The Best Places to Start Scuba DivingWednesday, August 02, 2017 Diving and snorkeling by Sarah Graves
There is nothing like the tranquillity of floating below the surface of the ocean, passing above a coral reef and being surrounded by the colourful fish and sea creatures that live there. The ocean is an entirely different world that few people get to truly experience from anywhere but above. The best way to explore and get a true sense of these underwater habitats is by scuba diving.
If you’ve ever thought you might want to give scuba diving a try, time is of the essence to get started! Coral reefs are dying at unprecedented rates as a result of the effects of global warming. Within the next 30 years, all of the world’s coral could be gone. I urge anyone who wants to experience the wonder of the seas, to do so now before it’s too late and also to take steps towards reducing your carbon footprint in attempts to slow if not stop the death of the coral reefs.
Whether you’re a newly certified diver or just want to give it a try and get out there, there are several beautiful locations around the world that are ideal for getting acquainted with and stretching your scuba sea legs. While many places require a scuba certification before diving, there are also plenty that don’t and will give you a crash course on the basics before taking you on a tour.
The first time I went diving was in The Caribbean in Turks and Caicos. The resort where my family was staying offered scuba diving as an add on activity. You didn’t have to be certified or have any experience. They showed us the basics of clearing our masks and regular in the resort pool and the next day we went for a dive in the ocean.
The Caribbean is ideal for new divers because the water is warm and calm. There aren’t many strong currents and you don’t need to dive deep in order to take in the sights and have a great experience. The underwater visibility is very high and there are several reefs only 15-30 feet below the surface, which minimizes the risk of any sort of decompression sickness.
The best place to start diving in the continental United States is Florida. The waters here are similar to those in the Caribbean; warm, high visibility, and calm. Again, you’ll be able to experience all the beauty of this unique eco system just by diving 20-35 feet under the surface. This helps new divers gain confidence and experience while logging lots of diving hours. The shallower depth also allows for more time to be spent at your maximum depth due to the air compression of the tank.
For a new diver, the Florida Keys and islands off the coast are the best places to start. As your diving skills grow, there are several more advanced dives here, including wreck dives, that may peak your interests as you become more comfortable with these waters.
Since Hawaii is one of the top tropical tourist destinations in the world, it’s no surprise that resorts and dive masters here are more than used to accommodating new divers. The majority of resorts on Hawaii’s main island don’t require a scuba certification if you want to dive. Taking care of and looking after new divers is all in a standard day’s work.
Hawaii also has very accommodating conditions for new divers. There are lots of coves on the islands that contain shallow, sheltered reefs. The coves help break the tides of the ocean allowing for calm waters for diving. With reefs accessible at a mere 15-30 feet below the surface, conditions are optimal for new divers to take in all the natural wonders that the ocean has to offer.
Thailand is a fantastic place for newly certified divers to get started. The majority of diving opportunities do require an open water certification before jumping in, but most of the dive companies here will help you get that certification while you dive with them.
I got my open water certification in a pond in Massachusetts in October – the warm waters of Thailand are a much better place to get your certification!
There are two main bodies of water in Thailand that are known for their diving: the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea. The Gulf is home to an abundance of sea life, which is exciting for both new and seasoned divers alike. The Sea has higher visibility and easily accessible reefs. However, the best way to see the waters of Thailand is by liveaboards, which allow you to dive the shores off the Similan Islands, an underwater national park. If you haven’t tried a live-aboard yet in your diving journey, Thailand is one of the best places to start!
Indonesia houses arguably some of the best diving in the world. This archipelago is made up of 17,000 islands and houses around 15% of the world’s coral. Regardless of your preferred type of diving, Indonesia has it – everything from muck diving to macro to wrecks to corals. The waters are warm and visibility is high.
There are fewer options in Indonesia for new divers than there are for experienced ones, but the options that are available are breathtaking. There is so much wildlife in these waters that scientists are still studying it and discovering new species. A certification is required for almost all dive companies here. Having this variety of underwater terrain provides new divers with the ability to scale-up their dives throughout the trip as they become more comfortable. At the beginning of your trip you may be starting in a shallow reef and then a few days later, you may be exploring the infamous coral triangle surrounded by the thousands of fish that live there.
For those who have been curious about diving but haven’t given it a try yet, any of these locations is sure to blow your mind and provide you with a one of a kind experience you’ve never had before. So stop thinking about it and get out there! The reefs are dying and if you don’t take advantage of them while they’re still here, you may never again get the chance to.