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How to plan the Ultimate Scuba Diving Holiday

Updated on October 24, 2014

Organizing your next scuba diving vacation is really quite simple!

Although it can seem a little overwhelming to plan a scuba diving vacation and you might be tempted just to book a tour, it really isn't that hard to organize the trip yourself. It will often be cheaper and you can cater everything to your own specific interests, instead of just fitting in with a group. I've detailed 6 easy steps for you to follow when planning your scuba diving vacation, filled with plenty of tips and things to avoid. However, it will take some time to email and phone, and make reservations so set aside at least 10 hours and have a computer with an internet connection at the ready. Happy planning and have a great time underwater!

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Step #1: Pick a Scuba Diving Destination

If you do a Google Search of "Top 10 dive sites in the world," you'll find plenty of ideas for where to go on your next dive vacation. I also have some ideas for you! Here are some of my recommendations for the top-dive sites in the world:

1. Palau: this group of islands in Micronesia is not that easy to get to, but it will be well worth the trip. The top-side scenery is stunning, and below the water there is just about everything a diver could possibly want: shipwrecks, sharks, corals, walls, drift-diving. You could dive in Palau for weeks and not be bored. But beware: this trip won't be cheap!

2. Malaysian Borneo. There are a couple famous islands called Mabul and Sipadan, which are stunning. Mabul is famous for Macro diving and it has a reputation as being a place where you can find just about any wacky and weird thing imaginable. Sipadan is famous for the big stuff: sharks, turtles, schooling barracudas, whale sharks. It can be quite cheap to get to Borneo via Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur. If you choose to stay on Mabul at one of the resorts, this holiday will not be cheap. However, you can also stay in Semporna at one of the backpacker accommodations and take the speedboat for diving everyday, which is quite economical. There really isn't that much top-side entertainment for the non-divers, so think twice before bringing your family for days on end. However, around Borneo there is plenty to keep you entertained for weeks.

3. Similan Islands, Koh Bon and Richelieu Rock, Thailand. The Similans are a group of 9 islands, while the other 2 sites are lone pinnacles in the open ocean. They are all accessed through speed-boats, or liveaboard trips either from Phuket or Khao Lak. Koh Bon is famous for Mantas, Richelieu for big pelagics, and the Similan Islands for stunning corals, and a massive variety of marine life. The trip can be as cheap or expensive as you make it, as there is everything from budget operators to ultra-luxurious ones. There is lots of entertainment in either Khao Lak or Phuket for those in your groups who are not divers. It really is the perfect diving destination.

4. The Egyptian Red Sea. The red sea really does have a bit of everything: sharks, wild drift dives, accessible wrecks. 30% of the marine life can only be found at this spot in the world, so keep your eyes open for the wacky and unusual. This group of dive sites is easily and cheaply accessible for those who live in Europe, often in very economical all-inclusive packages. There is lots of entertainment to keep the non-divers in your group happy too.

Step #2: Research Dive Operators

A dive operator can either make or break your holiday, so it's well-worth your time to do a little research before choosing one. I will often just do a Google Search for "(Dive Operator's name) Review." You should find plenty of results.

Or, here are my favorite sites to use when doing research about Scuba Diving Operators:

Trip Advisor

Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Forums


Scuba Board Dive Forums

What's the most important thing when planning a scuba diving vacation?

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Step #3: Book your flight, hotel and diving and check visa requirements

This will require a lot of research, emails and phone calls. It may be tempting to just go with one of the all-inclusive package deals, but if you're on a tight budget, this will not be the cheapest option and you can save a substantial amount by organizing the trip yourself.

Airfare is often where you can find the biggest savings on your scuba diving trip. I usually choose about 10 travel agents in my area and send out emails to all of them. If there are some with reputations for "student or budget travel," be sure to email these ones because they will often have the cheapest prices. I also get online and see if I can find some deals directly from the carrier's websites, as well as sites like or I also research the discount carriers that fly in my area and check their websites as well.

I will most often only book a hotel for the first couple of nights of my trip, unless it's very, very high season. If I like the place I'm staying after the first night, I'll just extend for the rest of my stay. If I don't, I'll walk around the town checking out other places until I find one I like. I can't count the number of times I've booked (and paid for) a place for my entire stay but hated it after day 1 or 2! Never again for me.

You've done the research about dive operators, so hopefully you're found a good one. Send them an email, and of course ask for a discount if you plan on diving for multiple days.

At this stage, you can also do some research about visa requirements for where you're going and get all of that in order.

Step #4: Make a packing list and check your scuba gear

If you're going somewhere extremely remote, or on a liveaboard trip, this stage is even more important. You won't be able to just buy anything you need, so plan extremely carefully, but pack lightly. The discount airlines often have very low baggage allowances so make sure everything you bring has a specific purpose. Your list will have 2 parts: diving gear, and everything else. For diving gear, here is my list:

-swim suit (2) +towel (one large beach-towel)

-board shorts and quick-dry shirt for between dives

-Teva or Chaco Sandals


-dry bag

-certification card/log-book

-booties/fins (+extra strap)


-BCD/Reg Set (+spare mouthpiece)

-Dive computer (+spare battery)



Of course you should check your scuba gear for any obvious signs of wear or malfunction before your trip and take care of it. If you know you have a zipper on your wetsuit that is on its last leg, a liveaboard trip in a remote area is not the time for it to break. Get it replaced before you go! Same with that reg set that could definitely use a servicing or that watch battery that really should be changed.

For land, here is my basic list:

-t-shirts/tank tops and shorts (3 of each...I hand-wash in my room at night).

-underwear/bra (3 of each)

-1 pair of running shoes for hiking, 1 pair flip-flops

-light PJ's

-1 pair of jeans and sweater for the plane

-all meds I might need

-sunscreen, bug spray, aloe gel

-2 books




Step #5: Pack your bags!

At this point, you should already have all your reservations for hotel, flights, and diving. If you need a visa, hopefully you've figured out how and when to get it.

Now, a few days before you're set to go, start packing your bags. If you pack your bag the same day (or night before) you're leaving, chances are quite high that you'll forget something. Get out that list you've already made, and start checking things off. I like to have my bags packed 3 days before I go, and then just before I'm leaving, I go through them once again just to double-check my list. And often in those 3 days, something else I need will pop into my head, so I just throw it in. It's the low-stress way to get ready for your ultimate scuba diving vacation!


Step #6: Go and enjoy your fabulous scuba diving holiday!

Have fun and see some cool stuff under the sea. Remember to give yourself 24 hours after diving, before flying just to be extra-safe.

What's your #1 tip for planning a scuba diving vacation?

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    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 5 years ago

      My #1 tip for planning a scuba vacation is to go somewhere warm! I'm planning my first scuba diving vacation to Mexico, and I'm looking forward to it because it's the first time I won't need to dive with a thick wetsuit.

    • profile image

      entertainmentev 5 years ago

      I learned tons of tips for you. I'll be picking my destination first. I would love to scuba drive in the Palau Islands.

    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 6 years ago from New York

      Something I've always wanted to try but haven't yet had the chance. Enjoyed your lens tremendously.

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 6 years ago from East Central Florida

      Oh, I wish I had a tip for you, but you have already covered a lot here. It would never have occurred to me to think of the Red Sea as a diving destination, but, wow - sounds interesting!