How to: Scuba Port Phillip
HOW to get into scuba?
Get comfortable in the water
Feeling comfortable in the water is a must for recreational diving. If you’re still a bit unsure, snorkelling is always a good place to start to work up to the confidence needed for diving. Scuba diving is a recreation that requires patience, self-awareness and a willingness to learn.
When you’re ready, the first step is to register for a course to become a certified diver. Typically you’re looking at about 3–5 days in the water. There are different organisations that certify scuba diving. PADI, NAUI and SSI are a few that are well-recognised. Not all certifications are recognised in all parts of the world, so if you plan to travel and dive, it’s a good idea to research this. Course structure and duration can vary between organisations.
While I could have got my PADI Open Water Diving licence here in Australia, like many others, I opted to do my diving course in South East Asia. For me, it was a preference to do it on holiday, in warmer tropical waters.
The course comprises both practical and theoretical tests to gain the knowledge needed to become certified. Toward the end you should be given a written exam to complete and pass.
I did my course within three days and completed my exam on the boat ride back to the shore. I also had homework to take back each night at the end of the day following sessions. If you are doing your certification overseas and want to make the most of your holiday, some organisations might have options for you to complete some of the theory work at home before you go.
My diving instructor, an expat living in Thailand, had years of diving experience under his belt and held a wealth of knowledge. By following his instructions closely and speaking up when in doubt, I managed to complete each session with little issue.
Diving instructors require years of diving experience and a number of diving certifications to progress them to that point. They’re trained to deal with worst case scenarios so as long as you follow their instructions carefully and ask questions (or hand-sign) when in doubt, you should be fine.
In October 2018 I completed and passed my written exam and received my licence by mail a month later.
Location, course structure, requirements and supplied equipment will vary so it’s best to confirm these with the dive shop you go through.
Equipment/What you need to start diving
Should I rent or should I should I buy? You first need to ask yourself how often you intend to go scuba diving. If you’re planning to do a dive every month then purchasing your own gear will probably be a good idea.
Single-day rental of a complete scuba set typically costs around $80–$100. Bear in mind there’s the matter of picking up and returning said gear. To purchase a complete set of scuba gear you could be looking at an amount in excess of $2000. Like me, you might choose to buy your gear to help motivate you to go diving regularly to make up the investment.
Apart from the convenience and cost-benefit analysis, getting used to and feeling comfortable in your own gear can help you to be safer in the water, especially when you’re starting off.
Once your gear is sorted, it’s time to find yourself the last vital piece of equipment: your dive buddy!
WHERE to dive?
To date I’ve done a total of seven dives, three of which have been off Australian shores.
If you still feel like you’re on ‘training wheels’ following certification I’d recommend you stick to shore/pier dives. They’re easily accessible and the water is shallow and safer in comparison to boat dives.
Piers around the Mornington Peninsula region are teeming with life and often provide enough of a show in the limited time you have under water.
Let me also stress the importance of diving with other divers – even if you’re certified, you’re still human at the end of the day. Diving in pairs allows for better monitoring of your surroundings and it’s good to have different perspectives of the risks out there.
My first two dives were pier dives off the Mornington Peninsula right here in Melbourne. My seventh and most recent dive was a boat dive off the coast of Bellarine peninsula, just outside Port Phillip Bay. It took some motivation to get myself out in the open water and it’s still a learning experience for me. I still prefer shore dives myself.
The best pier dives around Melbourne in my opinion would be around Mornington Peninsula. In particular, Rye Pier and Blairgowrie pier, both about an hour and a half outside Melbourne. Flinders Pier is another good spot I’ve heard about just a little further south-east.
WHY learn to scuba?
I’ve always felt at peace in the water. I grew up close to beaches and swimming was a regular pastime for me as a child. I started snorkelling in high school and it became somewhat of a recreation for me going into my 20s. Scuba diving was the logical next step for me from there.
One of the great benefits to scuba diving is the open world you have out there to explore. Once you have built up some experience and confidence, you will appreciate the freedom and space you have down on the sea floor.
There are a number of health benefits to scuba diving as well. Research indicates that scuba diving leads to lengthening of the muscles, growth in strength as well as flexibility. Some scuba divers (like myself) also report mental benefits. It’s been said that scuba diving can be a stress reliever and I believe this rings true as I always feel re-energised and at peace following a dive.
Breathing slowly and deeply whilst scuba diving is similar to the way we breathe whilst meditating; it brings about a state of calmness.
Now that you’re armed with this perspective, I recommend you do further research and have a chat to your local dive shop about doing a course. There’s a whole new world out there just waiting to be explored.
Written by Matthew Adams. Matthew is an HR consultant, lover of the outdoors (and dogs) and novice scuba diver. Banner image courtesy of Neville Wootton