Scuba Diving Lessons – Home or Away?
Someone recently asked us why would anyone take the Open Water course in chilly Ontario rather than on holiday in the tropical sun. After a brief chat, our doubter realized that the many benefits of taking the course at home perhaps outweighed those of taking it on vacation. Our Doubting Jane became our student and took the Open Water class and pool portion of the course at the Toronto Scuba Centre, then completed their certification dives on holiday in Belize.
The question above is one of the most common questions for prospective new divers. Although the warmer option may seem more obvious, there are, in fact, pros and cons for both options. A third option offers additional advantages: like our student, you can take the class and pool portions of an Open Water course at home and then complete the certification dives abroad. PADI permits you to “refer” your partially-completed course from one PADI establishment to another. This way you can both have your cake and eat it.
The single most obvious deterrent to a course at home is the coolness of our northern waters. While local North American and European waters do significantly chill over the winter and spring, the fact is that only a small portion of the Open Water course is completed outdoors. Even then, certification dives are normally only performed during the summer (when the water is markedly warmer) and ordinarily in protected and shallow environments. Water temperatures as a result, are only fractionally cooler than tropical waters. The use of appropriate exposure protection further reduces the cold, making the local open water experience generally pleasant.
Another deterrent is that North America overall is simply not prepossessed with exotic and colourful flora or fauna. But consider this: if you can get excited about diving in low visibility and with little to see, imagine how much more you will appreciate your future tropical dive vacations! Further, if you learn to dive in slightly more challenging conditions, then you will likely find that you have far more skill and confidence when diving in perfect warm water conditions.
Perhaps the most compelling advantage of local certification is enjoying every moment of your hard-earned vacation. No classroom or pool for you on holiday! If you have completed your course at home, you can jump right into that underwater paradise the day after you arrive. Even if you need to do the certification dives, you are still out in the sun and ocean, enjoying the scene.
Finally, one other potential issue is that you may not get what you bargained for abroad. Sometimes both language and professional standards may be a barrier at your chosen destination. Researching your preferred choice is obviously much easier at home then it is abroad. If necessary you can both talk to and visit your prospective dive professionals to see if they are the right fit for you. Abroad, you may find that you end up paying twice to use a different outfit, once you discover that your preferred operator has language issues or simply leaves you feeling uncomfortable at their professionalism.
Although it may seem a clear choice to take an Open Water course on your holidays, just think about it first. You may find that a local option often works far better than you imagine.