Dive Connection is your Scuba Diving Information on Diving Liveaboards, Diving Training, Courses and Pro Career Development.
Dive Connection is the result of our two decades of experience as diver trainers, professional career trainers, expert travel consultants for liveaboard diving cruises, and advisers. We wish to give divers and dive professionals alike a global view of scuba diving activities worldwide.
By navigating this site, you will hopefully find what is of most interest to you: what is involved in becoming a certified diver and who can train you, traveling around the world to the ultimate diving destinations, diving the best wrecks of the world, experiencing your first liveaboard diving cruise, taking your first underwater photo, extending your deep diving knowledge with a technical diving approach, or becoming a diving professional.
We encourage all divers who have had great experiences (or bad ones…) on diving trips to write them and send them to us, and we will publish the best stories on our upcoming special “Divers Stories” page.
We would also like to publish diving safety related issues, so if you have met conscientious dive operators and facilities who aim to surpass safety standards, or if you had bad experiences with unsafe diving operations or practices, you can let other divers know through the Divers Stories page.
We will tell you about the greatest diving destinations worldwide and how to organize trips there, either on your own or assisted by dive travel experts.
We also have some pages for the more professionally oriented. You are welcome to ask us any dive business related questions, business opportunities inquiries or postings, or diving career related questions. We will answer queries and post business opportunities worldwide free of charge, for the benefit of the entire diving community.
Table of Content
- Training Agencies
- Diving Courses
- Diving Travel
- Great Destinations
- Divers Stories
- Diving Business
- Training News
- Pro Career
- Tek Diving
This page is designed for divers-to-be or certified divers who wish to carry on their education. Here you can find more information about the different diver certification agencies available worldwide.
The modern world of abundance gives many opportunities to the shopper on and offline. Scuba diving is no exception and a lot of divers are wondering about the differences between agencies and how to choose the right one for them. We hope this review to be of some help to you in your dive training quest of excellence.
The list below will present briefly the major international diver training and certifying agencies. This list is not exhaustive and we would be glad to add any other agencies not listed here. We present the agencies with a brief history, country of origin, training philosophy, and synopsis of basic courses.
What matters most is who teaches you, not the card!
The National Association of Underwater Instructors. Founded in 1960 in the United States, NAUI organized the first ever non-military instructor course on American soil.
This association is a non-profit association and provides a high standard of leadership training, academic freedom for its instructors to teach in and a Board of 9 Directors elected by its membership democratically, as well as high quality books and educational materials. The headquarters are in Tampa, Florida, but NAUI divers and members can interact with the association through their regional representatives and service centers. NAUI training features more dives and more rescue training than any other association for all levels of certification. The association is best summarized by its long recognized mottos: “Dive Safety Through Education” and “the Quality Difference”.
NAUI is NASA’s choice for training the astronauts in their EVAs simulation in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston, Texas.
Formed in 1969 but in the early 1960’s various other training agencies standards were in use throughout Canada. Sense many of these standards had been developed in warm, good visibility waters it was not long before pressure was exerted on A.C.U.C. to develop a scuba training program suitable for diving in lower temperature, limited visibility waters where tides, and sometimes altitudes, were taken into account. With the advent of the first Canadian designed Scuba Certification Program in 1969, A.C.U.C. emerged as Canada’s indigenous scuba certification body, thereby providing a high quality Canadian alternative to the warm water certification training that had spread into Canada.
The American Canadian Underwater Certifications, Inc., now popularly known as ACUC International, has grown to become an international leader in high quality sport diver training. The Head Office is located in Ontario, Canada, which is responsible for the overall running of the Company as well as their North American operations. ACUC – Europe, located in Madrid, Spain, is responsible for our operations in Europe, Asia, Africa, Central & South America, and Australia. Besides Canada and Spain, up to now, we also celebrate the opening of delegation offices in Argentina, Austria, Benelux (Holland, Belgium & Luxembourg), Cuba, Ecuador, Germany, Israel, Italy, Mexico and Venezuela.
They teach all levels of recreational scuba diving, from basic Scuba Diver to Instructor Trainer. We also, through an agreement with LifeGuard Systems, offer training in the Public Safety sector. ACUC certified Divers, Divemasters and Instructors are known world wide for their excellent knowledge and diving skills….and that makes them very proud!
ACUC is a founding member of the Canadian and European RSTC and therefore we recognize and are recognized by, all WRSTC council member’s agencies. ACUC also holds mutual recognition agreements with CMAS for our diver levels.
Confederation Mondiale des Activites Subaquatiques or the World Underwater Federation was created in the mid-50’s by well known Jacques Cousteau and early diving enthusiasts in Europe. Originally hosted in France, its headquarters are today in Italy.
This association represents affiliated underwater activities federations of any of its country members. Scuba diving is one among other activities such as free diving, u/w photography, fin swimming, u/w hunting, and u/w navigation, which are organized yearly into regional and world championships by local federations. To respond to more international demand and in the wake of unifying the standards of practice of the scuba diving federations, the association created its own courses curriculum with international recognition.
Scuba Schools International was created in the States in the late sixties and has gained international audience through the years. This association has been since incorporated and is centered around affiliated diving centers. All members interact with the dive center being the supplier.
The association developed a complete diver’s curriculum from beginner to leadership, which is supported by excellent training and educational materials.
The Professional Association of Diving Instructors was created in Chicago in 1966, and has moved since to California. PADI has become with the years the leader in volume of certified divers. The association has also developed a complete curriculum to train divers from beginner levels to professional, supported by a huge variety of educational materials. The association emphasizes the self study of divers and their instructors are taught to interact minimally with their students on knowledge development. The association is well represented worldwide by its Local Area Offices and regional managers.
Young Men Christian Association Scuba Program, created in 1960 and based today in Georgia, USA. Earlier an American CMAS affiliated diving association, it has developed a diver training curriculum from beginner to instructor level. Known for its rigorous and tough training, it has remained until today a non-profit scuba association. YMCA instructors can be found worldwide.
