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Recreational Scuba Diving – The Real Adventure

Explore the final frontier on earth through the recreational scuba diving and tec diving

Why recreational scuba diving? Discovery and adventure have always been part of humanity. Nothing else living on earth explores for the sake of exploration. Whether scaling Mount Everest or using the Hubble Space Telescope to view distant galaxies at the edge of the universe, only humans seek knowledge and embrace challenges for their own sake. It’s in our blood. It has driven much of our progress and many of our problems.

Recreational Scuba Diving Phuket - Buddy devirs in corals

As 21st century technology continues to shrink the earth, more and more people visit wider areas. Today, perhaps only 10 percent of the face of the earth is beyond reach within 24 hours. You can visit some of nature’s most spectacular monuments and view things that, a century ago, were sights reserved for the elite explorer. This progress comes at a price. While discoveries in science and technology may be endless, opportunities for discovering new places are becoming rare. We still marvel at the sight of Victoria Falls, but we drive to it in comfortable vehicles along well-worn roads. We view it surrounded by other tourists. It feels like we’re visiting, not exploring. It leaves our thirst for discovery unquenched. Perhaps that’s one reason why recreational scuba diving has been one of the fastest growing adventure sports, professions and scientific avenues for more than three decades. While we’ve crawled and clawed across most of terrestrial earth, underwater we’ve barely looked. Even in coastal waters near a major city, it’s possible to visit and discover underwater locations that no one, or at most a handful, has ever seen. Without a doubt, the underwater world is the final frontier on earth and through recreational scuba diving you can go to his discovery.

The Underwater Adventure

As a diver, you have access to this final frontier. You may go there for recreation, for work or for science – or a combination of these. Although recreational scuba diving is the most accessible form of underwater exploration for most people, technology allows us to go deeper or venture into more dangerous waters with submersibles and ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles).

For many, the rewards of diving extend beyond adventure and exploration. Recreational scuba diving can take you to some of the most exotic destinations in the world, immerse you in new cultures and open new creative outlets. Through recreational scuba diving, you become involved with the environment in ways that can make a difference.

Recreational Scuba Diving - Meet people around the world

As a diver, you enjoy a lifestyle that involves interesting people, new challenges, and social events. It’s a lifestyle you can enjoy close to home or at distant destinations. Recreational scuba diving is one of those rare activities that accommodate different interests and people. It can be high-charged and intense, or delightful and relaxing. Unlike many sports, in diving a seasoned pro can pair with a rank novice and have just as much fun.

In this article, you’ll get a glimpse of all that underwater adventure offers. You’ll learn the differences and overlaps between recreational scuba diving and technical diving, as well as non-diving technologies for underwater exploration. We’ll touch on the top dive destinations around the world, and look at a few reserved for the elite underwater adventurist.

Recreational Scuba Diving

It’s recreational diving that opened the seas, rivers, lakes and quarries to millions of people worldwide. Born with the invention of the scuba regulator by Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnan in the 1940s, recreational scuba diving has evolved from a sport only for daring, hardy young men to an activity enjoyed by both genders from about eight years old to whatever. Thanks to advances in equipment, training and support services over the years, today many adventurous people enjoy diving.

Definition of Recreational Scuba Diving

Recreational Scuba Diving - Dive gear

The term “recreational” means “for fun,” which is obviously the purpose of recreational scuba diving. However, when you hear “recreational diving,” what’s usually meant is a defined set of limits, training and equipment requirements. A scuba instructor teaching you recreational scuba diving is a professional engaged in his profession, but we still call the diving “recreational scuba diving.”

Recreational scuba diving is therefore defined as diving no deeper than 40 metres (130 feet) within the no stop limits of recognized dive tables or dive computers. When diving within an overhead environment, the total horizontal and vertical distance to the surface may not exceed 40 metres/130 feet, and light from the surface must always be visible. To participate in recreational scuba diving without immediate professional supervision, you must have an entry-level certification such as the PADI Open Water Diver certification or higher.

With changes in equipment and training requirements, you can enjoy a broad range of diving and activities within the limits of recreational scuba diving. Although you wear a short wet suit or skin suit for warm-water tropical reef versus a heavy dry suit for an early spring plunge into a kelp forest, both fall within the limits and definition of recreational diving.

Description of Recreational Scuba Diving.

Recreational Scuba Diving - dolphin

As a sport and leisure pursuit open to the broad range of people, recreational scuba diving has simple equipment and training requirements compared to other forms of diving. It’s primarily equipment limitations that have set the limits for recreational scuba diving; one of the biggest safety advantages of recreational scuba diving is the ability to, at any time, make a direct ascent to the surface should you have problem.

