Family Diving Guide
Once you have experienced life under the ocean, you may never want to
come back up. This vacation, plan an underwater adventure for your family that
they will never forget. No matter what your children’s ages, everyone can enjoy a
diving trip. Just make sure to pick a location and place that is age appropriate.
Many people wonder if scuba diving is child safe. Don’t fear; scuba diving can
be a safe, enjoyable experience for all ages as long as the proper steps are taken
before diving in. The biggest safety concern for children is panic, so before you leave
on your trip, it is a good idea for the whole family to get open water certified. A
certification will make everyone feel more comfortable in the water and since many
diving operators require certification, you will have more diving options on site.
The certification process consists of safety and informational classes and in-
water training, usually at the training center’s pool. Most agencies will certify
children between the ages of 10 and 14 as junior-open water divers and only
children over 15 can be adult open-water certified. The certification process is
pretty easy, especially since most of the big certification agencies now offer online
classes. Check out the most popular agencies below and find a center near you to
get started on your certification. It can take up to six weeks, so make sure you give
yourself ample time before the trip departure.
- PADI: The Professional Association of Diving Instructors is one of the most
recognized dive certification.
- SSI: Scuba Schools International has sites all over the world.
- NAUI: The National Association of Underwater Instructors is an older,
respected dive certification agency.
If you are travelling with children under ten, but who are old enough to swim,
try going snorkeling instead. At almost all beach towns you can rent flippers, a mask
and a snorkel cheaply or you can buy and bring your own. With the equipment you
are set to go cruising on the ocean surface exploring the shallow reefs. Snorkeling
is a great way to explore the ocean life with the whole family and it is also a good
introduction to scuba diving.
Before you leave on your trip definitely do some research. Check out different
dive agencies’ websites and see if they are child friendly. You can get the inside
scoop on the agency’s service by looking at other client’s review. Although a
website may look professional, the clients could think otherwise. Bottom line: don’t
be afraid to do some digging before you arrive. A few days before you leave on the
trip check the weather and decide which days you want to dive. If you see
thunderstorms one afternoon, avoid diving that day at all.
Where To Go?
There are a lot of great diving spots close to home so you don’t have to worry about
traveling halfway across the globe with the entire family in tow.
- Cancun, Mexico
This resort town is also host to the second largest reef in the world. Be prepared to see schools of fish, sea turtles, tons of plant life, and maybe some sharks! Make sure to check out some of Cancun’s most notable diving sites. The Chitales Reef is a great first dive. The reef, just twenty feet below the surface, is known for diverse marine life and clear water. Make sure to also check out Punta Negra, the beginning of Mexico’s barrier reef, is dive site compatible with every level diver. Dives average in depth up of to 40 feet. As your children’s confidence in their diving ability progresses, take a trip to Bat Cave. A popular cave dive, Bat Cave allows you to swim among large columns and stalactites.
Cancun’s temperate climate and clear, warm water makes the experience even better. Because of the warm climate you can dive year round, but most divers try to avoid the bad weather during Hurricane season, which usually lasts from May to December. Since Cancun is a tourist destination, many of the hotels that line the beach offer family packages. Aside from scuba diving and snorkeling, Cancun is home to Nizuc Park, a water park, Xcaret, an eco park with a butterfly garden and a dolphin program, and Mayan ruins.
Belize is a great place to bring the whole family. An English speaking country, the scuba diving off the coast is pristine, some of the best in the world. Belize’s warm climate permits good diving conditions year round. However, try to avoid the rainy season, which usually lasts from June to August. In northern Belize, a great novice dive site is Tres Cocos, Spanish for three coconuts. It is just off the shore and teaming with marine life.
Also in the North, just 60 miles of the coast, is Belize’s famous Blue Hole, a 500-foot deep sink hole that is full of marine life. If you plan to travel to Belize during April or May, make sure book a whale shark dive. Whale sharks are gentle filter-feeding sharks that migrate through the water’s off Belize during these months. Whale sharks have even been known to let divers hitch a ride on their dorsal fin. Belize is home to a growing eco-tourism industry. There are many family friendly eco lodges that offer all-inclusive vacation packages.
- The Cayman Islands
The Cayman Islands are an exceptional island scuba diving destination. With water temperatures that always hover around 75 degrees, it is no wonder that this is one of the top five diving destinations of the world. The tourist season usually runs from mid-December through mid-April, months that avoid the pulsating heat of the summer. Just before the season starts, in November there is a Pirate’s Week Festival. The Island has great diving options for a range of ages. For a child friendly adventure, be sure to check out the Doc Polson Wreck. Underwater you’ll find an 80-foot tugboat. Diving at the ship wreck is safe, because all the hatches have been removed. The Cayman islands are also host to SASY – supplied air snorkeling for your — an organization that teaches young children about life underwater. PADI also offers bubble maker courses, a scuba diving intro course, for kids who are eight years old and up. Aside from snorkeling and scuba diving there are plenty of other outdoor family friendly options that include hiking, parasailing, and kayaking.
Once You’re There
Visit the diving agencies you researched pre-trip. If you need some more
suggestions, ask your hotel staff as locals usually know the best spots. When you start
checking out the agencies, make sure to look at the equipment and note if it is up
to date and not damaged. Also talk to the guides and ask questions: do they all have
their certifications, do they have first aid training, do they have their boating license,
are they familiar with the area? Gage how receptive they are to your questions; you
want a guide who will be engaged and ready to help your family once you get into
Finally, make sure the whole family is comfortable with the agency, then
talk price. A lot of times dive agencies offer weeklong deals for groups or private
tours. Perhaps try a day dive with the agency to make sure it’s a good fit, and then
talk to them about getting a weeklong package. Establish ahead of time the different
dive locations you want to visit so that you can add variation to the week. If the day
dive doesn’t work, look for another agency. Once you found your agency have fun
and make the trip unforgettable.
Jacob Mojiwat is passionate about the ocean and water sports. Currently he is sharing the wonders of diving in malaysia with others. His website, asiadivingvacation.com has comprehensive information about Asian dive locations such as Sipadan Island and the area dive resorts to help diving enthusiasts plan unparalleled scuba diving vacations.