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Should i learn to scuba dive - Get certified?

Should i learn to scuba dive – Get certified?

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Should i learn to scuba dive – Get certified?/ Why get certified when you can do a DSD

Most visitors who come to the Andamans do try an introductory scuba program such Try Scuba / PADI Discover Scuba Diving and find it an amazing experience.     But many of them are not aware that there is also the option to become a certified diver, the benefits of doing so or even how easy it is to get certified.

Let’s talk about the 2 basic options for beginners:

Option one to a introductory scuba diving program, be it the very basic Try Scuba or the more immersive/experience-rich PADI Discover Scuba Diving, which is designed to give people a taste of scuba.  There is a dive professional in the water with you at all times, who is responsible your safety during the program.

Option two is a certification course, aka the PADI Open Water course or PADI Scuba Diver course: these are designed for people who want to take up this amazing sport in a more in-depth manner, and who want to keep exploring the oceans in different parts of the world.   It consists of 3 elements:  academic development, skills practice and ocean dives.   At the end of this, you get a certificate which is valid for a lifetime, and which lets you dive anywhere in the world.

Sounds like a lot of work, right?    I mean, you can dive as is without that certification card, so why go through all the trouble?   Why not just do more introductory scuba experiences wherever you go?

Well, yes, you can.  Nothing wrong with that and many people do just that.

However, the intro programs are all designed to be just that – intro.   While the instructor does handle your safety in such cases, there are several things that the instructor cannot do for you.   So all responsible dive centers conduct the Intro to Scuba / Try Scuba / PADI Discover Scuba Diving programs in locations where the conditions are benign, predictable and as much within the instructor’s control as possible.

For first timers, these is still a marvellous experience – virtually everyone who tries scuba for the first time comes out having experienced the “wow” factor.

But… the “wow” becomes “OMG I CANNOT BELIEVE THAT WOWOWOWOW!!!” when you get certified:   it is yet another level of amazing when you are able to go deeper:  the kind that sinks its claws into you and makes this a passion that you want to indulge in regularly, just like going hiking in the mountains or on safari trips.

It is surprisingly easy to get certified – you complete your theory at home, using online learning.     Skills training takes 1-2 days, 2-4 hours per day, leaving the rest of the day free for other sightseeing.    Then you do 4 dives over 2 days, again each day’s sessions lasting about half a day.    And you are done.    You don’t have to be a fantastic athlete or great swimmer either – basic swimming skills are required, average fitness (ability to walk 1-2km) and, in the event of pre-existing medical conditions, a doctor’s clearance.     So in 3-4 days, you can earn a license to explore the magic of the underwater world, whereever you go.

If you live in Delhi, Bombay or Bangalore, you can even do your skills training there over a weekend – thereby requiring just 2 days to get certified!

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How to pick a dive center when doing your Divemaster program

