Maldives is without any doubt one of the best places in the world to scuba dive. People think the cost of travelling to Maldives & Scuba diving is really high. I traveled to local islands for 8 days and got PADI Open Water Diver certification.Surprisingly I didn’t have to burn a hole in my pocket. Maldives becomes expensive only if you choose to stay in private island resorts.
Beginning of this year I had three things on my mind. One I decided to learn something new, second I wanted to volunteer for few weeks and last but not the least, to visit Africa.
If you follow me on Instagram or know me in person, you might know how much I love being in water. So it was an easy decision for me to choose to learn scuba diving over learning para gliding or skiing. The next obvious question is where to learn Scuba diving? While Thailand is the most popular place to learn scuba diving, you better be informed that with popularity comes crowded dive sites and big group of students per instructor ratio. Somehow I wasn’t convinced even though Thailand is one of the cheapest places to get certified. Other countries that came to my mind was Indonesia, Malaysia and Maldives. Having already visited Indonesia & Malaysia, I chose Maldives and the goal was to figure out how to do this trip on a budget.
I was aware that the flights to Maldives was cheap from India & that Maldives has opened up their local inhabited islands for tourists. Did you know that until 2009 local islands remained isolated from the tourism industry?
Researching on which atoll (island) to base myself, which dive operators to sign up isn’t as easy as you might think. There is no shortage of options and this is where I spent a lot of time browsing, keeping in mind that my expense should fall within my budget.
Well I am back from the paradise with Padi Open Water Diver (OWD) Certification.
I booked my Padi course with Rasdhoo Scuba, a dive operator in Rasdhoo (Alif Alif Atoll). It takes 3 hours to reach Rashdoo from Male in Public ferry & a little over one hour to reach in speed boat. I chose not to learn in Maafushi as the island gets crowded because of its close proximity to Male and Fulidhoo in the other hand was a bit expensive.
Below you can read a little about PADI, levels of certification, getting certified and the cost for certification. But before that how about watching this short video of my diving.
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Have you seen an eel? What do you think of them?? They keep their mouth wide open and have visibly sharp teeth. This was probably the only creature that freaked me out a bit and I dared to not go near it even for the sake of filming it. During one of the dives while I was sitting on the sea bed waiting for manta rays, there were these cute garden eels all around me coming out of the sea bed and dangling. In the second & third dives I saw marble rays sliding through the sand & cleaning themselves. How I wish I could have captured the eels and marble rays. I carried my action camera to only 3 of the 5 dives I went as my main focus was to learn the skills, equalize and maintain buoyancy which is very important in scuba diving.
What is Scuba Diving?
Scuba diving is perhaps the best way to explore the underwater world. Diver uses Scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) for underwater breathing. Scuba Diver equipment includes compressed air in tank, buoyancy compensator, scuba suit, breathing apparatus, regulator, fins, dive computer and mask.
PADI or SSI?
The two biggest Dive organizations in the world are PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and SSI (Scuba Schools International). When you want to do a dive course, you can choose between these two dive organizations. Difference between the two is very minimal and it doesn’t matter much as to which you choose. End of the course both provide internationally recognised certification. SSI course might be a little cheaper compared to PADI but the SSI is not as well known as PADI nevertheless it is gaining market rapidly. After completing a scuba diving course you get a diving certificate that allows you to dive worldwide. Depending on the level of certification you will be limited to dive up to certain a depth.
Getting PADI Open Water Diver (OWD) Certification
- Open Water Diver is the first level of certification for recreational scuba diving that allows you to dive anywhere in the world with an instructor or dive buddy up to the depth of 18mtrs. It takes 3-4 days to complete the course depending on the dive operator and your performance.
- The PADI Open Water Diver course consists of three main phases,
- Knowledge Development ( online, independent study or in a classroom) to understand basic principles of scuba diving
- Confined Water Dives to learn basic scuba skills
- Open Water Dives to use your skills and explore!
- You will qualify to take up the course if you can
- Swim 200 metres (or 300 metres/ in mask, fins and snorkel) without stopping. There is no time limit for this, and you may use any swimming strokes you want.
- Float and tread water for 10 minutes, again using any methods you want.
- You need not have prior diving experience to start this course.
- You will be certified when you have completed theory exams and performed well in practical. If you are short on time there is also an option to buy manual & study theory at home. You can then head to the dive destination for 2 days to complete the open water dives.
Cost of Scuba Diving (OWD)
- I have to admit that the course in the Maldives is slightly expensive than Thailand, Malaysia or Indonesia. But there is a reason to it. Maldives is a paradise with white sand beaches, crystal clear turquoise water, and dreamy sandbanks middle of nowhere, abundance of coral reef & dive locations.
- Online price of Padi Open Water Certification from the dive operators in local islands is anywhere between 450 – 600 USD. However I recommend talking to the dive operator for further discounts. All the dive operators provide packages that includes diving plus accommodation in nearby hotels/guesthouses. This will work out to be cheaper if you are travelling solo or trying to book accommodation at the last minute.
- In Koh Tao, Thailand the price for Padi Open Water Certification is fixed to 11k baht (350 USD) no matter which dive operator you book with. In India it costs between 350 – 400 USD.
Do you want to know how I traveled to Maldives under 45k for 8 days. Read HERE
Choosing the Dive Operator/School
- Rasdhoo Scuba focuses on small groups rather than jam-packed boat. Two of us signed up for the course with them, we had one senior instructor and another junior instructor during all our dives. It was 1:1 instructor to student ratio, compared to few other dive schools with 1:3, 1:4 and sometimes even 1:5 instructor to student ratio. If you wish to learn scuba diving with Rasdhoo Scuba you can contact them on Instagram or Facebook.
- Always check with dive operators for the group size and dive sites.
- Going for a small or medium dive operator would be good as they might not have too many students in a group and may not rush through the course.
- Read online reviews about the operator and instructors
- Check the weather and best time to go diving once you have selected the destination or operator and plan accordingly.
What after PADI Open Water Diver certification?
You can dive anywhere in the world by renting the scuba equipment. If you want to learn further PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course can be taken after completing the PADI Open Water Diver certification. PADI Advanced Open Water Diver is designed to advance your diving knowledge & skills. The course helps build confidence and expand your scuba skills through different Adventure Dives. You have to choose to do five dives from the list of scuba specialty dives to complete the Advanced Open Water Course, out of which Deep and Underwater Navigation dives are required. Here you will be diving between 18-30 metres.
Master Scuba diver, Recue Diver, Adventure Diver, Dive Master are some of the other Padi Courses.
Good to Know:
- If you choose to splurge by staying in private resort island & want to get certified, there are few great options for Maldives scuba diving resorts like Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort, Biyadhoo Island Resort etc.
- Apart from diving from a local island and private island resorts you can choose to dive from a liveboard in Maldives.
- Every time you dive, whether in the same dive location or different, you will have a different experience. What you see underwater depends on the season, ocean current, temperature, season and many more factors.
- Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep Islands and Netrani Islands are the best places in India to scuba dive. Some of the other dive schools in India are in Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu.
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