Scuba Diving for Kids
In planning our latest trip to the Maldives Jerome had been promised that he and his Dad would step up from just snorkelling to full scuba diving. We checked out the dive centre in advance and booked a 4 days PADI course for the boys to learn. It is possible for younger children to learn to Scuba dive, but the ideal point to qualify is over 12. After 12 there are less limitations on what they can do (although depth is limited) and to be frank the technical side of the sport needs a certain level of maturity, plus even a small air tank is heavy and some strength is needed.
Jerome, at 13 was very keen and in researching what would be needed in advance we realised that a full theory course, is also essential to learning to dive. There is a theory exam as part of the PADI open water course. The boys started the theory work about 6 weeks before our trip running through the online courses that are available as part of the training.
Cover the Theory in Advance!
It took a lot of hours of watching videos, reading up and answering questions to learn all about the sport. In total perhaps 40 hours of concentrated effort were needed to cover all the theory, but the investment was worthwhile as it meant they were well prepare. Covering the theory in advance saved a lot of time at the resort and allowed them to qualify immediately after the practice dives. One of the others at the centre had not invested the same time and found that they would not be fully qualified until they had done the theory work end to end.
Equipment You Might Need
The course booking and price included all the equipment needed but as beginners the boys decided to invest in their own mask and snorkels before travelling as they could also use them snorkelling. The rest we hired from the dive centre including: the shorty wetsuits (even in the Maldives it can be a little chilly in the water at depth after an hour); the dive computers that tell you how long you have been down and the air left, the buoyancy devices (BCD to those in the know), flippers, plus of course all the air tanks. Although the boys had flippers for snorkelling they are not the same as those for diving.
Choose the Right Dive Centre
When choosing a place to learn to dive check out carefully in advance all the key questions. In addition to the cost and the equipment provided ask how many people will be on the course, check the instructors’ qualifications and language skills, plus if possible check reviews from other learners. It is also worth checking how many people are normally taken on each qualified dive trip and the maximum numbers as if there are more than about 8 to 10 it can be crowded on the boat and in the water.
PADI Course Experience
The PADI course starts with the instructor checking all the key theory points making sure the equipment is understood, and the critical safety lessons are covered. The great thing about learning in the warm tropical island waters is that the practice dives are in the sandy lagoon rather than, as is often the case, in a pool. This made the initial dives fun although there were of course the key learning points to be tested to ensure safety. These include knowing how to share air with a buddy if your air fails, how to clear out water from the system and masks, and how to trim buoyancy to swim level and efficiently underwater. Water confidence is essential as being well down under the surface and having to do these safety exercises, like exchanging the air supply is not something someone without that water confidence could do.
Additional Dives on the Reef or Lagoon
The boys enjoyed their four practice dives as even on these short and shallower dives in the lagoon, between the exercises they were able to spot some interesting sea life. With these exercises completed they were then able to join proper dives out on the edge of reef, and soon became after a few more dives fully qualified as PADI open water divers. They added a 10 dives package to their initial course to get experience and because they were really enjoying it!
The boys normally confined themselves to one dive each morning or afternoon while I was able to relax on shore. The dive boat would head out either to the outer reef or to one of the deeper parts of the lagoon. The dives were mostly what are known as drift dives where the boat lets the divers off at a point on the reef edge and the current carries the divers along the edge until they reach the agreed time or the safety point on their air reserve. My two divers agreed that being able to go into the depths, normally half way down the reef at 13 to 14m and drift in the deep blue was an amazing experience very different to snorkelling.
Amazing Underwater Creatures
On these drift dives they saw a huge variety of fish and coral. The colours would change as different types of coral came into view or different schools of fish drifted by. On one dive they saw a huge turtle, and on another a school of sharks. Jerome was lucky to see several larger rays, but sadly he only saw a Manta from the boat returning from one trip. Sadly no whale sharks surfaced on their days on the outer reef. In some ways they also loved the smaller sea life and were lucky that their instructor pointed out many tiny creatures like rainbow coloured mantis shrimps as well as the bigger sea animals.
Cannot Wait to Dive Again
I joined the boys one evening for a sunset cruise as Jerome was adamant he wanted to try night diving. I could see that both of them were apprehensive but after the dive they were excited. The dive proved to be the best of all of them! They described the amazing colours of the reef at night, but they also saw several huge sleeping turtles, a big reef shark, a large eagle ray and the best of all was a huge cuttle fish with shimmering colours. Jerome cannot wait to go diving again (probably in Japan this summer) now that he is a qualified open water PADI diver!
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