Recreational scuba diving is limited to about the top one percent of the ocean’s depth, yet this thin sliver is far more than you can explore in a lifetime. This upper region is the portion of the sea that sunlight reaches, which is important from a biological standpoint. Coral and kelp ecosystems, for example, exist primarily above 50 metres (165 feet) because coral and kelp depend on sunlight. Most of this growth is shallower than 30 metres (100 feet). Therefore, although recreational scuba diving limits you to a mere fraction of the ocean’s total volume, it’s the right fraction – the underwater regions that are the most productive exciting and beautiful.

Technical Diving

Technical scuba diving – tec diving for short – is a relative newcomer to the world of underwater exploration. Tec diving is sport diving that uses extensive equipment and procedures to dive beyond the limits of recreational diving. Tec diving has higher potential risk than recreational scuba diving, so participants require more elaborate and intense training, plus ample experience and the willingness to accept the risks. Compared to recreational scuba diving, tec diving is a niche activity suited to a much narrower proportion of participants.

Cave Tec Diving

Although it’s hard to put an exact date on when tec diving began, its roots go back to the emergence of cave diving in the 1960s and 1970s. By the mid-1980s, cave diving was an established specialized form of diving, and a small cadre of wreck divers on both sides of the North Atlantic had begun applying cave diving equipment and procedures to other environments beyond the limits of mainstream recreational scuba diving. The term “technical diving” and its recognition as a distinct division of diving came in the early 1990s with the publication of aquaCorps, a magazine dedicated to it.

At least five distinct subdivisions exist in tec diving: technical deep diving, trimix diving, cave diving, technical wreck diving, and technology-specific diving. Each of these has its own distinct set of demands and requirements.

Definition of Technical Diving

Tec diving gears

Part of the appeal of tec diving is that it pushes the envelope, constantly trying to extend the distances, depths and durations of sport diving. Because of this, we can’t define concrete boundaries and limits for tec diving; rather we define tec diving partly based on what it’s not. Technical diving then is diving other than conventional commercial or research diving that takes divers beyond recreational diving limits.

It’s further defined as and includes one or more of the following: diving deeper than 40 metres (130 feet), required stage decompression, diving in an overhead environment beyond 40 linear metres (130 linear feet) from the surface, accelerated decompression and/or the use of different gas mixtures on a single dive.

As an important point, simply exceeding the limits of recreational scuba diving does not make a dive a tec diving. That is, descending to 50 metres (165 feet) in conventional recreational dive gear isn’t tec diving.

Recreational scuba diving limits – and limits set for all forms of diving – exist to address legitimate risk management purposes. They’re based on proven experience and outcomes; you manage risk by avoiding those practices that have proved to have a disproportionate number of unfavorable outcomes – accidents.

Maximum Scuba Diving Adventures

Recreational Scuba Diving Thailand

What makes diving such an adventure? Besides being an avenue to the earth’s last frontier, it’s a lifestyle that involves people of all ages and cultures. As you’ve already seen, there’s more to diving than breathing underwater. Rather, as described in the PADI Open Water Diver course, diving involves what you do underwater – it’s about going places, doing things and doing these with other people. Remember this and you can dive your entire life with new adventures and experiences on the horizon.

Part of the diving lifestyle is seeing new sights and visiting new places. You can explore almost anyplace there’s water whether a beautiful tropical coral reef, a temperate water kelp forest or an inland lake, quarry or river. Part of the adventure is visiting and interacting with the new cultures you meet as you travel to go diving.

The Caribbean Recreational Scuba Diving

Recreational Scuba Diving The Carribbean Sea

For divers in North America and many in Europe, the Caribbean Sea is a destination of choice thanks to great diving, ready access by airline and hundreds of tropical islands, each with its own personality. The Caribbean hosts the densest concentration of dive operations in the world.

Where it is – The Caribbean Sea lies in the Western Hemisphere, bounded by the northern coast of South America, the eastern coast of Central America, the southern coasts of Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic and the western coasts of the Windward Islands. Lying near the equator (between approximately 10° and 20° North Latitude), the Caribbean sun provides the warm water and light necessary for the growth and propagation of coral reefs. This warm water flows north into the Gulf of Mexico and up along the North American eastern coast, moderating temperatures and providing tropical conditions as far north as Bermuda.

For this reason, much of recreational scuba diving really isn’t in the Caribbean Sea, but in the Atlantic. In addition to Bermuda, the Florida Keys and the Bahamas lie north of the Caribbean proper, yet have the same types of climate and coral reef ecosystems, thanks to the Gulf Stream. Hence, you can think of these as the “extended” Caribbean.

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Recreational Scuba Diving - The Caribbean unerwater

Dive conditions – In most of the Caribbean, poor dive conditions are relatively rare and usually don’t last long. For most of the year, you can expect visibility to rarely drop below 15 metres (50 feet), with more than 30 metres (100 feet) common. Water temperatures range from a low of 21°C (70°F) to more than 26°C (80°F), depending upon the season and latitude. This means you usually need at most a light or partial wet suit, and often, you may not even need that.