Professional Diving Instructors Corporation, founded in the late 60’s in the States, its headquarters are in Pennsylvania. PDIC has developed very attractive diver training programs with corresponding educational materials. Their instructors can also be found worldwide, but PDIC members are more commonly encountered in Northern America and the Caribbean.
National Association of Scuba Diving Schools. Founded in the late 60’s too with headquarters in the United States, this association’s focus is on the diving school to which instructors must belong in order to certify students. Therefore, independent NASDS instructors can’t be found. Certification has international recognition, but schools of this association are more commonly found within the United States and Canada.
The British Sub-Aqua Club was founded in the United Kingdom (England) in 1954 and was one of the very first diving associations to join the CMAS with the French diving federation (FFESSM) and the Italian federation (ANIS). The club’s diver training is recognized worldwide as one of the best training recreational divers can get, although the training is harsh. Club members and instructors can be found now in over 50 countries around the world and BSAC has developed a complete network of affiliated clubs. Every course is supported with excellent training materials and the complete curriculum from “novice diver” up to “advanced diver” is one of the most complete the industry has to offer today.
The International Diving Educators Association was founded in Florida, USA in 1979. It has become with the years a solid name in diver education worldwide and the association has developed a fine network of professional educators in Europe recently.
Comite Europeen Des Instructeurs de Plongee (European Committee of Diving Instructors), created in the 80’s with the development of the European Union, the committee is based in Juan Les Pins, France. It represents some major diver training agencies from different European countries such as France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Holland. CEDIP members are worldwide and it is a growing association better known to European divers. Course curricula follow standards of the country’s association affiliated agency and a double faced certification card is issued to the student.
Handicapped Scuba Association. Founded in the States, California in 1981 and based in San Clemente, it is the most recognized international diver agency for disabled people. It is a non-profit association which has designed a complete curriculum for disabled persons to be able to enjoy safe diving practices. All skills are adapted to the handicap of the person and allow very safe participation in recreational scuba diving activities. The diving community will never appreciate enough what this association is doing to bring scuba diving to our disabled peers. The programs designed (in cooperation with NAUI and PADI) have reached well deserved international audience.
Non diver certification agency: DAN: Divers Alert Network. Based in Duke University, it is the worldwide diving safety and data collector on diving accidents. DAN’s work has a tremendous impact on how agencies are evolving their training. They developed a comprehensive network of members worldwide and help in making scuba diving even safer than it is. Divers and professionals can become members of the Network, and their insurance policy programs is one of the best recognized worldwide. DAN offers 24 hours calling service with assistance in all the major recompression chambers in the world.
This is designed to help divers to find their way to better and safer diving instruction and courses. We believe that the best scuba diving training is when no compromise will be made on skills, knowledge, and safety and rescue techniques.
We are living today in a world of shortcuts, where everything has to be easier, faster, cheaper, but still somehow better than before. As we have learnt from years of training experience, there is no shortcut to quality training in whatever activity you might choose. Don’t choose the cheapest or fastest course! Choose the best course, taught by experienced professionals who care about you and your future diving safety and enjoyment.
As mentioned, there is a lot of good training out there, but there is also a lot of unprofessional and unsafe training going on as well. Agencies design their standards of practice and course curriculum according to their philosophy regarding the development of recreational scuba training. Some want volume and are more business oriented, some prefer to stay more modest and design their courses with more requirements, making courses longer and more demanding. Agencies pass on their training philosophy to their leaders and instructors, who in turn, are in charge of getting the message through their students.
Your instructor is far more important than your certification card!
We would like to emphasize the fact that as a future diver or future dive leader, dive master, assistant instructor or instructor, you should be more aware of the experience and the background of your trainer than of all the advantages or freebies you will have by taking any specific course. Any “instructor” can teach a scuba course badly. Only an educator will take the time and make the effort to train you thoroughly and to a safe level of knowledge. We emphasize this because we have seen so many bad courses and unsafe divers and diving practices. Please take your time in choosing your agency and your instructor.
Remember that if price is your only concern, you will get what you pay for. Please also keep in mind that experienced professionals in any field will ask you to pay the appropriate price for their expertise. If you go to a “cheap Charlie” you will get cheap training – large classes, distracted instructors, a “diver factory” of badly trained divers being turned out. This is the worst way to begin diving.
There are two ways to get trained nowadays:
The “fast food, easy going, short cutting” style, where agencies have cut their traditional programs from four to three days and even less, have dropped the lowest age at which you can begin diving, and rely far more upon videos and texts than the knowledge of the instructor.
We recommend the “do it right, safety first” style, where the training agency has not cut off any training days or dives from their courses, and where divers are trained by knowledgeable, caring instructors who don’t have to rely 100% on videos to cover their own lack of expertise.
The major training agencies have divided their training into two curriculums:
The recreational diver path and the dive professional path. Both can easily interact with each other. At the beginning of the progression, the diver will find the skin diver certification or the resort/introductory scuba program, which is not a certification course, but a professionally guided discovery of diving.
At the certification level comes the novice/beginner course followed by advanced level courses with more diving tasks. Then comes rescue diver training and specialty diver courses, to help divers develop more in depth knowledge and skills in very specific areas such as: deep diving, night diving, wreck diving, underwater photography and video, etc.
The professional path is divided usually into three to four different levels of progression on the way to achieving the rating of dive instructor of a given training agency. A professional path is mostly developed as a career development program and will conduct training up to instructor levels. Every level entitles the recipient to work and earn money with the functions he/she will occupy upon completion of the course.
In all agencies, only certified instructors in good standing with their association can certify divers.
All agencies require instructor candidates to be a dive leader of a recognized agency prior entering the instructor course. The amount of experience required to enter the instructor training program varies by agency.
According to our experience, here is a classification of the three training agencies, which in our opinion are producing, through their instructors, the most highly trained, confident, and safe divers worldwide.
NAUI, BSAC and CMAS
One more time, there are a lot of excellent diving instructors out there, and your duty to get the best diving course is to check the experience and achievements of your trainer.
