For those who don’t know, FAQs means ‘frequently asked questions.’ On this page we attempt to answer some common questions which either we are asked, or that people have in their minds. It’s constantly being updated and added to, so please check back from time to time. Of course, if you have any question about scuba diving in general, and specifically this part of the world, please contact us for free and independent advice and information.
Click the questions to jump to the answers.
- I have never dived before and I just want to try it, without committing to a course. Can I?
- Tell me about learning to learn to dive.
- What are the benefits of being an Advanced Open Water Diver?
- What is the ‘Scuba Diver’ certification, and how does it compare with Open Water?
- What is included in the price of a liveaboard cruise / diving safari?
- What is a typical liveaboard cruise itinerary?
- I’m worried about underwater currents.
- What is E-Learning, and its benefits?
- What is the difference between PADI, SSI, and other diving organizations?
- What about hiring equipment, including tanks & weights?
- What are National Park fees?
- How deep can/will I dive, and for how long?
- How many times can I dive per day?
- Can I take my non-diving partner on a day trip or liveaboard cruise?
- How do I get there?
- What if I have to cancel my trip?
- What about diving accident insurance?
- Although I’m a certified diver, I haven’t dived in quite a long time.
- How to pay a deposit to book, and then pay the balance?
- What do I do with my luggage while I’m out diving?
- Can I rent an underwater camera or dive computer to use while I dive?
- Will there be a videographer / photographer on board the dive boat?
- When is the best time of year to dive?
Yes. It’s normal for most scuba divers to start this way, although a few people commit to a course before ever taking an underwater breath from a tank. There are a few names for this kind of ‘try dive’ and they are commonly ‘Discover Scuba Diving’ and ‘Introduction/Introductory Dive’ or just ‘Intro Dive.’
Taking part in an Intro Dive is a safe and fun way to enjoy the experience of scuba diving with very little to learn or worry about. You would be accompanied by a qualified scuba diving instructor, not just a Divemaster guide. He or she will be a trained professional and responsible for your safety the whole time. It’s quite common for you to have the instructor to yourself, or sometimes with one other new diver. For safety reasons, it’s unsuitable for an instructor to be responsible for more than two new divers while underwater. The Intro Dive can last up to one hour, but is normally 30-40 minutes. You will dive down to no more than 12 metres, but generally spend most of your dive at 5-8 metres. You won’t need to worry about the amount of remaining air in your tank, or about how deep you are. Your instructor will manage the whole dive, and just teach you a few simple hand signals and rules before you enter the water. Some people like to take part in just one Intro Dive, while others do two in one day, either from a boat or the beach. Prices vary, put an average of $40-60 per dive is normal.
Some people call it the ‘PADI Licence’ but the correct term is Open Water Diver certification. Also, it’s not only PADI who offer it, but more about that later.
Learning to dive is great fun, doesn’t take too long, and isn’t all that expensive. There’s no ‘best place’ or ‘best way’ because it all depends on each person’s circumstances and needs. The average cost in this part of the world is $400, but this can be considerably less (on board a diving safari) and a little more. Some people like to start and finish the course in one place and time, usually 3-4 days, while others prefer to learn the theory at home before coming to Asia to complete the practical and fun parts.
Becoming an Open Water Diver may be a little daunting at first, but almost everyone feels nervous and soon relaxes, enjoys and learns a lot. The course involves watching a few short videos and learning about the best ways to dive safely, and what to do in certain situations. Nobody needs to be a genius or scientist, or even particularly fit or young. During the first day or two, students learn theory and about the skills, then get in the water to practice and learn a bit more. The first sessions underwater are called ‘confined water’ which is normally in a swimming pool or a shallow and calm beach. The idea of this is to allow students to start breathing underwater but without any dangers or distractions. They can stand up at any time and talk or listen to their instructor. As confidence grows and they can show the ability to perform some very simple tasks, they move into deeper water, but still in the ‘confined’ environment. The water at this stage is generally 2-3 metres deep. Diving at this depth is totally safe, even if the student needs to rush to the surface.