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The Divemaster course is a great step forwards for divers looking to become a part of the dive industry – as a PADI professional, they become part of the largest association of dive professionals in one of the coolest sports on (or is that under?) the planet, with employment opportunities all over the world.     The sport is just starting to take off in India and there are tremendous opportunities all over the country.   So obviously, for someone looking to become a dive professional, this is a very critical step in their professional development.
Even if someone isn’t looking to work as a dive pro, the Divemaster course allows them to really expand their horizons when it comes to their dive skills and involvement in the sport.    And either way, it is a fairly large commitment of time and effort – and a not-insignificant amount of money either.
So here are a few things to keep in mind when picking a place to do your DM program.
The next most important question is something you ask yourself – why are you doing the DM course?     Is it because you want to work in the industry?   Is it because you want the personal satisfaction of having that black professional’s card?   Is it because you want a break from work?    Or is it because you just want a few weeks of discounted diving?    Each of these are perfectly valid reasons – this is a sport and you get to make the call on what you like, and what you want.   But in each of these cases, you need to be absolutely honest about why you are doing the course.
Let me go use a college analogy:  just as the same degree can be taught very differently in a liberal-arts college vs a technical-focused college (or even two similar types of colleges), so too the DM course can be taught very differently across dive centers.    So you need to make sure that a dive center’s teaching philosophy is in line with your expectations above.   For example, at DIVEIndia, our focus is on preparing qualified dive professionals who are ready to work at a dive center (most often our own!) afterwards.   So our training has a very heavy emphasis on diver control, safety and also in assisting instructors (if you can handle students, you can handle certified divers), as well as in developing judgement, decision-making & professionalism (which occasionally translates into a little ’tough love’ from an instructor :)).    For candidates who are looking to get a month of relaxed diving for free, this is not a good fit.   But given how virtually all our Divemaster candidates who want to work in the industry have gone on to do so, we are obviously doing something right in our chosen area of focus.
Another thing to keep in mind that the Divemaster course is going to be very different from any other program that you have done so far.      Till now, every program that you have done consists of a set of skills you have to learn, which is a binary state:  either you know the skill or you don’t (simplifying a little – there are different levels of learning, but we dont need to get into that yet).   The DM course also has quite a few areas that are similar (theory, watermanship, dive skills), but these are only a small subset of what makes a professional.      Just as with any other job, there are a lot of soft skills that make the difference between a good dive professional and a mediocre one.   And those are the skills that are harder to grade:  how do you score “decision making” or “judgement” or “professionalism”?   These arent attributes which you either HAVE or DONT HAVE – they are skills that are constantly evolving.
The impact on this depends on what your goals are – if you are planning to work in the industry, then you want to develop your judgement, decision-making and professionalism.    So you want a dive center that will customize the program to some degree to cater to your strengths and weaknesses.    On the other hand, if you are looking for a break from work, then it may be better to do your course somewhere where it is taught in a standardized manner to groups of Divemaster Trainees (DMTs), so there is a more social and group aspect to the training.     Again – no right or wrong:  whatever fits your needs best.
Furthermore, what is the training philosophy of the dive center?   For example, at DIVEIndia, we generally go well beyond the minimum requirements for candidates, customizing the training as per each person’s requirements.   But, as we explain during the initial orientation, we expect DMTs to be more proactive about their learning, and to question/challenge/ask, as opposed to passively waiting to be hand-fed everything they need to know.     No matter what the personality of the candidate, there is a certain baseline we expect all candidates to achieve, but when it comes to the ceiling, that is set by the DMT and his or her interests and drive.   We feel it is a good preparation for life as a dive professional, and that’s how we operate.   For someone who isnt comfortable with this, a more “standardized” approach may be more appealing.
Continuing the training philosophy approach – every person has their own style of working.     A large part of being a good and effective working dive professional (Divemaster or Instructor) is finding your own style and continuing to develop and refine it.   For that to happen, you need to be exposed to different instructors and see how they do things, so you can pick and choose.   You need to be able to question them – why did you do it THIS way and not THAT way?    And you need to have the freedom to absorb elements from each instructor and create your own approach.     Does the program let you do this?
Another point to consider is – should you do the DM course or do an internship?   Depending on how the program is structured, internships can sometimes cost more or less.  Some dive shops trade off the DM program in  exchange for labor – you fill tanks, load/unload the boat, clean gear, etc.   In such cases, the training costs may be offset – and this is a good option for people looking for a bunch of inexpensive dives.   Other dive shops (like us) charge more for the internship – our internship includes 40 dives, but these are training dives and the candidate is not working as shop staff.       Hence the difference – again, a matter of training philosophy.
So should you do a training internship or not?    The barebones DM course meets the minimum requirements (which are fairly thorough, to be clear) and is a good option for those who want a DM card for personal reasons, but for those looking to work in the industry, we always recommend an internship – usually, these programs are a lot more immersive in nature than just a barebones DM course.  And because you are better assimilated in the dive shop, there is a greater scope for informal learning.  Lastly, those soft skills i mentioned earlier:  those always improve.   The more experience you have, the better you get in those areas.   And the better a professional you become.
There are also a few nitty-gritty type of questions to ask – what is the experience level of the  dive center and the instructors, how many dives are included in the package or internship, what are your specific roles and responsibilities?    This last part is especially important if your goal is to get in a lot of discounted dives – there are dive centers where the DM course is traded off for free labor:   DMTs get to lead dives and in exchange, they load/unload the boats, they fill the tanks, clean the gear, etc.    Again, for someone looking to get a bunch of cheap dives in, this may be a better fit than a program like ours, for example, where the emphasis is not so much on “fun diving” as on “learning” (although hopefully, both “fun” and “diving” are involved-  otherwise, why are we doing this???).
Lastly, there is also the question of what agency to go with.    If you are doing this for personal reasons, find a dive center whose philosophy matches yours, and a good instructor who will be managing the program – agency doesn’t matter.    If you are doing this tog et a bunch of dives in, find a good location where you will enjoy the diving.    If you want to work in the industry, or freelance when you travel, then your 2 main choices are PADI or SSI.   In the absence of any specific reason for one agency or the other, our general recommendation is PADI (and to be clear – we used to recommend this even when we were both PADI and SSI), for three main reasons:  (1) there are a lot more PADI dive centers than SSI dive centers, so odds of finding a job are higher if you go with PADI,   (2) as an SSI dive pro, you have to be affiliated with a specific dive center;  as a PADI pro, you can work independently  and (3) if you want to be multi-agency qualified, it is cheaper to first become a PADI pro and then cross over to SSI (especially at the instructor level).
You’ll note that we didn’t mention money.    This may come across as self-serving, but money should be the last thing you look at this level.    Do you pick a college based on tution?   So why would you devalue the quality of your professional training?   Even if you aren’t planning to work as a dive pro but are doing this for personal reasons, you should still make sure you find a good fit between your requirements and the dive center’s philosophy first (even those 3 months of fun diving for free can start to get tedious if you are expected to dive every day, without days off, and are working from 5am to 7pm daily).       That is not to say money isn’t important – for sure, if you have a few equivalent options that are equal in all respects except money, go for the cheaper option.    But your initial selection should not be based on money.   Picking a bad fit to save a little money will result in a bad experience and a waste of time and money, not a savings.
If you have read this article, odds are good that you are either planning on doing your DM program, either now or some point down the road.  Hopefully, it gives you a few pointers on what to look for, when it comes to selecting a dive shop.   Feel free to chime in on our Facebook group with your thoughts on this.