If you are living in an area of the world where scuba diving seems to be a real effort more than fun (cold water, possibly rough conditions) please consider the following: you will get more realistic and difficult training in non-dream like conditions. Training in more challenging conditions makes you a more experienced diver than one who trains in easy tropical conditions. Moreover, you will be fully certified as a diver when comes the time for you to enjoy the thrill of tropical water diving. Why should you spend 4 or 5 days of your hard earned holidays training, when you could do it at your own pace at home and have more fun diving on your dream diving vacation?
We believe it is better to use the tropical water destinations to further the diver’s education and learn more about environment, underwater photography, video or other advanced courses. We encourage you to take your beginner course with an instructor or a facility close to your home, and achieve your certification prior to spending your quality vacation time in relaxing with good, clear diving conditions on your coming vacations. Keep in mind that your local instructor or store will be a source of social events, meeting with divers, finding new buddies and certainly enhancing safety in harder condition training.
We have developed with time a worldwide diving travel connection and it is our pride and duty to help organize the safest and most enjoyable diving holidays possible! All of our suppliers on location are long time friends and/or operators who have been in the dive business for numerous years, extending their organizational and hosting skills to the level of a refined art.
Our wish is to help you design the best diving vacations you will ever have. To be successful in that goal, we will outline the best ways to organize your diving vacations. Basically, divers can choose to organize their trips themselves, or they can use dive travel experts to help them. There are two major formulas you can choose from to organize your trips.
The first way is that you can buy your plane tickets and fly to your diving destination, dealing with what has to come on location. Or, the second and most practical way, is to ask professionals to organize for you either a land based diving vacation or a diving liveaboard cruise in the waters surrounding your chosen location.
The first way is the most adventurous, and the one where you are in charge of everything, including the facts that hotels are sometimes full, the monsoon doesn’t allow diving in the region for the next 6 months, liveaboard vessels are full, plus the fact that a package booked from home would have been much cheaper!
The second way shifts the burden on the organizer and will allow you to travel in a much more relaxing way, as the complete logistics in unknown areas are taken care of by travel experts who, knowing the region and the diving there well, can provide a problem free dive vacation.
Diving vacations are organized in two major formats, depending on whether you want to do your dining and sleeping on land or on a liveaboard boat. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, financial and otherwise. It’s up to you to choose which better suits your idea of a dive trip.
The Land Based Diving Vacation
In this formula, the diver will use a dive operator’s facilities for diving equipment, air or mixed gases requirements, and chartered vessel for day trips. This is combined with hotel or resort accommodation on a half board (breakfast and dinner) or full board (breakfast, lunch and dinner) basis. These packages are run on a weekly format and more days can always be added. It has the advantage of including everything like airport transfers, tax and services fees, accommodation, meals and diving logistics.
We can connect you with land based diving packages in the major diving destinations worldwide, such as: Red Sea, Caribbean, Maldives, Europe, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Lebanon, Micronesia, Australia. Each link will transport you to a dream diving destination.
We have been organizing land based diving vacations for many years and our packages are designed for your comfort, safety, fun, great value for your money, and above all, fantastic diving!
Diving Liveaboard Cruises
The greatest advantage of diving from a liveaboard dive cruise vessel is that this formula minimizes the heavy logistics involved with diving activities and puts less stress on the divers as the travel from site to site is done at night when everyone is asleep. More dive sites and farther away dive sites can be covered than with a land based dive package. Your hotel is mobile! This option also brings to the diver an “all in one” package, including accommodation, meals, transfers, dives, tanks and weights.
The most wonderful thing about liveaboard vessels is that they give divers more opportunities to dive remote places, normally inaccessible by regular day trip boats as being too far away and out of range.
Diving from a liveaboard vessel gives divers the thrilling experience of adventure, discovery and fun in a low stress, comfortable (sometimes luxurious!) environment. The vessel’s competent crew will cater to your safety, fun, comfort, and entertainment. Liveaboard diving vessels worldwide usually have developed the local culinary traditions to a refined art through excellent cooks, who have been often named as the essential element on board together with your air/gas supply, God, and the skilled captain!
We have extended connections with liveaboard operators worldwide, compiled after two decades of diving the best areas on the planet. From our experience, we have chosen these dive destinations for diving liveaboard cruises on a year round basis:
How many times have we come across divers asking us what are the best places to dive in the world? Well, this question has so many possible answers that it is difficult to answer it properly. Divers do not have the same poles of interest concerning dives or diving activities and therefore it is difficult to please everyone.
We have tried on this page to classify the best diving destinations with international media recognition. We have classified the sites by their geographical and water conditions. Of course, this list is not exhaustive and we would be glad to add on more destinations with your participation. Have you been diving at such a great place that you wish to share your enthusiasm with fellow divers? Please don’t hesitate to send us an e-mail describing your experiences and we will post it in the “Dive Stories” section and will add the destination to our data base.
In this section we will review diving places where the water is warm (25oC and more) and where the main attractions in diving are coral reefs and rich marine life.
Red Sea: Most experienced divers will agree with us that the Red Sea offers the world’s best in diving. The abundance, size, variety, and vivid colors of marine life, as well as excellent visibility, make the Red Sea an unforgettable experience. With first class as well as economy liveaboards cruising the area, and affordable land-based diving as well, the Red Sea doesn’t have to break your travel budget. The Red Sea can be dived year round with the best period of the year being between June and October. The most popular places to dive the Red Sea are in Egypt (Sharm El Sheikh, Hughada, Safaga and Dahab). Other popular spots include Israel (Eilat), Jordan (Aqaba), Sudan (although difficult to access, but pristine dive sites) and the newly discovered dive site of Erythrea, North of Ethiopia, where privileged divers have found untouched coral reefs and drop offs, in this region devastated by years of civil war and famine. Major Red Sea destinations are reachable by regular or chartered planes from any European, American or Asian locations. Diving tours can be organized on land based or liveaboard diving cruises from the locations above mentioned.
Maldives: Situated in the Indian Ocean, south west of Sri Lanka, this archipelago of thousands of islands is also one of the best diving destinations on earth. The clarity of its waters and richness of marine life have made the Maldives one of the most traveled destinations by divers. From its capital city Male, divers are taken to the island of their choice. The archipelago can be dived year round. The Maldives operate liveaboards and land based diving formats.
