Embracing The Blue(s): Preparing For An Open Water Scuba Diving Course

There are two kinds of people: those who like the sea and those who don’t. Those who like it feel a variety of inexplicable emotions about it. Sea is rough and scary. But, it also is calm, loving, and very deep. The blues of the sea have the magic to make one pause, think, and dissolve. Given our love for the waters and the creatures that it hides within, it was a dream to dive into the deep blue ocean. Earlier this year, we managed to get an Open Water Diving Certification at Fulidhoo Dive Centre in Maldives that allows people to dive for leisure to a maximum depth of 18 metres. There’s a lot of information available online about the course, training schools, and more. BUT! There’s a lot of misinformation and confusion too.

The many colours of the sea and its people

For people like us, who aren’t adventurous enough to jump off cliffs, scuba diving can be scary. But the good news is that scuba diving isn’t as scary as it may appear to be. Once you have figured the basics, it only gets easier. For those who are looking at getting a scuba diving certification but fear the process, there are many things you could do to make the learning experience smoother and less intimidating.

Ideally, an expert diver should be writing a post such as this. But, most expert divers are way past the beginning phase and by then struggles are different. So, here’s a beginner’s perspective to help you sail through the training. 

Choose A Good Location

There isn’t a dearth of clean blue waters around the globe. If time isn’t a constraint, it’s best to find a serene clear water zone where the training itself is an experience to cherish. We chose the Maldives for their proximity to India and for the crystal clear waters.

Murky waters may feel claustrophobic and clarity underwater makes it a lot easier to train. More importantly, training includes diving practice in the ocean. Given scuba training is expensive, a good location makes the expense worth the experience. During our training at Fulidhoo in the Maldives, we saw stingrays, turtles, a grey reef shark, a huge fish-swirl besides a gazillion colour fish and corals. And, this was just training.

Training in mainland India may be cheaper and decently efficient, but the waters are harder to train in. We recently dived in Pondicherry and it was quite a challenge. If you are a novice, we highly recommend getting trained elsewhere especially with a dive centre like Fulidhoo Dive that is run by the community, is environmentally conscious, and has years of diving experience in the region.

Waters Below Fulidhoo
PC: Fulidhoo Dive. Clear waters of Fulidhoo

Note: Choose a dive centre that is aware of its social and ecological responsibilities and brings that into its training program. You don’t want to cause more damage to the environment.

Find A Great Teacher

A busy and touristy dive centre that does a dozen other things besides diving courses is a bad idea. In an earlier diving experience, we were in the water when our trainer and a crew member got into an argument about who was going to guide us. Another time, there was a missing air tank on the boat. Racism, unprofessionalism, safety hazards are common.

We trained with Fulidhoo Dive in Maldives and we cannot praise the school enough for its brilliant work. Ali, our instructor, is disciplined, professional, and highly experienced. We could blindly rely on his methods and approach. Besides, he is one of those great teachers who pushes his students when needed and let loose at other times. The overall crew is highly efficient and there’s barely any confusion or chaos in their functioning. If you are looking for a Dive school in Maldives, do not think twice.

PC: Fulidhoo Dive. The blue lagoon that became our training ground.

Prepare Your Mind And Body

Unlike what many dive schools and websites claim, one needs to know how to swim in order to get a certification in diving. The course requires you to exhibit swimming skills in confined waters and treading water in the open. Besides, the basic knowledge of body movements, floating, and comfort in water comes in handy during the course. We did struggle a bit during our swim test and a few months of practice in the local pool could have made it much easier. You don’t need to be an expert or an athlete but basic swimming techniques and stamina are definitely needed.

Second, study the content materials given to you well in advance. There’s a really long knowledge piece to the training that most people skim through or finish on the last day. To make the course simpler for you, we highly recommend to read it well, watch the videos several times, and maybe practice a few skills, in theory, to feel fully prepared for the practical course.

Fulidhoo Dive Island Sunset
After a long day in the sea, there’s more to do on the island.