Scuba diving information for beginners: Discover scuba diving

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Scuba diving information for beginners


6 Important Tips for first time Discover Scuba Diving (DSD/ Try Dive) participants.

So you are going to the Andamans (or any other diving destination) and you want to have a great experience for your first dive (aka, a Discover Scuba Dive or Try Dive)  – how do you ensure that?
In theory, diving courses all follow more or less the same procedural standards.   However, in practice, there are enormous differences between the same program, conducted to the same standards (hopefully!), just as 2 different schools, both following the same curriculum, can have very different teaching outcomes.     While the program is standardized with international standards, how it conducted and the experience/attitude of the instructor conducting the program makes a big difference in the quality of your dive program.      And how the program is conducted also matters – does it follow a “one size fits all” approach or is the program tailored to account for each person’s comfort level?
So here are a few tips that you can follow, to ensure that you have a great experience for your first dive – one that you will rave about to your friends for a long time, or even hook you to the sport for life!
1/  Set your expectations
What do you want to get out of the program?   Do you just want to check it off a list, and perhaps get a few photos for social media but nothing beyond that? If so, pretty much any dive shop will do.   However, doing that is selling yourself short, in my opinion.
A good diving  experience is *magical* – you are weightless in the water, a sensation similar to flying, and are surrounded by lots of fish and marine life, seeing more action in an hour than you would in a week on safari.      If you are going through the program, why not try to have a richer experience, where you are an active participant in the program, as opposed to just passively being dragged around for 15 min?      The sad part is, because beginners don’t have any basis for comparison, they typically don’t realize how much they are missing out when they do such a bare-bones passive program – its the difference between seeing animals in the zoo vs being on safari.
2/  Dive with a reputable school and with qualified dive professionals
Sounds obvious, right?   But be careful if you are on a package trip with diving included – a mainland-based Andamans holiday operator does not know much about diving, and only cares about signing with an operator who provides the lowest possible rates (and some of those trade rates go very low indeed, with agents using competition among diving operators to their benefit).      So while you may be paying the regular price for the diving, but there can be a big difference in how much a dive center actually earns from the dive.
A reputable dive shop sets its program standards first, and then sets a price for it, knowing that dropping the price too low will mean a reduction in quality.    However, as diving grows in popularity, there are enough operators chasing the money, who are willing to offer diving at cut-rate prices:  and guess what that means you get?  A sub-standard diving experience.    In many parts of the country, this means dives are led by people who are barely qualified as divers, let alone being certified dive professionals (a requirement to conduct any scuba program with beginners).     They have minimal knowledge of safety procedures, or even how to make the experience more fun and enriching.   And if something goes wrong, it is your safety that is at risk.
So always ask if the dive center itself is accredited with an agency and check to see the qualification card of the person conducting your program – it should read Instructor or Divemaster, depending on the program.   Anything less, and you dont have a qualified person leading your dive.
3/  Don’t rely on local agents and taxi drivers
What we wrote above about mainland-based travel agents holds doubly so for local agents or taxi drivers.
Atleast the mainland agent has taken your money and perhaps wants to build a longer-term relationship with you as his client.   The local agents or taxi drivers will be motivated entirely by the commission they get from the dive center with zero interest in making sure you have the best dive experience possible.    We have heard some amazing yarns being told by taxi drivers about other dive centers in an effort to convince their clients to go to the dive center of their choice.
Do your research online instead.
4/ Check how the program is conducted
If you have seen a safari jeep crammed with 8 people and being driven around by disinterested guides, vs had a private jeep with an experienced naturalist, you know how different a safari experience can be, even when conducted in the same area and seeing the same things.       Similarly, even when a dive center is reputable and follows program standards and has qualified dive professionals, there can be a big difference in your experience.
The first thing to check for is – does the program follow a cookie-cutter formula (5 min to put on gear, 10 min to do skills, 10 min out, 10 min back, done) or is it customized to take into account each diver’s comfort level?    If you are comfy in the water, the former may work for you.   But if you are nervous, or more interested in specific marine life, a more customized program may be a better option.    Now obviously, there are limits to how much customization you can get before the price increases significantly, but at the very least, the dive shop should be prepared to spend more time and tweak the program a little for nervous divers, for example.
Some other questions to ask:
– Is the program being conducted by agency standards (PADI or SSI)?
– Is your program registered with the agency (this has some benefits to you, not the least being that it makes your program auditable for adherence to training standards)?
– Does the dive shop maintain a compressor log and change the filters regularly?
– Do you complete a full set of paperwork, do you get a detailed briefing (video or verbal) explaining the program, the basic theory behind diving and also the risks (so that you can make an informed choice)?
– Do you complete a medical form (big red flag about safety standards if you don’t)
– Will you get enough time to practice the skills yourself and get comfortable?
Also, trust the vibe you get from the dive center!    You are doing this for fun, and the dive center’s vibe should match your own expectations for how you want to spend your day.    If you want a relaxed program, and the dive center is very strict about timings, process, etc., then even if they conduct a very thorough program, you won’t enjoy it as much.   Or vice versa.
 