Caribbean Sea: This region of the Atlantic Ocean is located between Central America, Venezuela, and the peninsula of Florida. Its warm and clear waters are host to a tremendous amount of marine life. The best diving places within the Caribbean are: the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas archipelago, Saba, Bonaire, Belize (which has the second biggest barrier reef in the world after Australia), Turks and Caicos, St. Martin, the Virgin Islands, the Dutch and French West Indies, the Florida Keys, and the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico (Cozumel and Cancun). The region can be dived year round with the hurricanes peak season being in the fall. Both land based and liveaboard diving cruises are available in these destinations.
Indo-Pacific region: According to marine biologists, the richest place for marine life and different species on earth. New species are discovered here every year. The best places in the Indo-Pacific would be: Indonesia (Manado, Komodo, Lombok, Flores, Alor), Borneo (Sipadan), peninsular Malaysia (Pulau Payar marine park, Pulau Tioman, Pulau Redang and Pulau Perhentian), Thailand (Similan Islands, Hin Daeng, Hin Muang), Burma (Mergui archipelago and the banks), Micronesia (Palau, Yap, Truk), and the Mariannes islands (Guam and Saipan). This region is under the influence of two monsoons: southwestern and northeastern, which bring wet or dry weather depending on the geographical location. This region is rich in operators catering to customers with land based diving tours and/or liveaboard diving cruises.
Australia: Biggest coral barrier reef in the world, extending on the east coast of Australia from Cairns to the north of Brisbane, over 2,000 km long. Best dive spots along the reef are: Cairns, Townsville, Whitsundays Islands and Heron Island. Both land based and liveaboard diving cruises are available on the GBR.
Temperate and Cold Water Environment
We have listed here the best diving destinations in temperate or cold waters (20oC or less). Some of these regions have amazing wild marine life, where whales, killer whales, seals, sea lions, giant octopuses, sharks, and other big pelagics can be encountered on a regular basis. Most of these places require the utilisation of special cold water diving equipment with which divers should be familiar prior to diving there. For example the use of dry suits will be mandatory in some places and proper training should be acquired beforehand.
Mediterranean Sea: Temperate water environment with warmer temperatures in the summer time. Countries where diving is possible bordering the Med are: France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Spain. Dive sites are mainly composed of rocks and drop offs, inhabited by pelagics and house marine life. Water can be extremely clear during upwellings with visibility reaching up to 60 meters! Diving tours are organized there mainly on a land based, day trip basis. Lots of really good wreck diving too with WW II heritage.
Atlantic Ocean and North Sea: Colder water environment giving rise to interesting marine life, different from that encountered in warmer waters. Best diving destinations would be: west coast of France (Brittany), west coast of Ireland, northeast of Scotland (where most of the German fleet was sunk during the WW II) and the east coast of the American continent with Canada (Halifax region) down to the states of Massachusetts and New Jersey. Land based diving tours, occasional liveaboard cruise vessels.
Pacific Ocean: The biggest body of water on earth is host to amazing diving sites among the best in the world such as: the west coast of Canada and United States (British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California), the Hawaiian archipelago, and the Galapagos islands (where marine life is unique to this specific spot and where divers can meet tropical water animals together with penguins, seals, sea lions and aquatic iguanas…). These places offer land based diving tours and liveaboard cruises. The Galapagos archipelago, being located 1,000 km off Ecuador, is accessible only by liveaboard vessels.
Eastern Europe: Becoming more and more popular for its dive sites and very rich history and archeological heritage. The Black Sea in Bulgaria is the home of many ship wrecks and underwater antique archeological sites. More dive sites are being explored in Romania, Ukraine, and Russia as we publish this review. No liveaboards operations yet, diving tours are run on a land based option only.
Fresh Water Environment
We describe here the best lake or fresh water diving locations around the world. These places have a great interest for diving activities either for their specific location, amazing underwater landscapes, or rich historical past.
American continent: The Great Lakes in the United States and Canada, cenotes in Florida with their extremely clear water caves network, and caves in Mexico. We also would like to add here the two great rivers of Quebec, where numerous ship wrecks and excellent dive sites are to be found: the St. Laurent and Richelieu rivers. Land based diving packages and tours.
Europe: Lakes in France and Switzerland. Land based diving packages and tours.
Africa: Lake Malawi, which has become one of the major diving destinations in the south African region. Land based diving tours and liveaboards on Lake Malawi are available.
This section is designed for YOU to tell the world your great diving stories. You can e-mail us your best (or worst) diving experiences and the best of them will be published on this page.
If you have met an outstanding diving operator, divemaster, or instructor, or you have witnessed unsafe and scary diving practices, this section will let other divers worldwide know about your experience.
Opinion & Interviews: NAUI Course Director Frederick “Freddy” Claro
NAUI Pacific rim Outstanding Service Award 2000
NAUI Worldwide Outstanding Service Award 2002
Being known in the profession to be a straightforward person, Freddy answered all questions with his usual enthusiasm, concern, and uncompromising style. The very same style which brings him admiration from his students and friends brings discontent and disagreement with others, but in any case a definitive sense of respect.
This interview involved many different aspects of the diving profession. We would like to state here that all opinions expressed during this interview are the personal opinions of their author, and are in no way representative of the ideas of mentioned associations or third parties. We acted to coordinate an unbiased interview of a dive professional, whose ideas are sometimes strongly expressed.
Q: Freddy, thank you for agreeing to this interview. We will try to make it brief, and not to awake the “Grizzly” we have been told is asleep for now…
A: My pleasure, but you know a grizzly is never really asleep, and when he is, it is only to recharge his batteries….
Q: You have seen the evolution of the diving business over the last 13 years. What are your feelings about it now? How do you see the future of the diving industry?
A: First let’s go a bit backwards in the development of recreational scuba diving and training for a while. Back in the late 80’s, the certifying agencies did a really good job of getting diving out of what I will call a “ghetto”. Diving was considered as a military, dangerous, accident prone, difficult, technical, and elitist activity. Diving associations, by developing great training methods, training materials, and in changing steadily the general public believes about diving, got scuba into the mainstream. It became a fashionable, safe, and fun outdoor activity. We went into the “boom” of recreational scuba between 1992 and 1997, when the industry (formed of the educational, equipment, and dive travel sales worldwide) went from stagnant to a steep rise, short peak, and nowadays a definite decline.
