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10 Tips to find a good dive center

What to look for when you travel or at home to ascertain you have a good and safe experience:

1. Ratings

Training organizations tend to give ratings to associated dive centers, like Gold Palm etc. A low rating means usually that facilities and equipment are not at high standard. To get a high rating a dive center has to do mainly a lot of certifications, So it’s not always a good quality standard, but it helps - still check on the details.

2. Boats

You’ll be spending a lot of time in boats, even with short boat rides almost as much as you spend under water. Comfort on the boat is important as safety. Make sure the operator has real dive boats, built with divers in mind. Important things to look for are:
  • is there enough space in sun or shade available,
  • a dive platform close to water level (back rolls can be dangerous)
  • comfortable ladders to come back into the boat
  • good access to the boat from dock or shore
  • toilet and fresh water shower on board
  • proper seating and tank racks
  • is there more than one boat, because divers have different interests and levels
  • 3. Boats Safety

    Safety on the boat needs a lot of attention. Is the vessel general in good condition? Does the crew make a good, well organized impression on you? Do they do a safety briefing before the boat leaves harbor? Is there a roll call done before leaving the dock and after each dive? Is the dive master using a surface float on all drift dives? (don’t buy that nonsense about following bubbles) Don’t mind asking for Oxygen, First Aid and gear spare kit on the boat. Is there a working VHF radio on the boat and possibly a cell phone for emergencies? Not to mention enough live vests, flares, binoculars, doesn’t everybody have those today? Are tanks and weights on the boat, hard to believe, that there are still operators, where customers have to carry tanks and pay for that!

    4. Equipment

    Even if you have all your own, have a look at the rental equipment. Is it a good brand name, does it look well maintained and not old and worn out? How is it presented and is there enough for the size of operation. The rental equipment can tell a story about the operator. Be always suspicious, if rental is cheap. Good equipment and proper maintenance is not.

    5. Shop Facilities

    Is the dive center in a good location, do they provide pick up at your hotel if necessary ? Are there toilets and showers, rinse facilities for the equipment and storage for your equipment during your stay? Does the dive center have a class room and a shop, where you can buy the little things you might need during you holiday?

    6. Compressor

    Is there more than one compressor? A broken one can be the end of your dive vacation as well as a broken boat and these things happen. Are the tanks Hydro tested and are tanks and valves in good shape? Is the air clean (just cup your clean hand in front of the valve, open it slightly and smell- there should be no odor at all!) Are there monitoring devices installed on the compressors? These check the air and make sure filters are changed in time, a good center should have that. Does the center offer Nitrox? Try it and you don’t want anything else!

    7. Staff

    Does the dive center have enough staff for training and diving, to cater for all the different needs of beginners and advanced divers? Is all staff trained in First Aid and Oxygen provider, to be able to help in the rare event of an accident? Is the dive center employing and training local staff? It is very important to give back to the communities. Only if they participate in tourism you can have a great and safe vacation. Lot’s of destinations are cheap, because local people are exploited to subsistence. You wouldn’t like this happen to you at home.

    8. Environment

    That is what it all is about. If we don’t protect it, there will be nothing left to dive at. An environmental friendly operator should be involved in local conservation efforts and respect the laws. The boats should use moorings, no anchoring in reefs. All divers have to be encouraged for good buoyancy control and not to take/touch anything.

    9. Photo & Video

    Memories of your last holiday are an important part of it. You spent a lot of your hard earned money on your camera and want to be sure it has its space on the boat too. Check if the operator has sufficient camera facilities, camera table and separate rinse tanks on the boat. An overcrowded small boat with no safe space can be the end for your camera. Ask, if you can go at your own pace with the camera, conditions and experience permitting. Some offer you also Solo diver certification, imagine ’ only you and your camera.

    10. Price

    Unfortunately I can’t tell you here to go for the cheapest. A good dive operation is quiet an investment and the running costs are very high, especially fuel cost these days. Cheap usually means cutting corners, but they are cut around your safety and well being. Nobody wants to do ’cattle ’diving, but good operators are busy in season. The secret is to provide diving in small groups, and to let experienced divers go on their own. Nobody really likes to go in an empty restaurant to eat’.. Mostly you can safe, when you book in advance, it also assures your space in the boat and guarantees service.

    - SpiceDivers