! I love the idea of diving and I think I’m an OK swimmer but I panic when I can no longer touch the floor as I don’t trust myself haha!
Definitely go for it Steph! I’d love to hear about your progress if you do — it would be an interesting journey to blog about!
Thanks for this post! I have been back and forth over getting my open water over the past year. I almost did it in little corn, Nicaragua but chickened out. Now I have another question: I’m worried that it’s not an environmentally sustainable hobby? I know you’re super Eco conscious as well so I’m eager to hear your thoughts on this. I just know that going out snorkeling and the boats and all the chemicals we introduce to the water, etc. just makes me feel a bit guilty. But I fully admit I haven’t done my research on this one – it’s just a feeling I have!
Great question Eva! You raise some good points — some sunscreens contain chemicals which are harmful to the ocean we wear it to swim in, and inexperienced divers can sometimes collide with delicate reef systems, for example. But there are fairly simple fixes — reef safe sunscreens are available, and instructors can emphasize the damage that can be inflicted by carelessness and focus on buoyancy control with their students.
That said, I think the research, conservation work and beyond done by and inspired by divers FAR outweighs any harm caused by human interaction with these water systems. I can’t tell you how many sustainability warriors the PADI Open Water course has created — I’m one of them! Diving really opened my eyes to all that is at stake and really brought me to a new level in my eco-journey. There’s nothing more heartwarming than seeing how new divers take their passion for the sport and turn it into a passion for protecting the place they do it <3
It’s funny, but I guess because Utila is the only place I’ve ever dived I don’t think of diving as an “old white dude” thing at all! Most of the staff at my dive shop there were in their late 20s and early 30s and half were women, which in retrospect probably actually DID make me feel a lot more comfortable than if all of the staff were people I couldn’t relate to as much.
I was also TERRIFIED of diving before I tried it, but I was addicted almost immediately. I’ll always remember when I was feeling nervous and panic-y before my first open water dive, one of the female dive instructors told me “just pretend you’re a badass mermaid, what is there to be afraid of?” which is honestly what got me through hahah.
Yup, Utila is definitely one of those international, diverse diving utopias that I love to travel to 🙂 And um, I think I”m in love with your Open Water Instructor. I just might have to steal that line for myself some time!
Great post! I’m actually trying to make it to Koh Tao next year to go diving for the first time since your blog has inspired me so much! I am slightly scared and nervous, but I can’t wait to try it.
What schools on Koh Tao would you recommend? I’m interested in smaller ones with more interaction with the staff (since I am kind of scared and nervous) and I’m okay with paying more for that. There are just so many there, I’d love to get the names of a couple you recommend!!
Hey Laura! Definitely! I recently wrote a post about a great experience I had with Master Divers, and I have a post about my courses with Bans and Sairee Cottage coming up too. Based on what you wrote, I think that Master Divers might be the best fit for you. They really focus on a super thorough education and I know that they won’t push you to move on from anything until you’re totally comfortable. Just be upfront with your concerns when booking and they’ll be sure to pair you with an instructor that will be empathetic. Tell them Alex sent ya 🙂
Ever since I got my certification (also on Koh Tao!), I’ve been trying to convince everyone I know to get underwater. It’s the coolest thing I’ve done to date!
I’m also a high anxiety person and I expected to be fearful of drowning and claustrophobic when diving. Instead I found it to be the most peaceful activity I’ve ever participated in. It grounds me more than any yoga or meditation ever could!
I think anyone who has even a vague interest should at least give it a try once! If they are like me or you, they might be hooked for life 🙂
Yay! Love hearing from a fellow mermaid <3 I often call diving my underwater yoga time. I agree that it's the most meditative experience I've ever had. The rest of the world just floats away and I've never been more in the moment.
This was one of my favorite posts yet!!! Thank you SO much, Alex! I loveee snorkeling but have been hesitant to dive, precisely because of a couple reasons you mentioned. Ever since I started following your blog a little over a year ago I’ve been so tempted to try diving bc of your wonderful stories and gorgeous photos. I think this post just officially convinced me to go for it! Now just getting myself back to Gili T to do it 🙂
I can’t think of a better place to learn! Gili T is a gorgeous destination for dive training — great conditions, wonderful dive professionals and a gorgeous underwater playground to explore. Go for it girl, and let me know if you love it as much as I do!
This is an awesome post! I live in the Midwest, and I dream of getting my certification someday (hopefully this winter!).
I am in love with every aspect of the ocean, and I even volunteer as an ambassador for One Ocean Global Conservation. Thank you so much for the informative post! Hope to see more diving posts in the future!
Plenty more headed your way Indy! I have reviews of two fun courses I took coming up soon 🙂
I’m planning on getting my certification after I hand in my thesis in January! I’m super excited, but worried I’m not in swimming shape yet. I think my major fear is that I’m not a strong ocean swimmer!