5/  Be wary of huge discounts
Yes, it may be a little self-serving for us to be writing this, but honestly, we’ve all been (and still are) on the other end of this equation:  we all go on diving holidays as well, and one thing none of us do – despite being professionals with thousands of dives under our belts – is pick a dive center based on the lowest cost.    Do you pick schools or hospitals purely based on price?     If you are going to spend tens of thousands of rupees – or more – to fly all the way to the Andamans, then trying to save a few hundred rupees and picking the cheapest operator (see point #1 above) is false economy.
Focus on finding a dive center which is professional, has qualified dive leaders and which has a vibe you enjoy.     It is better to spend a little more and have a great time, vs saving a little and not really enjoying yourself.
Diving is a sport where the costs are fairly standard worldwide (dive professional salaries are similar across the world, dive gear costs the same and so on), so prices are fairly standardized in similar destinations (eg, popular high-volume destinations tend to be similarly priced,  remote locations tend to be similarly priced, and so on).    If you are getting a price that is significantly lower than average for the destination, then be suspicious.
6/  Review medical requirements before leaving on your trip
Diving is a safe sport and for Discover Scuba Diving / Try Dive programs, the medical requirements are quite minimal.   But there are still a few medical conditions which, in some cases, can increase your risk in diving – only your doctor is in a position to determine if those risks are applicable or not.   Not the dive center.    So if you answer “yes” to any of the listed medical conditions, reputable dive shops will not take you diving without a doctor’s clearance.
Please don’t argue this decision – if a company which earns money from taking you diving is refusing to do so, on the grounds of safety, they have good reason to for this.    And it involves YOUR safety.   In a lot of these cases, a doctor’s clearance solves the issue.    So if you have any pre-existing medical conditions, contact a dive center before your trip for a medical form, show it to your doctor and get a clearance before coming to the Andamans.
SUMMARY
Diving is not rocket science.    All it takes is a desire on your part to experience the underwater world, and a commitment on the part of the dive professional to ensure that you have the best possible time.    Sadly, that is not the case and too many people leave the Andamans having gotten an experience that is only a fraction of what could have been.   Which is a shame – a properly conducted program should wow you, and leave you raring to dive more.
Here at Diveindia, our programs are conducted by dive professionals, who have spent several months assisting after getting their pro certification before they take divers out independently.    We are owned and operated by divers, not businessmen sitting in a remote office, and we want to make sure you have such a great time that you continue your diving journey after this by doing a certification course and becoming a trained scuba diver.    Our programs are conducted one-on-one, based on PADI Discover Scuba Diving standards, and yes, you are registered with PADI at the end of the program.
Whether you dive with us or someone else, we encourage you to do your homework and support a professional, competent dive center.    You will have a better experience as a result.

