Choosing the right scuba diving instructor is one of the most important decisions you will ever make in life. The decision determines your safety during and after the diving lessons. If the instructor skips some lessons or skills, you will always be at a high risk when diving on your own. For most people, diving comes as a random thought, especially when on holiday. They run to the nearest shop and go with the assigned instructor without asking any questions. Such an approach is risky. If you intend to take diving lessons, here are some important factors to consider when choosing an instructor.
Table of Contents
- 1 1. Recommendations
- 2 2. Professionalism
- 3 3. Level of Experience
- 4 4. Range of Skills
- 5 5. Value for Money
- 6 6. Flexibility
- 7 7. Certification
The best place to start when choosing an instructor is asking for recommendations from other fully-trained divers. If you have family members, workmates, or friends who have completed scuba diving courses, ask for recommendations for the best instructor. You are safer when working with a proven instructor than when working with a stranger. Consider the diver’s skills when asking for a recommendation. Ask about the lessons taught, their experience, and the outcome of the lessons before enrolling for the classes. A recommendation from a friend does not automatically mean that you found the right instructor. You need to go a step further and conduct an interview with the recommended instructor based on the factors outlined below.
If you do not get a good recommendation, you need to vet the instructors in your area. Meet as many as you can and hold interviews before deciding on one. Professionalism is an important consideration when narrowing down your options. It may be difficult to determine if an instructor is a professional or not before the lessons. However, you can ask leading questions and get the information from the instructor. For instance, ask about the number of students that the instructor handles in a single lesson. Is the instructor present at all times when students are in or near water? How does the instructor handle slow students? The instructor’s approach and language when answering your questions will also help you judge if he or she is a professional.
3. Level of Experience
One of the questions that you must ask the potential instructor is his or her level of experience. A new instructor may be a good choice because he or she is familiar with the current diving techniques and equipment. However, an experienced instructor will teach you how to navigate different environments. Some of the techniques are only learned through experience. You may find new instructors who have never experienced a storm when scuba diving. An experienced instructor is likely to transfer the best safety skills out of his or her experience. Do not simply consider the number of years. Ask about the types of environment and weather conditions that the instructor has handled safely.
4. Range of Skills
The main reason for vetting instructors is to ensure that you get all the skills and knowledge that you need to dive safely. You need to ask about the instructor’s approach to diving. Some do it from a horizontal position while others start from a vertical position. Will you be kneeling when learning how to dive? Will the instructor be present as you practice the skills you have learned? Some instructors take off after the lesson and expect you to try the newly acquired skills alone. You need an instructor who teaches a new skill and watches you apply it after the lesson at no extra cost. One of the lessons in the course should be the panic cycle because panic kills many scuba divers.
5. Value for Money
Schools charge different prices for their diving courses. Paying a high price does not mean that you will get all the skills you need. However, you should be willing to pay more for an excellent instructor. Remember that your life and safety depends on this decision. Ask about the lessons that you are paying for and determine whether you are getting value for your money. The choice of school or shop determines if you get value for your money. Some schools are keen to hire experienced and certified instructors while others hire any available instructor in their area. Ask the instructor for a breakdown of what you are paying for, including the equipment. What equipment does the school provide? Will you incur an additional cost of buying some equipment? Compare prices from different schools or instructor to make an informed decision.
Does the instructor have a fixed or flexible training schedule? You may want to attain all the skills and knowledge in the sport while fulfilling other responsibilities. The best schools offer a flexible schedule to enable students to learn while balancing other activities. However, flexibility does not always mean the dive instructor will work with your schedule. Remember the school has other students with different schedules as well. Check if the school’s schedule fits your work schedule. The instructor may be willing to adjust a few hours in a week to suit your schedule but not the entire timetable. Discuss such possibilities beforehand to avoid disappointments or inconsistent lessons.
The certifying board or institution is an important consideration if you want to become a professional scuba diver. You need certification from a body that is recognized around the world. The size of the body or institution does not matter. The body should be recognised for producing highly skilled divers who can work under little or no supervision. It will be easier for you to get a good job as a professional diver or trainer if you get certification from such an institution. Reputable institutions will only issue certifications to students who have acquired the essential knowledge and skills.
The best approach when choosing a scuba diving instructor is to think of the instructor as an employee. You will be paying for the lessons and hence you need to get value for your money. Ask as many questions as you can about the instructor’s training, level of experience, and approach to training. Scuba diving may come as a random thought but your choice of an instructor cannot be random. Do not risk your life by accepting the instructor that the nearest shop provides without an interview. Take time to vet different instructors, especially if you want to become a professional scuba diver.
Elena is part of the team at Atlantis Gozo, a diving centre operating in Malta. The centre specializes in group and individual diving lessons and tours around the island. To learn more about Atlantis Gozo and what they have to offer, visit atlantisgozo.com.