I’m thinking of going to Bali to do the certification. Any idea how much it should cost nowadays?
You know what, I’m not too familiar with the pricing in Bali but I know on nearby Gili Trawangan there is a price fixing agreement on the island so it will be the exact same price everywhere! It’s a policy that benefits both the customers and the businesses in this case so you might consider hopping over to do your course there (it’s where I did my dive master and the conditions are great for beginners).
And definitely consider doing some laps in the meantime to up that in-water confidence. Plus it’s a super fun workout too! 🙂
All great points, but one thing you may want to add is seasickness. When I first tried scuba diving in the ocean, no one ever told me that I would get so seasick that I have to come up in less than 10 minutes. If I had known before, I would have taken precautions to make it a better experience.
Great point Rekha! I recently discovered Dramamine All Natural Ginger Pills and they are awesome. No drowsy side effects! I definitely recommend them if it’s going to be rough either on the boat or below the surface.
I’m more afraid of jellyfish than sharks! I know it’s irrational, but those little buggers scare me like crazy.
As someone who took a pretty rough tentacle slap to the face last year in Bonaire… fair enough! You should look into a skin suit — just a thin little 1mm wetsuit that’s super lightweight but would protect you from any jellyfish contact. It might do the trick, mentally!
I did my certification through a dive club rather than a school and it was probably around half the cost. Because there was also no time pressure, I got loads of individual attention (very important to me because I was very far out of my comfort zone!). However I could still kick myself because had I done it when I was at university it probably would have been even cheaper! So it really doesn’t have to be expensive and I’d encourage people to see if they do have a local dive club and support them – many do very good work in marine conservation and ocean clean-ups. Joining a club dive is also much cheaper than doing an outing through a school.
Sadly I haven’t been diving in a couple of years now – my last dive was in Thailand and I just don’t see me subjecting myself to Cape Town’s frigid waters anytime soon!
That’s awesome info, Jane! I agree that there are so many different paths you could take to being a diver… I bet there’s one to fit almost every person and budget.
Yes to this! I was shocked at how chilled out diving was–for an “extreme” sport, it sure is relaxing (at the least most of the time).
Yup, it’s really one of those “choose your own adventure” kinda activities. Want to chill and look at pretty fish? Great! Want to tackle tech and go on high risk cave dives? Right this way! There’s just a million different ways to enjoy diving — it’s a different journey for everyone.
I had to read this entire article out loud to one of my friends who wants to become a diver but has several concerns…!
I had all these concerns too when I first started diving. My husband is a diver & gifted me my Open Water certification one birthday, so I was fortunate to have that paid for! While I completely freaked out while learning to dive, it turns out that gift has been an incredible investment in our relationship as I went on to do my AOW. We now enjoy diving together as well as blogging about it & sharing an interest in underwater photography. Next step for me is the Rescue Diver training.
My first BCD was 2nd hand ex-training gear from my local dive shop. Weight belt & regs were my husbands (used it as an excuse to buy new for himself!) even my wetsuit!!! Which looks silly because it’s clearly not a perfect fit on my womanly body but it still works!
My friend is inspired but worries about things like sharks and running out of air. I hope this article has helped ease her concerns & encourage her to eventually go and get certified!
Aw, thanks for sharing this post with a friend Juliette! What an amazing birthday gift from your husband. I didn’t address the air issue specifically in this post so let me just comment on that quickly. First of all, as I’m sure you’ve reassured her, she’ll be able to check her air consumption throughout the dive and will make a dive plan that involves returning to the boat or shore with excess amounts of air — and she can plan as conservative a dive as she pleases! If she wants a double back up, she can always look into a pony tank as often used my underwater photographers and videographers who dive solo or far from their buddies. Enjoy the rescue course!
I’m always tempted to learn, especially when I’m in a place primed for scuba, or see your amazing photos, but I feel like it’s one more hobby to add to the heap – like skiing, somewhat expensive and not something I can do at home so I’d have to build a vacation around it. So far, snorkeling has sufficed for me!
You’d be amazed the trips I can sneak diving into without having to build a full vacation around it! Iceland, Greece, Spain, Cambodia, Guatemala… diving isn’t the first thing that comes to mind but I managed to squeeze a few in 😉 You definitely don’t always need to build dedicated vacations around it. Though I agree snorkeling does rock too!
This was so interesting to read. Although I’ve travelled in Southeast Asia a fair bit I still haven’t gotten around to diving and I don’t quite know why. One of the things I’m never sure about is how it would work with my contact lenses (I cannot go without them because my vision is so bad). I know you also wear lenses, how do you cope with that when diving? When I was snorkelling in Australia I was very lucky to spot a reef shark and that had a big affect on me because I have this crazy fear of sharks too, even though I also respect them and intellectually know they are more at risk from us than we are from them. Once I saw how shy the shark was in real life though and how it quickly darted away, this did change my perception slightly.