After showing that they can dive in confined water, the fun part starts. Days 3 & 4 (sometimes 2 & 3) are when students get to dive in ‘open water’ – hence the name of the course. This is usually done from a dive boat, but can also be off a beach. Diving in open water is a lot of fun, and students can enjoy the feeling of weightlessness and get to see the reef and all its colourful life. The instructor will keep a close eye on his/her students during the dives, and this is generally no more than 4-6 people. They will be asked to perform a few simple tasks, and dive to no more than 18 metres. At the end of the course, students will be ‘certified’ as Open Water Divers and can then use that certification all around the world. It doesn’t matter if you are certified by PADI, SSI, CMAS or any of the main organizations. You are ready to dive as a ‘fun diver’ starting from the very next day. Even if you haven’t received your diving card yet (PADI send it to your home) you can use your temporary licence or full name and birthdate to be able to join fun diving trips. Although Open Water ‘fun divers’ are qualified to dive with a buddy of the same qualification, they most commonly dive in professionally-led dive groups.
A large number of people who complete their Open Water course go on to become Advanced divers (AOW). The Advanced course is a lot more fun than the Open Water course, mainly because there’s less theory, the students are more relaxed, and there are more dives. The Advanced course teaches students a variety of different skills, only two of which are compulsory and the others can be selected from a list. The two compulsory dive skills are deep and navigation. Divers get to go down to 30 metres and from that day on are certified to dive to that depth for the rest of their lives. Learning to be able to navigate underwater has obvious benefits, especially in the situation of getting a little lost or leading a ‘dive buddy’ around a reef. The three other skills can be chosen from a long list which includes diving at night, in currents, off of a particular type of boat, taking photographs and many more. SSI even offers a specialty of ‘underwater basket weaver!’ Being an AOW diver enables you to take part in and enjoy so much more when on a scuba diving holiday or trip. There is very little theory involved, and you get to take part in five open water dives with your instructor.
The Scuba Diver course is one step below the Open Water course, and most commonly taken by people who have limited time and those who are only likely to take part in future fun dives led by a professional guide. Whereas an Open Water ‘fun diver’ is able to dive with a friend or partner who has the same level of certification or higher, Scuba Divers must be guided by a professional Divemaster guide or instructor. In addition, the maximum depth for Scuba Divers is 12m, but Open Water divers can reach depths of 18m. Anyone unsure about the benefits of taking a Scuba Diver course need not worry. If they choose to upgrade to Open Diver in the future, they only need to do the extra theory and two extra dives.
Liveaboard cruises are two days to a week or more living on a boat and diving up to four times every day. The boats are usually only for divers, although non-diving friends and partners, even children, are usually welcome to join. The cost of a liveaboard cruise may appear expensive, but almost everything is included in the price, most importantly accommodation and meals. When compared to staying in a hotel, eating at a restaurant three times a day and taking diving day trips, the price of a liveaboard all of a sudden looks very good value. Accommodation is nearly always in clean, air-conditioned cabins which have the bed linen changed every day. Meals are served four or five times, buffet style, and soft drinks are usually free, too. Depending on the boat and location of guests’ hotels, there is often a free transfer at the beginning and end of each trip. Dive equipment is sometimes included too, but not always. One thing which is an extra charge is the national park entry fees which apply to most countries in this area. The fees are payable to local authorities to protect the park from illegal fishing or other harmful activities.