Poorer conditions usually follow rains, storms and other weather, though “poor” may be a relative term. In many popular dive environments, 10 metres (33 feet) of visibility is good, yet that’s a poor day at most Caribbean sites. Visibility is generally best during the dry (summer) seasons, though that’s also when it’s hottest.

Most Caribbean recreational scuba diving takes place from charter boats on the prevailing lee side of islands, though many locations have excellent shore diving as well. Waves tend to be low to moderate on an island’s protected lee side, disrupted only by an unusual wind blowing in the reverse direction. Again, this is most common during the winter and spring, and does not necessarily stop you from diving.

Recreational Scuba Diving - Meat people from Caribbean Islands

People and culture – If you want to meet or immerse yourself into many different cultures and ways of life, the Caribbean is the place to do it. Dozens of cultures make their homes there, plus islands and coasts differ geographically in size and origin. Consequently, both national and natural influences shape each destination, creating distinct cultures and subcultures everywhere you go.

Speaking very generally, most Caribbean cultures consist of a mix of European and either aboriginal or African-originating people. English is widely spoken thanks to tourism and influence from the US, with European languages – particularly Spanish – common to many islands. Additionally, you find regional dialects that blend many tongues and are spoken on only one or a few islands.

Politically and economically, Caribbean nations vary tremendously. The majority of popular dive destinations exist where there are stable governments and economies. However, it’s always wise to check travel advisories before heading anywhere internationally.

The Central-South Pacific Recreational Scuba Diving

Recreational Scuba Diving Central-South Pacific

The Central-South Pacific is a popular destination for divers from both sides of the Pacific Rim. Thanks to its huge expanse, recreational scuba diving in this region varies dramatically from one area to the next, with many sites that have yet to be visited by anyone.

Where it is – The “Central-South Pacific” is the broadest region as defined in a diving context, covering more than one-eighth the surface of the world. The Central-South Pacific proper is defined roughly as the Pacific Ocean region bordered by the Tropic of Cancer (23° 30’ North Latitude) to the north, Australia, New Guinea and the Philippines to the west, about 135° East Longitude to the East, and the Tropic of Capricorn (23° 30’ South Latitude).

Dive conditions – Covering a broad area, the Central-South Pacific offers a range of dive conditions and types of recreational scuba diving. Nonetheless, the popular spots share the characteristics of predominantly warm, clear water (24 metres/80 feet or better visibility) for most of the year.

Since the Central-South Pacific straddles the Equator, the most northern and southern areas experience the opposite seasons of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Water temperatures tend to vary from 28°C (82°F) to 29°C (85°F) during the warm months to as low as 22°C (72° F) in the cool months. The closer you are to the Equator, the less variation you have in temperature. Much of the Central-South Pacific experiences pronounced dry and wet seasons, both influenced by El Niño warming in the southwestern Pacific in the years it occurs.

Recreational Scuba Diving - Central South Pacific

Waves and currents tend to be more of an issue among Central-South Pacific dive destinations. The Pacific is a large, uninterrupted expanse that can allow winds to build seas into large, uncomfortable swells. When this happens, where possible, diving moves into the protection of islands’ lee sides or the inside of barrier reefs. In some places, drift diving with the current is the standard procedure.

Many of the Central-South Pacific’s coral reefs are huge, including the Australian Great Barrier reef, which is the world’s largest coral reef and the largest natural feature on earth. It is more than 2300 kilometres (1430 miles) long, protecting about three-quarters of the Queensland, Australia coast.

Besides abundant coral ecosystems, many Central-South Pacific destinations offer spectacular wreck diving, mostly the remains of vessels and aircraft lost during World War II. Among these are Chuuk (Truk) Lagoon and Bikini Atoll. Chuuk is a giant protected lagoon in Micronesia that was a major Japanese naval base during World War II. Many Japanese ships went to the bottom there due to US naval aircraft strikes, making this perhaps the densest concentration of major shipwrecks in the world. Bikini Atoll has several major warship wrecks left from US atomic testing shortly after World War II.

Recreational Scuba Diving - Meet people from Central-South Pacific

People and culture – Cultures in the Central-South Pacific show Asian, European, Indian and American influence, but most cultures have strong ties to their aboriginal roots. This is particularly true with the many islands originally populated by Melanesians and Polynesians. The Melanesians including Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Fiji. The seafaring Polynesians are thought to be the aboriginal people who populated Samoa, Marquesas, Tahiti, Hawaii and the Cook Islands. Anthropologists think that Melanesian and Polynesian blood may have been mixing in some places long before European contact.

European colonialism and World War II left their marks. Some countries have major populations of European origin, such as Australia and Tahiti. Fiji has a large Indian-origin population as a result of British colonialism that brought in laborers from India in the 1800s. Following World War II, several island groups captured from Japan became US territories. Some of these have since gained their independence and others remain US soil, but either way the American influence there is strong.

