That indeed, is the question. Every diver wants to dive but the big question, particularly when vacationing in Las Galeras, the Caribbean or other far flung places, is who should I dive with?
Whether you are qualified and experienced, a novice or beginner, the rule of thumb remains the same; only dive with a reputable dive centre or dive leader.
But how do I know if they are reputable or not you may be asking? The answer is to ASK! Prepare a mental checklist of what to look for and what to ask and here are just a few points you should consider.
What you should ask, first of all, is to the see the Instructor or Dive Masters dive certification card and check that he or she is an active status member of their dive association. Many people will tell you they are a Dive Master or Instructor and they may have a certificate on their wall showing that they are qualified to that level. Every dive professional must renew his or her professional membership every year – ask to see their current card
Next, ask to see their liability insurances. If the store or Instructor tells you, as we have heard so often, ‘we don’t have it as it isn’t compulsory in this country’, walk away. Every professional Instructor or Dive Master must carry Liability Insurance.
The store should also have a license to operate. No, I don’t mean medically operate but operate as a business. Ask to look at their license.
Look at the equipment, does it look in good condition, is it well presented? Remember, equipment does not have to be brand new and shiny, as long as it is well maintained and cared for. When assembling your kit, check that the BCD’s inflate and deflate properly and that the regulators have all the necessary hoses and functioning gauges, the colour co-ordination between your fins and suit is really irrelevant.
Does the centre have an emergency plan? Again, we have heard ‘Don’t need one here” RUBBISH! Every one, centre, instructor and diver alike should have a workable emergency plan.
Is there an O2 unit in the centre or on the boat? Some centres share one so make sure they have access to one if they don’t have one themselves.
Is your dive going to be guided or will you just be given a map or a briefing and left to enjoy your dive on your own? Find out before you go to the water, when diving in an unfamiliar area it is always best to have a guide with local knowledge. Ask to see your dive guides professional membership card.
Do they speak your language? Yes, I know that underwater we all speak the same language but if you cannot understand the briefing this could mean the difference between an enjoyable dive and a nightmare.
Discuss the cost of your dive, make sure the price you are quoted is the ‘bottom line’ price. Frequently you will find yourself being quoted ‘xx’ dollars, euros or whatever the currency is for the dive then asked to pay an extra ‘yy’ for the kit hire, boat trip and other sundries like air for your tank. Believe me this happens far too often.
Do they have a good relationship with the other centres in the area or do they seem to keen to point out the others’ weaknesses or faults, real or imagined? This is often a good indicator of how good or bad their ‘competitors’ are and is often useful information
So the questions you have asked have been answered positively, what should you expect next.
On arrival, before you are asked for money or given your equipment to put together or to check, the instructor or dive centre staff should ask to see your dive certification card and/or log book, your insurance and you should be asked to complete a medical self assessment form and a waiver. Again, if they don’t ask for any of this, ask yourself if you are in the right place.
Diving is a safe, fun sport and whilst the onus of liability and responsibility is on the dive centre or instructor, individual divers also have a duty of care and responsibility to themselves.
Make sure you are happy with the people you intend to dive with before you dive.