Each liveaboard trip is different in some way to other trips, but most have similar itineraries. Diving usually starts early in the morning and continues through the day and into the evening. There are periods of no diving, known as surface intervals, but these are usually a lot more fun than just waiting on a boat. Typically, the first dive is before breakfast, at around 7-8am. Some trips offer a light breakfast before the first dive and a more substantial meal afterwards. There is a mandatory surface interval between each dive, and this is often two hours. During this time, the tour leader and boat captain will endeavour to offer the best choice of activities, such as snorkelling or an excursion to a beach. Dive 2 takes place just before midday, and dive 3 mid-afternoon. The 4th dive of the day on a liveaboard is usually a night dive, but can also be a sunset dive. Night dives are nearly always shorter in time and at a shallower depth than day dives. And they should take place in a bay or other area unlikely to be affected by currents. This routine is typical for most full-diving days onboard a liveaboard cruise (diving safari). However, days of departure and return may have only one, two or three dives. This also applies to days when the ship is sailing between diving areas which are far apart.
This is normal, and most divers prefer not to have to experience or fight against a current while scuba diving. It is a waste of energy (and air) fighting a current, and unsafe diving could cause divers to become lost out at sea. Nearly all scuba diving instructors, Divemaster guides and tour leaders will properly assess the sea conditions and plan each dive to be as easy and as safe as possible. This usually means choosing the best time of day and starting location of every dive. While some daredevils, thrill-seekers, and diving professionals enjoy a strong current, either holding on to a rock or drift diving, most of us want an easy, safe and enjoyable life. It is perfectly acceptable to make sure that your Divemaster guide, dive centre manager, or tour leader knows your feelings about diving in a current. They much prefer this to having to abort a dive or end it earlier than planned due to you running out of air or becoming separated from the group.
Currents are vital to the health of the reef and its abundant life, including fish of all sizes. Currents bring nutrient-rich water, and the stronger the currents in any given area, the more life there is. Just look at a pond or slow-moving lake for evidence of how stagnant water affects the health and variety of its inhabitants.
E-Learning is fast becoming a very popular way of starting a scuba diving course. It is basically you, the student, starting the theory part of your dive course from the comfort of your home or office. PADI & SSI offer the option of E-Learning in order for students to maximize their vacation time. Scuba diving in Asia nearly always takes place in locations where the weather is nice, and people want to be outside, swimming, sunbathing, kayaking or whatever they enjoy. Even a nice air-conditioned dive centre classroom is not as nice as sitting in a restaurant or riding a horse along the beach. E-Learning students can reduce their theory studying time at the dive center by a substantial amount, and it is usually free. You just need to visit the PADI or SSI websites to join and begin, but it’s a good idea to contact us or your preferred dive center first to make sure this option is available and how it may affect the price you pay.
For decades, PADI has been the market leader in recreational scuba diving certification. They have almost had a complete monopoly in most parts of the world. However, with some aggressive marketing by SSI, and the public becoming a little wiser from doing internet research, the tides are changing. PADI is still very much the most widely-recognized and used diving organization, but the likes of SSI are taking an increasingly-larger slice of the cake. To you, the diver, there’s very little to choose between them. PADI insists on every course student buying an information manual, which they keep. Those taking an SSI course only need to use the manual at the dive centre, therefore reducing costs. During each Open Water course, SSI instructors are able to adapt the order of the skills, and make one or two other small changes depending on the situation, but PADI have rigid regulations. PADI divers can join fun dives with an SSI affiliated dive centre, and vice versa, and this also applies to the several other diving organizations, including CMAS & NAUI.
Firstly, please note that every dive centre will supply weights and 12 litre air tanks free of charge, and you do not need to bring your own. They are heavy and bulky.
Diving equipment normally refers to BCD, regs, wetsuit, mask & fins. While some people have their own complete or partial sets, many divers have nothing, or don’t want to travel with it. Dive centres tend to charge a small amount for equipment rental for fun diving guests, but include it in the cost of courses. The typical rate for hiring diving gear in Southeast Asia is $15-20US per day for a full set, and $5-10 for a dive computer, if required. The gear should be in good working condition and spares should be taken on every boat trip. Although it’s the dive staff’s responsibility to check and remember diving equipment and spares, you will be the one who misses out if there is a problem with your gear. Don’t be shy or polite when it comes to reminding or asking about diving equipment, or anything you are not sure about.
