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Scuba Diving for Beginners | How to Dive Safely in Australia
Australia is a haven for some of the best scuba diving in the world.
This beautiful part of the planet not only holds the Great Barrier Reef but is also home to giant kelp forests, unique shipwrecks and a stunning diversity of vibrant marine and coral life.
Divers in Australia, can expect to see some of the most unique aquatic species in the world such as:
- schools of silvery reef patrollers
- bright tropical fish and
- large ocean turtle species.
The luckiest of divers may even run into elusive shark or whale species.
However, many first-time divers get overwhelmed by all the requirements of this adventure activity and how to get started.
To put your mind at ease, we have put together a guide on everything you need to know.
That way you can successfully enjoy the best scuba diving experience you could ever imagine!
Common FAQ’s about Scuba Diving for Beginners
What is Scuba Diving?
Scuba diving is a mode of underwater diving where the diver uses a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus to allow them to breathe underwater.
Being able to scuba dive enables you access a host of recreational activities beneath the waves.
It is also one of the best ways to spend a prolonged period underwater.
Scuba diving is done both within professional and scientific fields but most widely as a recreational activity.
It has allowed thousands of diving enthusiasts to explore the stunningly beautiful reefs of coastal Australia.
How Dangerous is Scuba Diving for Beginners?
Overall scuba diving is a relatively safe sport – with an average mortality rate of 1.2 deaths per 100 000 people.
However, scuba diving is still an extreme sport. Therefore it doesn’t come without risk.
Beginners should be aware of the risks before taking part in any type of dive.
Common dangers and risks for first-time scuba divers include:
Drowning typically occurs because of diver panic or because a diver becomes unconscious due to a non-diving related health problem.
Diver panic typically occurs in situations where there is a lack of air supply (eg. running out of air), an emergency or due to not listening to instruction properly.
If you listen to the guidance of your dive master and attentively track your air supply, this shouldn’t happen to you.
2) Decompression Sickness
Decompression sickness is the most commonly talked about diving-related injury.
It usually occurs when you breathe in air from your tank (compressed air) at a depth where your body tissues absorb extra nitrogen.
If you re-surface too quickly, the reduction in water pressure can cause nitrogen to bubble inside your body tissues.
This is simply because your body has not had enough time to rid itself of the extra nitrogen.
Decompression sickness can be very painful and if left untreated can result in nerve and other tissue damage, or in the worst possible scenario, death.
You can prevent decompression sickness during your dive by carefully following good diving practice such as:
- ascending at a slow rate and
- performing a standard 10 or 5-metre safety stop
You’ll learn all this and more when you complete the Open Water Certification.
3) Nitrogen Narcosis
Nitrogen Narcosis relates to a feeling of drunkenness when at deeper depths – usually around 25 meters in salt water.
While not directly damaging nitrogen narcosis causes a temporary reduction in reasoning, decision making and motor coordination.
This can lead to poor decisions by the diver which can affect:
- their own safety
- the safety of other divers and
- a whole spectrum of other problems.
4) Other Risks
Other risks associated with diving include things like:
- cuts or damaged equipment from close contact with sharp coral or wreck debris
- injury from marine animals (extremely rare)
Both can be avoided by maintaining good spatial awareness.
The risks associated with diving becomes more drastic when divers take on deeper or more complicated style dives.
You should always feel confident that you have the right level of expertise and experience before going on any dive.
Here are a few ways to minimise the risks associated with scuba diving:
- Always have the proper training required
- Always check your equipment is working before hitting the water
- Use the buddy system which can go a long way in preventing diver panic
- Go on dives with a qualified dive master and legitimate diving company
- You should not dive unless you have a clean bill of health
Is there an age or weight limit to scuba dive in Australia?
The minimum age to learn to dive in the open ocean is 12 years old.
Children that are younger than 15 earn the PADI Junior Open Water Diver certification.
They may then upgrade to a PADI Open Water Diver certification when they turn 15.
Children under the age of 15 require parent permission to register and will have certain depth and diving restrictions in place untill they can upgrade to their Open Water Diver certificate.
There is no weight limit for scuba diving in Australia. However, all divers must have a capable level of fitness and complete a brief scuba medical questionnaire.
If you have any medical conditions that could pose a risk when diving, your doctor must assess your condition and sign a medical form confirming that you are fit to dive.
To begin diving training you must be able to swim 200 metres without stopping.
There is no time limit for this, and you may use whatever swimming style you want.
You must also be able to float and tread water for 10 minutes while again using any method you want.
What should I wear when Scuba Diving?
Of course, a diver’s most important and basic equipment is the oxygen tank and breathing regulator.
You will be taught how to properly maintain and use these on your diving course.
Most scuba divers will also wear wetsuits to help maintain body temperature and protect the body against the sun and other hazards in the open sea.