Diving pros at the beginning of the “boom” were mainly adventurers who left their own countries for a “better life in paradise”, as we could then define tropical and sub-tropical resorts around the world. I was one of them back in 1989. We just hoped for a job, to make a living out of our passion for diving. Most of us had extensive diving experience as recreational, commercial, or military divers, before making a profession out of what we loved doing the most. Personally, I was diving for pleasure for 8 years before I became a divemaster, and I had over 200 dives when I got my advanced diver equivalence to carry on my training. I was just one of many guys doing that. That was the time of “cowboy diving” as we recall it, but luckily training agencies standardized our practices and everything went well. Today, “cowboy diving” is back, but because of the young professionals’ lack of experience as divers and a certain leniency in the training system of the main “diving instructor factory producer” worldwide: PADI…
In the mid 90’s, after a certain success and great adventure stories spreading out in the Western societies, many more younger people joined the training and the trade. They were less patient by nature, and quickly got fed up with mandatory parts of the job such early wake ups, washing equipment, and long days in shops. Many young instructors with some money saved opened their own dive centres, and boosted what became to be named the “mushrooming” of the diving industry. Encouraged by a certain leader agency to topple competition, dive centres were opening left, right, and centre in the best resort areas, and cities worldwide.
That, in my opinion, was the beginning of the downfall of the industry. From there, stiff competition with other dive centres, a war of the various certifying agencies, and the latest development (or shall I say regression) of the educational system in the late 90’s until very recently, all brought the industry and specifically the educational part of it to a stall, which will take years to recover from.
What went wrong? One cause was the diving agencies self-centered way of dealing with evolution. For PADI, specifically there was a loss of contact with the field in addition to constant changes in course standards and curriculum. This made PADI professionals lost and confused about a system whose goal was becoming much clearer – make more money, and forget about supporting and protecting their members on the field. PADI lowered standards of care with the so called “self study” system, and allowed the uncontrolled and unhealthy mushrooming of dive centres worldwide for the sole sake of getting more membership fees, and market shares. Their goal was to sell potentially more educational materials in markets who couldn’t sustain it anymore, eventually producing instructors like a factory. Little care was given to whether the new instructors could find a job and if the industry was still viable. Next came the over production of Course Directors, leading to price wars that the dive centres were already used to from their own fierce competition.
The general diving industry has been incompetent in getting the media interested in us, and still in the 21st century, scuba diving on the screen is always seen with sharks, James Bond trapped in a wreck and shooting bad guys with a spear gun!…Appalling!…Conservationism is mainly used as a mercantile tool to get more money into regions or tours, and vague programs for environment, which are just field advertisements for an agency making divers pose in front of a garbage bag. The over development in “dive tourism” led to a environmental disaster, with more marginally mainstream trained divers spoiling underwater wonders such as in the Red Sea, Thailand, Malaysia, Mexico, and many other dive spots worldwide. Dive manufacturers have been solely concerned with selling and merchandising strategies. They made a few bucks at the beginning with the “boom” which was healthy and cashed on the sickening “mushrooming”, without offering more solutions for the aftermath of it. Their only concern was sales. Today as the entire industry is stalling, they are still crying for more money to be injected their way or they will not be able to develop more savvy equipment in the future. Same old song as 20 years ago!
Sorry, but except for shapes, colors and weight, nothing has changed in diving equipment since WWII. A regulator, a BC, a mask, and fins don’t look the same as they did 30 years ago, but they are still basic equipment, as are tanks and compressors. Mixed gases, rebreathers, and tek diving?. They have all been around for years in commercial and military diving and were merely adapted to cash in on extra opportunities! The only great advancement in technology in the last 20 years has been dive computers, who are used for the increased safety and convenience of recreational divers…as long as they know how to use one!
Scuba diving pros are the only pros in sports or leisure activities who are not largely “sponsored” by brand name scuba equipment companies (a very few exceptions exist)! Why? Because the manufacturers never believed in the impact of instructors on their students and the public. In Europe, even a local tennis teacher is sponsored by a brand because of the great impact at his/her level generates sales. Diving manufacturers always believed they don’t need instructors on their side, so no sponsorships. They are biting their fingers now…too late! And they are still expecting us to wear the cheap T-shirts they “generously” give us for free. If you want us to promote your equipment, sponsor us! I stopped wearing any diving brand of t-shirt years ago and refuse to buy any equipment with the maker’s name in huge letters. Why should we advertise for the manufacturers? We get no support from them.
From the travel experience diving point of view, stiff competition, also proliferation of charter vessels and liveaboard operations dreaming to cash on the new trend of scuba diving also led to a war price, and a very unhealthy situation in a lot of resort places in the world. This problem is more localized in resorts than cities, and also in third world countries where costs of staying in business are far lower than in western countries. But nonetheless, this problem does exist, and is not addressed properly too.
For me, as long as the industry doesn’t change its image and the way it deals with the situation, these problems will get even worse and damaged irremediably our profession. The recreational diving industry, as a niche market of the tourism industry has come to a stall first and now a regression, incomes are low, and will soon be beyond sustainability on a commercial point of view. Some areas have to face a heavy crash as there are no other solutions first, then if the industry changes its way of dealing with what they want it to be, rather than what it is, then we can hope for a revival…
My point is: stop thinking that scuba is for every one!…This is a day dream as it will never happen. Staighten your policies, go back into quality training, and improve our businesses with less divers who will continue to dive, and consume more in an activity which really fit them, not a fashion flaw. Better than a quick buck with scared people who will never dive again and will harm us and the environment in the process in the long term…
Scuba Diving is not a mass activity…Period. We must deal with it as such.