The best diving in Southeast Asia nearly always takes place in remote locations, and in areas where fishing and other activities which are harmful to the environment are forbidden. Local authorities need to employ rangers/guards and the necessary infrastructure to maintain the national marine parks and protect them from illegal activities. Different countries have varying entrance and diving fees for their marine parks, but the money is payable direct to the authorities and not part of the cruise or day trip. Therefore, dive centres separate the cost in their pricing. The fees normally need to be paid in local currency, but US Dollars are required in some countries, including Indonesia and Myanmar (Burma).
This question has no simple answer. The most basic level of scuba diver can go down to a maximum depth of 12 metres, and thrill-seeking experts sometimes descend as far as 60 metres, although not for very long.
Generally, recreational scuba diving takes place at depths of 5-20m. The deeper you go, the quicker your air runs out and there’s less light and colour. It’s also colder. Diving at less than 10m. is warmer, safer, more colourful, and allows you to stay underwater for much longer than deep divers. If you are learning to dive, or are just an ‘Open Water’ fun diver, you should dive no deeper than 18m. Advanced divers can go to 30m. Absolute beginners and novices are taken by a professional instructor to no deeper than 12m.
The length of each scuba dive will vary, depending on how much air is left in the divers’ tanks. The normal length of time is 45 minutes, but it’s quite easy to safely remain underwater for more than one hour. Air consumption rates depend on a variety of factors, most notably the experience of the diver and how deep they descend to. New divers tend to be excited and move around a lot, taking many breaths. Their tank of air will soon reach 50 bar* and it will be time to slowly return to the surface. Experienced divers know how to preserve their air by relaxing, NOT by holding their breath. In addition, the deeper anyone breathes compressed air will increase how much air is taken from the tank. Therefore, deep diving means the diver will run out of air much more quickly, and staying shallow enables them to stay under for much longer.
*scuba diving tanks are generally filled with normal compressed air and this is measured in pressure, referred to as ‘bar.’ Typically a diver will start with around 200 bar, and when this level reaches 50 bar, it is advisable to begin a ‘safety stop’ which is remaining at a depth of 5 metres for 3 minutes. Safety stops can be fun, and are still part of the dive. Ideally, they take place above shallow reefs, but sometimes in open water.
Generally, the answer is no more than four. On day trips, the usual number of dives is two or three. Liveaboard diving is commonly three day dives and a night dive. Those lucky enough to be staying near a beach reef with good diving normally only do 3-4 dives per day. The reasons for this are clear to anyone who has learned to dive by taking a course. The body needs time between dives to recover. This is not just about your energy levels, it involves scientific limits.
In almost all cases, the answer is ‘yes.’ Most of our day trips and liveaboard cruises (diving safaris) visit places where non-diving guests, even children, can enjoy beaches and snorkelling. They even come along at a discounted price. There are few diving locations, such as Richelieu Rock & Hin Daeng in Thailand, where there’s nothing to do or see for non-divers, but we will make this clear in our prices and correspondence. It’s usually a good idea to presume that your non-diving friend, family member, or partner is welcome to join unless you read or hear otherwise.
It really depends on where in Southeast Asia you plan to dive, but the best way to find out how to get to the dive centre, boat, pier or island is to just ask us. We are happy to offer advice and information on getting around the region, and have learned what we know from doing it ourselves or helping others.
If you need to cancel or change a diving trip or course, please let us know as soon as possible, even if you’re not sure yet. We do not charge people for cancelling a trip. However, we are limited by the cancellation policies of our dive centre partners. Some are happy to allow a full refund, and others charge some or all of the deposit or even the full price. This depends on what kind of trip or course you book to join and how soon before the start date you cancel. We advise all of our customers and guests to carefully check the cancellation policy for the trip or course which they book. In addition, taking out insurance to cover such situations is always a good idea. You could easily get sick or injured the day before you plan to start your scuba diving vacation. As already mentioned, we have to follow our dive centres’ cancellation policies, but we will not charge any extra on top of what they do.