PADI IDC Course India

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PADI IDC Course India

Interested in taking your dive career to the next level & becoming a PADI Instructor?
DIVEIndia, India’s oldest instructor training center, will be conducting a PADI IDC on Neil Island, Andamans, from March 19-April 9th. In keeping with our philosophy, the goal of the program is not to just get you certified as a dive instructor, but to also develop real world skill that you will need. Conducted by veteran PADI Course Director Mark Soworka and DIVEIndia’s founder, Vinnie, the course is split into four parts: a Prep course to review prior theory and skills, the core IDC itself, the Instructor Exam conducted by examiners from PADI, and upon successful completion of the program, an optional weeklong internship for candidates interested in getting their Master Scuba Diver Trainer rating, during which time we will also cover advanced techniques on control and teaching based on our 15 years of experience as India’s leading diver training center

DATES:

IDC Prep:   March 19 – 23, 2018

IDC:  March 24 – Apr 5, 2018

IE: April 6 – 7, 2018

MSDT & Internship after the IE

PRE-REQUISITES:
  • DM or equivalent with PADI, SSI or other recognized dive agency
  • 100 logged dives
  • Have been diving for 6 months
  • Completed medical form, signed by a doctor, within the last 12 months
  • Valid CPR/First Aid within the last 24 months
If you do not have a valid CPR/First Aid, we can retrain you during the Prep period.
PROGRAM DETAILS:
IDC Prep: This is a four day review program, covering dive theory, demonstration quality skills, as well as any other topics candidates feel like brushing up before the start of the IDC. This will be conducted by Vinnie.
IDC: Conducted by Mark Soworka, one of the leading Course Directors, and assisted by Vinnie, the core IDC program will cover all the elements needed to be a successful PADI instructor:   diver control, teaching the various diver training programs, risk management, the business side of diving and more.   As part of the IDC, candidates will also be getting their Emergency First Responder Instructor rating (EFRI).
IE:  The two day Instructor Exam will be conducted by independent examiners from PADI, and will cover dive theory, standards, confined water teaching, open water teaching and rescue assessment.   At the successful completion of this program, candidates will become PADI Open Water Scuba Instructors
MSDT/Internship: For candidates looking to get a jump on their career, we offer the option of getting your Master Scuba Diver Trainer rating and also the opportunity to intern at Diveindia for 7-10 days, and get some practical experience teaching, under the tutelage of our team of instructors.
For more information & to book: Please email vkalia@diveindia.com.
How to clear Scuba Mask

How to clear a Scuba Mask? Steps, Variants, Problems and Prevention

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How to clear a Scuba Mask?

One of the most essential skills in diving is learning to how to clear your mask. Water entering the mask is a fairly common occurrence and learning to  clear this efficiently can make the difference between continuing to have an enjoyable diving versus one where you get stressed, with potentially dangerous consequences. If you are nervous about clearing your mask, practice till that nervousness goes away. You only need a couple of things to click – and once they do, they’ll remain with you forever. Spend the time needed to nail this skill, because it really is fundamental to diving safety. Read the complete article on How to Clear your Mask: Steps, Variant, Problems and Prevention

Scuba Diving Andamans

Scuba diving courses: Andamans, India

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Scuba Diving Courses Andaman: Learn Scuba Diving
For those interested in learning to dive, we offer the Open Water Course.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be an expert swimmer, or a daredevil adventurer in order to dive. Recreational diving is one of the safest sports around, and is suitable for everyone from the age of 10 to 65-plus. All you need is basic swimming capabilities, moderate fitness levels (ability to walk a kilometer or two without fatigue) and good health.

The Open Water course consists of 3 sections:
– Academic development: Here, you learn the theory of diving. This is covered in a mix of video, self-study and instructor briefings
– Confined water training: here, you master the essential skills of scuba, starting from the simple (breathing underwater) and working your way up to complex (removing/replacing your equipment underwater)
– Open water dives: now you get a chance to apply everything that you have learned by actually diving. We do 4 dives in the open water, where you repeat some of the skills that you learned earlier, and where you also get a chance to dive, enjoy yourself and soak in the wonders of the underwater world.

At the successful completion of this course, you receive a certification card from PADI or SSI, two of the largest diver training agencies in the world.