Even when the air temperature and surface temperature of the water are warm, it can get colder the deeper that you dive.
What you wear under the wetsuit is of course up to you!
You may also like to wear:
- a mask
- a snorkel
- an inflatable buoyancy vest
- weight belt
These can help you to see and move underwater and assist with breathing at the surface (to safe on compressed air).
What is the cost of scuba diving in Australia?
The average cost to get an open water qualification in Australia is around $600.
This typically includes:
- all of your equipment hire
- pool training sessions
- 4 open water dives, and
- all certification and training fees
The average cost of a diving tour ranges from $115 to $210 per person.
The cost really depends on the tour company as well as the type of dive sights you will visit.
What is the best time to scuba dive in Australia?
Australia offers fairly great all-year-round scuba diving due to the vast number of different dive sight locations.
However, certain areas do have unique appeals at different times of the year.
For example, with the Great Barrier Reef:
- August – December has the best visibility (this is also the time of year when coral spawning occurs).
- April – September is the best time to see Manta rays and hammerheads in the Coral Sea
- June – July are the best time to see Minke whales
Depending on where you’re planning to dive, its best to research what you might expect to see in the area so that you can choose the best time to go.
Types of Scuba Diving Qualifications for Beginners
There is a huge range of different scuba diving qualifications that you can get.
For most of them you are required to go on certain types of dives including wreck exploration and/or night dives.
Usually, to be allowed on any type of scuba diving experience you need to have received a diving qualification from a recognized scuba training organisation.
There are over 50 different global diving organisations in the world but the most recognized in Australia are:
- the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and
- Australian Underwater Federation (AUF)
There are three main recreational diving licences for beginners and each level allows access to more advanced and challenging dive types.
1) The “Open Water” Diver Qualification
The “Open Water” Diver Certification is the starting point for most beginner divers, as it provides a great introduction to this awesome adventure sport.
Any individual with this qualification can go on an open water dive that is clear of obstructions and has a maximum depth of 18 meters.
This is also the easiest diving qualification for newbies to get.
You can also complete an intensive course for the license in 5 days, concluding with a dive theory exam.
This makes it a perfect course to do whilst travelling overseas, or before you go.
As an example, I did my Open Water Divers Licence when I was in Sulawesi, Indonesia.
2) “Advanced Open Water” Diver Qualification (AOWD)
The next level up is the “Advanced Open Water” Diver Certification.
This qualification allows you to improve your experience as a diver and expand your knowledge in the field.
The biggest difference between the open water and the advanced qualification is that you can dive deeper during your dives.
With an “Advanced Open Water” Certification you can dive to a maximum depth of 30 meters.
Similar to the Open Water course, this certification can be completed in 4-5 days.
As part of the certification, you must complete
- 5 different adventure dives and
- Do a knowledge review for each dive
Usually a deep dive and underwater navigation dive are mandatory to receive this qualification.
Your instructor will go over these with you before getting in the water.
3) “Master Scuba Diver” Qualification
This is the highest recreational scuba diving qualification available and requires a high level of training and experience to receive.
This diving licence allows you to take part in most of the different types of scuba in Australia.
This is because it requires you to demonstrate a competent level of dive knowledge and skills.
To receive a PADI master scuba diver qualification you must have:
- completed the AOWD qualification
- a rescue diver qualification
- completed 5 specialisation dive modules
- logged at least 50 completed dives and
- had CPR and first-aid training
The course will also teach you the following skills:
- managing emergency situations
- managing diving equipment and
- how to help and rescue divers in distress
The 5 specialization modules you chose are up to you whether it be night dives, wreck diving or even cave diving.
This course takes a lot longer to complete – usually up to several months.
This is because it takes time to secure all the specialisations and dive experience required.
So there you have it….
An Overview of Scuba Diving for Beginners (In Australia)
Here’s a key summary of what we covered in the article:
- What is Scuba Diving? Scuba diving is a mode of underwater diving where the diver uses a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus to allow them to breathe underwater.
- Is Scuba Diving Dangerous? Overall scuba diving is pretty safe sport with an average mortality rate of 1.2 deaths per 100,000 people, however scuba diving is still an extreme sport which means it does come with some risks
- Is there an age limit to go scuba diving? Yes. The minimum age is 12, and anyone under the age of 15 must have parental permission.
- Is there a weight limit? No. but all divers must have a capable level of fitness and complete a scuba diving medical questionnaire
- What should you wear? Most divers will wear a swimsuit (eg. bikini) with a wetsuit over the top if the ocean temperatures are cold. Then you will wear you diving equipment on top of that.
- What is the cost? The average cost to get an open water qualification in Australia is around $600
- When is the best time to dive in Australia? Australia offers fairly great all-year-round scuba diving, however it does depend which state you travel to.
- We also covered our top 10 tips for beginners when scuba diving