Top 6 Places to Learn How to Dive
Why spend your next vacation sightseeing on land when you could be sightseeing underwater? Turn your next trip into an amazing, life-changing voyage by earning your scuba diving certification in less than one week.
Learn to Dive in These Scuba Diving Destinations
The Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) is the world’s leading scuba instruction organization, and getting your PADI Open Water Diver certification is your ticket to underwater exploration. You can find one of 5,800 PADI-licensed dive shops and schools almost anywhere in the world. Here are six of the best places to become an Open Water Diver.
1. For a Private Diving Experience: Montserrat, West Indies
What Makes it Special: Once upon a time, this small island near Antigua was the playground of the rich. Then, in the late-90s, the island’s volcano roared to life and devastated the southern end of the island. Although most residents were unharmed, many relocated overseas. Now with a population of under 5,000, Montserrat is a beautiful, near-deserted island of verdant green rainforest and empty beaches.
Why Learn to Dive Here? A balmy subtropical climate, pristine underwater environment, and zero crowds.
What You’ll Find Underwater: Big barracudas, small sharks, sea turtles, spiny lobster, countless colourful reef fish, impressively sized corals and barrel sponges.
Learn to Dive with: Scuba Montserrat‘s patient and bubbly Emmy Aston.
Don’t Miss: Snorkeling the Bat Cave. Let the tide rock you as you look up at thousands of roosting fruit bats. It’s a near-mystical experience.
Travel Tip: To make the most of this magical place, rent a car and a villa such as the Canadian-owned Villa Pimenta.
2. For Budget Travel: Utila, Honduras
What Makes it Special: This tiny Caribbean island (just 11km long and 4km wide) is the definition of laidback, rustic island living and attracts many youthful backpackers. Everything you need can be found on the main drag-no car or moped required.
Why Learn to Dive Here? It’s on the pristine Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (the world’s second largest reef system). It’s also one of the world’s cheapest places to get certified.
What You’ll Find Underwater: Dolphins, manta rays, sharks, eagle rays, moray eels, stingrays, and the biggest fish in the ocean-whale sharks.
Learn to Dive with: One of 17 PADI-affiliated dive shops located on the island.
Don’t Miss: An excursion to one of the miniature coral islands known as the Utila Cayes. Sunbathe, snorkel, beachcomb and enjoy lunch fresh from the sea.
Travel Tip: Stay at the bedazzled and over-the-top Jade Seahorse cabins. At night, its Treetanic treehouse bar is the place to be.
3. For a Relaxed Family Vacation: St. Kitts
What Makes it Special: St. Kitts offers the amenities of big resorts-kids’ clubs, familiar foods, private beaches-in a lush, historic setting. Your kids will have a blast between beachcombing, riding the Sugar Train, and checking out Brimstone Hill Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Plus, there are green monkeys everywhere!
Why Learn to Dive Here? White sand beaches, a multitude of reefs, walls and wrecks between St. Kitts and neighbouring Nevis, great snorkeling in between dives.
What You’ll Find Underwater: Sea turtles, sharks, sting rays, lobsters, angelfish, snappers and large schools of jacks.
Learn to Dive with: Scuba Safaris based out of Nevis.
Don’t Miss: Dinner at Sprat Net, where the catch of the day is literally what was hauled in that day by the owners.
Travel Tip: If big resorts are not your style, other lodging options include inns on former sugar plantations, luxury boutique hotels and rental villas.
4. For Sun, Sea and Socializing: Phuket, Thailand
What Makes it Special: Thailand’s a global hotspot, with numerous topside attractions including shopping and a thriving nightlife. Phuket, on the country’s western Andaman Sea side, boasts ancient Buddhist temples, gorgeous beaches, mangrove forests and waterfalls.
Why Learn to Dive Here? Spectacular reef and underwater rock formations, a vast array of underwater life, calm, crystal clear waters hovering at a warm 28 degrees Celsius. It’s budget-friendly, too.
What You’ll Find Underwater: Moray eels, leopard sharks, seahorses, plenty of coral.
Learn to Dive with: If you want to avoid the crowds, consider booking onto a dive liveaboard (boat) that can get you to the more secluded sites.
Don’t Miss: If you’re travelling the entire country, visit the Elephant Nature Park outside Chiang Mai in the northern part of Thailand. Unfortunately, many elephants catering to the tourist trade in or around Phuket are less well taken care of.
Travel Tip: Some regions of Thailand have recently experienced violent political unrest, so check travel advisories before booking.
5. For an Old School Atlantic Adventure: The Florida Keys
What Makes it Special: The Keys boast the longest living reef in the Western Hemisphere, over 500 wrecks, and visibility beyond 100 feet. Topside, don’t miss Everglades National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Why Learn to Dive Here? Over 600 species of fish call the Keys home. The island chain is surrounded by the protected marine habitat of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
What You’ll Find Underwater: Eels and giant groupers, lobsters, large schools of snapper and more.
Learn to Dive with: There are dive shops galore in Key Largo, which is also known as the “Diving Capital of the World”.
Don’t Miss: The haunting bronze statue, Christ of the Abyss, nestled within the coral of Key Largo Dry Docks reef. It’s in just 25 feet of water so snorkelers can take a gander too.
Travel Tip: The Florida Keys were fortunately unaffected by the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill.
6. For Luxe Living by the Great Barrier Reef: Hamilton Island, Australia
What Makes it Special: Besides its proximity to the world’s largest reef, Hamilton Island boasts high-end lodgings, yachting, golf, fine dining, parasailing, target shooting and hang gliding.
Why Learn to Dive Here? The main attraction is just a boat ride away, and there’s also a fringing reef you can swim to from the beach.
What You’ll Find Underwater: An estimated 1,500 to 2,000 different types of fish. Expect colourful wrasse, as well as angelfish, butterfly fish, giant groupers, schools of surgeonfish and clownfish hiding in stinging anemones.
Learn to Dive with: H2O Sports Australia, a PADI 5-star facility.
Don’t Miss: A day trip to Fantasea Reefworld, where you can snorkel the sheltered waters of a platform reef. With underwater viewing chambers, sundecks and childcare, it’s an experience entire families can enjoy.
Travel Tip: Instead of the less-compelling Cairns, opt to fly to Hamilton Island via Sydney or Melbourne, and arrange to spend a day or two exploring before coming home.