A quick word on these agencies: either of these cards will let you dive anywhere in the world – both are universally accepted (contrary to a popular misconception that one works better than the other). They are also interchangeable (you can start with one and switch to another, and each agency recognises the other’s cards). Regardless of which option you choose, you get a high-quality course. There are some minor differences in curriculum (more so at higher training levels), add-ons and pricing, and these, rather than brand, should form the basis of your decision. Our instructors will be happy to work with you in selecting the course that is just right for you – contact us for more info.

Typically, the Open Water course lasts 4 full days. However, we recognize that different people learn at different speeds – besides, you are on vacation and may want to spread out your training. So, the time to certification can be more or less. Two things are for sure: we will not rush you, and we will not compromise on your training.

The DIVEIndia approach: As with our diving, we believe in small groups and personalized attention for training. With our large staff of instructors, we are able to keep our classes small – usually 4:1 or better student:professional ratio – ensuring that you get all the personal attention that you need. Furthermore, as with all our courses, we go WELL beyond the bare minimum in terms of how skills are integrated, in terms of amount of in-water time you will get and also the degree of comfort and mastery that we impart before certifying someone.

Please keep in mind – just as all coaches, teachers and colleges are not the same, neither are all diving programs the same. We conduct what we consider to be one of the best Open Water training programs you will find in Asia (and even elsewhere): we have one of the most experienced teams of instructors in the region, we go well above the bare minimum in terms of standards and our goal is to actually make you a qualified diver, not just check off a set of skills and let you go. Think of the difference between learning a subject and learning to pass an exam – that sums up the DIVEIndia difference.

If you have any health-related concerns about learning to dive, please download the Medical Statement form which goes over a medical checklist. If you answer “yes” to any of the questions there, please get medical clearance from your doctor prior to reaching Havelock. You will need one separate clearance for every question to which you answer “yes.”

We highly recommend you club the Open Water Course with the Advanced Open Water Course.

The PADI Advanced Open Water course / SSI Advanced Adventurer (same rose, different names) consists of 5 dives: two are mandatory (Deep Dive and Underwater Navigation – Night is highly recommended), and for the remainder, you can choose from 15 options, including Night, Computer, Naturalist, Buoyancy, Wreck, Boat, Underwater Photography and lots more.

This is a practical course (emphasis on in-water training) and is meant to give you experience in diving under different conditions, as well as provide you with a deeper understanding of dive theory, planning and techniques.

And the reason we suggest clubbing the two courses is because it has the following benefits:
– you learn more and become a significantly better diver when you do both the OW and the Advanced
– you retain your skills longer, as you are better able to internalize the diving skills
– you are able to dive to 30m and thereby visit some of the best sites of the Andamans
– our Open + Advanced combo works out to be staggeringly good value

You do not need to commit to this in advance, but if possible, try to keep 2-3 days extra on hand after the course for this. Virtually every one who has done the combo has loved it.

