If you're planning a dive trip to some exotic location that you've never been to, chances are you probably want to do some research before choosing the right diving center.
You want to make sure that your experience will be fun and exciting, but safe and well-thought out as well. As there are a lot of disreputable dive centers as there are respectable ones, it is extremely vital to make the right choice.
Moreover, choosing the right dive shop will make the difference between an awesome scuba diving holiday experience and a botched one.
That said, there are certain things to keep in mind when doing your research, several of which I've listed below:
•Read the online reviews on sites such as tripadvisor.com or scubadviser.com Although these review sites aren't 100% accurate as there have been efforts by businesses to skew the reviews, most of the time, the reviews will at least give you some sense as to whether a business is doing okay or terribly. Try to ignore the extremely bad or extremely good reviews, and focus on the ones in the middle. Those tend to be the more accurate of the reviews.
•Call or email the dive shop in advance. And remember to give yourself enough time to contact them. One of the ways you can gauge how good a dive shop is based on how responsive they are. I've seen countless people get turned off by a certain dive center simply because they never heard back from the staff. I know, I have. Usually, but not always, a dive shop that doesn't get back to you in time or simply ignores your email, is probably not going to be too concerned with the overall guest experience.
•Once you've established contact, ask if they have dive packages, and see if they are willing to offer you special scuba diving package deals. This is especially true if you'll be doing multiple dives over several days.
•Also, check to make sure the dive center is up-to-date with safety equipment such as oxygen kits, AEDs, emergency kits, as well as safety procedures. Unfortunately, there are a TON of dive centers out there lacking the basic safety equipment and standards, which makes it extremely dangerous if you end up diving with such a dive center. A simple asthma attack can turn deadly if the proper equipment and procedures aren't set in place.
•Always trust your gut instinct. From your correspondence with this dive center, do you get an overall good feeling? If something seems off or doesn't sit well with you, look for another dive center.
Taking these steps is by no means a guarantee for a fool-proof scuba diving holiday trip, however, it will help you eliminate many dive operations that are not up-to-par, and save you the headache from a completely botched dive vacation.
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