Choosing A Dive Site
Welcome to the brave new world beyond your scuba class, filled with the liquid destinations that make up more than two-thirds of our planet. Glance at a map and consider the reefs, islands, lakes, coves, and channels that await your exploration. But where to go first? Whom to dive with? What are the most important resources you need to make these decisions? If you're overwhelmed, relax. There are plenty of strategies to ensure that you're in the right place at the right time.
To begin with, one of your best options may be sticking with the group with which you trained. Many dive shops offer local diving outings and group travel abroad. Since the shop's instructors — who often act as the tour leaders — are familiar with your skill level, they can help you choose a destination. While traveling, they're close by to answer equipment questions and monitor your initial dives.
Depending on the region, shops may organize day trips to nearby dive sites. Local waters — where you can jump in a few weekends in a row — are an excellent way to build your dive profile and feel increasingly comfortable with scuba gear. When you choose a shop, consider it a big plus if its staff organizes a variety of trips. This points to a dedicated following for the store and a source of potential dive buddies for you.
As divers progress, some of them hop from one destination to another in search of very specific experiences. Night dive, check. Manta rays, check. Giant sponges, check. Others are simply looking for a way to spend a few wonderful days on vacation and see a destination from a different angle. Somewhere on that scale — from vacationing to dive to diving while on vacation — you'll find your own balance.
How Much to Spend?
Budget is usually a big factor in selecting a destination. Different destinations require different investments, usually not predicated on the diving alone. The cost of an average scuba day-trip seems to follow an international average of about $60 to $90 for what is known as a two-tank dive. This generally covers a boat ride to the dive site, two tanks of air, some snacks, and the support of staff on board and dive guides underwater.
Prices usually vary only for special services such as especially fast boats, rare animal encounters, small private groups, or a catered lunch on a deserted island.
Where budget really becomes an issue is beyond the diving, starting with the flight and hotel or live-aboard and ending with meals and souvenirs. For some destinations, the plane ticket is the big item, with accommodation prices reflecting a very competitive market. Remember, too, you may need to pay extra luggage fees for your dive gear if you travel to a particularly remote area.
An excellent way to maximize your dive experience without exhausting your wallet is with shore diving. Resorts that are right on a beach have direct access to the reefs. Since tank fills are usually inexpensive, you can spend the hours between boat dives venturing off the beach on shallower quests — or even just snorkeling.
The next factors to consider are the level and types of diving available at a destination. Most Caribbean and Pacific destinations have a wide range of possibilities, from protected, shallow dives at the novice end to full-scale adventure for the experts.
Continued In: Choosing A Dive Site - Part 2