A rising cultural influence is tourism, particularly from Japan. Due to their proximity to Japan, islands in this region provide choice tourism destinations for the Japanese – and increasingly Koreans, Taiwanese and other Asian cultures – much as Caribbean destinations do for North Americans. As a result, Japanese is becoming a widely spoken language, with many facilities catering to Japanese clientele.

The Indo-Pacific Recreational Scuba Diving

Recreational Scuba Diving Indo-Pacific Ocean

The next largest region, from a diving perspective, is the Central-South Pacific’s next door neighbor. Bordered by three continents and home to thousands of islands, this region offers tremendous coral reef diving above and below the water. The Indo-Pacific is know to offer the most exciting recreational scuba diving.

Where it is – The Indo-Pacific region consists of the Indian Ocean and South China Sea, bordered to the north by Asia, to the west by Africa and to the east by Indonesia, Australia and the other large islands that connect them. This area can also be considered the Pacific, hence the reference to “Pacific” in the region’s name. The Indian Ocean has three broad areas to the east and west of India called the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea (Thailand, Myanmar and Malaysia).

The southern border is generally considered the latitudes at the tip of Africa, so part of this region is more temperate. It is, however, best known for the diving in the tropical latitudes at locations on both its west and east borders.

Recreational Scuba Diving - Whale Shark at Similan Islands Thailand

Dive conditions – For most of this region, the clearest and calmest conditions occur during spring and fall. Much of the Indian Ocean experiences a plankton bloom in the last months of the year, but while this reduces visibility, it also provides opportunities to see large plankton feeders like whale sharks and manta ray like those on the photo, seen during a Similan Islands Liveaboard diving in Thailand. Although much of this region is in the low latitudes near the Equator, you still see pronounced seasons, particularly to the west, much as you do in the Central-South Pacific. These areas have distinct wet and dry seasons, with the most rainfall during the March to October. Low latitudes to the east, particularly locations, between India and Australia, such as Maldives, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, have less seasonal variation. Water temperatures tend to vary from 28°C (82°F) to 29°C (85°F) during all year round.

Recreationa Scuba Diving - Manta Ray in Thailand

The marine life is spectacular in Indo-Pacific area with the most rich aquatic life compared with the rest of the world. Coral reefs are prolific and have an incredible biodiversity. Many marine biologists call the Indo-Pacific the biological center of the world’s coral environments because there’s a greater variety of organisms found here than on any other coral reefs. As you move away from the Indo-Pacific, you find fewer varieties of the species living in coral habitats.

Kingdom of Siam - Thailand

People and culture – Bordered by three continents, probably hundreds of cultures have influenced this region. To the west, aboriginal African cultures are dominant on coastal islands like the Seychelles and Madagascar. Western areas had early influence from Arabic sailors and explorers, with European influence (especially the British) as early as the 1500s. Many islands, like the Comoros, have populations that are a mix of Asian, Arabic, African and European.

To the east, cultures like the Melanesians and Asians were early dominant populations in this region. European influence is particularly evident in some of the island states because they were easily conquered during the periods of European colonialism, although today most are independent nations. Japanese influence also exists, partly due to Japanese occupation during World War II, but more strongly today due to tourism.

The Red Sea Recreational Scuba Diving

Recreational Scuba Diving Red Sea

Compared to the other major divisions of the diving world, the Red Sea is small and much less diverse in terms of climate and recreational scuba diving. It is geographically the closest tropical diving destination for Europe and the Middle East, making it very popular with divers from those areas.

Where it is – The Red Sea lies between Africa and Asia, with Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia on its west boundary and Saudi Arabia and Yemen on its east. It links the Mediterranean Sea with the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean thanks to the Suez Canal. Jordan and Israel also have some Red Sea coastline on the Gulf of Aqaba. Egypt, Jordan and Israel are the primary destinations for divers visiting the Red Sea.

Dive conditions – Surrounded by a desert, one of the most notable differences of the Red Sea is that it is saltier than other seas by about 20 percent. Consequently, you need more weight while diving there. Water temperatures for most of the Red Sea range from 24°C (75°F) to 26°C (79°F) at the surface, with air temperatures ranging from about 27°C (81°F) to a staggering 55°C (130°F). Drift diving is common due to very strong currents caused by tidal shifts.

The Gulf of Aqaba is more moderate, with surprisingly cool water – 18°C (64°F) to 26°C (79°F). The average air temperatures range from about 17°C (63°F) to 32°C (89°F). Currents are not as much of an issue in the Gulf.

Underwater, most Red Sea diving is characterized by coastal fringing coral reefs as opposed to the large barrier reefs founds in other parts of the world. The reason is that the Red Sea plunges sharply into deep water, leaving only a relatively small area of the bottom in the warm, shallow water coral requires. Coral growth is much more developed in the northern parts of the Red Sea (where the diving’s most popular).

