Bali SCUBA diving

PADI Certified – Learning to SCUBA Dive in Bali

I never thought I’d get learn how to SCUBA dive, but I did and I loved it. I ended up getting PADI certified in Bali, and it soon became a new passion. Here’s what you need to know, what you’ll learn, why I did it, and my experience.

Why I got SCUBA certified for diving

I didn’t plan to get SCUBA certified on my Bali trip. In fact, I actually didn’t think I’d even like SCUBA diving. But I was wrong!

I had planned to relax on the beach and plan my solo Asia trip. However, Mother Nature did not cooperate for my trip to Bali. After attempting to spend the day at a beach with overcast, I decided it might be better to use the time in Bali productively. It started to lightly rain, and while that ruins the beach reading experience, it wasn’t raining underwater. Thus I viewed it as the perfect time to finally learn how to SCUBA dive.

After a four day course, I’m now PADI certified for open water dives!   Most courses have you stuck in a classroom all day, but my instructor just took the classroom experience on the road. I had 1-on-1 instruction on a two hour car ride, and then at the beach. After knowledge development, we moved on to confined water dives, and then finally open water dives. Within a week it went from something that’s scary to a new passion!

1st underwater SCUBA Diving photo of me
1st underwater SCUBA Diving photo of me

What does PADI certified for SCUBA Diving mean?

PADI is the world’s leading scuba diver training organization. It stands for the Professional Association of Diving Instructors

The entry level PADI certification is “open water certified,” also known as “open water PADI certified”.  This gives you the knowledge and skills to go SCUBA diving safely.

Getter PADI certified allows divers to be certified for diving up to 18 meters / 60 feet, while accompanied by a dive buddy or dive professional.

What do you learn in an Open Water diving course?

The course is divided into a few sections, and each is important. It gets more fun and interesting as you progress.

1) SCUBA Diving Knowledge Development

The first is book learning (now includes website learning). This is the least fun, and frankly it’s the reason I hadn’t gotten certified until going on a long trip. However, this is essential, and includes life-saving info. PADI has since added graphics and videos to make this way more interactive. There’s short quizzes to help you confirm you know everything.

2) Confined Water Dives

Secondly, you learn basic SCUBA skills, including how to use your equipment in a pool or confined water space. You’ll practice these new SCUBA skills, and then master them. They’ll start by going over the gear equipment that you just learned about, ensuring you know how to put it on, adjust it, and practice underwater. You’ll also go over the underwater hand signals, how to equalize your ears, as well as other techniques.

They’ll also help practice  managing potential problems that could occur in the water. For example, you’ll certainly get water in your mask at some point, and need to be able to clear it. I was very anxious about this part, but eventually got comfortable.

Note, typically this is in a pool, but for mine I was in the shallow end of the open water.  It works fine; there were a few more variables and a little less visibility but we got prepared.

Photo taken as I was starting the confined water dive section of the PADI certification as I was learning to scuba dive
Photo taken as I was starting the confined water dive section of the PADI certification (this part is typically done in a pool).

3) Open water dives – best part of your test!

Thirdly, your instructor takes you out for four open water dives. This allows you to use your skills that you’ve practiced in the open water. In these you perform some important dive skills underwater. You’ll practice everything from the earlier sections, but take it up a notch. My instructor had us take off our my mask underwater, and then calmly put it back on and clear the water from it.

When you finish – Congrats! You’re a PADI Open Water Diver!

Sea Turtle, from scuba diving in Sipadan, Semporna Archipelago, Borneo, in Malaysia

How long does the PADI certification take?

The whole course is typically 4-7 days (although mine was much faster).  And once you finish, you’re good!

Do PADI certifications expire?

No, the PADI SCUBA certification never expires.

You learn more on every dive, but this gives you the foundation.

However, if you haven’t gone diving in a while, you should certainly brush up on basics, and communicate with your Dive Master ahead of time. This is for you, not for any international laws.

learning to SCUBA dive - my first dive - padi certification
SCUBA diving in Bali

Can you dive without getting PADI certified for SCUBA diving?

Yes. There’s no legal requirement to have a certification, but it’s recommended. You can buy all the equipment on your own, but there’s so many ways for this to go wrong. There’s a lot to know, and getting PADI certified gets you the knowledge and skills you need.

Alternatives to getting SCUBA PADI certified

Many resorts offer a 1-day course to get you the basics so you can do a basic dive.  However, this isn’t ideal. Getting PADI certified makes going SCUBA diving quicker (no mandatory beginner course each time), sometimes cheaper, and give the ability to go to depths you can’t without it.

For example, while Belize has some of the best diving in the world at the “Blue Hole,”  my friend Johnie and I weren’t PADI certified and thus couldn’t see it.

Bali SCUBA diving crew after learning to scuba dive and getting PADI certified

How much does it cost to get PADI open water certified?

Getting open water certified costs ~$250-600, depending on where in the world you go. Expect to pay on the higher end in the Caribbean, and on the lower end in Koh Tau Thailand.

Is it worth it?

YES! I never thought I’d love it so much. While I was nervous and anxious in my first experience, I grew to love it. It immediately became a new passion. Just a month later I did a live-aboard boat with nothing but diving.

I was only moderately interested in aquariums, but as soon as I went diving, it all changed for me.  Feel the wonder of discovery of a child that’s discovery a new world. Marine life is fascinating, with 18,000 species of both colorful and peculiar fish.

While I was initially terrified of sharks, I would eventually love diving with sharks without a cage! Also, I loved swimming with sea turtles, manta rays, and even whale sharks!

The freedom underwater is incredible! For example, imagine how an astronaut moves around and explores in any and every direction.

I love the amazing underwater world around me, and perhaps you will too!

Photos of my experience learning to SCUBA dive

More info on Padi from the official site.


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