Do Your Own Research

Even if you do all the things right, there’s something that’s meant to go wrong – a misfit mask, unbearable ear pain, itchy rashes and so on. At those times, expect to find solutions on your own. For example, I had a brutal ear pain during the first few dives that wouldn’t go away no matter what technique I used. It came close to a point where I had to rethink the course. None of the techniques that the course suggested worked. After reading for hours on the choppy Maldivian internet, I found a modified technique suggested by someone sailing on the same boat. And, It worked. There are a ton of video tutorials available online on many strange phenomena that you may face under water.

Each person’s body is different and struggles with different things. It’s best to remember this and find what works for you on your own. Read, talk, practice and unless medically problematic, keep trying.

PC: Fulidhoo Dive. The gorgeous White-tip reef shark at Fulidhoo

 What If You Are Not Able To Complete The Training

Before enrolling in the course, we had no idea that there’s a possibility of falling at completing the training in one go. In this case, it’s alright to break the course into another part and to complete it at a later time. Reasons that are sometimes beyond your control can contribute to this scenario – nose blockage, ear pain, medical issues, or maybe just a bad week.

If you make sure that all the above factors are in place, there’s a high chance that the training would be smooth and enriching. Just keep in mind that many people struggle with the course and no matter what others say, it’s alright to take your time and feel scared at times.  

PC: Fulidhoo Dive. The comfortable big boat at Fulidhoo Dive makes it all the more comfortable.

Quick Facts

  1. There’s a quick and easy course called ‘Discover Scuba Diving’ offered by PADI that many people try out on a beach holiday. It’s an introduction to what scuba diving feels like, basic safety rules, and includes a dive of up to 12 metres (but mostly shallower). An instructor would be with you the whole time. Plus, one doesn’t need to know how to swim to opt for this course. We opted for this course on an earlier trip to the Maldives and it did give us an idea of how scuba diving may feel like. It is a good tester to scuba diving, works as a quick feel-good experience, and may encourage or discourage you to get an open water certification. The drawback is that is a one-time experience only and gives no certification to dive elsewhere. If you want to scuba dive at another location, this will not be considered valid.
  2. The average cost of Open Water Diving Course varies between 26,000 INR to 40,000 INR (400 USD to 600 USD ~) per person, as of August 2018. At Fulidhoo, we paid a fee of 36000/person. Being Maldives, it is on the expensive side but it was definitely worth it.
  3. The online study material requires about 14 to 16 hours of your time. Best to complete it online before you reach the destination. The practical part of the course (confined and open water) takes up to 3 to 4 days depending on how fast you are able to learn and demonstrate the skills correctly. 
  4. Forget about photography, you would be too busy learning to breathe and move. Besides, each dive is when your instructor asks you to demonstrate the skills. Therefore, there’s no time to take pictures during the training dives.
  5. For people who have motion sickness, boat rides may cause some (or a lot) dizziness. The Maldives was a blessing for me – the flat sea and the comfortable boats made it very easy on the stomach. It’s good to check the boat that your dive centre uses – long tail boats cause way more dizziness.
  6. You don’t need to buy any equipment for the course. The centre provides those. Just carry your most comfortable swimsuit and the usual beach materials. 
  7. The skills learnt in open water diving course are meant for warm, tropical waters. Cold water diving is a whole new ball game.
PC: Fulidhoo Dive. The wonder down under.

After a lot of research and chats with many dive centres, we found Fulidhoo Dive Centre to be the most suitable for our budget and needs. Fulidhoo Dive Center is located on a local island called Fulidhoo in Vaavu Atoll which makes it easy to find affordable accommodations and local food. Unlike private islands, where the only choice is to stay at the resort, Fulidhoo has more options. The Dive centre is fully equipped and has clean, well-maintained equipment.

*The appreciation for Fulidhoo Dive Center is purely out of our love and respect for their work. There’s no free deal or discount resulting from this post, which also holds true for any other post on our blog that may appreciate a person or agency.

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