Recreational Scuba Diving - Red Sea

There’s less growth where nutrient-rich water flows into the Red Sea from the Arabian Sea because coral grows in relatively nutrient-free water. Species diversity in the Red Sea coral communities is less rich that found on Indo-Pacific and Central-South Pacific coral reefs, but more than the Caribbean.

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Recreational Scuba Diving - culture of red sea

People and culture – By far, Arabic people dominate the regions surrounding the Red Sea. The noted exception is Israel, which is a Jewish state, but even it has a large Arabic population. The Middle East has and continues to be an area with cultural and national conflicts, but this has not usually deterred recreational scuba diving. This is because the areas you frequent for diving are generally remote from conflict areas. Depending upon the political climate you may need to use caution at times, especially if your national/cultural background is involved in a local conflict, but this is not normally an issue.

A cultural characteristic that does influence diving, however, is the enforcement and nature of some government regulations. Nations in this region regulate recreational scuba diving and travel more than do most other countries with dive tourism. In Egypt, for example, you can only dive in designated parks, and in many cases, you need special permits even there. Similarly, you may find customs enforces regulations regarding equipment you bring into the country very strictly to ensure that it leaves the country when you depart. Dive travelers visiting this part of the world should give more advance attention to visas, permits and other requirements than they might visiting countries elsewhere

What Is Recreational Scuba Diving? – Beginners Delight!

If you’re thinking of learning to dive, you’re probably wondering what is recreational scuba diving all about?

Recreational Scuba Divers

A recreational scuba diver is someone who dives for the pleasure of leisure and enjoyment and considers the dives a sport. It’s different from professional and technical diving.

‘From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.’

by Jacques Yves Cousteau (the Father of Scuba Diving)

Yes, thanks to Jacques Yves Cousteau and his partner, Emilie Gagnan with their invention of the ‘modern scuba gear’. Their demand valve system allowed divers to receive compressed air when inhaling. Divers all over the earth now have the opportunity to explore the mysteries and the beauty of the underwater world.

Millions of people are now certified recreational divers!

What does Scuba Diving mean?

The word Scuba is an acronym for ‘Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus’. It’s an apparatus that the diver carries on his back and has absolutely nothing to do with anything above the surface.

How can you become a recreational diver?

The most popular and recognized scuba diver training agencies in North America are PADI, SSI, SDI and NAUI. These agencies specialize in providing standards, safe work practices and rules for people wanting to learning how to scuba dive recreationally.

There are dive shops and resorts who are affiliated with these agencies allowing you to finish your certification by completing open water dive requirements. Courses range from introduction, open water, advanced, rescue and upward to even becoming a scuba diver instructor.

Newly certified diver considerations

1) Some new divers believe that once they become a certified recreational scuba diver, they can also do extreme diving that are considered technical activities. Technical diving like cave diving, ice diving and mixed gas diving for example, require more in-depth training because of our human physiology.

There are professional divers who are paid to dive. They may be scientists, or perhaps they do projects for government and military. In any case, these Technical and Professional divers require additional skills and usually stay longer underwater. Further education and training are a must for them!

2) No matter what type of diver you are, whether recreational. technical or professional, our human body has certain effects when scuba diving.

For instance, when we descend underwater and breathe compressed air, our body will start to accumulate nitrogen for the certain period you remain underwater. The longer we remain underwater, the greater the nitrogen in our body.

At some point in time, we must start to ascend for 2 reasons – air consumption and the need to reduce the excess nitrogen that has been saturating our body.

In other words, the nitrogen has to leave our body. How fast that nitrogen leaves our body is extremely important and not controlling the release can leave nitrogen bubbles in our body. The only way to control the release is to slowly ascend.

Limitations of being a recreational scuba diver

Being a recreational diver myself, even though I have mentioned ‘limitations’ doesn’t mean they’re bad. It means being aware and applying these limitations to keep us safe as much as possible underwater. Let’s face it, the underwater world as magnificent it is, can feel strange and unnatural.

Consider these limitations as some of your guide to safety!

1) Buddy Dive System

Buddy Diving

You have another diver dive close to you. This means you look after each other’s safety. If you have leg cramps for example, your buddy can massage your leg muscles underwater or if you are low on air, you and your buddy can do what’s called buddy breathing (you’ll learn this technique in your open water diver course) or use your buddy’s alternate regulator.

The buddy dive system is the recommended procedure when recreational diving.

PADI, SSI, SDI and NAUI teaches the buddy system to recreational divers.

2) Maximum depth for basic certifications – 60 ft/20m

3) Maximum depth for advanced certifications – 130 ft/40m.

If you dive beyond that, it’s considered technical diving and you will need to consider additional training and learn more conformed safety standards and rules.