That’s a very cool shark story! I’m never really as afraid when I actually see them as I am when I’m thinking ABOUT seeing them 🙂 I do just wear my contacts, but I make sure to have eye drops in my diving bag and a spare pair as well ideally. Usually there’s no issue at all but I like to be prepared for the worst. Good luck!
This will sound a bit weird but my ears can be super sensitive when it comes to pressure (I have had more than my share of ear infections). I really want to learn to dive since I LOVE THE WATER but I’m scared that the pain will be hard to handle (I’m pretty though but have my limits), do you get used to pressure if you dive slowly or is it always painful? Thanks 🙂
Hey Elizabeth! It is never painful! During a diving course one of the very first things you learn will be how to equalize your ears, and it removes all the pressure and makes diving effortless on your ears! I’m not sure I know how to explain it well so here’s a quick post to explain: https://www2.padi.com/blog/2015/04/16/how-to-equalize-your-ears/ Let me know if that makes sense!
Great post Alex! I have to admit, there is definitely some shark-fear and physics-fear stopping me from scuba diving. Every time I go snorkelling though, I really want to go deeper and do the PADI course. Maybe I’ll finally get around to it this summer 😀
Do it do it do it 🙂 And let me know when and if you do! I want to hear about your progress!
I love this post! I have never been a great swimmer and I have a pretty anxious personality, but Scuba diving makes me feel free! I would recommend that everyone should try it at least once. My biggest issue is diving in cold water. I learned in super warm water and every time have have done a cold water dive the experience has not been great. I miss diving and hope to do it again soon!
I know how you feel Shelly! I do occasional colder water dives and am always fairly tense about them. But I’m always glad I did when I surface! In general I prefer warm water dives but some of the cold ones are too good to pass up 🙂 Just pile on the neoprene!
I’m glad you wrote this! I’ve always wanted to try scuba diving but what’s been keeping me away is: a) fear of deep waters, and b) thinking I need to be a strong swimmer (which you just debunked)! I’ve tried snorkelling before and while I’m far from graceful out on the water, I do find it very peaceful once I’m out there seeing the world below. Gahhh, I really just need to try scuba next time I’m in Thailand!
Hey Audrey — yes you do! Come to Koh Tao and I’ll come out with you 🙂 To address the first thing you mentioned as well, you really don’t need to go deep to see the good stuff (in most cases). I actually prefer diving shallow most of the time because the natural light is better for the kind of photography I like to do!
What a great post. I’m glad you took the time to take apart all the myths about this fabulous sport. I hope it will take a lot of anxiety of people that are interested in diving.
Hi James! I hope so too — diving is the best!
As someone who prefers to remain on land, this post really opened my eyes to the beauty of diving. Thanks!
That makes me so happy to hear Julia! It really is lovely down there 🙂
I’m one of the 25% of other readers that live for your diving posts! I just finished my Divemaster course in Belize, which I did while participating in a six-week marine conservation expedition. I have been wanting to do my DM for a long time, and I remember reading all your posts about the course years ago, and they really helped (especially that hazing video you had!). I’m at the point now where I organise my holidays around diving! Keep up the diving posts! 🙂
That’s awesome Freddie! Your DM experience sounds fabulous… I love Belize and what a great excuse to spend a nice long time there. Stay tuned… more diving posts are coming soon!
I absolutely love diving! If you could pick one favorite spot, where would it be?! Not the Great Blue Hole though 🙂
Such a tough question! Some of my most memorable and favorite dives are ones I wouldn’t want to do every day — like dry suit diving in Iceland or night diving on Big Island. My favorite place for everyday dives is probably Gili Trawangan, where I loved doing my divemaster. I just love the warm water, short boat rides, and abundant turtles!
I’ve wanted to try scuba diving, but there are two things I’ve heard that hold me back. First, I heard that if you’re prone to motion sickness you can get it while underwater. Also, my ears are really fussy and don’t like to pop like normal ears. It sounds like diving would just be torture for me. Any suggestions?
Hey Brianna! Well, personally I have never been motion sick underwater. I have definitely been at the surface, so it varies from person to person but I think it’s fairly rare to have it below the surface — most divers I know can’t wait to get off a rocky boat and underwater. I’d recommend taking some ginger pills ahead of time though, just to be safe!
As for the ears, dive instructors are masters of equalization! If you decide to give diving a try, talk to your instructor about your ear concerns ahead of time so they will know to give you extra tips and patience when you are trying to equalize. I have found a decongestant can help, too.
