Hi, I’m Adam, co-owner of ScubaTony in Cozumel, Mexico. Everyone is different and wants different things when they are looking for a scuba adventure, so hopefully, this article will help you find the perfect diving destination.
If you have been bitten by the Scuba Diving bug, then you are likely to be spending most of your time dreaming of diving in far off destinations. But with so many incredible places to dive in the world, how do you choose a dive destination?
In this post, I’m going to break it down and go through my winning formula to help you figure out how to choose a dive destination.
How to choose a dive destination
First things first, you need to write a Dive Bucket List, if you haven't already done one. So before we go any further, make yourself comfortable and close your eyes for a moment and visualise your perfect dive. Then get writing! Be sure to include all of the things you would like to see underwater as well as experiences you would like to have, like drift diving, boat diving, wreck diving, cenote diving, etc.
All of this is going to help you to choose where to scuba dive, as you will be able to work out the best scuba diving destinations for you.
Now let's get real, you may not find a single dive destination that has everything on your list. But it is going to come in handy as a guide to help you rule out some places.
For example, if you have to practice underwater photography with colourful tropical fish on your list, then you probably want to rule out diving anywhere cold. Keep this list handy as we move through the next steps.
A great way to figure out where to scuba dive is to work out the destinations most accessible to you. If you are located in Australia, then you should look into the Great Barrier Reef or South East Asia. If you are located in the US, then you should be looking at Mexico and other parts of the Caribbean.
Where can you get an inexpensive flight to? There are a lot of apps that make finding cheap flights easy. If it is a short trip, then try not to travel far or someplace tricky to get to. If it is a long trip, then you can allow yourself more travel time.
One of the first things you need to take into consideration when choosing a dive destination is the weather. If you know you want to go somewhere warm, then that is quickly going to rule out a lot of places for you, and you are going to want to look at countries like Mexico or Egypt as a starting place.
If you have no preference or prefer cold water diving, then this will open up a lot of other destinations for you like Norway or the Galapagos. You should also call a dive centre and ask them if they recommend avoiding some dates due to weather cancellations.
How much time do you have for vacation? If you have 2-3 weeks, then the world is your oyster. If you only have a long weekend, then you are going to be more limited. In this case, you will need to consider the travel time as you won't want to be taking a 10-hour flight when you have such a short amount of time.
The bigger your budget, the more options you are going to have. But it is possible to take a dive vacation on a budget so long as you are careful and do your research first.
If you have a couple of countries in mind, then do a quick history search on the exchange rate over the last 2 years with your currency and the local currency and see if one beats the other. This is a pro tip.
Things to check:
Cost of diving. look at a few different dive centres in the destination to get an idea of prices. Cheaper doesn’t mean better.
Accommodation. Check hotel prices to get an idea of the average cost per night or if sites like Airbnb, Booking.com have some deals.
Flights. the more flexible you can be with your dates the better deals on flights you are likely to find. Check flightscanner.com.
Food and drink. if you are planning to stay in an all-inclusive resort then this won’t matter so much but if you will be paying for food and drink a great tool to use is Budget Your Trip which will help you work out the average daily cost of food and drink.
Popularity. Some of the best scuba diving destinations are also the most popular. How popular is the destination you are considering? Are you planning on going there during the peak season?
If it is a popular place and you will be there in high season, then you are going to have to deal with things being hectic, and possibly have to book everything far in advance. If you prefer your vacations to be spent without the crowds, then take this into consideration before booking.
Diving style. What kind of diver are you? Do you love diving in the open water, or would you much rather be exploring underwater caves? Or are you obsessed with wrecks? Whatever kind of diver you are you need to keep this in mind when picking where to scuba dive.
Season. This isn’t just about Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter… which of course will need to be considered. This is more about what kind of underwater friends you are going to find at different times of the year. If on the top of your bucket list is to go diving with Whalesharks then you need to check out where they will be at what time of year.
Ease of Diving. How much experience do you have as a diver? If you are an experienced diver with a few hundred dives under your belt, then you won’t be so concerned with this. But if you are a new diver, or looking to get open water certified while on vacation, this is going to be an essential thing for you to consider.
Travel Companions. Will you be travelling with non-diving buddies? If so then you are probably going to want to consider what the vacation is going to be like for them on dry land. Will there be plenty of things for them to see and do while you are diving? Or will it be possible for them to come with you and snorkel?
So if you have worked through so far hopefully you will have at least narrowed down your list of the best scuba dive destinations. The next step is to choose a dive centre! It is easy to just follow the numbers and book with the cheapest dive operator. But let’s face it, that’s not always the best idea is it.
Here are a few points to consider before making your booking:
Reviews. Check out reviews on Google and Trip Advisor are an excellent place to start. The reviews will be a good indicator of who are the best operators in the area.
Equipment. If you are renting the equipment it is a good idea to ask how old it is, and when it was last serviced. Trust me, not everyone looks after their rental equipment well. Look at recent photos in their social media or guests that have posted pictures on TripAdvisor to see the shape of their equipment. You are looking for matching bcds, and if they are extremely faded, then it's a sign that they let their rental equipment go.
Boats. Same goes for the boats, are they well maintained? Also how big are they? If it is a small boat, then you are going to be in a small group. The bigger the boat, the more divers there will be in your group. A larger boat also doesn’t mean less seasick.
Facilities. Do they have somewhere for you to take a shower after diving? Is there a safe place to leave your things while you are diving? And will they be able to keep your equipment overnight if you are diving multiple days?
Your needs. If you are a new diver, then your needs will be a lot different to more experienced divers. You are going to want to make sure that you are in a smaller group with dive masters who will take the time to really look after you and help you improve your skills.
For more experienced divers you may want to look for a dive centre who gives you a bit more freedom and will take you to more advanced dive sites. It’s okay to tell the dive centre what kind of diver you are and if they can help you.
I really hope this article has been useful in helping you to choose your next dive destination. If you have any questions, then you can feel free to reach out to me.
Good luck with choosing your next dive trip!