Why is there a maximum depth rule of 130 ft/40m for recreational divers?

There are 2 reasons for this rule.

1) Nitrogen Narcosis (also known as the raptures of the deep).

Divers can become lethargic and have the feeling of being intoxicated. Studies have shown divers can also be affected when diving in shallow water and may not notice this. While not considered dangerous, it’s important to still remedy this by slowly ascending to a shallower depth. There are no long-term effects. Diving deeper than 130 ft/40m makes ntirogen narcosis unmanageable and certain training and methods are required to control this.

The advanced certifications allow divers to go 100ft/30m. Your instructor gives you a mathematical question to solve at this depth. It’s a great way to know if you are susceptible to nitrogen narcosis.

2) Decompression Sickness (DCS).

The deeper you dive, the greater your chances of decompression sickness, also known as the bends. While you are diving, your body accumulates nitrogen by breathing compressed air based on your surrounding pressure. This normally will not present a problem. The problem occurs however, when the pressure surrounding you is reduced too quickly. Nitrogen bubbles form in the body which causes extreme pain and sometime death.

As a best possible prevention to DCS, professional diver training organizations such as PADI, SSI, SDI and NAUI, their affiliate dive shops and resorts make it standard practice to teach students to do safety stops and slow ascents underwater.

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What’s next?

Now that you have a better understanding of what recreational diving is all about, why not take the next step and connect with a professional diver training agency?

If you’re not sure yet about getting certified, that’s alright… let me tell you about an introduction course (no certificate) to diving. Just click here.

If you have already made up your mind, go to the best professional scuba diver training agency by clicking here and I’l tell you all about their e-Learning Open Water Diver course (certification).

Thank you for reading my article and I would like to hear from you. Any comments or questions are welcomed by writing in the comment box below!

Top 7 scuba diving organizations and certification programs in 2022

There are many diving organizations, each with their own specific and customized certification programs. The top 7 scuba diving organizations are PADI, CMAS, SSI, BSAC, SDI, NAUI, RAID. Discover in this article specific information about each one of them.

Scuba Diving Organizations

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Scuba diving organizations

There are more than 160 scuba diving organizations, not counting those for technical and specialized diving.

With so many options, how do you choose the most suitable organization for you?

It is difficult to say that one organization is better than another. Some of the organizations are bigger and have more experience. Others are better known or specialized or have different teaching methods.

The first organizations with a diving system, not as we know it today, were developed from the 1950s onwards.

Thanks to the well-known Jacques-Yves Cousteau, who between 1942 and 1943, I developed the first open-circuit autonomous breathing system, with the help of his father-in-law. A military engineer from World War II.

With the invention of modern breathing equipment, scuba diving is within the reach of nearly everyone.

The exploration of the underwater world is no longer related only to military or complex underwater jobs.

In order to systematize diving training methods and procedures, the first diving organizations began to appear.

All these federations belong to the category of non-profit organizations or private enterprises, oriented to the development of diving in the world.

Most dive organizations started in there first steps in the United States, but almost every country in the world has its own type of dive organization.

Some of them are famous all over the world and others are still local groups.

Here we share the 7 than we consider the best ones, based in the aspects mentioned above.

1. PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors)

PADI is one of the oldest and most recognized diving organizations.

The fathers of this association are (a former NAUI instructor) and Ralph Erickson in 1966.

The two experts had a very clear vision when they started PADI. The main goal was to make the diving courses much more accessible to everyone and not just to a few group of people.

Cronin and Erickson’s proposal succeeded much more than they could have imagined. For this reason PADI is now the largest dive training institution in the world. And they have reported a total of 27 million certifications, valid in any country.

PADI dive centers are in more than 180 countries around the world and it is estimated that 70% of all dive certificates in the world are issued by PADI.

PADI’s Teaching method

Among other certification programs, PADI’s stands out for combining safety and convenience in learning.

The theoretical class can be carried out in person or online while the practices are carried out in swimming pools and in open water.

PADI’s input in the field of security has been invaluable. A large number of the rules for safe diving have been introduced by this organization.

PADI also promotes awareness of marine conservation and diver safety in its classes. Once you have completed the basic course, you can go for other advanced certifications.

PADI Training flowchart

Why choose PADI as your certifying organization?

On its website PADI presents some good reasons why to choose this organization for your training and certification. We share three of them:

  • Education: PADI’s educational system is one of the strongest according to experts considerations.
  • Performance-based learning: The student progresses at their own pace.
  • Training materials: PADI has very complete and professionally designed learning materials for the student to learn in the best possible way.

PADI really has a lot to offer. You can learn more about all the benefits of certifying with PADI on their website.

2. CMAS (Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques)

CMAS is a non-profit institution. This organization is famous since one of its founders was Jacques-Yves Cousteau. It was founded at the Monaco Congress in 1959.
The original purpose of CMAS was to support the development of diving and to unify educational standards in the different countries where it is present.

