Despite being born and raised in the country that boasts the world’s largest coral reef system, I’d never before attempted SCUBA diving. Aussie kids are all taught to swim at a young age but I’ve never exactly felt at home under water. On my recent trip to the Cayman Islands I decided it was finally time to take the plunge and give SCUBA diving a try. Over the course of three days, I somehow managed to quell my nerves and complete my PADI Open Water Diving course. These are my top tips for anyone considering SCUBA diving for the first time.
Do the theory component at home
The PADI Open Water Diving course requires you to pass a theoretical exam before you can be certified. The good news is PADI offers an eLearning course, meaning the theoretical part can be completed online. Doing the eLearning at home before your trip will save you from having to spend time studying whilst your on holiday and allows you to get started in the water sooner. You’ll also have a better understanding of what the course involves and the type of things you’ll have to do during the certification.
Find a good instructor
This is essential to having a good diving experience. You need to be comfortable with your instructor as you will be entrusting this person with your life. I was a very nervous diver so I needed someone who would be able to help me stay calm. I did my certification through Happy Fish Divers, who are ranked #1 on TripAdvisor in the George Town area. I was lucky and had an excellent instructor who was very patient and accommodating.
Keep calm and don’t panic!
I completely broke this rule on my first open water dive. I’m not sure exactly what set me off, I think it was a combination of nerves about going deeper under water and having a bit of water in my regulator, but somehow I ended up having a panic attack. I lost control of my breathing and started hyperventilating in the water and needed my instructor to assist me in getting to the surface. This is an absolute no-no. You need to keep a handle on your emotions and resist the urge to rush to the surface.
I did manage to get back in the water the following day and finish the course. I did this part just with the instructor (the previous sessions had been in a group of four) which meant he could keep a closer watch on me and make sure I was fine. We took things slow as I got comfortable in the water again, which is exactly what I needed. If you feel you’re in a bit of trouble, it helps to maintain eye contact with your buddy and take slow, steady breaths. Don’t push yourself beyond what you’re comfortable with.
Once the lessons were over I was able to just enjoy exploring the reef. There were so many different types of coral and fish, it was truly amazing to see. I’m not sure if I’ve quite caught the diving bug yet, but I’m definitely keen to do it again once I’m back in Australia.