Becoming a certified diver in Hong Kong

Guest Blogger Julia F.

One of the coolest activities you can do in many places across Asia is diving. With so many stunning beaches, you can imagine that the scenery under the water is equally impressive – and it really is! Sometimes, snorkeling is simply not enough to soak in the wonders of marine life.

It might come as a surprise for many, but you can become a certified diver in Hong Kong. While the city is not famous for its luscious beaches, it does host an interesting mix of sea life. Learning how to dive can also be a fun activity to do with family and friends.

I took my Open Water Dive course in October 2014. This certification allows the diver to go as deep as 18 meters (60ft) under the water. Might seem like a lot, but the record for deepest dive is currently at 332 meters (or 1,089ft)! For comparison, light can only penetrate the water up to 200 meters (656ft).

Where to start?

First, you need to choose you diving credentials. PADI and SSI are some of the worldwide recognized membership organizations that develop and provide diving courses and credentials for divers of all levels. This is important to ensure that diving can be done efficiently and safely, and taught the same way in diving centers all around the world.

PADI is generally the most well know diving association. In practice, the difference between what membership you choose is very small, and your diving instructor should be equipped to give your more details about what kind of certification they have and recommend.

Learning to dive is like learning a worldwide sign language. However, being an activity that can carry great risks if practiced the wrong way, it’s very important that dive instructors are trained uniformly and certified by a trusted institution. There are several rules and procedures that must be followed when you get underwater so that diving can be enjoyable and safe.

The next step is choosing a diving center. In Hong Kong, as one can imagine, prices are indeed more expensive than in other locations across Asia. However, it’s also worth considering the convenience of getting certified in Hong Kong, so that in your next trip to Thailand or Philippines you can start diving right away.

In Hong Kong several companies like Diving Express, Splash Hong Kong and Diving Adventure offer diving courses. Most importantly, if you dive in Hong Kong or anywhere else is to choose a place with a good reputation. A quick Google or Tripadvisor search can come in handy for that. When it comes to diving, go for quality instead of price!

The course

To become an open water diver, you need to follow some steps: the first is the theory knowledge development, where you have the option to read a book or watch the DVD where they teach the basics of diving and key safety tips. While the video clearly hasn’t been updated since the 90’s, it’s very informative and for me it was more entertaining than reading the book. Before moving to the next step, you need to do a test to ensure that you learned the main parts of the knowledge development.

Next, it’s time to get into the water with the so-called Confined Water Dive. In Hong Kong this is usually done in a swimming pool since it’s a controlled environment, and it’s where you get familiar with the diving equipment. In this stage, the instructor will teach about the assembly of the equipment, the communication signals that you should use underwater and what to do in case any issues arise. The confined water training is designed for beginner divers to get used to all the equipment (which are quite heavy, by the way). At first it will seem like a lot of information, but as you practice more is easy to get the hang of it.

The last (and most exciting part) is the Open Water Dives. You need four of these initial dives to get the open water certification. These dives are also designed to practice assembling the equipment and learning how to get comfortable underwater.

In practice, it seems very simple. However, this is where learning to dive in Hong Kong becomes an issue: the visibility under the water here is very poor. For me, going from the crystal clear waters of the swimming pool to the murky Sai Kung waters was very overwhelming. I could feel the weight of the water and suddenly realized that the only source of precious oxygen was through a tiny tube connected to my mouth.

But don’t fret! This brief moment of panic is something that happens with most divers during the certification course. This is why it’s so important to have an experienced instructor, someone that can calm you down and ensure that you are having a safe experience. Once your diving group submerges and reaches the bottom of the ocean, there are still some tasks you need to perform to show that you have learned the diving basics: take off and put on the diving mask, swim in one direction with the help of a compass and a few others.

Claustrophobics beware! This is what you see underwater in Hong Kong.

And that’s it, you are ready to become a diver! As mentioned, Hong Kong has not much to offer in terms of interesting things to see underwater, so in the end this can be a good opportunity to really focus on the learning experience. Looking even further on the bright side, after diving in Hong Kong, any other diving country in Southeast Asia will look like paradise!

As part of the course you also get a logbook, which is a kind of catalog where each page is arranged as a diving report. Your responsibility is to record your own data after each dive: duration, used air in your oxygen tank, water temperature, depth of dive, etc. You can even describe the fish and anything else interesting you see during the dive. At the bottom of the page there is a space for the instructor’s signature and dive shop stamp. In addition to being a cool reminder of your underwater world adventures, it also keeps track of all your dives, which is important if want to pursue more advance certifications.

To dive or not to dive?

From my personal experience, even after getting the open water certificate, it took me a long time and many attempts before I could feel really comfortable when diving. When you do it, take your time and don’t feel ashamed to ask questions to your instructor, they are there to help! Just take it easy and with time you’ll find out how manage any fears or anxieties.

Mid-water jump in Coron, Philippines
Mid-water jump in Coron, Philippines

I definitely recommend diving as one of the must-do activities in Asia. You only need a few days for a quick trip to Thailand or Philippines to see some stunning scenery and amazing sea life! It’s an indescribable feeling to see sharks, whales and sea turtles up close – you really feel connected with nature.

Where’s the most beautiful place for diving for you? Share in the comments below!

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