Best of luck! Let me know how it goes if you decide to try it.
Great post Alex! I’ve wanted to get PADI certified since I was in college and I’m finally doing it in February when my girlfriend and I go to Indonesia. She’s from upstate New York and was shocked when I told her it wasn’t going to cost us over $1000 a person! I’m looking forward to diving at some amazing sites all over the world!!
That’s awesome Rachel! Where are you getting certified in Indo? I absolutely loved doing my divemaster on Gili Trawangan!
We’re actually doing ours on Gili Trawangan as well!! We’re spending 2 full weeks in Indo and we figured we would get our certification out of the way first so we can do another fun dive or two afterwards later in our trip.
That’s amazing! Have a blast — I’m jealous!
I fall into the last category, although becoming a certified diver is still on my list. I would need both hands (and probably some toes, too) to count how many times I debated reaching out to you via email (you’re still the only diver I “know”). It’s sinus-related (I think) pressure pain (absolutely), and I get it to sometimes debilitating levels when I fly (it’s random, too, so there’s no telling when it will happen!), and I’m petrified that I start the learning-to-dive process, only to be out hundreds of dollars because I physically can’t do it. I’ve taken steps to getting this looked at and I plan to check out the site you linked to. In the meantime, I’ll keep my fingers crossed I get to experience it one day. Thanks for another amazing post! It’s always great to hear from someone who is passionate about a topic.
Hey Marni, that’s a totally understandable hesitation! I would absolutely recommend reaching out to a dive health professional with your specific set of circumstances. They may be able to advise you! Otherwise, I would advise signing up for a Discover Scuba Dive — a one day try dive where you can see how your sinuses are effected by diving without having to shell out a ton of cash and blocking off days and days to do a full course. Keep me in the loop 🙂
That’s a great suggestion! I’ll definitely look into that. Thanks 🙂
Great article! I’m planning a January 2018 trip to Koh Tao to get my first steps towards certification.
Can you recommend a school or dive center there, and perhaps close by accommodations?
Much appreciated – drinks on me when I arrive 😉
Hey Andrew! I recently did courses with Master Divers and Sairee Cottage and recommend either! You can find my review of Master Divers using the search bar and stay tuned for Sairee Cottage coming up soon! Enjoy!
Ah, so well said (or written).
For me, the idea of become dive certified was both wonderful and damn scary.
I enjoy the beach and the water, but have never been a strong swimmer, but I saw it as both a challenge and an opportunity.
Truth is, I’m still a rubbish swimmer!
But I did my treading water, I swam the required distance (as you said, no points for style) and her I am both a certified Open Water & Advanced diver!
I don’t dive all that regularly at the moment, but it has already delivered some amazing experiences (when we can say our worst ever dive was in the Galapagos with Hammerheads and Manta Rays, it says a lot)!
I’m proof you don’t need to be a millionaire!
Glad to hear diving has had such a positive impact on your travels! It certainly has for me as well. I might not dive every day, but some of my greatest adventures have been underwater!
It’s really refreshing to hear a diver say that they are intimidated by sharks. I really appreciate your candid nature (as always) and it’s nice to hear you say that you shouldn’t stay out of the water for whatever reason in a helpful way instead of a demeaning way.
I have a mega-fear of sharks that just sort-of crept up on me. One year I was swimming in the ocean with my family and the next year I was snorkeling with manatees solo and I just totally freaked out and have had the phobia since… I’m always enamored by photos of diving – including yours – and I actually feel really calm about it after reading your post.
I was in Koh Tao last year, toying with the idea of getting certified, but chickened out. Plus, I had what I thought was an awful respiratory infection, turns out I have asthma. It’s pretty mild though and I know other asthmatic divers. I’m headed back to Thailand in September and I’m hoping I might be able to work up the courage to give it a go. Thanks for your words of encouragement! Xx
I totally get it! There’s a lot to be intimidated by in the ocean but I’m glad to hear you are entertaining the idea of trying diving anyway! I’m biased no doubt, but in my mind the reward is more than worth the challenge. Good luck!
Yes!!! Great post! Terrence my boyfriend wants to get scuba certified so we can take our underwater photos to the next level! I will share this with him.
Awesome! I LOVE underwater photography — such a fun challenge. I bet you’d both love it!
This is one of the best and most enjoyable blogs I’ve read in a while about learning to dive. I love your humor! You had me snort out loud more than once. Thanks for addressing very relevant ‘diving myths’ with your unrefutable logic.
You’re so welcome Sharon — glad someone finds me as hilarious as I do 😛
Amazing article! I love knowing there are so many people out there loving the ocean and diving as much as I do! I hope this post has or will inspire people to get out there and try it 🙂
Me too, Cally! Thanks for reading — and as always, feel free to share!