During the last decades CMAS has expanded its operations around the globe. Today, CMAS is in charge of regulating diving in more than 130 countries. To do so, it works directly with the national federations of each one, supervising the training they offer.

CMA’s Teaching method

CMAS teaching has a fairly traditional style. This is why the training of this organization belongs within the official diving standard.

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For this organization the practical part is a high priority in all diving courses.
CMAS certifications are valid worldwide. This means that with your certificate you can dive in any country and continue your training in any other agency.

CMAS Training flowchart

diving organizations - CMAS Training flowchart

Why choose CMAS?

  • International recognition: CMAS licenses are all around the world, so no matter where you are, you can use your certification.
  • Different concept: CMAS is non-profit. This organization is more like a club than a commercial company.
  • Cheaper: Because the CMAS concept is more club-like, trainings are typically not somenthing to charge for certification but rather for membership.

If you want to know more about this association, you can visit its official CMAS website. In it you will find detailed information about the Federations in each country.

3. SSI (Scuba Schools International)

SSI is one of the oldest agencies, founded in 1970. Its main headquarters are in Colorado, United States, but it is present in more than 110 different countries.
In 1999 SSI merged with NASDS (National Association of Diving Schools). This gave it greater visibility.

Currently SSI is one of the largest organization with more than 2800 dive centers around the world, including the 5 continents.

One of the main features of SSI is the regulation of instructors. Everyone has the possibility of accessing available training materials without having to pay memberships. However, they must teach at one of the agency’s centers, as doing so on their own is not an option.

SSI’s Teaching Method

SSI certification programs start at the basic level. Later it is possible to advance to others of greater complexity. In any case, the first level training is somenthing to do online, and is absolutely free of charge.

The practical part has to be in person. SSI allocates several sessions in open and confined waters, and assigns you a specialized instructor. He will organize the skills to teach you according to your own performance.

SSI Training Flowchart

Starting with the Course “Scuba Diving Test” SSI offers a great variety of opportunities to train in diving.

The diagram below shows the SSI training outline for recreational diving only.

If you want to enter the professional world with SSI there is a specific diagram for professional diving available on their website.

Why to choose SSI?

  • Flexibility: The courses are organized according to the student’s performance.
  • Price: Basic Theoretical courses are free and available online
  • Certification recognition: Currently SSI is recognized throughout the world so you can dive without problem with its certifications.

You can find more useful information about this organization in SSI official website.

4. BSAC (Best British Contingent)

The BSAC has been active since 1953. However, it did not start as a training center. It was just a club for recreational diving. It was not until 1960 that it became an institution when it launched its first course to train instructors.

Nowadays, BSAC is the organization that regulates diving within the United Kingdom.
BSAC courses are viewed by many expert divers as an indisputable quality option. This is based on the harsh conditions of the waters where they are taught.

BSAC’s Teaching method

BSAC has its certification programs in basic and professional levels. The beginner course mixes several theory classes with a long training in a pool.
Later, when you have passed the pool courses, you will move on to open water training.

You must complete a minimum of four open water dives. After that, you can opt for any of the more technical courses.

Why choose BSAC for your certification?

If you live in the UK: Because BSAC is highly recognized in the United Kingdom, if you live in the area it is a good idea to choose this certification.
Quality: Their trainings are known for their high quality, although the organization is not as internationally known as is the case of PADI.

You can find more information on the official BSAC website.

5. SDI (Scuba Diving International)

This diving organization is one of the newest. It was founded in 1998 and originally emerged as a sister institution of TDI (Technical Diving International), which specialized in technical diving.

The idea behind the creation of SDI was to offer a somewhat less technical alternative. The aim was to provide training in recreational diving, without discarding the professional knowledge of the trainers.

There are SDI training agencies in more than a hundred countries. And their certification programs are available for both adults and children. Many of the experts that teach in SDI also work at TDI, which ensures a wealth of experience.

SDI’s Teaching method

SDI’s method is based primarily on e-learning and multiple pool sessions. This is complemented with open water dives at the end of the course.
This diving organization has always been innovative. The agency has dive computers for you to learn. This alternative is easier than the typical dive tables.
SDI was the first dive training agency to offer a “Solo Diver” certification, which has cost it some criticism in the world of diving.

Why choose SDI?

  • Innovation: SDI is usually an agency that incorporate new technologies quickly.
  • Flexibility: Instructors have the flexibility to rearrange course content according to students.
  • Technical Background: if your goal is to become a technical diver. The fact that SDI arises from TDI gives the instructors a very valuable technical background, useful in your learning process.

Find more information about SDI certification programs and training in SDI’s official website.

6. NAUI (The National Association of Underwater Instructors)

NAUI is an institution with quite a brilliant career and history. It is the oldest of all the ones you will see here. It’s founding dates back to 1959, and since then it has set the standard for certification programs.