Q: Ok, now these problems are pointed out clearly, any suggestions for improvement?…
A: Well, my opinion is: Regain quality training, which will train good and competent divers. These divers will stay more active in the activity, generate more education, equipment and travel sales. To achieve this aim, the industry leader, I mean PADI, should recover the quality, which was their trademark years ago, keep contact with the field, which they lost a while ago for the profit of corporate decisions harming the entire industry. They should start to control the market in reducing the dive centres and instructors factory production, and regain credibility. They will have to accept the loss of money for a while but the stability of our industry is at that cost…the real question is: are they willing to make it?…
Manufacturers should trust the field power more, and tie up more with instructors who are the voice of the industry and opinion leaders. Diving instructors are the one who have the direct contact with the divers and students, they are the one who are leading people to decide what to buy, and when to buy it. Dive consumers don’t decide to buy through their stupid technical and elitist advertisement campaigns, which often made laugh the entire profession!
The recreational scuba diving industry should also try to have more decision power in resort areas where the development control is done by promotors and tourism operators, who are often sacrifying the environment for the profit and short term decisions to get the “quick buck in”. We should be more a regulation and counseling option than a money maker. The industry have to learn how to stop cashing on the wrong flow, and be more environmentally responsible.
I believe we should come back to the real values of scuba diving, which have been lost along the way for pure business development, by people who often have no clue of what they are really doing.
Producing a certified diver in 2 days, or an instructor in 6 months from scratch are things we should try to get rid off as it is harmful on the long term for the entire industry.
I will always believe and say that scuba diving will never be a mass sport or activity, there are rules, motor skills, equipment and technical investments, whose put the activity on the upper end of the consumption scale: diving is not cheap and should not be, investments are heavy for what will remain small businesses, and solving worldwide economical problems affecting the general tourism economy, the over population and saturation of resort markets with unmotivated dive centres and professionals, by a forced war price on a worldwide scale for them just to barely survive is just “shooting ourselves in the feet to run faster”…
In one small sentence, I believe improvement will come through coming back to the true values of our activity, becoming more responsible educationally, environmentally, and financially, in one word: we must come to Maturity and stop all futile tribal conflicts!…Today, we are just the mirror of the sadness of the world evolution!
Q: You spoke about the environment a few times…Isn’t the dive industry supportive of all environmental efforts in resorts and other regions?…
A: Well, technically the intention is there. Of course divers and dive pros want to protect the environment!…But is it really efficient, and is the industry pushing for it in the right direction?…Well, I believe not, and here is why I do think so…
The industry is more focused on cashing in the “eco-dollars” than to really act responsibly and become a real partner in defending local environments, abused by inept and uncontrolled tourism development. How many places in the world, mainly in third world countries resort places, have been spoiled by uncontrolled tourism related constructions, leading to soil erosion, increased sedimentation killing house coral reefs, increased pollution, and mismanagement of natural and human resources?…Is the industry responsible?…Well of course the decision makers are not part of our trade, we are merely following a general consensus to bring more and more tourists in poor corrupted places,eager to cash on tourism dollars for the entertainment of the working class of our modern societies, and somehow luring the public into believing that we are doing good for the environment. I personally don’t see where an increased number of marginally trained divers by so called “professional diving instructors”, and unable to control their buoyancy and movements under the water will help to the long term survival of the worldwide coral reefs!…Neither do I see the need for a fleet of “zillion dive charter vessels” crowding dive spots with incompetent divers, at prices who can’t even make the operators financially sustainable…
I wouldn’t like to sound to much politically involved either, but let say that the irresponsible general behavior of numerous government officials in numerous countries, cashing on the over fishing of coast lines, illegal dynamite and cyanide fishing, uncontrolled hotels and resorts development, and sponsoring short minded “mass tourism” policy to cash quickly the dollars to be made before the places get spoiled for ever, and tour operators decide to sent their “sheeps” elsewhere…are not exactly helping Mother Nature to do well in certain places, including so called “developed western countries”…
At the end, environmental issues are political decisions made by supposedly responsible politicians in charge of the high destinies of their countries…Oh, sorry…Am I dreaming here?…If the recreational diving industry would be perceived by governmental associations as a potential global partner to help in the regulation of environmental issues anywhere, they would call on us to help…Is it the case?..Globally no!..Why?…Because we are perceived as part of the problems, not part of the solutions, and what I have seen sometimes in different places around the world made me ashamed to be part of this profession and trade.
As long as we will not change our attitude one more time towards ourselves, the outsiders, and the true challenge of the environmental issues, then we will never deserve to be part of the solution and getting out of our infancy…As long as the diving industry is ruled by a bunch of dictators in all level of activities, people who lost track of the field challenges long ago, and are only motivated by personal interests and ego…We will never get out of our problems. And it is also because of the sclerosis of our system that we can’t find the solution for ourselves!…Is scuba diving today the environmentally friendly activity it claims to be?…In my opinion: no! And it will not be until we truly change!…
Q: What advises would you give today to a young professional / instructor starting the career?…
A: Well, as bad as it seems after answering these few questions, is there still a career in scuba diving?..Of course it is! But what is killing us today is the lack of motivation and patience of young pros…Everyone in any activity has to start somewhere. Dive professionals too, no exception. Also like in any other profession, there are people who are natural leaders, other people learn their trade and progress and other just stay where they are…These are facts of life, so people should also know better themselves and their abilities in order to better fit in. Our industry is suffering mainly because people joining us have little patience in achieving results, as they want it all now! You must have reasonable personal and business goals for yourself and establish clearly where do you want to go according to your capacities, within the next 2 year, then 5 years and 10 years. Then be honest with yourself too… Why shall someone become a Course Director if one do not like much teaching?…Money?…Prestige?…Both?…Don’t dream and be realistic.
The industry should also leave people a realistic choice. Do we really need all the diving instructors and dive shops around?…Of course not, in the most popular resort places, probably a cut in 50% of them would be great!…I have been teaching instructors since 1992, and honestly how many of these hundreds of trainees did I really see motivated to teach (because yes, teaching is what instructors do!…)?…Not 20% seriously. And why the other 80% became instructors?…After asking a lot of them, answers usually were:
1) Find a job as dive centres don’t employ simple divemasters anymore…(why?…)
2) Make more money
3) Open my own dive shops
4) Share my passion of diving (finally!…)
5) Work on a liveaboard cruise vessel (cf answer # 1)
When I asked how many of them wanted their own dive shops?…90% wanted, and why?…The answers were:
1) Get others to carry tanks (common joke in the trade)
2) Make more money
3) Be my own boss, fed up of receiving orders by people they were mainly judging incompetent!