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Skills vs comfort

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Posted by Vandit Kalia |

One of the most interesting things about the scuba training agencies is that they actually have 2 fairly contradictory drivers. On one hand, their goal is to set standards that let instructors produce trained, safe divers. On the other hand, since virtually all agencies these days are for-profit, they also want to make money [and that isnt a bad thing for the industry], which means making the training as accessible and modular as possible.
And as I have said for the most part, it works. Think about what actually goes on: every time someone wants to become a diver, a for-profit company somewhere has to sign off on it and gets paid for doing so; it also gets paid by both the dive center & the instructor for the privilege of getting paid to do so. Occam’s Razor says that for this state of affairs to continue, the agencies must provide some value. And that they do. For all the chest-beating that goes on in various forums, statistics show that diving is becoming safer.
At the same time, what is happening is that standards are actually getting reduced and pared to the bare minimum needed in order to dive safely and with some modicum of competency. This also makes sense in the context that it is coming from – the goal of the agencies is to make diving as accessible as possible, and if a particular skill has no real practical value or safety benefit, why keep it in there? And remember what I said about diving becoming safer… these cuts truly do pare out the fat, not the meat.
Beginner instructors typically follow the guidelines prescribed to them by their agency of choice, which lets them teach a competent course, provided they follow the standards both in letter and spirit (which, to their credit, most new instructors do). However, as instructors gain experience, they start to develop their own training philosophies and approach, and their courses take on a unique flavor. Every experienced instructor, consciously or not, ends up with a target “end goal” for his students, and a preferred teaching progression which lets him get the student there [more on this in a later post].
And this is where sometimes, instructors face an external limitation: market dynamics. I might decide that the best way to teach someone to dive would be to take 3 full classroom days, 3 full days of shallow water training and 5 days / 10 dives. This would cost about Rs 35,000-40,000. How many customers do you think I’d get this way? Not enough to stay in business!
And this isnt a bad thing either – most people really DONT need 8-10 days of training in order to acquire enough skills to meet the industry’s training benchmark: be able to dive safely. As I said earlier, diving is getting a lot safer, even though a bunch of skills from 20 years ago are no longer taught. Some will argue that this is b/c the gear is safer and I say, so what? Safer is safer, doesn’t matter why.
So what instructors end up doing is prioritising and focusing more on the critical skills that they feel get the student to their preferred end goals. For example, when I teach Open Water, my main end goals for the students are:
– They should be comfortable without a mask
– They should be able to hold their depth (it is ok for them to flap their hands occasionally if they need to, for balance, as long as they know how to keep working on improving their buoyancy and how to handle any buoyancy issues quickly and decisively)
– They should be conservative with air/depth/NDLs, and about staying with a buddy
I humbly submit to you that if you stay with your buddy, watch your air/NDLs and are able to maintain your buoyancy, you are going to be diving safely (to head off the obvious: this is not to say that these are the only things you learn; merely that these are most important). I actually think virtually all of my students could go diving with a buddy the very next dive, without a DM, and execute the dive safely. They may not be able to make it back exactly to the starting point, but from the diving point of view, they have the skills to dive safely.
Now, the question is – do divers feel that degree of confidence? I have long felt that there are about 3 “evolutions” in a diver’s abilities:
– Jump 1 happens at around 9-12 dives (not coincidentally, when you finish the Advanced course, if doing the OW + AOW combo) – this is where your average diver starts gaining some confidence in his or her own abilities
– Jump 2 happens at around the 20-25 dive mark, which is when buoyancy starts to become automatic and the diver is able to handle a greater level of task-loading without any problems (again not coincidentally, that is why 25 dives is the requirement to go to some of our deeper sites)
-Jump 3 happens somewhere in the 60-100 dive mark, when the slow and efficient movements become a second nature (this I have seen with Divemaster Candidates, when they start to look like dive pros).
Of course, improvement is a continual thing and there is a big improvement from, say, 100 to 1000 dives: but those are evolutionary in nature. The three marks above are points at which I personally have seen a relatively big and observable jump in abilities and comfort levels. And I am, of course, making a gross generalization. If you do 20 dives in a row vs doing 4 a year for 5 years, there will be a big difference in when the jump happens. Innate ability also matters – if you are, say, a competitive swimmer, your body adapts to the water very easily as it has a much greater K-Factor. But for the most part, I think these marks are fairly accurate.
I ran a poll on our Facebook page asking people at what point they felt confident about diving with a buddy, and without professional supervision. 25% of the divers felt it was at To be honest, the expected number of dives to gain the confidence were higher than I expected. I was expecting more answers to be clustered around the Jump 1 point, but instead, almost 50% of the respondents picked a number around the Jump 2 point.
This tells me something – that while we, as an industry, may do a good job of teaching the actual skills to divers, we do not develop a commensurate level of confidence in those abilities.
To a large extent, that is understandable: confidence should properly come only after the skills have been tested – ie, once people have done a bunch of dives after certification, possibly in a couple of locations, and realised that that what they were taught in such a relatively short amount of time was indeed sufficient to dive safely. Anything else would just be false, untested assumptions.
And again, the goal of the self-policing scuba training industry is not to set the entry-level bar at a very high level, producing perfect divers: I still remember the old club days when it used to take almost a month before a diver got into the water – talk about overkill for the vast majority of people who want to go out, dive a few times and see some nice fish. No, the goal of the scuba industry is to draw more people into the world of diving by giving them the skills to dive safely and competently, and making the sport as accessible as possible to people (and speaking as someone who has certified a bunch of kids and a 71-year old, that is a Good Thing) – anything beyond that is, and should be, the responsibility of the diver. And of course, the agencies do provide all the additional tools needed for continuing to build their skills?
But at the same time, a part of me wonders – what if this lack of confidence leads to additional stress if something goes wrong? In other words, instead of (in my best Obi Wan voice), trusting their instincts and their training, divers hit the panic button if something goes wrong simply because they lack the confidence in their skills?
I dont know the answer to that. I do know genuine confidence comes from in-water time. We’ve taken some steps to boost that, by maximising the amount of time divers get in the water (long open water dives, trying to fit in a 5th dive or even a 6th dive sometimes if time allows, adding another day of diving past the course to the Learn to Dive package, discounting the Advanced course to the point that we make less money on it than on 5 dives, and that is before factoring instructor time and certification costs).
But really, if people are saying 20-25 dives, then despite these measures, there is still a gap: one that cannot realistically be filled within the price/time constraints of an Open Water course. This is where additional training comes in – more courses (Advanced or Specialties, for example) always help accelerate learning. However, even just getting out there and diving is a good way to keep testing and improving your skills.
So the main message to all new divers should be: congrats, you have learned to dive and acquired the skills. But you still need to test these skills out, continue to refine them and convince yourself of your mastery of these skills. That part of the journey is yours, and yours alone to make: as a certified diver, you are now in charge of honestly assessing and improving your skills.
And on a side note, I will say this – trust what you’ve learned in the Open Water. A few days may not seem like a lot, but when you drill down to it, diving is not that complicated either. You’d be surprised at what you are capable of doing after a well-taught Open Water course.