Unlike other diving organizations, NAUI has not expanded as much. Its main headquarters are still in California, USA, although it has other centers throughout the country. However, it is not as present in the rest of the nations.

NAUI is a non-profit organization. In fact, in the official registry it appears as a non-profit educational association. At the same time, this agency has a very particular philosophy based on quality over quantity.

That is why it prefers to train a few divers, but who know well what they do. The idea of ​​training many people, from their perspective, would reduce the attention that each one requires.

NAUI’s Teaching method

The NAUI method is very flexible, since the trainers are able to design the teaching process. For this reason each one will structure it as you learn or assimilate each lesson.

For example, if the instructor considers that you need more open water dives to practice, he can expand them. In other words, there is no obstacle to increasing the standard number of dives required in order to ensure proper student learning.

As soon as you finish the first course, you can go for other certification programs. NAUI has different levels of courses, from the most specialized to the recreational. And you could even become an official NAUI instructor, being able to teach independently.

NAUI Training process diagram

The NAUI training process incorporates the following courses:

Why choose NAUI?

  • If you live in the US: NAUI is international, but it is especially recognized in the United States. For this reason, If you live in this country it may be a good idea to train with NAUI
  • Personalized courses: NAUI’s focus on quality over quantity makes its courses smaller and more personalized.

NAUI is internationally recognized. You will have no problems diving in other countries with this certification. You can find more details on the official NAUI website.

7. RAID (The Rebreather Association of International Divers)

Last but not least, we have RAID, another young diving organization, officially founded in 2007, in Sweden. Behind its creation, there are several members who were in other agencies. Among them key figures from SSI and PADI.

RAID was born as an agency for everything related to SCUBA diving. However in 2014 its structure was expanded and many courses were added. From that moment on, RAID became an organization with an ecological philosophy.

RAID’s Teaching method

RAID’s training is completely online, as well as free of charge. This means all courses are held on the digital platform. There you will be able to communicate with your instructor.

Of course, there are more practical hours than theoretical ones. RAID is one of the organizations that requires more water hours in their certification programs. This way they guarantee a more vivid learning experience.

RAID training flowchart

Why to choose RAID as diving organizartion?

  • E-learning concept: RAID has a very complete online course structure.
  • Price: Theoretical training is free.

Technical diving International (TDI)

Technical Diving International (TDI) is probably the largest technical diving certification agency in the world.

TDI specializes in more advanced diving techniques and offers a wide variety of courses, including rebreather diving and the use of different breathable gas mixtures, such as Heliox and Trimix.

TDI was founded by Bret Gilliam, David Sipperly, and Mitch Skaggs in 1994, with the goal of providing training for emergency situations and a focus on specialized diving.

The Organization mainly focuses on three training areas:

Open Circuit Courses

In open circuit systems, air and gas mixture are used as the supply, however, air is the main gas supply. The diver breathes through a demand regulator connected to the compressed gas tank.

Re-breather courses

A system made up of a breathing circuit, a mouthpiece, a CO2 absorbent container and a counterlung. Rebreathers allow for higher gas efficiency, optimized decompression characteristics, and quieter operation, but require training to use.

Overhead Environment Courses

Consider diving situations in which there is no open water above the diver and a direct ascent is not possible. This training considers diving in caves and closed spaces.

The organization also offers other courses such as Technical Diving Instructor and Technical Divemaster.

Many diving organizations. How to choose one ?

As you have seen, there are many diving organizations. To choose in which of them you will carry out your training it is important to consider three aspects:

  • What is your goal: If you only want to dedicate yourself to recreational diving, possibly any of the mentioned organizations will work for you. But if you want to venture into more advanced courses, you must evaluate the training structure. Knowing where you want to go is important.
  • Where do you want to dive: If your goal is to travel and have different diving experiences in different places, it is very positive that you have valid and internationally recognized certifications. If you are diving on your vacation and the dive guide must search the internet for your certification, it could be that it is not well known.
  • The community: While this is not synonymous with quality, it is always good to be part of a recognized community. Learning does not only occur in the classroom. It occurs in interaction with other divers who belong to the same organization and who use the same language and standards.

Which organization do we belong to?

Costa Rica Dive and Surf is part of the PADI family. We are a certified dive center through which you can obtain almost all PADI certifications.
We have all the necessary equipment, boats, location devices and a trained staff so that you can enjoy diving with peace of mind.

Scuba diving organizations – Summary

There are hundreds of dive organizations, of varying sizes and experience. Some are newer than others or have different approaches.

While there is no better one, there are some that are globally recognized and have many members and experience.

Choosing a good organization is important. Especially if you plan to travel and dive in other parts of the world.

If you have questions or are interested in obtaining a certification in Costa Rica, we are waiting for you! Send us a message or give us a call! We will be happy to chat with you.




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