Scuba diving accidents are very rare. The most common is ‘decompression sickness’ (The Bends), which is caused by irresponsible diving. Treatment for The Bends is expensive, as the patient needs to spend time in a recompression chamber. Although diving accidents are very rare, diving insurance is very cheap. DAN is one of the most well-known insurance companies specializing in diving, and their rates are not much more than a meal or a couple of beers in a restaurant while on vacation. It’s a very good idea to take out dive insurance.
This is quite common, and there is a very simple solution. Some dive centres are very strict about this, and others more flexible, but if you haven’t dived in the last twelve months, you should take part in a ‘scuba review,’ which is a diving session in a pool, or a local/easy reef dive with a scuba diving instructor. He/She will review the necessary skills which you learned when you took the Open Water Diver course. Depending on how well you perform and how much you can remember, this ‘scuba review’ is usually fun, easy and very personal. The average cost is about $50 including diving equipment rental.
This is the easy part. To book any of our trips or courses, the safe and secure methods of PayPal & WorldPay allow anyone to use a credit or debit card in the knowledge that they will not get conned, ripped off or charged extra. For booking deposits, any banking fees charged by PayPal or WorldPay are absorbed by us, so the customer doesn’t pay any extra at all. Normal deposits range from 10% to 30%, but vary depending on what is being booked, and when. Some dive centres are happy for guests to just turn up and pay the balance when they arrive, but others ask for the balance to be paid a month or 45 days before departure. In such situations, we are happy to handle the balance payment on customers’ behalf, passing on part of the small fees charged to us by PayPal or WorldPay. Customers are also more than welcome to transfer funds directly to the dive centre, if they wish.
Unless you’re staying in a hotel, guest house or resort and doing day trips or a diving course, you will need somewhere to securely store your travelling luggage, most of which you won’t be using at the time. This is perfectly normal, and all of our dive centres have their own solutions. Some liveaboard diving boats are large enough to take the luggage on board, while others have secure storage facilities on land. Of course, it depends on the logistics of where the trip departs and returns to, and your own personal plans at each end of the trip. Whichever trip you decide to go on, the handling and storage of your luggage will not be a problem. If you have any special needs or requests, just let us or the dive centre know in advance and we will do everything possible to make sure everything is taken care of.
In nearly every situation, the answer is ‘yes.’ Most of our dive centre partners have rental cameras which are easy to use for those who are not experienced, and nearly all of them will have dive computers for hire, too. Rates vary on the equipment and dive centre, but they are always reasonable. Generally, the dive centres offer cameras and computers for hire to encourage customers to dive with them, and to add to the safety and enjoyment of each dive. They very rarely make much profit from doing so. Please feel free to contact us and ask in advance of booking if renting a camera or dive computer is important to you.
There is nearly always a professional videographer and/or photographer on each diving trip. These guys are normally Divemasters who have turned their diving hobby into a job. Not only is the sale of personal videos and photos attractive to guests, it is profitable to the dive centres and those doing the job. Prices tend to be reasonable, because the videographer/photographer is basically enjoying a wonderful job which has only reasonable pay but other great benefits. They only need to sell a few videos or pictures per trip to be able to survive and continue, so it works well for everyone involved.
In this part if the world, it never gets cold. The climate is always nice and warm, or hot. What dictates a good diving season is the local monsoon which causes waves to be large or unpredictable. Nobody enjoys sailing in rough seas, and diving from a boat which is rocking heavily can be dangerous. Although the conditions underwater aren’t much different year round, the boat captains and dive centres must consider the weather conditions, especially those which affect the sea. It is easily possible to dive all year round in this part of the world, but each diving area will have a peak season and a low season. Some national marine parks are closed to the public for 4-5 months, in the interest of safety. Even if a brave or foolish boat captain wants to sail in rough seas, it is not fair on those responsible for coming to the rescue of a boat in trouble.