Because of the ridiculous amount of spams blogs attract, comments have been disabled, but please post your thoughts on our Facebook group, if you would like to discuss. Also edited to avoid confusion.

Online Learning – the way ahead

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Posted by Vandit Kalia |

One of the downsides of being an instructor for a very long time is the tendency to get set in your ways and become resistant to change. To an extent, that is understandable: I’ve been teaching for 12 years now, and have, through continuous refinement, developed a method that works for me. While this refinement is an always-ongoing process, radical change can often be more disruptive than not. I do try to keep an open mind, but generally speaking, implementing a big change in my teaching process/philosophy only happens if there is an equally big impetus for this change: either I come across a new situation with a student (very rare, these days), or something changes in diving sciences (also not that common), etc.
One area where I have decided to embrace change is Online Learning – where you complete your dive theory online, via the website of dive agencies like PADI and SSI.
Online Learning has been around for a few years now, and I have to admit, I have been a little less-than-enthusiastic in how we’ve embraced this new technology. My rationale has been that the more contact time I have with a student – be it in the water or in the “classroom” (if our beachside tables can be called that!) – the more time I have to get to know them (how they think, are they nervous, what sort of instruction method will be best for them, etc). And the more customised I can make my course for my students, the more effective and efficient their training.
With that in mind, I have always felt that online learning removes an element of this instructor-student contact. In addition, there may also be a greater cost to the students (in terms of registration fees). So while we certainly have pointed people out to the Online Learning sections of the PADI and SSI websites when they inquire, we haven’t been actively pushing it.
However, recently we’ve had a stream of students who’ve completed their dive theory online and it has been a bit of a revelation for us.
When the student comes to the dive center having already completed Online Learning, we – as instructors – do not have to spend as much time with them covering the basics (and let’s face it – the basics of scuba, at least at the Open Water are indeed very simple and do not require extended training to master). What has happened is that suddenly, freed from the time demands of teaching the basics, we have a lot more time to build upon the basics. This allows us to use the instructor-student contact time to expand upon the minimum knowledge requirements and get into more detail on refining buoyancy concepts, teaching about marine life, decompression theory, etc.
So as it turns out, online learning has not resulted in reduced student contact – the student contact time remains the same, but we are able to use it to add more concepts to the student’s learning.
Consider us converts!
Online learning can be done here:
PADI: http://www.padi.com/elearning-scuba-registration/
SSI: http://www.divessi.com/online_training
NAUI: http://www.naui.org/elearningdemo.aspx

DIVEIndia is now affiliated with NAUI

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While all agencies do a very competent job of training divers, some agencies stand out for taking a slightly different approach. NAUI, which has been a non-profit agency for most of its existence and which even today follows those standards, is one such agency.
With the highest standards for virtually all levels of recreational diver training, NAUI has always been associated with excellence in diver training.
And so it is with great pride that we announce that as of February 2009, DIVEIndia is now offering NAUI certification courses, all the way from basic Open Water (the NAUI Scuba Diver course) up to Instructor.
We are very excited about the added flexibility this gives us in meeting the needs of our customers. Whether you are a beginner who want the best entry level training, a certified divers who want to improve his/her diving skills or an experienced divers who want to master the theoretical and practical aspects of diving, we now have a program that will meet your needs.
Please contact us for more information on our NAUI courses!
Vinnie