11 Reasons Why You Should Get Scuba Certified
SCUUBBAAA DIIIIVVVIINNNGG!!! I talk about diving all the time, but if you've never had the opportunity to strap on an oxygen tank and dive below the water's surface, you may be scratching your head as to why I love it so much. To be fair, I can't recall why I wanted to try scuba diving. I was backpacking through Thailand and ended up on the island of Koh Tao, a diving mecca. Everyone else was getting certified, so I thought, I want to try, too! It was the cool thing to do. I did my research and found an amazing dive company, Roctopus. I quickly fell in love with diving and it is now one of my favorite travel hobbies (even though I quit on my first day of scuba certification!).
Now, before I unload a ton of reasons on why you should get certified, know that you don't have to be a super pro Dive Master or Dive Instructor to reap all these benefits. I'm still learning and perfecting my skills every time I get in the water; you just have to be willing to try!
So, here's 11 Reasons Why You Should Get Scuba Certified:
1. You have a great excuse to travel to some amazing countries! Maybe you've planned previous trips around visiting the world's best beaches or UNESCO World Heritage sites. But what about traveling to the best dive sites in the world? Whenever I've got a new place on my radar, I immediately google the best dive sites in that country. I went to Belize last year because it has one of the most pristine barrier reefs in the world. Other places on my diving bucket list? Diving the Maldives and the Similan islands; diving with whale sharks; diving with thresher sharks in Malapascua, Philippines; diving in Bonaire… the list goes on!
2. You make so many new friends! Some of my best travel memories are the ones I've made on dive boats in Thailand, Belize, and Australia. I still keep in touch with the girls I got certified with in Thailand and I spent two great days of diving with a group of guys in Belize. Diving is a great way to meet new people who share your same hobby. You get to trade diving stories on the boat, share excitement over seeing a reef shark during a dive, and then grab drinks together afterwards to celebrate a great day of diving.
3. You push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Many people are scared to get certified because they have a fear of sharks, open water, running out of air, or (insert other fear here). Getting certified with a reputable dive company and excellent dive instructors will show you that diving is an extremely safe, responsible hobby. Every time I dive, I'm still a little nervous, but getting in the water is how I confront my own fears. One of my proudest moments was when I finally did a night dive in Australia. I had avoided night dives because I was too afraid I would get claustrophobic, but that night dive easily ended up being one of the best dives I've ever done!
4. You experience a whole new level of relaxation. The weather could be shitty and the waves might be rolling, but the second I'm under the water, it's pure calmness. There are no cell phones, no emails, no sounds of traffic. There's nobody even talking to you! All you hear is the sound of your own breath, and you move along the coral reefs at your own pace. As you master neutral buoyancy, you feel weightless. Fifty minutes under water flies by; there is nothing demanding your attention except for the stunning fish and scenery right in front of you. Scuba diving is the kind of hobby where it pays off to go slow.
5. You understand the importance of marine conservation. Maybe you've seen Facebook videos of a sea turtle choking on a plastic bag and thought, "Oh, that's sad," then continued scrolling to get to the cute kitten videos. But when you've explored the world beneath you and come face-to-face with these incredible creatures, you feel compelled to act. I've joined beach clean-ups, opted out of plastic bags at the grocery store, and make eco-friendly consumer choices when I can. I even hate plastic straws now! Scuba diving really brings activism to life; there is no way you would keep mindlessly chucking away plastic if you saw where it ended up.
6. Your self-reliance skills will improve. You should always dive with a buddy, but that doesn't mean you should leave your dive safety in the hands of someone else. You will feel a sense of responsibility to make sure that your personal or rental dive equipment is in excellent condition. You should follow all the standard safety checks as you prepare for your dive, do a buddy check before you dive in, and check on your buddy throughout the dive. You should be aware of currents, any dangerous fish (triggerfish!!), and how much air you have throughout your dive. You shouldn't neglect basic scuba diving skills and safety steps; self-reliance is key here.
7. Your mind will be blown away by this whole new world. What you thought only existed in Finding Nemo and aquariums actually thrives beneath the ocean's surface. I remember being amazed at what I saw on my first dive, and it was only for ten minutes right beneath the dive boat! There is so much to see and discover: squid, cuttlefish, sharks, dolphins, starfish, batfish, nudibranchs, pufferfish, lobsters, seahorses! The list goes on and on. My favorite activity is diving with sharks. It is humbling to know that you are simply a visitor in another's habitat; to sit back and watch this underwater world unfold is simply beautiful.
8. You get to learn something totally new. While scuba diving requires that you're able to at least breathe and swim (duh), you also study physics, nitrogen's effects on your body, navigation skills, different kinds of fish and coral, and more in the classroom portion of your certification classes. Not satisfied with your advanced certification? Go for more! The cool thing about diving is that you can always keep learning. You can learn how to dive with nitrox air, get tech certified to penetrate ship wrecks, complete your Search and Rescue course to become a more confident diver, and even become a Dive Instructor.
9. You get to discover history in a whole new way. Even if you aren't a history buff, diving will at least deepen your appreciation for it. One of my favorite things to dive is ship wrecks; it is an unreal feeling to swim around the gun turrets of a massive ship. Some wrecks are purposely sunk by the government to create new coral reefs; others were shot at and sunk during wars. Some of the best wreck diving is in Coron, Philippines, where an entire fleet of Japanese war ships sit at the bottom of the ocean after they were bombed and torpedoed by the US Navy in 1944. How's that for a history lesson?!
10. You don't have to be rich to be a scuba diver. But wait, I thought diving was expensive? It depends on where you dive. Getting certified in the US or Australia is expensive, but getting certified in Thailand, Honduras, or Indonesia is definitely affordable. I have met many backpackers who were able to scrounge together the money to get certified in Koh Tao (I paid $450 total for my beginner and advanced certification). Diving off a liveaboard in Cairns will set you back a pretty penny, but you can offset those costs by diving anywhere in Southeast Asia. Fun dives in the Philippines and Thailand range from $25-35USD per dive, which includes a Dive Master and rental equipment. That's almost as much as yoga class in the US! You can even dive for free by volunteering on a liveaboard.
11. You've got a hobby for life. Once you're certified, it's for LIFE. It's the coolest club to be a part of. You may have to do a refresher course if it's been a long time since you've dived, but I met a guy on my Cairns liveaboard who hadn't dived in ten years and he did just fine! Getting certified will allow you to enjoy the underwater world for years to come and to learn and grow, just like you would with any other hobby. You can also pick up diving-related hobbies, like underwater photography and editing or technical wreck diving. The world is your oyster -- literally!
Have I convinced you yet?! Check out this PADI article to take the next steps on becoming certified.
PS: I'm still working on my post about my amazing experience scuba diving Australia's Great Barrier Reef... more to come soon!