4) Challenge of having my own business in an activity I love
This gave me the final general impression of the young instructor profile…Very seldomly was mentioned the motivation of teaching and transmitting the message of diving and get first hand participation in getting the general public to dive safely and enjoy the underwater world.
Most of these individuals have been forced by the greed of the industry to become instructors as most of them just want to dive first and have fun with divers on a boat, not necessarily teach..But the industry all of a sudden made them “unemployable” as divemasters.
My point is that we must get our trade back on track following its real values, and stopping luring young professionals in the wrong direction. Stop saying to people that they should be instructors if they don’t want, stop telling centres owners that they have to be “5 star centres” if they wish to survive among the sharks, stop telling to people to become Course Directors as they still wish to be a dive master on a charter vessel….Short minded greed is what have been leading us to where we are today: in a swamp, which we will all agree is not the greatest place for scuba divers.
I pledge the industry to just let people decide what the wish for themselves. We have been “walking on our hands” for a few years now…It is not too late!
My address to young pros: please be more patient, number one quality nowadays to be successful, make short and long term plans, consider yourself as a professional having a career, not “drifters” only traveling and diving the world, respect your career as it is if you wish to be respected and looked upon as true professionals, keep learning constantly and improve yourselves. Train responsibly, safely, don’t shortcut standards, you are harming everyone including yourself. Be open minded, dogmatism kills your brain, beware of corporate “brain washing”, use all available tools at your disposal, the internet is today the best tool to promote yourself, get online, tell people around the world who you are, where you are and what you can do for their great passion of scuba diving.
Exist for yourselves and for the future of the recreational diving industry. It is in the hands of the new generation of divemasters and instructors…Act responsibly, bring us back to where we belong!…
Bring back the quality in training and diving services and the pleasure we had not so long ago, before we got lost…Because my generation of dive professional is either “out for lunch” or “in for the bucks”…But I still never saw an activity or trade increasing volume and keeping great quality..Nope, it just doesn’t happen in the real world. Please let’s skip the “fast food” part of our trade.
Wake up and get quality back!
Q: Frederick, thank you for your input on these numerous issues. Your plans for the future?…
A: It has been my pleasure. My plans?…Keep teaching and train dive professionals focusing on quality training and quality career development. As usual, teach less, but more efficiently, more enthusiastically and hopefully better than before. Concentrate on sending divers in quality places worldwide, with the best and most responsible operators we can find.
And hope for the best in the future of our wonderful activity…We are so lucky to be able to live and travel the world, contemplating its underwater wonders, and making a living out of it. We have a great life, and yet we are spoiling it…Is it fate or a curse that we never learn from our mistakes?…
This is designed for professionals who seek assistance or counseling with their diving business. It also offers business opportunities worldwide through our connections in the recreational diving industry.
We have been in this business for two decades and with time, we have developed the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully operate a diving business. In addition, through our work experience worldwide, we have built up an efficient network of connections, from the U.K. to Japan and from Norway to Australia. This network regularly proves its efficiency, with many problems and concerns being solved because of our contacts.
Our skilled team can help you find a job, find a dive leader for your dive center, give helpful counseling on your marketing, optimize your website, find a unique strategy for your store to increase income, develop a Pro Career program in your area, find the best deals in travel, find you a second hand boat or compressor, find you an investor-store relationship customized to your needs, and more. Feel free to ask!
Some advice will be given away free of charge, as we strive to improve the quality of the diving industry in general. More in depth development for dive businesses will require fees, as it will be customized to fit your needs.
Business opportunity #1: Well known and established dive center in Phuket Thailand, looking for a managing-partner, who will be in charge of the daily operations.
Business opportunity #2: Liveaboard Safari vessel needing investor(s) in the Maldives, for the construction of a 110 foot Motor Vessel. Investment of 100,000 US$ up to 400,000 US$ needed, shareholding of 30 to 50% depending on investment.
Business Opportunity # 3: Dive Center owning 2 building units and a liveaboard vessel for sale in Phuket, Thailand. Business in activity since 1985.
This is designed to give you the latest news of training agencies and also the latest news on Consult Dive International involvement and achievements.
General Training News
NAUI: This association has redesigned their training materials and is now offering a complete coordinated range of educational materials. Each course has its own student and instructor manual, videos, audio cassettes, workbook, set of exams and promotional materials.
The new materials also come in a student/instructor kit and can be ordered at NAUI HQ or any NAUI Service Center.
Following the implementation of the new materials, all NAUI Instructor Trainers and Course Directors will be re-qualified during 2001 and a new Instructor Training Course curriculum will be introduced to meet the demands of the professional educators of today.
SSI: This certifying agency is continuing during 2001 its tie-up with NAUI on both the Universal Referral Program and the joint NAUI / SSI passport-try scuba experience, allowing divers to experiment the joy and pleasure of scuba diving in a one day non-certification program. This program is an excellent introduction to scuba diving, encourage new divers to pursue full certification, as the program gives credits for performed skills in both NAUI and SSI beginner courses.
Following the implementation of the use of the new training materials, all NAUI Course Directors and Instructor Trainers will re-qualify in 2001.
PADI: After lowering junior certification age from 12 to 10 years old and creating a short cut certification course in 2000, the association is also renewing its training materials, and its instructor development course in 2001. PADI Assistant Instructor rating will become mandatory to enter the Instructor Development Course (IDC) and the instructor course will be run in 4 days, prior sending candidates to the examination. All IDC-Staff instructors and Course Directors will be retrained in 2001.
Recreational scuba diving has become with the years not only a fashionable outdoor activity, but also a real potential for career seekers. Since the mid nineties, thousands of divers have become dive professionals on a part time or full time basis, fulfilling the needs of an ever growing recreational scuba diving industry.
