This summer I finally took the plunge and got my PADI Open Water Scuba Diver certification! For many years I would watch friends take their diving courses while I stubbornly stuck to snorkelling and freediving. I always felt that learning scuba would be complicated and tedious, and all the heavy equipment would make it more annoying than enjoyable. Finally, after being persuaded to try it out, I can admit that it opens up a whole new world! Being able to go underwater for a long period of time without worrying about coming back to surface for a breath of air in one shot (aka freediving) gives you the ability to relax and really take in a whole new experience!
Where to do it
- I completed my PADI Open Water certification with Bahama Divers, located in Nassau, Bahamas
- Bahama Divers is the largest retail, wholesale, full service dive centre in the Bahamas. In operation since 1967, you can trust the experience and history this dive centre has!
- The first part of getting your certification you can do on e-learning option (instead of sitting in a classroom all day in Nassau) through the PADI website, click here (highly recommend to do it in advance!)
- As mentioned above, you can and should complete the first e-learning portion online before your trip (click here). It took me about a day or two to complete the online course, and you get a certificate sent to your email saying you completed it
- Print this certificate out and bring it to Bahama Divers when you are ready for the open water course. (*Contact Bahama Divers in advance to schedule the days you will be doing your courses)
- The dive centre will give you a short test to see if you remember everything you learned during the e-learning course
- Once you go over the test with your assigned instructor, you will take a photo (for your future PADI card) and then head out with all your equipment for your first pool dive. The dive centre will give you all the necessary equipment you need (as a rental) but you can always purchase/bring your own. Equipment includes a regulator, a wetsuit, a BCD, mask, snorkel, dive fins, weights, and air tanks
- Bahama Divers use a nice outdoor pool that’s part of a hotel/resort complex on Paradise Island, near their dive centre. The instructor will drive you there and then on arrival you will need to do a swim test (3 laps in the pool) then you are ready!
- The instructor will help you set up your equipment before you get into the pool.
- Once in the pool, you will be able to take that first breath of air underwater. It is a bit strange at first but once you get used to it you will love it!
- Then you will go to the deeper portion of the pool with the instructor underwater. They will be checking to see how calm you are.
- Next step is doing all the underwater lessons, such as removing your regulator from your mouth and putting it back, removing water from your mask, taking off/on your mask, taking off your BCD and putting it back on, practicing using secondary air source with your buddy, and so on.
- Once that’s all good, you will take a lunch break (I suggest going to Poopdeck restaurant next door for some fresh grilled fish or conch salad!) then head back around 1:30pm for your first open water dive.
- You will head out on the dive boat with your instructor and go to an area between 20-25 feet to practice your new dive skills in a real underwater world situation. You will learn about controlling your breathing and BCD to achieve the optimal buoyancy. You will also need to do a test which you tread water with no equipment (no mask, snorkel or fins even) for 10 minutes.
- The next morning you will do 2 more open water dives. The first will be a deeper reef-wall dive that goes down to about 80-90 feet deep! (in this learning course you will only go to 60 feet at this time) The second dive is shallower at 30-40 feet but features interested reefs and during this dive I got to see a huge lobster, starfish, mooray eel, reef sharks, lots of grouper fish, and tons of other tropical fish.
- Towards the end of the dives you do a few more lessons using a compass, emergency ascent, etc. Once the instructor feels you are comfortable then you have passed! You will come back to the dive centre, fill out your address for your PADI card, and you’re good to go!
- You will also be given a temporary PADI Open Water dive certification to use before you get your official card (it takes about 3-4 weeks)
Another worry I had before signing up for the course was the risks and safety precautions – imagine being so far deep in the water and running out of air? Luckily that is very unlikely and even if you do, you can easily use your dive buddy’s additional air supply. Everyone’s equipment has a secondary breathing regulator called an “octopus” in case yours or someone else’s fails. Also, the entire PADI course is designed around safety. From the written part of the course you will mentally remember all the limits and guidelines, and in person you will learn all the safety procedures first hand. Safety is the priority!
- Complete your e-learning at home before you go on your trip when you do the full course, it will save a lot of time and energy
- Consider purchasing a wetsuit either in advance or at Bahama Divers before your open water dives
- If you have your own mask/snorkel and regular fins (not freediving fins) you should bring them with you
- If you have any trouble swimming or treading, take some time to practice before learning to scuba dive
- Bring sunscreen, a towel, sunglasses, money for lunch, a water bottle, chapstick
- Don’t do the course hungover or sick in any way!
Last but not least – remember to have fun! Although the idea of it can be intimidating, it is an amazing experience that you will never forget. especially with Bahama Divers!