The path to become a dive professional is generally similar in the different training agencies, and it will take a certified diver from an advanced level towards leadership level through rescue and first aid / CPR training. What will vary is basically the number of dives required to achieve a leadership level and more importantly, who is teaching you.
We can never repeat enough to divers and career seekers to check the background of their trainers beforehand. A lot of so called “pro courses” are run by instructors with little or no leadership background, usually run on a “shoe string” as budgeting is the major concern for both these facilities/trainers and their leadership candidates. The current trend has become “The cheaper the better!” We heartily disagree with this philosophy.
All of us are concerned about paying the right price for what we are getting. But let’s take an example from another area. What would you prefer: to buy a cheap computer in a supermarket, with a keyboard falling apart within weeks and a sticky mouse refusing to respond to your commands? Or to buy a more reliable computer, in a professional shop, certainly more expensive, but avoiding the stress and headache of a bad purchase.
Scuba diving follows the same rule of “You get what you pay for.” The big difference is that in the computer case, your personal safety is not an issue. With diving, the safety techniques you learn will make diving a safe and enjoyable experience for you, your buddy, and your future students. “Safety above all” is the best philosophy to follow in diving, and this starts with getting proper training from experienced instructors at every level of your training.
It takes time, commitment, safety awareness, and a lot of experience to train a good dive leader and a good instructor. You should be looking for those qualities in the educator who will train you to become the dive professional of tomorrow. Your trainer should not only be “the one who guides you through the materials”, but the model, the mentor, who will show you the path of safety guidelines and diving enthusiasm, which you will pass on the divers under your supervision and your future students.
It has taken time, commitment, skill and knowledge development for your educator to get to that level of achievement and to train you to the best you can be. This is what you are paying for!
And like any quality product and/or service on this planet: It is not cheap and should not be.
We have been training dive professionals since 1990. Our team is formed with experienced dive educators, who not only are among the best in their field, but also have other skills and knowledge, which are essential for the dive professionals of the third millennium: business, management, computer, internet, education, technical knowledge, public relation, pedagogy, safety and rescue skills to name a few.
We have developed very comprehensive and intensive training, designed not only to train but to educate divers in the difficult path of being responsible for the safety of others, still emphasizing the fun and exciting aspect of our activity.
We guarantee that our graduates will not only be good and safety oriented dive leaders and instructors, but they will also get a broad view of the diving industry, to ensure their thorough understanding of what they will be dealing with.
The last few years has seen the emergence of diving activities which are beyond the normal scope of recreational diving, such as wreck penetration, cave, mixed gases diving, and decompression and deep mixed gases diving, deep wreck exploration, depth record breaking, to name the principals.
Since the beginning of diving, these activities have existed and are therefore not new, but they were reserved to special elite navy or commercial divers and based on salvage or recovery of governmental or private shipped properties lost at sea or in lakes.
Diving with mixed gases is not a new concept and for decades navy divers from major countries as well as commercial divers have been working and diving with different gas mixtures to attain safer and greater comfort in working deeper. The French, British and Italian navies were pioneers in these activities and great progress has been achieved with the development of new technologies, new scientific knowledge, and better physiological understanding of what the divers’ bodies can sustain under an increased pressure.
Since the 70’s, the French COMEX (Companie Marseillaise d’Exploitation), a most known commercial diving company worldwide, has helped to improve knowledge and technical development with a series of research named “Hydra” experiments. This research culminated in the early 90’s, when the company sent a diver (Theo Navrostromos) breathing a mixture of Hydrox (Hydrogen and Oxygen) in calculated percentages to a record depth of 701m, where he successfully simulated working on an underwater site.
Humans have always been fascinated by overtaking their limits and a great loss of lives paves the “record breaking” path of humans. Most activities have paid their toll: Mountaineering, Flying, Space Conquest, Sailing, Skiing, Rock Climbing and of course Commercial and Recreational Diving.
It is our nature to push our limits, and scuba diving doesn’t escape the rule. As recreational diving applies to air diving, or enriched air diving within specific limitations, our bodies are limited to physical and physiological rules, from which no one can escape.
Specifically, Technical Diving has been developed to embrace what is beyond the rules of air diving in exceeding depth, time and decompression limits, but it is not commercial or military diving either.
Decades ago, a journalist ask Sir Edmund Hillary why he climbed to the top of Mount Everest and his answer was simply, “Because it’s there!” We believe this would also be the appropriate answer of a technical diver, if he were asked, “Why are you going on this deep, dark, cold wreck at 95m?” But, physical and mental achievements in those activities should never overlook the amount of training and time it took for those people to reach their goals.
Can everyone go to the top of Mount Everest? The answer is obviously a resounding “No”. Can every diver go on a deep decompression mixed gases wreck dive? One more time the answer is “No”. The technical diving community is small and because they keep it small, they are able to train and obtain great safety records and achievements.
Today, some people in the industry seem to believe that Technical Diving is “fashionable” and is a great incentive for extra income. We would like to remind divers that to train efficiently in these technical diving activities is of paramount importance and they need a great amount of time training with competent instructors, who are safety oriented above all.
To qualify to train in technical diving, one must be an already accomplished “traditional” recreational diver and proof of experience will be verified by agencies, prior to training.
More information could be obtained through these Technical Diving Training Agencies:
NAUI Tec: Based in South Padre Island in Texas, developed a complete technical diver curriculum. Probably the best Technical Diving Training Agency today.
We would like to add a final note here on the worldwide development of Nitrox or Enriched Air Diving. As long as not breathed with a percentage higher than 40% Oxygen (balanced with Nitrogen), Nitrox diving is considered as a recreational diving activity, within the limits of no-decompression.
Most diving training agencies are now offering Nitrox certification and on that issue we would like to break a myth for novice divers, before they engage in this enjoyable activity: Nitrox is not designed to dive deeper as a lot of people believe, but to dive safer at shallower depth as the intake of Nitrogen is lessened compare to normal air (or “Normox”), therefore authorizing the divers to stay longer in shallower dives as compared to air. Your training will develop all these concepts.